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Half a century ago, Belgian Zoologist Bernard Heuvelmans first codified cryptozoology in his book On the Track of Unknown Animals.

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Wednesday, April 07, 2010

MUIRHEAD`S MYSTERIES: STRANGE CREATURE IN THE GROUNDS OF ESSEX COUNTY ASYLUM,1912

Today`s blog features what was in 1912 thought to be a strange creature (see image) found in the grounds of Essex County Asylum in Colchester, of all places. I did a quick Google on this place but came up with nothing. It looks to my untrained eye a bit like a jerboa. I have posted the image on the Fortean Times online site. Someone told me it was an Irish gerboa, (I found the story in the Leitrim Observer for November 23rd 1912 whilst looking for mystery creatures in Ireland for Ronan Coghlan) and I believed him!! Daft, aren`t I?

The image was reproduced with permission from Irish Nespaper Archives, Leitrim Observer November 23rd 1912 http://www.irishnewsarchive.com/

The story raises a few questions – suppose it was a species new to science, would anyone have believed its owner if he/she was a patient in the asylum? If the animal was not a patient`s or nurses pet, how did it get there? Supposing a patient saw a Jersey-Devil-type creature, was not believed because he was mentally ill, but it turned out to be true??! Then there`s the whole folklore of crack-addicted squirrels, which apparently sometimes turn up in the grounds of psychiatric hospitals.

The text of the article in the Leitrim Observer is as follows:

A STRANGE ANIMAL

The strange animal shown in our sketch was captured in the grounds of Essex County Asylum at Colchester. It resembles a young kangaroo both in its appearance and its actions. In colour it is like an ordinary rabbit. When disturbed it emits a sound which is for all the world like the grunt of a pig. Mr S. Usher, of Colchester, who took possession of the animal, finds it an excellent pet.(
1)

So here do we have a kangaroo-like gerbil or a gerbil-like kangaroo? But what about the “grunting” sound? Any opinions as to what this could have been? Then there`s the rabbit-like colour, i.e grey?


Leitrim Observer November 23rd 1912.

The Stolen Child W.B.Yeats ( plus The Waterboys)


Come away,human child
To the water
Come away,human child
To the water and the wild
With a faery,hand in hand
For the world`s more full of weeping than you can understand

Where dips the rocky highland
Of Sleuth Wood in the lake
There lies a leafy island
Where flapping herons wake
The drowsy water rats;
There we`ve hid our faery vats
Full of berries
And of reddest stolen cherries,
Etc,etc..

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