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Sunday, June 27, 2010

MUIRHEAD`S MYSTERIES:A MOST EXTRAORDINARY STORY OF A CROCODILE`S HEAD IN BELGIUM, AN AMERICAN SATYR AND AN ODD DOG

Recently on an internet archive of newspaper reports from Utah I came across some interesting stories, including a crocodile head of unknown origin in Belgium and an American satyr-like creature along with a strange dog-like animal, also in N. America.

Unfortunately I forgot to note down the name and dates of the Utah newspapers (not the crocodile one) but I`m pretty sure they are 19th century. If anyone would like more information they can contact me.

I open with the brief crocodile story from the Daily News of September 23rd 1879. This story is remarkably similar to the accounts of crocodiles displayed in important buildings such as churches around Europe up to at least the 19th century (see my article in the CFZ Yearbook 2009 on The Tarasque).


`HOLIDAY RAMBLES` BY A ROVER

STRANGE KERMESSES.

Brief Bits

`There is not a town in Belgium but is worth a visit; and this not only on account of the beauty of streets, churches and town halls, but because every city and borough has preserved some local curious local customs, which are annually paraded at those communal fĂȘtes called “kermesse” is compounded of two Flemish nouns, signifying an assembly parishes, and kermesse in fact means a holiday in which several parishes take part, as distinguished from those fĂȘtes, generally religious, which are got up single parishes. The most remarkeable kermesses in Belgium are those held at Mons, Ath, Louvain, Furnes and Ardennes, for in all of these there are historical cavalcades which are got up with much taste, and are actively supported by the leading townsfolks, who join in them personally. At Mons the kermesse begins with a procession of the relics (divers bones and jewels) of St. Waltrude, the patroness of the city, and is followed by a mimic fight on the Grand Place between a horseman who impersonates a nigt called Gilles de Chellos and a dragon. It seems that some centuries ago one Gilles de Chellos went forth and slew a dangerous beast who had frightened off all the rural population of Hainaut, and whose head, stuffed and cased under glass, is now to be seen in the public library of the city. It is simply a crocodile- though how a beast of this description can have rambled so far as north as Belgium is a mystery….(1)



Now an American satyr-like animal. The Petersburg, Virginia Index Appeal tells of a strange animal – half man and half sheep in appearance – and which walks as well on its hinds legs as on all fours, that is frightening the natives in the country adjacent to Petersburg. (2)

Sanpete Valley

Last Wednesday, while the children of Andrew Anderson were herding their cows by the river, about one and a half miles southwest from Gunnison, they were surprised to see a strange animal fighting with their dog. They were afraid to take part in the combat, but Mr Peterson who was near, took a rack stake from his wagon and succeeded in killing the brute. The animal was the size of a sheep dog, and was covered with long grey hair with small spots of black. Its head was shaped somewhat like that of a dog. Its tail resembled a cat`s, and was white, with black rings. Its feet were like those of a bear; while it fought it stood on its hind legs, fighting with the others. It paid no attention to Mr. Peterson or the children, but seemed to have eyes only for the dog, following him around and in its wrath biting the grass. The animal after being killed was taken near the field schoolhouse, and was an object of interest to many who came to see it. There has been a great many opinions as to the name of the animal, but all admitted they had never seen or heard of its like before. (3)

A racoon?

1 Daily News September 23rd 1879
2 Unknown Utah newspaper
3 Unknown Utah newspaper.


Bob Dylan Ballad of a Thin Man

`You walk into the room
With a pencil in your hand
You see somebody naked
And you say “ Who is that man?”
You try so hard
But you don`t understand
Just what you`ll say
When you get home

Because something is happening here
But you don`t know what it is
Do you, Mr Jones?...........`

2 comments:

Richard Freeman said...

The latter sounds like an outsized racoon.
Stuffed or presered crocoiles were oftern desplayed in Europe as dragons. In 1568 the St Nicholas Register recorded on on show at Durham. It was 16 feet long and supposedly had killed 1000 people in Ethiopia.. A stuffed 13 foot croc is held in the town of Brno in the Czech republic. It supposedly terrorized the town in the 1600 befor a knight used a calf skin filled with lime to poison it.
Others are to be found at the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie near Mantua in Italy, the cathedral of Abbeville in France and the curches at Marseilles,Lyon, Chimiers and Ragusta as well as the cathedral of Commingues.

Dale Drinnon said...

Crocodile head it may well have been, but there is no reason to assume that it was actually killed locally. More than likely it was a curio brought in by a traveller and then later identified as the dragon of the story.

The "satyr" story is odd because although it sounds as if it might have been a bear, it has the tail characteristic of a bobcat or a lynx. I therefore guess it was an odd-looking, possibly congenitally deformed lynx. It is also odd if nobody recognised that was what it was in that case.