Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Lions, Tigers, and Bears? Nope, Merfolk, Beavers, and Flying Serpents--3 Crypto-inquiries.

Every micro-society is composed of different personalities. Some are pains-in-the-butt and some are a pleasure to be associated with. One fellow that I have never met but know by correspondence is that second sort of "good neighbor". It's because of him that I'm making this post, which has requests in it. Each year at the beginning of the calendar, I and others in the cryptozoological field [I don't deserve to be a full-fledged member of the crypto-society, but I try to help where I can] receive a lengthy letter from Gary Mangiacopra, sea and lake monster researcher extraordinaire and general cryptozoologist as well. He's always pleasant, open, and willing to share information in a two-way street. This year he is trying to help three other researchers with their topics. Despite my own ignorance on the topics, I'd like to help. So I'm going to let you know what he's looking for, and say a few things on the way, and ask that if you know of special resources or individual encounter stories relating to these three beasts, let me know and I'll pass the info on to Gary.
Topic #1 is the Giant Beaver, being "pursued", intellectually speaking, by a Canadian researcher. All I know of this I get from one of the great cryptozoologists, and a good friend, George Eberhart. George writes in his massively researched Mysterious Creatures that the animal has very few references to it and that we owe our information largely to the legend of the mishtamishku-shipu [you can read this brief legend on the web at a Cherokee folklore site by punching up its Native American name on Google]. Whether the original legend is Cherokee or Inuit or other, I can't tell. The journal Ethnohistory [Spring 1972] has an article about the legend. I'm not very optimistic about this being a real crypto-beast, rather than part of a Native American practical-wisdom tale, but it's an open question, so I say "go for it".---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The second inquiry is about Merfolk, asked by a US writer on all things maritime. Frankly, I can't see how one would want more than can be supplied by my two buddies, Jerry Clark and George Eberhart, on this---George's monstrous bibliography, entitled appropriately Monsters, has approximately 200 citations for Merfolk. One assumes that it would take plenty of time to wade through all of that---but, I suppose, the writer is looking for "new" encounter stories. We've certainly been living with the idea for a long time. The second form of the Mesopotamian Creation story has the god-like being Oannes emerging from the Persian Gulf at the delta of the Tigris-Euphrates to accomplish his creative and protective acts. This is, interestingly to me anyway, the same area described in the Bible as the location of Eden. Sightings of Mermaids and Mermen have been reported in a constant trickle across the centuries, many from the areas of the German and Scandinavian coasts. On the Shetland Islands, the Old Pict legend persists that the "merfolk" were "Finns", by which they seemed to mean a mystery people who had the ability to wrap themselves in sealskins and transform into aquatic beings having preternatural powers. On a more mundane note, I'll mention the FATE magazine report of 1967, wherein it was said that multiple persons in British Columbia saw a merfolk woman with silvery blonde hair holding a salmon on a rock outcrop at Active Pass. Allegedly she was even photographed--very careless of her as a nature spirit. All this sounds a bit too Darryl Hannah for me to easily swallow, but, heck, show me the picture...or at least a good UFO-style case investigation. If you have a Merfolk experience that you'd like Gary to share, send us the news.----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Now, the third thing is for a graduate student researching the "flying snake" concept. Once again, there would be no one better than Clark and Eberhart. I don't know much about "flying snakes" [other than that the Feathered Serpent forms the primary basis for the Pre-Columbian civilizations of the New World--Quetzacoatl, Kukul-kan, and Viracocha etc.] but I have had some interest in the concept of Dragons, which seem to me to be the same topic, if not just the Big Brothers of the snakes. Dragons have really been with us, integrally to our cultures, East and West, for a very long time. And not as simple myth-stories but as encounters too. I have a good friend who likes the dragon concept more than any other, but is too fearful of being a fool to contemplate any of it being based on reality. Well, despite being less fired-up than he is, I do think the thing has a possibility, if I consider it as I do the "little people" or the Loch Ness Monster or the ABSMs...that is, as an occasional intrusion of a non-biological entity from whatever that realm is. That, to me, is the origin of most of what Jerry calls "experience anomalies"--the Things That We Can Never Catch But Nevertheless Are There. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
But nobody's a real candidate for Magonian existence if it doesn't have significant "encounter-data" to make it reasonable to be sympathetic to it. Do flying serpents and dragons have any such evidence. There are a ton of olde stories. And a ton of intriguing "representations"--one of the most-so being the Piasa Bird of the Mississippi River. But what about cases? Here are a few--not as good as UFO cases or Catherine Crowe haunting data, but, for what they're worth. A). 1904-Statesville,NC. A woman and her children saw 30 or more large snakes [5 feet long] with fins flying through the air. They flew overhead and alighted together in a woods some distance away. B). 1917-in air, apparently over England. A pilot flying at great height saw "a curiously-colored dragon-like animal apparently floating in the air and approaching him rapidly." The pilot became unnerved and descended rapidly and landed. C). 1946-apparently in the area of San Diego, CA. While watching a meteor shower, two boys [one who would become a famous trance medium named Mark Probert] saw a very large "bird" approach, bigger than any plane, in about the neck to body proportion of a goose. It had a head like a serpent and scales on its neck. It's eyes were dull cherry red and the head hung downwards and swayed back and forth as it flew. Its wingspread was "gigantic" and glowed dully, while its body seemed metallic gray. It glided, flapped its wings, both dipped in flight and flew straight lines. Finally it pointed its head straight forward and zipped out of sight. Probert never uses the word "dragon" in his description but..really. D). 1958-Marlbank, Ontario. Two women saw what seemed at first to be a funny cloud. But this "cloud" would move erratically against the wind and rapidly change elevations. It circled their position and seemed to be issuing puffs of smoke. This smoke "belched forth" from its head, not its tail. At no time did the women hear any noise [a possible OZ effect case]. The thing would speed up every time it belched smoke [although technology would only do this if the power were being emitted from the rear.] The women really wanted to believe that this was some kind of machine, but their description belies that. They said that it flew off "looking like a huge snake or worm twisting in torment". E). 2003-location not given. Two people were driving at night when flying across the sky above came a huge something. The night had a full Moon and this aided the sighting. It had an "awesome wingspan" and flapped these wings "slowly and methodically" as it went. "If you were to imagine the black outline of a dragon silhouetted by the light of the Moon, this would be what you would imagine". F). 2005- somewhere in Iowa. An engaged couple was driving in a town at about 3AM. They came to a lighted shopping area. Above those lights appeared a long [10 foot] snake-like body, flying due to wings which spanned 15 to 20 feet. The wings were serrated like batwings. It was brownish in color and had a head like a seahorse. It seemed to "slither" in the air as it beat its wings. It then rose high in the sky and was lost from sight. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Tales like the above are only good enough [for me] to whet the appetite for a really good study with, hopefully, some better investigated claims. If you have any such encounter stories [or know where some are printed] that I can pass on to Gary, let me know. So, just mysteries not close to any answers today--but, I hope, interesting nevertheless. The thing at the right is obviously VERY serious so take it as intended.


  1. Dear Professor,

    Worth mentioning Robert Temple's the Sirius Mystery apropos Mermen. The Dogon tribe in the African Republic of Mali have long known that the star Sirius A is orbited by a very heavy, invisible companion star. Science only theorised about a dwarf companion Sirius B in the late 19th century, and it was only finally spotted using the giant telescopes of the early 20th century. Anyway, the Dogon maintain that their mysterious knowledge was acquired from fish-like extra-terrestriels, called Nommo, who came to earth from the constellation Canis (home to the Sirius stars).


  2. Thank you for your comment. I have a different take on the "Sirius Mystery" but that's not worth going into here. I am going to guess that Gary's correspondent knows of these theories and is mainly wanting to find documents of old, or testimonies of new, encounter cases. Still, your participation is appreciated, as I'm sure some readers don't know about the Dogon theory and may want to read and make up their own minds.

  3. Hey, Mike,
    My understanding is that the 1946 San Diego sighting was of something like a turn-of-the-last-century mystery airship (see The UFO Encyclopedia, 2nd ed., p. 376). At the time Mark Probert was a grown man and a practicing medium. He actually claimed to have telepathically contacted the etheric crew members.

    I have a fairly comprehensive chapter on sky serpents in my upcoming book. But except for the 1904 North Carolina report, I'm unfamiliar with the cases that follow it. Does Mangiacopra provide any sources?

    It may or may not be worth mentioning in the context of the smoke-belching sky serpent that some reports have the critters traveling in cloud covers. Maybe those clouds were self-generated. As flesh-and-blood animals these guys are hopeless cases, obviously, but they do seem to comprise a genuine experience anomaly. Given my feelings about snakes generally, however, I would be perfectly content not to experience one.

  4. Hi Jerry, good always to hear from a friend. The cases weren't Gary's but a few that i copped out of my own dragon file. Because we're talking about this publicly, I think that I'll make a small ad hoc blog entry today and scan in the references [they're all pretty short, and you and everyone can read them yourself making of them what you will.] Concerning flying snake encounters personally, I'm right with you. I'd take a dragon sighting if I had some reason to believe in benign intent, but what I'm really hoping for is a friendly elf. Off I go to make the entry.

  5. The legend of mishtamishku-shipu would not be Tsalagi (Cherokee).

    In that language, beaver would be do-ya, da-yi or do-yi.

    Each of the 85 letter characters in Cherokee (Tsa-la-gi) represents a unique sound of the soft and flowing language. Cherokee is a beautiful language full of colorful sounds, easily given to rousing oratory, poetry and song.

    The Tsa-la-gi words are spelled like they are pronounced and likewise, words are pronounced as they are spelled. The word "syllabary" is used to describe a system to develop words into writing. Cherokee (Tsa-la-gi) is written syllabary form because each letter in a word represents for a whole syllable (such as "ga") instead of a single letter (such as "g"). Cherokee is a complete syllabary, with the exception of the letter 's'.

    The language has 6 vowels and 17 consonants. The vowels are "a, e, i, o, u, v." The vowels are pronounced as:

    a = as in bark
    e = as in late
    i = as the e in beat
    o = as the o in wrote
    u = as the double o in boot
    v = as the u in nut. V is always nasalized.

    All words begin with a consonant and end with a long or short vowel except the 'S' sound. Often, a word will appear to end with a consonant and not a vowel.

    Syllables qua, que, quo, quu and quv are pronounced with a "kw" sound before each vowel.

    Syllables beginning with the letter "d" are pronounced as in the English, but approach a "t" sound; do, du, and dv sound like to, tu and tv in some words.

    "ti" syllables are sometimes pronounced "di." The syllables "do, du and dv" are sometimes pronounced as "to, tu and tv." The syllables tsa, tse, tso, tsu and tsv are pronounced differently in South Carolina and Oklahoma. The Western Cherokee usually pronounce words with a soft "j" sound by keeping the tongue at the bottom of the mouth.

    Cherokee uses the English consonants: d g h k l m n q s t w. The Kituwah middle dialect of Cherokee does not use the English consonants: b f p r t v x z.

    Cherokee is spoken with the lips still, mouth barely opened and the tongue pressed lightly against the lower teeth. Some words are pronounced through the nose and partly in the throat.

    Just some passing thoughts from a resident near New Echota.

  6. Esoteric information, my friend. Thank you. I will assume that the word is Inuit then, or something close to that cultural group. I am regularly amazed at the different ways that societies have handled the "R/L" sound and Cherokee seems to be another interesting data point on that.

  7. Dragon

  8. Jerry Clark writes, "I have a fairly comprehensive chapter on sky serpents in my upcoming book... It may or may not be worth mentioning in the context of the smoke-belching sky serpent that some reports have the critters traveling in cloud covers. Maybe those clouds were self-generated. As flesh-and-blood animals these guys are hopeless cases, obviously, but they do seem to comprise a genuine experience anomaly." - Is there a projected publication date for this book? I've used your 2009 "Sky Serpents!" article (FT#248) in an undergrad course I teach on early 20th c. fiction of the upper air -- . I'd love to know if you've extended that valuable discussion in the book.

  9. Since your comment is addressed to Jerry and since I doubt that he'll be checking back into my blog to see if anyone happened to call him out for an answer to an unexpected question, I'll say what little I can: that is , my understanding is that the book will arrive for purchase this summer. As to how original this particular bit will be, who knows but Jerry---but I've yet to see a publication by Jerry Clark which is not worth reading.

  10. I would have written him directly but couldn't find his email anywhere. I agree that anything by Clark is worth reading -- as my Forteana bookshelf will clearly testify :-)



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