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.

It is edited by CFZ Director Jon Downes, and subbed by the lovely Lizzy Bitakara'mire (formerly Clancy), scourge of improper syntax. The daily newsblog is edited by Corinna Downes, head administratrix of the CFZ, and the indexing is done by Lee Canty and Kathy Imbriani. There is regular news from the CFZ Mystery Cat study group, and regular fortean bird news from 'The Watcher of the Skies'. Regular bloggers include Dr Karl Shuker, Dale Drinnon, Richard Muirhead and Richard Freeman.The CFZ bloggo is updated daily, and there's nothing quite like it anywhere else. Come and join us...

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Monday, December 06, 2010

LINDSAY SELBY: Man-eating tree - fact or fantasy?

Man eating plants- Fact, Folklore or Fantasy?
A German traveller in the 1880s called Karl Lache (Spelling may not be accurate as different versions spell his name Carle etc) wrote to the Polish Doctor, Omelius Fredlowski, describing a human sacrifice he had seen in Madagascar , in which a woman had been devoured by a tree. His letter said that the Mkodos of Madagascar lived in caves ,were small in stature and sacrificed their fellow tribes people to the tree. The full text of his letter is reproduced in Searching for Hidden Animals by Roy P Mackal (1983 Cadogan Books London).Lache called the tree “Crinoida”. He described it as a truncated cone with right hooked or horned leaves That hung to the ground like hinged doors.The tree had a receptacle which contained a clear sweet treacly liquid and from this hung tendrils. Lache said he had witnessed the Mkodos take a woman to the tree,where she drank the liquid and the tree surrounded her with its tendrils and ate her.Ten days later all that remained was her skull.

The account was published in newspapers and magazines along with lurid illustrations and was purportedly published in a scientific journal. I could find records of the other articles but not a scientific journal.
Chase Salmon Osborn of the USA travelled all over Madagascar after reading these accounts to look for the tree. He published a book about his travels in 1924.He did not find the tree but heard lots of folktales he said about it from both indigenous peoples and missionaries.

I feel that the man eating tree is more fantasy than fact .The strangest thing I find about it is that the tree contains(when you read the account) so many elements of other carnivorous smaller plants which seems unlikely. You can understand it having two but not so many. Surely that would be evolution gone wild? Why would it need the receptacle element and tendrils and leaves? If the receptacle is on top of the tree where creatures would fall in, why would it also need the leaves? We do have lots of smaller plants such as pitcher plants. Venus fly trap, sticky sundew that attract and digest insects and more recently a larger plant was discovered that could digest a rat, but a plant that could digest a human would have to be very large and surely would be seen by many people? Sadly I think this is one we confine to old Tarzan films ,more myth than reality.


Anonymous said...

The story was considered a work of fiction generally up until Roy Mackal included it in a work on Cryptozoology: Willey Ley wrote about it and said it was only a fictious story, for one example, and when I joined the SITU that was still the general opinion.

That the story exists in Folklore I can well believe: similar stories exist in India, Indonesia and in Latin America-but always as Folklore. And that would seem to be the size of it: it is a widespread STORY that circulates in Folklore and popular fiction. But probably no more real than the Phantom Hitchiker or The Lover's-Lane Lunatic Killer With a Hook.

theo paijmans said...

Hi Dale, compadre,

I beg to differ on your assessment of the perceived reality of UL's like the Lover's Lane Lunatic (killer with a hook).

Aside from the hook which might be gauged as a psychological motive (i.e. you can't escape it once it has latched itself onto you), there are many factual accounts of mystery slayings of couples on lover's lanes. Take, for instance, Zodiac's gruesome slaying http://www.zodiackiller.com/FaradayJensen.html

or the Atlanta Lover's Lane Killings, 1977; http://georgiamysteries.blogspot.com/2009/08/atlantas-lovers-lane-killer-southern.html

And those are but a few examples!



theo paijmans said...

... and here's a whole thread on lover's lane killings: http://officialcoldcaseinvestigations.com/showthread.php?t=8924