Friday, May 15, 2009
In what is rapidly becoming our favourite new blog, Scottie takes a long, hard, and sometimes critical look at the theories that Jon includes in his latest book Island of Paradise. Never let it be said that we don't post opposing viewpoints. It has to be said that his slightly different theory to Jon's has a heck of a lot going for it...
In a totally cynical attempt at raising a few more quid during the midst of the recession, you can buy a copy of the book at the link below:
Ah, but it was all different a century ago. No one understood genetics back then, and although respect for wildlife in general, other species specifically and our fellow human beings had advanced tremendously since the early 19th century, things were far from perfect. There was still an attitude prevalent in some parts that “freaks” were really only good for exploitation. If your child can’t work in the mines or the mills, hey. don’t worry! Stick ‘em in the circus and make a few bucks!
Not everyone was so callous, however. There was a genuine naiveté on the part of many, who saw both humans and animals with genetic disorders not as “freaks” but as “wonders”. To some, it was almost as if such aberrations were God-given; something that wasn’t quite right, but nevertheless helped us focus on the mysteries of creation.
In September 1905, Sunderland was an economically struggling location. Large areas were impoverished, and gruelling, blue-collar work such as mining and shipbuilding was the staple means of eking a borderline existence. Precious little happened to bring light and laughter into the lives of the working class, and so no opportunity for personal enrichment was missed. Some sought solace in the church, whilst others imbibed excessive amounts of gin and porter. Yet others just waited for that “something special” to come along. Most times it never did.
But there were exceptions, as a Mr. W. Hall discovered when he found himself in possession of the legendary Double Duck of Pallion.
Pallion is a relatively unremarkable area of the City of Sunderland, but it has played a rich part in the area’s history. At the turn of the 20th century, many residents had taken to keeping livestock in their back yards and gardens as a means of supplementing their meagre incomes. Rabbits, hens, chickens and ducks were bred with enthusiastic abandon to ensure a ready supply of meat and eggs. Mr. Hall was no different, and he was no doubt delighted when one duck in his possession laid a clutch of seven eggs. He waited patiently, and, one by one, they hatched. Eventually six young ducklings nestled under the wing of their mother, whilst the seventh egg, slightly larger and thicker than the rest, remained intact.
Some days passed, and Mr. Hall decided that it might be necessary to lend Mother Nature a hand. He took the seventh egg and ever-so-gently cracked it, hoping that if there was a live duckling inside it would now be able to brake free. It did, and what Mr. Hall saw would baffle him for the rest of his days. Inside the shell was no ordinary duckling. As the chick struggled free he saw to his horror that it actually possessed two heads. More than that, it also had four wings and four feet. Truly, this was a duck like no other.
Mr. Hall, after recovering from the shock, showed the strange creature to his next-door neighbour. Before long, the entire populace of Pallion was talking about the strange arrival in Mr. Hall’s backyard. The local press got to hear about it, and reporters began to turn up on the doorstep, along with a priest and other local personages of some distinction.
The fate of the duck, at least in the detail, is unknown. We do not know how long it survived, but it was reported that Mr. Hall was determined not to let its demise rob him of his new-found fame. He placed the body of the duckling in a large bottle filled with “spirits of wine” and preserved it for posterity.
Bizarre quirks of nature like the Double Duck of Pallion are not unknown. In 2007, Nick Janaway, of the Warrawee Duck Farm in the New Forest, picked up a young duckling to determine its sex. She was stunned to discover that it had not two, but four legs. These extra appendages seemed to pose Stumpy (as the duck was later named) no problems. It could swim, walk and feed just fine. There was a minor setback when it caught one of its additional legs in some barbed wire and had to have it amputated. This left it three legs, which was still one more than those possessed by its more common-or-garden siblings.
I have tried to track down the remains of Mr. Hall’s Double Duck, hoping perhaps that it may have been given to the Sunderland Museum. A curator connected with the establishment kindly promised to see if he could locate the specimen, but to date I’ve heard nothing. Who knows, one day it may turn up.
Much to everyone’s surprise, including one suspects hers, Emma was home from hospital in the early afternoon. The surgery appears to have been successful, although she has to go back for further treatment in about 6 weeks' time. She was very touched with the messages of support that she received after this morning’s blog posting and sends her love. She is currently convalescing chez Matthew, who is probably going to drive her to distraction by treating her like a pampered princess when all she wants to do is have some headspace and go to sleep. However, as I tell my wife, that is what guys do .....
Crypto Stories From The Illustrated Police News
From 1869 – DESPERATE ENCOUNTER WITH AN EAGLE: ‘A most miraculous escape from the talons of an eagle is reported in several of the French newspapers. Some children were playing at the base of Mount St. Gothard, when all at once a prolonged scream from their little throats occasioned some alarm to a carpenter who rushed out of his cottage, hatchet in hand, and to his dismay beheld a little boy between three and four years of age being carried off by an eagle. The voracious bird seemed to have some difficulty soaring aloft with its prey. The carpenter began to despair but with rapid strides he ascended the mountain and eventually succeeded in striking one of the eagle’s wings a blow with his hatchet. The wounded bird wavered and began slowly to descend. The carpenter managed to lay hold of the child’s clothing and endeavoured to drag the little fellow away, but the eagle retained a firm hold and it was not until he struck it further blows on the leg that it released its prey. The child was in no way injured but the agony of the mother who witnessed the conflict is easier to imagine than to describe.’
From 1870 – A CHILD STOLEN BY A MONKEY: ‘A local paper reports a somewhat remarkable case of purloining a child, which occurred in the small village of Manxbridge, in Somersetshire, on Monday last. It appears that Mr. Judcote, a gentleman of independent means, has for a long time past kept a large monkey, who has been accustomed to range over his master’s garden and grounds, as the creature was esteemed harmless, and to use a sporting phrase, “…was esteemed to be free from vice”.
On Monday last, Mrs Hemmingway, near neighbour of Mr Judcote, while walking in her garden, was surprised and horrified at beholding ‘Hulch’, Mr Judcote’s monkey, suddenly snatch her baby from the arms of her youngest sister Clara, who, as a special favour, had been permitted to take charge of the infant. The monkey gibbering and chattering, rushed off with its prize, and gained the roof of an outhouse with very little difficulty. Mrs Hemmingway was driven to the utmost extremity of despair, and she vainly strove to repossess herself on her last born. She beheld, to her infinite horror, the monkey pass over the roof of the outhouse, until he and his burden were both lost to sight. The anxious mother at once hastened to the house of her neighbour Mr Judcote, who appeared to be as much troubled as herself at the unlooked for disaster. His man servants were despatched in every direction in search of ‘Hulch’ who was, however, too wary to allow his hiding place to be discovered. In the meantime the parents of the child were kept in a constant state of anxiety and trepidation. It was impossible to say what had befallen the child.
The day passed without any news of either ‘Hulch’ of the infant, and it was by the merest chance that both the fugitives were discovered by some farm labourers in an adjacent wood towards eight o’clock in the evening. At this time ‘Hulch’ seemed to be tired of his companion, whom he purposely resigned to the farm servants. The delight of the parents upon regaining their child may be more readily imagined than described.’
It is always nice to be able to introduce you all to a new guest blogger. Possibly the nicest thing about the CFZ bloggo is that it is a living, breathing community, and new people arrive on a regular basis. I can't tell you anything about Liz, apart from the fact that she bought some books from us at Uncon, briefly spoke to Richard, and had a charmingly old-fashioned habit of referring to me as `Mr Downes`, when everyone else calls me `Jon` or `Hey You` (or somethimes something more scatological), until I told her not to. She is obviously one to watch...
Without a doubt the cryptid that most fascinates me is Bigfoot (as well as his other legendary relatives, whose many names would take too long to type). This tall, rather hairy gentleman has such charm about him and if real, could be a much closer relative of the human race than ‘known’ apes. My first introduction to him was as a very small girl, leafing through a book of my Mum’s that showed a still from the controversial Patterson-Gimlin film. My second was through watching the silly but lovely film Harry and the Hendersons. Then I heard the legend of Monkey Town (Heywood, Lancashire near where I grew up) and from there it became one big obsession. If ever the CFZ proves the existence of our most interesting cousin I will personally throw him a party at my house (all invited)!
The next cryptid on my ‘to meet’ list is the Alien Big Cat, alternatively known as the phantom black cat. It seems particularly likely that this chap does, indeed roam the British countryside, though in a more fleshy form than some legends would indicate. I am particularly in love with ‘black panthers,’ however; a catch-all phrase for big cats that produce too much melanin. This is for little other reason than that I saw one in Chester Zoo as a four-year-old, decided it was much more impressive than Bobby, our black tom at home, and from then on, I wanted one. They are beautiful and majestic. The idea that there could be one in the park in my home town (so my friend Annette and a lady in the library claim) is VERY exciting.
Finally, the Kraken is a wonderful example of legend based upon fact, which is what cryptozoology is all about. This Nordic creature is purported to strongly resemble a gigantic octopus and attacks/ attacked ships, dragging them down beneath the sea. The Kraken has captured the imagination of countless artists, writers and film-makers; the most recent addition to the squiddly canon being the middle Pirates of the Caribbean film, Dead Man’s Chest, but the best, arguably, being Jules Verne’s 20 000 Leagues Under The Sea. In the real world, it is widely held that the kraken legend was borne out of sightings of the Giant Squid, which has been known to reach up to forty-three feet in length and which has been known to attack sea-faring vessels but by no means could be expected to drag Johnny Depp or the Black Pearl to a watery grave.
Today, as well as updating you on the local cryptozoology news, as featured yesterday evening on the CFZ daily cryptozoology news blog, I announce my tea of the week. This week’s tea is Assam, which is a good brew to take for afternoon tea, however it works best with a fruit cake or bara-brith as scones are a bit too delicate for it. And now, the news:
Owner guilty of overfeeding dog
'LSD-fish' caught in Cornwall
Frog ripped open by lawnmower stitched back together
Surfer saves drowning kangaroo
Cow Splat! Daisy Takes An Unexpected Dip
Mummified moggie goes under the hammer for charity
“Cat’s” going once, going “mice”, Sold!
A couple of days ago this photograph was splashed across the British media. The accompanying story read: "A 4ft jellyfish - one of the biggest to be found in Britain - washed up on a popular beauty spot on the coast of north Devon" and went on to claim that "The jellyfish was caught on camera by photographer Peter Stapleton who is keeping the exact location secret to avoid panic. "
It is indeed a fairly large specimen, but of a well known and reasonably common species, and one would have thought that even in these degenerate days the advent of a large, dead, coelentrate on a North Devon beach when its not even holiday season would be unlikely to cause a `panic`. May I suggest that the fact that the location was being kept `secret` has more to do with the fact that after the ridiculous furore surrounding the dead seal back in January, Her Majesty's Press wanted to ensure that we wouldn't get a piece of the action this time.
Who cares? Its only a bloody jellyfish.