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Artist rendering of the ghost version

The Ratman of Southend  is a local legend originating in the town of Southend-on-Sea, Essex (specifically Shoebury). Centring around an underpass, the legend has two main variants, the mutant child and the homeless ghost, the commonality between the two being the presence of a rat-like creature who appears in the pedestrian walkways at night.

Ghost []

The most commonly told story of the Ratman involves a homeless old man who used the underpass to escape from the rain and the cold at nights. The story goes that he was old and barely able to walk. One night a group of teenagers beat him half to death and stole his blanket, the only real source of warmth he had. Dying from his injuries and the biting cold of the night, he succumbed to hypothermia - his stiffening corpse nibbled and gnawed on by the numerous vermin who inhabit the area. (Another important note is that some people will say the homeless man was still alive whilst being gnawed).

Soon after, locals reported odd noises. Namely, high-pitched squealing and the sound of nails dragging along the walls. Whether evidence of a real ghost or an overactive imagination, the fact remains that this story and subsequent noises led to locals dubbing the creature the Ratman of Southend.

Mutant Child[]


A sighting. Real? Fake? Costume? Man? Ratman?

The other main version of the story is far more fanciful and seems to have emerged through schoolyard folklore, a tale passed between children to frighten and unnerve their classmates. In this version, the Ratman is no longer a ghost, but a real creature.

The story runs that the mayor of the town was a known adulterer and was eventually cursed for his infidelity in the form of a grotesque child, a baby with the elongated snout and worm-like tail of a rat. The child grew and developed a taste for flesh. Seeking a solution to his problem, the Mayor had the underpass constructed with a concealed entrance to a chamber, within which his monstrous offspring might hide, only to emerge at night to indulge in its hunger.

References in media[]

  • Local author, Dee Gordon, detailed the local ghost stories of the Essex area - including that of the Ratman - in the book Haunted Southend.
  • The Ratman is mentioned alongside other folkloric creatures in the book Baby's First Cryptid by Carl Farmer.
  • The myth is also explored briefly in the book Stuff Brits Like, by author and broadcaster Fraser McAlpline.
  • Ghost tours in the Essex area have been known to include nighttime visits to the Ratman Tunnel in the hope of seeing the creature.
  • In the Grand Theft Auto games: They have their own legend of a man with a rat head that haunts the subways of Grand Theft Auto.