Saturday, 30 January 2010

Dinosaurs Are Alive

Over a year ago I wrote The Last Dinosaurs, a post stating quite clearly that I don't believe dinosaurs (as in the order dinosauria) have managed to survive in a recognisable form into the modern era. Birds are the closest we are going to get.

But there are still a few interesting stories that I've seen since then that should be put out there for consideration. Tales of sauropods and other quadrupedal dinosaurs are two-a-penny in cryptozoology. But theropods, two legged dinosaurs such as Tyrannosaurus Rex, are a little less common and all the more intruiging for it. Could there really be giant bipedal dinosaurs stalking our planet still?

The Burrunjor

Although I'd obviously previously heard of the most famous Australian reptilian anamoly; Megalania (I type this sitting in a chair with one of Megalania's relatives Mr Gibbs The Bearded Dragon lying on my chest) I'd never heard of a Burrunjor. It would appear there is another giant beast stalking the outback.

From Rex & Heather Gilroy's book Out Of The Dreamtime:
Campfire stories substantiating Aboriginal claims are commonplace across the far north. Back in 1978, a Northern Territory busman and explorer, Bryan Clark, related a story to me of his own that had taken place some years before. While mustering cattle in the Urapunji area, he became lost in the remote wilderness of that part of Arnhem Land. It took him three days to find his way out of the region and back to the homestead from where he originally set out.He had not known at the time, but his footprints had been picked up and followed by two Aboriginal trackers and a mounted policeman. On the first night of their search they camped on the outskirts of the Burrunjor scrub, even though the two trackers protested strongly against doing so. The policeman hobbled his horse, cooked their meal, then climbed into his swag and went to sleep.Later that night the two Aborigines shouting intelligibly and grasping for their packs and saddles suddenly woke him up. The policeman also realised at this moment that the ground appeared to be shaking. Hurriedly getting to his feet, he too gathered up his belongings, and shortly afterwards, the three galloped away. As he told Bryan Clark later at the Urapunji homestead, he had also heard a sound, somewhat like a loud puffing or grunting noise, certainly loud enough to be coming from some large animal. When asked if he intended to include this incident in his report, he replied he would not because he feared no one would believe him. The policeman warned Bryan never again to return to that area, because if he got lost there again he’d be “on his own”, as he would not come looking for him! 
The region’s cave art, thousands of years old, depicts these monstrous animals. Many Aborigines believe these monsters wander back and forth across the Gulf country and Cape York to this day. Back in 1950, cattlemen lost stock to some mysterious beast that left the mutilated, half-eaten remains of cows and bulls in its wake over a wide area, stretching between the border country and Burketown. Searchers on horseback found huge reptilian tracks of some bipedal-walking beast. They followed these three-toed tracks with their cattle dogs through some rough jungle terrain until they entered swampland beyond which was more dense scrub. However, it was at this point that the cattle dogs became uneasy and ran off. The horses were also uneasy and obviously did not want to cross the swamp. While most of the cattlemen decided their animals knew best, two men set off on foot with their carbines. The story goes that they soon came across further tracks in an open area beyond the swamp. While his mate searched about, the other man briefly spotted the dark form of an enormous creature, perhaps 30ft in height, further off in dense timber. The men left the scene in haste. 
Johnny Mathews, a part-Aboriginal tracker, claimed to have seen a 25ft tall bipedal reptilian monster, moving through scrub near lagoon Creek on the Gulf coast one day in 1961. “Hardly anyone outside my own people believes my story, but I known what I saw”, he said to me in 1970. 
In 1985 a 4-wheel drive vehicle and it s family of travellers, the Askeys, heading for Roper River Mission, happened to take a back road for some sightseeing. Just before they were to pull up and turn around to resume their journey to the mission, they all saw, moving together across an open plain some distance away, two bipedal-walking reptilian creatures a good 20ft tall respectively. “The monsters were a greyish-brown colour and dinosaur-like in appearance. We didn’t wait around”, said the father, Mr Greg Askey.
I certainly think there is a lot more "evidence" for this creature than for the slightly more famous story which is to follow, but I still think we must be wary. Australia is certainly massive and whilst it may have over 20 million inhabitants, this is a drop in the ocean considering the size of the continent. However could something large really escape the attention of science for so long? I think it is interesting that the aborigine population have legends that back up the story but aborigine's know no more about the outback than many other Australians nowadays and thus I don't think we should suddenly start to accept all their beliefs and folk tales as fact.

Kasai rex

Reports regarding this mysterious creature seem to have been duplicated and names confused. Supposedly the story originated in the Rhodesia Herald in 1932 with a story regarding the exploits of a Swede named John Johnson (in other versions he is J. C. Johanson)

On February 16 last I went on a shooting trip, accompanied by my gunbearer. I had only a Winchester for small game, not expecting anything big. At 2 p.m. I had reached the Kasai valley (sic).
No game was in sight. As we were going down to the water, the boy suddenly called out "elephants". It appeared that two giant bulls were almost hidden by the jungle. About 50 yards away from them I saw something incredible - a monster, about 16 yards in length, with a lizard's head and tail. I closed my eyes and reopened them. There could be no doubt about it, the animal was still there. My boy cowered in the grass whimpering.
I was shaken by the hunting-fever. My teeth rattled with fear. Three times I snapped; only one attempt came out well. Suddenly the monster vanished, with a remarkably rapid movement. It took me some time to recover. Alongside me the boy prayed and cried. I lifted him up, pushed him along and made him follow me home. On the way we had to transverse a big swamp. Progress was slow, for my limbs were still half-paralyzed with fear. There in the swamp, the huge lizard appeared once more, tearing lumps from a dead rhino. It was covered in ooze. I was only about 25 yards away.
It was simply terrifying. The boy had taken French leave, carrying the rifle with him. At first I was careful not to stir, then I thought of my camera. I could hear the crunching of rhino bones in the lizard's mouth. Just as I clicked, it jumped into deep water.
The experience was too much for my nervous system. Completely exhausted, I sank down behind the bush that had given me shelter. Blackness reigned before my eyes. The animal's phenomenally rapid motion was the most awe-inspiring thing I have ever seen.'
I must have looked like one demented, when at last I regained camp. Metcalfe, who is the boss there, said I approached him, waving the camera about in a silly way and emitting unintelligible sounds. I dare say I did. For eight days I lay in a fever, unconscious nearly all the time.'
Now based on this report, even if it was real which I very much doubt, there is nothing here to suggest this is a Tyrannosaurus. The creature is referred to as a lizard and no remarks are made about it hunting on two legs or in fact even standing up on them. So alas I don't think we have two legged carnivorous dinosaurs roaming about the Congo.

With just one report I think we can safely put this one down as a "hoax".

So there are two more dinosaur survival stories for you to feast on. Enjoy!

Further Reading

Mystery in Acambaro: Did Dinosaurs Survive Until Recently?  Charles Hapgood

Claws, Jaws and Dinosaurs - Kent Hovind and William Gibbons

Mysterious Australia by Rex Gilroy

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Monday, 18 January 2010

Is It A Giant Swastika On The Moon? No... it's just marketing!

After a bit of debate on Above Top Secret it has been conclusively proven that this picture is NOT actually a Nazi UFO, but instead a picture from a faux news story made to promote Iron Sky.

It truly is amazing that even ONE person would believe such things, but as we've seen; it was much easier to destroy Nazi Germany than it has proven to be able to destroy the Nazi survival myths.

If the Nazi's had made a base on the Moon do you really think they'd market it using a giant swastika???

Further Reading

"German Secret Weapons of the Second World War" - Rudolf Lusar (UK Amazon, US Amazon)

Nazi International: The Nazis' Postwar Plan to Control Finance, Conflict, Physics and Space - Joesph P. Farrell (UK Amazon, US Amazon)

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Saturday, 16 January 2010

The Honey Island Swamp Monster

Photo courtesy of: Paul Mannix.

Honey Island Swamp is about 30km long and 10km wide and lies about 25 miles to the north east of New Orleans in eastern Louisiana. Despite it's close vicinity to a large urban area, the lack of roads make it relatively isolated and it is home to thriving populations of local wildlife. And perhaps to something more unusual...

In August 1963 retired air traffic controller Harlan Ford and a friend, Ray Mills, saw a huge creature in the swamp which quickly ran away leaving large prints in the ground which quickly washed away. In 1974 they again encountered something in the swamp. Whilst hunting they claim to have found more prints near a dead boar which had had it's throat ripped out. They described the creature as being covered in dirty grey hair, with clawed hands and that it had widely parted yellow eyes. It was about 7 foot (2.2 metres) tall and 400 pounds (180kg) and stunk.

View Larger Map

It may be that the creature was known of long before this first documented encounter. According to many sources, though none that I've found so far offer any proof of this, a creature known as a "Letiche" was described as "a carnivorous, aquatic-humanoid" that lived in the area by local indigenous tribes. They believed it to be a feral child raised by alligators. The local Cajuns supposedly knew it as "Loup Carou". It is now know by the far more easy to pronounce name of the Honey Island Swamp Monster.

Swamp Monster Footprint Cast

A local legend believes that in the 19th century there was a train crash nearby in which a circus was being transported. Some chimpanzees escaped and bred with the local alligator population to create this strange creature. Although this is probably the least likely theory I've ever heard, sightings do tend to point out the strange reptilian and mammalian features of the monster.

There have been other sightings by others too. From this site we get the following (video and more available there):

Ted Williams lived on the bayou most of his life. He was a trapper and worked on the swampland every day. Ted claimed to have seen the creature many times, and he knew there was more than just one of them. He said, "I could have killed them, but I didn't cause they didn't seem to want to harm me. I'd see them swimming the river and get out on the bank then dissappear in the swamp." One day while fishing one crossed the river and walked right past him. One day Ted took his boat deep in the swamp to set trout lines. He was never seen again. No one has ever found him or his boat.

Harlan Ford's granddaughter is continuing the family monster hunting tradition and has made a DVD (see below for link to DVD). Here's a video promoting it with some more eyewitness accounts

Whist the description makes it sound very much like a bigfoot (or skunk ape) as you can see from the picture of the footprint above it is not five toed creature. Either it's a different species, an isolated interbred population of bigfoot (hence disfigurement) or completely made up (which is as usual my default position!). But whatever the case it continues the tradition of American aquatic monsters... which is always good!

Here's a good skeptical account of the swamp monster.

Further Reading

Mothman and Other Curious Encounters - Loren Coleman (UK Amazon, US Amazon)

Monster Spotters Guide to North America - Scott Francis and Ben Patrick (UK Amazon, US Amazon)

The Legend Of The Honey Island Swamp Monster (DVD) (UK Amazon, US Amazon)

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Thursday, 14 January 2010

The Flannan Isles Mystery

The Flannan Isles lie to the west of the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. They have been uninhabited since the lighthouse on Eilean Mór was automated in 1971, having operated since December 1899. Just a little over a year after it first opened something rather unsettling occurred.

In Mid-December 1900, three lighthouse keepers, Thomas Marshal, James Ducat and Donald Macarthur, were stationed there. Macarthur was standing in for a, soon to be rather lucky, assistant keeper who was on long term sick leave. There were actually four keepers, Joseph Moore being the fourth, each one taking it in turns to have a fortnight's break and then coming back to relieve one of the others. Moore had left the island on the 7th December. It would turn out that he was to be the last person to see the others ever again.

The first sign of anything amiss occurred on the night of the 15th December. Sometime around midnight the American steamer, Archtor, passed by. Thankfully the look out spotted the land, for the lighthouse was dark. Captain Holman reported this upon reaching port but his report does not seem to have reached the Northern Lighthouse Board.

However it was soon noticed from the Isle of Lewis. Moore was due to return on the 20th December but bad weather meant he and the tender Hesperus weren't able to reach the island until Boxing Day. Moore's report upon landing is as follows.

Captain Harvie deemed it prudent to lower a boat and land a man if it was possible. I was the first to land, leaving Mr McCormick, the Buoymaster, and the men in the boat till I could return. I went up to the lighthouse and on coming to the entrance gate I found it closed. I made for the entrance door leading to the kitchen and storeroom and found it also closed, and the door inside that. But the kitchen door itself was open. On entering I looked at the fireplace and saw that the fire was not lighted for some days. I entered the rooms in succession and found the beds empty, just as they left them in the early morning.

I did not take time to search further, for I naturally well knew that something serious had occurred.

I darted outside and made for the landing. I informed Mr McCormick that the place was deserted. He with some men came up so as to make sure, but unfortunately the first impression was only too true. Mr McCormick and myself proceeded to the light room, where everything was in proper order. The lamp was clean, the foundation full, blinds on the windows, etc.

He proceeded down to the western landing place (not where he had landed) and found signs of a great deal of storm damage with a box of landing ropes that had been shoved into a deep crevasse missing.

What could have happened to the three lighthouse men? These dedicated men would not have left the lighthouse willingly for to do so would put the lives of many seafarers in danger. Well, of course, there is the ever present alien abduction scenario, plus the more localised stories of paranormal activities on the island (such as the idea some form of fairy folk turned the keepers into giant birds), but more concerning were rumours of murder. Often quoted are these log entries:

Dec. 12: Gale, north by north-west. Sea lashed to fury. Stormbound 9pm. Never seen such a storm. Everything shipshape. Ducat irritable. 12pm. Storm still raging. Wind steady. Stormbound. Cannot go out. Ship passed sounding foghorn. Could see lights of cabins. Ducat quiet. McArthur crying.

Dec. 13: Storm continued through night. Wind shifted west by north. Ducat quiet. McArthur praying. 12 noon. Grey daylight. Me, Ducat, and McArthur prayed.

Dec. 15: 1pm. Storm ended. Sea calm. God is over all.

One, these log entries would, if true, but rather disturbing. But secondly I think we can all agree that they seem highly suspect. Other details often included are that the kitchen was left in quite a state with a breakfast half eaten (hello Mary Celeste rumours!) and a chair overturned suggesting some sort of flight or rush had occurred. Finally, mentioned often, are the three sets of oilskins. Two were found missing with one left on the peg suggesting that the last member of the three had left the lighthouse in a great rush, as who would go out into the December air on an isolated Scottish island in just their shirt??

Well the log is almost certainly a forgery (investigations at the time state the log was only completed up to the 13th with a final two entries written up on a chalk board ready to be transcribed. Nothing unusual was reported about those entries.

The kitchen and living areas were, as was policy, found to have been kept (and left) in the proper tidy condition by Robert Muirhead who had arrived by the end of December to begin a proper investigation into the disappearance. His report is as follows:

On the Thursday and Friday the men made a thorough search over and round the island and I went over the ground with them on the Saturday. Everything at the East landing place was in order... and the lighthouse buildings and everything at the Station was in order. Owing to the amount of sea, I could not get down to the [west] landing place, but I got down to the crane platform about 70 feet above the sea level... The crane... was found to be unharmed, the jib lowered and secured to the rock, and the canvas covering the wire rope on the barrel securely lashed around it, and there was no evidence that the men had been doing anything at the crane. The mooring ropes, landing ropes, derrick landing ropes and crane handles, and also a wooden box in which they were kept and which was secured in a crevice in the rooks 70 feet up the tramway... were displaced and twisted. A large block of stone, weighing upwards of 20 cwt., had been dislodged from its position higher up and carried down and left on the concrete path leading from the terminus of the railway to the top of the steps. A life buoy fastened to the railing along this path, to be used in case of emergency, had disappeared, and I thought at first it had been removed for the purpose of being used but, on examining the ropes by which it was fastened, I found that they had not been touched, and as pieces of canvas were adhering to the ropes, it was evident that the force of the sea pouring through the railings had, even at this great height (110 feet above sea level), torn the life buoy off the ropes.

So perhaps murder could be ruled out. The final decision of the investigation was that Thomas Marshal and James Ducat had gone out in a storm on the 15th of December 1900 in a heroic effort to save the mooring ropes on the western dock. Donald Macarthur, whose coat had been the one left on the peg, must have gone to their aid in a hurry after they got into trouble and all three of them were washed out to sea.

Of course the report was met with disbelief especially considering the extremely large height given for tidal damage. 110 feet tall waves?? Well, as we now know, such large waves are rare but quite possible. And the lay of the land on the island was such that a later keeper investigating the disappearances was nearly washed off a cliff at 200 feet! There is a great article here specifying more details of what happened, and what didn't, here.

Further Reading

Some Strange Scent of Death ~ Angela J. Elliott (US Amazon, UK Amazon)

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Wednesday, 13 January 2010

The Day The Devil Left His Mark In The Snow

In early February 1855, especially on night of the 8th, there was some light snowfall in Devon and other parts of the country. Not unlike, I suspect, the situation we find ourselves with right now.

So not all that interesting, except when people woke up in the morning back then they didn't have train websites to check or BBC News 24 hours coverage to watch and instead went outside and took a look around at the winter wonderland. That's when they found something a little... disturbing.

Early risers in Devon, and across the south of the country, discovered sets of prints set out in straight line. Not only that but moving in ways no normal creature would seem to be able. Walls didn't seem to stop them, neither did downpipes nor it would seem did the River Exe. Sometimes the prints would stop and then, after some distance, resume. They were vaguely horseshoe shaped but did not appear to be made by a four hoofed animal.

Of course the local fundies announced immediately that the devil was wandering the villages searching for sinners, whilst others blamed some recently escaped kangaroos near Sidmouth. My favourite explanation is that an experimental balloon of some sort had been set free and trailed rope from the side. As it bounced up and down in the air on it's way the rope would touch down and leave the horseshoe shape (which does appear from sketches to have changed slightly each time). Of course that would lead to an even greater mystery: how would these ropes avoid becoming tangled in trees??

The mystery was never solved.... but reared it's head again last year Woolsery. Alas it would seem our favourite mystery investigators, the Centre for Fortean Zoology, think it was probably a deer.

Further Reading

The Book of the Damned - Charles Fort (US Amazon, UK Amazon)

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