Sunday, 14 August 2016

Return of the Mega Sharks!!

Who doesn't love a giant shark story? There are fair few, as I long ago wrote about in "Mega Sharks!!!!".

It's been a while since I wrote that post and I thought I'd take a look at what's been going on in the important realm of "really ginormous sharks". Plenty it seems!

First up comes a stunning video of an incredibly large great white. Deep Blue was filmed in 2013 off Mexico's Guadalupe Island. She is very healthy looking and likely in her 50s. In my original post I lamented we may never see large great whites like this again but I'm pleased to be proven wrong.

Next up is a story from earlier this year in which Australian patrol helicopters spotted (then escorted out to sea) a 7 metre long great white just 100 metres off the shore. Again another very positive sign to see an older, larger shark still surviving despite our best efforts.

One of the largest tiger sharks ever recorded (at around 5.5m long) was killed last year off Australia's east coast. Despite it's unfortunate fate it is yet another very good sign to find we're still finding unexpectedly large specimens.

The Greenland shark can reach massive lengths, up to 6.5 metres, but new evidence has come to light that they could live for nearly 400 years

Last month marked the 100th anniversary of the infamous Jersey Shore shark attacks. For an epic and authoritative work based on the attacks I cannot recommend 12 Days of Terror enough. There's more on the unveiling of a new memorial to the victims here

But before we get too positive... yet another very sound argument against the continued existence of megalodon has come out. Come on guys, let us dream a little! ;)

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Pokemon Go Sheds Light On The Loveland Frogmen Mystery

Pokemon Go is a craze that has spread around the world and, I'm sure you Dear Constant Readers will be well aware, my house with amazing speed. Catching monsters out in the wild has never been easier, getting us couch potatoes out the door in search of elusive creatures. And supposedly it has already led to encounters with some of our planet's own "legendaries".

A couple have this month claimed to have encountered and photographed (see link) the Loveland Frogmen (or at least a giant frog) whilst out playing Pokemon Go! Whilst crouched like a frog when they first saw it, it rose to its hind legs before disappearing into the night. The pictures look like a 1970s Doctor Who monster done on an even smaller budget. Sceptical? I may well be. But not as much as I am after what has subsequently happened.

I've written about the Loveland Frogmen before. In that post I quoted an interview with one of the key, claimed, sources for the myth, Mark Matthews, who made it clear he thought it was just a lizard. The latest "encounter" has allowed his version of events to come to the fore again and he made it even plainer that the creature he not only saw but also killed(!) was just a large iguana. His attempts to explain this to those who've set out to investigate the Frogmen have often been outright ignored over the years but, at last, he's getting some much needed exposure.

I love monsters. I really love frogs. And who doesn't love a good mystery? But I think it is safe to say that the Loveland Frogmen are more myth than reality. They make the Pokemon now inhabiting our mobiles seem real by comparison! Happy hunting, monster lovers!

Further Reading



Saturday, 9 April 2016

Hunting Monsters: Cryptozoology and the Reality Behind the Myths

My love of the paranormal and weird runs way back into my early life. As a child I lapped up books on ghost stories, UFO abductions and the Loch Ness monster. When my atheism and scepticism began to slowly take me away from such childish things I went kicking and screaming (as evidenced by this blog, my attempt to hold on to the stories even as belief slipped away). Once you've allowed yourself to believe the world is a "magical" place, why would you want to wake up to reality? 

A year or so ago I read Abominable Science: Origins of the Yeti, Nessie, and Other Famous Cryptids, a brilliant step-by-step take down of every major tenet of cryptozoological lore. I was by then well past belief in any woo but it acted as a refreshing breeze of sanity and science to help clear away the last delusional cobwebs. A great read which I very much recommend for really seeing how little evidence there is for pretty much any cryptid you can think of.

Now Darren Naish has written a similar book. Again it demolishes case after case. He does so with an ease that highlights just how much wishful thinking one has to put in to believing in bigfoot or Loch Ness monster just to make them seem possible.

However the book won't surprise any sceptic with a decent knowledge of cryptid lore. It feels somewhat unnecessary coming a couple of years after Abominable Science.

That's not to say it isn't a well-written, well-researched and easy to read take-down of cryptozoology. It sets out a clear, rational case to be sceptical of claims made about "undiscovered" animals. And that serves a valuable purpose in fighting woomeisters and creationists alike. 

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Green Boots

Tsewang Paljor couldn't possibly have known that his choice of footwear would come to represent most of what people would know about him after he died. And how was he to know the alcove he sought refuge in following a cataclysmic storm on Mount Everest would one day be named after his boots.

May 10th, 1996 saw several expeditions attempting to reach the summit of Mount Everest. 33 people went up; 25 came down. An unexpected storm rendered those in the "Death Zone" at the mercy of Mother Nature and Lady Luck. Sadly for Paljor, among many others, there was to be no mercy.

He left the summit (though it is disputed whether he actually made it there) later than is usually considered "safe" in the company of his fellow expedition team member Dorje Morup. They were members of the first Indian team to attempt to ascend Everest from an eastern route. Their headlamps were spotted descending the mountain above the highest camp but, other than some confusing interactions with a Japanese team, they were not seen alive again. It would appear that they became separated and Paljor seems to have attempted to shelter in an alcove on the trail back to camp.

It was here that he died during the early hours of May 11th. Few can imagine what it must have been like to die alone in the dark. There was no hope of rescue, no chance of warmth, it must be one of the most terrible deaths.

And there was to be no peace for Paljor though name disappeared from memory as others took the limelight during the discussions following the 1996 tragedy. His body, like several others dotted around the mountain, was on one of the trails used by climbers between Camp VI and the summit. His distinctive bright green boots soon entered common parlance among the climbing community and the alcove where he met his end became known as Green Boots Cave.

There is something quite poignant about the images brought down from the mountain showing his body curled up almost as if he was just taking a nap (he has changed the direction he faces due to being moved a little more out of the way). His nickname might have stayed out of the public eye if it wasn't for an incident almost exactly ten years later on May 15th, 2006.

David Sharp was attempting a climb of Mount Everest on his own. He was spotted from Camp VI quite late in the day on May 14th, 2006 still attempting to reach the summit. Setting off in the middle of the night so that they might reach the summit in good time to head back, a group of climbers found Sharp sitting in Green Boots Cave mere feet from Paljor's body at about 1am on May 15th, 2006.

The first people to reach him supposed he was waiting for day light so he could see his way on the path back down, and they pointed him towards camp as there were nearly 40 climbers on the trail whose torches could provide him a way down. He didn't heed their requests and they, like the many others to follow, pushed on past him up towards the summit. He was still sat in the same position when he was encountered by Maxime Chaya and a Sherpa named Dorjee who were the first of those who passed him (though it seems they didn't see him) to descend from the summit. They attempted to revive him by dragging him into the sun light and providing him oxygen. He was unable to walk and so had to be abandoned there. His last words were "My name is David Sharp, I'm with Asian Trekking." The controversy over how he died rumbled on for a while,

For a time Sharp's body joined Paljor's in a lonely vigil at the top of the world. But it is since thought that his body has now been "removed" (pushed off the edge) out of respect. There is also suggestion Paljor's body has been taken somewhere more out of the way, though it still seemed to be in place during 2012 and it would take quite a brave person to try and move a frozen body on a very thin piece of land at that altitude.

Green Boots was somebody (almost certainly Paljor). His body remains as a testament to the fact that he tried to do something amazing. And it serves as a stark warning of what can happen to someone with little warning in a remote and dangerous place.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

All Yesterdays: A Cognitive Shift In How We Look At Dinosaurs

All Yesterdays will make you love dinosaurs anew. The way we view dinosaurs, and the way that artists have depicted them, has changed greatly over the last century (and even over the last decade). Though a child of the 1980s, my love for dinosaurs started with hand-me-down dinosaur books from the 1960s and 1970s which depicted swamp-dwelling brachiosaurs and bulky, slow-moving biped hunters. At 10 years old my view of dinosaurs was changed forever by Jurassic Park (the book and movie, I was a bit of a JP junkie). Fast moving, sleek, powerful dinosaurs were now all the rage (thanks mainly to lots of paleontological research that my 10 year old self had no idea of!).

And now the shift begins again as, with newer evidence, we've begun to see feathered dinosaurs depicted. Yet... All Yesterdays points out what we are still missing... attempts, however speculative, to see dinosaurs as more than just bones, muscles and skin. Trapped by the near insurmountable lack of evidence of anything but bone and a few skin and feather impressions, scientists and artists have sometimes been guilty of failing to think about how dinosaurs would really have looked and behaved.

There is so much missing from the fossil record that this is quite unsurprising. The end of All Yesterdays presents us with how we might view modern day animals if all we had to go on was their fossilised bones. Darren Naish himself calls it "shrink wrapping" and gives a few examples on his blog here. Once you've let those imagines sink in you begin to see just how different dinosaurs probably actually looked compared to how we've been depicting them.

All Yesterdays presents fluffy dinosaurs, feathered dinosaurs that look like birds rather than feathered scaly dinosaurs, dinosaurs in extreme camouflage (their version of a plesiosaur [not a dinosaur I know!] lying silently on the sea floor disguised as coral is my favourite depiction of a marine reptile ever) and dinosaurs at play.

Almost everything in it is completely and utterly speculative. But it slams home just how inhibited and sterile our depictions have been up to now and how much more utterly beguiling the Mesozoic fauna probably was.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Scary Monsters and Super Creeps: In Search of the World's Most Hideous Beasts by Dom Joly

A couple of years ago I read Joly's amazing "The Dark Tourist". It was at once informative and laugh out loud funny. Learning about the touristic "delights" of "taboo" destinations, such as discovering that you can ski in Iran, as an absolute joy. I guess Joly was hoping to recapture that perfect travel book balance again with Scary Monsters and Super Creeps. Unfortunately he fails on one front.

This book is still laugh out loud funny. I was desperately containing snorts of laughter on the train to and from work. For that along it is worth the read, Joly has a way of seeing the world that makes his grumpy old man character seem endearing rather than tiring. However his "search" for some of cryptozoology's biggies (he calls them the "Big Six"), leaves a lot to be desired.

If you want to find out about the culture of foreign airports, basic infrastructure and how big a fool Joly sometimes felt as he gets himself into allsorts of scraps ("Are you looking for Ogopogo?" is all I'm saying!) then this is the book for you. If you want to know anything about the veracity of the tales about the "Big Six", look elsewhere.

He does take a video of a "sighting" of Ogopogo but he doesn't even take basic steps to try and work out what it really is. Here's a video that could, you never know, blow this case wide open. Or it could be some fish having a bit of a fight (which hey, might have been enlightening!). But he just moves on. He never makes it past the nearest village to Mokele Mbembe's purported location, he spends lots of time in Hiroshima and Nagasaki rather than actually looking for the Hibagon and he doesn't, understandably, get to the sort of altitudes in Nepal where the yeti is mostly reported from. And we hear more about his hot tub social encounters in Inverness than the Loch Ness monster.

It all felt very half-hearted and that just made it feel a little pointless. A shame really as it is still pretty hilarious. 

Saturday, 12 January 2013

The Moose of New Zealand

On February 19th 1900, like many others at the time, 14 immigrants were bound for New Zealand. They carried with them (from Canada) the dreams of the New Zealand Government of a new enterprise. Sadly 10 of these intrepid adventurers died on the way to their new home in Hokitika on the South Island, dashing the hopes of introducing moose to New Zealand as a big game animal. The four remaining moose were released anyway and one particularly tame cow was seen regularly in the area for the next 15 years.

Despite the failure of the first introduction, the Government remained determined to try again and on April 6th 1910 10 more moose were released onto the South Island in the Fiordland area. The hopes of the backers of this project were doomed to fail. Whilst the moose did breed and were seen and hunted through the next 4 decades, their population was limited as another introduced game animal, the European red deer, out competed them for food.

The last, clear, pictures of moose in New Zealand were taken in 1953 (and can be seen here) and ever since it has been widely assumed moose had died out on the South Island. When a hunter claimed to have shot a bull moose and seen a cow and calf in the 1970s, the New Zealand Forest Service sent Ken Tustin to investigate. Ever since he has hunted and, surprisingly for this blog, found evidence that moose continue to survive in Fiordland. Dropped antlers, hair (and DNA), possible droppings and other signs point to the likely possibility they survived not only through the 1970s but still survive today.

In most cases of "introduced species" the general feeling is you should root against them, but something about the idea of some intrepid moose clinging on against all odds from a tiny population base in the most unlikely of places makes me root for the moose. I hope they are out there, getting on with their lives quietly (as quietly as moose can anyway) in the forests of Fiordland.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Who Shot Kennedy: The Driver?

Happy New Year, Dear Constant Reader. It has been a long time since this blog was updated due to a mixture of a lack of time and a lack of inspiration. However it is the year of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and last night I finished Stephen King's 11.22.63. There is plenty of mystery (or at least plenty of things people like to claim are mysterious) surrounding the events of that event and I thought I'd take a look at some of the theories. Let us start with one of the more unexpected.

Secret Service Agent William Greer was driving President Kennedy, the First Lady, Texas Governor John Connally and the Governor's wife Nellie on their trip through Dallas. Greer was an Irish immigrant to the United States who had worked for the Secret Service since October 1 1945 (see his testimony to the Warren Commission here). He had risen up the order of seniority, driving back up cars, sometimes chauffeuring for President Eisenhower and, more often, for Mrs Eisenhower. He became the main chauffeur for the President upon the inauguration of President Kennedy.

Now for some reason people seem to see in the videos of the assassination something sinister in the driver turning around after the first shot. See this popular Youtube video.

I just don't see it. To take the shot he'd need to use his left hand. I just don't see his left hand move off the steering wheel. Further research, picture analysis and use of common sense can be found here.

This assassination is a hotbed of discussion and armchair detective work. Unfortunately in the fever to provide something "new", people are willing (on the flimsiest evidence) to accuse the most innocent of people of murder.

I'm afraid as we move into the more meatier and popular theories we shall see this on an even larger scale. Alas.

Further Reading

Stephen King's 11.22.63 -,

Four Days in November: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy - Vincent Bugliosi -,

Crossfire: The Plot That Killed Kennedy - Jim Marrs -,

Monday, 27 August 2012

Essex Lion... Oh Dear.

Hello Dear Constant Reader! It's been a while, there is only so many fantastic stories one can take I suppose. But something has awoken me from my slumber and that was my hand hitting my face in a particularly aggressive facepalm. So here I am again...

The UK, more precisely Essex, is in the grip of a big cat scare. This is hardly surprising as we in this country aren't strangers to big cat sightings, as we've seen before, but this time it's a lion!

Being the sceptical sort, I expected this to be yet another case of mistaken identity or a hoax. How wrong could I be? There are pictures!

Firstly, this may not be the "real" photo shown to the police. Well I hope it wasn't. 

Secondly. Can you see that photo? Does it look even remotely like a genuine photo? Not to me. The lighting is just totally wrong. Maybe it is genuine but if so... it's the worst genuine picture of animal seen since my dog attacked me while trying to photograph him. 

I have a strong whiff of bullshit in my nostrils.... 

If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Bigfoot: The Ruby Creek Incident

George and Jeannie Chapman and their children were an Amerindian family who, in September 1941, lived in Ruby Creek, British Columbia.

They lived close to the railway, upon which Mr. Chapman worked. Mid-afternoon, one September day, the oldest Chapman child (who was 9) came running into the house stating there was a cow coming down out of the woods. He was agitated enough for his mother to decide to take a look at what could have upset him.

There were some bushes bordering the nearby railway tracks and she spotted what appeared to her to be a bear moving among them. She called her younger children, who were playing near the tracks, to her side and then watched with horror as the creature reached the tracks and she saw it for what it really was; a gigantic 7 1/2 foot tall man covered in light brown, 4 inch long, hair. She described it to Ivan Sanderson shortly before her death thus:

Mrs. Chapman told me that the creature was about 7½ feet tall. She could estimate its height by the various fence and line posts standing about the field. It had a rather small head and a very short, thick neck; in fact really no neck at all, a point that was emphasized by William Roe and by all others who claim to have seen one of these creatures. Its body was entirely human in shape except that it was immensely thick through its chest and its arms were exceptionally long. She did not see the feet which were in the grass. Its shoulders were very wide and it had no breasts, from which Mrs. Chapman assumed it was a male, though she also did not see any male genitalia due to the long hair covering its groin. She was most definite on one point: the naked parts of its face and its hands were much darker than its hair, and appeared to be almost black.

It continued to approach and, whilst she stood her ground, she ordered her oldest child to round up his siblings and get a blanket. Believing the creature may be after the children, she decided to use a blanket to shield them. When the creature was about 100ft from her, she held the blanket aloft and backed away with her children out of sight behind her down the river nearby and then they fled towards the village.

She hoped by concealing the children in this way, the creature may not pursue them but instead busy itself by searching the house for them. Her instincts proved correct as it did search the house and then an outhouse where it broke apart a very large saltfish barrel allowing them to make their escape.

Mr. Chapman meanwhile returned home from work. He found the outhouse door broken, and very large footprints milling around the property. Concerned, and with the stories he knew of "sasquatch" he searched the property for his family. He found their tracks by the river and saw no large footprints following them but his relief was tempered when he then stumbled upon more large footprints disappearing back into the bushes near the railway.

Over the following week fresh footprints were found around the house each morning, the dogs were heard to become very over excited at night and the couple heard unnerving noises outside. Being sensible folk, they decided to leave their house and did not return.

Later investigation details can be found here and a little video with some more details on those is below.

Further Reading 

If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist