Sunday, June 27, 2010
I have recently come across the term ‘ethnoknown’, first in a post on Cryptomundo and secondly in Chad Arment’s smashing new book on the mystery carnivores of North America. I am surprised I have not come across the term before, and I suspect it is a word of recent origin, or even a neologism like my very own `zooform`. But it is a remarkably apposite term for cryptozoologists, for cryptozoology does indeed concern animals that are less well known; i.e. animals that are known to the inhabitants of an area (even if this knowledge is only in folkloric or zoomythological terms). This is, after all, the very essence of cryptozoology.
The CFZ recently came under criticism from a person who hides behind the pseudonym ‘Highland Tiger.’ He claims that although the CFZ have carried out over 20 expeditions they have come back with no evidence for the existence of any of cryptids for which they have searched. If you are examining these expeditions in cryptozoological terms (and we are of course cryptozoologists) this is simply not true. Each expedition has come back with anecdotal evidence from the people ‘on the ground’, which bolsters what we know of these cryptids as ethnoknown, (but still cryptic as far as the scientific community on the whole is concerned), animals.
One of the things that I have always thought massively important as far as cryptozoology is concerned, and one in which has therefore become one of the watchwords of the Centre for Fortean Zoology as a whole, is that cryptozoology is not the study of monsters.
Whereas the study of ethnoknown creatures can be used to extrapolate the existence of various lake monsters, man-beasts, and other fearsome denizens of far-flung places, it can also be used far closer to home to extrapolate the existence of far less exciting but equally significant animals.
For example, in the first few issues of Animals & Men (now collected together as Animals & Men Issues 1 – 5 In the Beginning (CFZ Press, 2001) and my own Smaller Mystery Animals of the West Country (CFZ Press 1996) I presented evidence for the existence of three ethnoknown mystery animals in the southwest of England.
- A British population of the green lizard (Lacerta viridis) in southern Dorset and southern Devon. I hypothesised that they could have become naturalised in the area after having been inadvertently introduced through the south coast seaports into which they had been imported in shipments of fruit and flowers from the Channel Islands where this species has long been resident.
- Surviving populations of the pine marten (Martes martes). This charming little carnivore was, according to Langley and Yalden writing in 1977, extirpated from its entire English range by the end of the 19th Century. In The Smaller Mystery Carnivores of the West Country I presented evidence that in Devon, Cornwall, Somerset, Dorset and Hampshire, and possibly Surrey, this was just not so and that (in some areas bolstered up by artificial and unofficial introduction programmes) this was just not true.
- Working on evidence from 15th, 16th and 17th Century parish records I concluded that Edward Alston’s 1872 paper on the ‘Specific Identity of the British Marten’ was quite simply wrong. In almost all of its range, M. martes co-exists with another – and closely related – species: Martes foina. The beech or stone marten - or marten cat as it is commonly known - was thought to live in various parts of the UK and Ireland until – with a stroke of the pen – Alston disenfranchised it. Such things happen all the time in zoology. For example, in Hong Kong the one cervid was thought to be the Chinese barking deer, Reeve’s muntjak (Muntiacus reevesi), and was included in all the reference books as such together with photographs undoubtedly of this animal. Halfway through the last decade there was a paradigm shift and suddenly the word from on high was that the only deer living in the former British colony was the Indian or red muntjak (Muntiacus muntjak). I believe that both species, and quite probably hybrids of the two in various degrees of introgressiveness exist there. But this is, of course, another story.
Over the 16 years since I first published these theories, I have to a certain extent been vindicated on two of them.
- Firstly, the green lizards: sometime during the 1990s Lacerta viridis was split into several species and the ones found in western Europe are now called Lacerta bilineata. The great surprise in the world of herpetology but not to those of us who follow Heuvelmans’s suggestive methodology vis-a-vis ethnoknown animals, populations of Lacerta bilineata were discovered near Bournemouth – a sea port with a regular congress to and from the Channel Islands. The latest accepted thinking is that these animals are of relatively recent introduction, however whether they were introduced deliberately or by accident using a model similar to the one suggested by me back in the halcyon days of 1994 remain – for the moment – obscure. However, I think that I have been fully vindicated and strongly expect similar colonies to be found in the hills above Seaton and Lyme Regis in the next few years. Possibly I wasn’t just justified in the ungentlemanly headline “Told u so!” that I used both in Animals & Men and the late-lamented Pet Reptile magazine, but “I was so much older then, and younger than that now”.
- The most recent vindication of my personal use of the study of ethnoknown creatures in the UK came in the Guardian on 4th June 2010 when a report by the quango Natural England was discussed. It turns out that far from being extinct, small pockets of survivors have hung on quite successfully in various parts of England and Wales, as well as the areas in Scotland and Ireland where it has always been known to be living. Unfortunately for those who would like to see me hailed as some sort of zoological hero, the furthest south that the Natural England report said that pine martens had been seen was Northamptonshire, but I never particularly wanted to be a hero anyway. Again, I think that it almost certain that I should be proved 100% correct in the next few years. But when this happens, it will be a victory for cryptozoology, not a victory for the CFZ, and that it how it should be.
So what about my third prediction of 1994? Will beech martens be found to be UK residents?
I still think, almost certainly, yes. In the last 15 years the pool frog (Rana ( Pelophylax) lessonae), and at least two species of bat - Alcathoe's bat (Myotis alcathoe), and Nathusius' Pipistrelle (Pipistrellus nathusii) – have been proven to be British residents. The latter bat, by the way, was one that I had hypothesised was a British resident back in 1992.
I think that whilst the question of the existence of Bigfoot, the Loch Ness monster, and the yeti, and even the existence of big cats in Britain may still be questionable a decade from now, the three claims that I made in issue 1 of Animals & Men have certainly been vindicated and will be proof that cryptozoology, as laid down by Heuvelmans himself, is – indeed - a valid discipline because all three of my predictions were based on eyewitness testimony. All three creatures were ethnoknown as British residents.
This, I think, gives all of us who are interested in such things, great hope for the future.
Heuvelmans lists three opening categories:
1X) Vague or indeterminate reports, Mistaken observations and False reports or Hoaxes.
While I change the percentages of all the categories I allow those to stand, but I also add to the invalid reports the majority of the following categories:
2X) Super Otter 13 definite and 15 possible sightings. It has the overall shape like an otter, a serpentine body which undulates vertically, and a short or medium-length neck. The Super Otter may be about 65-100 feet long, sometimes reported up to several hundred or over a thousand (!) feet long. The creature seen by Hans Egede was probably a Super Otter, and it is perhaps a primitive archaeocete with four legs. As of 1965, the last definite Super Otter was in 1848, so it might be extinct by now.
The Report credited to Hans Egede (actually made by his son Povel) was most likely a misunderstood view of a whale now thought to be extinct in the area, and the Sundsland Fisherman report a more normal viewof another creature of the same type. The majority of the rest of the reports are mistaking waves in the water for living animals. As to the statement that the last one was seen in 1846, reports of the same type continue to the present day and it is permissible that NONE of these reports accurately describes any living creature. NONE of them would therefore be "definite" reports of a "Super-otter" or anything else.
3X) Many Humped 33 definite and 26 possible sightings. As the name suggests, this has several humps on it's back. It has a small head, short or medium-length neck, and (sometimes)a fin on its back as well as a pair of flippers. It seems to be about 60-100 feet long, and may be threatened or endangered, as there are very few recent sightings. It is probably an archaeocete.The Super-Otter and Many-humped categories are hard to distinguish from one another. Most of the reports in this category are also mistaken impressions of waves in the water, even if a Plesiosaur-shaped creature is making the wave. The distinctively black-backed, white-bellied reports with a back fin come from mistaken views of killer whales.
4X) Many Finned 20 definite and 6 possible sightings. This has a round head with whiskers, short neck, and many fins along the sides. It is probably about 60-70 feet long. The many finned seems to have some kind of armored protection, and seems to be another kind of primitive archaeocete.
Many-finned reports are most often mistaken views of several small cetaceans in a line. Some of the reports included are even Plesiosaur-shaped creatures or large whales. The Along Bay Dragons and Tompandrano do NOT conform to Heuvelmans' description.
1) Longneck 48 definite and 34 possible reports. The Longneck has a long neck, a humped back, and little or no tail. Some Longnecks have two horns, and the creature has a fast speed. The Longneck has flippers (similar to those of a seal) and is probably about 15-60 feet long. The Longneck is probably a kind of pinniped (seals, sea lions, etc) and the first known sighting was in 1846 (Although Heuvelmans states it was known to the ancients as "Physeter" and the first Sea-serpent listed on his table in the back is possibly a ?LN)
1A, Male of 1) Merhorse 37 definite and 34 probable sightings. The Merhorse has a head similar to a horse, a long neck, and a mane. It has big eyes and a snake-like tail. Sightings suggest that ther Merhorse ranges in size from 30-100 feet. The Merhorse's big eyes suggest that it may normally live in the deeper parts of the ocean.
Consequently the total numbers of reports in each category comes down somewhat owing to the mistaken reports being culled out. Both categories are still by far the majority of "Unidentified" Sea-serpent sightings, counted either together or separately.
5) Super Eel 12 definite and 11 possible sightings, equally well 12 larger and 11 smaller category sightings. The Super Eel may actually include different species. Most of them look like eels (the only sea serpents that actually are serpentine) though the description of their heads and coloration differ. Super Eels have large eyes and are said to be 20-100 feet long, in two bunches, one averaging about 30 feet and the other nearly 100 feet. Super eels are sometimes dying when at the surface, and are probably fish.
The larger and smaller size categories I name Titanoconger and Megaconger, and they differ in ways other than size. The Titanoconger is a really big deepsea, free-swimming fish marked with a distinctively darker back and lighter belly. I doubt if it is actually abyssal. The Megaconger is a smaller fish, although at an average of 20-30 feet long it is still larger than any known eel. It has a more even colouration and seems to favor shallower waters near to the coast and on continental shelves. Two subcategories in the Mediterranean and around Fiji might be more like large moray eels instead, without pectoral fins and otherwise similar to larger editions of the more common local morays.
Heuvelmans also includes a category of reports he calls ?LN?SE because he considers them difficult to categorize as either Longnecks or Super-eels. It would seem to me that about two-thirds of these are Longnecks and possibly a third (or less) are Super-eels: some of them are also reports of whales or other mistaken observations.
7x) Father-of- all-Turtles also known from only 4 possible sightings, is is described as a giant marine turtle. It may have some relation to the ancient giant turtle, Archelon. Heuvelmans considered the existence of the Father-of-all- Turtles to doubtful and the reports to be probably misidentifications.
8) Yellow Belly Known from only 3 definite, 3 possible sightings (as of 1965), this has a yellow color and is tadpole shaped. Its size is estimated at around 60-100 feet. Heuvelmans suggested that it might a shark or other fish, or even an amphibian[this last was the suggestion of the witness. I count it as a shark, much like a whale shark but with a longer tail and the markings run together to form stripes].Mackal subsequently tried to write off this category as sightings of marine invertebrates, but his arguments were flawed and he contradicted his own theory with other information elsewhere. In specific, he admitted that Salp chains were not known to come in that characteristic colouration.
Since I consider the basic creature described to be a kind of elongated shark, I also classify it loosely with the elongated basking sharks and even Eel-shaped sharks derived from reports of Seamonster corpses cast ashore periodically.
MUIRHEAD`S MYSTERIES:A MOST EXTRAORDINARY STORY OF A CROCODILE`S HEAD IN BELGIUM, AN AMERICAN SATYR AND AN ODD DOG
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
`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 fêtes 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 fêtes, 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)
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)
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?...........`
Well, Open Gardens is over for another two years. All in all, Oll showed 170 people round the CFZ menagerie, whilst on the Sunday I did my best to be a competent host to all the visitors whilst Graham was watching England v Germany on the big screen TV up at the pub. I think that everyone enjoyed themselves - a couple of people said that they wanted to come to the Weird Weekend, and no-one fell down, got bitten or anything else untoward. All in all, a very satisfactory weekend.
On this day in 1914 Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated, which gave European countries the excuse they’d been waiting for to start the First World War. There are stories told that a few weeks before his death Ferdinand met his exact physical doppelganger in Italy and after talking with each other they became friends. Some claim that meeting your doppelganger is a warning of impending death and if this story is true then it certainly didn’t turn out well for the Archduke, what happened to the other man, however, I don’t know. If anyone is familiar with this tale and does know more please use the comments section here to share your knowledge as death portents is a subject that has always fascinated me.
And now, the news:
Plants Demonstrate Complex Ability to Integrate Infomation
CHILD KILLED AT CENTRAL PARK ZOO
Strange creature on the prowl in East Texas
Experts rediscover plant presumed extinct for 60 years
Well, with the weather this warm, snakes are obviously going to be more active so it ‘adder’ happen sooner or later.