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The mystery of Newcastle鈥檚 vampire rabbit

Down a narrow alleyway to the back end of St Nicholas鈥 Cathedral, in Newcastle, one can find a rather curious decoration garnishing a door on the opposing fa莽ade. The 鈥渧ampire rabbit鈥 has stood watch over the cathedral for at least half a century; while records are scarce (a quick search of Google Books doesn鈥檛 bring up anything until the twenty-first century), it could well date back to the building鈥檚 construction in 1901.

Spooky.
Here鈥檚 a noticeably brighter bun, as it looked in 1987.

Here鈥檚 the thing, though. Nobody knows how it got there. Indeed, even the name 鈥渧ampire rabbit鈥 is a misnomer; its jet-black fur and red claws were added on some time in the 1990s,i as were its distinctly batty ears. Some say it was put there to scare away wannabe graverobbers, but i have my doubts that twentieth-century crooks would be so dumb.

Yet others posit that it represents a mad March hare, arising at the time of Easter, or that it refers to Thomas Bewick, a nearby engraver who had a fondness of all things lagomorphic. Most fascinatingly, a theory advanced by one Mr Adam Curtis suggests a Masonic pun in reference to one George Hare Phillipson, a local doctor (hence vampires) and active Freemason, as was the lead architect, one William H. Wood. It being a secret society in-joke would also explain why it鈥檚 located around the back, rather than the front, which faces onto one of the busiest streets in town.

Perhaps we might never know for sure. In any case, it鈥檚 a fascinating little secret 鈥 what do you think is most likely?

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