The Cryptozoologist




[A special "Thanks!" to Crypto's friend "Natasha" for alerting me to the recent progress made by CFZ in the search for the Orang-Pendek.]

Orang Pendek
(Indonesian for "short man") is the most common name given to a cryptid, or cryptozoological animal, that reportedly inhabits remote, mountainous forests on the island of Sumatra.

The animal has allegedly been seen and documented for well over one hundred years by forest tribes, local villagers, Dutch colonists, and Western scientists and travelers.

Suku Anak Dalam


The Suku Anak Dalam ("Children of the Inner-forest")—also known as Orang Kubu, Orang Batin Simbilan, or Orang Rimba—are groups of nomadic people who have traditionally lived throughout the lowland forests of Jambi and South Sumatra. According to their legends, Orang Pendek has been a part of their world and a co-inhabitant of the forest for centuries. Benedict Allen, author of Hunting the Gugu, writes that these groups frequently leave offerings of tobacco to keep the Orang Pendek happy.
In Bukit Duabelas, the Orang Rimba speak of a creature, known as Hantu Pendek (short ghost), whose description closely matches that of Orang Pendek. However, Hantu Pendek is thought of as a ghost or demon rather than an animal. According to the Orang Rimba, the Hantu Pendek travel in groups of five or six, subsisting off wild yams and hunting animals with small axes. Accounts of the creature claim it ambushes unfortunate Orang Rimba hunters traveling alone in the forest. Along the Makekal River on the western edge of Bukit Duabelas, people recount a legend of how their ancestors outsmarted these cunning yet dim-witted creatures during a hunting trip. The legend is often used to boast of the intellect and reason of people who live along the Makekal.


Local Villagers
Local Indonesian villagers provide the largest source of lore and information on Orang Pendek. Hundreds of locals claim to have either seen the animal personally or can relate stories of others who have. While the conjectured physical description listed above is consistently reported by this group, other, less credible characteristics such as inverted feet or magical- or ghost-like behavior are also reported.
In 1818, William Marsden, who was the Secretary at the Residence in Benkoelen, Sumatra, made an English translation of Marco Polo. In this edition, he commented on the following passage:
In this kingdom [Lambri, now Jambi Province] are found men with tails, a span in length, like those of the dog, but not covered with hair. The greater number of them are formed in this manner, but they dwell in the mountains, and do not inhabit towns.


Marsden believed that this passage had as its basis a belief among Sumatran natives that two other groups of natives dwelt on the island. These two tribes—the orang kubu and orang gugu—shun contact with others. Marsden noted that the Orang Kubu were numerous in the region between Palembang and Jambi, on the southeastern coast. In fact, the basis—a native tribe called Koeboe by the Dutch—were discovered in that area.




But the Orang Gugu are more problematic. Were they merely orangutans? Jacob Bontius remarks that there is a tradition "that these animals can speak but refuse to do so for fear of being put to work." Similarly-described savages/cryptids from this area of the world are referred to elsewhere as Orang Pendek, Uhang Pandak (local Kerinci dialect), Sedapa, Batutut, Ebu Gogo, Umang, Orang Gugu, Orang Letjo, Atoe Pandak, Atoe Rimbo, Ijaoe, Sedabo, and Goegoeh.
Traditions hold that the Orang Pendek (only used as a name in southern Sumatra) is a relatively short apelike animal which has a language of sorts, although the Sumatrans cannot understand it. Its skin has a brownish tinge and is usually covered in a short black or brown hair. Many traditions mention a mane of long, black hair. The Orang Pendek has no tail, or no visible one, and its arms are not quite as long as an ape's. It walks on the ground more often than climbing in trees, and, although extremely strong, is mainly vegetarian.
Dutch Colonists
The first mention of the Orang Pendek in a non-folkloric context appears in 1917, in an article by Dr. Edward Jacobson. He said that in 1916, while he was camped near the base of Boekit Kaba mountain, some scouts told him they had seen an Orang Pendek. When the animal saw the scouts, it ran away on its hindlegs. Jacobson also reported that he had seen some footprints at Mt. Kerintji. They were rather like those of a human, albeit shorter and broader.
In 1918, the Sumatran Governor, L.C. Westenenk, wrote about the Orang Pendek. Although he, too, was at first inclined to dismiss them as pure folklore, he recorded an event which took place in 1910.
A boy from Padang employed as an overseer by Mr. van H— had to stake the boundaries of a piece of land for which a long lease had been applied. One day he took several coolies into the virgin forest on the Barissan Mountains near Loeboek Salasik. Suddenly he saw, some 15m away, a large creature, low on its feet, which ran like a man ... it was very hairy and was not an orang-utan; but its face was not like an ordinary man's...
Westenenk also recorded another encounter, this one from 1917. A Mr. Oostingh, who owned a coffee plantation at Dataran, was in the forests at the base of Boekit Kaba when he saw a figure sitting on the ground about 30 feet away. The figure looked as if it were trying to light a fire.


I saw that he had short hair, cut short, I thought; and I suddenly realized that his neck was oddly leathery and extremely filthy. "That chap's got a very dirty and wrinkled neck!" I said to myself. His body was as large as a medium-sized native's and he had thick square shoulders, not sloping at all... He clearly noticed my presence. He did not so much as turn his head, but stood up on his feet: he seemed quite as tall as I, about 5' 9" (about 1.75m). Then I saw that it was not a man,,,it was not an orang-utan...and I started back, for I was not armed. I had seen one of these large apes a short time before. It was more like a monstrously large siamang, but a siamang has long hair, and there was no doubt that it had short hair. The colour was not brown, but looked like black earth, a sort of dusty black, more grey than black. The creature took several paces, without the least haste, and then, with his ludicrously long arm, grasped a sapling, which threatened to break under his weight, and quietly sprang into a tree, swinging in great leaps alternately to right and to left...


Westenenk hypothesized that what Oostingh had seen was an enormous gibbon. In fact, he advanced his theory that the Orang Pendek was an extremely old and large gibbon, shunned from his group for some reason. Bernard Heuvelmans placed stock in Westenenk's theory, cautiously wondering whether it might not be an undiscovered species of gibbon.


Dr. Jacobson, whom we quoted earlier, wrote another article in 1918. In this article, he reported the account of a Mr. Coomans, a railwayman at Padang. Mr. Coomans found some supposed footprints of the Orang Pendek near Benkoelen. Soon after, similar footprints were found near Soungei Klomboek.
Dr. Jacobson also recorded several instances from about 1915. In these instances, the apemen were seen in rhinoceros pits near Mount Kerintji. The Orang Pendek were often seen perched on the stomachs of the trapped beasts, eating the flesh. If true, these reports seem to be the only ones ascribing a carnivorous nature to the ape.
Another Dutchman, this time a surveyor, R. Maier of Benkoelen, had a large collection of footprints. The footprints in Maier's collection had come from Roepit, Boekit Kaba, and Marga Ambatjung. The tracks were made in the late 1910s and early 1920.
Another Dutch settler, a Mr. van Herwaarden, began his research into this creature in 1916, but the accounts he gathered were so fantastic that he refused to believe they were descriptions of anything but a mythical animal; his Malay informants told him that the creature had one eye, feet turned backwards and climbed like a gecko lizard.
But in 1918, van Herwaarden began to change his mind. In that year, he found a series of footprints near Moesi Oeloe. Later, he talked to a man called Breikers who had found similar tracks. Van Herwaarden eventually met three Koeboe natives who said they had seen an Orang Pendek; it was about 4.5 feet tall, they said, with a hairy body, long hair on its head, and long canine teeth.
Some years later, van Herwaarden heard that two corpses were found in the forests near Pangkalan Belai. The bodies were of a female and a child. The Malay who found the two tried to bring the bodies back to civilization, but he was soon forced to abandon the bodies. Shortly thereafter, he died.
About the same time, several Malays encountered a live apeman near Sebalik. The apeman, though, dove under the water and escaped.

Van Herwaarden also wrote of an experience he himself had while surveying land near the island of Pulau Rimau in October, 1923. The creature in question was seen sitting on the branch of a tree:
I discovered a dark and hairy creature on a branch...The sedapa was also hairy on the front of its body; the colour there was a little lighter than on the back. The very dark hair on its head fell to just below the shoulder blades or even almost to the waist. It was fairly thick and very shaggy. Had it been standing, its arms would have reached to a little above its knees; they were therefore long, but its legs seemed to me rather short. I did not see its feet, but I did see some toes which were shaped in a very normal manner...There was nothing repulsive or ugly about its face, nor was it at all apelike.The lower part of its face seemed to end in more of a point than a man's; this brown face was almost hairless, whilst its forehead seemed to be high rather than low. Its eyebrows were the same colour as its hair and were very bushy. The eyes were frankly moving; they were of the darkest colour, very lively, and like human eyes. The nose was broad with fairly large nostrils... Its lips were quite ordinary, but the width of its mouth was strikingly wide when open... The colour of the teeth was yellowish white. Its chin was somewhat receding... Its hands were slightly hairy on the back... This specimen was of the female sex... When I raised my gun... I heard a plaintive 'hu-hu,' which was at once answered by similar echoes in the forest nearby.
A Mr. van Kan, administrator of the Aer Teman plantation, found several footprints, casts of which are in the museum at Buitenzorg in Java. Several orang pendek were supposedly seen near the estate. But Dr. Dammerman, an employee of the Buitenzorg Museum, had little trouble identifying the tracks as those of a sun-bear (Ursus malayanus).

In 1927, a tiger trap in southern Sumatra was found triggered. However, the animal that had triggered the trap had escaped. A few hairs and blood traces were found on the trap; Dr. Dammerman says that "it was impossible to obtain any positive results with regards to the hair" and that "the blood pointed faintly to human origin."
In 1932, it was thought that the mystery of the Sumatran apeman would finally be solved. In that year, a body supposedly of a young orang pendek surfaced near the Rokan Kiri River. However, Dr. Dammerman concluded that the body was in fact that of a normal lutong (a type of langur) which had been shaved.

The final account Heuvelmans cites is an enticing article which appeared the year previous to publication of the first edition of On the Track of Unknown Animals, in March of 1954. The article said that a live apeman, or rather an apewoman, had been captured in Sumatra. The creature was "very hairy and with very long nails." However, a revolution soon broke out in Sumatra and the exact status of this account—whether it was a hoax or a genuine report—is unknown.
Western Researchers
The Malayan wildman went uninvestigated, for the most part, until British author Deborah Martyr's trip to Sumatra in 1989. Martyr, the most widely-known Western researcher to later attempt to document Orang Pendek, was informed by her guide that the creature could occasionally be seen at the crater lake near Mt. Tujuh.


I was travelling in Sumatra as a journalist in 1989. I was climbing Mount Kerinci and heard of a legendary animal that I thought would add a bit of colour to my travel piece. Then I started meeting people who claimed to have seen something. At that stage I didn’t believe or not believe; I was trained as a journalist, which is a respectable profession, so I took a look into it. 
Along with British photographer Jeremy Holden, Martyr then began an investigation into the wildmen. Funded by Fauna and Flora International, their goal was to systematically document eye-witness accounts of the Orang-Pendek and to obtain photographic proof of its existence via camera-trapping methods. She found that a large number described the wildman as possessing a large stomach, a feature never before mentioned. Also, the residents informed her that while the mane of the Orang Pendek was usually dark, it was yellow or tan in some individuals. The Tujuh natives seemed certain that it was not an orangutan, sun bear, or siamang.
Martyr also travelled to the region south of Mt. Kerinci, another area where sightings were prominent. She did not see any Orang Pendek, but she did find tracks. She said the tracks resembled those of a seven-year old child, but were broader and had a prominent big toe. Martyr took plaster casts of the footprints to Sungeipenuh, where naturalists concurred they were of no known animal. In all, since beginning in the early 1990's, Martyr spent 15 years engaged in her project.
In yet another encounter, which took place in early 2001, the witness, a forestry ranger by the name of Aripin, was working in the Sungeipenuh region near Mt. Kerinci. When Martyr investigated, she found an absence of footprints and bent branches, which to her suggested that the Orang Pendek was brachiating (tree-traveling) at a fairly low altitude. Aripin concurred that the animal was definitely not any sort of macaque or other monkey or ape; the Orang Pendek's mane was dark brown.
Although Debbie and Jeremy did not succeed in proving Orang-Pendek's existence (Martyr has since moved on to head TNKS's Tiger Protection and Conservation Unit), they collected several footprint casts that appear to be from Orang Pendek and claim to have personally seen the animal on several occasions while working in the forest.
In an April 2003 interview with Debbie, Richard Freedman asked her to relate the first time she ever saw the Orang-Pendek:
I saw it in the middle of September; I had been out here four months. At that time I was 90 per cent certain that there was something here, that it wasn’t just traditional stories. I thought it would be an orang-utan and that it would move like an orang-utan, not bipedally like a man. I had my own preconception of what the animal would look like if I did see it, and I had been throwing away reports of the animal on the basis of colour that didn’t fit what I thought the animal would look like. When I saw it, I saw an animal that didn’t look like anything in any of the books I had read, films I had seen, or zoos I had visited. It did indeed walk rather like a person – and that was a shock....I saw it again about three weeks later. Again, it was on Mount Tuju and, again, I had a camera in my hand but I froze, because I didn’t know what I was seeing. It had frozen on the trail because it had heard us coming. All I could see was that something across the valley had changed. I looked through a pair of binoculars. Something didn’t look quite right in the landscape. By the time I trained on the area the animal had gone. Those were the only times I could have got a photo of it. I have seen it since, but fleetingly. Once you have seen an animal you can recognise it. If you have seen a rhino you can recognise a bit of a rhino. 
From 2001 to 2003, scientists analyzed hairs and casts of a footprint found by three British men—Adam Davies, Andrew Sanderson and Keith Townley—while traveling in Kerinci. Dr. David Chivers, a primate biologist from the University of Cambridge, compared the cast with those from other known primates and local animals and stated:
...the cast of the footprint taken was definitely an ape with a unique blend of features from gibbon, orangutan, chimpanzee, and human. From further examination the print did not match any known primate species and I can conclude that this points towards there being a large unknown primate in the forests of Sumatra.

Dr. Hans Brunner, a hair analysis expert from Australia famous for his involvement in the Lindy Chamberlain case in 1980, compared the hairs to those of other primates and local animals and suggested that they originated from a previously undocumented species of primate. Dr. Todd Disotell, a biological anthropologist from New York University, performed DNA analysis on the hairs and found nothing but human DNA in the sample. He cautioned, however, that contamination by people who handled the hairs could have introduced this DNA or that the original DNA could have decomposed.
Beginning in 2005, National Geographic funded a camera-trapping project in TNKS led by Dr. Peter Tse of Dartmouth College that attempted to provide photographic documentation of Orang Pendek. The project ended in 2009 without success.

While Orang Pendek or similar animals have historically been reported throughout Sumatra and Southeast Asia, recent sightings have occurred largely within the Kerinci regency of central Sumatra and especially within the borders of Taman Nasional Kerinci Seblat (Kerinci Seblat National Park) (TNKS). The park, 2° south of the equator, is located within the Bukit Barisan mountain range and features some of the most remote primary rainforest in the world. Habitat types within TNKS include lowland dipterocarp rainforest, montane forests, and volcanic alpine formations on Mt. Kerinci, the second highest peak in Indonesia. Because of its inaccessibility, the park has been largely spared from the rampant logging occurring throughout Sumatra and provides one of the last homes for the endangered Sumatran Tiger.
In spite of the aforementioned sightings, Orang Pendek has yet to be fully documented and no authoritative account of its behavior exists. However, witnesses report some or physical characteristics consistently, so a likely picture of the animal can be conjectured.


Debbie Martyr—who interviewed hundreds of witnesses, and alleges to have seen the animal personally on several occasions—gives the following description: 
A relatively small, immensely strong, non-human primate. But it was very gracile, that was the odd thing. So if you looked at the animal you might say that it resembled a siamang or an agile gibbon on steroids! It doesn’t look like an orang-utan....usually no more than 33 to 35 inches (85 or 90cm) in height—although occasionally as large as 47 inches (1m 20cm). The body is covered in a coat of dark grey or black flecked with grey hair. But it is the sheer physical power of the orang pendek that most impresses the Kerinci villagers. They speak in awe, of its broad shoulders, huge chest and upper abdomen and powerful arms. The animal is so strong, the villagers would whisper that it can uproot small trees and even break rattan vines. The legs, in comparison, are short and slim, the feet neat and small, usually turned out at an angle of up to 45 degrees. The head slopes back to a distinct crest—similar to the gorilla—and there appears to be a bony ridge above the eyes. But the mouth is small and neat, the eyes are set wide apart and the nose is distinctly humanoid. When frightened, the animal exposes its teeth—revealing oddly broad incisors and prominent, long canine teeth.
Sightings by locals often take place in farmland on the edge of the forest, where Orang Pendek is allegedly seen walking through fields and raiding crops (especially corn, potatoes, and fruit). Locals with experience in the forests claim that Orang Pendek seeks out ginger roots, a plant known locally as "pahur" or "lolo", young shoots, insects in rotting logs, and river crabs.
Three possible explanations of Orang Pendek's identity are prominent: that all sightings can be explained as the mistaken identification of local animals; that witnesses of Orang Pendek are describing a previously undocumented species of primate; and that a species of early hominid still lives in the Sumatran jungle.
Mistaken Identity
Many locals say Orang Pendek's feet look like those of a seven-year-old child, evidenced by foot prints they have found while walking through the forest. In addition, gibbons populate the forests in this area and are known to occasionally descend to the ground and walk for a few seconds at a time on two legs. Witnesses could possibly be seeing orangutans; however: 1) this species has long been thought to have died out in all but the northern regions of Sumatra and 2) witnesses almost never describe the animal as having orange fur.
Undocumented Primate
Orang Pendek's reported physical characteristics differentiate it from any other species of animal known to inhabit the area. All witnesses describe it as an ape- or human-like animal. Its bipedality, fur coloring, and southerly location on the island make orangutans an unlikely explanation, and its bipedality, size, and other physical characteristics make gibbons, the only apes known to inhabit the area, unlikely as well. Many therefore propose that Orang Pendek could represent a new genus of primate or a new species or subspecies of orangutan or gibbon.
Surviving Hominid
As far back as Mr. Van Heerwarden's account of Orang Pendek, evolutionists have speculated that the animal may in fact be a "missing link" (a hominid representing an earlier stage in human evolution). In October 2004, evolutionary scientists published claims of the discovery of skeletal remains of a new species of "human" (Homo floresiensis) in caves on Flores (another island in the Indonesian archipelago) supposedly dating from 18,000 years ago. The species was described as being roughly one meter tall. The recency of Homo floresiensis' continued existence, and the similarities between its physical description and the accounts of Orang Pendek, have led to renewed speculation among evolutionists in this respect.


Excerpted from:

Return to the Lake of Seven Peaks
A band of intrepid explorers travel to Sumatra in search of the elusive Orang-Pendek—and, what's more, actually see one!
Text: Richard Freeman / Images: CFZ
August 2010





After the Centre for Fortean Zoology (CFZ) team’s 2008 adventures in the Caucasus Mountains in search of the Almasty, it was time to plan our next cryptozoological expedition.  

Team leader Adam Davis—as far as I know the only man in Britain with more cryptid hunts under his belt than me, and second to none as a field researcher—was in favor of a return to Sumatra to continue the search for the Orang-Pendek, the upright walking ape whose name means ‘short man’ in Indonesian. I’d searched for this elusive creature twice before (see 'In Search of Orang-Pendek' and 'The Orang-Pendek'), and Adam no less than four times, so between us we knew the territory as well as any Westerner could hope to. Joining team leader Adam and me were Dr. Chris Clark and Dave Archer, both of whom had proved themselves time and again on previous expeditions....


....Upon returning to camp, we heard the other team's news: while walking through the jungle, Adam had heard a large animal moving through the forest. In the distance, siamang gibbons were kicking up a fuss. Sahar and Dave crept forward and were greeted by an astounding sight.

Squatting in a tree around 30m from them was an Orang-Pendek! They could not see the face clearly as it was pressed against the tree trunk, although Dave had felt that it was peering sideways at them. The creature had dark brown, almost black, fur, broad shoulders and long powerful arms, but its hands and feet were not in view. The consistency of its fur reminded Dave of that of a mountain gorilla—the Sumatran jungle is certainly of a very similar type to those inhabited by mountain gorillas in Africa—as did the shape of its head, although this lacked the long mane of hair described by some witnesses. Dave saw a line of darker hair running down the creature's spine.



As Dave moved to get a vantage point for a photograph, Sahar saw the creature climb down from the tree and walk away on two legs. Afterwards, Adam said that Sahar had wept for 10 minutes because he did not have a camera with which to take a picture; he has been on the trail of the Orang-Pendek since 1997.  

Next to the tree was some rattan vine the animal had been chewing. Adam carefully placed this in a specimen tube full of ethanol in the hope that some of the cells from the creature's mouth would have adhered to the plant, much like a DNA swab....

....Upon our return to Britain, I sent half of the samples we’d obtained off to Dr. Lars Thomas at Copenhagen University, while Adam sent the rest to Dr. Scott Disotell of New York University. Scott, unfortunately, was unable to extract any DNA from his sample, but the Copenhagen team had more success. After the first round of tests, they believe they may have uncovered something significant. I’m not prepared to say any more until the second round of tests—using some new techniques still in the developmental stage—has been completed. With a bit of luck, it's possible that we'll be able to announce the results in October, at this year's UnConvention in London.

Dally has emailed with news of further Orang-Pendek sightings in Kerinci. On 8 October, some bird watchers from Siulak Mukai Village saw an Orang-Pendek near Gunung Tapanggang. They watched it for 10 minutes from a distance of only 10m, describing its black skin, long arms and human-like gait. On 18 October, a man called Pak Udin saw an Orang-Pendek in Tandai Forest. The creature was looking for food, possibly insect larvae, in a dead tree. It had black and silver hair, long arms and short legs. He watched it for three minutes before it ran away.
In order to prove the creature's existence, a longer period in the field is required, perhaps a two or three month expedition, with pre-baiting of one of the semi-cultivated areas with fruit for a number of weeks beforehand. If the creature associated the area with food it might return on a regular basis, and waiting in a hide (blind) in a baited area might prove more fruitful that trekking through the deep jungles.
I remain totally convinced of the existence of the Orang-Pendek, and believe that it is an upright walking ape, probably a descendent of the Miocene ape Sivapithecus and related by way of the early Pleistocene Lufengopithecus to both the modern orangutans and to Gigantopithecus, the huge ape of mainland Asia that may turn out to be the larger type of ‘yeti’. I would like to propose the scientific name Pongo martryi in honor of Debbie Martyr, who has done more research into the Orang-Pendek than anyone else.




Excerpted from:

Evidence for New Ape Species?
by Matt Bille
Sunday, August 22, 2010 

Matt's Sci/Tech Blog
Matt Bille, author
The Center for Fortean Zoology (CFZ, with the "Fortean" being a reference to an indefatigable 20th-century collector of oddities) is a British-based cryptozoology society which goes about everything with typical British tongue-in-cheek humor. One of the CFZ's pet (ha-ha) interests is the unclassified ape, the orang-pendek, reported from Sumatra and thereabouts. The CFZ's Adam Davies has led several field expeditions in pursuit of evidence, and now reports results.
Readers of this blog may recall I posted on the announcement hairs had been recovered in 2009 from an orang-pendek sighting. As with hairs found in 2001, they have been analyzed by interested scientists and reported out as having DNA similar—but not identical—to orang-utan DNA.
One of those scientists, Lars Thomas, says, "The significance is quite enormous no matter what the result is basically, because if it turns out to be orang-utan this proves that there is orang-utan in a part of Sumatra several hundred kilometres from the nearest population of orang-utan. If it turns out to be a primate that looks like an orang-utan but isn’t, it’s an even greater discovery because that proves that there is another great ape living in Indonesia."
The orang-pendek is very respectable as mystery animals go. Internationally known tiger conservationist Debbie Martyr has reported seeing the reddish, habitually upright primate several times, and the renowned Dr. John MacKinnon once came upon tracks of a small, unidentified primate walking bipedally. Anthropologist Dale Drinnon, in a comment to the CFZ side, suggested that a small type of orang-utan with a normally upright posture could solve several unexplained animal reports, not just on Sumatra but in surrounding land masses. Martyr and others suggest it's a new type of gibbon, although the DNA results cast doubt on that (assuming the hairs are indeed from our quarry).
I wrote to the CFZ's Adam Davies after he sent me this announcement and asked the obvious question. If analysis indicates a new species here, when are we going to see the results in a peer-reviewed journal like Nature? Surely the topic is important enough for a journal to accept it if the science is well done, and the peer review process (though not perfect) will mean scientists with no connection to CFZ will be validating the DNA results.
Adam replied, "As ever, you ask good questions,I don't know the answer yet,but I will ask. I have met Henry Gee from Nature magazine before, and we got on very well. Lars is still carrying on the testing, and hopes to get better info. I promise you that I will let you know, when I know." (He added that information on the expeditions he has led, and future ones, is also available at another site,
So there you have it. Promising, but not yet definitive. Adam has promised to keep me in the loop and I shall do the same for you.
Matt Billie

[...and I, dear reader, will keep YOU informed! ~ Crypto]




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Posted on July 25, 2012 at 12:10 PM Comments comments (0)


First Posted April 16, 2010; Re-posted July 2012 for those who may have missed it.


A new species of leech, discovered by an international team of scientists, has a preference for living up noses. Researchers say the leech can enter the body orifices of people and animals to attach itself to mucous membranes.

They have called the new blood-sucking species Tyrannobdella rex which means tyrant leech king.

The creature was first discovered in 2007 in Peru when a specimen was plucked from the nose of a girl who had been bathing in a river.

The creature lives in the remote parts of the Upper Amazon and has a "particularly unpleasant habit of infesting humans", the scientists say.

Studies also revealed that it had "a preference for living up noses". The researchers published their findings in the online scientific journal PLoS One.

Dr. Renzo Arauco-Brown, from the School of Medicine at the Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia in Lima, was the medical doctor who extracted the leech, preserved it, and sent it to a zoologist in the US.


The zoologist, Dr. Mark Siddall, from the American Museum of Natural History in New York, was quick to recognize it as a new species. He said it had some very unusual features, including just one single jaw, eight very large teeth and extremely small genitalia.

Dr. Siddall then brought together a team of researchers who studied the leech's features and DNA.

Anna Phillips, a graduate student affiliated with the museum, led the study. She said: "We think that Tyrannobdella rex is most closely related to another leech that gets into the mouths of livestock in Mexico.

"The leech could feed on aquatic mammals, from their noses and mouths for example, where they could stay for weeks at a time."

The leech was discovered when one was plucked from the nose of a young girl.

The DNA analysis also revealed "evolutionary relationships" between leeches that now inhabit distant regions. This suggested that a common ancestor of this group may have lived when the continents were pressed together into a single land mass or supercontinent called Pangaea.

"Some ancestor of our T. rex may have been up that other T. rex's nose."

Although around 600 to 700 species leeches have been described, scientists believe there could be as many as 10,000 species throughout the world in marine, terrestrial and fresh water environments.



Posted on July 25, 2012 at 11:35 AM Comments comments (0)


First Posted March 24, 2010; Re-posted July 2012 for those who may have missed it.


By OWEN PYE Associated Press Writer The Associated PressThursday, March 4, 2010 8:37 AM EST

SYDNEY (AP) — A species of frog thought to have been extinct for 30 years has been found in rural Australian farmland, officials said Thursday.

The rediscovery of the yellow-spotted bell frog is a reminder of the need to protect natural habitats so "future generations can enjoy the noise and color of our native animals," said Frank Sartor, minister for environment and climate change.

A fisheries conservation officer stumbled across one of the frogs in October 2008 while researching an endangered fish species in the Southern Tablelands of New South Wales state.

The officer, Luke Pearce, told The Associated Press he had been walking along a stream trying to catch a southern pygmy perch when he spotted the frog next to the water.

Pearce returned in the same season in 2009 with experts who confirmed it was a colony of around 100 yellow-spotted bell frogs.

Dave Hunter, threatened species officer with the Department of Climate Change and Water, said the find is very important.

"To have found this species that hasn't been seen for 30 years and that professional researchers thought was extinct is great," he said. "It gives us a lot of hope that a lot of other species that we thought were extinct aren't actually extinct — we just haven't found them."

The find wasn't made public until now to allow enough time to establish conservation measures to protect the frogs from many dangers, including poaching, Hunter said.

The discovery is "as significant in the amphibian world as it would be to discover the Tasmanian tiger, said Sartor, the environment minister.

The last known tiger — a cousin of the Tasmanian devil — died in a zoo in 1933, although unconfirmed sightings have been reported since then.

Seven of 216 known Australian frog species have disappeared in the last 30 years.

Mike Tyler, a frog expert at the University of Adelaide, said around a dozen species of Australian frogs are regarded as critically endangered.

"Most of them are on the east coast, mainly in Queensland and New South Wales," he said, but added there are probably other species that never have been identified.

Tyler said the cataloguing of fauna in Australia is still far from complete.

"In the last decade, three new species of frog have been discovered in the Kimberley," he said, referring to a northern region of Western Australia state. "I know of two more in the Northern Territory which haven't even yet been described ... one of the specimens is sitting here on my desk looking at me."

[Cryptozoologist's Note: I think the most important point to be gleaned from this article is that a species thought to be extinct for over 30 years turns out to not be extinct at all...only "not found!" It proves that what is possible for one species could be possible for many other species currently thought to be "extinct." In spite of the claims of mainstream scientists that our planet has been so thoroughly explored that the possibility of any extinct species turning up alive is extremely remote, the fact of the matter is that vast areas of our planet still remain unexplored, and the possibility of "extinct" species still existing in these areas is actually quite good! That is what the science of cryptozoology is all about!]


Posted on July 24, 2012 at 5:35 AM Comments comments (0)



First Posted August 31, 2008; Updated July 2012

Researched, Compiled, Edited and Illustrated

By R. Merrill

Excerpts from the "Cottingley Fairies"


In 1945, Gardner releases a book about the case and the media are quick to publish extracts. Although more than 20 years have passed, the story is once again headline news and voices of "for" and "against" clash with renewed interest. The tale fades into folklore once more until another media frenzy in 1965 leads to the Daily Express locating Elsie's house. They manage to conduct an interview to discover the truth once and for all, but all they find is that she is charming... and evasive.

In 1966, now more than 40 years after the story, Gardner releases Pictures of Fairies: The Cottingley Photographs (Published by the Theosophical Publishing House). The book proves a hit and people are captivated once more. Just 4 years after the book is published, Edward L. Gardner dies.

For fifty years Elsie managed to avoid publicity. Then, in 1971 Lynn Lewis from BBC TV's Nationwide current affairs program produces a televised study of the photos at Kodak labs. The results show that they were fake but could not have been taken by a Midg quarter plate camera at 1/50th shutter speed. The photos seem to have been handled by an expert, but Snelling did retouch the prints on the commission of Edward Gardner. The original photos were never examined.


For 10 days Elsie is interviewed, and visits Cottingley.

Elsie: I didn’t want to upset Mr. Gardner… I don’t mind talking now…

(Mr Gardner had died the year before)

Elsie: I would swear on the Bible father didn’t know what was going on.

Interviewer: Could you equally swear on the Bible you didn’t play any tricks?

Elsie (after a pause): I took the photographs… I took two of them… no, three… Frances took two…

Interviewer: Are they trick photographs? Could you swear on the Bible about that?

Elsie (after a pause): I’d rather leave that open if you don’t mind… but my father had nothing to do with it I can promise you that…

Interviewer: Have you had your fun with the world for 50 years? Have you been kidding us for 10 days?

(Elsie laughs.)

Elsie (gently): I think we’ll close on that if you don’t mind.


More objective was Austin Mitchell’s interview for Yorkshire Television in September 1976. On the spot where the photographs had allegedly been taken, the following dialogue took place:

Mitchell: A rational person doesn’t see fairies. If people say they see fairies, then one’s bound to be critical.

Frances: Yes.

Mitchell: Now, if you say you saw them, at the time the photograph was taken, that means that if there’s a confidence trick, then you’re both part of it.

Frances: Yes—that’s fair enough—yes.

Mitchell: So are you?

Frances: No.

Elsie: No.

Frances: Of course not.

Mitchell: Did you, in any way, fabricate those photographs?

Frances: Of course not. You tell us how she could do it, remember she was 16 and I was 10. So, then, as a child of 10, can you go through life and keep a secret?


The Yorkshire Television team, however, believed the cardboard cutout theory. Austin Mitchell had a row of fairy figures before him set against a background of greenery. He flicked them around a little.

"Simple cardboard cutouts" he commented on the live magazine programme. "Done by our photographic department and mounted on wire frames. They discovered that you really need wire to make them stand up—paper figures droop, of course. That's how it could have been done."


The critics were Lewis of Nationwide, Austin Mitchell of Yorkshire TV, James Randi, and Stewart Sanderson and Katherine Briggs of the Folklore Society.

F. W. Holiday in his book The Dragon and the Disc likens the appearance of the Cottingley gnome to that of Icelandic Bronze Age figures, and William Riley, the Yorkshire author, puts the five fairy pictures into perhaps the most relevant context:

"I have many times come across several people who have seen pixies at certain favoured spots in Upper Airedale and Wharfedale."


Five years later, in 1976, Frances and Elsie are brought back to the Beck and interviewed by Austin Mitchell for Yorkshire Television's Calendar show. Again nothing conclusive is reached and the ladies are still being elusive.



The famous magician, illusionist and phenomenon debunker, James Randi, released Flim-Flam! in 1982. In it he tries to show the public how astrology, transcendental meditation, ESP and biorhythms amongst other subjects are, in short, entirely make-believe.

Earlier, in 1964, he even put up a $10,000 reward to anyone who could demonstrate a paranormal power under controlled conditions. No-one was successful.

Even celebrated "mind readers" such as Uri Gellar are revealed as nothing but clever fraudsters who employ slight of hand and distraction rather than true magical powers.


A new kind of interest takes place on 10th August 1978. The famous magician James Randi and the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal carries out a computer based study on the photos and claims:

"CSICP member Robert Sheaffer and colleague William Spaulding applied the technique to the fairy photographs, lo-and-behold they found among other evidence of fakery, the strings holding up the fairies."


Following the results, Randi sends a forceful letter to Elsie urging her to confess. In her reply to the New Scientist article she is clearly disappointed by his attitude and asks which part of the sky she was supposed to hang the string from and how the figures remained motionless if suspended in this way. Annoyed that the ladies still refuse to admit that it was all a hoax, he publishes Flim-Flam! Psychics, ESP, Unicorns and Other Delusions. In Chapter 2, "Fairies At The Foot Of The Garden", he discloses the findings of his investigation and debunks the case of the Cottingley Fairies..


A year later, in 1983, Frances and Elsie, now 75 and 81 years old, confess "that the fairies in the photographs were actually drawings Elsie had made, cut out and set in place with hatpins."

The cutouts were traced from Princess Mary's Gift Book, backed by cardboard and held in place by long hatpins fastened with zinc oxide bandage tape. Although the house, the beck and even the dustbins were scoured for clues, nothing was ever found. The book had remained on the shelf, unread since it was awarded... and the girls knew that.


Beautifully illustrated, Princess Mary's Gift Book, 1914 [Hodder and Stoughton], was sold to raise funds for charity.

Some of the contributors of artwork, poems and passages in this 140 page collection were Edmund Dula, J. J. Shannon, M. E. GraFleur, Carlton A. Smith, Eugene Hastain, A. C. Michael, Claude A. Shepperson, W. B. Wollen, Arthur Rackham, E. H. Detmol, Bimbahi Joyce and Charles Napier Hemy.



The "confession" was released in an article to The Times on April 9, 1983 by Frances. And in Frances' book published in the same year, she says:

"I'm fed up with all these stories... I hated those photographs and cringe every time I see them. I thought it was a joke, but everyone else kept it going. It should have died a natural death 60 years ago."


The book once again renews public interest, and she is commissioned to write an article in the Times newspaper. Many miles away in New Zealand, the last surviving member of Doyle's investigation team, Edward L. Gardner hears the truth about the Cottingley Fairies at the grand old age of 96.


In 1986, Frances passed away aged 78, still believing in fairies. The photos were admittedly faked but she insists that she really did see fairies. Her cousin, Elsie, with whom she captivated generations, died two years later in 1988, aged 84.


"The fairies were wonderful and I try to forget all about them. You get tired of talking about them down the years. But they seem to be pulling me back—pulling me back towards the ideas I put down in The Long Blether. That we're all one, and if we don't come together there won't be any of us left." ~ Elsie, The Long Blether



from the Cottingley Family Friendly Site™

1. If the images were cut outs of either paper or card how were they disposed of without anyone noticing?

2. Wouldn't Elsie's father have searched high and low for any clues?

3. Cut outs would leave mutilated magazines or remnants from paper drawings—why were none found?

4. Surely it would be difficult for children to make sure all traces were disposed of without anyone noticing.

5. Pictures cut out of paper or card always show the white edge of the paper—anyone practicing decoupage knows this

6. How were the wings made transparent?

7. Why didn't the hat pins show through paper or thin card?

8. Is it believable that all the photos were taken without any hitches? It would be difficult to get rid of any "mistakes" with the type of plates and film used at that time.


In his book The Coming of the Fairies Conan Doyle states at the end of Chapter 3:

"It may be added that in the course of exhibiting these photographs (in the interests of the Theosophical bodies with which Mr. Gardner is connected), it has sometimes occurred that the plates have been enormously magnified upon the screen. In one instance, at Wakefield, the powerful lantern used threw an exceptionally large picture on a huge sheet. The operator, a very intelligent man who had taken a skeptical attitude, was entirely converted to the truth of the photographs, for,as he pointed out, such an enlargement would show the least trace of a scissors irregularity or of any artificial detail, and would make it absurd to suppose that a dummy figure could remain undetected. The lines were always beautifully fine and unbroken."



Posted on July 24, 2012 at 1:05 AM Comments comments (0)



First Posted August 31, 2008; Updated July 2012

Researched, Compiled, Edited and Illustrated

By R. Merrill

Excerpts from the "Cottingley Fairies" http/

Around Bingley there used to be, and possibly there still is, a strong belief in the existence of fairies. In Gilstead Crags there was an opening in the rocks known as "Fairies Hole", and it was said that the tiny creatures used to trip and dance and play their merry antics in the bright moonlight. Anyone who intruded at such a time, it was said would lose their sight. At Harden, in a secluded part of Deep Cliff, it is said that the fairies could sometimes be heard clanging musical tongs and what looked like tiny white garments hung out on the trees could be seen on bright nights.


The tales of the Cottingley Fairies have been well noted for over 80 years by people of all ages and all walks of life. Movies have recaptured the magical stories but the truth has been somewhat distorted and "adaptations" of the events have been released in line with true Big Screen tradition. What you are about to read is an extensive account of the case with dates, quotes and facts so that it can be used as a resource as well as being a good bedtime story.


In July 1917, two young girls claimed to have taken photographs of real life fairies at the bottom of their garden, an area known as the "beck". When the genius behind the Sherlock Holmes stories, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, presented the pictures to the public as evidence of the existence of fairies, the tale of the two little girls in Cottingley was immortalized.


This is where the story began...

Elsie and Frances would spend many hours playing in the attic bedroom and on one particular occasion traced images of fairies from Princess Mary's Gift Book which they later photographed using Arthur Wright's Midg ¼ plate camera. The Beck which provided the mystical backdrop to the fairy photos stands only a few yards away beyond the 70ft back garden.

However, Elsie Wright is not the only famous inhabitant of the terrace. Artist Jimmy Hardaker, herbalist Jimmy Dobson and now Emmerdale's vet (Paddy Kirk) Dominic Brunt have made it their home in the quiet Cottingley Village.


This is Cottingley Beck as it is today. The waterfall which enchanted the girls still runs at the bottom of the garden but is now overlooked by modern housing. When seeing the beck for the first time it is easy to understand why the girls spent so many hours playing there. The magical sound of the waterfall provides an ambience which draws you away from the daily chores of city life and you can't help but wonder if there was any truth in the tales. Unfortunately the beck has been affected by time and part of the stream has been fenced off. A recent ruling declared that the site was too dangerous for public access after years of tours and visitors. Please bear in mind that the land is on private property.


Like a pebble dropped into the middle of a pond, the Cottingley tale traveled across the globe and onto the lips of millions. Every few years, the story is resurrected and once again enchants a generation.

"When our fairies are admitted, other psychic phenomena will find a more ready acceptance " - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle


" a medical man, I believe that the inculcation of such absurd ideas into the minds of children will result in later life in manifestations and nervous disorder and mental disturbances" ~ Major John Hall-Edwards

Despite the confession in her twilight years, Frances Griffiths added another twist to the story when she insisted that although the photos were faked, she really did see fairies and played with them at the Beck.

Indeed, even today, many people believe in fairies and refute the evidence held against the photos which were later admitted to have been fabricated by the girls themselves.

Please enjoy the story of The Cottingley Fairies...



Arthur Wright


Stunned at how such a brilliant mind like Doyle's could be fooled "by our Elsie, and her at the bottom of the class!" He always believed that the photos were fake and asked the girls why there was paper in the first photo. After the appearance of fairies on the second photo he stopped the girls from using the camera again, especially when they refused to admit they were playing a joke. Till his passing in 1926, he was fearful that the whole family were to be exposed as frauds. He prevented Elsie from taking money for the photos but a war bond of £100 was given to her by Doyle.

Polly Wright


She had spiritual beliefs and followed Theosophy after purportedly experiencing astral projection and past life recollection. However, she refused to believe the girls were telling the truth until one evening at the Bradford Theosophical Society the topic of fairies brought about her disclosure of the pictures.

Elsie Wright, 16 years old


A keen artist who had been attending Bradford Art College since she was 13 also found work in a photographic lab and a greeting card factory during the war. In the darkroom her job was to create composite photos of fallen soldiers with pictures of loved ones and during this time she had the opportunity to work with plate cameras.


Later emigrated to America to escape the media attention but was dismayed to find that even in Maine, the tales of the Cottingley fairies were well known. After marrying an engineer, Elsie emigrated again, this time to India where she was an army driver during the war. She returned to England after the 1947 declaration of independence and soon the media tracked her down and her privacy was lost again.


Sergeant Major Edwin Griffiths

Stationed in South Africa during the war, he remained at his post after his wife and daughter temporarily moved to Cottingley. In 1918 he arrived back in England and the reunited family moved from Cottingley to Scarborough, North Yorkshire.

Annie Griffiths (nee Wright)

Enjoyed a high life in South Africa with servants and lavish trips.

Frances Griffiths, 10 years old


Arrived from South Africa with her mother to live with her cousin in Cottingley. Her photograph with the dancing fairies has been described as the most reproduced photo in history and is instantly recognized by people across the world.

Throughout her life she toyed with the media, not letting out the truth until she was an elderly lady. However, although she admitted to have faked the pictures, she adamantly declared that she did see fairies and she did play with them at the Beck.


Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan



Born in 1859 at Picardy Place in Edinburgh, Doyle began his professional career as a doctor in Southsea, Hampshire. He was the man behind who created the Sherlock Holmes character and his most criticized work was the case of the Cottingley fairies. As a deep spiritualist and follower of Theosophy, Doyle saw the photographs as evidence of the existence of fairies. He died aged 71 still believing in fairies. The true confessions were not to be heard for another half a century.

Edward Lewis Gardner

A speaker on Theosophy and an ardent fairy seeker (author of Fairies: The Cottingley Photographs), Gardner traveled to Cottingley several times during the investigation after becoming one of the first "men of society" to investigate the tale. After the death of Conan Doyle, further investigations into the photographs were barred by Gardner and later by his son who inherited the Cottingley material. However, in later years, access was formerly granted and once again public interest was roused.

Harold Snelling

Snelling was an expert on photographic retouching and it was said that "what Snelling doesn't know about faked photography isn't worth knowing." As a fellow spiritualist, he and Gardner were to form the basis of the investigations after they reprinted and retouched the original negatives to produce sharper images. When Kodak was asked to verify the authenticity of the pictures it was the sharpened reprints that were sent to the labs. In actual fact, his work during the case was the most significant of any member of the investigative team. The retouching of the prints removed a number of shadows and lines which would later be rediscovered in the original pictures and show how the "fairies" were two-dimensional cutouts.

Geoffrey Hodson


A former British Army Officer on the Western Front during the First World War, Geoffrey Hodson pursued a life of spiritualism, clairvoyance, yoga and healing. A respected expert in his field, he was around 31 years old when he was drawn to Cottingley by the tales of fairies and sprites. With his apparent strength in clairvoyance and deep spiritual beliefs, Hodson was sent to Cottingley to confirm that indeed the girls were in the company of fairies. If anyone could see the fairies, it would be Hodson. Amused by his gullible attitude, the girls admittedly wove an often ridiculous web of tales around him and exaggerated their sightings. To their astonishment, their childish pranks were well received by the clairvoyant who claimed to see what they saw and more. In 1983, when he was 96 and living in New Zealand, he heard the true confessions and thus became the only surviving member of Gardner's team to know the truth.


It was July 1917 and Frances knew she was in trouble for coming home wet after slipping on rocks and falling into the water. She scrambled up the side of the bank with her cousin Elsie, crept into the house and sure enough as soon as her mother, Annie, saw her she was scolded. In an attempt to explain why her dress was soaked, Frances said that she had fallen into the stream after playing with the fairies at the beck. On hearing this wild excuse her mother sent her up to the attic bedroom she shared with Elsie. Frances was upset by this and in an attempt to cheer up her cousin, Elsie suggested they take a picture of the fairies and persuaded her father to lend them his Midg quarter plate camera. Thinking that this would put an end to the ludicrous story, Arthur Wright agreed. Arthur loaded up a glass plate into the camera, set the speed to 1/50s and gave it to Elsie. The pair trundled off down to the beck again, this time camera in hand with a view to catch their spritely friends on film.


The Midg was made by W. Butcher & Sons of London 1902-1920 with Rapid Rectiliner lens, rotating apertures, mirror finders and room for 12 plates (31/4" x 4"). The plates where held in place by metal sheaths in a spring loaded rack and when the shutter was released a lever mechanism would lay the exposed plate face down in the light proof chamber at the bottom of the camera. It was said that Arthur Wright set the camera at 1/50s at f/11 and provided one glass plate for the first and most famous image.


When the case book opened again in 1971 when Lynn Lewis from the Nationwide television programme reported on a study of the photographs by Kodak photography experts. They concluded that the pictures could not have been taken by a Midg camera set at 1/50s. They seemed to have been created by someone with "a feel and composition" for photography.

As the prints were not the originals but "cleaned up" copies retouched by Harold Snelling for sale at 1s 6d (small prints) and 2s 6d (large prints). It stands to reason then, that the findings should highlight anomalies between that which should have been produced by the Midg and that which was actually being examined.

The camera was eventually sold at Sotherbys to S.J.Robinson in 1972 and now rests in the Kodak Gallery at the National Photography Museum in Bradford.


A while later, the girls returned home and Arthur took the plate out to expose in his under-the-stairs darkroom. As the image slowly appeared through the solution, Arthur wondered what the strange outlines could be. He asked Elsie why there were "bits of paper" in the picture and whether it was a discarded sandwich wrapping. Elsie said it was the fairies that they played with by the waterfall but her father promptly dismissed the odd reply. He was aware of his daughter's artistic ability (she attended Bradford Art College from the age of 13) and knew she had been drawing fairies for some time. Annie and Polly trusted their children who were honest and forthright but even with a great interest in spiritualism (eventually Theosophy) they cast aside the tale and the matter was considered closed. Little more was spoken of the images.

The immortal image of Frances and the Dancing Fairies was born.




Here is the first picture to be taken by the girls at Cottingley Beck and shows Frances gazing innocently into the camera as a troop of fairies dances on the branches in the foreground.

The leading photography experts of the day examined the photo and declared them to be genuine and void of trickery but Kodak laboratories were more cautious with their findings.

The photo had been received in its original form in a letter to Edward L Gardner along with the second photo in the series. However, as the images were much faded and ill defined, Gardner tasked Harold Snelling to produce some fine reprints which were made in numbers and sold in the tide of public interest.

"Then I told them to make new negatives (from the positives of the originals) and do the very best with them short of altering anything mechanically. The result was that they turned out two first class negatives which … are the same in every respect as the originals except that they are sharp cut and clear and far finer for printing purposes…"

Edward L Gardner in a letter to Fred Barlow, a photographic genius, in 1920. Gardner was refering to the time when he asked Harold Snelling to "clean up" the images.

"This original negative is asserted by expert photographers to bear not the slightest trace of combination work, retouching, or anything whatever to mark it as other than a perfectly straight single-exposure photograph, taken in the open air under natural conditions."

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle


The photograph, while curious in content, was soon forgotten until the appearance of a second spritely figure in August, just one month later.



A month after the events, the second picture in the series was taken by Frances. Here Elsie is pictured by the oaks beyond the banks of the beck with a small gnome like figure.


The appearance of another strange figure on the Midg plates somewhat annoyed Elsie's father. He knew the girls were playing a joke, but when he questioned them they adamantly denied any trickery and insisted that these were the fairy folk with whom they were playing. As a result, Arthur Wright told the girls they could no longer use his camera. Despite their most rigorous attempts to find evidence of the prank, perhaps drawings or cutouts, nothing was found. Nothing in the dustbins, nothing by the beck, nothing up the embankment, nothing at all. Confused, the parents gave up the search and the fairy talk soon died away.


Polly and Annie Wright were less skeptical of the photographs. Although they were initially dismissive, they became more receptive of the idea of real life fairies whilst attending a number of spiritual meetings in Bradford. At the time of the War, people were faced with the possibility that their loved ones may not come home. Casualties were mounting and comfort was found in religion, prayer and other beliefs. Believing in spirits and the afterlife gave many people hope that they may one day be reunited and Theosophy went some way in providing this hope. Conan Doyle himself had been a long time spiritualist and respected speaker in Theosophy and went on a world wide crusade for Spiritualism between 1920 and 1930. He lost his own son just before the Armistice and later his brother Brigadier-General Innes Doyle from post-war pneumonia.


The following year, on November 19, 1918, Francis wrote a letter to a friend, Johanna Parvin, of Woodstock, Cape Town which brought the fairies to light once more albeit in brief passing. The letter read:

Dear Joe [Johanna],


I hope you are quite well. I wrote a letter before, only I lost it or it got mislaid. Do you play with Elsie and Nora Biddles? I am learning French, Geometry, Cookery and Algebra at school now. Dad came home from France the other week after being there ten months, and we all think the war will be over in a few days. We are going to get our flags to hang upstairs in our bedroom. I am sending two photos, both of me, one of me in a bathing costume in our back yard, Uncle Arthur took that, while the other is me with some fairies up the beck, Elsie took that one. Rosebud is as fat as ever and I have made her some new clothes. How are Teddy and dolly?


On the back of the fairy photo, she wrote:

Elsie and I are very friendly with the beck Fairies. It is funny I never used to see them in Africa. It must be too hot for them there.


In the months following this letter, Francis was reunited with her father when he returned from his post in South Africa and the family left Cottingley in 1918 and moved to Scarborough.

Four years later on November 25, 1922, the letter was rediscovered and later published in the Cape Town Argus in an article called "Cape Town Link In World Controversy" once more re-igniting public curiosity.

"... isn't this the best kind of evidence possible that, two years before Conan Doyle ever started this controversy, Frances Griffiths believed implicitly in the existence of fairies: so implicitly indeed as to discuss them with no more surprise or emphasis than she discusses her dad, her dolls, and the war?" ~ South African Cape Town Argus



Polly Wright attended a Theosophical Society meeting in Bradford in 1919 and it was here where the infamous pictures were to gather interest. The topic of discussion was "fairy life" and during the meeting she was overheard talking about the children's photos. The lecturer asked to see them and was astounded. In the Autumn months the 2 photos were presented at the Theosophical Society in Harrogate where a captivated audience believed that evidence of countless tales of fairy sightings had finally been presented. Skeptics gathered with plenty of mockery—how could so many people be fooled by such obvious photographic trickery?

Interest was to gather pace in May when a letter was sent to leading Theosophist Edward L Gardner with 2 small prints asking for his opinion. Intrigued, he requested that the original plates be sent to him and on receipt asked Harold Snelling, a friend and photographic expert, to prepare new prints from the original negatives.

In a letter to another photographic genius, Fred Barlow, Gardner recounts:

"Then I told them to make new negatives (from the positives of the originals) and do the very best with them short of altering anything mechanically. The result was that they turned out two first class negatives which are the same in every respect as the originals except that they are sharp cut and clear and far finer for printing purposes."


As a leading expert in the debunking of faked photographs, Snelling's opinion was seen to be unquestionable so when he passed his approval that the pictures were indeed genuine, Gardner was convinced.

"This plate is a single exposure... These dancing figures are not made of paper nor of any fabric; they are not painted on a photographed background—but what gets me most is that all these figures have moved during exposure..." ~ Harold Snelling


Note: After Snelling made up the clearer prints, these were to be the basis of the investigations and not the original photographs.

Snelling sent the prints to Kodak for analysis and they came to the following conclusion:

1. The negatives are single exposure.


2. The plates show no sign of being faked work, but that cannot be taken as conclusive evidence of genuineness.

3. Kodak was not willing to give any certificate concerning them because photography lent itself to a multitude of processes, and some clever operator might have made them artificially.

4. The studio chief added that he thought the photographs might have been made by using the glen features and the girl as a background; then enlarging prints from these and painting in the figures; then taking half-plate and finally quarter-plate snaps, suitably lighted. All this, he agreed, would be clever work and take time.

5. A remark made by one, as we were thanking them and bidding good-bye, was that "after all, as fairies couldn't be true, the photographs must have been faked somehow".

from Pictures of Fairies: The Cottingley Photographs, by Edward L. Gardner

Despite the findings, Gardner remained convinced that they were genuine fairies that had been spoken of in hundreds of tales and sightings throughout history. This was proof. They did exist. Others needed to see.


In the summer of 1920, Gardner went to Cottingley to interview the girls and speak to their families. He returned to London, content that they were all honest and respectable people and recommended to Doyle that more photos were required if the truth was to be confirmed. Edward Gardner went back to Cottingley with 2 Cameo quarter plate folding cameras, a tripod and 24 secretly marked plates and asked the girls to photograph the fairies again.


The Cameo Quarter Plate was made by W Butcher & Sons, London 1915 - 1920. It had a rising front and pneumatic shutter release cylinder but was prone to distorted and out of focus images due to the unbraced lens board. As the name suggests, the lens assembly could be folded back into the main structure via collapsing leather bellows thus providing a neat and compact unit.

Like the Arthur Wright's Midg Quarter Plate camera which was used for the first 2 photographs, the Cameo captured images on glass plates. Two dozen plates were secretly marked and carefully boxed by Gardner and his team before travelling to Cottingley.


Polly Wright wrote to Frances, who was now 13, describing how Gardner wanted to invite her to take more pictures of the fairies during the school holidays. In the reply, she accepted and traveled from Scarborough by train for a two week stay.

At the same time, Gardner caught the train from London to Bradford and arrived at Cottingley Bar by tram.

"I went off, too, to Cottingley again, taking the two cameras and plates from London, and met the family and explained to the two girls the simple working of the cameras, giving one each to keep. The cameras were loaded, and my final advice was that they need go up to the glen only on fine days as they had been accustomed to do before and '"tice" the fairies, as they called their way of attracting them, and see what they could get. I suggested only the most obvious and easy precautions about lighting and distance, for I knew it was essential they should feel free and unhampered and have no burden of responsibility. If nothing came of it all, I told them, they were not to mind a bit." ~ Fairies: A Book Of Real Fairies by Edward L. Gardner


Gardner left the photographic equipment with the girls and returned to London praying for sunshine so the fairies would come out. Rain fell for a fortnight. Then on 19 August 1920, Polly Wright wrote a letter to Gardner saying modestly:

"The morning was dull and misty so they did not take any photos until after dinner when the mist had cleared away and it was sunny. I went to my sister's for tea and left them to it. When I got back they had only managed two with fairies, I was disappointed."


"P.S. She did not take one flying after all."


Arthur Wright packed the plates in cotton wool and returned them to Edward Gardner in London still confused as to the fuss of the whole matter. They were fakes after all, right? Although Frances won a scholarship to go to grammar school, Elsie left school at the age of 13. How could such an intelligent man be fooled "by our Elsie, and her at the bottom of the class!"

At the same time, Gardner sent an urgent telegram to Doyle with the news that the girls had managed to take another 3 photographs. They were later posted to him in Melbourne, Australia where he was holding lectures on spiritualism but such was his excitement that he even excused the apparent tip of a hatpin in the mid section of one the fairies as being its navel. His reply included:

"My heart was gladdened when out here in far Australia I had your note and the three wonderful pictures which are confirmatory of our published results. When our fairies are admitted other psychic phenomena will find a more ready acceptance... we have had continued messages at seances for some time that a visible sign was coming through..."


"breaking down materialism and leading human thought to a broader and more spiritual level."


"matter as we have known it is not really the limit of our universe."


It must be noted that Doyle himself was a strong believer in the spiritual and the afterlife and had been a keen speaker on the subject for many years. As mentioned earlier, Theosophy gained support during the War and Doyle's own son, Kingsley was killed in 1916 shortly before the Armistice in the Battle of the Somme.



A slightly out of focus Frances is pictured with a fairy in flight. This image was particularly criticised for the contemporary hairstyle of the mystical creature which was in fact a cutout drawing fixed to a branch by a hatpin.

It was this picture that prompted Doyle to comment on the apparent top of a hatpin in the mid section of the fairy as being its naval.




A 19 year old Elsie gazes at a fairy who is offering a bunch of flowers. Critics pointed out that the fairy looked remarkably fashionable with its bobbed hairstyle and sheer dress.




The fifth picture in the series, the Fairy Sunbath, was created with a simple frame and knicker elastic construction pushed into the long grass. With a pull of the elastic, the fairies would fall backwards from their slots in the frame, thus providing a sense of "fading" when the camera caught the motion. The picture was successful albeit for a double exposure showing one of the fairies twice! However, Conan still wrote:

"Seated on the upper left hand edge with wing well displayed is an undraped fairy apparently considering whether it is time to get up. An earlier riser of more mature age is seen on the right possessing abundant hair and wonderful wings. Her slightly denser body can be glimpsed within her fairy dress."



At the end of November, The Strand magazine published their 1920 Christmas Edition and to their amazement, the article on the fairies stirs up so much interest that every copy is sold within days. Doyle is praised by many quarters but many more ridicule him and question his sanity.


The Strand magazine was founded by George Newnes and costing only sixpence, it was half the price of other British monthlys but full of pictures. The first edition, dated January 1891, was on the shelves by Christmas 1890 and sold out a total of 300,000 copies after popular demand ordered two further reprints of 100,000. By the turn of the century half a million copies were being sold a month. The editor, H Greenhough Smith, secured regular contributions from the world's greatest writers including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, H G Wells, Rudyard Kipling and Voltaire (translated text) and boasted readership from Queen Victoria, Cardinal Manning and Winston Churchill. In fact, it was on the Strand platform where Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories were showcased to a worldwide audience. A family oriented publication, the Strand offered fact, fiction and serial stories with photographs and illustrations in a fresh look previously unknown to the British public. Sixty years later, the impact of the War spelt disaster for the magazine. Smaller editions, falling demand and spiraling costs led to the end of the Strand in March 1950. In December 1998, the Strand magazine was resurrected.


Over the next few months the story is still the talk of the town...

"On the evidence I have no hesitation in saying that these photographs could have been ..faked'. I criticise the attitude of those who declared there is something supernatural in the circumstances attending to the taking of these pictures because, as a medical man, I believe that the inculcation of such absurd ideas into the minds of children will result in later life in manifestations and nervous disorder and mental disturbances…" ~ Major John Hall Edwards (1858-1926), the British pioneer of X-ray treatment


"The day we kill our Santa Claus with our statistics we shall have plunged a glorious world into deepest darkness". The Day's Thought underneath was a Welsh proverb: "Tis true as the fairy tales told in books." ~ 27 November 1920, South Wales Argus


"For the true explanation of these fairy photographs what is wanted is not a knowledge of occult phenomena but a knowledge of children." ~ 5 January 1921, Truth


"It seems at this point that we must either believe in the almost incredible mystery of the fairy or in the almost incredible wonders of faked photographs." ~ 29 January 1921, City News


Following The Strand's publication, Gardner holds an audience at the Theosophist Hall in Brompton Road, London and reveals slides of the 5 fairy photographs, and as expected, the crowd of spiritualists cheer and delight at the "proof" of the existence of fairies. By now the public demanded more and more from the investigators, and Doyle duly complied. He published the last 3 photographs in The Strand and waited for the response. Not all the comments were kind and the most repeated view was that the fairies had very fashionable hairstyles... a view originally given by Kodak laboratories in 1920 after they inspected the first 2 pictures.

Just as they did after the Christmas edition, prominent figures spoke out in public about the images.

"How wonderful that to these dear children such a wonderful gift has been vouchsafed." ~ Margaret McMillan, education and social reformer


"Look at Alice's face. Look at Iris's face. There is an extraordinary thing called TRUTH which has 10 million faces and forms—it is God's currency and the cleverest coiner or forger can't imitate it." ~ Henry de Vere Stacpoole, novelist who referred to the girls by the aliases that Conan Doyle had penned for anonymity


"When one considers that these are the first photographs which these children ever took in their lives it is impossible to conceive that they are capable of technical manipulation which would deceive experts." ~ Conan Doyle, Yorkshire Weekly Post




In an attempt to uncover further "proof", Gardner sends Geoffrey Hodson back to Cottingley in 1921. Armed with cameras and a host of "psychic" tools, Hodson claims to see many more fairies and spirits but unfortunately cannot produce a single picture. In fact, years afterwards, Elsie and Francis openly admit that they had a lot of fun duping Hodson throughout his stay and were mystified when he claimed to "see" whatever the girls told him.

Unmoved by public discontent and humiliation, Doyle published The Coming of the Fairies in 1922. This book was not solely based on events in Cottingley but was a collection of fairy stories and sightings all over the world.

His reputation as the brilliant mind behind the legendary Sherlock Holmes was severely damaged and people began to see him as the old man who was duped by 2 schoolgirls. But to him, Theosophy and its beliefs were real and it was the majority who were wrong.

On July 8, 1930, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle dies still believing in fairies and the afterlife, and his funeral at The Albert Hall in London is attended by 8,000 mourners.

Chronicles & Stories of Bingley and District by Harry Speight - 1904



Posted on July 22, 2012 at 7:30 PM Comments comments (0)



First Posted March 3, 2008; Updated July 2012

Researched, Compiled, Edited, and Illustrated

By R. Merrill


Similar to the Ontario white wolf, and often considered to be the same animal, the Waheela is a large, wolf-like creature said to inhabit Alaska and the Northwest Territories. It is larger and more heavily built than normal wolves, with a wide head and proportionally larger feet, and with long, pure-white fur. The animal's hind legs are said to be shorter than the front legs, and the tracks show widely spaced toes. Witnesses describe it as being about 3 1/2 - 4 feet at the shoulder. Waheela are never seen in packs, so are presumably solitary. Native legends describe the Waheela as an evil sprit with supernatural powers, and it is said to be responsible for the many mysterious deaths that have occurred in Nahanni Valley, also known as "Headless Valley" because the people who died here mysteriously all had missing heads. It has been theorized that the Waheela is an Amphicyonid (bear-dog), a dire wolf, a prehistoric hyena, or a completely new species of canine.


Bear-dogs are thought to have been related to both the bear family and the dog family. They looked like hybrids between bears and dogs. There were once many different species in the family of bear-dogs, but then they began to die out. The most recent fossils we have from both the Old and the New World are thousands of years old.



There is some evidence that the bear-dogs might have survived much longer than this in some remote areas. One species might even be alive today, if you can believe certain legends and sightings that have come from some remote, icy valleys on the border between Canada and Alaska. However, if the only thing we had to go on was these legends, we might be able to ignore the waheela, but there are also perfectly ordinary sightings made by ordinary Americans. A mechanic described this animal as looking like a wolf on steroids. He estimated its height at three and a half feet at the shoulder. The largest wolves ever recorded have been three feet, two inches tall at the shoulder, but giants of this size are truly rare. If the mechanic's estimate was correct, then this animal was at least four inches taller than the biggest wolf we know of. Other details differed from a true wolf. Its head was too broad for that of a wolf, and its build was too heavy, almost bear-like. It had pure white fur that was exceptionally long.


Other reports agree with the general description above, but add more detail. The waheela, despite the fact that it is larger than a wolf, has shorter legs than a wolf. The impressive shoulder height comes from its massive body instead of its legs. Its ears are smaller than a wolf's ears, and the tracks show toes set farther away from each other than in a wolf's tracks. The waheela stay in the coldest, most inhospitable environments of the extreme north, favoring areas where there are few people.


The area where the waheela is sighted is one of the most remote places in the world. The fact that these lands are relatively unexplored means that there is a fair chance of discovering new kinds of animals there, perhaps including one that was supposed to have died out ten thousand years ago. On the other hand, this might just be another one of those legend-laden locales that doesn't pan out when it is fully investigated. Local tribes also report that the Nahanni Valley is infested with evil spirits, and certain other legends attribute the headless corpses to big hairy monsters resembling the sasquatch. With bipedal hairy humanoids and monstrous wolves being sighted in the same area and blamed for the same violent deaths, it might also be that we have werewolf beliefs being thrown into the mix as well, to make things even more confusing.


Of all the fascinating fauna of prehistoric Florida, no animal was more deadly. This mammal was the apex predator of its time and had no equal. The bear-dogs were ferocious carnivores that ranged from the size of a medium dog to the size of a bear. These predators known as Amphicyonids were neither dogs nor bears but were more closely related to bears. They once inhabited regions of Eurasia and North America.



Amphicyonidae were a diverse group with species resembling all or part of modern dogs, hyenas and bears. Leaner built species had cheek teeth designed for shearing meat whereas the stouter and larger species had teeth designed to crush bone. Males were larger than females. They lived in dens and had the ability to dig large burrows.



Amphicyon longiramus (pictured above) was the largest of the Florida species of Amphicyonidae at the size of a full-grown bear. It was the top predatory land mammal of its time in Florida. Its skull was long in comparison to its body size but brain size was lacking. Its posture and structure were similar to a bear, and it is theorized that it must have hunted using ambush techniques that are used today by modern grizzlies. Most likely, this giant bear-dog burst upon its unfortunate victim at close range and dealt its prey a single deadly blow with its massive forepaw. This theory of attack is also based on that of the bear, as it was incapable of sustaining long runs in pursuit of prey. Compared to lighter species of Amphicyonids, Amphicyon longiramus had heavy posterior dentition allowing it to crush bone in its jaws.



THE DIRE WOLF (Canis dirus)

The Dire Wolf (Canis dirus) co-existed with the Gray Wolf in North America for thousands of years. It was larger than the Gray Wolf, the largest living wild canid. It averaged 1.5 metres (5 feet) in length and weighed about 57-79 kilograms (125-175 pounds).


The first specimen of a Dire Wolf was found by Francis A. Linck at the mouth of Pigeon Creek along the Ohio River near Evansville, Indiana in 1854, but the vast majority of fossils recovered have been from the La Brea Tar Pits in California. Sometime in the last several thousand years, it became extinct along with most other North American megafauna.


The Dire Wolf had many different physical characteristics from the Gray wolf. It had a larger, broader head but a smaller braincase than that of a similarly-sized Gray Wolf, and had teeth that were quite massive. Many paleontologists think that the Dire Wolf may have used its large teeth to crush bone, an idea that is supported by the frequency of large amounts of wear on the crowns of their fossilized teeth. Dire Wolf skeletons have been found bearing healed and half-healed injuries similar to the ones found on modern wolves who have been injured while hunting large prey such as the Western horse, Ancient bison or Long-horn bison. This suggests that the Dire Wolf also hunted for large, live prey.


The Dire Wolf is best known for its unusually high representation in the La Brea Tar Pits in California. In total, fossils from more than 3,600 individual Dire Wolves have been recovered from the tar pits, more than any other mammal species. This large number suggests that the Dire Wolf, like modern wolves and dogs, probably hunted in packs. It also gives some insight into the pressures placed on the species near the end of its existence.


The first type specimen of the Dire Wolf was found in Evansville, Indiana in the summer of 1854, when the Ohio River was quite low. The specimen, a fossilized jawbone, was obtained by Dr. Joseph Granville Norwood from an Evansville collector named Francis A. Linck. It was sent to Joseph Leidy at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia who determined it represented an extinct species of wolf and published a note to that effect in November 1854. In a publication dated 1858, Leidy assigned the name Canis dirus.


Did America have a native hyena or hyena-like beast such as the presumably extinct hyena-dog when the first white settlers arrived on its shores? We may never be able to answer that question.


The Shunka Warak'in, translating literally to 'carrying off dogs' from the language of the Ioway Amerindians, is a mysterious wolf-like creature said to inhabit the great plains of North America. Though this cryptid is rarely sighted and difficult to identify, one specimen was supposedly shot in Montana late in the last century by a member of the Hutchins family.

In the late 19th century, the Hutchins family moved into an area of Montana along the Madison River's West Fork, in Broadwater County. They were soon to report encounters with a mysterious canine beast known to Native Americans.

One of the descendants of the original clan was zoologist Ross Hutchins. In 1977, he would write Trails to Nature's Mysteries: The Life of a Working Naturalist. Within this book is reference to one of the most obscure creatures to grace North America's cryptozoological landscape. The following account is reproduced from that book:

"One winter morning my grandfather was aroused by the barking of the dogs. He discovered that a wolflike beast of dark color was chasing my grandmother's geese. He fired his gun at the animal but missed. It ran off down the river, but several mornings later it was seen again at about dawn. It was seen several more times at the home ranch as well as at other ranches ten or fifteen miles down the valley. Whatever it was, it was a great traveler....


Those who got a good look at the beast described it as being nearly black and having high shoulders and a back that sloped downward like a hyena. Then one morning in late January, my grandfather was alerted by the dogs, and this time he was able to kill it. Just what the animal was is still an open question. After being killed, it was donated to a man named Sherwood who kept a combination grocery and museum at Henry Lake in Idaho. It was mounted and displayed there for many years. He called it ringdocus."



An Ioway Indian named Lance Foster approached Loren Coleman in 1995 and informed him of traditions existing in that tribe of an animal called a shunka warak'in ('Carrying-Off-Dogs') which cried like a human when killed. Foster's descriptions of an animal that looked something like a hyena and the existence of one in an Idaho museum are testimony that the animal killed at the Hutchins ranch was a Shunka Warak'in.


Speculation on the identity of both the Ringdocus, the Shunka Wrak'in—whether or not they are the same thing—and if either represents a new species, has been wide and radical. Loren Coleman speculates that the beast may be a surviving Borophagus, a subfamily of primitive wolf-sized canine scavengers, adapted like hyenas with powerful jaws, and dating back thousands of years. However it is more popularly hoped to be surviving population of the even older Creodont, particularly a Hyeanodon montanus, one of the more lightly-built of the Neohyaenodon species. It may also be a dire wolf, some sort of hyaena, a prehistoric long-nosed peccary (not joking), a deformed coyote, or even just a bad taxidermy job.





Osteoborus was an extinct borophagine native to North America. It may have been displaced by more typical dogs, such as the dire wolf. Typical features of this genus are a bulging forehead and powerful jaws; it was probably a scavenger. Its crushing premolar teeth and strong jaw muscles would have been used to crack open bone, much like the hyena of the Old World. The adult animal is estimated to have been about 2.75 feet in length, similar to a coyote, although it was much more powerfully built.


Osteoborus is one of the best-known Borophagines. It was a wolf-sized form with a shortened skull and enlarged crushing molars. Osteoborus probably led a hyena-like lifestyle; like hyenas, it often scavenged, using its keen senses to find carcasses of recently dead animals.


This particular canid has quite a bit of confusion surrounding its name. As listed in numerous cryptozoological sites, apparently Bernard Heuvelmans, the founder of cryptozoology, reported this animal as a cryptid in 1986 from the Andes Mountains in Argentina. Its description is, unfortunately, unknown. The real confusion, however, is with two other animals. One is called the Culpeo (Pseudalopex culpaeus) which is also known as the Andean wolf, as well as the Patagonian red fox and Fuegian fox. The other is known as the Maned Wolf (Crysocyon brachyurus) but is really a species of wild dog.


This animal is fully described by science, ranges throughout the Andes, and was first detailed in 1782. Another reference mentions the 'Andean wolf' as being discovered in 1949, another described it in 1940. Another mention of an Andean wolf, possibly the same one just mentioned, names it as Dasycyon hagenbecki, but includes no other information about the animal. As for Heuvelmans, being an experienced naturalist, I cannot imagine why he would report a known animal as cryptid, even a rare one. I can only assume that he was told of an animal different in description to other native canids, and used a general name in describing it.





Reports of small wolf-like canids came out of the Chichibu district of Japan in 1998. At least seventy people reported wolf howls in 1994, and there have been at least twenty-six claims of wolves seen from 1908 to 1978, all in the Aomori and Oita regions in northernmost Japan, not to mention prints, howls and scat. Several sightings have also been made on the Kii peninsula. In 1936, a man in Hongu supposedly captured a wolf pup, but released it in case a parent attempted to retrieve it. The Honshu wolf (Canis lupus hodophylax) a dwarf subspecies of wolf just over a foot tall and deemed extinct since 1905 due to a rabies epidemic, fits the general description. Attempts to record wolves howling, by playing wolf howls to prompt them in 1995 were unsuccessful. Possibly these sightings are just misidentification of feral dogs. However, though Japan is heavily populated, its mountainous terrain would make it possible for a hidden population of wolves – in this case, small wolves- to survive without public acknowledgment.


Today, Japan is supposed to have no wolves. Once, it had two types of native wolf, the Ezo wolf which lived on the northern island called Hokkaido and a wolf called the shamanu which lived in the south. Islands tend to produce dwarfed or miniature versions of mainland animals, and these wolves were no exception. The Ezo wolf looked like a small version of the Asian mainland wolf, but the shamanu was even more dwarfed. In fact, many scientists think the shamanu might have been a different species altogether, and not just a dwarfed subspecies. Scientists who take this view have called the shamanu Canis hodophilax. Most books that speak of the Japanese wolf are talking about the shamanu, not the Ezo wolf. The shamanu is also called the Honshu wolf, the shamainu, the yamainu, the nihon-okami and the yama-inu (several of these translate as "mountain dog" or various corruptions thereof).


According to the scientific establishment, the last native wolf in Japan died in the first decade of the 20th century. The year 1905 is the most frequently mentioned official date of extinction, though most scientists now believe there was enough evidence to prove the shamanu existed in the wild until at least 1913.

Japanese attitudes towards wolves were very different from the ideas most common in western cultures. The Japanese wolves were not hated like European wolves, instead they were deified in shrines, especially in the Chichibu Mountains. Peasants saw wolf spirits as protectors of crops. They could see that the wolves controlled deer and hares that would have otherwise been too numerous and a threat to crops.

In the Edo period, the horse-breeding industry began seeing wolves as the enemy, and the introduction of the disease rabies from the mainland also created problems. As human populations expanded, wolves died. Either they were killed outright by humans or by rabies, or they simply lost food resources as wild prey died out.

However, sightings have continued to the present day. Although official science has not admitted it, we can be pretty sure that at least one shamanu actually survived until at least 1950, because an authentic skin dating to that time was found in a shrine (giving wolf pelts to shrines was considered a holy act). The Japanese wolf almost certainly survived for at least a few decades after it had been officially declared extinct. The real question is whether it is alive today.

In the 1970s a supposed wolf carcass was delivered to Japanese scientific authorities for identification. It was simply never seen again, nor was there any pronouncement on what it was. Japanese scientists have looked at a number of wolf-like animals of the same size as the shamanu since then, but they have not overturned the diagnosis of extinction. Believers say that the Japanese scientists are afraid to interfere with orthodox beliefs and official history. The Japanese have a long cultural history of respecting official pronouncements made by authority figures, to the extent that overturning a fact that has been accepted for decades would be extremely unsettling, much more so than it would be to scientists from western cultures. Supposedly, this cultural taboo is a strong reason to actively destroy any evidence that might make a fool out of authority figures. Whether the shamanu survived into the 1970s or not is hard to prove because of this missing evidence. Now, scientists may be too late. Most modern sightings are confined to the Kii Peninsula and these sightings become less numerous all the time. If the shamanu is not already extinct, it is surely struggling and more likely to go extinct with every passing year.


The question of whether the shamanu still exists is vitally important. The disappearance of the Japanese wolf from most or all of its habitat has completely disrupted Japanese forest ecology. Deer and boar populations skyrocket, devastating all edible plant life. The tanuki (another species of wild dog) and fox cannot fill the role that the wolf once filled. The Japanese wolf is what is known as a keystone species, a top predator that is needed in order for the ecosystem to function. Therefore, there is talk of introducing mainland Asian wolves to Japan in order to correct this imbalance. However, this introduction would be a disaster if any shamanu are left, because it would ensure their extinction through crossbreeding or competition. If any native Japanese wolves are left, they need to be saved before we introduce another type of wolf.






Dobsegna is the name given by the mountain people of New Guinea to a mysterious creature that was once thought to be a species of canid, but is now considered by many to be a marsupial, possibly a thylacine. Reported sightings from remote areas such as Mt. Giluwe and the Jayawijaya Mountains (including the Baliem river valley), the Maoke Mountains region, and in Lorenz National Park in the Western Central Mountain Region of the Indonesian part of New Guinea all fit the description of a thylacine. As recently as 1997, sightings of animals matching the description of the thylacine, an extinct Australian marsupial were reported from the Jayawijaya region of Irian Jaya. Sightings were also reported by locals and missionaries near Mount Carstensz in Western New Guinea. The local people had apparently known about them for many years, but had never made an official report. In 2005, the German tourist Klaus Emmerichs, claimed to have taken a photo of a thylacine in Lake St. Clair National Park, but this photo has not been confirmed.

Several years ago, Ned Terry, a breeder from Tasmania, received a phone call from a friend who had become a missionary in Papua. The friend related that when he showed a photograph of a thylacine to the local inhabitants, he was told that the animal still lived around there in the Jaya Wijaya mountains in stone caves. His interest piqued by his friend's story, Ned and his cousin, Robin Terry, went to the Baliem Valley. When they showed the local people there a similar photograph, the inhabitants cried out in unison, "Dobsegna, dobsegna!" while pointing to the forested slopes of the mountains.


They explained that the creature only came out at night to hunt for prey. They said that it only ate fresh meat, a fact that, together with its extreme wariness, made it very difficult to lure out of hiding. Terry related that he was, indeed, unsuccessful in capturing or even seeing the creature. However, he was sure, based on the testimony of so many people, that the thylacine still survived in Papua.

The thylacine is a marsupial that roughly resembles a dog. It is also called the "Tasmanian wolf" and the "Tasmanian tiger." Like all marsupials, it carries its young in a pouch. The thylacine is known to have surived in Tasmania until about seventy years ago, on mainland Australia until about two thousand years ago, and in Indonesian New Guinea until several thousand years ago.

Modern sightings, so far unconfirmed, come from all three of these areas in surprising quantities. In Tasmania, these sightings have even been upheld by footprints that seem authentic, and thylacine tails in an advanced state of decomposition. In Indonesian New Guinea, sightings have been reported as recently as the 1990s.

In Tasmania, loggers are reportedly trying to thwart recognition of living thylacines by poisoning large areas whenever sightings are recorded, in an attempt to keep environmentalists from shutting down their logging operations. This allegation has convinced many people that it is best for thylacine witnesses to keep silent, if they want the thylacine to survive.



The Adjule is a cryptid often reported as being seen in the North African region, especially the areas in and around the Sahara Desert. The adjule is said to be a phantom which takes the form of a dog or wolf.

However, in spite of a still firm belief by many in its existence, which has been generated through modern urban myths, this cryptid has for the most part been considered to be debunked and its sightings attributed to wild canines mistaken for the adjule.



Descriptions of the animal seem more similar to that of a dog than a wolf, jackal or fox. The Touareg, an Arabic nomadic people, refer to the male of the species as Adjoule and the female as Tarhsit. The Adjule is probably the same animal known as Kelb-el-khela (dog of the savannah) in Mauritania. While many people continue to refer to the animal as a cryptid, in 1928 Professor Théodore André Monod, a naturalist and explorer who died in 2000, established quite clearly that the Adjule is really the same as the Cape Hunting Dog, also known as the African Wild Dog or licaone (Lycaon pictus), which apparently is not confined only to the savannah and the Mauretania grasslands, but also roams the South Sahara where the Tuarags know of it.



The Cape Hunting Dog (Lycaon pictus), while not a cryptid itself, is a rare wild dog that wanders the plains, grasslands and lowland forests of Africa and may occasionally be mistaken by those not familiar with it for an unknown species. It is a very social animal that lives in groups. These wild dogs can run over 30 mph (48 km per hour). The Cape Hunting Dog has short, spotted fur. It has large ears, sharp eyes, and a keen sense of smell. Adults weigh 45-80 pounds (20-36 kg) and are 30-38 inches (76-112 cm) long. They have a life span of about 11 years.


These wild dogs hunt in packs of 10 to 20 dogs, mostly males. Before the hunt, a pack will make excited sounds and lick each other's faces. These carnivores (meat-eaters) can run down and kill even large mammals, such as wildebeest and antelopes. They swallow meat in large chunks. When these wild dogs return to their group, they regurgitate food for young pups and dogs that were not in the hunt. They do not scavenge at all.

Cape Hunting Dogs are sometimes killed by lions and leopards, but man has exterminated many of them, calling them pests and bringing them to the brink of extinction.


The strangest of all cryptid canids is probably the 'horned jackal'. There has been a report of this animal from Sir Lanka, and South African tribal folklore (Xhosa tribe) also includes mention of such animal. Although the thought of a horned canid seems dubious, it is by no means impossible or even improbable for horns to appear in a species of canine. Most likely this coincidence is due to some sort of genetic mutation, similar to the ones that cause spontaneous horn growth in other species. However, without a good description, a specimen, or more sightings, it is unlikely they will ever come to anything.



An unspecific report of a wolf-like canid came from somewhere in Africa's Sahara desert in 1986. Possibly this report was just a mis-identification of a feral dog, African Wild Dog (Lycaon pictus) or jackal, or due to confusion with the Ethiopian wolf (Canis simensis). The Booa is a gigantic hyena-like creature found in Senegal's tribal lore. No description is available, but has been theorized as being a surviving population of prehistoric short-faced hyena, or a new variety of modern hyena. The Hungarian reedwolf was a coyote-sized (like a small wolf or large jackal) canid reported from Hungary and eastern Austria. Supposedly, there are specimens in museums, but it is thought to now be extinct. It is possible that this animal was just a dwarf variant of wolf, or a northern population of golden jackal (Canis aureus). In Borneo in 2005 a small, possibly new, species of fox was photographed by the World Wildlife Federation.


LONG-NOSED PECCARY (Mylohyus nasutus)

While not a canid itself, the long-nosed peccary—if still surviving—might be mistaken for some of the cryptid canids mentioned here. Up to three feet tall, this swift long-legged peccary lived in Illinois long before the Ice Age. Solitary, it ranged widely through woodlands as well as open areas, from the glaciers edge to the warm southlands.



Food consisted mainly of shrubs, but like modern feral pigs, probably also included small invertebrates along with nuts and roots. With few, if any, predators, Mylohyus was widely distributed through central and eastern North America and well down into Mexico. Peccarys differ from feral pigs in having incisors that point downward as well as having scent glands along their back. Mylohyus differed further in possessing excellent eyesight.



Daeodon (from Greek, daios hostile, destructive, odon "teeth") (formerly Dinohyus, "terrible hog"), one of the largest, if not the largest, entelodont artiodactyls, lived thousands of years ago in North America. The 3.6 m (12 ft) long, about 1.8 m at the shoulder, 90 cm long skulled, 600 - 1000 kg mass animal strongly resembled a giant, monstrous pig or warthog, possessing huge jaws with prominent tusks and flaring cheekbones. It possibly was a huge, bone-crushing scavenger and predator. It had long skull bones under its eyes and bony protrusions on the lower jaw, not dissimilar to the 'warts' of the warthog, which may have supported jaw muscles. The well-known genus Dinohyus ("terrible pig") has now been synonymized with Daeodon, as the latter is the earlier name, having priority.






Posted on July 20, 2012 at 12:05 AM Comments comments (0)

Rock Ape 1


Researched, Compiled, Illustrated and Edited

by R. Merrill



Special "Thanks" to Dave "Doc" Snider for the excellent photographs of Dong-Den and for providing what may be the only existing photograph of an actual "Rock Ape."

Cryptozoologist Loren Coleman has a very interesting post over on his Cryptomundo website. The post is about the "Rock Apes" of Vietnam. You can check out the post here.

Make sure and read all the comments at the bottom of the post as they are every bit as intriguing as the article.

That said, I had already heard of the so-called "Rock Apes" some years ago from a buddy of mine who served in country with 1st Marine Division, 1st Recon Battalion, Delta Company until he was wounded in action on June 21, 1969. While researching details of marine sevice during those years, I came across several references to the Rock Apes and their encounters with Marine detachments, some of which I am going to share here with the intention of adding more to the already existing anecdotal record of these unusual cryptids.



LETTERS; Vietnam Novels

Published: April 18, 2010

To the Editor:

The mountain about which Karl Marlantes writes in his novel Matterhorn (April 4) seems to be the ''Rockpile'' that overlooked the A Shau Valley and was a dominant summit for artillery fire in that portion of the western end of the DMZ in 1966 and '67. How do I know? I was the Marine who did all the daily sitrep (situation report) operational maps and overlays for the Fourth Marine Regiment at that time in the DMZ area.


The Rockpile became infamous when the native rock apes living in caves there attacked the Marines stationed at the top of the mountain. The Marines, of course, returned fire, and the following morning called in their daily ''body count.'' I included a count of the dead apes in the morning sitrep briefing. Hell—everything was against us—even the bloody apes!


Cheney, Wash.


May 8-14, 1968 Observation Post - Dong Den


The next days and nights blurred together, but we did have a hard downpour just before sunset which cooled things down a bit. At night we started hearing noises at the edges of the barbed wire. Could be rats, might be VC. "Poncho", a Mexican American corporal who was with me in the defensive bunker, decided to walk up to the communications bunker at the top of the hill.

Well, off he went and I visually followed him as far as I could see him, then I was alone, on top of a mountain in a foreign land. An eternity seemed to pass before I saw movement on the trail and recognized Poncho coming back. About 100 feet from the bunker, he stopped and bent over slightly, seeming to look at something. All of a sudden, his M-16 cracked off a small burst of fire and he ran like hell back to the bunker.

The Lieutenant was already calling on the radio, wanting to know "Who the HELL is shooting at WHAT down there?". Poncho was laughing so hard that I got on the radio and told the Lieutenant that it was me, I thought I had heard something outside the wire.

So, the Lieutenant chewed a piece of my ass out and then got off the radio. When Poncho got control of himself, he told me that he had been walking back to the bunker when he noticed a bush that hadn't been there before. He bent over to see it better and it SNORTED at him and he fired. What he had encountered was the ubiquitous Rock Ape of Vietnam. I would come to learn that they were nearly everywhere, and quite fearless. That is what we had heard near the wire that night.


To: John Swensson

Re: The Rock Apes

John Swensson:

I received an inquiry last week from some folks who were using the wonderful Pamela Sharp Research Portal at

I am looking for any information regarding a type of monkey or ape the troops called "Rock Apes" The Rock Apes were known for hurling stones or other debris including grenades back at troops. Are you familiar with any stories regarding these? Never having heard of these, I forwarded the inquiry to Mr. Mike Kelley in Sacto, great artist and writer who knows most everything.

His response was so interesting I decided to send it to you. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.

Thank You,



Date: Sat, 25 Nov 2000

We ran into them frequently and I have a friend whose Recon position on Dong Den was overrun one night by hundreds of them. They made a noise that sounded just like a dog barking. In fact, you'd swear it was a dog. One time on a ridge of Nui Mo Tau, about 15 km S of Hue, about eight of them came walking up a trail and surprised a squad of our platoon while it was stopped for lunch. All hell broke loose because they looked very much like NVA soldiers in khaki (same height, size and color) as they came around a bend in the trail about 10 meters from the unsuspecting GI's. I was with the other two squads of the platoon eating our lunch on the far side of a clearing about 50 meters wide that separated the two elements. The trails wound up the ridge and then through the clearing.

All of a sudden and without any warning, the lone squad opened up with every thing they had...M-16's, M-79's and hand grenades. I grabbed about 300 rounds of gun ammo and my M-60, then ran across the clearing with the platoon Sgt. (everyone else stayed home!) to the cover of a huge, toppled tree that was lying on the far side and close to the point of contact. The Sgt. and I looked at one another, nodded and then came up over the top ready to blast away but what we saw instead blew us away!

The firing had been non-stop and we fully expected to engage a sizeable enemy force, but instead, we found ourselves looking at our men, some seated, some standing, some kneeling, and firing at these ghostly images swooshing around in brush and trees (some off the ground by that point) in all directions. All except one was light brown to reddish brown in color, and about 3 1/2 four feet tall. One dark, almost black, male remained fighting to protect the others retreat and he was flying through the branches and rushing the men with his teeth bared. He was one very brave animal, I'll tell you that.


Then, as if someone had snapped their fingers, they all just seemed to disappear. Zip, the male turned and flashed into the trees and was out of site in a second.

This may sound very strange to you, but although I had no or little concern about killing the enemy, the killing of innocent animals turned my stomach and could enrage me if done without being a necessity. But I searched the site and but found not a drop of blood, which totally amazed me given the amount of firing that had gone on. I wonder to this day if the men were shooting just to scare the Rock Apes away or whether they were really just poor marksman!

The men who'd suffered the surprise looked a bit worse for wear, and I'm sure a few had to wash their shorts out as a result of the unwelcome visit. It really scared the crap out of them, I kid you not!

We, on the other hand, did suffer one casualty. A trooper had an eardrum blown out by the muzzle blast of the first shot fired because the trooper who first saw the apes just picked up his M-16 and fired without saying a word, and the muzzle was right next to this poor fellow's ear when he did.

Apart from that, I have all the same questions your student does and would love to hear just exactly what sort of apes they were?

M-60 Mike


Michael Kelley

D Co 1st/502d Infantry, 101st Airborne Div 69/70





Posted 01 June 2004

We were rolling along the great concrete ribbon of I-95 in south-central Virginia. The sites of the Civil War are all around. We had just stopped at the Stonewall Jackson Shrine, just a couple miles off the road. It is a tranquil place. The wood frame building was not the site of a battle. It had been the office outbuilding to a Great House, and it provided some peace and tranquility for 39-year-old General Jackson.

He had been shot by his own troops by mistake. His arm was amputated, and he had pneumonia, and this is where they brought him to die.

We contemplated the last moments, and climbed back in our rental car and got back on the big road north.

The conversation turned to the monkeys, the ones who would sortie boldly out of the jungle in Subic Bay and steal your golf ball after a particularly good drive. This behavior was legendary and infurating, and despite the best efforts of the Navy Exchange Golf Course, the monkey's were never defeated.

The Americans are gone from the Philippines, and the monkeys remain. Now they are stealing the golf balls of tourists, since they have converted the old navy base to a tourist destination.

Steve Canyon was at the wheel. I was shotgun, and the Corporate Vice President was in the back. Steve Canyon said he had never seen monkeys like the Rock Apes in Vietnam. I'd never heard of them, but the Vice President had.

They used to conduct periodic attacks on troops in Laos and Cambodia. And that was the beginning of the tale of the Rock Apes, the Strange Jungle People. "Rock Ape"' is the common name of a tail-less monkey known as the Barbary Macaques, found wild in Morocco and Algeria. It is not the same creature known to have pelted and surprised troops in Southest Asia.


Steve Canyon said they were light brown to reddish brown in color, and about half the height of an American. They sat on their haunches and were active at night, though some reports indicate they trooped in the day as well, and were sometimes mistaken for patrols of North Vietnamese Regulars. They were normally light red in color, though "In the dark," said Steve Canyon, "they were gray."

There was evidence of them everywhere. Sometimes excrement would be found on a bunker roof in the morning, mysterious commentary in the night.

In 1968, Mike Company of the 3rd Battalion of the 5th Marines, were in the jungle in the area of Monkey Mountain, just outside of Da Nang. Marines reported that when they were in the mountains, apes would get above them and throw rocks at them, ambushing the ambush teams.

In 1969, Delta Company, First of the 502nd infantry, 101st Airborne Division, was on Nui Mo Tau Ridge, about ten miles south of Hue City. They were eating lunch when about eight apes came walking up a trail and surprised them. They looked very much like NVA soldiers in khaki uniforms as they came around a bend in the trail about 10 meters from the unsuspecting GI's.

Imagine the bizarre scene of about 8 GI's firing madly at seven or eight apes. The alpha male Rock Ape was very dark in color; almost black while the rest were light brown. He was in the trees and repeatedly rushed the GIs and then retreated. He did this several times, apparently covering the retreat of the troop.

The shooting all stopped at the same instant, and we just stood there in shock for a while. Apparently the fire continued after they realized what had arrived, not to harm the animals but to scare them away.

Hill 868 is one of the names of the Rock ape habitat in Quang Nam Province, in what was the I Corps region of responsibility. The Vietnamese have a name for it, of course, and the Marines had a name for it. Since the elevation was 2,847 feet above sea level, or 868 meters, that is what it was called.

Presumably the Rock apes called it something, too.

It is a major strategic feature about twelve statute miles to the west-northwest of the air base at Da Nang, established during the American War. The vantage overlooks Elephant Valley to the North and Red Beach and the air base to the east and southeast.

The Third Marines created the Divisional Outpost/Landing Zone and Radio Relay site by blowing the top off of Dong Den Mountain. The site was initially manned by elements of the 3d Recon Bn, a radio relay team and a naval gunfire forward observation team.



In early 1966 it was the site of the infamous "Battle of Dong Den," when elements of Alpha Company were overrun by several hundred Rock Apes.

Maybe the apes resented what had been done to flatten the top of the hill. Maybe they objected to the human presence in their habitat. In any event, the battle of Hill 868 became legendary in the annals of combat.

The Marines on the Hill called the Captain and told him they had movement in the foliage, a possible large formation of Viet Cong.

The Captain said "stay in place." The fire-base would back them up with, artillery if necessary.

The radio crackled back: "Never mind we have a large number of rock apes all around us."

The Captain reiterated the order to not reveal their position by discharging weapons.

Hill 868: "These rock apes are getting close."

"How close?"

"If he gets the handset he can tell you himself."

"Well, throw rocks at them to chase them away."

Not a good strategy. The Apes have a mean fast-ball.

The Marines on Hill 868 called back: "Shit!! They are throwing back and they throw harder than we do! Request permission to open fire."

There was a loud thump, perhaps that of a sizeable rock impacting the radioman and a scream mixed with curses, growls and various descriptive adjectives in the background.

The Captain: 'No shooting!! Don't give away your position!"

Hill 868: "Were fixing bayonets…"

Then the radio crackled with the screams of pain and anger from Marines and apes alike.

Hill 868: "Were goin' hand-to-hand!"

Before the Captain could respond, he heard the hill explode with a full-fledged fire fight, one sided, the sounds all of American weapons.

The Captain couldn't get any response from the Hill on the radio, and dispatched a squad to reconnoiter the situation. When they got to Hill 868 they found Marines and rock apes strewn all over.

They called the Captain and told him the rock apes were mostly dead, the Marines were mostly pissed, the rest were unconscious. The encounter left four serious med-evacs, none of them apes.

In 1970, Steve Canyon had his personal encounter with the apes. He been out one night to test a new flash and noise suppresser for his unit's AK-47 automatic rifles. The claim was that the noise and muzzle flash were deflected completely, and the people you were ambushing could not determine the axis of the attack.

Why Steve Canyon's unit was carrying AK-47s and not M-16s is another story. But they had need for the capability and they enlisted the support of some Recon Marines to go out in the darkness near Monkey Mountain and see if it worked.

The Marines took their position, and Steve Canyon and a buddy set up a simulated ambush position. Then they noticed they were not alone. Gazing at them was a Rock Ape, grave and not at all afraid. The Ape began to cry a strange guttural sound like the bark of a dog.

The noise would give away their location and ruin the experiment. Steve Canyon's buddy picked up a rock, "No! Don't do it! They throw back!" His buddy ignored him and threw it anyway.

The rock glanced off the Ape, who promptly found one of his own, and threw it back with a curious motion of the wrist on the follow-through. Steve Canyon said it was funny. The Rock Apes throw like girls, only with velocity.

"They'd make great fast-pitch softball players," said the VP in the back. He has a daughter who plays the sport, and I could see he was thinking about applications for the resource.

"Yeah, so all of a sudden there isn't one Ape, there is about twenty of them, all barking and throwing stones at us."

"Why didn't you shoot them?" I asked. Steve looked out the windshield. "I dunno. Didn't seem right. But those Apes started to come at us and we ran as fast as we could and we didn't stop until we were out of the jungle."

The Vice President grunted. "Tough friggin' monkeys."

It is said that withdrawal of American forces over the next two years did not end the matter. The Rock Apes continued to hold their ground.

In 1974, the apes caused so much trouble for the North Vietnamese that a major expedition was sent to Tay Nguyen, in the area they had liberated in Kon Tum Province. There are no reports of success or victory.

As Steve Canyon says, "You don't want to get into it with the Rock Apes. They can throw heat."

Copyright 2004 Vic Socotra


So what exactly are (or were) the Rock Apes? Were they just a common species of tropical ape, such as a species of Macaque, well-known to the indigenous population, and only unique to the non-native U.S. Marines? Were they a heretofore unknown species of ape, different from anything previously known to science. I have been unable to locate any recent reports on these creatures, which raises the possibility that they have either retreated even deeper into the jungle to avoid men and their killing ways, or perhaps they were finally driven to extinction by their encounters with heavily armed humans encroaching on their territory. Until someone actually mounts an expedition with the purpose of determining the status of these creatures, we may well never know.

In the meantime, here's the only known photo of a Rock Ape...admittedly dead and photographed from a dorsal position, but a Rock Ape nonetheless. See what you think!



Regarding the above photograph, I recently contacted Dave "Doc" Snider to ask him some specific questions about the ape he's shown holding. Here are my questions, followed by his answers:

Posted July 19-20, 2012

Randy Merrill: OK, I found several accounts of the "Infamous Battle of Dong Den" as well as several other minor encounters. Then I found a pic I think I saw before of you holding up a dead ape. Can you verify for me that it's authentic and that what you're holding is really one of the so-called "Rock Apes"? If so, is that its tail you've got it by? There was some speculation among my fellow cryptos that they were tailless. Thanks Dave!

Dave Doc Snider: Hi Randy, this is the animal that we all referred to as a rock ape. It stood about 4' tall and was outside the wire on Dong Den down in a tree line. I hit it in the forehead with a M-79 round. It might have been another animal whose name... we did not know. I have also googled rock ape and it appears that there is a conspiracy to make it a distant cousin of 'Bigfoot'. hehehhehe We were on a patrol in Antennae Valley and was awakened early in the morning at first light by a terrific racket coming through the trees. Everyone was grabbing their rifles and and fighting belts ready to fight off the battalion of NVA when we discovered it was just a tribe of rockapes swinging through the trees passing us by...................and we didn't have any time to dig rabbit holes.

Randy Merrill: Dave, can I quote you in my most recent post about the Rock Apes? Also, some folks I showed your photo to think that white thing your holding it by is a tail; I think it's some sort of cloth or something. Can you clarify which? It would make a big difference in identifying the species. Thanks again, my friend!

Dave Doc Snider: Randy, anything I say here, please feel free to use. I am holding the tail of the animal. The upper body was brown with a hint of redness. The ass cheeks and tail were white, the outer cheeks and hips were black all the way down to the feet. The forearms were white with black hands. It is hard to determine the facial features, they were messed up by the round.................

Randy Merrill: Excellent description Dave! And thanks for giving me permission to post your comments!

Randy Merrill: Oh, and by the way, are you saying you hit him between the eyes with a grenade launcher??

Dave Doc Snider: Yes, hit him on top of the head, took off the head. In some of the pictures I am seen holding my 16, but have a distinct memory of using the 79. My buddy in California also remembers the 79..............44 years is a long time.


UPDATE: JULY 20, 2012 



The Tonkin Snub-nosed Monkey or Dollman's Snub-nosed Monkey (Rhinopithecus avunculus) is a species of colobine endemic to northwestern Vietnam.


Sightings of the Tonkin snub-nosed monkey have become increasingly rare. The primate was thought to be extinct until the 1990s when a small population was discovered in Na Hang District in Tuyen Quang Province of Vietnam. Heavy poaching for food as well as the wildlife blackmarket and the destruction of habitat are the main reasons why the Tonkin snub-nosed monkey is considered to be one of "The World's 25 Most Endangered Primates."

By 2008, when a small population with three infants was discovered in a remote forest, fewer than 250 of the primates were thought to exist.

Snub-nosed monkeys are a group of Old World monkeys and make up the entirety of the genus Rhinopithecus. The genus occurs rarely and needs much more research. Some taxonomists group snub-nosed monkeys together with the Pygathrix genus.

Snub-nosed monkeys live in Asia, with a range covering southern China (especially Tibet, Sichuan, Yunnan, and Guizhou) as well as the northern parts of Vietnam and Myanmar.

Snub-nosed monkeys inhabit mountain forests up to a height of 4000 m (13,123 ft), in the winter moving into the deeply secluded regions. They spend the majority of their life in the trees. They live together in very large groups of up to 600 members, splitting up into smaller groups in times of food-scarcity, such as in the winter. Groups consist of many more males than females. They have territorial instincts, defending their territory mostly with shouts. They have a large vocal repertoire, calling sometimes solo while at other times together in choir-like fashion.

The diet of these animals consists mainly of tree needles, bamboo buds, fruits and leaves. A multi-chambered stomach helps them with digesting their food.

The impulse for mating starts with the female. She takes up eye contact with the male and runs away a short bit, then flashes her genitals. If the male shows interest (which does not always occur), he joins the female and they mate. The 200-day gestation period ends with a single birth in late spring or early summer. Young animals become fully mature in about 6 to 7 years. Zoologists know little about their lifespan.

Description – Tonkin Snub-nosed Monkey

The Tonkin snub-nosed monkey is one of the most endangered primates in the world, and indeed was presumed extinct for a time before its rediscovery in 1989. Vietnam’s largest primate species, it is an unusual and distinctive monkey, They grow to a length of 51 to 83 cm (20-32 in) with a tail of 55 to 97 cm (22-38 in). These monkeys get their name from their flat, upturned nose on a broad, flattened face. They have tufted ears, pale blue rings around the eyes, and thick, pink lips, giving an almost comical appearance. The back, outsides of the limbs and hands and feet are black, although the fur between the shoulders may be more brownish, while the underparts, inner sides of the limbs and the elbows are creamy white. The forehead and cheeks are also creamy, with bluish-black colouration around the mouth, and there is an orange throat patch, which is most prominent in adult males. The long tail is blackish-brown, with whitish tips to the hairs, and a white tuft at the tip.

Infant Tonkin snub-nosed monkeys have grey rather than black fur, becoming darker with age, and lack the orange throat patch and the long, whitish hairs of the tail. Compared to other Rhinopithecus species, the Tonkin snub-nosed monkey is more slender, with more elongated digits, and shows a lesser degree of sexual dimorphism. The calls of this species include a loud, distinct, hiccough-like ‘huu chhhk’, given when alarmed or as a contact call, as well as a softer ‘huu chhhk’, a soft ‘hoo’, and a rapid ‘chit’.

Range – Tonkin Snub-nosed Monkey

The Tonkin snub-nosed monkey is the only Rhinopithecus species found outside of China, being endemic to northern Vietnam. Historically, it occurred east of the Red River, but its range has been drastically reduced in recent decades, and it is now known only from small areas of Tuyen Quang, Bac Kan, Ha Giang and Thai Nguyen Provinces.

Habitat – Tonkin Snub-nosed Monkey

The Tonkin snub-nosed monkey inhabits subtropical evergreen forest associated with karst limestone hills and mountains, at elevations of between 200 and 1,200 metres (656 and 3,937 feet). The species is largely restricted to primary forest.

Biology – Tonkin Snub-nosed Monkey

The Tonkin snub-nosed monkey is active during the day, moving through the forest canopy by walking on all fours, climbing, leaping, or even hanging suspended from the branches, although some activity may also take place on the ground. The diet consists of a range of leaves, fruits, flowers and seeds.

Threats – Tonkin Snub-nosed Monkey

Massive deforestation and intensive hunting have drastically reduced the range of the Tonkin snub-nosed monkey, and the species is now known from just five isolated locations. The total population may number only around 200 to 250 individuals, and is fragmented into small subpopulations, which are unable to interbreed. As with many of Vietnam’s primates, hunting is the most immediate threat to this species. Although described as bad-tasting, and not the main target of hunting trips, the Tonkin snub-nosed monkey is still commonly shot when encountered, and is either consumed or used in traditional medicine. Groups often do not flee from hunters, making the species particularly vulnerable to being shot.

Habitat destruction, degradation and fragmentation are also major threats, with widespread deforestation occurring as a result of cultivation, development, road construction, legal and illegal logging, gold mining, and the commercial collection of non-timber forest products. More recently, the development of a hydroelectric project on the Gam River in Na Hang has caused an influx of construction workers, leading to an increased demand for meat and resources, as well as resulting in the loss of forest habitat to construction, access roads and flooding. Although the Tonkin snub-nosed monkey and its habitat are legally protected, hunting and habitat loss have unfortunately continued throughout its range, even within protected areas.

Conservation – Tonkin Snub-nosed Monkey

International trade in the Tonkin snub-nosed monkey is prohibited under its listing on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. The Tonkin snub-nosed monkey is also protected by law in Vietnam, making it illegal to kill, capture or trade in the species, and is listed as Critically Endangered on the Red Data Book of Vietnam. The Tonkin snub-nosed monkey occurs in at least two protected areas, Na Hang and Cham Chu Nature Reserves, and may also occur in others, although populations in these areas are still under threat and continuing to decline, despite conservation efforts. A population occurring in Khau Ca, an isolated forest within the buffer zone of the Du Gia Nature Reserve, will likely benefit from the creation of a Species and Habitat Conservation Area, while a range of conservation activities have been put in place by Fauna & Flora International for a newly discovered population in Quan Ba District, near the border with China.

A Conservation Action Plan is in place for the Tonkin snub-nosed monkey, and conservation measures for the species include further surveys and research, raising local awareness, establishing patrol groups, stricter law enforcement, imposing gun controls, expanding protected areas, habitat restoration, and potentially considering a captive breeding program. Although these measures give some hope for the species, the ongoing threats of hunting and habitat loss, together with its already tiny, fragmented population and range, mean the future of this unusual and highly endangered primate still hangs in the balance.

Find out more – Tonkin Snub-nosed Monkey

To find out more about the Tonkin snub-nosed monkey and other endangered primates, see:

Mittermeier, R.A. et al. (2009) Primates in Peril: The World’s 25 Most Endangered Primates 2008-2010. IUCN/SSC Primate Specialist Group, International Primatological Society, and Conservation International, Arlington, VA. Available at:

Fauna & Flora International - Tonkin snub-nosed monkey:

IUCN/SSC Primate Specialist Group:


This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact: http://[email protected]


Myers, P., R. Espinosa, C. S. Parr, T. Jones, G. S. Hammond, and T. A. Dewey. 2012. The Animal Diversity Web (online). Accessed at



There is no question in my mind that the Tonkin Snub-nosed Monkey or Dollman's Snub-nosed Monkey (Rhinopithecus avunculus) was the species known as the "rock ape" to the marines of 3rd Recon stationed on Hill 488. However, other reports by troops spending more time in the forested areas of Vietnam described creatures with reddish-brown hair, standing 4-5 ft tall and tailless, traveling in groups, and spending more time walking upright on the ground rather than swinging through the trees...a decidedly different description from that of the Tonkin Snub-nosed Monkey. This leads me to believe that a second species of ape was involved, which may or may not be extinct today as a result of a combination of circumstances, including the invasion and destruction of their habitat (especially deliberate defoliation) during the Vietnam War, and subsequent incursions by man to claim forested areas for farming, etc.. This second species may be similar to, or even identical to, the cryptid known as Orang Pendek (see: ), one of the most intensely studied cryptids as well as one of those considered most likely to have its existence officially confirmed in the very near future.

The Cryptozoologist




Posted on July 18, 2012 at 9:45 PM Comments comments (0)



"Scientists who utterly reject Evolution may be one of our fastest-growing controversial minorities… Many of the scientists supporting this position hold impressive credentials in science." ~ Larry Hatfield, Science Digest

There is no unique human species called Homo scientificus. Scientists are not separate from the rest of humanity. Scientists are not a class of superior beings with super-human abilities to know the ancient past; they are just people. None is all-knowing.

Being people, scientists do not always objectively seek truth, wherever it might lead. All people hold biases toward particular viewpoints. 1 Because scientists are human (subject to self-deception, pride, self-interest, etc.), there are those in both camps (Evolutionist and Creationist) who do not always practice good science. No person or institution is infallible or above all question.

Each person's particular set of biases is a result of personal life experiences, relationships, parents, schools, peers, teachers, personal practices, and the pressures of life. It is difficult for any person to deal objectively with evidence potentially destructive to one's own cherished beliefs or pride 2 - or detrimental to perceived personal security, in whatever form.

Science writer and Evolutionist Roger Lewin:

"Scientists, contrary to the myth that they themselves publicly promulgate, are emotional human beings who carry a generous dose of subjectivity with them into the supposedly 'objective search for The Truth'. …The anonymous aphorism, 'I wouldn't have seen it if I hadn't believed it' is a continuing truth in science. And of course, it cuts two ways: you often see what you expect to see and not what you don't." 2


(For further information on the fallibility of scientists, see endnote 3.)

Despite the impression science textbooks give, brilliant new ideas are not always welcomed or even given fair consideration. Politics intervene as often as logic. Scientists are humans first, scientists second.

In one way or another, bias and presuppositions 4 affect every scientist's theories, priorities, research, methods, decisions and interpretations. Whether it be molecules, test results or rocks, evidence cannot evaluate, prioritize, or interpret itself. Humans suggest meanings for evidence - interpreting it, based on their beliefs, and building theories upon it.

The fossil of any ancient extinct animal can be used as an example. A fossil is a material fact having dimensions, texture, weight and shape. However, that is all it is, just a particular hard object with shape. It comes with no label detailing its true significance and meaning. There are no attached photographs of the living animal showing its actual appearance, color, habits, environment or ancestors. 5

Detailed illustrations and colorful descriptions of long-extinct animals and their origins which are based merely on fossils are not ultimate truth. They are only the fallible, biased interpretations of human beings working with limited knowledge and no direct experience with the living animal.

The rocks and the fossils are facts. But labels such as “Cambrian,” “Cretaceous,” and the like are interpretations. There are no “time machines” to transport scientists into the past. Thus, in many ways, science is very limited in what it can know with certainty about the ancient past. In all descriptions of origins, one must be very careful to discern between fact and fiction and between reality and philosophical belief. 6

Can both Evolutionists and Creationists be classified as true scientists? The answer is certainly “yes.” Many of our world's greatest scientists have been Creationists. [For more information, go to: ]

See a partial list of Creation/Young Earth/Intelligent Design scientists with earned doctorates in science, go here:




Biologist, geneticist and Creationist John Klotz, Ph.D.:

"It might also be pointed out that scientists are not quite as objective as they say they are. It is simply not possible for the scientist to detach himself completely from the theories and hypotheses which he espouses. This is particularly true when they are different or new. He finds considerable pride of authorship and an intense personal loyalty to ideas which he has developed. For this reason there is a great deal of subjectivity in science."


[John W. Klotz, "Assumptions in Science and Paleontology," in Paul A. Zimmerman, editor, Rock Strata and the Bible Record (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1970), pp. 24-39 (quote from p. 25, emphasis added).]




Roger Lewin, Bones of Contention (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1987, p. 18-19 (emphasis added).




Russell T. Arndts, "The Logic of Evolutionary Reasoning," Contrast: The Creation Evolution Controversy, Vol. 8, No. 2 (2911 E. 42nd St., Minneapolis, Minnesota 55406: March-April 1989), pp. 1-2, 4 (discusses assumptions and human bias involved in the Evolutionary theory).


"If you want to impress people with how good your science is, if you want to get tenure in a modern university, if you want to get a research grant, you can't afford to come and say, 'Well I think this MIGHT be the case BUT there are all sorts of indications here that it MIGHT NOT be the case and it's all sort of confused.' People always tend in science, as elsewhere, to sharpen up and clean up a story… Of course, it's not a fraud, it is part of the general atmosphere in which you're not actually saying to people, tell the truth, tell the whole truth and let it all out." [Leon Kamin of Northeastern University, in "Do Scientists Cheat?", NOVA, Television program #1517 (125 Western Avenue, Boston, Mass. 02134: WGBH Transcripts, Broadcast October 25, 1988), p. 14.]


"It doesn't take much to take a little bit of the data, change it the way you want it to look and then publish it—and it's impossible to detect that." [Dr. Bruce Dan, Senior Editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association, in "Do Scientists Cheat?", NOVA, Television program #1517 (125 Western Avenue, Boston, Mass. 02134: WGBH Transcripts, Broadcast October 25, 1988), p. 1.]


"The 1980s have witnessed a flurry of scientific fraud and misconduct cases including a number of cases as yet unresolved." [Narrator, "Do Scientists Cheat?", NOVA, Television program #1517 (125 Western Avenue, Boston, Mass. 02134: WGBH Transcripts, Broadcast October 25, 1988), p. 1.]


"After the initial inquiry by this committee into this subject [scientific fraud and misconduct in connection with scientific research], the committee has had growing reason to believe that we are only seeing the tip of a very unfortunate, dangerous, and important iceberg." [John Dingell, Chairman of Congressional House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, in "Do Scientists Cheat?", NOVA, Television program #1517 (125 Western Avenue, Boston, Mass. 02134: WGBH Transcripts, Broadcast October 25, 1988), p. 2.]


"Yet one recent study has alleged science's quality control mechanisms can't even be counted on to catch simple sloppiness, let alone a clever fraud." [Narrator, "Do Scientists Cheat?", NOVA, Television program #1517 (125 Western Avenue, Boston, Mass. 02134: WGBH Transcripts, Broadcast October 25, 1988), p. 10 of transcript.]


Timothy M. Beardsley, "Truth or Consequences?: How Should Institutions Handle Charges of Fraud?", Scientific American, Vol. 259, No. 2 (August 1988), p. 24.


Kenneth A. Ham and Paul S. Taylor, The Genesis Solution (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 1988), pp. 10-22.


Michael J. Mahoney, "Self-Deception in Science," paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (Philadelphia: May 28, 1986), also published in Origins Research, Vol. 11, No. 1 (Colorado Springs, Colorado: Students for Origins Research, Spring 1988), pp. 1-2, 6-7, 10.


Roger Lewin, Bones of Contention: Controversies in the Search for Human Origins (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1987), 348 pp. (challenges the notion that science is synonymous with cool, objective reasoning / documents the personal side of great controversies in paleoanthropology).


Daniel Goleman, Vital Lies, Simple Truths: The Psychology of Self-Deception (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1985).


Jerry Bergman, The Criterion: Religious Discrimination in America (6245 South Newton Avenue, Richfield, Minnesota 55423: Onesimus Publishing, 1984), 80 pp. (discusses evidence of widespread job discrimination against scientists who seriously question Evolution / reviews evidence of lack of academic freedom).


D. Faust, The Limits of Scientific Judgment (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984).


Wolfgang Smith, Cosmos & Transcendence: Breaking Through the Barrier of Scientistic Belief (P.O. Box 424, Rockford, Illinois 61105: Tan Books and Publishers, Inc., 1984), 168 pp. ("Presents an insider's critique of the scientific world-view based upon the sharp but oft-overlooked distinction between scientific truth and scientistic faith… demonstrates that major tenets promulgated in the name of Science are not in fact scientific truths but rather scientistic speculations - for which there is no evidence at all.").


William Broad and Nicholas Wade, Betrayers of the Truth: Fraud and Deceit in the Halls of Science (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1982), 256 pp. (shows that science is often much more than a dispassionate quest for truth / examines the kinds of pressures that can lead scientists to stray / documents cases of scientific fraud / challenges the conventional view of science).


J.V. Bradley, "Overconfidence in Ignorant Experts," Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society, Vol. 17 (1981), pp. 82-84.


Karin D. Knorr-Detina, The Manufacture of Knowledge: An Essay on the Constructivist and Contextual Nature of Science (New York: Pergamon Press, 1981).


Randy L. Wysong, "Can Laymen Question?" and “Methodology,” in Randy L. Wysong, The Creation-Evolution Controversy (Midland, Michigan: Inquiry Press, 1976), pp. 17-54.


Stephen I. Abramowitz, Beverly Gomes, Christine V. Abramowitz, "Publish or Politic: Referee Bias in Manuscript Review," Journal of Applied Social Psychology, Vol. 5, No. 3 (July-September 1975), pp. 187-200.


Ian I. Mitroff, The Subjective Side of Science (New York: American Elsevier Publishing Co., 1974).





Robert A. Nisbet, "A Presuppositional Approach to the Four View Model of Biological Origins," Origins Research, Vol. 11, No. 2 (Fall-Winter 1988), pp. 1, 14-16 (discusses some of the presuppositions and assumptions of scientists who believe in either Evolutionism, theistic Evolutionism, or Creationism).





In admonishment to fellow paleontologists, Evolutionist Dr. Martin, Senior Research Fellow, Zoological Society of London:


"So even the fossil evidence on which theories depend is open to subjective interpretation."

[Robert Martin, "Man Is Not an Onion," New Scientist, Vol. 75, No. 1063 pp. 283-285 (quote from p. 285 - emphasis added).]




Biologist and Creationist John Klotz, Ph.D.:

“It is clear that much of the structure of modern Evolutionary paleontology rests upon assumptions which are by their very nature not capable of verification… There is no disagreement with many of the observations of paleontology, but there may be disagreement with the interpretations which are placed on these observations.”


[John W. Klotz in Paul A. Zimmerman, editor, Rock Strata and the Bible Record (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1970), p. 39 (emphasis added).]


Author: Paul S. Taylor, Eden Communications. Adapted from The Illustrated ORIGINS Answer Book.

































Posted on July 15, 2012 at 11:10 PM Comments comments (0)


Originally Posted on December 23, 2007; Revised July 15, 2012


Researched, Compiled, Edited and Illustrated

By R. Merrill


In the spring of 1673, a small group of explorers left the Mission of St. Ignace in what is now northern Michigan. this seven-member expedition set out from the Mission in two canoes and paddled west through the chill waters of the Straits of Mackinac. The explorers left despite warnings from the Indians of many dangers that lay ahead. Among those perils was a monster that devoured all who came near it.


The governor of the French colonies in Canada, Louis de Buade, had authorized the expedition to search for a passage to the Pacific Ocean. And he had appointed a Canadian-born fur trader, Louis Joliet, and a French missionary, Father Jacques Marquette, to lead the endeavor.

It was the 17th of May when the explorers set out from the Mission and began their voyage across the upper end of Lake Michigan. They traveled westward some hundred miles and then turned southwest into Green Bay. The expedition continued in a southwesterly direction, passed through a succession of waterways in present-day Wisconsin, and reached the Mississippi River on June 17. At that point, the travelers turned south and followed the Mississippi downstream.

The explorers had expected to see new lands, people, and animals during their journey and, each day, they realized one or more of those expectations. They could not, however, have anticipated the startling phenomenon they encountered some 15 miles downstream from the confluence of the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers. There, high on the limestone bluff above the east bank of the Mississippi, the travelers saw hideous monsters painted in red, yellow, green, and black. A record of the trip kept by Father Marquette described them:

They are as large as a calf, with head and horns like a deer or goat; their eyes red; beard like a tiger's; and a face somewhat like a man's. Their bodies are covered with scales. Their tails are so long that they pass over their heads and between their forelegs, under their belly, and ending like a fish's tail.


The explorers paused to look at the strange pictures and, as they did, some may have remembered the warnings from the Indians at the Mission of St. Ignace and wondered if the fierce creature that inspired the pictures was about to appear. Fortunately, no monster appeared, and the travelers went on their way. Some time later, however, it was learned that a creature similar to the paintings may have lived in the area.

This creature, according to legend, was a large, flesh-eating animal. The Indians called it "Piasa" pronounced (pie-a-saw), which meant "the bird that eats men." The Piasa Bird lived in a cave in the bluff above the river. Whenever someone came too close to the bluff, it flew down and carried off its victim.

One day, an Indian chief named Quatonga prayed to the Great Manitou for help. In answer, he was told that only his tribe could defeat the monster. Quatonga concealed 20 of his warriors near the entrance to the Piasa Bird's cave. Then he stood in front of the opening to draw the creature from its lair. The Piasa Bird saw Quatonga and swooped down upon him. However, before the monster could reach the brave chief, his warriors killed it with poison arrows. The paintings on the bluff were then made to commemorate the victory.

A drawing of these paintings was made by a member of the expedition of 1673. However, the drawing disappeared later and may have been lost when one of the canoes capsized. The oldest known picture of the Piasa Bird appears in The Illustrated Mississippi Valley, Henry Lewis, Dusseldorf, 1854. This likeness depicts the paintings from a distance and, therefore, lacks detail. In addition, it does not seem to exhibit the fierce characteristics mentioned in Father Marquette's description and looks somewhat benign.


The original paintings on the bluff were destroyed during quarrying operations in the second half of the 19th century. Perhaps the 1854 depiction was made after parts of the pictures were already gone and, therefore, had to be reconstructed to some extent from the memories of those who had seen them in their original forms. In 1934, the central figure in the paintings was restored on a bluff above the Mississippi near the site of the original display. This representation of Piasa incorporated many of the features described by Father Marquette.


Eventually, the 1934 restoration deteriorated and was replaced by an 8,500 lb. metal plate. This, in turn, was removed in 1995. According to the Visitor's Center in Alton, Illinois, a new portrayal of the Piasa Bird was made in 1998 on a bluff near the location of the previous one.



What did Father Marquette's written record of Piasa really represent? Was it the description of a real monster, or of a fictitious animal created to frighten outsiders and keep them from moving into the area? Unless someone uncovers new knowledge, these questions are also unlikely to remain unanswered. History records that the expedition of 1873 did not find a passage to the Pacific. Even so, it did discover the Piasa creature —a mystery that remains to this day.

[Directions: The current depiction of the Piasa creature can be reached via the Great River Road in southwest Illinois and is a short distance northwest of the city of Alton. For more information, stop at the Alton Visitors Center at 200 Piasa Street, Alton, Illinois 62002, or call 1-800-258-6645, or 1-618- 465-6676.]

Similar in description to the Phoenix of the prehistoric southwest, Anka of Arabia, Demaj of Persia, Imgig of Mesopotamia, and Marco Polo's Rukh, the Piasa has its counterpart in almost every corner of the globe both in prehistoric legend and early history. The American Indian version has been described as a monstrously huge bird with a wingspan measuring over fifty feet, able to carry off antelope and humans with equal ease in its enormous talons .


Various interpretations of the paintings have been offered since the expedition of 1673. One of them suggests the mysterious images can be explained by a legend about a large, bird-like creature called Piasa (pronounced PIE-a-saw). According to the legend, Piasa lived in a cave in the cliff above the Mississippi. Whenever it hungered, it swooped down, attacked, and devoured its prey. Some of its victims were human. Eventually, inhabitants of the area destroyed the monster and painted its likeness on the cliff to commemorate their victory.

Although this legend is thought-provoking, by itself it is only scant evidence that the Piasa creature was real. A more convincing argument for its existence could be made if there were additional accounts of this kind of animal. If Piasa did exist, there should also be stories about its ancestors and, perhaps, of its contemporaries and descendants.

Within the category of bizarre creatures, there are a number of accounts of animals that were similar to Piasa. These animals, which were reptilian in nature, seem to have lived throughout the world from remote antiquity to the present time.

Some of the oldest accounts of Piasa-like creatures come from Europe and Asia. One of them is found in Greek mythology and tells of a battle between Hercules and a monstrous reptile called Hydra. The ancient Greeks named this kind of animal derkein, which became "dragon" in the English language.


Chinese mythology is loaded with references to dragons, which are still revered even today by the Chinese as the wisest and strongest of creatures. An interesting description of a Chinese dragon can be found in the Pan Tsao Kang Mu, a collection of ancient Chinese writings about medicinal substances:

It has a head like a camel, horns like a deer, ears like a bull, eyes like a devil, scales like a carp, claws like an eagle, and it has whiskers on each side of its mouth.


A comparison of this description with the description of the Piasa paintings points to some remarkable similarities between the two.

Dragons similar to Piasa also appear in the 5th century A.D. legend of Siegfried and the 8th century A.D. Anglo-Saxon epic poem of Beowulf. Other Piasa-like reptiles were reported in 1349 and 1725. The former described an encounter between a knight named Gozione and a dragon on the Mediterranean Island of Rhodes. This animal was the size of an ox with ears like a mule, eyes sparkling as though flashing fire, sharp teeth, claws, a body covered with scales, and a tail like a crocodile. It also had two wings, which were blue on top but blood-colored and yellow below.


A report in 1725 related an event which occurred some 14 miles from Jerusalem. On November 15th of that year, a dragon was destroyed after it had killed and eaten several cattle and men. The dragon was as large as a horse with horns like a bull, head like a lion, and beak like an eagle. It also had teeth, a body covered with scales, wings, and a tail 4-1/2 feet long.


Reports of reptilian creatures resembling Piasa started to change somewhat after the 1700s. Developments in science began to encourage objective observation and introduced new terms to describe what was seen. Descriptions of natural phenomena were no longer as dependent upon traditional terminology or stylized verbiage or as subject to personal embellishment as they had been. And words, such as "dragon", were replaced by scientific names.

A more scientific approach appears to have been used to describe a Piasa-like creature seen during the winter of 1856 in northeastern France. There, in a partly completed railway tunnel, workmen watched in amazement as a bizarre animal appeared to emerge from a large limestone boulder they had just split open. The creature stumbled toward them on four leg-like limbs, made a croaking sound, fluttered its wings, and died at their feet. The animal had sharp teeth, long talons, and a wingspan of more than ten feet. In an earlier age, this creature might have been called a dragon. In 1856, however, a student of paleontology identified it as a large, winged reptile known as a pterodactyl.


Regardless of whether this animal actually came out of the boulder or had simply sought refuge behind it in the relative warmth of the tunnel, its presence was evidence of the existence of a Piasa-like creature—one that had been born in either ancient or modern times.

Another Old World encounter with a Piasa-like creature occurred on a morning in 1986 on the Mediterranean Island of Crete. There, three hunters witnessed a huge, bird-like animal gliding a short distance above the ground. Its beak was similar to a pelican's, its wings seemed to be made of membranes with finger-like protrusions, and its hind legs had long, sharp claws. As the men watched, the creature flew away into a mountainous area and disappeared. When the hunters returned home, they looked through several books for a picture of the bizarre animal. They found that it closely resembled a pterodactyl.

There have also been a number of accounts of Piasa-like creatures in North America. And, like their Old World counterparts, some of the stories appear to be very old. Perhaps the oldest accounts are found in the myths of the Plains Indians. One of these myths tells of a huge, dark animal with wings and a long beak. Another speaks of a monster that lives beneath bluffs along the Mississippi River. And there is an old drawing of a strange creature that closely resembles Piasa. Each of these accounts appear to describe a different aspect of a Piasa-like creature.

A more recent story about this kind of animal came out of a Plains state in the summer of 1873. There, on a northeast Texas farm five miles from Bonham, several men stared in awe at an enormous reptilian animal as it flew slowly overhead.

Similar sightings continued into the 20th century. Two of them occurred in early 1976 in southern and south-central Texas, respectively. The first took place during the evening of January 14 in Raymondville. There, a man was attacked by a large, featherless flying creature that swooped down on him in the backyard of a relative's home. The creature was as big as a man and had huge red eyes, large claws, and a wingspan of 10 to 12 feet. Although the man's clothing was torn, he escaped unharmed, and the creature flew away.

A second sighting happened on February 24 near San Antonio. There, while driving to work, three school teachers saw an enormous, low-flying, bird-like creature with a wingspan of nearly 20 feet. Later, they remarked how much it looked like a pteranodon.

A third encounter occurred during the evening of July 25, 1977, in Lawndale, Illinois. Six people in this central Illinois town saw an immense flying creature descend from the southwest, seize a ten-year-old boy with its claws, and carry him some 35 feet before dropping him unharmed. The creature continued flying to the northeast with a companion. Both of them had beaks about six inches long and wingspans of nearly ten feet.

Differences in the descriptions of the same kind of animal can also result from differences in human observers and in the circumstances of their observations. In addition, the personal integrity, facility with words, and memory of a given observer can also affect the accuracy and completeness of a description. Finally, some differences are almost inevitable when a description is communicated over many generations or translated into other languages.

With all of the potential for differences, it is not surprising that there were some variations in the descriptions of Piasa-like creatures. On the other hand, it seems significant that there were so many similarities, especially in the principal features of size, head, eyes, beak, teeth, wings, claws, absence of feathers, etc. And it also appears significant that these features were essentially the same for Piasa, dragon, and pterodactyl.

There is an intriguing question at this point. If, according to common belief, pterodactyl-like animals became extinct millions of years ago, how could they have been seen throughout the world since then? Perhaps an answer can be found by considering prehistoric global changes and places where these reptiles have been reported in more recent times.

There is evidence of catastrophic geological change in the distant past in many places around the world. It is possible that ancestors of pterodactyl-like creatures lived through this change because of their ability to fly. And, perhaps, the survivors settled in areas that would turn out to be far from human habitation. This could explain the presence of large flying reptiles today and their relatively infrequent appearance throughout history.

It is interesting to note that contemporary sightings of these creatures indicate they do live in remote areas. For example, the report of a pterodactyl-like animal in Crete in 1986 indicated it flew into a mountainous area and disappeared. And this suggests where the flying reptiles seen from Texas to Illinois may have come from.

One of the least-known areas in North America can be found in eastern Mexico. This remote mountainous region, known as the Sierra Madre Orientale, is only some 200 miles from southern Texas. A line drawn from these mountains to the northeast crosses southern and northeastern Texas, southwestern Illinois (the site of the Piasa paintings), and central Illinois—all places where strange, winged animals have been reported. The line continues from central Illinois toward the Great Lakes and perhaps to an unknown ending somewhere in the far north. If the beginning of this line in Mexico represents the home of large, flying reptiles, what does its end mean? Does this line indicate a migratory route? Do pterodactyl-like creatures periodically leave eastern Mexico in response to some archaic instinct and follow an ancient flyway to the northeast in search of nesting habitats that disappeared in some ancient cataclysm—areas that are no longer suited to prolonged reptilian occupation?


Perhaps many of the large, flying reptiles reported in other places around the world can also be explained in the same way. It may be that they too inherited instinctive behavior that was first ingrained in ancestors that lived in a world vastly different from today. And thus they also may continue to leave remote areas from time to time to seek lands and climates that vanished long ago.

While the accounts of Piasa-like creatures seem to indicate this kind of animal does exist, they also generate many questions and much speculation. Therefore, it is unlikely that the entire matter can be addressed to everyone's satisfaction until hard evidence becomes available.

Perhaps someday one of these strange animals will again take to the air and be seen following an ancient pathway through the sky. And, if it can be studied sufficiently, new light may be shed on Piasa, dragon, and pterodactyl. And, maybe, the mystery of the Piasa creature will at last be solved.


By Cisco Serret

In the Age of Dinosaurs there existed flying reptiles called Pterosaurs. Nearly all the fossils found have been in marine deposits, which means they probably were fish eaters and spent most of their time over coastal waters.

These flying reptiles apparently managed to fly with no feathers, their main aerodynamic feature being wings of membrane supported by an enormously elongated fourth finger. They had hollow limb bones and a large keeled breastbone for attachment of strong wing muscles, needed for true flight and not just gliding. The large expenditure of energy required to remain in flight for long periods of time, and the resultant loss of heat caused by the surface of their wings exposed to moving air, means that they must have had some method of regulating body heat, although it is doubtful they were truly warm-blooded as mammals are.

Although popular media have usually described pterosaurs as huge menacing creatures, most of the pterosaurs were much smaller, from the size of a sparrow to the size of an eagle. There have been some very large species discovered, however: the pteranodon with a wingspan of 27 ft. and the colossal quetzalcoatlus, with a wingspan of 50 ft. (and possibly up to 60 ft.). Some pterosaurs actually had fur, although they were not related to mammals.

It would seem impossible that these creatures could have survived to the present day. After all, if they existed surely people would see them flying about as they hunted for food. How could a flying population of reptiles remain hidden? There are reports that people have been seeing flying creatures that match the description of pterosaurs for a long time. People have even been, reportedly, killed by them.


In 1923 a traveler by the name of Frank H. Melland worked for a time in Zambia. He gathered native reports of ferocious flying reptiles. The natives called this creature kongamato ("overwhelmer of boats"), which was said to have lived in the Jiundu swamps in the Mwinilunga District in western Zambia, near the border of Congo and Angola. It was described as having no feathers at all, smooth skin, a wingspan between 4 ft. and 7 ft., and possessing a beak full of teeth. They were usually described as black or red. It had a reputation for capsizing canoes and causing death to anyone who merely looked at it. When showed drawings of pterosaurs

"... every native present immediately and unhesitatingly picked it out and identified it as a kongamato. Among the natives who did so was a headman from the Jiundu country, where the kongamato is supposed to be active, and who is a rather wild and quite unsophisticated native."


In 1925, a distinguished English newspaper correspondent, G. Ward Price, was with the future Duke of Windsor on an official visit to Rhodesia. He reported a story that a civil servant told them of the wounding of a man who entered a feared swamp in Rhodesia known to be an abode of demons. The brave native entered the swamp, determined to explore it in spite of the dangers. When he returned he was on the verge of death. He had a great wound in his chest. He recounted how a strange huge bird with a long beak attacked him. When the civil servant showed the man a picture of a pterosaur from a book of prehistoric animals, the man screamed in terror and fled from the servant's home.

In 1942 Colonel C. R. S. Pitman reported stories the natives had told him of a large bat/bird type creature that lived in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) in a dense swampy region—supposedly to look upon it was death. Tracks of the creatures were seen, with evidence of a large tail dragging the ground. These reports were not limited to Zambia, but also came from other locations in Africa such as Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya.

Skeptics suggest that these fantastic-sounding tales derived from the fanciful imaginations of natives who were hired to work at archeological digs where fossilized pterosaurs were uncovered in Tendagaru, Tanzania, in the years prior to World War I. These digs, however, took place over 900 miles from Zambia. Why did no reports of living pterosaurs come from Tanzania, where these imaginative natives lived?


Perhaps the most striking report of living pterosaurs comes not from natives, but from white explorers in the employment of the British Museum. In 1932-1933 the Percy Sladen Expedition went to West Africa. In charge of the team was Ivan T. Sanderson, a well-known zoologist and writer. While in the Assumbo Mountains in the Cameroons, they made camp in a wooded valley near a steep banked river. They were out hunting near the river when Sanderson shot a large fruit-eating bat. It fell in the water, and as Sanderson was carefully making his way in the fast moving current, he lost his balance and fell. He regained his balance when his companion suddenly shouted "Look out!"

"And I looked. Then I let out a shout also and instantly bobbed down under the water, because, coming straight at me only a few feet above the water was a black thing the size of an eagle. I had only a glimpse of its face, yet that was quite sufficient, for its lower jaw hung open and bore a semicircle of pointed white teeth set about their own width apart from each other. When I emerged, it was gone. George was facing the other way blazing off his second barrel. I arrived dripping on my rock and we looked at each other. "Will it come back?" we chorused. And just before it became too dark to see, it came again, hurtling back down the river, its teeth chattering, the air "shss-shssing" as it was cleft by the great, black, dracula-like wings. We were both off-guard, my gun was unloaded, and the brute made straight for George. He ducked. The animal soared over him and was at once swallowed up in the night."


Sanderson and George returned to camp where they asked the natives about the creature. Sanderson asked them, spreading his arms, what kind of bat is this large and is all black? "Olitiau!" was the response. They asked Sanderson where they had seen this creature. Sanderson pointed back at the river. The natives fled in terror in the opposite direction, taking only their guns and leaving their valuables behind.

While it may be suggested that the creature that attacked Sanderson and George was merely the mate of the bat they had shot, it is somewhat dubious. Fruit bats are not known for attacking humans, and Sanderson, a highly knowledgeable and internationally respected zoologist, clearly indicated that he did not recognize the creature. Fruit bats are a brownish or yellowish color. Sanderson described the creature as all black. He, however, did describe it as a bat—and pterosaurs are bat-like.


In 1956 in Zambia along the Luapula river, engineer J.P.F. Brown was driving back to Salisbury from a visit to Kasenga in Zaire. He stopped at a location called Fort Rosebery, just to the west of Lake Bangweulu, for a break. It was about 6:00 p.m. when he saw two creatures flying slowly and silently directly overhead. Bewildered, he observed that they looked prehistoric. He estimated a wingspan of about 3-3 1/2 feet, a long thin tail, and a narrow head, which he likened to an elongated snout of a dog. One of them opened its mouth in which he saw a large number of pointed teeth. He gave the beak to tail length at about 4 1/2 feet. After this report came out, a couple by the name of Mr. and Mrs. D. Gregor reported that they had seen 2 1/2 ft. long flying lizards in Southern Rhodesia, and a Dr. J. Blake-Thompson reported that natives of the Awemba tribe had told of huge flying creatures resembling rats that would attack humans. They lived in caves in cliffs near the source of the great Zambezi River.

In 1957, at a hospital at Fort Rosebery (the same location J. P. F. Brown had reported seeing strange flying creatures the year before) a patient came in with a severe wound in his chest. The doctor asked him what had happened and the native claimed that a great bird had attacked him in the Bangweulu swamps. When asked to sketch the bird, the native drew a picture of a creature that resembled a pterosaur.

Soon afterwards the Zambezi valley was flooded as a result of the Kariba Dam hydroelectric project. Daily Telegraph correspondent Ian Colvin was at the scene, where he claimed to have taken a controversial photograph of what appeared to be a pterosaur. [It was later discovered that the photo was a hoax].

Reports of prehistoric-looking flying creatures are not just limited to dense swampy regions. There are also reports of giant flying lizards from the deserts of Namibia. In 1988 Professor Roy Mackal led an expedition to Namibia where reports of a creature with a wingspan of up to 30 ft were collected. The avian cryptid usually glided through the air, but also was capable of true flight. It was usually seen at dusk, gliding between crevices between two hills about a mile apart. Although the expedition was not successful in getting solid evidence, one team member, James Kosi, reportedly saw the creature from about 1000 ft. away. He described it as a giant glider shape, black with white markings.

There are two species of birds that live in the swampy areas of Zambia that could possibly be mistaken for some kind of prehistoric apparition, especially under low light conditions or at nighttime. The shoebill stork is a dark colored bird with a 8 ft. wingspan and a decidedly prehistoric appearance. They have become rare, and can only be found in the deep recesses of swamps in Zambia and neighboring countries. However, there is no evidence of the shoebill behaving aggressively towards humans, and in fact they try to avoid humans as much as possible. They have large bills, but they are not pointed, and they do not have teeth (no known birds living today have real teeth).



Another odd-looking bird that lives in the area is the saddle-billed stork. These rather beautiful birds have a wingspan of up to 8½ feet, a long bright red bill with a horizontal black stripe ¾ up from the tip and with a yellow blaze from the eyes down and into the stripe, with additional orange stripes on the sides of the head. Their overall coloration is black and white with a black head, and featherless red feet. The beak is long and pointed. Although it would be difficult to confuse this bird with a featherless, monotone-colored pterosaur, its beak is similar, and it is not beyond the realm of possibility that perhaps a deranged, sick, threatened, or confused saddle-billed stork could attack a human and plunge its beak into a man's chest.


Both of these candidates are rather poor substitutes for pterosaurs, although they probably do account for some of the reports. Many of the natives are very superstitious, and fervently believe in the stories of monsters in the swamps waiting to attack intruders. It is not difficult to imagine that a quick flyby of one of these large birds in the dark could send one running back to camp with a story of a near miss by a flying demon.

Whether the reports are of actual sightings of pterosaur-related creatures, or if it they represent some unknown (to science) huge sort of bat or bird with a bad attitude, perhaps time will tell. Of all the remote, inaccessible locations in the world where unknown creatures could still exist, probably the best candidates would have to be the deep enormous swamps in Africa. These swamps are so overgrown with vines and undergrowth that human travel is next to impossible. In addition, the ground is often so soft that humans could not even stand without sinking, and the many rivers and waterlogged areas block many avenues of penetration. Vicious insects and other critters that can cause sickness from disease or death from venom accompany the hostile terrain. The area is racked with political instability, patrolled by guerillas and armed bandits with little respect for non-native intruders, which provides a powerful disincentive to would-be explorers. Over flights by aircraft are ineffective since the treetops are so thick in the deep swamps that little or nothing can been seen underneath. Africa is hiding its secrets well. If there are living dinosaurs alive today, Africa is a prime candidate for harboring them.


The Rukh (or as it is sometimes given, roc) is a vast magnification of the eagle or vulture, and some people have thought that a condor blown astray over the Indian Ocean or China seas suggested it to the Arabs. Lane rejects this idea and considers that we are dealing rather with a "fabulous species of a fabulous genus" or with a synonym for the Persian Simurgh.


The Rukh is known to the West through the Arabian Nights. The reader will recall that Sindbad (on his second voyage), left behind by his shipmates on an island, "found a huge white dome rising in air and of vast compass I walked all around it, but found no door thereto nor could I muster strength or nimbleness by reason of its exceeding smoothness and slipperiness. So I marked the spot where I stood and went round about the dome to measure its circumference which I found fifty good paces." Moments later, a huge cloud hid the sun from him and "lifting my head . . . I saw that the cloud was none other than an enormous bird, of gigantic girth and inordinately wide of wing. . . ." The bird was a Rukh and the white dome, of course, was its egg. Sindbad lashes himself to the bird's leg with his turban, and the next morning is whisked off into flight and set down on a mountaintop, without having excited the Rukh's attention. The narrator adds that the Rukh feeds itself on serpents of such great bulk that they "would have made but one gulp of an elephant."


In Marco Polo's Travels (III, 36) ..we read:

The people of the island [of Madagascar) report that at a certain season of the year, an extraordinary kind of bird, which they call a rukh, makes its appearance from the southern region. In form it is said to resemble the eagle, but it is incomparably greater in size; being so large and strong as to seize an elephant with its talons, and to lift it into the air, from whence it lets it fall to the ground, in order that when dead it may prey upon the carcase. Persons who have seen this bird assert that when the wings are spread they measure sixteen paces in extent, from point to point; and that the feathers are eight paces in length, and thick in proportion.



Marco Polo adds that some envoys from China brought the feather of a Rukh back to the Grand Khan. A Persian illustration in Lane shows the Rukh bearing off three elephants in beak and talons; "with the proportions of a hawk and field mice," Burton notes.


Cryptozoologist Loren Coleman has maintained an archive of Thunderbird reports from the past to the present. You can visit his archive at:






Posted on July 15, 2012 at 9:10 PM Comments comments (0)



Originally Posted on December 23, 2007; Revised July 15, 2012


Researched, Compiled, Edited and Illustrated

By R. Merrill


The legend of the Thunderbird is an ancient myth that survives even to the present day in some Native American cultures. Though the Thunderbird myth varied from region to region and tribe to tribe, the Thunderbird was, in the eyes of the ancient Native Americans, a magical animal that was sent by their gods to protect them from the powers of evil. Riding on the wings of the storm, the Thunderbird embodied the power of the storm. Its eyes flashed fire, its cry was like the crack of lightning, and its mighty wings beat with the sound of rolling thunder, ever protecting its people from the powers of evil.

There are at least three different legends of the Thunderbird available to us today, that can give us some information about what this creature was like. The first comes from the Winnebago Indians of the northern Midwest and Plains states, a second comes from the Passamaquoddy Indians of Maine, and a third comes from the Quillayute, a Chimakoan tribe living along the Quillayute River, a six-mile river on the Olympic Peninsula, near Seattle, Washington.

The Winnebago were an ancient and powerful people that once spread out from Wisconsin all across the northern Midwest and Plains states to Nebraska. They believed that the Thunderbirds were powerful, eagle-like divine creatures that were able to affect the winds and created storms, lightning, thunder, and rain. They also believed that they could take the form of humans, and that some humans, though not actually Thunderbirds, shared their characteristics and were considered to be semi-divine.

This thought is reminiscent of the "bird-man" concept prevalent at Cahokia, and it is believed that the Cahokians were related to the Winnebago peoples. Richard L. Dieterle explains in The Short Encyclopedia of Hotcâk (Winnebago) Myth, Legend, and Folklore,

Thunderbirds are powerful and warlike avian spirits who animate the gray clouds with thunder and lightning. Together with the Waterspirits, they were the first spirits that Earthmaker created. Their name, Wak'âdja, means, "Divine Ones." On the model of other tribes, they are conventionally called "Thunderbirds," since they alone possess lightning. Their basic somatic form runs the gamut of several species of birds, the hawk and the eagle being the most common. However, they are far stronger in build and have polychrome plumage that gives them a magnificent appearance unrivaled by the birds of earth. Their voices are like the sounds of flutes, recalling both the whistle of wind and the voices of raptors.



The enemies of the Thunderbirds in Winnebago legend are the "Water Spirits". These became the enemies of the Thunderbirds in primordial times, when the Thunderbirds shot their lightnings everywhere, including the waters. The Thunderbirds still use their lightning when crossing the waters, as that helps protect them from the waterspirits. The Winnebago believed that all lightning was directed at Waterspirits, which lived in bodies of water, or in streams of water beneath the surface of the Earth. The waterspirits were the favorite food of the Thunderbirds, though they usually ate animals and sometimes even humans.

Another primary source is from the legends of the Passamaquoddy Indians, who lived in the northeast, in the Quoddy Loop area of Maine and New Brunswick. In this story, two Passamaquoddy Indians went on a quest to find the origin of thunder:

This is a legend of long, long ago times. Two Indians desired to find the origin of thunder. They travelled north and came to a high mountain. These mountains performed magically. They drew apart, back and forth, then closed together very quickly. One Indian said, "I will leap through the cleft before it closes. If I am caught, you continue to find the origin of thunder." The first one succeeded in going through the cleft before it closed, but the second one was caught and squashed. On the other side, the first Indian saw a large plain with a group of wigwams, and a number of Indians playing a ball game. After a little while, these players said to each other, "It is time to go." They disappeared into their wigwams to put on wings, and came out with their bows and arrows and flew away over the mountains to the south. This was how the Passamaquoddy Indian discovered the homes of the thunderbirds.


The surviving Passamaquoddy Indian brave had discovered the home of the Thunderbirds, but the intrepid Indians who had set out on a quest for the source of thunder had gotten more than they had bargained for. One Indian had died already, and his companion was about to undergo a transformation:

The remaining old men of that tribe asked the Passamaquoddy Indian, "What do you want? Who are you?" He replied with the story of his mission. The old men deliberated how they could help him. They decided to put the lone Indian into a large mortar, and they pounded him until all of his bones were broken. They moulded him into a new body with wings like thunderbird, and gave him a bow and some arrows and sent him away in flight. They warned him not to fly close to trees, as he would fly so fast he could not stop in time to avoid them, and he would be killed.


The Thunderbirds, according to the Passamaquoddy, were men who could transform themselves into flying creatures. These men were also able to transform the Passamaquoddy Indian brave into a bird like themselves. However, this brave now had a new enemy: Wochowsen, "great bird from the south", who had control of the south wind, and made it blow so hard that the Passamaquoddy brave could not return to his homeland.

The lone Indian could not reach his home because the huge enemy bird, Wochowsen, at that time made such a damaging wind. Thunderbird is an Indian and he or his lightning would never harm another Indian. But Wochowsen, great bird from the south, tried hard to rival Thunderbird. So Passamaquoddies feared Wochowsen, whose wings Glooscap once had broken, because he used too much power. A result was that for a long time air became stagnant, the sea was full of slime, and all of the fish died. But Glooscap saw what was happening to his people and repaired the wings of Wochowsen to the extent of controlling and alternating strong winds with calm. Legend tells us this is how the new Passamaquoddy thunderbird, the lone Indian who passed through the cleft, in time became the great and powerful Thunderbird, who always has kept a watchful eye upon the good Indians.


A belief in the magic of the Thunderbird is held by the Passamaquoddy, because he can tame the winds alternating between calm and storms. In this way the Thunderbird was not merely seen as a large, natural flying creature, but as at least a semi-supernatural creature with ties to the divine world above.


Another Thunderbird story can be found in the myths and legends of the Quillayute Indians of the Pacific Northwest. In this story, disaster had struck —the rain and hail had fallen for many days, destroying all of the edible plants and making it impossible to fish. Many of their people had been killed by the hail, which was followed by sleet and snow. Out of food, the Quillayute were desperate, and the Great Chief was forced to call upon the Great Spirit for help. The Great Spirit answered, sending them the Thunderbird:

The people waited. No one spoke. There was nothing but silence and darkness. Suddenly, there came a great noise, and flashes of lightning cut the darkness. A deep whirring sound, like giant wings beating, came from the place of the setting sun. All of the people turned to gaze toward the sky above the ocean as a huge, bird-shaped creature flew toward them. This bird was larger than any they had ever seen. Its wings, from tip to tip, were twice as long as a war canoe. It had a huge, curving beak, and its eyes glowed like fire. The people saw that its great claws held a living, giant whale. In silence, they watched while Thunderbird—for so the bird was named by everyone—carefully lowered the whale to the ground before them. Thunderbird then flew high in the sky, and went back to the thunder and lightning it had come from. Perhaps it flew back to its perch in the hunting grounds of the Great Spirit. Thunderbird and Whale saved the Quillayute from dying. The people knew that the Great Spirit had heard their prayer. Even today they never forget that visit from Thunderbird, never forget that it ended long days of hunger and death. For on the prairie near their village are big, round stones that the grandfathers say are the hardened hailstones of that storm long ago.

The Quillayute described the Thunderbird as essentially a very large bird, though no bird in history was ever as big as the type of bird they described, and of course no other bird ever had the same supernatural powers:

Thunderbird is a very large bird, with feathers as long as a canoe paddle. When he flaps his wings, he makes thunder and the great winds. When he opens and shuts his eyes, he makes lightning. In stormy weather, he flies through the skies, flapping his wings and opening and closing his eyes. Thunderbird's home is a cave in the Olympic Mountains, and he wants no one to come near it. If hunters get close enough so he can smell them, he makes thunder noise, and he rolls ice out of his cave. The ice rolls down the mountainside, and when it reaches a rocky place, it breaks into many pieces. The pieces rattle as they roll farther down into the valley. All the hunters are so afraid of Thunderbird and his noise and rolling ice that they never stay long near his home. No one ever sleeps near his cave. Thunderbird keeps his food in a dark hole at the edge of a big field of ice and snow. His food is the whale. Thunderbird flies out of the ocean, catches a whale and hurries back to the mountains to eat it. One time Whale fought Thunderbird so hard that during the battle, trees were torn up by their roots. To this day there are no trees in Beaver Prairie because of the fight Whale and Thunderbird had that day.

The battle between Thunderbird and Whale appears to be primarily symbolic of the battle between the air and the sea, as imagined by the Quillayute in their attempt to interpret the forces of nature. Like most ancient peoples, the Quillayute interpreted the forces of nature in symbolic forms, inventing gods and goddesses, deities, and demigods as causes of these phenomena.

At the time of the Great Flood, Thunderbird fought a long, long battle with Killer Whale. He would catch Killer Whale in his claws and start with him to the cave in the mountains. Killer Whale would escape and return to the water. Thunderbird would catch him again, all the time flashing lightning from his eyes and flapping his wings to create thunder. Mountains were shaken by the noise, and trees were uprooted in their struggle. Again and again Killer Whale escaped. Again and again Thunderbird seized him. Many times they fought, in different places in the mountains. At last Killer Whale escaped to the middle of the ocean, and Thunderbird gave up the fight. That is why Killer Whales live in the deep oceans today. That is why there are many prairies in the midst of the forests on the Olympic Peninsula.


It is interesting that the Quillayute mention the "Great Flood" in their description of the battle between Thunderbird and whale. The story of a Great Flood that covered the Earth at one time is nearly universal throughout the ancient world—but that is a story for another time.

The Quillayute legend describes the Thunderbird as a giant flying creature with feathers. According to the geologic record, no avian (bird) was ever as large as the creature that the Quillayute described. However, there were flying creatures that were that large—the giant pterosaur Quetzalcoatlus Northropi, native to the Mesozoic Period. With a wingspan of 33 feet, Quetzalcoatlus Northropi was possibly the largest flying creature on earth in any period. However, even a fully grown Quetzalcoatlus would have been incapable of catching and carrying off even a small whale like the Killer Whale. Absurd as this might seem, there have been sightings of similar creatures all the way up to the present day in various parts of the world.


One problem with this theory is the fact that the Thunderbird is described as having feathers. However, recent evidence out of China suggests that at least some dinosaurs may have had feathers. One controversial photo, which has now been lost (if it ever truly existed), shows a pterodactyl-like creature with feathered wings being displayed by a group of men as a sort of hunting trophy. This controversial photo, some believe was a sort of urban legend, a thing that never happened but was believed by many to be true, despite the fact that large-scale searches have been made for the photo without success.


The most celebrated Thunderbird encounter took place in 1890, on the desert sands of what was then the Arizona Territory. Two cowboys had a bizarre confrontation which has varied widely in the telling, but the gist of the story is this: they saw a giant flying bird, shot and killed it with their rifles, and carried its spectacular carcass into town. A report in the April 26, 1890 Tombstone Epigraph listed the creature's wingspan as an alarming 160 feet, and noted that the bird was about 92 feet long, about 50 inches around at the middle, and had a head about eight feet long. The beast was said to have no feathers, but a smooth skin and wingflaps "composed of a thick and nearly transparent membrane... easily penetrated by a bullet." Perhaps the hardest part of this story to swallow is that two horses could manage to haul a dead behemoth like this for any distance. The Tombstone Epigraph printed its highly embroidered version of the cowboy's sighting, which was spared from fading into obscurity by its inclusion in a 1930 book on the Old West.

In 1963, the story came to the attention of writer Jack Pearl, who revived the tale for an article in a pulpy men's adventure magazine called Saga. As if the Epigraph report hadn't spiced up the facts enough already, Pearl liberally embellished the encounter into a dramatic rip-snorter entitled "Monster Bird That Carries Off Human Beings!" Pearl pushed the date of the encounter back to 1886, and he described the witnesses as two prospectors who killed the bird and proudly showed off their trophy in Tombstone. Pearl also added some extra conflict by telling of how a second Thunderbird snatched up a heckler who had ridiculed the prospectors and flew away with him in its talons. But Pearl's most significant editorialization was this: he said that the Epigraph newspaper story had run with a photograph of the giant bird's carcass, nailed up to a wall with its mighty wingspan unfurled, and a number of men posing next to it for scale.





So, despite the existence of plenty of secondary evidence, the quest for an actual photo or other decisive evidence for the existence of a Thunderbird continues on. Like the quest for Piasa, dragons, and other mythical monsters, the Thunderbird and its paranormal ilk continue to live on the fringes of human perception, waiting for the lucky snapshot to snap them into focus.



Following is a rogue's gallery of supposed "Thunderbird" photos which have since been proven to be hoaxes:



An internet rumor began in the late 1990s that the top photograph was found squeezed between the pages of a 1970s paranormal book purchased at a thrift store. For years, Forteans had searched for the exclusive "Thunderbird" photograph seen and remembered by zoologist Ivan T. Sanderson during the 1960s. Then, this newly discovered picture raised the question of its relationship to the Sanderson "lost Thunderbird photo." But something seemed wrong. The Sanderson stories told of a Thunderbird tacked to the side of a barn in Tombstone, Arizona, or some other location in the Old West. The photograph shown here, however, appeared to have captured a group of Civil War soldiers, circa 1860s, with the remains of a pterodactyl. Was this the long lost photograph, remembered by so many, but never found after decades of looking for it?

As it turned out this photograph was a promotional tool of Orlando, Florida's Haxan Production (producers of "The Blair Witch Project"), to develop interest in their forthcoming fictional program, "Freaky Links." The series, first broadcast on Fox TV, finally in 2000, involved the character "Derek Barnes," an investigator of the unknown.

The picture was a hoax and the pterodactyl was a prop created exclusively for two episodes of Freaky Links. Fox is done with the prop, however, and this intriguing pseudo-cryptid was acquired by Loren Coleman, and is now part of the collection of the Museum--that is all 22 feet by 11 feet of it.




They appear out of the sky like the shadow of doom. They have been described as having wingspans of up to 20 feet wide, hooked talons and razor-like beaks. They are the mystery birds of Illinois.


The ancient Indians of Illinois were no strangers to these birds. Two giant petroglyphs once decorated the stone bluffs near Alton, Illinois. The paintings portrayed a huge, winged creature known as the PIASA: The Monster Bird, which is translated to mean the "bird that devours men". The French explorer Pere Marquette recorded the first accounts of the paintings in 1673. He was impressed enough by them to record them in his journals and note that the account of the Piasa involved a terrible creature that preyed on the local Indians. An Indian warrior killed the creature and a painting of it was etched onto the bluffs to recall the legend.

American Indian lore is filled with stories of strange, monster birds with enormous wingspans and the propensity to carry away human victims. They called these creatures "Thunderbirds" because the Legend of the Giant Bird claimed that their flapping wings made a sound like rolling thunder. The birds have been described as having wingspans of 20 to 40 feet or more; hooked talons; razor-sharp beaks; and sometimes descriptions which seem oddly close to Quetzalcoatlus, one of the pterodactyls of prehistoric times.

But not all of these stories and accounts date back to the times of the early Americans. Most of them come from times that are not so long ago.... and are disturbingly close to home.

One modern day "flap" of Thunderbird sightings began in April 1948, according to Loren Coleman in his book, Curious Encounters. On April 4, a former Army Colonel named Walter F. Siegmund revealed that he had seen a gigantic bird in the sky above Alton. He had been talking with a local farmer and Colonel Ralph Jackson, the head of the Western Military Academy, at the time. "I thought there was something wrong with my eyesight," he said, "but it was definitely a bird and not a glider or a jet plane. It appeared to be flying northeast... from the movements of the object and its size, I figured it could only be a bird of tremendous size."


A few days later, a farmer named Robert Price from Caledonia would see the same, or a similar, bird. He called it a "monster bird... bigger than an airplane". On April 10, another sighting would take place and this time in Overland. A huge bird was spotted by Mr. and Mrs. Clyde Smith and Les Bacon. They said they thought the creature was an airplane until it started to flap its wings furiously.

On April 24, the bird was back in Alton. It was sighted by EM Coleman and his son, James. "It was an enormous, incredible thing with a body that looked like a naval torpedo," Coleman recalled later. "It was flying at about 500 feet and cast a shadow the same size as a Piper Cub at that height."

Then, on May 5, the bird was sighted for the last time in Alton. A man named Arthur Davidson called the police that evening to report the bird flying above the city. Later on that same night, Mrs. William Stallings of St. Louis informed the authorities that she had also seen it. "It was bright, about as big as a house," she said. A number of sightings then followed in the St. Louis area, but ironically, just when the public excitement over the bird reached its peak, the sightings came to an end.

Sightings of strange birds have not ended in Illinois and in fact continue today. One of the most exciting, and frightening, Illinois encounters occurred in 1977 in Lawndale, a small town in Logan County. On the evening of July 25, two giant birds appeared in the sky above Lawndale. The birds were reported several times as they circled and swooped in the sky. Finally, they headed straight down and reportedly attacked three boys who were playing in the backyard of Ruth and Jake Lowe. One of the birds grasped the shirt of ten-year-old Marlon Lowe, snagging its talons into the cloth. The boy tried in vain to fight the bird off then cried loudly for help.


The boy's cries brought Marlon's mother running outside. She later reported that she had seen the bird actually lift the boy from the ground and into the air. She screamed loudly and the bird released the child. It had carried him, at a height of about three feet, for a distance of about forty feet. She was sure that if she had not come outside, the bird would have been capable of carrying the boy away. Luckily, although scratched and badly frightened, Marlon was not seriously injured.


Four other adults appeared on the scene within seconds of the attack. They described the birds as being black in color, with bands of white around their necks. They had long, curved beaks and a wingspan of at least 10 feet. The two birds were last seen flying toward some trees near Kickapoo Creek.

A second version of the Lawndale event is as follows:

July 25, 1977 Lawndale Illinois. It was around 8:30 p.m. when Marlon Lowe, a 10 year old boy, was running for his life. He was playing with two friends in his family back yard when suddenly out of nowhere two huge black birds came out of the sky and began pursuing one of Marlon's friends, Travis Goodwin. Happily, Travis managed to escape by jumping into the swimming pool. Then the two switched their attention to Marlon. Marlon ran away as fast as he could, but it was not fast enough. As he was running he felt the talons of one of the birds grip the shoulder straps of his sleeveless shirt. Next the boy, weighing 65 lb., was lifted off the ground 10 ft., screaming and shouting at the top of his lungs as the bird easily carried him 40 ft. through the air from the back yard to the front yard. His parents, Ruth and Jake Lowe, heard the screaming and ran outside; so did two family friends working near by. Ruth was the first to see this horrific sight that would freeze her blood. There was her son was abducted by a huge black bird resembling a Condor, punching up at its legs with all his might as his feathered kidnapper carried him aloft. Seconds later however, one of his punches must have hit home, because the bird suddenly opened its talons and dropped him to the ground before soaring away with its mate. The four adults ran to the boy and discovered to their relief that—except for a frayed shirt where the bird had grabbed him—Marlon was physically okay. This is just one of the many bizarre accounts on file featuring encounters in North America with giant birds. Birds that should be impossible but yet seem to exist. In the case of Marlon Lowe, he and his parents said the bird most closely resembled an Andean Condor, a black vulture-like species with a wing span up to 10 ft. This species, however, is not native to North America. There is however a smaller version called the California condor which was once widely distributed across North America but by 1977 was virtually extinct. In either case the structure of the condors feet is incapable of lifting and transporting anything as heavy as a ten year old boy.





Three days later, a McLean County farmer spotted a bird of the same size and description flying over his farm. He, his wife, and several friends were watching radio-controlled airplanes when the bird flew close to the models. He claimed the bird had a wingspan of, again, at least 10 feet across. It dwarfed the small planes that buzzed close to it.

The next sighting took place near Bloomington when a mail truck driver named James Majors spotted the two birds. He was driving from Armington to Delevan when he saw them alongside of the highway. One of the birds dropped down into a field and snatched up a small animal. He believed the two birds were probably condors, but with 8 to 10 foot wingspans!

On July 28, Lisa Montgomery of Tremont was washing her car when she looked up and saw a giant bird crossing the sky overhead.

At 2:00 AM on Saturday, July 30, Dennis Turner and several friends from Downs reported a monstrous bird perched on a telephone pole. Turner claimed that the bird dropped something near the base of the pole. When police officers investigated the sighting, they found a huge rat near the spot.

Reports of giant birds continued to come in from Bloomington and the north central Illinois area, then finally further south, from Decatur to Macon and Sullivan. On July 30, the same day the birds were reported near Bloomington, a writer and construction worker named "Texas John Huffer" filmed two large birds while fishing at Lake Shelbyville. Huffer was a resident of Tuscola and was spending the day with his son when they both spotted the birds roosting in a tree. Huffer frightened the birds with his boat horn and when they took flight, he managed to shoot over 100 feet of film. He sold a portion of the footage to a television station in Champaign for a newscast. Huffer said that the largest bird had a wingspan of over 12 feet.

After the footage aired, experts were quick to dismiss Huffer's claims, along with the reports of everyone else who reported the birds. Officials from the Department of Conservation insisted the birds were "merely" Turkey Vultures of the species Cathartes aura. Not surprisingly, these claims were also refuted by wildlife experts and cryptozoologists who stated that no turkey vultures were of the size reported by witnesses. The largest flying land bird in North America is the California Condor, which has a wingspread of up to 9 feet. The Condor is also on the endangered species list and is restricted to a few areas in California. There is little chance that a few stray birds traveled to Illinois to attack small children!

Another tale, related by Loren Coleman, involved the killing of a giant bird in December 1977. Strangely, this event also took place near Lawndale. Apparently a woman was on her way to work one morning when she saw something that looked like "a man standing in the road with something over his arms". The woman collapsed and was hospitalized, but later recovered. A group of men, after hearing this report, went to the spot, killed a large bird, and then burned the body. The story was kept under wraps for some time for fear of ridicule.

So, what are these creatures? Some cryptozoological researchers like Loren Coleman believe that these thunderbirds may be Teratorns, a supposedly extinct bird that once roamed North and South America. If these prehistoric survivors are still around today, they could certainly account for the reports of the giant birds.




At this point, such creatures remain a mystery but one thing is sure, the sightings have continued over the years and occasionally an unusual report still trickles in from Central Illinois. So keep that in mind the next time that you are standing in an open field and a large, dark shadow suddenly fills the sky overhead. Was that just a cloud passing in front of the sun... or something else??

GIANT BIRD UPDATE: As late as Wednesday October 16, 2002, an article published in the Anchorage Daily News, and also picked up by the wire services, reported "a giant winged creature like something out of Jurassic Park" sighted several times in Southwest Alaska.

Cryptozoologist's Note: As recently as December 13, 2007, the following report was sent to me by one of the members on my friend's list.

Today I saw what looked like a freakishly large eagle. I thought it was a juvenile bald eagle but it didn't have any mottling and was very big. It was all very dark brown or light black and wingspan was around 8-10ft. I live in south central Iowa (about 7 miles from the Missouri border) and I see turkey vultures all the time. I've also seen lots of bald eagles and even a couple golden eagles when I've been out west on vacation. I'm not a bird watcher but I do like to look at nature when I can. I live on a farm with my dad raising buffalo. We have 40+ ponds and I've seen lots of blue herons, a few cormorants, one osprey, lots of canadian geese, and several other birds. However, what I saw today was much bigger than any canadian goose and about double the size of a turkey vulture. It was not quite double the size of a full grown bald eagle. It was only 40-50ft from me when it left its perch at the top of a small grain bin (where we store spare tires and such) and flew directly across my path. It's shape and flight looked like an eagle, but in slower motion. It didn't get much lift and it's wing beats were quite slow. But it did fly directly above a few of our buffalo and it's wingspan was the length of a full grown buffalo bull minus the head. So about 9ft, give or take a little. Anyway, I looked up condors and such and they don't migrate. I've never seen a bird like it and doubt I will again. But I'll carry my camera around with me for the next few days just in case. Have there been other odd sigtings like this around here lately?


Scott J.


And in 2009 I received the following report from another reader on my blog site:

As Reported to The Cryptozoologist


Reported by Ian Lewis

Date: Early September (Day and year not given)

Published with Permission


Cooper Camp & Caravan Site, Edale, Peak District, Manchester, England


Fine, sunny, bit of cloud.


Can't be to sure, but between two and five in the afternoon.


Early September.


Came back to tent in afternoon after short walk, due to the time of year only three or four other tents on the site, and those people were still out walking, so just me. Got in tent with the intention of havin' a snooze (like ya do) when all of a sudden lots of crows started makin' a ruckus ( that in itself ain't unusual in Edale; rookery about 200 yards away) but it usually means something is going on, so out of my tent I came...

The crows were airborne and trying to drive off a huge bird, jet black in colour, the bird was huge, and I do mean HUGE; difficult to judge wingspan as it was about half a mile away, but the crows were tiny compared to it ( I could only roughly guess about ten to fifteen foot ). The creature was immense and paid no attention to the crows whatsoever (which looking back seemed strange; it was almost as if wasn't aware of the other birds at all). Jet black in colour with longish beak, similar to a raven's in shape. I never once saw it flap its wings; it was just sort of gliding. It had feathers sticking out from the ends of its wings (just like in photo on your blog of giant bird B/W photo) and was in view less than a minute. There is a pass behind campsite on Kinder Scout called Grinsbrook and the thing flew in that direction and out of view, crows I might add still hot in pursuit. The bird made no sound at all, and like I say, seemed to be completely unaware of the other birds harassing it, even though they were virtually on top of it.

I am a keen walker/backpacker and have seen a few strange things, but this was something else! Taking a photo of it never even entered my mind 'till afterwards...I am not a person open to flights (no pun intended) of fancy, and I spend a great deal of my time outdoors. "Yes", I am interested in these subjects and "No", I don't believe in U. F. Os, radical or what. Had been to Edale campsite dozens of times before and since, but have never seen anything like it again.



P.S. I completely stand by all I remember about what I saw that September day,and it is accurate to the best of my memory.



Flying reptiles have captured the popular imagination ever since Arthur Conan Doyle made them part of his science fiction story The Lost World. These great creatures are thought to have been extinct since the Mesozoic era. Scientists named them "flying lizards" or pterosaurs (TERA sores), nearly two centuries ago, when their fossil remains were first found. How such large animals could actually fly has long been a scientific puzzle, since they weighed about as much as a human being. Today's hang-glider pilots must solve the problem of getting themselves airborne by using other aircraft, or leaping from great heights. How a giant lizard would take off is an unanswered question. The flying reptile was called "one of the greatest freaks of all time" by the late Harvard professor Percy Raymond. The flight mechanism was bat-like rather than bird-like. A membrane of skin stretched from the trunk to the front limb, but was attached to a greatly elongated fourth finger of the hand, and not to all four fingers as with a bat. Flying reptiles were probably soarers and gliders rather than active flyers. They could fold their wings like bats, and may have had similar roosting habits.


Until recently, it was thought that a wingspan of about 24 feet was the maximum size for one of these winged lizards. Then in 1971, Douglas Lawson, a University of Texas student, discovered the fossil bones of an even larger specimen with a wingspan of 36 to 39 feet. It was named after the Aztec god who looked like a feathered serpent: Quetzalcoatlus northropi. Pronounced "kwet zel KWAT lus," this creature was one of the last of the pterosaurs to survive. Its neck was extremely long, its slender jaws were toothless, and its head was topped by a long bony crest. Like other pterosaurs, it had fingers on the front edge of its wing with sharp claws that could grip prey.


The eating habits of Quetzalcoatlus are unknown, and there are different theories about the feeding habits of flying reptiles. Some experts think they ventured far out to sea, skimming over the surface of the water, and skillfully fed on fish. Others think they may have been carrion feeders, like modern vultures, and fed upon the carcasses of dinosaurs. Their long beaks and necks made them capable of probing deeply for food on sea or land.

Aeronautical engineers and paleontologists have theories about how large animals launched themselves into space and stayed there. As a flying machine Quetzalcoatlus lacked the muscle power to run rapidly until it reached an airspeed that allowed it to take off. Likewise, it did not have the muscle or skeletal structure to flap its wings constantly to maintain flight. Perhaps it became airborne by dropping from the height of a cliff, or the crest of a wave. Or perhaps it waited until the hot sun warmed the ground and created strong thermal updrafts. Maybe it could stand up on its hind legs, catch an appropriate breeze, and with a single flap of its wings and a kick of its feet become airborne. Once aloft, it may have stayed in the air for long periods, riding air currents with minimal effort as it soared slowly and gracefully over land or water looking for prey. Its aeronautical design suggests that it could coast more slowly than a bird, before it stalled and had to land. The great wings may have allowed it to land gently, but its size, weight and long, weak hind limbs suggest that it did not live in trees as birds do.

[Cryptozoologist's Comment: Another hypothesis, dismissed by mainstream scientists, is that the earth's atmosphere in the past was denser than it is today, perhaps by as much as 10%. A denser atmosphere would have permitted creatures such as the pterosaurs to easily become airborne without the necessity of launching themselves off a cliff, a condition that would seem to result in a virtual death sentence for any pterosaur that, for any reason, was forced to the ground or the surface of the water during its hunting forays.]

According to evolutionary theory, flying reptiles became extinct about the same time that dinosaurs did, at the close of the Age of Reptiles, or the Mesozoic Era. Even as they reached new records of size, a changing geography and their failure to adapt to new environments doomed pterosaurs. The Inland Sea, which covered so much of the interior of North America, drained away, and similar events around the globe affected the climate and food supply. Birds were better suited to flight and adapting for survival in almost every way, and became increasingly diversified.

Article by R. Jay Gangewere, Copyright 1998 Carnegie Magazine. All rights reserved.


Policeman Arturo Padilla of San Benito, Texas, was driving his police cruiser through the wee hours of the morning in 1976 when something unusual appeared in his headlights. It looked like a big bird. Only a few minutes later fellow officer Homer Galvan reported it too. A black silhouette that glided through the air. According to Galvan it moved without ever flapping it's wings.

A short time later Alverico Guajardo, a resident of Brownsville, Texas, reported he'd heard a thumping noise outside his mobile home at about nine-thirty at night. When he looked out the door he saw a monstrous bird standing in his yard. "It's like a bird, but it's not a bird," he said. "That animal is not from this world."


Sightings of the big bird multiplied. A radio station offered a reward for the creature's capture. A television station broadcast a picture of an alleged bird track. It was some twelve inches long. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, concerned that hunters might mistake a large rare and protected bird, like a whooping crane, for this creature announced that, "All birds are protected by state or federal law."

In February 1976 several school teachers told of a large flying creature, at least 12 feet across, diving at their cars as they drove to work. One of them checked the school library and found a name for the animal: A Pterosaur.

Pterosaurs were an order of reptiles that lived, and [are thought to have gone] extinct, with the dinosaurs. [According to evolutionary theory] they were the first true flying animals with vertebra. Their wings were composed of a membrane of skin that stretched from the side of the body, along the arm, out to the tip of an enormously elongated fourth finger, and then back to the ankle.

Computer analysis of pterosaur fossils suggest that they were slow gliders capable of making very tight airborne turns. A large Pteranodon, with a wingspan of 30 feet, could turn mid-flight in a circle only 34 feet in diameter.

The largest known Pterosaur (indeed the largest known flying animal of all time), the Quetzalcoatlus, had a wingspan of 50 feet (larger than that of many small planes) and weighed about 190 pounds. Unlike many of the other Pterosaurs, Quetzalcoatlus lived inland and probably had a vulture-like existence. It's long neck would have helped it to "probe" dinosaur carcasses for meat.

Quetzalcoatlus, interestingly enough, brings us back to Texas. The first Quetzalcoatlus fossils were discovered in Big Bend National Park, Texas, in 1972, just four years before the first sightings of the Texas "Big Bird." Is there a connection?

Have there been Pterosaurs hiding in Texas [since the Age of Reptiles]? Or could it be that the publicity surrounding the discovery of Quetzalcoatlus four years earlier triggered the misidentification of normal large birds like the sandhill crane, the brown pelican or the vulture? We may never know, because after the two month flap of sightings in 1976, reports of the big birds dwindled. The Pterosaurs, if they ever existed, have gone back into hiding.

Copyright Lee Krystek 1996. All Rights Reserved.




Posted on July 12, 2012 at 9:15 PM Comments comments (2)



Researched, Compiled, Edited and Illustrated

By R. Merrill

Tardigrades (commonly known as water bears or moss piglets) form the phylum Tardigrada, part of the superphylum Ecdysozoa. They are microscopic, water-dwelling, segmented animals with eight legs. Tardigrades were first described by Johann August Ephraim Goeze in 1773 (kleiner Wasserbär = little water bear). The name Tardigrada means "slow walker" and was given by Lazzaro Spallanzani in 1777. The name water bear comes from the way they walk, reminiscent of a bear's gait. The biggest adults may reach a body length of 1.5 mm, the smallest below 0.1 mm. Freshly hatched larvae may be smaller than 0.05 mm.

[In case you haven't figured out by now, the photo above is somewhat of an exaggeration!]

More than 1,000 species of tardigrades have been described. Tardigrades occur over the entire world, from the high Himalayas (above 6,000 m), to the deep sea (below 4,000 m) and from the polar regions to the equator.

The most convenient place to find tardigrades is on lichens and mosses. Other environments are dunes, beaches, soil, and marine or freshwater sediments, where they may occur quite frequently (up to 25,000 animals per liter). Tardigrades often can be found by soaking a piece of moss in spring water.


Tardigrades are polyextremophiles and are able to survive in extreme environments that would kill almost any other animal. Some can survive temperatures of -273°C (-460 °F) , close to absolute zero, temperatures as high as 151 °C (303 °F), 1,000 times more radiation than other animals such as humans, and almost a decade without water. In September 2007, tardigrades were taken into low Earth orbit on the FOTON-M3 mission and for 10 days were exposed to the vacuum of space. After they were returned to Earth, it was discovered that many of them survived and laid eggs that hatched normally, making these the only animals known to be able to survive the vacuum of space.

Anatomy and Morphology

Tardigrades have barrel-shaped bodies with four pairs of stubby legs. Most range from 0.3 to 0.5 millimeter (0.012 to 0.020 in) in length, although the largest species may reach 1.2 millimeters (0.047 in). The body has four segments (not counting the head), four pairs of legs without joints, and feet with four to eight claws each. The cuticle contains chitin and is molted periodically.

Tardigrades are eutelic, with all adult tardigrades of the same species having the same number of cells. Some tardigrade species have as many as about 40,000 cells in each adult's body, others have far fewer.

The body cavity consists of a haemocoel, but the only place where a true coelom can be found is around the gonad. There are no respiratory organs, with gas exchange able to occur across the whole of the body. Some tardigrades have three tubular glands associated with the rectum; these may be excretory organs similar to the Malpighian tubules of arthropods, although the details remain unclear.

The tubular mouth is armed with stylets, which are used to pierce the plant cells, algae, or small invertebrates on which the tardigrades feed, releasing the body fluids or cell contents. The mouth opens into a triradiate, muscular, sucking pharynx. The stylets are lost when the animal molts, and a new pair secreted from a pair of glands that lie on either side of the mouth. The pharynx connects to a short esophagus, and then an intestine that occupies much of the length of the body and is the main site of digestion. The intestine opens, via a short rectum, to an anus located at the terminal end of the body. Some species only defecate when they molts, leaving the feces behind with the shed cuticle.

The brain includes multiple lobes, and is attached to a large ganglion below the esophagus, from which a double ventral nerve cord runs the length of the body. The cord possesses one ganglion per segment, each of which produces lateral nerve fibres that run into the limbs. Many species possess a pair of rhabdomeric pigment-cup eyes, and there are numerous sensory bristles on the head and body.



Although some species are parthenogenetic, both males and females are usually present, each with a single gonad located above the intestine. Two ducts run from the testis in males, opening through a single pore in front of the anus. In contrast, females have a single duct opening either just above the anus or directly into the rectum, which thus forms a cloaca.

Tardigrades are oviparous, and fertilization is usually external. Mating occurs during the molts with the eggs being laid inside the shed cuticle of the female and then covered with sperm. A few species have internal fertilization, with mating occurring before the female fully sheds her cuticle. In most cases, the eggs are left inside the shed cuticle to develop, but some attach them to the nearby substrate.

The eggs hatch after no more than fourteen days, with the young already possessing their full complement of adult cells. Growth to the adult size therefore occurs by enlargement of the individual cells (hypertrophy), rather than by cell division. Tardigrades live for three to thirty months, and may molt up to twelve times.


Ecology and Life History

Most tardigrades are phytophagous (plant eaters) or bacteriophagous (bacteria eaters), but some are predatory (e.g., Milnesium tardigradum).


Tardigrades are polyextremophiles; scientists have reported their existence in hot springs, on top of the Himalayas, under layers of solid ice and in ocean sediments. Many species can be found in a milder environment like lakes, ponds and meadows, while others can be found in stone walls and roofs. Tardigrades are most common in moist environments, but can stay active wherever they can retain at least some moisture.

Tardigrades are one of the few groups of species that are capable of reversibly suspending their metabolism and going into a state of cryptobiosis. Several species regularly survive in a dehydrated state for nearly ten years. Depending on the environment they may enter this state via anhydrobiosis, cryobiosis, osmobiosis or anoxybiosis. While in this state their metabolism lowers to less than 0.01% of normal and their water content can drop to 1% of normal. Their ability to remain desiccated for such a long period is largely dependent on the high levels of the non-reducing sugar trehalose, which protects their membranes. In this cryptobiotic state the tardigrade is known as a tun.



Tardigrades have been known to withstand the following extremes while in this state:

Temperature - tardigrades can survive being heated for a few minutes to 151 °C (424 K), or being chilled for days at -200 °C (73 K), or for a few minutes at -272 °C (~1 degree above absolute zero).

Pressure - they can withstand the extremely low pressure of a vacuum and also very high pressures, more than 1,200 times atmospheric pressure. It has recently been demonstrated that tardigrades can survive the vacuum of open space and solar radiation combined for at least 10 days. Recent research has revealed that they can also withstand pressure of 6,000 atmospheres, which is nearly six times the pressure of water in the deepest ocean trench.

Dehydration - tardigrades have been shown to survive nearly 120 years in a dry state.

Radiation - tardigrades can withstand median lethal doses of 5,000 Gy (gamma-rays) and 6,200 Gy (heavy ions) in hydrated animals (5 to 10 Gy could be fatal to a human). The only explanation thus far for this ability is that their lowered water state provides fewer reactants for the ionizing radiation. In September 2007, a space launch (Foton-M3) showed that tardigrades can survive the extreme environment of outer space for 10 days. After being rehydrated back on Earth, over 68% of the subjects protected from high-energy UV radiation survived and many of these produced viable embryos, and a handful survived full exposure to solar radiation.

Environmental Toxins - tardigrades can undergo chemobiosis—a cryptobiotic response to high levels of environmental toxins. However, these laboratory results have yet to be verified.