The Cumar Killings: Return of Nodens

Since the fateful year of 1966 when detective Owen Clarke foiled Alan Rhys, Owen moved quietly to the Welsh countryside. He married and lived with his wife Lily on a farm. The victims of Rhys coped with their traumatic experiences in different ways. Stewart and Amanda Tindle lived with their loving grandparents. Though both children suffered recurring nightmares, they eventually resumed a normal pattern of life. They became, for the most part, ordinary teenagers.

Reagan Jones, who had been four when she and her family were kidnapped, was eventually taken from her relatives and moved to an orphanage due to reports of drug abuse. Reagan was changed from her time as Rhys’s prisoner. She spoke to no one, suffered terrible nightmares, and ate little. As she grew up, it became clear to her caretakers that she would never outgrow her trauma.

Caitlin MacDonell fared the worst. She moved back to Glasgow and attempted to pick up the threads of her old life. However, she failed to hold down a job and changed boyfriends just as frequently. She took to drinking heavily to cope. Eventually she moved to America and was last seen with a group of hippies in rural Oregon.

Owen tended to his farm and did investigative consulting work on the side, helping PIs and greenhorn police officers with difficult cases. Though never forgetting the Rhys case, Owen had put it behind him. He was content to have caught the man and freed his victims. The island of Anglesey returned to its former state of slow, rural life without the disruption of kidnappings, fires, and police sirens. The locals happily shunned the memory of Alan Rhys.

So when on January 1, 1970, locals discovered a strange monument on the summit of Y Gwrach, people wanted to believe it was the work of local hooligans having fun. The monument was wicker covered in yew bark. It was shaped in the likeness of an elongated human figure with antlers. The statue was very abstract in style, and many observers though it was horribly made. In his long, crude fingers, the statue held a torc and a stone.

nodens_monument
Supposed photograph of the monument shortly before police intervention

Police quickly took the monument down and blamed it on kids pulling a New Year’s prank. However, the rumor did start to circulate around the island that it was a sign that Alan Rhys’s vengeance was coming. Rhys had at this point been in the grave four years. To those paying attention, the next few months were a time of suspense as they waited with held breath for the first strike.

When a break-in was reported in Cumar, no one panicked. Though unusual on the rural island, no one was alarmed. Initially anyway. When police arrived at the house of Catherine Llewelyn, they found a first-floor window had been smashed from the outside. Catherine herself was nowhere to be found. The neighbors who made the call said they heard the window shatter and saw movement inside the house. They were unaware Catherine was missing and were sure she had been home. Catherine’s bedcovers were thrown back, as if to suggest Catherine had leapt out of bed in a hurry. Yet there was nothing to indicate a struggle has taken place.

Police investigators thought that someone or something had broken Catherine’s downstair window. Catherine, who was nearing 70 and lived alone, was probably so frightened that she fled from her house and got lost or had been met by an accident in the dark woods around her house.

Those islanders who remembered Alan Rhys knew that Catherine Llewelyn had been critical in turning him in. In pubs and around dinner tables, the people of Cumar and Anglesey whispered of Rhys’s return from beyond the grave. Who was next—or if anyone would be next—was anyone’s guess.

Soon on the heels of Catherine’s disappearance, five more people disappeared from their homes around the island in the span of a three weeks. The scene was always the same: a downstairs window or door smashed open and the victim gone without a trace.

The police realized quickly that these people were being kidnapped—six people vanishing from their homes in the middle of the night was too much of a coincidence. No trace of the culprit was ever found. They were clearly dealing with an expert body-snatcher.

Over the next month, ten more people went missing from their homes. The victims all lived in different towns across the island—though three were from Cumar. The only connection between the cases aside from the same crime scene was that they all happened around or during the full moon.

Fear of Alan Rhys’s wrathful ghost swept through the countryside. The North Wales police department kept the news from spreading to the mainland, though Anglesey newspapers ran headlines declaring Rhys’s vengeance.

After three months of increasing numbers of disappearances, the police were at a loss. The third full moon since Catherine had seen more than a dozen people go missing from their homes. Panic threatened to take hold of the island’s population. A small breakthrough happened when investigators found a human femur in a gully near Y Gwrach. However, they were unable to determine who the femur belonged to.

The chief constable for North Wales decided they needed all the help they could get. So he called on the man who had brought Alan Rhys down: Owen Clarke. You may recall that Clarke had been forced to resign after he caught Alan Rhys.

Owen heard the phone ring late one Friday evening. He said when interviewed later that he got a gut feeling what the call was about as he was walking toward the phone. He answered and heard the familiar voice of Matthew Dulvey, chief constable of North Wales and his former boss. After hearing the situation in Anglesey, Owen hung up the phone, put on his coat, kissed his wife goodbye, and drove to Colwyn Bay on the north coast of the country. Owen was debriefed in person by Dulvey and signed on as a private investigator.

Clarke confessed later that he had mixed feelings about the case:

“The minute I heard about the break-ins, the kidnappings, and the peculiar nature of it all, I knew I had to help somehow. It all felt connected to Rhys. I don’t know how: the man was dead; I watched him hang. But maybe he had accomplices. The whole Rhys case left us with a lot of unanswered questions. Of course this meant that I had to work for the same men who had fired me. But I swallowed any resentment I had and focused on the task at hand.”

Owen Clarke returned to Anglesey in midsummer 1970. He immediately got to work. All the disappearances were marked on a map of the island. Owen wracked his brains, trying to see a pattern in it all. While he worked, another full moon came and went, bringing with it another round of missing persons. These were added as new dots on the map.

That’s when a a revelation struck Owen. He noticed where the disappearances were not. The coastline was for the most part not affected. An idea started to form, though it was still foggy. Owen had another revelation. All the people were taken from their homes at night. No vehicles were ever spotted anywhere near the targeted homes, meaning the culprits traveled at least some distance on foot.

Owen calculated where someone could hide, yet still reach all the affected towns in a night’s journey. He drew a circle on the map several miles in diameter. Y Gwrach sat very close to the middle of the circle. It wasn’t an exact measurement, nor was this theory conclusive, but given its history, Owen knew he had to check out the strange mountain. He would at least be able to rule it out as a place of interest.

Another pattern was made clear to Owen. The kidnappings had no motive other than the act itself. The victims ranged widely in age, gender, and location. Even the time between kidnapping was random. Sometimes it was a day, sometimes five, between kidnappings. Sometimes there were two on the same night. It seemed to Owen rather like a predator randomly picking off any prey it thought would make an easy kill.

Owen went with twenty police officers and dogs to Y Gwrach during the next full moon. Every other available officer patrolled the island or waited at the entrances of affected towns. Owen and the police scoured the mountain as clouds gathered overhead. Rain fell from the clouds in torrents. The police told Owen to call off the search. He refused and continued to look for any sort of clue.

Then something strange happened. Owen said it best in his interview:

“I can’t tell you what happened exactly, but when the clouds parted for a moment, revealing the full disc of the moon, I looked down from my perch and saw a cave down below. I swore there hadn’t been a cave there when I had climbed up. I hunched over to shield my map from the rain and shined my flashlight down on it. There were only two caves on the map, and they were both on the other side of the hill. I decided to go down and check it out. Who knows, maybe our culprit was hiding in there?”

“I entered the cave and was glad to be out of the rain. I shone my flashlight around. It was a deep cave, unlike the others, and I couldn’t see the back. This kept going down in the Witch’s guts. I walked further and further in. I quickly figured there was nothing in there, but I had to make a thorough check, just to satisfy my own curiosity.”

“Well, maybe a dozen yards in, this stench hits me like a slap to the nose. It was like a rotting corpse, but so much stronger. Like a whole room of rotting corpses in the middle of a hot summer. I knew something was in the cave. I turned a corner into a larger opening and then I see it: a mass of gray and white flesh. I thought for a second it was some dead animal, but then I noticed it was moving up and down. Then I saw the blue eyes staring at me out of the shadows.”

“It was some kind of hideous giant thing, like something from a child’s fairy tale. I can’t say—even now after all these years—what it was. Though there was something in the eyes that reminded me of Rhys. However, I don’t remember Rhys looking like that. Nor smelling that bad.”

Owen confronted this monstrosity, the strangeness of which froze Owen where he stood. The thing was hunched over because of the low ceiling, but was probably eight feet tall or more when fully erect. After his mind had enough time to process what he was seeing, Owen drew his revolver and opened fire. Owen claims to have emptied his gun into the creature, yet his bullets only had the effect of making the creature angry.

The thing let our an ear-splitting howl. Owen had to drop his gun to cover his ears. Then the huge, gray hands shot out and grabbed Owen. They flung him around the cave. Owen hit the wall, breaking some ribs. As he lay on the ground, a fist came down and smashed his head against the ground. Blood ran down Owen’s face.

The giant towered over him now. The white lips opened to reveal slab-like teeth which descended toward Owen. Owen reached out and grabbed something hard. When he held it up he saw it was a skeletal human forearm. Owen jammed the bone in the open mouth. As the creature reeled back, Owen crawled desperately for the cave opening.

A hand shot out and grabbed his ankle. Owen reached out, grabbed his flashlight from where it lay, and shone the beam right in the creature’s eyes. The giant reared back and howled once more. This gave Owen enough time to crawl out of the cave and into the torrential downpour.

He was found the next morning in a delirious state in a thickly-forested gulch. Owen Clarke was taken to Colwyn Bay for medical care. When he regained consciousness, Owen babbled about the monster he had found inside Y Gwrach. His superiors feared he had suffered some kind of schizophrenic episode and kept him confined in the hospital. His mentally stability had already been questioned by some after how he handled the Rhys investigation.

Owen spent two weeks in and out of consciousness as surgeons drained fluid from his head and set his broken ribs.

In Owen’s absence, Anglesey was at the giant’s mercy. More and more people—now near a hundred total—were yanked from their homes. Thunderstorms drenched the island with rising ferocity. Cows and sheep were found mauled to dead in fields. The island’s medical offices were filled with people troubled by insomnia and night terrors.

cow_mutilation
One of many mutilated cattle

Most of these visions shared a common element: a terrifying, antlered figure with blue eyes who attacked dreamers and demeaned their obedience.

After a month and two weeks in the hospital, Owen Clarke decided he’d had enough. He knew what was happening at Anglesey: the severe storms were reported in the local news. Owen checked out of the hospital and drove to his house, where he picked up his Remington shotgun. Then he drove all the way down to the Tower Colliery in southern Wales. His father had worked there and Owen still had family friends there.

As arranged, an old friend left three sticks of dynamite in a place where Owen could find them. Owen then went all the way back to Cumar. He waited a week until the next full moon. He stayed in an inn under a false name. The police had not given him permission to leave the hospital, so Owen had to be incognito. When the full moon rolled around, Owen returned to Y Gwrach.

When he reached the summit, Owen walked past the frog pool. Something glittering under the water made him stop. He looked closer. There, lying at the bottom of the pond was a sword, shining like silver. In all his previous times climbing up and down the hill, Owen had never seen the sword. He wondered if it too was revealed in the full moon.

Owen waded in to retrieve the sword. Owen later said that, “I don’t know what made me stop at that moment to pull out the sword. Maybe I’d been too fascinated by King Arthur as a child. Maybe God told me that I needed the sword to defeat that monster in the cave.”

Owen climbed down the east slope of the hill. There was the cave in the moonlight. Owen walked inside, shotgun in hand, the sword tucked through his belt. The giant with Alan Rhys’s blue eyes was waiting for him. When Owen turned the corner, a gray fist and the reek of death rushed at him. He ducked, firing his shotgun. The creature recoiled, yet the blast had not damaged it visibly. Rolling to avoid more blows, Owen fired blast after blast, aiming for the eyes. At last, the monster howled as it shielded its eyes. Owen dropped the gun, pulled the sword out, and ran the thing through the chest.

The giant roared in pain as black blood showered Owen. The creature tried to rise and grabbed Owen, but he rammed the sword in deeper and then leapt back. Owen ran to the cave mouth, lit the three sticks of dynamite, and tossed them at the approaching giant. When Owen turned to run, his half-healed ribs sent pain shooting through his side. Owen flinched and stumbled. The blast picked him up and threw him into the air.

Owen landed hard, breaking a leg. his left eardrum had ruptured and his left side was covered in burns. gritting his teeth against the pain, Owen looked up the mountain. The cave was gone. Tumbled rocks stood in a heap where it had been. Owen limped to his car and drove back to the hospital.

Clarke later said concerning the giant:

“I don’t know who or what it was. I still don’t, not to this day. And I can’t say I want to know. It wasn’t a man that’s for sure. It looked like a great big corpse with sharp blue eyes. Whether it was Alan brought back by some trick or that god of his—Nodens I think—I don’t know. I’m just glad it’s gone. It was unnatural.”

The storms, the visions, the kidnappings, all of it stopped that night. The police officially blamed the storms on a freak occurrence and the kidnappings on hooligans, who had been killed in a shootout with the police. The shared nightmares were silently swept under the rug. Owen was publicly commended for his actions. When he told his side of the story to police officials, Owen was ordered never to speak of it to anyone.

Owen Clarke passed away in 2017 at the age of 89. He died peacefully in the company of his loving family. Months before his death, he told a select group of friends and family his side of the Alan Rhys affair. These friends and family later told us about Owen Clarke’s incredible story.

The cave where the creature lived was never found. The case was quickly buried. With the death of the giant, the specter of Alan Rhys lifted for good. Anglesey became a sleepy little island again. And the town of Cumar a sleepy little town.

The only “loose end” to this story is Caitlin MacDonell’s child, which was conceived during her time as Rhys’s captive. No matter how much digging I did, I couldn’t find so much as a rumor about it. What orphanage it was sent to, its gender, or who—if anyone—adopted it is unknown. Somewhere out there, the child of Nodens’ promise lives on. Perhaps they don’t even know the incredible circumstances to which it was born.

Just this year, in 2018, someone bought the house of Alan Rhys. The thing at this point was a ruin. A legal liaison came to the town council of Cumar and offered them a generous deal. The liaison never disclosed who he represented.

old_hut
Alan Rhys’s house circa 1995

My theory is that perhaps it is Caitlin’s child who bought the house. If this is true, why he or she did so is a mystery. Surely it can’t be a sentimental wish to preserve the place of their conception. Any plans they have for Rhys’s old home will be posted later if they occur.

For now, the infamous “Cumar Killings” are finished. Case closed. They were Wales’s strangest string of crimes, yet no one today knows about them. Even the natives of Anglesey never speak of Rhys or Clarke.

Like the giant in the cave, the Cumar Killings have been buried, forgotten. For now.

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