Friday, October 09, 2009
I’d like to take you on a journey through time and space – specifically to the town of Beatty, Nevada, USA. The date is Saturday, December 21, 1907, and we’re standing outside the busy offices of The Beatty Bullfrog Miner, the town’s popular broadsheet newspaper. Both the editor and his chief reporter are shaking their heads in bewilderment.
Before we examine why, let me tell you something about the town of Beatty. It was founded in 1900 by the Bullfrog Mining District to accommodate the gold and silver miners flooding into the area during the Great Boom, as it was called. The mining company, the town and the newspaper were all named after the nearby Bullfrog Hills.
Although Beatty was a new town, it had already accumulated a wealth of spooky stories and eerie tales. Most of them relating the barren hills and mountains which locals often avoided – particularly after darkness fell. Many of these stories had been written up in The Bullfrog Miner, making the residents even more wary.
The headline in The Bullfrog Miner that day read, “Man Dragged 500 Ft”. The story gave a strange account – one of many – which had The Miner’s editors and reporters baffled.
Bill Keyes was an adventurer and prospector. During one trip in the hills he stopped at some "tule holes" for water. Tules are actually the large bulrushes that surround many pools and lakes in Nevada.
Keyes knew that the area was renowned for its paranormal happenings and had been so for the last three centuries. Still, he wasn’t superstitious and decided to pitch his tent for the night. It wasn’t long before a sequence of strange events captured his attention, the first being the mysterious appearance of strange, dancing lights in the adjacent valley. Keyes watched, fascinated, as they shot through the air, twisting and turning at bizarre angles.
Then he heard voices. The air became filled with unearthly moans and groans, bizarrely interspersed with the sounds of bullfrogs croaking, even though, despite the name of the mountain range, there were none in that vicinity. Eventually exhaustion forced him into a slumber
The next morning as Keyes yawned, blinked, stretched and opened his eyes, the first thing he saw was the sunrise. He was no longer in his tent. Alarmed, he jumped up and looked around him. He was amazed to see a furrow in the sand where both he and his bedroll had been dragged the distance of 500 feet whilst he slept.
Someone – or something – had managed to drag the sleeping prospector a large distance without rousing him. Who or what had done this, and why?
Keyes decided that discretion was the better part of valour and headed for the nearby town of Rhyolite. Here he bumped into the editor of The Bullfrog Miner, and blurted out his story. Seeing a good headline in the making, the editor quickly pulled out his notebook and pencil.
On December 21, the residents of Rhyolite, Bullfrog, Beatty and other towns of Nye County, Nevada read Keyes’s account.
"I am telling the truth when I say I was dragged across the Wash, and heard a bunch of unearthly and disturbing sounds”, he attested.
A visit to the nearby town of Rhyolite will uncover some other mysteries of the Wild West which are just as intriguing. Actually, the entire Bullfrog area was rumoured to be haunted. Rhyolite is now a shadowy ghost town, whereas a century ago it boasted a population of 10,000, an opera house, factories, saloons, restaurants and casinos. Now, the only things that move in Rhyolite are the dusty balls of tumbleweed that blow in from the desert.
Native Americans had been aware for centuries that paranormal events always seemed to take place around the aforementioned tule holes, and some avoided them. The bodies of prospectors and miners were regularly found around tule holes, often without any obvious signs as to why they had died.
On one occasion, the Bullfrog miner “Nevada” Henry Gould and some colleagues were returning from a prospecting expedition. They were heading for Rhyolite and had stopped at a tule hole to fill their canteens with water.
As they neared the waterhole they noticed a pack of coyotes acting strangely. They scattered the wild dogs and then saw the object of their morbid curiosity; the well-attired corpse of a fellow miner or prospector. How he died remains a mystery to this day. The next day, The Bullfrog Miner and other local papers carried the story, and both wives and mothers grew more uneasy when spouses and sons were out prospecting. Not until the Gold Rush ended did the body count begin to drop, I've been told, although how true this is I really don't know.
Rhyolite itself was finally abandoned, although Paramount Studios and other film companies have since used the old town as a backdrop for a number of films. The remains of the jailhouse are said to be haunted by the ghost of a murderer called Amargosa Jack, whose appearance is said to be preceded by the smell of stale whisky.
Rhyolite had a popular red light district, although city officials made sure it was strictly cordoned off from the more respectable streets and boulevards. To this day, visitors sometimes say they can hear the sound of a honky-tonk piano playing and laughter emanating from the now deserted taverns and saloons.
Several buildings in Rhyolite are in a reasonable state of repair, including the once grandiose railway station and the famous “Bottle House”. The Bottle House was a residence built by its owner. Instead of bricks or clapboard he utilised 50,000 empty beer bottles collected from nearby taverns. The Bottle House is currently under restoration.
Apart from these, however, the rest of the town consists of crumbling walls and creaking timbers. With every passing year a little bit more of Rhyolite quite literally bites the dust.
But the ghosts of Rhyolite remain. Echoing, clopping noises have been heard in the Main Street, as if the horses that trod there decades ago are still following the same rout in an eternal loop.
There is a glimmer of hope for Rhyolite, however. For the last thirteen years there has been a Rhyolite Resurrection Festival organised. It is hoped that more of the buildings can be restored, or at least preserved, and a visitors’ centre opened.
Who knows; one day people may move back to Rhyolite. Once again the bars may ring with the sounds of laughter and clinking glasses, and the ghosts of ages past may have living company. Till then, the current residents seem quite happy to stay there – even if they can’t always be seen.
The biggest mystery, however, is what dragged that old miner through the brush that day.
Know of any cryptids that fit the bill?
When conducting lectures across the UK one is often approached by people after the event who are keen to discuss any sightings of strange animals. Of course, most of these reports concern UK-related beasts. However, on October 2nd 2009 whilst giving a talk on ‘Mystery Animals of Kent’, in Surrey, a chap approached me with a fascinating story.
Now, I don’t know how many Englishmen have had the privilege of seeing a Thylacine, but on January 17th 2005, Richard Cooper was one of the lucky ones. He told me:
“I was on holiday; an area known as the Great Dividing Range (Australia’s most substantial mountain range and the fourth longest in the world), eighty miles east of Melbourne. I was driving on a sixty-mile long dirt track, flanked by dense bush. Other nearby areas were the Baw Baw National Park, Lake Eildon and Walhalla, all in Victoria. From 3,000 feet down to sea level.
It was daylight, mid-afternoon. Fifty yards ahead of me an animal crossed the track slowly. It was Golden retriever size, as clear as day, and I could see the set of impressive stripes down its back. It was a Thylacine. I felt very fortunate enough to have seen it.”
The witness seemed genuine and even rang me that evening to elaborate on the sighting. The Great Dividing Range could easily hide an animal the size of the Thylacine. The range stretches along the eastern coastline and fades into the Grampians where there have also been sightings of the Thylacine and also large cats resembling puma and black leopard.
At the risk of having everyone think I have lost it, gone bonkers or whatever, I must share this visual sighting with everyone since it has happened two times now.
It continued its roll seemingly for a long time and it had to be 12 to 15 feet in length judging by the roll time. It was brown on top with mottled brown and yellow lower side. It finally flipped its tail before disappearing and it was a flat, lamprey like vertical caudal fin an estimated 9 to 10 inches maximum flare tapering to a point. I never saw the head and there was no dorsal fin nor pectoral fins visible.
I have seen many porpoise almost daily here that swim up and down the canal usually in pairs and this was NOT a porpoise, no way!
After the first sighting I thought it might be a huge snake (python like in the Glades) that someone turned loose, escaped or whatever because it did not roll as high out of the water so the size (girth) was not real evident although it was the same color on back and sides from what I could see. It did not flip its tail that time so the weird shaped caudal fin was not visible.
I am sure glad that I told Bet about the sightings so the little guys in the white jackets don’t come for me. She believes me though it sounds a bit far out! LOL!
I see people in their wee kayaks paddling up and down the canal and think about how they could be a snack for the Normandy Nessie! LOL!
I am dead serious and this is not a spoof, joke or ruse. From the size of this thing it could pose a real danger to people and small animals.
Its Friday and time for the Friday Fact:
During the 1980s Margaret Thatcher was afraid of one thing and one thing only: ninjas. So great was her fear of ninja assassination she gave her sinister lick-spittles orders to expunge all references to ninjas in all entertainment media in the country in order to try to fool the British public into believing that ninjas did not exist. According to recently disclosed documents more than half of the tax revenue raised in the year 1989 was spent on changing the name of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to Hero Turtles.
And now, the news:
Q: What’s orange and sounds like a parrot?
A: A carrot.