Myths of Manchester: The Cat Curries of Rusholme

WARNING: This is a bit gruesome (especially if you like cats)

By Ben Brown | 29 September 2021

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Okay, so the warning is out of the way. But I should also add that this is a pretty grim story – one that involves cat body parts. So if you don’t want to hear about none of that stuff – move on. I don’t want to be causing upset or anything. Not that I did it. I haven’t done anything. Honest.

So, ‘The Cat Curries of Rusholme‘ – what’s all this about then? Well, it all started with a bloke called James Robinson all the way back in 2014. Just for the record, at the time James was keen to let people know that he has 5 cats of his own – so I should probably pop that in here too.

James Robinson was walking down the back of Rusholme, the Curry Mile to be more specific, and he came upon a gruesome sight – a bin bag with about 5 cats’ heads in it. Like most normal people he immediately got onto the blower and rung someone – I’m not sure who though – would it be the police? The Council? The RSPCA?

Anyway, someone with a uniform came down and sorted the heads out and then someone from a newspaper turned up, or perhaps James called them, and the story got out; “Animal lover describes horror moment he found bag of CATS’ HEADS near Curry Mile”

So what do we think of this one? Well, as you can imagine, the internet and gossip went into absolute overdrive on this – with the main gist being that the heads were OBVIOUSLY the remains of cats that had been cooked up and served in a curry, or indeed a Donner kebab to a pissed up bloke at 3am.

Surely this is absurd and there’s not an ounce of truth in it? Or is there?

Well, soon afterwards, a Council ‘spokesperson’ commented saying that the heads were placed there in a “racially motivated” act. But that’s pretty much it. Nothing else was said, a culprit was never found and it’s remembered now only as a myth – that when you go for a meal on the Curry Mile you might be getting cat meat.

Like a modern day Eddie Valliant I’ve taken it upon myself to try to find out the truth in this case – and it’s going to take all of my Google skills to complete it. I wonder if there’s a reward?

Okay, let’s get this thing started. I thought it best to look at each individual explanation for the cats on their own to try to discover just why they were there and whether the myth is indeed warranted. So I thought I’d start with the council’s explanation – that this was an act of racism.

“Racially Motivated”

Anyone who has been to primary school will know that some cultures and religions feature cats rather prominently – most noticeably that of the Ancient Egyptians who associated the animals with the goddess Isis and were considered sacred. The killing of a cat was absolutely forbidden and when a household cat died, the entire family would mourn and would actually shave their eyebrows.

In other cultures, although no species are sacred in Islam, cats are revered by Muslims and admired for their cleanliness and for being loved by Muhammad and for being, according to Wikipedia, “the quintessential pet.

Additionally cats are seen as tremendously lucky in Japan, bringing good fortune to their owner. This contrasts significantly with the Western view of black cats are extremely unlucky and something to be avoided at all costs.

So there are a couple of cultures and religions there that would be particularly offended by the severed heads of cats, and thus the perpetrator must have had it in for people or peoples from either Ancient Egyptian or Muslim origins.

Counting out the fact that approximately 100% of Ancient Egyptians died over 2500 years ago, one would presume that this is an anti-Islamic statement – which would explain the placement of the heads in such a predominantly Middle-Eastern area as the Curry Mile.

If so then this whole macabre affair could be put to rest, blamed on some nasty little person with a racist grudge to bear. In fact, the idea seems to be able to offend on two levels, first with the whole maliciousness of it but also by fuelling rumours that will adversely affect the businesses in the area.

There are quite a few things that have people thinking that this isn’t a racially motivated attack though – and that’s the fact that the heads were put in a bag which was subsequently disposed of and seemingly hopefully forgotten about.

If it wasn’t for the snooping of James Robinson – they’d never have been found and therefore doesn’t make sense as a racially motivated statement.

So what are the other reasons for the heads turning up? Well, the next one I want to look at is quite a weird one (in the context of this whole weird affair), and it involves some kind of occult ritual.

The Occult

So there are a lot of claims saying that the heads were part of some kind of ritual and that is why they were placed in a bag and not on the doorstep of a business or household (as would probably be the case if this was racially motivated). Well, to try to discover whether this is true or not, I’ve spent the last day delving deep into ‘The Occult’ and if I’m being honest – it’s actually rather nice.

Now I’m not an expert at all of this Black Magic stuff but I reckon it’s a lot more innocent than people claim it to be. There certainly isn’t any of the kinds of sacrifices and rituals that I’ve been reading about going on in a street in Rusholme, regardless of what some stuck-up religious nerd thinks.

The cat is quite a prominent symbol in a lot of the occult stuff that I’ve been looking in to though. I’ve already mentioned that black cats are considered unlucky, but they’re also the most prominent of witch’s familiars – and therefore potentially very powerful creatures in the realm of magic.

Then there’s the ancient Scottish ritual of Taghairm (spiritual echo) that involves the sacrifice of cats in order to summon demons and spirits, so could these poor little felines be victims of that? Or indeed one of the literally hundreds of ‘incantations’ that have been floating around the world of fairies, witches and magic for years.

Personally, it’s all a load of shite to think that these cats are the result of something even closely resembling the occult or magic. I’m sure that 99% of the people who take an interest in the occult would NEVER think of doing something like this – and the remaining 1% are likely to be the kind of people who would smear their name in goat’s blood on the walls of Selfridges no matter their beliefs or religion.

So that one’s out.

The Cat Curry

This brings us on to the final explanation of this whole gruesome turn of events. One that says that someone out there is either eating cats or is cutting cats up and putting them into the food that they serve.

If the events of the Horse Meat Scandal have anything to tell us, we are disastrously ignorant to what goes into our food here in the UK and so many people have jumped on this as evidence that some unscrupulous business owners are using the many stray cats in the area to add a bit of a meat to their dishes.

The real problem that I’ve got myself in now is that regardless of what I say, or anyone else says for that matter, if you believe that this is what happened (and still happens) then nobody is going to change your mind.

I could sit here and tell you that it’s completely absurd that someone would take the time to catch a load of cats (which certainly isn’t easy), and then chop them up and cook them, all for a few measly handfuls of (probably manky) meat, but you won’t believe me.

A quick trawl through comments on all of these articles about the cats uncovers all kinds of urban myths, stories and outright bollocks about people going into kebab houses and finding half a dog, or a bloke fixing a drain and finding a trap for catching pigeons – they are exactly that – myths.

But this one actually happened, and people love to put two and two together to get to whatever THEY believe. We don’t know why the cat’s heads were in that bag, they could have been eaten by a serial killer for all we know, but I’m certain they weren’t used in any curries.

The Curry Mile has certainly lost some of its charm over the last few years, with many of the once brilliant restaurants being simply turned into shisha bars or closing altogether, but there are still some outstanding places to eat here and it’s a shame that the actions of one (or more?) person may have completely derailed that.

The final theory is that someone in one of the houses went out, caught the cats (as I said, there are LOADS of stray cats around there) and then cut them up to eat them all by themselves. This isn’t entirely far-fetched – just look at the entry for ‘Cat Meat‘ on Wikipedia.

I’ll leave that one with you.