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

The Centre for Fortean Zoology (CFZ) are still on the track, and have been since 1992. But as if chasing unknown animals wasn't enough, we are involved in education, conservation, and good old-fashioned natural history! We already have three journals, the largest cryptozoological publishing house in the world, CFZtv, and the largest cryptozoological conference in the English-speaking world, but in January 2009 someone suggested that we started a daily online magazine! The CFZ bloggo is a collaborative effort by a coalition of members, friends, and supporters of the CFZ, and covers all the subjects with which we deal, with a smattering of music, high strangeness and surreal humour to make up the mix.

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

MUIRHEAD'S MYSTERIES: Giant Centipedes in Hong Kong

Anyone who has lived in Hong Kong, especially any entomologist or Fortean, will be well aware of the centipedes, Scolopendra spp, sometimes red in colour that live in many parts of the former British territory. They certainly live on the Peak, where Jon and I lived as youngsters.

Although it is known that these myriapods can attain a length of nearly 30cm/1ft. However. there are claims that these centipedes can grow to 60 cm long; that is 2ft! (Thank you to Heywood`s Mathematical Genius Lizzy for this conversion; it took me several years to get O Level Maths). In one of those bizarre Fortean incidents, at the end of last week I was browsing the online Hong Kong newspaper archive, which like some quasi-bibliographical giant, rarely sleeps in this house, and I accidentally typed in the words GIANT CENTIPEDE in capitals, thus, when 99% of the time I type the words in lower case, and I came up with the most interesting of the total of only 7 hits, dated June 30th 1924 front page of the Hong Kong Telegraph http://hkclweb.hkpl.gov.hk/hkclr2/internet/eng/html/frm-bas_srch.html (This is the website for the search engine not this issue of the HK Telegraph) There is a very similar story from March 19th 1948 this time from The China Mail, again which I hope you can see below, but in case you can`t, it read:

2-Foot Long Centipede A giant centipede, almost two feet long, was caught and destroyed in the 3rd floor kitchen of No 80 Fuk Wa Street Kowloon,[N.W.Kowloon-R] on Tuesday [March 16th-R] The large insect was discovered near the fireplace and killed with a piece of firewood by one of the inmates of the flat.”(1)[Inmates, that`s an interesting choice of words, what was he, a prisoner?-R} Interestingly the 1948 centipede was also found in Kowloon, that part of the mainland directly across the harbour from Hong Kong.

The 1924 item mentions a company called Messrs A. S. Watson & Co in Kowloon. This company still exists and has offices all over Hong Kong including Kowloon Tong, which is several miles east of Fuk Wa St.

There is on the web a video of a giant centipede, Scolopendra multidens/S.dehanni on Cheung Chau,:” Giant centipedes ( Scolopendra multidens/S.dehanni) are surely Hong Kong`s ultimate creepy-crawlies: not only do they look spooky and grow to 13cm long (my emphasis - R) they run fast and pack venom they inject through fangs.(2) Cheung Chau an island to the west-south-west of Hong Kong island. I also recall a Facebook contact describe a centipede on The Peak as being c.20cm in length,but 60cm? How big do centipedes grow?

The 2ft specimen from 1924 is described as S.gigas .However neither Hong Kong Insects vol 1 (1st ed. 1978) nor vol. 2 (1982) have any mention of centipedes in Hong Kong.

There is an interesting story in The Hong Kong Daily Press July 1st 1924, perhaps the editor had the story in his rival paper of the day before in mind (see above). As follows:


A correspondent of the North China Daily News writing from Mienchow ,Szechuan on June 9th says: “A few days ago a Chinese woman in the city was extremely ill. She went to a local doctor and he prescribed a centipede; charging her three dollars, and instructing her to eat it. It was a poisonous variety and the idea seems to have been that act as an anti-toxin to the poison in her system. It made her very ill. Her face and lips swelled to such an extent that she ate no food for five days.

This is only one of many examples that might be given which show that the ordinary Chinese is still living in a world that belongs to a far distant past.”(3)

[that would have been a classic quote for my China: A Yellow Peril? book!]

See YouTube also for Hong Kong centipedes.

1. The Hong Kong Telegraph June 30th 1924 p1
2. Giant centipede on Cheung Chau http://www.hkoutdoors.com/videos/giant-centipede-on-cheung-chau Accesses 20/09/2010
3. The Hong Kong Daily Press July 1st 1924 p.7


I stand still stepping on the shady streets
And I watched that man to a stranger
You think you only know me when you turn on the light
Now the room is lit, red danger
Complicating, circulating
New life,new life
New life,new life

1 comment:

Richard Freeman said...

O-mukade is a monster centipede from nese lore. In Japan there is a species of huge centipede (Scolopendra japonica) that grows to over six inches long and can inflict a painful bite with it’s first pair of legs that have been modified into fangs. In legend Japanese centipedes get even larger, being hundreds of feet long. Human saliva is poisonous to them!