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Tuesday, 2 April 2013


"Supposed other evidence of an early Champ sighting comes from an old powder horn bearing a Crown Point soldier’s name, the year 1760 and various pictorial elements, including ‘a rather large dragon-like creature.’ Zarzynski (1984, 52-53) suspects this is a ‘possible link’ to Champ. However, the figure is merely a stereotypical dragon—complete with large wings. It is by no means evidence for the existence of a Lake Champlain leviathan."- Legend of the Lake Champlain Monster, Investigative Files, Joe Nickell, SKEPTICAL INQUIRER, VOL. 27 (4), JULY-AUG. 2003 "One such mystical creature that shows up from time to time is what some have termed a ‘griffin.‘ This ‘griffin’ does not appear on many antique horns. There are only eight known to exist. Two men are believed to have engraved all of them during the French and Indian War, between 1759-1761….. One look through Jim Dressler’s fine book, The Engraved Powder Horn, reveals illustrations of four different horns with what he and others have called a ‘griffin’ engraved on them. That ‘griffin’ has puzzled me for some time. While looking at engraved features on  other horns, there was no doubt what they were: unicorns looked like unicorns, angels looked like angels, and lions looked like lions. So why didn’t these ‘griffins’ look like a griffin to me? A traditional griffin is half eagle and half lion. But the creatures that caught my attention looked more like a half dragon and half horse. I’m sorry, but it just did not look like a griffin to me at all.

 It’s interesting how we connect the dots sometimes. I was reading one of my kid’s books from the  Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling and stumbled across a creature that she called a thestral. Her description of this creature instantly reminded me of the ‘griffin’ on these old powder horns. Rowling is known for using only creatures researched from mythology in her books. So, I began a lengthy search trying to tie down information concerning what Rowling called a thestral. I found that the word thestral is a twentieth century term used by science fiction and fantasy writers for a creature originally known as a hellhorse, demonsteed, or nytmare. These names come from a much older source – ancient Greek and Roman mythology….. So, what exactly is a hellhorse? A hellhorse is a member of the same group of mystical creatures that the Pegasus belongs to: That being winged horses or pegasui. But, of course, a hellhorse is no friendly Pegasus. According to Rich’s Pegopedia (a web site concerning winged horses throughout legend and myth) hellhorses are creatures ‘having the basic form of a horse, but are really more reptilian by nature. They have a sleek black/purple scaly hide, cloven hooves, a barbed tail like a dragon’s and a beaked snout, the forked tongue of a serpent, and tresses of fire for their mane, fetlocks and tail, and the ability to spit fire from their mouth. Hellhorses have the ability to fly, but not all require the addition of leathery winged appendages, like those of a bat, to do so.’ Roughly the same description appears in several other bestiaries of mythological creatures on the internet."- Griffins or Hellhorses? by Billy Griner (from the February 2006 issue of The Horn Book)

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