Archive for the ‘cryptozoology’ category

The Jersey Devil on “In Search of Monsters”

April 29, 2019

Strangely, The Travel Channel is home to a promising new paranormal series titled In Search of Monsters. In many ways reminiscent of previous such shows as Monster Quest, recent episodes of the series have stuck to the icons of cryptozoology such as Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, and The Jersey Devil (Season 1, Episode 4).  Such topics are familiar ground to those of us with interest in the field, but the show is decently produced and at times interjects updated material and new perspectives on our old friends.

The Jersey Devil is one of the few cryptids with a backstory and time frame, based on Mother Leeds who actually lived and has living relatives.  Considered a witch of sorts, she was a healer and practitioner of pagan religion in colonial America who produced twelve children without a miscarriage or still birth, an unusual feat for the time.  The 13th child of Mother Leeds was a bit much for her to bear, however, so at its birth in 1735 the woman wished for it to be a devil. Words carry power, so the legend has it that the child, human-appearing at birth, morphed soon thereafter into an adult-sized, draconic-type thing with an elongated head, tail, and wings that flew around the room before escaping up the chimney to the Pine Barrens wilderness of New Jersey.

In the almost three hundred years since, numerous sightings of the Jersey Devil have been reported, including a great flurry of them in 1909 in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. As to how the creature has endured for three centuries, speculation exists that the beast is demonic, with a witch having basically invited possession of her child by the devil at birth.  The Devil has reportedly been hit by gunfire on several occasions over the years with no effect, so indestructibility and immortality characterize it.  

The episode went on to speculate on what natural creature the Jersey Devil might be, touching on theories that it’s a misidentified large crane, a bat, or most intriguing, a pterosaur that had somehow survived with a breeding population, all hidden in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey.  While less common, sightings exist into recent years, with a hunter unsuccessfully pursuing one in 2016 and promoting a paranormal investigation in 2018 during which time equipment showed elevated energy readings suggesting to them that something was nearby.  The elusive nature of the Devil again harkens to its potentially supernatural nature, so at one point the episode had a paranormal researcher bring in a priest/exorcist to “The Witches Well,” a site where in the 18th century a witch lured the Jersey Devil, resulting in both being trapped there.  The priest/exorcist couldn’t perceive the Devil there, but called the Well an “active place” where entities existed.  

Lastly, the Pine Barrens is home to a large body of water 130 ‘ in diameter called The Blue Hole where no fish or other wildlife exists.  Reputed to be a type of gateway, speculation was that The Blue Hole may be a type of portal through which the Jersey Devil as a transdimensional type of being enters and exits our world.  Swimming is forbidden there, and a good number of body recoveries of people who didn’t listen have occurred on site –Does the Jersey Devil lurk within those waters?!

 …just a reminder that Foxsylvania does not necessarily endorse any of the stories that we cover, we are for entertainment purposes only.  This fox loves a good tale, however (should it be any wonder?)…and if The Travel Channel wants to take us to freaky locations, I’ll be along for the ride!

Expedition Unknown: Hunt for the Yeti

April 6, 2019

Expedition Unknown featuring Joshua Gates can provide a quality presentation of paranormal topics and investigations that are anchored with both science and history, and attractively mounted.   I tend to pass on episodes involving such things as treasure hunts, while pursuits of legendary creatures have me on board.  In one such episode recently presented titled Hunt for the Yeti — Everest Yeti Hunt, Josh started his journey in Kathmandu, heading high into the Himalayan mountains of Nepal to obtain scientific evidence of the Yeti.  

Hopping from one village to another, Josh wound up in a monastery reportedly having a Yeti scalp in their possession that had been there for 200 years, and kept in a closed and locked case.  After back and forth negotiations with the temple high lama brokered by a monk, Josh was allowed to see and physically examine the scalp, and even remove a single hair for later analysis.  A second monastery was later visited that at one time had claimed to possess a Yeti hand, one digit of which was stolen to have been later followed by the entire hand.  Today, only replicas of the hand reconstructed from photographs may be seen.  While the hand has been lost, analysis of the finger conducted later reflected human DNA, and the hand itself is felt to have come from the body of a deceased Himalayan climber discovered in the past.

There are an abundance of human eyewitnesses to the Yeti, and Josh at times through interpreters talked to a number of them, including a farmer who claimed to have lost over a dozen yaks to the Yeti, their remains being found torn apart.  Searching through the surrounding woods, Josh and his team did find yak bones strewn about in the woods.  Josh himself thought that he saw movement and perhaps a shape beyond a stream, but found nothing by the time he forded the raging waters.  The team did collect some scat and hair from suspected Yeti “nests,” and hopefully will be picking up on this story in the future.  Until that time, there are a variety of eyewitnesses but no conclusive evidence of the Yeti’s existence…

 

“Strange Evidence” Predator Resurrection

February 10, 2019

The Strange Evidence series on the Science (SCI) channel is one of the better shows currently televised on unexplained phenomena and scientific speculation. If somewhat uneven and episodic, the shows have decent production values and offer commentary and opinions by scientists as well as observers of the topics under consideration.  It’s a mixture of the far out and things that just might be possible; I like it!

With each installment comprised of several segments, the S1/Ep10 offering included camera trap footage taken in Tasmania in 2016 of an animal unfamiliar to observers that may have been a Tasmanian tiger, a species thought to have been hunted to extinction in the 1930’s with the last specimen in captivity (above) having died in 1936. Actually a marsupial, the Tas tiger was wolf-like with stripes and a long, inflexible tail. Due to the low resolution of the film taken, experts consulted could not conclusively identify the animal present, and thought it might have been a quoll, which is a smaller carnivorous mammal common to Tasmania.

So is the Tasmanian tiger still out there?  I remain skeptical, but stranger things have happened…

Mysterious Creature Stalks Canadian Moose?

August 5, 2018


Here we go again…another sighting of an alleged unknown creature, this one supposedly stalking a moose!  The encounter occurred July 29th in Gaspesie in the Quebec area of Canada.  As usual, only a blurry, indistinct, out-of-focus image of the creature (circled) is available for perusal.  It is said to resemble Tolkien’s Gollum or perhaps the Rake.  The thing spotted was said to have moved in an inhuman fashion, shaped like a hunched-over demon and about six feet in height.

Skeptics say that the thing was most likely a splat on the window of the vehicle from which the picture was taken, and it simply appears superimposed from there by the treeline.  It is not known if the moose suffered any ill fate from the encounter.  I for one would be more excited if the moose had appeared accompanied by a flying squirrel named Rocky who wore aviator goggles…

“We Are Gone,” The Terror, Episode 10

May 22, 2018

All good things must come to an end, and so The Terror wrapped up its tenth and final season episode (“We Are Gone”) with more than a bit of Grand Guignol, complete with cannibalism and the Tuunbaq ripping into Hickey and his rebellious men, literally tearing the sadistic psychopath in two before succumbing to its poisonous diet. You are what you eat, after all…

We were given more of a close-up of the Inuit monster in this conclusive episode, his countenance a disturbing mixture of human and bestial elements, almost resembling someone’s crazy old uncle; maybe Uncle Fester of The Addams Family. A “spirit who dresses itself as an animal,” the mythological creature was said to consume not only the flesh but also the soul of its victims. 

Where human flesh eating was concerned, there are suggestions in the historical evidence that some cannibalism occurred in the actual Franklin Expedition, although it was ramped up for horrific effect in the Dan Simmons novel as well as the series adaptation of it. In this television adaptation, surgeon Goodsir poisoned himself unknown to his captors and slit his wrists, his body then becoming a fatal feast for them. Other subtle differences between the book and the screen adaptation occurred as well, and without issuing spoilers I did find the novel’s ending more satisfying. If you were captivated by the televised series, check out the book as well as a really well done and worthwhile horror tale…

“A Mercy” Episode on, “The Terror”

April 23, 2018

When the going gets tough, it’s time to throw a party as a counter to the growing anger, despair, and psychosis growing among the crews of Erebus and Terror, as we are shown in Episode 6 of the series. The party is a wild one, thrown in an enormous tent rigged by the seamen, complete with drinking, hot tub bathing, and men wearing dresses, ahem!  There are seamen wearing animal head masks…yes, 19th century furries!   Rum is even being fed to the brain-dead crewman Private Heather, his skull torn open in an earlier Tuunbaq attack.

Unfortunately, one of their own, Dr. Stanley, has quietly gone mad, and he seals off the tent before dousing it and himself with oil, and igniting both.  Stanley’s arms-spread self-immolation is evocative of a scene from The Thing from Another World, and is perhaps the most horrible thing in the episode, rivaled only by Lady Silence‘s staggering bloody entrance, her tongue self-removed in an attempt to forge a shamanistic bond with the Tuunbaq.  We do see the creature briefly, his face a disquieting mix of ursine and human features.

With their food supply starting to run low and the canned food producing recognized symptoms of lead poisoning, expedition leadership now plans to abandon both their mission and their vessels in a risky trek on foot hundreds of miles south to civilization. The ill-fated party was an effort to boost morale prior to food rationing, climatic suffering, and the further predations of their Tuunbaq adversary, although clearly it had the reverse effect, adding also to the mounting body count.  

With only four episodes left to run, we unlike the poor devils in the Royal Navy know that this will end badly, because as Captain Crozier observed, “The place wants us dead…”


“First Shot a Winner, Lads” on “The Terror”

April 17, 2018

Well, the Royal Navy would appear to have fully engaged the Tuunbaq on Season 1, Episode 5 of The Terror, with blood drawn on both sides but the British at least putting on a good show for Queen and country.- –Well played, Lads!  We are given a bit more of a glimpse of the creature, which is set on fire, hit with a cannon shot, and survives just to run off into the snow mist!  “He’ll be back,” we can almost imagine Arnold Schwarzenegger saying…

I like to watch this show in a darkened room to heighten the atmospheric effects, with the pursuit and battle sequence of the episode taking place at night in a blinding snowstorm in the bitter cold.  The filming techniques almost make you feel like you are there as part of the beleaguered crew, about to receive a severe thrashing at the paws and claws of something incomprehensible that moves on its own terms, and may not even be destructible by mortal weapons.  A vicious and cunning predator is not the only problem the crew faces, having flesh cut off due to frostbite, an alcoholic captain, and the matter of spoiling and lead tainted food that is slowly poisoning them.  The enigmatic Inuit woman named Lady Silence breaks her reticence to convey that she doesn’t control the creature, and is really as afraid of it as the English are.  “It’s bound to no one,” she says…

Dread is a difficult emotion to convey in horror, and many horror tales fail to convey it at all.  It is a refined, rarified sense of fear.  Dread is subtle and builds slowly out of bits and pieces, taking its own good time.  The Terror is developing a sense of dread as effectively as about anything seen in recent years on television, and I look forward to the upcoming matches of the Royal Navy versus the supernatural Tuunbaq…