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Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Creepy Crawly Cryptids of Japan


Creepy Crawly Cryptids of Japan

The world is full of accounts of mysterious creatures, monsters, and half-glimpsed, unknown beasts. These cryptids can instill a wide range of emotions in us such as awe, curiosity, and wonder. Yet then there are the ones that revolt us and make the hairs on the backs of our necks stand up; the ones that inhabit not only the remote places of the world, but our nightmares as well. These are the mysterious creatures that slither, skitter, scamper, and ooze forth from their dark lairs to terrify us.
Japan also has its share of such creatures. Within the forests, in the sewers, and even the ground below our feet, some things are said to lurk that truly make us shiver. Lets us delve into these shadowy places and see what horrors await us there.

Giant Snakes

When one thinks of giant snakes, the first image that comes up is most likely the dark jungles of the Amazon or the swamps of Africa, yet Japan too is home to numerous reports of giant snakes roaming the wilderness.
Pioneers have long reported encountering large snakes lurking in the wilds of Japan. Early settlers of remote, mountainous regions brought back accounts of snakes large enough to devour dogs, deer, and wild boar, and there were even occasional tales of doomed travelers being attacked by giant snakes. Peasants of some thickly wooded areas also spoke of a kind of large boa, which they called the uwaba-mi, or yamakachi.
In areas afflicted by the giant boas,  residents were known to carry some sort of weapon with them when venturing out alone, in order to ward off any giant snakes they might encounter. Allegedly, giant snakes were sometimes killed or even captured alive and displayed for money by enterprising villagers.
Samurai were known to investigate such stories, and on several occasions were said to find and kill these serpents. A few of these cases have become legends in their own right, but it makes one wonder whether these legends of samurai battling giant snakes have their roots in reality.

Accounts of mysterious, large snakes in Japan have existed right up to the modern day. Perhaps one of the best known modern cases of giant snakes in Japan comes from Mt. Tsurugi, located in Tokushima prefecture. This 6,413 ft peak lies within Tsurugi Quasi- National Park, and is the second highest mountain on the island of Shikoku.
Mt. Tsurugi is highly associated with paranormal phenomena and steeped in spooky stories. The area is known for its mysterious disappearances, magnetic anomalies, and spectres. It is also a UFO hotspot, with various strange lights seen in its skies. Among the many stories from the area, it is said there is also a man made pyramid somewhere beneath the mountain, with some going so far as to say it hold’s King Solomon’s treasure.  Interestingly, this treasure is supposedly guarded by a colossal snake that will kill any who approach.
Mt. Tsurugi
Mt. Tsurugi
If eyewitness accounts are anything to go by, this snake is far from mere legend. It has been allegedly encountered from time to time by campers and hikers in the area, and is reported to be in excess of 12 meters or even more in length. The mountain’s numerous unexplained disappearances are often blamed on the giant snake as it is said to be highly aggressive when encountered, and will attack unprovoked.
Reports of the snake abound. On May 26, 1973, forestry workers on Mt. Tsurugi came across a snake that was described as being as thick as a telephone pole, with shiny black scales and a white underbelly. According to the startled workers, around 5 meters (around 16.5 feet) of the snake was protruding from thick underbrush, and they estimated that the full length of the animal would have been a whopping 10 meters (33 feet) or more. The snake was reported to emit a loud chirping noise and piping cry before slithering away into the foliage.
This report caused widespread panic among residents, and some even reported seeing other snakes in the area that were estimated as being sizes of 8 meters (26 feet) to 11 meters (36 feet) long.
The following month, in June 1973, local officials responded to escalating fears by mounting a large scale expedition to try and find the source of these giant snake reports. Volunteers scoured the mountainside in the vicinity of the sightings, looking for any evidence at all for what people had reported seeing. They found no snake, but they did discover what appeared to be a track left by the creature.
The long track was 40 cm (around 16 inches) across and led through fallen weeds and flattened brush. Those who examined the track said it was undoubtedly that of a large snake of some kind.
The warrior Fujiwara Hidesato battling the giant centipede
Not long after, an enormous shed skin of a snake was also found in the vicinity by volunteers searching for the beast. Those who examined the skin estimated that it would have come from a snake about 8 meters (26 feet) long. The skin was collected, but later lost.
Bizarrely, a local museum claims to be in the possession of a jawbone measuring 34 cm (13 inches) wide, which it claims to be from the very same snake. Critics have pointed out that it is merely the jaws of a shark cleverly arranged to resemble a snake’s jaw.
Mt. Tsurugi is not the only mountain in Japan said to be the lair of giant serpents. Another mountain, Mt. Tateiwa, in Gunma prefecture, is also said to be inhabited by such creatures.
In addition to occasional reports from Mt. Tateiwa of snakes up to 10 meters (32 feet) long, a group of hikers on the mountain allegedly came across a discarded skin from a shedding snake, similar to the skin reportedly found on Mt. Tsurugi. When this skin was investigated, it was believed to have come from a snake that would have been at least 7 meters (23 feet) long.
Giant Snake
Other areas of Japan have had their own modern day giant snake encounters as well. On January 24, 1987, a 7 meter long snake was seen on a poultry farm in Kochi prefecture. The farmer, a Mr. Asakura Kayoko, reported hearing a commotion coming from one of his chicken coops. When he went to investigate, he found what he at first took to be a log inexplicably lying across the top of the coop. Closer inspection revealed it was in fact a huge snake in the process of eating one of his chickens, and apparently had already eaten several others. The farmer’s dogs ended up chasing the snake off of the property.
In Izu prefecture, a giant white snake reported as around 9 meters (29.5 feet) halted construction of a hotel when it appeared out of the surrounding wilderness. Construction workers continually spotted the beast lurking near the site, and were so frightened that they left and refused to return to work for several days. An inspection of the area turned up nothing, but this did little to allay the fears of the worker’s, who continued to stand by their story.
The jungles of the world are home to several species of truly enormous snakes, yet Japan has no native snakes even close to approaching these reported sizes. What is behind these reports? It remains a mystery.

Giant Centipedes

Japan is already well known for it’s very large centipedes, known as mukade, which can grown up to 20cm (7.9 inches) or more in length and eat everything from cockroaches to mice. These venomous centipedes are already large and scary enough as it is, yet these are occasional accounts of even bigger ones.
The Edo Period (1603 to 1867) produced many stories of giant centipedes said to be up to a meter (3.2 feet) in length. These centipedes were reported to be highly poisonous, with venom that could kill a grown man in minutes. On occasion, specimens were said to be exhibited in the various misemono side shows that were popular at the time.
Such stories are not confined to history. From the rural areas of Japan come modern reports of giant centipedes far larger than any currently known to exist. One such report comes from a farmer in Saga Prefecture, who was working on a woodpile one day in 1986 only to be horrified by an enormous centipede the man claimed to be 60cm (around 2 feet) in length, that came skittering out from under some logs. The farmer claims to have killed it with a rake, but later threw out the body in revulsion.
For most people, this is probably already an uncomfortably large size for a centipede, yet even larger ones have been reported. A group of campers in Nagano prefecture claimed to have heard an odd rustling one evening coming from one of their tents. Upon closer inspection, the noise turned out to be from a monstrous centipede claimed to have been around 2 feet in length. The creature was apparently startled and made a quick escape past the terrified campers, out of the tent, and into the forest.
Such reports are rare, but chilling nonetheless. Is it possible that some unknown species of centipede even larger than the native ones resides in Japan? The largest currently known species of centipede in the world is the Peruvian giant yellow-leg centipede, also known as the Amazonian giant centipede (Scolopendra gigantea), which can reach up to a foot in length. Is there something even larger lurking in the wilderness of Japan?

Giant Earthworms

When looking for the sort of cryptids that really make our skin crawl, sometimes it is necessary to look not above the ground, but below it. One of the things that causes many people unease is worms.
There have long been tales of enormous earthworms surfacing from time to time in various areas of Japan. One of the hotspots for such accounts is Hyogo prefecture, on Honshu Island, which has many historical accounts of worms in excess of 1.5 meters (5 feet) long. One such account dates from the year 1712, in what was then known as Tamba province (now part of Hyogo prefecture).
The account describes a huge landslide that occurred in a village, after which 2 giant earthworms were found in the debris. One of these worms measured 1.5 meters (5 feet) in length, while the other was larger still, at 3 meters (10 feet) long. Another landslide that occurred in the same general vicinity allegedly unearthed a 4.5 meter (15 feet) long worm.
A more modern report from Mikata-gun, which is located in the mountains of Hyogo prefecture, dates from 1996 when a farmer uncovered an earthworm 1 meter (3.3 feet) long and 2cm (0.8 inches) thick while planting a tree on his rural property. It was the first time the surprised farmer had ever encountered such a large worm in all his years in the area.
Giant worms have been reported from other parts of Japan as well. In Okayama prefecture, one woman claimed to have seen a worm 3 meters (10 feet) long in a field that was being tilled. The worm had apparently been disturbed by the farming activity. Another farmer in the same prefecture brought up a still thrashing piece of a worm that had been hacked off during farm work. The piece is estimated to have come from a worm 3.5 to 4 meters (11.5 to 13 feet) long. The rest of the worm could not be located.
Slightly smaller worms measuring between 60cm (2 feet) to 1 meter (3.3 feet) have been reported from Okayama prefecture, Shikoku Island, the Izu peninsula, the Kii peninsula, and Nara prefecture as well.
Perhaps the strangest report comes from Fukuoka prefecture, on the island of Kyushu. In 1997, a Mr. Ou Sato and his friend spotted something odd near the side of a river that they at first took to be a hock of ham someone had discarded. Thinking this to be a bit unusual, the two approached to get a better look. On closer inspection, they found the mysterious object to be a tubular piece of flesh, 30 cm (1 foot) long and 20 cm (8 inches) in diameter, with thin, glistening wet skin. There were clear grooves encircling it like those of an earthworm’s segments, and the color was described as brown like “a bursting sausage.” There was no evidence of the object possessing bones of any kind.
Both ends of the curious piece were ragged and torn, leading the two men to estimate that it was obviously a piece from the carcass of a much larger animal. The witnesses’ impression was that it originated from a gigantic earthworm, which they estimated the full length as being perhaps 10 meters (33 feet) or more. Unfortunately, due to the slimy and slightly decomposing nature of the find, they left it where it lay.
Indeed, the world is home to many species of giant earthworm, the largest being the Australian Gippsland earthworm (Megascolides australis), which is native to small areas in Victoria, Australia, and can reach lengths of up to 3 meters (9.8 feet). Is one such monstrous worm inhabiting the depths of the Earth beneath our feet in Japan?
Australian Gippsland earthworm
Australian Gippsland earthworm

Subterranean Giant Rats

Tokyo is a mega city thrumming with the tireless activity of millions of souls. Yet under the bustling streets, throngs of people, and non-stop traffic, lies another world that most people never give much thought. Under the metropolis of Tokyo is a dark world of countless miles of vast warrens of tunnels, sewage pipes, and abandoned subway routes. These sprawling subterranean labyrinths are creepy enough as it is, yet somewhat more menacing when considering what may call them its home.
Like many large cities, Tokyo is infested with rats. They are everywhere. Above and beyond the usual vermin, there have  been accounts throughout the years from under the neon lit streets  of Tokyo that speak of rats far larger than normal. Sporadic accounts from sewer workers have described rats that are the size of dogs lurking in this dark netherworld of tunnels under the city.
Artwork by roadkillblues at Deviant art
Artwork by roadkillblues at Deviant art
One such account was told by a tunnel worker who described seeing something rummaging through a pile of refuse. The worker took the creature to be a cat at first, and could not figure out why a cat should be down in such a deep part of the tunnel system. He went closer to investigate and that was when the thing turned to him and revealed itself to be a very large, cat sized rat. The worker described how it showed no fear as it sniffed the air and leisurely sauntered off into the darkness.
Another report describes a group of workers doing routine maintenance work when they shone a light on a rat they explained as being as big as a medium sized dog. The startled workers shouted out in surprise, whereupon the creature hurried away. One of the workers had the feeling the thing was injured, as it seemed to exhibit a limp.

Various other reports have similarly described rats the size of cats or dogs roaming sewer systems and unused subway tunnels. Such accounts have spawned theories of genetic mutations caused by chemicals or radiation. However, one rat expert has said that since their growth plates don’t fuse properly after puberty, even common black rats have the potential to grow to frighteningly large proportions if they live long enough and have access to enough resources. Could one get as large as the ones in these reports with enough time and food?
What is lurking in the tunnels under Tokyo’s streets? Is it a new species? Mutated monster rats? Figments of the imagination? Whatever they are, it may be wise to keep an eye to the dark corners of the streets when in Tokyo.
Snakes, worms, rats, bugs, these are the creatures that haunt the corners of our imagination.  What sorts of creepy beasts scurry about there in the dim corners of the world? It seems that there may be some mysteries that some may not be sure they want to know the answers to.

Comparisons with Original Munro Sketch of Loch Ness Monster

Jay Cooney called my attention to a new and prior version of the sketch accompanying the Margaret Munro sighting at the shore of Loch Ness and posted by Scott Mardis on Facebook. I did a photoshop job on it and eliminated the grey halftones on it, and this was my resulting cleaned-up image. Jay then added the photos of the 1972 Rines underwater flipper photos at Loch Ness to point out that the sketch had the same sort of flippers, as shown below:

I mentioned in my reply comments to him that the diamond shape for the flippers were long established at Loch Ness and that Torquil MacLeod's sketch of his land sighting reconstruction also featured the rhomboid flippers some twelve years before the Rines photos were taken.

The information on the sighting is as follows, quoting from an email letter I received from one of the other Friends of Scott Mardis on Facebook while discussing the matter:
Date: Sunday 3rd June 1934
Time: 0630 for 25 minutes
Location: Kilchumein Lodge just east of Fort Augustus
Witnesses: Margaret Munro
Sighting on shore at Loch Ness
From the Inverness Courier of June 5th 1934 :


Contemporary to this account is the diary entry of Dom Cyril Dieckhoff, a monk at Fort Augustus Abbey and a keen Loch Ness Monster investigator. His entry is also dated the 5th June and was first printed in Constance Whyte's book More Than A Legend in 1957:
The next story was recorded by Dom Cyril Dieckhoff under date 5th June 1934: Margaret Munro, daughter of Dan the Miller and a native of Fort Augustus, was maid to Mr. and Mrs. Pimley, Mr. Pimley being a master on the staff of the Abbey School and living at Kilchumein Lodge, (close to the Abbey turbine house).
The Lodge overlooks Borlum Bay and one Sunday morning Miss Munro was looking out of a window at about 6.30 a.m. On the shore of the Bay she saw, as she put it, the biggest animal she had ever seen in her life. Using binoculars she observed that the creature was almost, but not entirely, clear of the water. It was 300 yards away and she watched it for twenty-five minutes, from 6.30 to 6.55 a.m.

Asked afterwards why she did not wake Mr. and Mrs. Pimley she said that, being new in their service, she did not care to, as it was so early in the morning. Her description runs: 'Giraffe-like neck and absurdly small head out of all proportion to the great dark-grey body—skin like an elephant—two very short fore-legs or flippers clearly seen. The animal kept turning itself in the sunshine and at times arched its back into one or more humps.' Finally, 'it lowered its head, quietly entered the water and disappeared'.

Soon after 9 a.m. Mr. and Mrs. Pimley went down to the beach to examine the spot. There was a slight impression on the rather heavy shingle and in the centre a small branch had been pressed into the gravel. Before this experience Miss Munro had not believed in the Monster.
The story appeared in the newspaper The Scotsman  the next day and  the story was being reprinted in various international newspapers over the summer weeks.

 Nicholas Witchell’s The Loch Ness Story adds further details in that he carries a sketch of what Margaret Munro allegedly saw as well as a photograph pointing to the probable location of the creature. The location photograph is below while the sketch of the creature is at the top of this article.

Steuart Campbell is his book The Loch Ness Monster - The Evidence calls this an Otter sighting and so does Maurice Burton: Adrian Shine favours the seal interpretation. Ronald Binns and Tony Harmsworth make no mention of the case.
The Scotsman report from the 5th June carried a  another drawing of the creature. The article states:

"Describing the animal to our correspondent, who drew a sketch of it from her description ...."

 And the Witchell sketch is shown again for comparison. It seems both sketches were done by reporters of The Scotsman but approved by Miss Munro. The second one has been "cleaned up" more

Munro says directly that the head and neck were similar to the famous "Surgeon's photograph" and both sketches do show that.

"Surgeon's Photo", image reversed.

Witchell attempts to pin down the actual location while Costello in In Search of Lake Monsters takes notes of the arching of the back into humps. The creature was partially sitting in the shallow waters of the bay and did not fully venture onto land during the sighting. At a guess, the water depth was about one or two feet deep. This accounts for the lack of information on any rear limbs normally associated with the creature as they were still under the water. This all suggests that the creature was partly facing the woods with its back to the loch at some angle. The creature was seen to swinging its head and neck from side to side presumably scanning out the territory. She said it was“the biggest animal she had ever seen in her life”. Margaret Munro was presumably talking about something bigger than an elephant. The lighter underpart of the creature has been reported in other sightings and the dark grey skin is almost canonical. Maurice Burton errs on this point when he discusses the case: he says took out his own 8x binoculars to examine a tree in his back garden at a range of 220 yards and said he could not make out the bark detail. He thus reasons that Margaret Munro could not claim to talk about the skin being like that of an elephant. However, the statement is obviously meant as a comparison of the colour and not the texture.

Margaret Munro's mention of the back arching into humps is important since variable-contour humps would be ordinarily dismissed as nothing more than witnesses being deceived by standing waves as they wash along the loch. Transforming humps are one of those features well known to Loch Ness Monster researchers and a point of controversy. James MacDonald, a local man who worked for the Forestry Commission, observed the monster seventy hours before Margaret Munro on Thursday the 30th of May. He reported a hump about 400 yards away surfacing near Cherry Island which then moved off. James was a trained observer with the Lovat Scouts during the Boer War and back then as a forestry patrolman. He was also a salmon fisherman of Loch Ness with forty years experience. He described his sighting in these terms, "Twice it flattened out itself, then, apparently contracting, resolved itself into two humps, each nearly as big as an upturned boat, and several feet of water separating them."  Would this be the same creature that Margaret Munro saw three days later in the same locality exhibiting the same back flexing feature? There was also a sighting of the creature the day before John MacDonald's experience (Wednesday) by a Miss Fraser and others who saw nearly the same thing as his sighting but without the humps changing shape. Their sighting saw the monster appear in Borlum Bay and then trace a route to a point between Cherry Island and the old Railway Pier. Mr. MacDonald saw the reverse route. It was almost as if the creature had submerged in front of Miss Fraser and stayed there until the next morning to resurface in front of James MacDonald.
Mr. MacDonald's sighting was chronologically before Margaret Munro, but the story was not made public until the same day as Munro's story when it was printed in the same edition of the Inverness Courier. So, it can be argued that Munro's story receives corroboration in two areas - the MacDonald story and the beach inspection by the Pimleys.

(This article came to me as a submission but most of the information is at the site
And I have checked the information I received against that article, correcting the submitted informaton in places.)

Scott Mardis Additional on Mansi photo at Lake Champlain

Comparison by Scott Mardis of the Lake Champlain Mansi photo with a Plesiosaur skeleton and with a carved horn artifact from Vermont of the Colonial age. This also looks like a very firm connection.

More from Scott Mardis

Development stages of the common European eel
The Leptocephalus stage is at the bottom.

Supplemental Giant Eel Sea Serpent Illustrations from Scott Mardis

Sunday, 13 April 2014

National Geographic on Pumas Increasing Their Range in the East

Spreading East

By the early 1970s, cougars in the U.S. were found only in Florida and scattered pockets of the West. Since then, more prey—especially deer—and better management have let them expand and recolonize the Midwest.
[I have made a couple of amendments but only to draw attention to what is already shown on the map. I am posting this not because it is Cryptozoological but because many people THINK the subject is Cryptozoological. Since it involves a known species already known to be native to the same landmass, I always thought the inclusion as a Cryptozoological subject was an especially mistaken and incongruous notion.-DD]

Another Loch Ness Monster Submission from Scott Mardis

Scott Mardis made this comparison between the Loch Ness Monster as reported by William Campbell and one of the Rines underwater pictures. I thought it was pretty spot-on and very suggestive as evidence.

Comment by Jay C on Zombie Plesiosaur Society Facebook Group: I concur with Dale! Excellent work. The photographic data supports the anecdotal data and vice versa.

Tales of a Sea Serpent

Tales of a Sea Serpent

 By Robin Smith-Johnson | Published: April 4, 2014 

      Every few years, Cape locals are fired up over the Pamet Puma which has been sighted from time to time in Truro. Another earlier fantastic sighting occurred in 1886, when the Provincetown Town Crier, George Washington Ready, saw a huge creature rise out of the surf as he was walking over the Province Lands Dunes one morning. In one news report, Ready said “it was 300 feet long, more or less! Had a head as big as a 200-gallon cask! Six eyes, as large as good-sized dinner plates that rose from the body.” Since Ready was hiding behind a sand dune, he was able to study the creature. According to Ready, it had “a mouth that disclosed four great rows of teeth and a tusk that extended from the nose at least eight feet.” He also described its terrible sulphurous scent and intense heat that seemed to scorch the surrounding terrain.

 Many newspapers of the day published accounts of this rare sighting. Even the New York Times carried an article entitled “Provincetown; Capt. Ready is Ready with his Regular Sea Serpent Tale” (June 26, 1910). An article published in the Cape Cod Times in 1992 by Hamilton Kahn references an even earlier sighting in Provincetown. A fleet of shore-whalemen in 1719 confronted an “unidentified, large species.” An eyewitness account by B. Franklin, an uncle of Ben Franklin, saw a creature 16 feet long, with a long beard and short yellowish tail, which “fled to deep water after being wounded three times by the whalers’ harpoons.” As the summer season finally approaches, it might be good to remember these old salty tales and keep a sea eye out for monsters both real and imagined. You never know what you might see off the bow of a whale watching ship. Note: This posting was first published on April 14, 2009.
 - See more at:

[George Washington Ready is either the author of a hoax or he is badly exaggerating. But the description by Ben Franklin's uncle of a small beast with a beard and a short tail that was wounded by harpooners is a very good description of a moose in the water. I wonder how common mooses were in Massachussetts back in the 1700s and early 1800s?-DD]

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Update on "Chickasaurus"

Susan Day posted an update to the story and we are grateful for the information:
Read the Story HERE

In the meantime this letter was sent to my gmail account:

Philip Renne 
Apr 11 (1 day ago)

Hi Dale
First, love your blogs, you never fail to bring interesting insights and mysteries to my attention.
On the subject of the cave thunderbird skeleton, I think I have proof that whatever that thing was it was flightless.  Would you agree that this circled red area is a wing bone, and an atrophied wing bone at that?
Inline image 1
No orinthologist am I, so I would be interested to read your feedback.

Considering this, we now have this image that was attached to Sharon Day's updated story at the end:

Want to see what he would look like erect?
--Fortunately the body as shown still preserves the image of the forearm bones, the radius and ulna, and by direct measure they are TWICE the size as indicated in the "Erect posture" reconstruction. And as a matter of fact the radius and ulna look pretty large and robust in comparison to the rest of the skeleton, more like a flying bird with strong wings.
. Here is a version restoring those limb bones to their proper position, to scale:

 Against that information, the humerus IS rather thin and weak looking. My suggestion was that this was an immature or deformed individual. But the forelimb is not small or degenerate-looking.

I wrote back to Phillip, concluding:

I am more concerned with the apparent lack of a breastbone. That makes things more puzzling and much less certain. If we had Pleistocene ratites in North America its a new one on me.

Best Wishes, Dale D.

Mystery Big Cat Reference

This photo of a sedated lynx illustrates how really big the feet are. Lynx leave outsized tracks and they are sometimes reported as indicating "Lions" or "Tigers" because the tracks seem to indicate bigger cats than the lynx actually is.

Friday, 11 April 2014

The Bear Lake Monster

Brought to my attention by Scott Mardis. I had heard some of this before including the denunciation, but this is the first time I had heard all of it.

The Bear Lake Monster: You Can Lead a Hoax to Water, but You Can’t Make it Sink

“The secret of life is honesty and fair dealing. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made” – Groucho Marx

The Bear Lake Monster Boat

It’s hard work to stage a hoax.  That’s why I haven’t tried it yet.  You can’t just invent something out of thin air and expect everyone to believe it (unless apparently, you are a Congressman or software called SCIgen that randomly generates well-formatted nonsense, and managed to get 120 papers published with scientific subscription services before folks started noticing).  There may be a sucker born every minute, but for a few hundred years we’ve been cultivating a slightly more suspicious form of rube, equally likely to assume a conspiracy, as to fall for your garden variety, poorly-constructed hoax.  University of Nevada rhetorician Lynda Walsh’s Sins Against Science, offers a “Brief Natural History of Hoaxing”, usefully suggesting a number of sociological components necessary to perpetrate a highly successful hoax, including: “treatment of a particular social tension; resistance to closure; parasitism on other genres; display of genius of hoaxer; construction of agonistic relationship between author and reader; argumentation at the stasis of existence; effacement of textuality; destabilization of reality; construction of insider/outsider dynamic; division of audience according to differing world views; dependence on news media” (Walsh, 2006, p17).  This is a fancy way of saying (and I admit a fondness for fanciness) that a hoax must be anchored in a historical and cultural context.  I mean, some nice Jewish boy (or composite of nice Jewish boys) does actually have to wander around telling everyone to be decent to each other and then get nailed to a cross by the Romans for his troubles in order to rise again and launch a new mythology, right?  When the hoaxer’s cunning ruse is revealed, we have a tendency, presumably out of sheer embarrassment, to forget that the rhetorical prestidigitation that breathed life into a tall tale had not just folkloric precursors, but also continued to manifest long after the joke was publically explained.  If we were to find a government warehouse filled with Roswell stage props, would it be logical to conclude that aliens have never visited New Mexico, or that a savvy Cold War propagandist was capitalizing on an increasing numbers of UFO sightings that had fixed the possibility of extraterrestrial visitors in public consciousness for his own nefarious purposes?  A hoax is typically treated as the exception that disproves the rule, invalidating both what came before and what comes after.  Consider Utah’s Bear Lake Monster, which seems to illustrate novelist Angela Carter’s maxim that, “In a secular age, an authentic miracle must purport to be a hoax, in order to gain credit in the world”.
Bear Lake is a 250,000 year old, 18 mile long, 208 foot deep freshwater lake on the Utah/Idaho border sometimes referred to as “The Caribbean of the Rockies” due to its brilliant turquoise color (caused by high limestone content).  Biologists have noted a high level of “endemism” (meaning several evolutionarily unique species have been found in the lake, including the Bonneville cisco, Bonneville whitefish, Bear Lake whitefish, and Bear Lake sculpin).  And as luck would have it, Bear Lake is reputed to be home to a crazy, chimerical cryptid said to look something like a forty-foot long amphibious bastard child of an enormous snake and gargantuan otter.  If ever there was a dream within a dream, it was the Bear Lake Monster, attested to by Native American legend, deliberately hoaxed between 1868-1870, and then appearing with some regularity even after the esteemed hoaxer unmasked himself well into the 20th Century, and even into the early 21st Century (the last recorded sighting by a local business owner in 2002).   A monster that is first a myth, then a hoax, then an occasionally sighted strange phenomena (and sometimes tourist attraction) induces a sort of existential vertigo, smacking us in the face with the absurdity of both our belief and disbelief.  No doubt, this is why much folklore outlasts its own hoaxing, since if you have a sneaking suspicion that Elvis never died, you’ll treat adequate impersonators with a measure of respect.  Just in case.  And two Elvis impersonators in the same room might lead to a brain aneurism.  This is problematic for the monster hunter as those disinclined to allow for the possibility of the anomalistic, point to an instance of hoaxing as proof positive that the root of all legend is in some sort of  primordial con job.  A crop circle can be hoaxed, thus all crop circles are hoaxes.  The credulous are often all too willing to believe that a hoax was a deliberate attempt by unscrupulous agents of “fill in the blank” to cast aspersions at what they themselves know to be true.  As usual, the elusive truth (be it the authenticity of the cultural tradition or the unrecognized reality of something exceedingly odd) resides in the interstitial spaces.
Contrary to popular opinion, the history of Utah does not start with the Mormons. Three thousand years before the white man arrived, the Anasazi and Fremont tribes had settled in Utah, but by the 15th Century both had either migrated away or disappeared.  By the 18th Century, the Navajo, Ute, Goshute, Paiute, and Shoshone had taken up residence, with the Shoshone as the primary indigenous population in the Bear Lake region when the first French-Canadian trappers started stumbling through regularly starting around 1818 (some Spanish conquistadors traipsed through in the 1500’s, but they didn’t hang around).  The folks of the Church of Latter Day Saints started arriving in 1847, and Utah, formerly a Mexican territory, was officially ceded to the United States in the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo that ended the Mexican-American War.  Eventually, the Utah Territory (1850-1896) became a state (but not quite as large a chunk of land as the “State of Deseret” that they had envisioned when they made their application).  Most of the population in the 1800’s lived in the Salt Lake City area, which of course features a nice, big salty lake, so it’s no wonder that folks started eyeing a freshwater source like Bear Lake and settling in the area.  The pioneering Mormons noticed that the local Shoshone avoided getting too close to the water’s edge around Bear Lake, and when they inquired were informed that far too many people had been eviscerated by the monsters that dwelt there over the course of two hundred years of Shoshone settlement (although some scholars have speculated that an ancestral people related to the Shoshone, called the Numa, were actually in the area for thousands of years).
Many years ago when the Mormons first came to Bear Lake, and began mingling with the Indians, they noticed the Red men always avoided the lake when possible, and became very much alarmed at the whites when they went boating or bathing, on or in the lake. The white people wondered what could be the reason for their fear, so one day they inquired of one of the Indians, who told them the following legend of the Bear Lake monster: It was the custom of their forefathers to go bathing, and fishing in the lake. It sometimes happened, that some of them would not return. In some mysterious way, which the Indians could not understand, they were taken away. One day a large monster was seen to rise out of the water and catch one of the braves, while bathing in the lake. Often after this it was seen by the Indians at different places in the lake. So the story was handed down from their forefathers. Always the Indians remembered the silence, the waiting, the longing for the Indian braves who never returned to their wigwams. True to their memories and the fear of some command given by the chiefs, the Indians never entered the shimmering waters of the lake. Long they watched for the monster’s return and even now feel that when the buffalo return to their old hunting grounds and feed in their old haunts, that the Bear Lake monster in all his fury and strength will return (Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Association, 1917, p271).
The Shoshone explained the presence of the Bear Lake Monster as the result of a forbidden love between a Sioux warrior and lovely Bannock lady (the Bannock are another tribe closely related to the Shoshone) and the subsequent intervention of the Great Spirit.
No Indian was ever known to launch his canoe upon it, to bathe in it, or even to fish from its banks. They believe it to be sacred to the monsters of its depths, and dare not pollute its waters, or take from them a single fish put there for the food of the dreaded proprietors. The legend is that centuries ago, when the Sioux and Bannocks were at war, a chief of the former tribe became enamored of a dusky Bannock maiden. The course of true love, which never did run smooth, led them over mountains and canons in their escape from the pursuit of the hostile tribes, whose members were for the time in league for mutual vengeance. At last, like the Highlander with Lord Ullin’s daughter, they came to the shores of the lake, their angry relatives close behind. There was no gallant old ferryman willing to risk his life for the “winsome lady,” and so they plunged into the waves to become targets for arrows and tomahawks. But suddenly the Great Spirit transformed them into two enormous serpents. Rearing their heads from the water they shot from their mouths a volley of beach stones on their paralyzed foes, but few of whom escaped to hand down to succeeding generations the warning to beware of this enchanted lake. Aside from all such superstition as this, there really is good reason to believe that the lake is inhabited by some abnormal water animals. We conversed with seven persons, among them our friend, the bishop, who at different times had seen them, and they told us that many other individuals could verify their report. The length of these monsters varies from thirty to eighty feet, and their bodies are covered with fur like that of a seal. The head is described like that of an alligator. In one instance the animal came close to the shore, and was entangled in the rushes, where he squirmed and splashed, and made a horrible noise like the roaring of a bull (Codman, 1879, p275-276).
Along comes Joseph Coulson Rich (1841-1908), son of the Apostle Charles C. Rich, Bear Lake County representative to the Idaho Territorial legislature and member of the Mormon religious-political organization called “The Council of Fifty” (official theological name of the group was “The Kingdom of God and His Laws with the Keys and Power thereof, and Judgment in the Hands of His Servants, Ahman Christ”).  In short, Joseph Coulson Rich was a big-shot in the world of the Church of Latter Day Saints, and apparently had some aspirations as a journalist (he was a correspondent for the Deseret News).  The July 27, 1868 issue of The Deseret News printed Rich’s account of his “research” into the Bear Lake Monster, and a Bear Lake Monster flap ensued.
All lakes, caves and dens have their legendary histories. Tradition loves to throw her magic wand over beautiful dells and lakes and people them with fairies, giants and monsters of various kinds. Bear Lake has also its monster tale to tell, and when I have told it, I will leave you to judge whether or not its merits are merely traditionary.  The Indians say there is a monster animal which lives in the Lake that has captured and carried away Indians while in the Lake swimming; but they say it has not been seen by them for many years, not since the buffalo inhabited the valley. They represent it as being of the serpent kind, but having legs about eighteen inches long on which they sometimes crawl out of the water a short distance on the shore. They also say it spurts water upwards out of its mouth. Since the settlement of this valley several persons have reported seeing a huge animal of some kind that they could not describe; but such persons have generally been alone when they saw it, and but little credence have been attached to the matter, and until this summer the “monster question” had about died out. About three weeks ago Mr. S. M. Johnson, who lives on the east side of the lake at a place called South Eden was going to the Round Valley settlement, six miles to the South of this place and when about half way he saw something in the lake which at the time, he thought to be a drowned person. The road being some little distance from the water’s edge he rode to the beach and the waves were running pretty high. He thought it would soon wash into shore. In a few minutes two or three feet of some kind of an animal that he had never seen before were raised out of the water. He did not see the body, only the head and what he supposed to be part of the neck. It had ears or bunches on the side of its head nearly as large as a pint cup. The waves at times would dash over its head, when it would throw water from its mouth or nose. It did not drift landward, but appeared stationary, with the exception of turning its head. Mr. Johnson thought a portion of the body must lie on the bottom of the lake or it would have drifted with the action of the water. This is Mr. Johnson’s version as he told me. The next day an animal of a monster kind was seen near the same place by a man and three women, who said it was swimming when they first saw it. They represented [it] as being very large, and say it swam much faster than a horse could run on land. These recent discoveries again revived the “monster question.” Those who had seen it before brought in their claims anew, and many people began to think the story was not altogether moonshine. On Sunday last as N. C. Davis and Allen Davis, of St. Charles, and Thomas Slight and J. Collings of Paris, with six women, were returning from Fish Haven, when about midway from the latter named place to St. Charles their attention was suddenly attracted to a peculiar motion or wave in the water, about three miles distant. The lake was not rough, only a little disturbed by a light wind. Mr. Slight says he distinctly saw the sides of a very large animal that he would suppose to be not less than ninety feet in length. Mr. Davis don’t think he (Davis) saw any part of the body, but is positive it must have been not less than 40 feet in length, judging by the wave it rolled upon both sides of it as it swam, and the wake it left in the rear. It was going South, and all agreed that it swam with a speed almost incredible to their senses. Mr. Davis says he never saw a locomotive travel faster, and thinks it made a mile a minute, easy. In a few minutes after the discovery of the first, a second one followed in its wake; but it seemed to be much smaller, appearing to Mr. Slight about the size of a horse. A large one, in all, and six small ones had [sic: "hied?"] southward out of sight. One of the large ones before disappearing made a sudden turn to the west, a short distance; then back to its former track. At this turn Mr. Slight says he could distinctly see it was of a brownish color. They could judge somewhat of their speed by observing known distances on the other side of the lake, and all agree that the velocity with which they propelled themselves through the water was astonishing. They represent the waves that rolled up in front and on each side of them as being three feet high from where they stood. This is substantially their statement as they told me. Messrs. Davis and Slight are prominent men, well known in this country, and all of them are reliable persons whose veracity is undoubted. I have no doubt they would be willing to make affidavits to their statement. There you have the monster story so far as completed, but I hope it will be concluded by the capture of one sometime. If so large an animal exists in this altitude and in so small a lake, what could it be? It must be something new under the sun, the scriptural text to the contrary, not withstanding. Is it fish, flesh or serpent, amphibious and fabulous or a great big fish, or what is it? Give it up but have hopes of someday seeing it, if it really exists, and I have no reason to doubt the above statements. Here is an excellent opportunity for some company to bust Barnum on a dicker for the monster, if they can only catch one; already some of our settlers talk of forming a joint stock arrangement and what they can do to the business (J.C.R [presumably Joseph C. Rich], Deseret News, July 27, 1868).
Joseph C. Rich was a prominent and well respected figure in the early Mormon settlement of Utah, but he also had an established reputation as a humorist and prankster.  He was living on the Idaho side of Bear Lake, which at the time was considered “the Boondocks”, since most of the action was happening in Salt Lake City to the south.  Rich was 27 years old in 1868 and in love with a young lady from a prominent Salt Lake City family, who had not consented to marry him as she was a city girl, and didn’t relish the idea of moving to the more rural Bear Lake area.  Basically, if he wanted to get the girl, he needed to put Bear Lake on the map, so to speak.  And thus began the era of the Bear Lake Monster hoax.  The Millennial Star, the longest continuously published periodical of the Church of Latter Day Saints (1840-1970), and oddly published out of Manchester, England in dutifully recording news from Utah for its readers repeatedly mentioned additional sightings of the Bear Lake Monster from 1868 to about 1880.
Charles C. Rich, jun., reported Bear Lake Valley free from grasshoppers, with every prospect of good crops. The “Bear Lake monster” had come up again. Marion Thomas and three sons of Phineas II. Cook were on the lake in a boat, fishing, opposite Swau Creek, and came near his majesty. Brother Thomas describes its head as serpent-shaped. He saw about twenty feet of its body, which was covered with hair or fur, something like an otter, and light brown. It had two flippers, extending from the upper part of the body, which he compared to the blades of his oars. He was so near it that if he had had a rifle he could have shot it (“Utah News”, Latter Day Saints Millennial Star, June 21, 1870).
Interestingly, the Rich family seems to keep reappearing in the reports and it has often been presumed that a number of people who were mentioned were all too happy to lend their names to Joseph Rich’s concocted accounts in the interest of good publicity for Bear Lake.  Rich himself suggested that perhaps noted showman P.T. Barnum should try to capture the beast and charge the public for viewing.  Rich made several tongue in cheek statements along the way, saying things like the Monster was “absolutely essential to keep the fish from overrunning the country”.  Yet, with some regularity various periodicals would mention additional sightings of the fearsome denizen of Bear Lake.  Incidentally, Joseph Rich did get the girl in the end, marrying his love Ann Eliza Hunter in 1869 (and she moved to Bear Lake, so it looks like his plan worked).
Brothers Milando Pratt and Thomas, son of Elder C. C. Rich, had a view of the “Bear Lake Monster,” July 19, south of Fish Haven. They report that “their attention was attracted by an unusual commotion in the waters of the lake, and looking in the direction they presently saw the head and a portion of the body of a creature larger round than the body of a man, the head resembling somewhat the pictorial representations of the walrus, minus the tusks. The portion of the body out of the water was about ten feet long. Several shots were fired, but missed the creature. It swam away in the direction of the cast side of the lake, its track being marked by a wavy, serpentine motion. Its entire length was apparently about forty feet. The young men had a view of this denizen of the deep for about fifteen minutes. One enterprising citizen, determined if possible to capture one of these animals, has a large rope, to which is attached a very strong hook well baited, tied round a stout tree” (“Utah News”, Latter Day Saints Millennial Star, September 6, 1870).
By 1870, the game was up, and pretty much everybody knew it.  A new literary movement was also afoot in Utah, associated with a periodical called The Keepapitchinin (“A Semi-Occasional Paper, Devoted to Cents, Scents, Sense and Nonsense”), generally thought of as one of the earliest humor periodicals in the West.  Sort of a cowboy Mad Magazine.  And lo and behold, one of the noted contributors listed was Joseph C. Rich (who went by the nickname “Saxey” – which personally I think he earned given his elaborate, yet successful plan to convince his love to marry him), and by 1870 he was credited as the man who made the Bear Lake Monster.
Distinguished Contributors to Our Columns: Uno Hoo, Tibet Yerlife, By Jingo, Resurgam, Viator, Another Trollop, Saxey–well known as the inventor of the Bear Lake monster (The Keepapitchinin, April 1, 1870, p15)
Of course, with the clear admission that Joseph C. Rich’s original story was a complete fabrication, the Bear Lake Monster became a figure of great fun and local humorists poked fun at the notion by concocting hilarious interviews with the sea monster.
Bro. Simpkins of Ogden sends a startling account of his interview with the Bear Lake Monster. It seems that Bro. Simpkins had determined to take him dead or alive, and for that purpose went to Bear Lake, a short time since. Being exhausted by his journey, he thought it prudent to rest himself upon its banks, when his slumbers were suddenly disturbed by the appearance of the above head over his prostrate form. In this critical situation, our hero fortunately had sufficient presence of mind to rapidly sketch his portrait. The monster, greatly amused, looked over his shoulder while he was thus engaged, nodding approval now and then; but suddenly, being dissatisfied with some pencil stroke, he snapped at the head of our hero, who sprang into the tree as here represented. Simpkins represents him as decidedly playful when calm; but there is a sinister expression in his countenance when aroused. Simpkins is quite certain that he could have captured him had not he (Simpkins) been taken unawares; as it was, it never happened to occur to his mind. The confusion incident upon a sudden awakening somewhat embarrassed him. He would know better How to go to work next time. He is sorry that his business is in such a condition-that he will be obliged to forego the pleasure of a second attempt. (“Bear Lake Monster – Great Excitement in the Waters of Bear Lake – Big Fish Eating the Little Ones”, The Keepapitchinin, April 1, 1870, p12).
Still, not everybody was in on the joke. John Hanson Beadle (1840-1897) was a professional journalist from Indiana who spent eight years travelling the American West, and one of those years as the editor of the Salt Lake Reporter.  Beadle wrote a series of books with titles like Brigham’s Destroying Angel, The Undeveloped West, and Life in Utah – The Mysteries and Crimes of Mormonism.  In case you didn’t catch it, Beadle did not like Mormons.  He mentions the Bear Lake Monster as he snidely derides both the geography and people of the Bear Lake area.
Bear Lake, a mere “tarn” among the mountains, extending from Cache Valley into Idaho, is chiefly notable as the home of the ” Bear Lake Monster,” a nondescript with a body half seal, half serpent, and a head somewhat like a sea lion, which has often been seen and described by Indians and Mormons, but never by white Christians, that I have heard of. It has never been properly classified or named, as it is invisible when scientific observers are at hand, but from the descriptions current among the latter-day Philosophers, I judge it to be a relic of that extinct species generally denominated the “Ginasticutis” (Beadle, 1870, p456).
The Shoshone legends had long been known.  Joseph Rich had revealed his scheme by 1870, yet puzzlingly, sightings of the Bear Lake Monster by credible witnesses did not end there.
Bear Lake is perhaps preeminent for its mysterious reputation, inasmuch as there is abundant testimony on record—or the formally registered oath, moreover, of men whom I know from personal acquaintance to be incapable of willful untruth—of the actual existence at the present day of an immense aquatic animal of some species as yet unknown to science. Now credulity is both a failing and a virtue—a failing when it arises from ignorance, a virtue when it arises from an intelligent recognition of possibilities. Any ignoramus, for instance, can believe in the existence of the sea-serpent. And Professor Owen, one of the very wisest of living men, is quite ready to accept testimony as to the existence of a monster of hitherto unrecorded dimensions. But while the former will take his monster in any shape it is offered to him, the professor, as he told me himself, will have nothing unless it is a seal or a cuttlefish. In these two directions recent facts as to size go so far beyond previous data that it is within the scientific possibilities that still larger creatures of both species may be some day encountered, and until the end of time, therefore, the limit of size can never be positively said to have been reached. With this preamble, let me say that I believe in the Bear Lake monster, and I have these reasons for the faith that is in me: that the men whose testimony is on record are trustworthy and agree as to their facts, and that their facts point to a very possible monster —in fact, a fresh-water seal or manatee. Driving along the shore of the lake one day, a party surprised the monster basking on the bank. They saw it go into the water with a great splash, and pursued it, one of the party firing at it with a revolver as it swam swiftly out toward the middle of the lake. The trail on the beach was afterward carefully examined, and the evidence of the party placed on record at once. Other men, equally credible, have also seen “the monster,” but, in my opinion, the experience of the one party referred to above sufficiently substantiates the Indian legends, and establishes the existence of this aquatic nonpareil. Let the Smithsonian see to it (Robinson, “Saunterings in Utah”, 1883).
And by 1907, even more disturbing accounts of encounters with the Bear Lake monster emerged, and this time he was decidedly not posing for portraits, rather gobbling up horses.
We camped on the eastern shore of Bear Lake just after sundown.  After getting our horses tied to a large tree near the water’s edge, and fed, we started to prepare our supper.  My partner, Mr. Horne, called my attention to something out in the lake about a half mile.  As we watched, it would sink into the water for a second then out again.  The lake being perfectly calm we couldn’t account for the strange object, but it came nearer to us and still going down and out of the water.  Had it not been for this we would have thought it a gasoline launch or some other vessel.  It was now close enough for us to see that it was some water monster.  We grabbed our 30-30 rifles and each of us fired at it, but could not see that we hit him, although he turned slightly to the south.  Before we had time to fire again he turned towards us.  Our horses were now very frightened, one of which broke loose.  We stepped back into the trees a few feet and both fired, and my God, for the growl that beast let, then started towards us like a mad elephant.  We ran up the hillside a few rods to a slift of rocks and then began to shoot as rapidly as possible.  With every shot he seemed to get more strength and growl more devilish.  The animal was now so close to shore that we couldn’t see it for the trees.  We thought of our horse that was tied to the tree and after reloading our guns we ran down to protect him if possible.  Just as we reached our campfire, which was blazing up pretty well, we could see that ugly monster raise his front paw and strike the horse to the ground. Then he turned and started for deep water. In our excitement we began to pour lead at him again, and then with a terrific growl made a terrible swish in the water and sprang toward us. Before we could move he grabbed the horse with his two front paws, opened its monstrous mouth and crashed its teeth into it like a bullterrier would a mouse.  After tearing the horse badly he made an awful howl and then was gone, plowing through the water. But the sight I’ll never forget. It seemed to be all head, two large staring eyes as large as a front wagon wheel, nose and mouth like a great largo fish.  Its arms seemed to come out on either side of its head where the ears naturally would be. The hind legs were long’ and bent like that of the kangaroo. Then the hind end was like the tip end of a monster fish. We walked to a ranch up the shore, a quarter of a mile and staid till morning. When we went back in the morning we found the animal had come back again in the night and carried the dead horse off. He also broke off trees four and five inches through.  Also tore largo holes in the beach, and its tracks were like those of a bear, but measuring three feet long and nearly two feet wide. We could not tell if our bullets would go through his hide or not, but noticed some of them would glance off and hum like they had struck one of his teeth, which always seemed to show. As there was so much blood from the mangled horse, we could not tell whether the beast of the lake was bleeding. Yours respectfully, T. R. MOONEY, FRED HORNE (Letter from Mooney and Horne, The Logan Republican, September 18, 1907).
Journalist Curtis MacDougall once said, “When a hoax achieves the longevity to qualify for classification as either myth or legend, hope of stopping it almost may be abandoned”.  Of course, in order for a hoax to be plausible, it has to ground itself in cultural traditions that lend it an air of credence, just as Rich’s concocted Bear Lake Monster relied heavily on stories long told by the Shoshone.  The Bear Lake Monster has long since become the mascot of the Bear Lake region (with a sea-serpent tourist boat and a “fun run” named after him), but perhaps we should take note of the fact that the Bear Lake Monster was around before and after the 1868-1870 publicity stunt.  When it comes to anomalous phenomena, a hoax is a sort of fulcrum under the lever of belief, exerting the force of mythology against the resistance of rationalism, immovable when we reduce the folkloric experience to whimsy, but inching ever so slightly upward as we explore the historical roots and contemporary sightings that surround someone’s merry prank.  As Marcus Tullius Cicero warned us, “So near is falsehood to truth that a wise man would do well not to trust himself on the narrow edge”.
Beadle, J. H. 1840-1897. Life in Utah: Or, The Mysteries And Crimes of Mormonism; Being an Exposé of the Secret Rites And Ceremonies of the Latter-Day Saints, With a Full And Authentic History of Polygamy And the Mormon Sect From Its Origin to the Present Time. Philadelphia, Pa.: National Publishing Company, 1870.
Codman, John, 1814-1900. The Round Trip by Way of Panama through California, Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Idaho, And Colorado. New York: G.P. Putnam’s sons, 1879.
Mooney, T.R. & Horne, Fred. “Bear Lake Monster Appears: Leviathan Comes from Lake and Devours Horse While Men Shoot at It”.  The Logan Republican.  Logan, Utah. September 18, 1907.
Robinson, Phil.  “Saunterings in Utah”.  Harper’s New Monthly Magazine.  New York: Harper & Bros. Vol. 67, 1883.
The Keepapitchinin. Salt Lake City, Utah: [G.J. Taylor and J.C. Rich], Vol. 2, Issues 1-23, 1870.
The Latter-Day Saints’ Millennial Star. Manchester, England: Parley P. Pratt, Vol. 32, 1870.
Walsh, Lynda.  Sins Against Science.  Albany: State University of New York Press, 2006.
Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Association, Salt Lake City. The Young Woman’s Journal v28. Salt Lake City, Utah, 1917.

Thunderbird Skeleton?

Facebook Friend Sharon Day posted these photos of the partial skeleton of a very large bird (about the size of an ostrich) on her April 9th blog.

Ancient Dinosaur Discovery Or Thunderbird?

This bird-like/dinosaur-like skeleton was found in a Western US cave in 2006.  It was about a half mile into the cave within a very small crawlspace opening. They had some cans and bottles with them that they put out and proceeded to take photos. There was no way they were leaving the cave with this item. It had mineralized, part of the trachea was there and very brittle, some hide on it appears to still be on it. The finders did not really understand what they had found, but shared it with someone who recognized it was very unusual, MK Davis. MK was kind enough to share this with me to put out there for the public to puzzle over and see if anyone can identify what this was.

It was a large - what at the time looked like an ostrich sitting on its haunches, head missing, tail missing, upper arms missing and lower part of the hind leg articulation is missing....This is one of those mysteries that we hope to settle and I would seriously appreciate any input into what this was... Thank you Jim Heater, host of Paranormal Geeks Radio, for cleaning up the pics with this clearer version above.

A thank you to Bruce Hoch, who mentioned the lower legs and skull might have been taken by a shaman or tribe member long ago as trophies for the skull and claws or for powerful symbols. Very good. Keep the theories coming --

 From the size of the discarded can in the background, the body section would seem to be at least a yard long from the base of the neck to the tail. Thunderbird skeletons are indeed allegedly discovered from time to time, I can think of at least three such alleged discoveries from Sanderson's files that come to mind. But this is the first allegation that comes with any backup documentation.

The fact that you cannot see any wishbone either bothers me. Perhaps it was also removed. We could tell if the bird could fly or not if we had the wishbone.

It would seem that MK Davis is keeping the location of the cave a secret but it is a safe bet it is in the central Rocky Mountain area generally, possibly just North or South of that.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Sir Peter Scott Nessie Via Scott Mardis

Artwork by Sir Peter Scott depicting hypothetical Loch Ness plesiosaurs, 1975.
Submitted by Scott Mardis

The top figure in the original illustration was too dark and had to be left off.. I find these to be in good agreement with my general model except for the nonappearance of a midline-dorsal fleshy crest or fringe here, and the base of the neck has less of a taper to it in this version, which in my model performs the function of a shock absorber for the neck while swimming forward. For mechanical reasons something like that will be important to the functioning of a living animal. The small size of the head and the thinness of the forward portion of the neck are indeed close to the statistical averages here, a head two feet long and a neck a foot thick behind the head being typical proportions for a 40 foot animal (Halve that for a 20 foot animal, and at the current time I think 20 to 40 feet long is a sound estimate for the standard size in these animals. The smaller end of the size range would be the females and the larger end of size estimates would be the males, and more inexact estimates of the size at 150% to 200% of the standard are common in some areas, such as at high seas, where size estimates tend to be less accurate generally. That yields 30 to 60 feet long at 150% and 40 to 80 feet long at 200% of standard size estimations, and these correspond to the basic size range estimations for "Longnecks" and "Merhorses" as given by Bernard Heuvelmans in In The Wake of the Sea Serpents)

compare to:

Statements made about sizes and proportions are the end products of an exhaustive study I made while I was with the SITU and had access to Sanderson's files: the statistical analysis included every known report of Sea Serpents and Lake Monsters at the time and the final results were submitted to the SITU in 1980 in the form of a 100 page report that was never published. I still have a draft of the 100 page report. The reports were taken all together as a whole and then again in various subcategories, including reports from each lake or series of lakes, and from geographic subsections of the sea and sea coast, and as an evaluation of Heuvelmans' categories from In The Wake of the Sea Serpents as measured one against the others. This study found a uniformity between most reports and a general agreement between the reports in each of Heuvelmans' categories, but resulted in the unexpected result that nearly all "String of buoys" sightings were probably due to wave effects, and that this category was the largest one for "Unknowns" worldwide. The results for the remaining sea-serpents in general, the Loch Ness Monster, Champ of Lake Champlain, the Heuvelmans category of Longnecks, and even the Patagonian Plesiosaurs, were all closely similar. Counter to Heuvelmans there was not any good reason to consider Longnecks to be tailless, tails still featured in about 10% of the reports, a proportion similar to the Loch Ness Monster reports: and while the longnecked section of Merhorses was also similar to the Longnecks, there were also clearly different kinds of Merhorses differentiated by the length of the necks. One subsection of Merhorse reports surprisingly turned out to be the proper size and proportions to match elephant seals after the statistics were compiled. "?LN?SE" reports also tested out as being mostly identical to the regular Longnecks statistically.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

South American Cryptids (Isnachi and Cats)

Illustration by Peter Visccher, depicting Peruvian cryptids. The primate is the 'Isnachi'. From Greenwell (1994)

'Peruvian tiger' (at left) and 'Anomalous jaguar' skulls in anterior view (and pretty much to scale). Photos by Peter Hocking.

Darren Naish has published this information but he evidently included a typo which confused the issue. The several putative South American Cryptid Big Cats (Yana Puma or "Felis Negra" of the old Natural Histories), Speckled Jaguar (Anomalous Jaguar) and Stripled Tiger (El Tigre) all seem to be actually only freakish variations on the common jaguar. Part of the problem is that people tend to view distinctive patterns of colouration as if they were distinctive species. Abundant documentation makes it clear that "Isnachi" is only another local name for the spectacled bear.

The Isnachi, Bear or Andean Bear (Tremarctos ornatus) is found in a wide range of distribution along the Andes holding various types of ecosystems. However, it is in danger of extinction due to poaching and habitat destruction. These activities are presented by the direct and indirect relationship that develops with man which is influenced by the cultural context in different geographical areas. Therefore, to understand the situation of Isnachi, and the implications for conservation, it is essential to examine each particular cultural and geographical space. The main objective of this research is to ascertain the influence of man on the distribution Isnachi Chazuta district, San Martin which is part of the Cordillera Azul National Park and its buffer zone. For this it was necessary to know their potential in the study area as well as the direct and indirect relationship between man and the species distribution. Is, knowing the relationship man - Isnachi well as the current context relating to land use and economic activities. To achieve this methodology on three components that allowed collecting the current context of the study area to ecological and socioeconomic status was developed. Two visits to the field were made in 2010 in order to recognize the area of ​​study, semi-structured interviews with villagers and record the presence of terrestrial wildlife and conservation threats. These incursions allowed to know the current context of the area and collect data to model the potential of the species under the MAXENT software niche. This basic information was obtained on its potential distribution as well as socio-economic context of the place. All under a geographic perspective, emphasizing the spatial context. This information eventually allowed to know and analyze the influence of man on the distribution of Isnachi. Among the conclusions are, first, that there is still Isnachis presence in the study area, however the sightings are sporadic. Importantly, the areas predicted as potential habitat for the species are the headwaters of the three streams that supply water and biological resource villagers. Human activities such as migration and hunting have reduced their habitat being specific cases and the hamlet of Siambal Canayo. Hunting is possible and opportunistic as it provides large amounts of fat and meat for family subsistence in food and medicine, however, is not essential to your daily life. The perception people have about the species is non-negative, ie, do not consider an animal that threatens their crops or animals or attack man in general. It's described as a "quiet" forest item, mostly it consumes "100% vegetable" by which it is shown that not everywhere direct relationship man - Isnachi must be conflicting. There is still the need for further research to deepen the environmental aspects of its potential as a registration field as well as their feeding methods used to estimate the current population distribution. Similarly one could emphasize more on the threats presented to propose solutions or alternatives that are more harmonious with conservation proposals currently being developed in the área.Finalmente concluded that this geographic focus (called Animal geography) and the methodology allowed one hand to recognize the skills of the geographer under their holistic capacity. So lets develop research topics both ecology and sociology and anthropology emphasizing the spatial context thereby contributing to the conservation of endangered wildlife.

Lost World discovered (thanks to Google Earth)

Lost World discovered (thanks to Google Earth)

In days gone by, explorers seeking a Lost World would spend a lifetime decoding ancient maps, talking to reluctant locals and hacking through dense jungles.
In the digital age, however, the job of an adventurer is more simple.
A team of conservationists from Kew Garden has just returned from an expedition to an uncharted and unexplored Eden in the heart of Mozambique after discovering it on Google Earth.

Driving up to Mount Mabu Kew Gardens

Mozambique's Mount Mabu hosts a wealth of species. The idyllic setting was discovered by a team of conservationists from Kew Garden after discovering it on Google Earth
The mountainous area of southern Africa - crammed with colourful birds, unusual insects and rare plants - had been overlooked by wildlife experts and map makers because of its difficult landscape and decades of war.
It only came to light when British researchers spotted an unexpected patch of green forest on the satellite map website.
An expedition visited the untouched paradise surrounding Mount Mabu and discovered a wealth of wildlife including pygmy chameleons, Swynnerton's robin and butterflies such as the Small Striped Swordtail and Emperor Swallowtail.
There were three new species of butterfly, a previously undiscovered adder, a rarely seen orchid, giant snakes - including the gaboon viper -  and colonies of rare birds. More new species are expected to be discovered among the hundreds of plant specimens they brought home.
A pygmy chameleon (left) and New Atheris snake (right)
Jonathan Timberlake, the expedition leader, admits that he was surprised by the wealth of wildlife they discovered among the 150 feet tall trees.
'That's when the excitement comes out - when you come back home or start reading some of the background and realise you're breaking new ground,' he said.
The Kew team discovered the hidden paradise in 2005. The conservationists were searching for a location for a new project and were scouring Google Earth's images online for areas at least 5,400 feet above sea level.
The team found a rarely seen orchid
After spotting a green patch of forest in an area that had previously been unexplored by scientists, a British led expedition involving 28 scientists from Britain, Mozambique, Malawi, Switzerland and Tanzania was sent to the region.
They discovered 27 square miles of lush, rich forest crammed with exotic plants, insects and birds. Hundreds of exotic butterflies are there each day in the sunlight above the canopy, while peregrines and swifts flew around the trees.
The trees were home to loud samango monkeys, while the forest floor revealed small klipspringer antelopes - famed for their jumping ability - and blue duiker antelope.
'Nobody knew about it,' said Mr Timberlake. 'The literature I'm aware of doesn't mention the word Mabu anywhere. We have looked through the plant collections of Kew and elsewhere and we don't see the name come up.
'It might be there under another name, but we're not aware of any collection of plant or animals or anything else taking place there.'
He added: 'The phenomenal diversity is just mind-boggling: seeing how things are adapted to little niches, to me this is the incredible thing. Even today we cannot say we know all of the world’s key areas for biodiversity - there are still new ones to discover.
'This is potentially the biggest area of medium-altitude forest I'm aware of in southern Africa, yet it was not on the map, and most Mozambiqueans would not have even recognised the name Mount Mabu.'
Outside the forest the country’s roads and buildings have been devastated by the 1975- 1992 civil war. But inside scientists found the landscape was almost untouched. Locals had kept quite about its location because they used it as a refuge when the fighting was too intense.
Scientists 'describe' around 2,000 new species each year. However, it is unusual to find so new species in one place.

Base Camp on Mount Mabu

Base Camp on Mount Mabu: The area came to light when the conservationists from Kew Garden spotted an unexpected patch of green forest on the satellite map website

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