Friday, April 30, 2010
CFZ in springtime
Crypto stuff at Bristol Zoo: Butterfly goodeids
Crypto stuff at Bristol Zoo: Cassowaries
Crypto stuff at Bristol Zoo: Paddlefish
Crypto stuff at Bristol Zoo: Prairie Dog
Crypto stuff at Bristol Zoo: Asiatic Lion
Mystery cat in Texas
Jon in Reading
Corinna looks at out of place birds
New and Rediscovered: New British Mammal
New and Rediscovered: New species in Devon
New and Rediscovered: New species of Orca
Now don't get all excited - I know I was too.
I'm looking into the possibility of it being an escaped emu as there are a lot in this country now. I wish I had the funding to shoot down there and take a look but that's impossible. If it does turn out to be a chick this will be the first one seen in decades and may well prove a healthy breeding population of these birds DOES still exist.
Kindest of regards
Hubert Duprat is a French artist known for his unusual work, an artistic intersection between caddisfly larvae and gold, opal, turquoise, and other precious stones.
Caddisflies naturally construct elaborate protective tubes from materials found in their environment. Left to nature, the caddisflies use twigs, snail shells, bits of sand and small stones - objects found in their stream bed homes. The tubes serve various purposes - they use stones to increase traction in fast-moving streams, and spiky twigs make the tube (and thus, the fly larva) more difficult for predators to swallow.
Duprat, born in 1957, began his work with caddisfly larvae in the early 1980s. He collects the larvae from their normal environments and he takes them to his studio. There he gently removes their own natural cases and puts them in tanks filled with his own materials, from which they begin to build their new protective sheaths. When he began the project, he only provided the caddis larvae with gold flakes. Since then, the larvae have enjoyed various semi-precious and precious stones, including turquoise, coral and lapis lazuli, as well as sapphires, pearls, rubies, and diamonds.
EDITOR'S NOTE: I think these are utterly exquisite. As a boy, when I used to keep aquatic inverts in the shed which is now the CFZ Museum (nothing much changes), I carried out experiments using little bits of plastic waste, and fine sand, and marvelled how caddis larvae, once ejected from their original homes, would make intricate new ones surprisingly quickly. But to use precious stones and gold leaf is the work of genius.
On this day in 1954 Ray Parker Junior, the writer and performer of the theme song for the film Ghostbusters, was born.
(Yes, nothing very Fortean happened on this day so I have to scrape the barrel a bit).
And now, the news:
Wildlife TV 'ignores animal rights'
Kemerovo Region resident claims rescuing Yeti in spring flood
Gentle Jake is the world's tallest horse
Not the shortest, ‘neigh’, that was the horse story last week.
Thursday, April 29, 2010
The Naga-Sea-monsters and Freshwater-monsters are reported from all over the orient and in many cases they are distinctly parallel to Chinese dragons. On the other hand, Chinese legend also recognises monster serpents as distinct from the dragons, and so those are more like the limbless Nagas. The Nyans of Burma are likewise merely another local form of Nagas.
The point I am making here is that the reports do NOT describe big snakes; they do not undulate in the serpentine side-to-side manner. They are in fact the same as the more northerly sea-serpents and supposedly undulate up-and-down, producing the 'String-of-buoys' effect, reported as anywhere from several yards to a few hundred feet long. Doubtless this is the effect of waves in a wake (and because of that it has nothing to do with whatever creature might be making the wake, or tell us anything about what its shape might be under the water)
The same 'Giant Serpent' reports are worldwide in the tropics: one article in Fate magazine stated that the immense legendary South American Water-monster Serpent Siucuriju Gigante was also reported in Africa, the Phillipines, and in Australia. And so the same types of reports are indeed all over the southern regions. But they are all actually the same as the more northerly sea-serpents, and the terms should be understood as synonymous. Sea-serpents are world-wide. and their characteristic reported form is the result of a wave action, which has nothing whatsoever to do with the shape of any creature that might be making the waves in its wake. As a matter of fact there is very good documentation that several different animals can create the effect, as well as boats and sometimes natural waves that are not even generated by a live animal at all.
In other words, the names 'sea-serpent', 'naga', 'Sucuriju Gigante', or whatever, do not name any specific animal species, they are all describing an illusion created by a standing wave action and only INTERPRETED as being the body of a long animal undulating vertically on the surface.
We are looking forward to it already....
Buy your tickets today
With more and more websites devoted to exotic cat ‘research’ popping up, you’d have thought that the woods of Britain were full of ‘big cat’ enthusiasts. You would’ve also thought that the age-old theories would have been put to bed with so many minds at work. Sadly no.
There are countless websites and books, which mention that in the 1960s you could walk into Harrods Dept. Store in London and purchase a large exotic cat. This is indeed true, to some extent. I have records that lion and puma were purchased there, but no black leopards. Now, this doesn’t mean to say such animals were not purchased there, but I’ve read over the years from various ‘researchers’ that not enough people have come forward to admit they owned large cats (but let’s face it, not many people who released animals would come forward), and no receipts have been found etc. In the British ‘big cat’ situation, the naivety is astounding, and I truly believe that people are seeking a mystery that just isn’t there. It is a FACT that large exotic cats DO roam the UK. I’ve seen them; I’ve filmed them. Many other people have. But the constant conflict of theories is rather embarrassing to say the least. It’s as if people want these elusive animals to be supernatural; it’s as if they want them to have an origination beyond escapees/releases. But the reality is that the explanation is very simple. The mystery has taken over the mind.
Earlier in April 2010 I spoke to Harrods archive department regarding receipts etc, to prove that large cats were purchased. Now, apart from the story of Christian the lion and the occasional other case where press were interested, a majority of sales would have simply been destroyed as regards to receipts and archives. Any member of the public or celebrity who acquired an exotic pet would have been treated with strictest confidence and their sale filed but then destroyed after filling the archives for a few years. Harrods were not and are not responsible for the animals that roam the southeast today. And neither are those alleged circuses said to have dumped their animals, and neither are the zoo parks who may have lost the occasional cat. The ‘big cat’ situation will always be a sum of many parts because of the hilarious theories and attitudes of those involved in the research. Sadly, there is nothing enigmatic about as to why such animals roam the UK.
I’ve just finished my new book, Mystery Animals of the British Isles: London, and whilst collating evidence I was shocked to find a startling number of incidents where people purchased large exotic cats oh so casually. Certainly over the last couple of decades it has been increasingly difficult to purchase a ‘big cat’ although the drug dealers across the United States and South America have proven otherwise as their black leopards and tigers continue to escape into the wilds. I thought it would be difficult finding any records of cat attacks on humans, cats escaping, purchases etc, but in fact there was an alarming regularity in the purchases of such animals. Most of these animals, such as puma, were purchased as cute, cuddly cubs. It seems that for every animal purchased pre-1976 (when the Dangerous Wild Animals Act was introduced), many went unrecorded, but thankfully, due to some newspaper archives and my own digging and delving, it proves that a majority of animals seen in the wilds today ARE offspring of animals released back then. And as we know, there are a handful of relatively modern cases of animals escaping or being released (2001 lynx in London and in 1987, four female pumas and two lynx released into Kent woodlands).
These kind of situations haven’t just gone on for decades but centuries, and that’s why there are large, exotic cats in the wilds. The Victorian era was a prime time for exotic beasts to be paraded through the streets, fields and in shops. And there exist records of purchases more than a century previous to this.
We must seek the consistency of reports rather than taking note of the occasional lion, tiger and jaguar sighting. Eye-witness reports must be taken with a pinch of salt when they are inconsistent. Only recently I read of several Kent-based sightings (and more fool the website owner for putting them up) in which one witness stated, “I don’t know if it was a fox or a panther…”, and another, “..similar to a tabby with a white belly. Slight hint of green in the fur...tail, bushy and same proportion to as a domestic cat”. Sounds to me exactly like a domestic cat, I’m afraid. It’s worrying to see such bizarre reports featured on websites.
Black leopard, puma, lynx and jungle cat are the main four species of cat in the UK wilds. Caracal and ocelot also feature but are of a far smaller percentage. However, before we start trudging through the woods looking for exotic cats with green fur, or lions and tigers, we must look at their origins to realise that there’s no mystery, and that any mystery created is simply down to bad research.
I hope my ‘…London’ book will provide the answers, certainly in respect for the southeast. And I believe that if the whole of the southeast can be explained, then surely so can the rest of the UK. Why create prehistoric survivors in one county, monster feral cats in another, supernatural demons in another, and lions and tigers somewhere else when there’s no consistency in this ?
‘Big cats’ in the UK have become an urban legend because the mystery surrounding them is false. Trigger cams litter the countryside because researchers everywhere hope they can find their Holy Grail, which in their minds, will earn them a badge of honour.
Recently the organisation called Natural England, according to the tabloids, stated that “Big Cats Are A Myth”. Sometimes I wish they were, although when you look at some of the theories and reports which are filed and methods used to ‘track’ them, it’s no wonder such animals have been filed alongside UFOs and ghosts.
In their Alien Animals book, Janet & Colin Bord called their ‘big cat’ chapter ‘Cats That Can’t Be Caught….’ I sincerely hope that statement rings true many years from now. However, despite the foggy lore created around these animals, I think it would be more apt updating the chapter title to ‘Cats That Could Be Bought…’ because that’s the answer to it all.
It's been a while since I wrote. I am still working on my theme of moments from Brazil, with an general theme of animals. But out of necessity, I have started including pet animals as well.
I have two recent blog postings that might be of interest to your biologists.
The first is a blog posting (with an accompanying video) about a pet crab named Johnny. Johnny is unusual in that it responds with affection to human touch, and will actually 'sleep' when its owner pats its back. And Johnny is by no means a tiny crab - very much the contrary!
The second is a blog posting (with two accompanying videos) that might have a wider appeal than just your biologists who are interested in animal behaviour, and in fact might interest sports fans, in particular, football fans.
Everyone loves watching Brazilian football players because of the way they juggle the ball in the game and so make it entertaining.
It appears that enjoying watching Brazilian football players is not a preserve of human beings, but even pet animals!
One of the videos is about Fred, a chicken that plays football. Fred started playing football by chasing the ball when it went out of bounds when its owner was having a game with his friends. The second video is about a border collie that not only enjoys playing football, it knows how to header footballs.
The general theme of this second blog posting is that it will never ever be easy to select the National Football Team in Brazil when even pets want to play. It might provide some form of humour to your readers who follow the decisions coaches make in selecting their National teams, especially with the World Cup approaching this June, and national coaches have to decide whether to include animals on the team.
The links to the blogs are:
(Johnny The Pet Crab)
(Selecting the Brazilian National Football team will never be easy when even pets want to play.)
So how did it get here?
Back when the CFZ was no more than a conceptual glimmer in my eye, during the early 1990s I was working on a book (which I still haven't finished) about the mystery animals of Devon. In it I mentioned the Nathusius pipstrelle, a species then only known as a very rare vagrant most commonly found in Poland.
Since then this species has been found to be breeding in the UK in some numbers. The more I look into such things I realise that - like the other flying creatures for whom the English Channel is no great boundary, such as birds and butterflies - the precise status of the bat species on the British list has got to be seen as being in a state of continual flux. If nothing else, this keeps the cryptozoologists on their toes.
On this day in 1812 the mysterious Kaspar Hauser was born. Hauser was possibly nothing more enigmatic than a bit of a liar who wanted to join the army, but conspiracy and intrigue seemed to follow the chap wherever he went. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaspar_Hauser
And now, the news:
Vietnam forest fires threaten rare crane
Crane chicks hatch
Asiatic lion census in Gir forests in India over, final tally in May
Beekeeper is killed by his own swarm
At last, it's monkey riding a goat walking on a tightrope
Found Alive: The Loch Ness Monster of the Northwest Prairie. Alas, It Disappoints (Idaho scientists find fabled "giant" worm)
Elephants Emit Special "Bee Rumble" to Warn Others About Marauding Bugs
Rattlesnakes Sound Warning on Biodiversity and Habitat Fragmentation
Young Salamanders' Movement Over Land Helps Stabilize Populations
Due to the poor nature of recent news-story-based puns I’ve been coming up with, today you can have a random but original joke I thought up a few days ago:
Q: What was the sheep’s biggest fear when it moved to the city?
A: Becoming a victim of ‘Bleat’ crime.
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
It opens up a whole can of very wiggly worms for all of us livebearer enthusiasts, as well as opening up some moral questions which really should be debated.
Find out more
As you know, Oll has been working on the archiving project since early February 2009 and he is now working on a general mish-mash of a section known as `General Forteana`. This ninth trenche is a real mixed bag. It is mostly religious phenomena, but with a few items on how the Vikings discovered the New World. Good stuff.
In 1805 in the Menai Straits, A ship reported it had been attacked by a sea serpent, which wrapped itself around the ships mast until the crew attacked it and it fell into the sea. They claimed it followed the vessel for two more days before giving up.
In 1882 another sighting according to this letter from Nature Magazine:
About three P.M. on Sunday, September 3, 1882, a party of gentlemen and ladies were standing at the northern extremity of Llandudno pier, looking towards the open sea, when an unusual object was observed in the water near to the Little Orme's Head, travelling rapidly westwards towards the Great Orme. It appeared to be just outside the mouth of the bay, and would therefore be about a mile distant from the observers. It was watched for about two minutes, and in that interval it traversed about half the width of the bay, and then suddenly disappeared. The bay is two miles wide, and therefore the object, whatever it was, must have travelled at the rate of thirty miles an hour. It is estimated to have been fully as long as a large steamer, say two hundred feet; the rapidity of its motion was particularly remarked as being greater than that of any ordinary vessel. The colour appeared to be black, and the motion either corkscrew-like or snake-like, with vertical undulations. Three of the observers have since made sketches from memory, quite independently, of the impression left on their minds, and on comparing these sketches, which slightly varied, they have agreed to sanction the accompanying outline as representing as nearly as possible the object which they saw. The party consisted of W. Barfoot, J.P., of Leicester, F. J. Marlow, solicitor, of Manchester, Mrs. Marlow, and several others. They discard the theories of birds or porpoises as not accounting for this particular phenomenon.
F. T. MOTT.
Birstall Hill, Leicester, January 16th, 1883.
The Mawddach Estuary at Barmouth has been the place of a few sightings in the last 100 years. In “Mysterious Wales” by Chris Barber (Blorenge Books June 1999) a local woman claimed to have found four large footprints in the sand, described as being ‘as big as an elephant’s’. In 1937 a crocodile like animal was witnessed by a Harlech man as it walked along the river bank
Then in March 1975 six schoolgirls described a creature they encountered on Barmouth beach. ‘It had a long neck and a square face and a long tail with a flipper at the back and its skin was black and patchy’.. `It was like a dinosaur,'' said one of the girls. `The monster was about 10 feet long, with a long tail, long neck and huge green eyes. It walked towards the sea and entered the water.'' Its green eyes peered at them before sinking beneath the waves. The girls fled in terror.
(N.B. Sounds like the classic long necked pinniped description to me, but could just have been an ordinary large member of the seal family. They can appear to have long necks if they stretch it out).
It is not the only strangeness in that area though:
In September 1922 John Morris and William James saw an object fall into the ocean off Barmouth shore , so slowly that it was thought to be a plane. A boat was sent out, but nothing was found. (Magonia #45, Fort 639)
It is odd how places that report one phenomenon, such as sea serpents, also seem to have others occurring. Does the area attract strange things or does it just attract the sort of people who see strange things….one to ponder over.
On this day in 1953 the first 3D television broadcast took place with a 3D showing of Space Patrol on KECA TV.
And now, the news:
New British moth found in Hembury Woods is world first
Llamas act as bouncers for chicks at Merseyside reserve
Chimps 'feel death like humans'
'Ancestral Eve' crystal could explain origin of left-handed amino acids
Lotus plant grown from 700-year-old seed
How chimpanzees deal with death and dying
Devon Wildlife Trust acquires new culm grassland reserve
“Keep ‘culm’ and carry on”
(As that annoyingly smug poster says)
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
The Fish Mystery campaign launches to find out what could be causing male fish in the Potomac to carry eggs. Featuring Wendy Rieger of WRC-4, Dr. Vicky Blazer of USGS, John Hayes, river guide, and Hedrick Belin of Potomac Conservancy. By Andrew Schenkel and Robert Heimplaetzer for Kelley Campaigns.
COW, MONSTER, OR GHOST ? – Reappearance of the Fearsome Thing that Pirate Hicks Discovered Fifty years Ago
Neil Hopkins, of Glocester, R.L. was returning from his work on Dandalion Hill, near Putnam, a few nights ago, when, at the darkest spot in the road, a strange beast gave him chase. He cannot exactly tell what it was, as he caught only a glance of it as he ran. Hopkins is certain that the creature was some supernatural beast that lives in Glocester forest.
“It seemed to be all a-fire; it had a hot breath”, Hopkins told his neighbours.
“There was a metallic sound, like the clanking of steel against steel. The beast didn’t seem to be strong in the wind, for it chased me only a short distance, and then plunged off into the woods. I could hear the dead branches and twigs crackling under the heavy tramp”.
Hopkins says it was as big as an elephant, and that he is certain it had no tail. Opinion is divided as to what it was that scared Hopkins. Some think that it was only the escaped circus bear that held up several farmers and scared their horses…
The bear was seen in Buck Woods, near Webster, Mass., and as far south as Glocester. Others think that it was the famous Glocester monster, the “burning beast” that Hopkins saw. The “burning beast” has been seen only once before. That was 57 years ago last summer, when it appeared to four Glocesterites, John Jepp, Ben Cobb, Ben Saunders and Albert Hicks, the pirate, who was afterward hanged on Liberty Island in New York Bay. Hicks was a native of Glocester. He and his companions were dogging up the Page farm one night trying to find Capt. Kidd’s supposed buried gold, when the monster frightened them away. They dropped picks and shovels and run for life. Some Spanish doubloons had been previously found on the Page far, but the gold diggers never cared to searched (sic) further after their awful experience.
Hicks used to describe the beast thus – “It was a large animal, with staring eyes as big as powter bowls. The eyes looked like balls of fire. When it breathed as it went by flames came out of its mouth and nostrils, scorching the brush in its path. It was as a big as a cow with dark wings with dark wing’s on each side like a bat’s. It had spiral horns like a ram’s, as big around as a stovepipe. Its feet were formed like a duck’s and measured a foot and a half across. The body was covered with scales as big as clam shells, which made a rattling noise as the beast moved along. The scales flopped up and down. The thing had lights on its sides like those shining through a tin lantern. Before I saw it I felt its presence and I smelled something that was like burnt wool as it went by. I had a feeling of suffocation when it came near me. The monster seemed to come from nowhere and to go away in the same manner.”
There are many people in Glocester who believe that the beast still haunts the forest not far from the Providence turnpike, and that it was it that gave Hopkins his fright.’
MUIRHEAD`S MYSTERIES:SOME FORTEAN ZOOLOGY FROM THE DUMFRIES AND GALLOWAY STANDARD AND THE STIRLING JOURNAL AND ADVERTISER 1788-1919
What interests me will not necessarily interest you. If you have any queries as to what else may be on the list, please feel free to contact me on email@example.com but I am in no position to provide you with the original articles as I have none of the ones in this list or any others.
I have copies of indices described as volumes 1-3 inclusive. Volume 1 is titled `Index of the Dumfries and Galloway Standard Vol 1. 1777-1833 p.82` Volume 2 is titled `Stirling Journal and Advertiser A Local Index 1870-1919 pp 272-273` and Volume 3 is titled `A Local Index of the Dumfries and Galloway Standard and Its Predecessors over 200 Years p.148`. Unfortunately the quality of my photocopy of the first volume, mentioned above, is very poor but I will do the best I can. Hopefully if any one is doing a `Mystery Animals of...` book for these parts of Scotland this will help.
In order of the items' appearance in each volume and in order I ticked each item, here we go:
Vol. 1 MISCELLAENEOUS
Dumfries, Rare mouse found in town, February 1st 1825, 4C.
(That is to say, February 1st 1824 column 4C)
Lochmaben, Vendace (prehistoric fish) in Castle Loch, March 25th 1788, 25/3, 4C
Kirkmahoe, Dalewinton, White hare sighted, July 19th 1825, 4D
Canonbie, White crow hatched, July 29th 1817 3E
Vol 2 NATURAL HISTORY ZOOLOGY
The only items of interest here are:
Kippen, Jackal escapes September 15 th 1899 5C
Stirling, Lions March 22nd 1917 5F
(This item and the one below are included because this could mean seen in a zoo, or escaped perhaps?)
Stirling, Lions and Bears, July 24th 1913 4G
Thornhill, Phenomenal eggs laid by hen. May 17th 1907 8B
Vol 3 BOTANY
Dumfries and Galloway, Carniverous plants, December 8th 1880, 3C
Clarencefield, A Rare Goose, October 21st 1865, 3C
Crossmichael, A Rare Avis, White Sparrow, July 8th 1876, 3E
Dumfries, Adder found at Pleasance, August 22nd 1874 4B
Dumfries, Rare Butterfly Seen, “Clouded Yellow” June 13th 1877 5C
Glenluce White sparrows, 1878, July 13th 4B
Mabie, Rare butterfly, Camberwell Beauty, Vanessa Antiopa, October 4th 1876, 6C
Maxwelltown, Shower of Frogs, August 19th 1865 3B
Newton Stewart, Adder robs bird`s nest, June 21st 1873 3D
Ruthwell, Solway, skull and horns of a deer,March 13th 1875, 3F
[doesn`t say what species,could be interesting]
Muirhead`s Mysteries will be appearing twice a week only from now on
David Bowie Big Brother
Don`t talk of dust and roses
Or should we powder our noses?
Don`t live for last years capers
Give me steel,give me steel,
Give me pulses unreal
He`ll build a glass asylum,
With just a hint of mayhem
He`ll build a better whirlpool
We`ll be living from sin,then we can really begin
Please saviour,saviour,show us
Here me,I`m graphically yours
Some one to claim us,someone to follow
Some one to shame us, some brave Apollo
Some one to fool us,someone like you
We want you Big Brother, Big Brother
On this day in 1926 William Henry Johnson died (according to some reports, anyway; others place his death on April 9th). Johnson was better known by the stage names of ‘the missing link’ and ‘Zip the pinhead’ on the American sideshow circuit, and became most famous while he worked with P.T. Barnum. ‘Zip’ had an unusually shaped head with a long sloping brow and Barnum had the idea to emphasise this by styling Zip’s hair to a point. Zip was, by all accounts, an intelligent and articulate man despite the great show he made of acting like a savage in his show. His final words, spoken to his sister, were “Well, we fooled 'em for a long time, didn't we?”
And now, the news:
THE MOOSE IS OUT THERE . . . SOMEWHERE
Lilliput jumbos — a subject of debate
Lensemen [sic] claim sighting pygmy jumbo; experts skeptical
Sightings of big cats 'are not a myth'
There are wild big cats
Big cats roam through Nebraska
Cougar sighting in Regina
'EXTINCT' GHOST ORCHID APPEARS FROM THE GRAVE
RIP Gordy the Gorilla
Elephant-speak for 'Beware of the bees'
Could I mention that an account of claims of moa sightings in New Zealand has been published? Details and the introductory chapter are available at http://www.moasightings.com/ The 1993 claim is covered in some detail including an account written by one of the claimants, a transcript of a meeting of the claimants with the Skeptics Society, and the previously unpublished transcripts of the interviews by the Department of Conservation with the claimants. Some field investigations are also reported on.
Monday, April 26, 2010
What is it? The Katzenklavier is, erm, a piano made out of cats. No, we're not making this up.
Who uses it? Despite the initial design having some vague specifications about ordering pitch, the Katzenklavier was never intended, really, for musical use. It was actually invented for psychiatrists. Wait, it gets weirder.
I'll tell you another thing: the nose as depicted does not show the nasal openings the way they really look on look on the skull. It shows a faithful representation of the Iceman's nose only at a smaller size.
The sculpture being done in stone, there is no way it can really be dated directly. The site says these skulls are from various periods but as far back as before the beginnings of Chinese history. This being one of the better made ones also makes me think it is more recent than that.
POSTSCRIPT: I have been trying to get this comparison photo to you for a while: it is a good shot of a Neanderthal skull in comparable position to put beside the jade representation. I had to screen dozens of candidate alternatives to get this one skull in this one view, and it would be a pity if it did not get to you. This is a museum display case view of the original (I think).
In the days before the tragic occurrence several Chernobyl employees had reported seeing a large, dark/ black shape like a headless man with gigantic wings and red, fire-like, eyes. As with the appearances of Mothman, people who had seen the phenomena had been having nightmares and some received strange phone calls. Some of the employees reported the strange things to their supervisors at the plant. Whether any sort of action was taken is unknown. After the explosion helicopters were brought in to drop extinguishing agents on the flames. Some of the pilots and the surviving workers said they saw a giant black bird flying away from the smoking reactor. Described by many as “a large black, bird-like creature, with a 20-foot wingspan, gliding through the swirling plumes of smoke." The bird has not been seen again.
The theory out forward was that the bird was a rare black stork. However, the stork has a clear visible head and its wingspan is only about 6 feet (1.9 metres), and it stands about 3 feet (1 metre) tall. It also would not explain the strange dreams and phone calls. So was this winged creature a portent of the disaster? There are other tales such as (but not the only story) Mothman about winged creatures being seen before disaster. We can only wait and see if more tales surface, though I rather hope they don’t if it portends something bad happening.
Those who seek the elusive truth behind the “Men in Black” and “Mothman” myths should know that material touched by Gray Barker’s enterprising hand is tainted by self-serving deceit. He launched hoaxes, joined others’ deceptions, and manipulated people’s beliefs. “And I,” says our author, “was one of those who helped.”
In the film of The Mothman Prophecies, a phone rings and Richard Gere cringes. So does the informed moviegoer. Pseudohistory from the 1960s is twisted into fiction for the new millennium, and a questionable account of bizarre events is reshaped into fantasy. I say so because I have a good idea who’s making that phone call. I accuse Gray Barker....
Interesting footage from Australia of what the Spanish TV dudes thought was a thylacine, but which obviously wasn't. However, it is of a thin and possibly hairless dog that appears, though emaciated, to be perfectly healthy.
On this day in 2002 the last successful contact from Pioneer 10, the first man-made object to leave the solar system, was made by NASA. Pioneer 10 has a plaque on it that can potentially show aliens where we are. However, as the next time it reaches another star system will be in at least 2 million years, even if by some fluke it is found by intelligent life and has actually survived intact we probably have little to worry about even if the aliens can actually decode our odd daubings correctly.
And now, the news:
Cameras capture secret life of the 'Highland tiger'
Australia's cane toad invasion gets sausage 'solution'
Restaurant fined for 'gay' guide dog ban
Cat 'survives trip in police car bumper'
Gored Bullfighter Battles For His Life
Loch Ness monster 'beyond doubt'
Is Einstein the world's smallest horse?
Should have called him Tim.
Sunday, April 25, 2010
Jon dear boy,
I have just been catching up on CFZ posts, and spotted the one about your Gambia movie being ripped off, and something called TSM doing a mod. Well, this link might explain it: http://www.theriseoftsm.com/
A mod is a gaming term, and is short for "module" i.e. something put together by a gamer as a level to be played in a game, or as an add on to an existing D&D type stuff; someone obviously thought doing a monster hunt Gambia module might be fun.
CFZ alumni as computer games characters? I can't see it m'self
My good friend and fellow explorer of the unknown, Richard Freeman, Zoological Director of the Centre for Fortean Zoology, recently sent me a curious tale involving a Doctor Backhouse from Gateshead.
Backhouse awoke early one morning in 1857 and to his consternation, discovered a flea in his bed – not an entirely unknown occurrence in Geordieland back then. He killed it – we know not how, although legend has it that he twatted it with one of his boots – and on closer examination was taken aback by the creature's size. As fleas went, this one was gigantic. At first Backhouse thought the critter was simply a very healthy specimen of Pulex irritans, the common human flea, but the more he looked the less convinced he became.
Backhouse sent the creature off to the legendary entomologist Professor John Westwood, (that's him, on the left) who examined it thoroughly. 'The Gateshead Flea', as it later became known, was no less than twenty times the size of an ordinary flea.
It should be mentioned here that Westwood was a genius in his field. He was a professor at Oxford University and also a Fellow of Magdalen College. He later became president of the Entomological Society of London and a Fellow of the Linnean Society. If Westwood thought there was something odd about this flea, then you could stake your life on it. Either that or you could forfeit your life deliberately by taking on the flea in a punch-up in the back lane.
Westwood became convinced that what Backhouse had captured and killed was a new species of flea, which he promptly named Pulex imperator – the Supreme Commander of Fleas, if you will. The Gateshead Flea became a sensation. Geordie cryptozoologists later renamed the creature Geordicus maximus hardarsii. Although its possible I just might be making this bit up.
Truth to tell, Backhouse and Westwood brought the flea to the public's attention at just the right time. The eminent scientist Robert Hooke had in 1865 published his magnum opus, a book called Micrographia. There, for the first time, readers could see a detailed illustration of a flea in all its horrible glory.
Hooke's book catapulted the common flea to superstardom and for the next two hundred years poems were written about them and ballads sung in their dubious honour. When Westwood claimed to have discovered a new giant flea then, the nation was captivated.
Until, that is, John Obadiah Westwood took a deep breath, ignored all the excitement and privied himself a closer, more dispassionate look at the insect Dr Backhouse had sent him. That bit that looked like a huge proboscis actually turned out to be an antenna of some sort, and the body wasn't…well, it wasn't actually flea-shaped, really.
Before long Westwood addressed a packed meeting of the Entomological Society of London. With great candour he told a stunned audience that there was really no such thing as the Giant Flea; what the good Doctor Backhouse had killed and forwarded on to him was nothing more than a Blatta nymph; in common parlance, a young cockroach.
To say that the scientific community was disappointed would be an understatement. Still, even though Pulex imperator never got off the biological drawing board the story was good while it lasted. Even now, in Entomological circles, the legend of Backhouse, Westwood and the Giant Flea of Gateshead still crops up in conversation from time to time.
What Dr Backhouse thought of the affair I do not know but his professional reputation seems to have remained intact or at least undamaged by the Giant Flea. In his latter years he probably looked back upon the affair with some amusement.
Westwood continued his career without any tarnish on his record. He died at the ripe old age of 88 on January 2, 1893. Neither he nor Dr Backhouse will ever be forgotten, nor will Pulex imperator, the Giant Gateshead Flea.
WARNING: Geordicus maximus hardarsii may contain nuts. It may also eat nuts, like John Obadiah Westwood, Dr Backhouse and the author of this blog.
Back in the 1970s I read an excellent short story. It was in a freaky anthology called either Horrors Horrors, Horrors or Terrors, Terrors, Terrors. I can never remember which of these anthologies it was as I read them pretty much back to back. They are notable for having stories with very odd premises. There is one about a man who, like me, has a dread of large moths. He transforms into a bat and eats them. In one sequence he wakes and thinks that he is tucked tightly in bed when in fact the tight sheets are his own wings wrapped around him.
In another story, narrated in the first person, a boy's little sister begins talking about strange things and places she has never seen or been to, like the grandfather moon and the dark woods. When she meets an old man whose family name is Moon she dies of fright. The strangest story was The Bakerloo Flea by Michael Rosen, which deals with a giant flea that terrorises the Bakerloo line on the London underground. Like an urban legend, it is told second-hand. Cleaning ladies who work in the tunnels each night relate the story to an acquaintance of the narrator. Imagine my surprise when I stumbled across an account of a giant flea in Karl Shuker’s book From Flying Toads to Snakes With Wings. A lot of internet digging brought some sparse information on this odd case.
In 1857 the eminent entomologist Professor J. O. Westwood was sent a dead flea that had been found squashed flat in a bed in Gateshead by a Dr Blackhouse. He saw that the monster was twenty times larger than Pulex irritans, the common flea. Professor Westwood named the giant bloodsucker Pulex imperator, the Imperial flea. Upon closer examination, however, it was found to be the distorted carcass of a young cockroach. It goes to show how anyone can make a mistake.