The Scorpion's Tales

The tale of the scorpions at Ongar station has surfaced many times.

When will these evasive little creatures be found; when will they crawl out of the brickwork or woodwork lying around. Alas they never seem to appear.

The legend

Ongar Station has gone down in legend as having had a colony of scorpions living on or around the station for many years. The story appeared on the local BBC Nationwide current affairs program in the early seventies. The story, roughly, stated that ‘Scorpions had been found at Ongar station in Essex by station staff. It was thought they had first arrived while in wooden crates full of fruit and vegetables which may have arrived via various dockyards, possibly the still working docks in London. They escaped and have colonised the station yard, possibly the old signal box and brickwork. They found this is an ideal place to breed and flourish as Ongar was a quiet station’.

Scorpions are from the arachnid family which includes spiders. The tail can carry a deadly sting -‘the sting in the tail’ comes from the scorpion’s ability to deliver a deadly poisonous sting. As such, a creature that creates fear in people’s minds and even nightmares.

Many a film has used their image to create fear on screen. Scorpions have reputation where they can survive Earth’s most extreme temperatures from very hot to extreme cold. They hail from mostly hot desert type climates but are known to survive prolonged extreme cold by hibernating and coming back to life when temperatures rise.

So how do scorpions get to Ongar Station only, not the town or surrounding area.

The story has varied from the arrival in fruit and vegetable boxes imported from far away places and finishing up in Ongar Station via docks. Over time before containerisation, local dockyards at times reported scorpion colonies in the yards or wharfs. They would have got there in various crates brought in by ships from across the world. Animals have travelled on ships for many a generation and escaped into various territories for which they were not natives and sometimes having a devastating impact on local animal populations.

The other story is that a senior civil servant living in Ongar in the 60s or 70s had heard rumours that the station would close. Fearing being cut off from a transport link into Central London, he went to a pet shop and purchased some scorpions and set them free in Ongar station and called local newspapers to report scorpions on the station. Presumably he called upon station staff as witnesses to verify his story.

Over time this has produced legends, tales, urban myths and stories of the scorpions. The queries from the public about the scorpions have been many, but the mystery remains unsolved. There has even been a "scorpion safari" in recent years, to no avail.

For now, it seems, Ongar station is "scorpian free"!