For the past five years, the people of Somerset in the UK have been semi-terrorized by a mysterious figure who goes out at night dressed in a black latex suit and mask, intentionally frightening unsuspecting villagers. In May of this year, police finally arrested a man they believe is the so-called “Somerset Gimp.” But he has pleaded not guilty to the charges, suggesting there may be more than one such person plaguing the area.
(Please note: the word “gimp” has multiple meanings, which according to Wikipedia include a type of image-processing software and “an ornamental trim used in sewing and embroidery.” The relevant meaning here is one you may remember from Pulp Fiction.)
According to The Guardian, “the first reports of the [G]imp reached the police in November 2018,” but he was not caught on camera until the following summer. The woman who encountered him then told police she was out walking at night when she “spotted something on the side of the street” that caused her to open her phone’s camera app, and then she saw “someone charging at me in a full black rubbery suit.” She was terrified—although not too terrified to get the picture above, which makes me a little suspicious of this tale—but the man ran away after she screamed.
Other sightings were reported occasionally during the years that followed, causing the Gimp to develop a sort of Bigfoot-like legendary status in the area. The Guardian reports that at least one “entrepreneur” marketed T-shirts and mugs printed with an image of the Gimp, for example. More sightings followed in the summer of 2022, and that October a witness claimed the Somerset Gimp had “flopped” to the ground before him, writhing around and speaking in a “demon language.”
By that point, these tales had spread widely enough that they began to concern the broader gimp community.
“This guy has undone everything the gimp community is trying to do,” said the Gimp Man of Essex, criticizing the one in Somerset. He didn’t explain exactly what it’s trying to do, but he seemed to be referring to efforts to gain broader acceptance within the non-gimp community. The report noted that the Essex Gimp is “often spotted” in Colchester “doing his weekly supermarket shop wearing his suit,” and he told the reporter that he tries to “use fetish for good by organising charity fundraisers.” Whatever progress may have been made in that regard, he’s concerned that the Somerset Gimp’s alleged criminal conduct is threatening it. “It gives us all a bad rep[utation],” he said. “One hundred percent wrong.”
In May of this year, there were at least two more Somerset Gimp sightings, and the second time the authorities were ready. Early on May 9, a woman called police to report that the Gimp—or a gimp, at least—had jumped out in front of her vehicle. Officers were at the scene in just three minutes, and that was quick enough to locate and arrest a suspect.
He was a 32-year-old man who police said had previously been arrested in other areas “on suspicion of causing a public nuisance,” and after being detained this time he was charged with assault under the Public Order Act. He has pleaded not guilty.
The suspected Gimp is out on bail while awaiting trial, and during that time he is subject to a harm prevention order that is probably unique among harm prevention orders to date. According to The Guardian, under the magistrate’s order he is “banned from wearing a mask or possessing one in a public place, or wearing black all-in-one clothing,” and “was also told he must not crawl, wriggle, or writhe on the ground wearing a full-body covering or mask.” This is presumably a reference to the “demon language” incident last October, but the order apparently doesn’t ban speaking in tongues.
He’s apparently also still free to crawl, wriggle, or writhe while wearing something else, but if I were his defense attorney I’d still suggest he avoid that sort of thing at least for now.