Thursday, July 02, 2009
I have not been in the best of headspaces over the last week. The stresses and strains of the last month have got to me a bit, and whilst I can handle big stresses reasonably well, the constant stream of little bits of crap that have gone down over the last five or six weeks have been too much for my fragile psyche.
However, it feels like we are at the turning point today. It's been a good day so far, and I have actually achieved more than I had hoped. And there are several more hours to go. The first trenche of Animals & Men #46 is being posted as I write, On The Track episode 22 is finally finished despite a string of computer problems, I am just about to do some work on the Emily movie, and later Dizzy Ms Lizzy and I are gonna have a blitz on Glen's book. I might even tidy up my side of the bedroom before I go to bed.
Keep yer fingers crossed for Shosh's exam results tomorrow. I'll let you know as soon as I do, (and for regular WW attendees, I'll let you know about Aurelia and Becky as well)
Elasmotherium was a gigantic species of rhino the size of an elephant. It bore one very long, straight horn in the centre of its forehead rather than on the snout. It had relatively longer legs than the five known species of modern rhino and could probably gallop at a faster rate, despite its greater size. The modern white rhino has been clocked at 25 mph. As it is, at 5 tons, the largest living rhino it is probable that the smaller species can move faster.
Elasmotherium is usually reconstructed as having fur like the more familiar woolly rhino. It lived in Southern Russia and ranged as far east as Siberia and as far west as Moldavia. They are known to have lived in Europe until the mid Pleistocene. In some areas, it has been postulated that they lingered much longer.
The Evenk people of Russia have, in their folklore, a giant black bull that sports a single horn in the middle of its forehead. Pioneering cryptozoologist Willy Ley postulated that this creature may have been a distorted racial memory of Elasmotherium.
The 10th Century Arab traveller Ahmad ibn Fadlan writes of what may be late surviving Elasmotheriums:
“There is nearby a wide steppe, and there dwells, it is told, an animal smaller than a camel, but taller than a bull. Its head is the head of a ram, and its tail is a bull’s tail. Its body is that of a mule and its hooves are like those of a bull. In the middle of its head it has a horn, thick and round, and as the horn goes higher, it narrows (to an end), until it is like a spearhead. Some of these horns grow to three or five ells depending on the size of the animal. It thrives on the leaves of trees, which are excellent greenery. Whenever it sees a rider, it approaches and if the rider has a fast horse, the horse tries to escape by running fast, and if the beast overtakes them, it picks the rider out of the saddle with its horn, and tosses him in the air, and meets him with the point of the horn, and continues doing so until the rider dies. But it will not harm or hurt the horse in any way or manner.
The locals seek it in the steppe and in the forest until they can kill it. It is done so: they climb the tall trees between which the animal passes. It requires several bowmen with poisoned arrows; and when the beast is in between them, they shoot and wound it unto its death. And indeed I have seen three big bowls shaped like Yemen seashells, that the king has, and he told me that they are made out of that animal’s horn.”
Elasmotherium was certainly larger than a camel, but this may indeed be a garbled account of the creature. An elle is an archaic measurement supposedly representing a man’s arm. It can be anywhere from 27 inches to 37 inches.
This giant rhino may also be behind a strange Persian legend of a savage one-horned beast called the karkadann that was said to attack and kill all other creatures with its one great horn. Ibn Battuta, a Morrocan traveller, wrote of a karkadann he had seen in India, but this may well have been an Indian rhino.
In 1663 the fossil remains of a huge animal were uncovered near Mount Zeunikenberg, in the Quedlinberg area of Germany. They consisted of a huge, straight horn, a skull, two front legs and a spine. Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, the acclaimed 17th Century scientist, wrote of it in his unpublished book on biology and geology ‘Protogaea’.
“But we must not ignore that a quadruped unicorn with the size of a horse is to be found in Abyssinia, if we believe Jerome Lobo and Balthasar Tellez. Likewise the skeleton found in the rock in the vicinity of Quedlinburg near Mount Zeunikenberg, in the 63rd year of this century, excavated together with chalk, more nearly resembled the appearance of a terrestrial animal. Otto von Gericke, mayor of Magdeburg, is a witness of the fact; he has adorned our age with his new inventions, and was the first man to invent a pneumatic pump, by which air was drawn from vessels, and wonderful things were demonstrated by this inventor in the assembly of Ratisbonne in the year 1653, in the presence of the Emperor; which afterwards were even wonderfully improved upon by the Englishman Robert Boyle, the highest of men, brother of the Count of Cork in Ireland, who enriched us with a new treasure of experiments. Consequently Gericke takes the opportunity to relate in his published book on the vacuum that the unicorn skeleton was found reclined on the back part of the body, as beasts are accustomed, though the head was raised up, the forehead bearing a long extended horn almost five forearms in length, and as thick as a human leg, but decreasing proportionally. It was crushed and extracted in small parts due to the ignorance of the excavators, though finally the horn with the head and some ribs, and the backbone together with other bones were brought to the Abbess of the region. The same things have been reported to me, and a figure is added, which will not be unworthy to append.”
There is an accompanying sketch of a horse-like skull with a straight horn of great length together with a spine, ribs and a pair of front legs.
Von Gericke himself commented on the find.
“As usual with such brutes its posterior parts were very low and its head raised. Its forehead bore a horn nearly five ells long, as thick as a man’s thigh and gradually tapering. Because of the ignorance and carelessness of the diggers, the skeleton was broken and extracted in pieces. However the horn, which was attached to the head, the backbone and several ribs were brought to the abbess of the town.”
In the book Fate of the Mammoth Claudine Cohen and William Rodarmor note that in 1925 Austrian paleontologist Otheino Abel identified the remains (from Leibniz’s drawing) as a mixture of rhino and mammoth bones. The molar teeth and scapular were those of a mammoth.
But what of the horn? Rhino horn is made of keratin and does not fossilise as well as bone. However, in the Natural History museum in Ullan Bator, Mongolia, I have seen a fossilised Elasmotherium skull with a horn over five feet long. Abel thought the horn was the tusk of a young mammoth but its seems too long and straight. The five elles measurement agrees with the description from Ahmad ibn Fadlan so could the Mount Zeunikenberg unicorn be the mixed remains of a mammoth and an Elasmotherium?
The drawing of the skull looks more like a rhino than an elephant. I have no idea what became of the surviving bones, or if they exist today. It is a shame that the long horn was broken up before it could be examined. Perhaps it was evidence of a westerly outpost of Elasmotherium.
“Cat Researchers Gets Clawed!”
“Circus Clown Gets Boot!”
The papers were full of stories about The General’s difficult evening and with little happening in the big wide world, the meeting had made several regional newspapers; Channel X news; the Internet; on every forum dealing with UFOs, Big Cats and The Paranormal; and even The Daily Star.
The General was beside himself and was in a closed meeting with his supporters at a cafe in Lower Minster, two miles away. “What in HELL happened last night?” he screamed. He had been up all night trying to get the custard pies, string and gunk off himself and his friends were not happy either. It wasn’t their mistaken approach that concerned them but feeling sorry for themselves, uncovering the “moles” and “exposing the conspiracy against us.”
Such talk was common in ABC circles. The group did such a bad, non-scientific job that their lists and databases of Big Cat sightings were often conflated and confused with all sorts of phenomena. “We knooow there is a conspiracy at work and I thought I recognised a few people in that crowd of ingrates last night,” moaned The General. “State Agents, Government Assets, Agent Provocateurs probably trained at the Intelligence Corps HQ in Ashford, Kent. They send them on provocateur short courses and their role is to infiltrate the general public and keep us under control. I’m sure that Watts character was there last night. I shall have a look at the footage later. Bastards!”
“Yes but most of them that chucked stuff were kiddies,” said Pam. “They can’t be agents.”
“You want a bet,” shouted The General. “I have something here written by Larry H. Larder and he’s a London-based expert in deep government surveillance and penetration of the UFO community by state assets. One of his reports is on a 14-year-old MI5 agent and I bet that very man was there last night handing out the silly string and custard pies to his agents. They get 'em young, these days and, after all, suicide bombers in Palestine are often teenagers.”
There was no point arguing with The General when he was in this mood. Or any mood, for that matter. Ellie Macpherson, barely able to contain her delight, and who had, this time, been asked to attend the secret meeting, spoke up. With a somewhat distant look on her face, and trying once again not to die of laughter, she said, “Well...I don’t think they understand you, Farley. If they knew what you knew they would understand. The sightings, the evidence, the database, your 20 years in the subject. As you say, some of them might know something and a couple of people I spoke to said there were outsiders in last night’s meeting.”
Brilliant stuff. Ellie was tapping into the General’s paranoia and telling him nothing.
“But the girl is right,” he exclaimed. “She’s local, she knows the score and now we have confirmation that agents were indeed there last night and that they either duped locals or infiltrated their ranks!”
“Indeed,” said Ellie.
The fact that she had said no such thing was neither here nor there. Anyone agreeing with The General would be given promotion; seen as a rising star. Anyone disagreeing was a problem, if not The Problem.
“And you, Pam, should bloody well know better,” The General continued. “You should be supporting me after that vicious and cowardly attack on our people last night. What we need is guts, some revenge. I will get the bastards if it’s the last thing we do! I will expose them all. I will bring this conspiracy to the world’s attention.”
Farley Norman was dripping with hatred and was on the verge of losing it completely. He thought he liked the limelight but after last night was having second thoughts. He didn’t like getting a rough ride especially from people who didn’t understand.
“What do you have in mind, boss?” asked Billy Poison, sounding a bit like a Mafia hit man. “Are we going to launch some dirty tricks of our own?”
“We shall see, Billy; we shall see. When the time comes we shall not be forgotten and we shall have respect and that is spelt A B bloody C!”
The meeting broke up and Ellie got on her mountain bike and rode the couple of miles back home whereupon she checked on her mother - who was fine, especially after watching proceedings on Channel X’s live link - and then went to see her best friend in the world, Frieda Fox.
Frieda was at home making cakes. When she saw Ellie she took off her apron, rushed to hug her and gave her a little kiss too. “I am thrilled to see you darling,” she exclaimed. “I so missed you last night and it was such, such fun. Tell me about the emergency meeting this morning. Let’s go upstairs!”
The children had been awake for a while – Saturday was their lie-in morning – and last night’s excitement had guaranteed they’d slept well. Once Ellie arrived they gathered around and Robin turned from the computer screen to get the latest information.
“You should have heard them this morning,” said Ellie. “That IDIOT has completely lost it and at one point threatened revenge! He seems to think that local children have been employed by MI5 or something to do the government’s dirty work. If Frieda and I hadn’t watched so much X Files together I shouldn’t have guessed where he gets his ideas from!”
“This man is insane,” said Robin. “I’ve been looking into his background more. He used to produce a magazine called Alien Sightings and this was the most extreme – or should I say extremely ridiculous – magazine ever produced on the subject of UFOs. He thinks that he is a 'starchild' because he used to have bad dreams. A nut’s nut by any standards and now he’s switched to Big Cats.”
“Yes,” said Ellie, “And I managed to get him thinking dark conspiracies; not that he needed much help. And get this: the scumbag put his hand on my backside when I was on the way out and told me he thought I was a good looker, a potential future leader, if I stuck with him and met him in the pub later. Dirty old man.”
Frieda looked uncomfortable. Robin looked shocked and the youngsters shifted uncomfortably. “I want to kill him,” she said. “How dare he?!”
“It’s ok,” said Ellie, hugging her friend. “It’s ok. I knew what I was getting into and you guys need me so I am helping. Mind you, my mum was mightily entertained by last night’s efforts. She thinks that Robin is a wonderful young man knowing that he was behind it and said that it was one of the funniest things she had ever seen when The General got 'tarred and feathered.'”
“A snake, when injured, is most vicious,” added Robin, “So you be careful with him. Bloody weirdo, though, chatting up a child. It won’t go well for him when this all comes out and we film you exposing the inner workings of his soon to be defunct group....”
“And we have won the first battle, but not yet the war,” said Florence, sounding heroic.
The children had much plotting and planning to do, albeit without MI5’s resources at their disposal, but already hundreds of people were arriving in the village to find out what was going on. One car-load of visitors included members of the FPS (Fortean Paranormal Society) who believed in synchronricity, ostention and other things that neither they, nor the public, fully understood. They thought that their appearance would “give a much needed Fortean perspective on events in Upper Minster” and their organiser, Danny Milstein, and his wife Janet, took themselves very seriously indeed.
To top it all, in a wheat field nearby, a local farmer was getting the shock of his life as he discovered a massive crop circle formation on his land. It looked like James Macpherson was back but to the casual observer it would seem as if hidden messages might be located within his formation....
The latest edition of a monthly webTV show from the CFZ and CFZtv, bringing you the latest cryptozoological, and monster hunting news from around the world. This episode brings you:
Animal rescue - the story of Jerry the Jackdaw
Animal Behaviour - weird crow attributes
Giant snake in Peru
Not-so giant eels
Appeal from CFZ Illinois
The CFZ Texas contingent tour devon
Big cats at pheasant farm
Sneak preview of `Emily and the Big Cats`
New and Rediscovered: New species in Peru
New and Rediscovered: New bat in Indian Ocean islands
New and Rediscovered: New frogs in Australia
What a long strange trip its been
So guys, fingers crossed for tomorrow....
Welcome to the daily news update from the CFZ cryptozoology daily news blog, with a bad pun thrown in for afters.
Baby deer will lose injured limb
Wall saves newts from life down in the dumps
Three-year plan launched to help Notts' hedgehogs
Peregrines under attack in West Midlands
1000 Sandwich terns settle at Minsmere
Harlequin ladybird invasion could endanger 1000 native UK species
800-pound pig that survived highway crash surfaces in swimming pool in Arkansas home
True story of dog-eaten passport cancels Wisconsin teenager's class trip to Peru
The teenager should probably blame the passports destruction on the boogie… (you’ll have to read the story to appreciate that one, but to just say ‘Oh deer’ after the deer article would have just been too easy).