Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Peeking at Ivan's SITU files: meaningless reports of sea monsters.Part two.

More sea monsters. Don't have time to go on a deeper research effort, so we're in it just for fun. These are the next twelve news stories that Ivan had in his unsorted file book. I added their approximate locations to the map for the first twelve from the other day, and we can see how it builds up as we go. [map at the bottom of this post].

Story #13: Shuyak Island [near Kodiak], Alaska. Glob on the beach. 30' long, headless "sea elephant" in state of decay. Had two hand-like front feet. A tail like a whale. Three-quarter inch thick brown-yellow "fur" on body.

#14: Qualicum, Victoria, British Columbia. 30' long "sea serpent". Three heads [!!!]. Center head at end of trunk like neck. Other two at ends of necks branching off three feet below. Necks hairy and 12-18" thick. [Hairy indeed].

#15: Near Mombasa, East Central African coast. A large animal seen just below the surface. This is known locally as the "Kilindini monster" and has allegedly been seen many times over the years.

#16: Pennock Island, SE Alaska. "Sea serpent". Flathead, cow-like shaped. Large goggle eyes. Curved neck. Body has a row of fins on back. Body "loops" as it swims.

#17: Northern Scotland. Historical tale: In the time of King Olof 14th, sailors would come across a Lorelei in these islands, who would make a sound so soothing that they would go to sleep or be entranced. It was a "sea troll" and referred to as female. Its head was like a horse's, with huge green eyes and strong jaws. Its body was like a serpent's and shaggy like a seal. It ended in a broad tail. [ a classic mermaid without the pretty girl, which to me is leaving out the best part ... but I bow to "reality" if that resides in here].

#18: Girvan, Scotland. "Sea serpent". Part of a representative of which was felt to be found decaying on a beach. "In life" allegedly seen to be a long body which swims with coiled motion and creating "humps" as it goes. A long neck [4'] and a "dragonish" head. The object on the beach had a skull reportedly weighing 17 lbs.

#19: Orkney Island, Scotland. "Sea serpent". Elongated body. [about 25']. Showing three humps as it swam. A long neck sometimes raised out of the water, and shaped like a cow's head.

#20: Cinsta, near E.London, South Africa. [extremely limited report]. Unknown sea creature, like a long-necked lion in shape [body not described]. Brown-skinned.

#21. Off Soviet Research Station, Antarctica. "Sea serpent". 49' long. Light brown. Moved like snake with "convulsive movements". Labelled a "sea snake".

#22. Newport Beach, CA. "Sea monster". Estimated 20 tons [though not on basis of any carcass]. Round head held about 4' high out of water. Two-foot-wide mouth. Head described as "thorny" and one horn noticeable. Colored a "sickly green".

#23. Yarmouth, United Kingdom. Very poor quality photograph of a "sea serpent being held on the beach, my estimate from the size of the men= about 25-30' long. Photo from 1897.

#24. Caddy country, British Columbia. A handful of clippings about one of our favorite critters. I'll try to summarize these clippings in a supplementary posting. I'll also try to get a scan of the Yarmouth "sea serpent" up later.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Peeking at Ivan's SITU files: meaningless reports of sea monsters.

Continued slim pickings going through the first two unsorted file boxes from the Warth era. So, not much to report. In desperation just to put up something on the blog, I've decided to trudge down through a file folder of Ivan's which contained newsclippings of sea monster reports, or claims. There are few thrills here as nothing rises to the status of a substantive investigated incident. But for your amusement here are a beginning twelve such news reports.

The first twelve reports in the notebook are roughly mapped below. As you can see, they are mainly US coastal cases. What you have are: 1). a "water elephant" from the Rio de la Plata in Uruguay [greater than five meters in length {good} and having pinkish spots {not so good}];

2). a "sea monster" from Deception Bay, near Brisbane, Australia [with a 3' wide head and prominent eyes held above the water; no neck, possibly meaning serpentine];

3). a "monster" from Tampico Bay, Mexico [4' long plus half-moon tail, and six feet thick; sharp teeth and flippers ---a manatee??];

4). a "sea serpent" from Venice beach, CA [16' long with a serpent's head and a fin tail, estimated weight about 800 lbs];

5). a "x?z?q?k?" from Miami Beach, CA [5 & 1/2' cylindrical body standing 3' high on eight hairy legs and eyes on stalks --- yep, that's the one I want to go after];

6). a "blob" from Delake Beach, OR [a 22' length whatever with a 4' body like a cow's and 9 "tails". A hairy chest". Scientists said: a piece of a whale; a whale shark; a squid.];

7). a "sea serpent" from Cadboro Bay, BC [ 35-40' long with snake-like head; body 1' diameter; can raise 4-5' out of water; dark color; coiled at about 6-7' --- well, at least we meet one old friend in these reports --- hello, Caddy];

8). a "seal serpent" [spelling on purpose] from Racoon Straights San Francisco Bay [10' long with seal's head and bluish-gray coloration];

9). a complete mystery thing from Sandy Hook, NJ [ a 40-50' long transparent cylindrical thing, 1/2' in diameter, undulating along beneath the surface like "fluid glass"];

10). a "sea serpent" from Ifafa Lagoon, Natal [ a serpentine body fronted by a pig-like face with bulging eyes staring at the witness at the waterline];

11). a "sea monster" from Marshfield, MA [ an elongated body about keg-thickness and two fins about twelve feet from the tail; an alligator-like head and gobbling fish --- one of my favorite kinds of sea serpents and maybe the only one I think could be a real animal];

12). a "serpent?" from Sutherland, CA [ an elongated thing swimming with its head raised 4' above the water].

There's our first "dirty dozen". The note book looks to contain quite a few more, though I haven't thumbed through yet --- you guys can discover what's in there just after I do. Maybe it will be fun; what the heck?? I have to admit: I like #11 & Caddy, and a few others might be "kin". #9 sounds like a neat mystery; and #5 is preposterous but right out of John Keel's universe.

Glad I don't live there.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Peeking at Ivan's SITU files: long-distance adventure in Africa.

Hello, folks. Grinding through the loose unsorted boxes of paper has been drudgery without much reward so far. The term "low grade ore" hardly does it justice. I'm assuming that these first two boxes are just "unlucky", and I've certainly seen such unstimulating messes before. So --- I am challenged to offer you much. What I'm going to post today is more of a slice-of-life of Ivan's as he attempts to get some progress on a "hunt" which two persons are on in Africa, and which he hopes will strike gold. This story comes out of a small stack of correspondence between him and the pursuers, plus his zoo-keeping buddies in the US. I find it interesting enough. It is a glance into Ivan's life and personality. Don't count on great thrills however.

This story starts with a letter from a man whom Ivan knew at least casually from the states. This guy was helping the Liberian President [Tubman] set up a national Liberian zoo, and it seems that zoo-keepers and zoo-suppliers are a tight in-touch fraternity. The fellow wanted to tell Ivan that he had been hearing of a large land animal roaming about the bush and it didn't seem to match expectations as to an understood animal. [This correspondence takes place between late 1961 and early 1963, by the way]. The zoologist ["HG"... his name's on the correspondence but let's leave him alone] says that he's "discovered an animal that has so far not been listed in Liberia or for that matter in West Africa". That statement seems a bit overstated to me, as what he has discovered is only "spoor" in the form of footprints and coincident native testimony.

The footprints are four-toed and squarish ~11x11". He says that he has cement casts. Also photos of the ground-marks. The natives say that the thing is big like a rhino, but with a very different head. Heads are described as long without horns, but prominent teeth. Short legs. Vegetarian; ate up a large part of a rice field. Violent, however, and has killed a man.

Ivan, of course, is goo-goo about this. He writes back wanting to see the photos and the casts, and wanting to know that if HG captures one can they get together to sell the specimen to the Philadelphia zoo. [Ivan, by the way wants none of the profits from such a sale, saying that he can make a living merely writing about the saga.] Reflecting on his cryptozoo-knowledge, Ivan then states that the legendary explorer Hagenbeck went to this general area looking for such a beast, and found the pygmy hippo instead. But this is too big for that. Then he makes his leap of romance: this thing sounds to him like an existing Tetralophodon. That "extinct" mastodon-like inhabitant of old Africa fits the bill perfectly in Ivan's eyes [should we say "heart"?]. Long-heads and four pointed small tusks sticking forward. Yep, Watson, the game is afoot!!

HG wrote back. He admits that the hunt is becoming an obsession, and he's frustrated. He nicknames the beast Sendok Kuping Ohlatacrapus". Ivan doesn't like that particular levity and insists that they call it Tetralophodon. This is a bit disappointing to me, as labeling the thing as an archaic elephant on nothing more than they have is WAY jumping the gun. [the character on the left is an upset pygmy hippo, by the way; just to show another of the candidates].

HG complains about not having sufficient equipment [particularly a jeep] to effectively do the search. He states that the natives tell him that the beast is "like" some "sketch" that he has from Ivan [of a Tetralophodon?] and that it squirts water at people, and will attack encampments at night if there are fires burning. But then he wonders if this is not some far-out-of-range Nile Hippo. He then says that he is resigning his post forming the Liberian zoo, so that he can concentrate on the hunt.

Ivan is wowed by the progress-to-date. He writes his buddy at the Philadelphia zoo about the affair, and describes the hearsay of HG as if they are facts. The "squirting of water" particularly fits his desire for this to be a proboscidian. He says that this hunt "carries straight on from Hagenbeck, who was nobody's fool".

By the end of 1961, Ivan is becoming a little frustrated himself. No casts have arrived. No photos have arrived. He can make no progress trying to interest people stateside without something tangible and some presentable references for HG. The response that returns isn't even from HG but from a new guy ["DJ"] who has become a colleague in the hunt. The new fellow was a geologist and diamond miner. He told tales of being informed of animals called "Nyoma". This thing was not a rhino of any kind as the natives described that animal as a "Kowuru". This Nyoma thing was he said what the locals referred to as "water elephant". But it doesn't much resemble an elephant. And he reasserted the thing's violent temper with more stories of killings. He and HG had gotten one very good print. He drew it and sent the drawing on. This doubtless further frustrated Ivan who wanted to see direct evidence.

Nevertheless he remained enthusiastic. He repeats all this to his Philadelphia zookeeper buddy with gusto. Returning to a state of analysis, though, briefly, he asks the keeper if he can get foreprints for both the pygmy hippo and the larger variety. Writing to another zoologist, he states flatly that the Nyoma is not "either elephant, rhino, hippo, or pygmy hippo", though he can't possibly know this from what he's received. Like it or not, Ivan's romanticism is running a bit wild. He affirms that the thing has four tusk/teeth sticking "way out front on a long pointed head". He ends with: "Somehow, I feel this one is hot".

Ivan continues to muse on what this can be. He begins to speculate that they have a giant semi-aquatic forest hog on their hands. He zookeeper buddy is politely non-committal. Slightly later, the friend told Ivan that he thinks it is just an ordinary Hippopotamus way out of its range. Ivan refuses to buy it, citing small claims of hearsay reported to DJ by natives. [by the way, the drawing of the mudprint looks VERY hippo to me]. Finally, "evidence" arrives ... in the form of "one turd". [note a rather pleasant picture of "one turd" accompanying this uncomfortable subject; thank the Lord for dung beetles]. Whether this ever got analyzed is not stated. DJ and HG also refuse to buy the Hippo theory because the people to whom they talk refuse to say that this is what Nyoma is. HG claimed that the dung was identical to rhino dung. Why this convinced them that they were on the track of the unknown eludes me, but it shows what the thrill of the chase can do. As DJ and HG feverishly chase after Nyoma, they come across tales of another even more amazing beast: the water chimp. [more about that later]

The Philadelphia curator, now over a year into this saga, writes to Ivan telling him to give up on his Tetralophodon idea. The print of the beast is that of a common river hippo. [an actual cast from Liberia had finally arrived]. The knobs that the locals describe on the head are the bumps over the eyes. Kindly, he suggests to Ivan that the anomaly is "zoo-geographical"...i.e. an out-of-place specimen. Ivan never writes to DJ on this subject again. DJ however DOES write back to him. In the letter he continues to remark upon the Nyoma. He's not convinced of the Nile hippo idea, but is grudgingly letting it go. He tells Ivan that he's still fired up about crypto-animals, though, and lists eight more "leads" to possible novel finds. Ivan does not comment on any of it in a polite return letter.

One of DJs items in his list is the "water chimp" which he says is widely known by the locals. [the illustration above is of an orang, but it is the best I could do to give you something to look at.] These animals, "Ya-olo", are pretty far out on the unbelievability scale but with all this, who knows?? "Ya-olo is about the size of a chimp, aquatic, but possesses thick black hair like a chimp and has a black crown of hair which the people describe as resembling most the crown of the Diana monkey. The sound is vaguely chimp-like: ooooh--oooh--ooh--ooh--ooh. The feet, they say, are actually unlike a chimp's and more like a leopard's with permanent claws". [yeh, right.] Now lovers of the chupracabra will love this: Ya-olo hunts by night and kills its victims sucking out all their blood by masticating through their nose [sorry for the imagery]. Cattle mutes and chupracabras here we come. I see no evidence that Ivan wanted to go there.

In his last letter to Sanderson, DJ sent him an entry from a 1788 book describing a Black[eared] cat which killed at night and had its prey often stolen by the lion. [Most think that this refers to the Caracol]. Ivan liked DJ [as much as he ended up disliking HG]. Given all DJs enthusiasm for the hunt[s], Ivan elected him to his honorary explorers club, telling him to keep in touch.

I'd like to think that Ivan gave in to the idea that the Nyoma chase was chasing an out-of-place River Hippopotamus, but I'm not sure. He put the whole correspondence in a folder and marked it with the name of his primitive elephant. Well ... the world needs Ivan Sandersons who will persevere in the face of nay-sayers. We also need Philadelphia curators who will say, nicely, c'mon Ivan you've got a hippopotamus there.

Due to a request from a reader, this sketch of the footprint found by the African explorer [and sent to Sanderson] is appended.

Monday, May 23, 2011

May Begin Again Soon

Hello folks. Just back to Wheeling and trying to shake off the travel and space-shift adjustments. I'll probably get back on-the-horse with some posting soon. I am hoping that while I am drudging through the unsorted boxes that I've shipped here, occasionally things will pop up of at least minor interest. This doesn't happen as often as you might think, friends, as the piles of paper are mainly junk and pragmatics ["can I have permission to re-publish something"; "please come to this meeting"; "please pay this bill"; etc.]. Almost by accident a little browning letter fell out of the mass, which isn't breath-taking, but heck, let's pass it along.

As you see it's a [pretty vague] report of a UFO encounter had by this person's grandmother. She apparently described the UFO well-enough to allow him to draw it [which is the only reason why I'm posting it --- it's nice to see these first hand art-renditions]. Whether the case really had any CE2p element in it is, of course, debatable. Not a great case --- much too vague --- but a little "charm" on the blog never hurts.

I'll try to generate something more substantive by the latter part of the week [but who knows, you can't just make this stuff up --- or shouldn't anyway]. By that time I should have poked into the boxes more deeply.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Tatzelwurms and SITU??

I've promised that when possible I'll try to respond to questions of interest, so this will be another of those times. In the comments a couple of weeks back, I was asked if Sanderson had anything to say about the European cryptobeast, the Tatzelwurm. Somewhat surprisingly, the answer so far has been "no". When you look at Ivan's files, it is overwhelmingly obvious that he was an ABSM man. He is "crazy" interested in the concept, and his files on it double any other subject. He's interested in water monsters, UFOs, and lots else, but no Tatzelwurm so far. Still, we may as yet uncover material on it, and the SITU magazine covered the Tatzelwurm twice in the Warth era. More on that later.

I am not going to give a professorish dissertation on the Tatzelwurm concept because it is a topic relatively new to me, and my naivete is profound. Plus there are several nice overviews on the alleged beast easily available on the internet ; one named Frontiers of Zoology has a fairly lengthy and intelligent coverage of our monster, lasting about 50 pages. I downloaded it myself --- well, if I'm going to make my own file on this thing, why not make a thick one??

As I said, I'm going to leave it to you folks to read the web in depth on this, but I'll give a vague descriptive context. This subject seems to merge back into the mediaeval past [at a minimum] in the central European Alps, especially in Switzerland and Austria [yeh, I know they weren't around yet politically]. Early descriptions seem to vary quite a bit depending on what commentator you're reading today; some folks want to glue more things together than others do. The conservative commentators tend to focus on relatively small lizardy or Gila Monster type creatures, which are dangerous due to poisonous behaviors.

A middleground of commentators seem to like a larger possibility for the monster, and go with an extended snaky affair with front legs and no hind ones. This sort of Tatzelwurm takes on an image reminiscent of some of the PNW coast sea/lake monsters, but having an Alpine habitat instead.

The "All-The-Way-Fool" school of Tatzelwurmologists [you should read back into the blog to find out what "All-The-Way-Fool" signifies in hypothesizing], combines much larger geography [possibility extending right around the planet] and much wider encounter tales. This sort of School-of-Thought is usually my favorite in cryptozoological matters, as most of these things end up impressing me as having observational reality, but not the "physical presence" in my mundane world that a biologist would like.

The ATWF school in this instance begins to speak of "dragons", the "Last European Dragons", and casts a folkloric aura about the beast. That, as blog readers know, is not at all put-offing to me, if the data seem to indicate actual encounters, but the rest of our commonsense fails to come up with a biology textbook sort of solution. Save the Data; Throw away your "commonsense" if that's what it takes to do so. "All-The-Way-Fool". Plus, I rather like Dragons. But, they're biologically out-of-the-question, so off we go to the paranormal little folks' land.

The blog-keeper of the blog that I just mentioned claims that the picture below is of a tombstone commemorating the death of a farmer killed by an attack of two poisonous Tatzelwurms. I can't see the carving clearly enough, but I trust that if we were right up next to it that we could.

As I mentioned in the beginning, I have found no commentary by Ivan on this subject. Even in his two books where one would seem encouraged to find such [ "Things" & "More Things"], there is nothing, despite comment on many other monsters.

But during Bob Warth's years of publishing PURSUIT, the Tatzelwurm was covered twice --- once in a 1986 article by Ulrich Magin [who is apparently as much an expert on this subject as anyone; and who has a recent Fortean Times article on Tatzelwurm, as well as a full book on it and other beasts {in German only, I think}], and once in an undated [but five years later] article by Luis Schonherr.

Schonherr was a great "fan" of the Tatzelwurm since his youth and had "secretly" collected a huge pile of reports alongside his more well-known UFO interests. He claimed 160 case histories. There are two unfortunate things in this part of the story: 1). Schonherr's article was part one of two, but the Journal stopped with this issue and part two never appeared. 2). Luis has now passed on and we have lost an expert as well as a fine UFOlogist.

Unless one of you is a channeler, we can do nothing about Luis passing up through the NDE light-tunnel to the next phase of his spiritual existence, but there is a small hope on the other thing. And, you guessed it, it concerns what's in those d@#$#& unsorted boxes that I described in the previous post. MAYBE Luis already had sent Bob Warth his "Part Two" of the Tatzelwurm articles and we'll uncover it in the long haul of turning over papers in hopes of the worthwhile. IF I stumble upon the mysterious unpublished part two, I will promise you a detailed report. Until then, you'll have to be content with internet sources, Ulrich Magin's doubtlessly good book, and your back copies of PURSUIT.

p.s.: both PURSUIT articles were pretty in depth: seven pages for Magin, and five for Schonherr.

SITU files: status report on the "mess".

Hello folks. This is just a quick note on the state of the files now that another week+ of slinging has gone on. Physically, the boxes have amazingly vacated the entire middle of the garage, leaving one with an idea of what the "final product" will look like. [The garage/file room will look like a big square carpeted area ringed by shelving units. Through the middle of the "empty middle" will stand two sets of multi-units --- four six-shelf units backed by four more, and then another set of eight arranged the same back-to back way, forming little "library corridors" that you can walk down and "read the shelves".] With any luck, and culling out the non-SITU books which came with the library [--- apparently Warth's non-anomalistic books were all tossed together in a heap with the SITU ones], we should get the old library to fit. Those shelves would then contain all the books and the journals/newsletters, the latter in new journal boxes. The smaller amounts of "artifacts", tapes, casts, et al will have to wait until we can see what space we have to work with. I'm planning on gifting several things to the collection myself [Grover Krantz' bigfoot casts, a Gigantopithecus skull reproduction, models of Nessie, Yeti, Bigfoot, ET, and maybe even my Wasgo ceremonial mask, though I wince a little on that one]. Bottomline: it would be nice to have this stuff out for display somehow.

As to the contents: as I've mentioned before, we are fortunate in that most if not all of Ivan's notebook files have survived. We are also luxuriating in a much larger than expected SITU book and journal library. Now, having peeked into every box, I am still at sea as to whether we have anything like a complete set of the Bob Warth era files. There are a large number of boxes [hmmm...30-40???] which could be them. [and probably , mainly, are]. But they are a colossal nightmare. The typical one of these looks like a chaotic pile of of unconnected pieces of paper one after another --- often partially crumpled, and rarely with surrounding context. Placed in a file folder?? Ha!!! Surely you jest!!!. No one here but myself has any confidence that they can go down through these things and have much chance of properly sorting, culling, aggregating, and finally foldering the sharpened-up contents. It's on me, folks. Towards that end, I'm shipping ten medium-sized boxes of the stuff to Wheeling to grind through over the next nine weeks there.

The good news is that we'll be looking good on the library probably by October. The bad news is that I'll be dead and gone before the "Warth-era" files are sharpened up. Oh well. We do what we can and leave the rest to you youngsters.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Better (?) Snake picture maybe.

Folks, for those of you who have interest: this is a scan of what seems to be a pretty good blow-up of the small original Congo "giant snake" photo. It gives a better "cut" of the terrain, and maybe you can see what Ivan, Hapgood, and others were wondering vis-a-vis whether the vegetation in the upper right is trees. FWIW as the young computer wizards say.

Peeking at Ivan's Files: survey notes.

Hello, folks. Since I'm in Kalamazoo at the moment, and have had a little chance to work at "pushing boxes" from the SITU files, I thought that it would be worth a brief report. John Reed, Will Matthews and I have now at least peered into every box. Some of these things are rapidly "understandable", and some of them are going to take page-by-page turning to rationalize their contents, make files, and even save roughed up old paper from the recycle bin. The main thing about the "collection" is the massive library involved. By library I mean books and journals. This is probably a factor of ten larger than I would have expected. That's a good thing of course, but it means that the "files" are a bit less than expected, at least as far as I can tell at this moment. Saying that, however, needs some amendation, as Ivan's own three-ring notebook files seem to be here pretty much en masse. The "deficit", I think, may turn out to be from the Bob Warth era, which was almost the last guess that I would have made.

Regarding Ivan's files, which are certainly the core and gem of the collection: it is not easy to precisely count [ex. there are a few instances where it looks like we have a hole-punched pile of things which have "lost" their notebook], but my count is 302 "books".

The bulk of these have science supertitles ["Biology", "Geology", "Cultural Anthropology"] and contain whatever Ivan was interested in saving that he thought might apply to odd events/sightings. These number 63, 28, and 30 notebooks respectively. Within them are often materials which you or I would see as directly related to certain anomalous claims [ex. the stuff related to possible existence of dinosaurs currently is in a science notebook not a "monster" one.]
"Monsters" however DO show prominently. There are about twenty notebooks on miscellaneous "monsters", mostly water-dwellers. But the "ABSMs" dominate both the numbers and Ivan's interest, as books labelled so number 33. UFOs get 31 notebooks. Things associated with other sciences get 18. Miscellaneous anomalies [ex. Falls; Psi], get 31. There are 8 bibliographic notebooks, and 41 where Ivan collected certain journals, largely UFO newsletters. This numbers slightly over 300 notebooks or seventy-five-and-a-half-feet of linear shelf space. The anomalies research community can breathe a happy sigh of relief about that.

Now since you've been so nice to read all this "pragmatic" informational report, I'll toss in an example of a "neat thing" that one occasionally finds in the files. This is the picture of the "giant Congo snake" allegedly taken from the air by a bush pilot around 1960-2. Somehow a good "original" got into Charles Hapgood's and then Ivan's hands, and they were sending it to someone to try to make a competent estimate on how big the thing really was. The pilot had said "200 feet". Hapgood's letter to "Captain Burroughs" is included below for your interest. I'll get back on other SITUations as I can.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

GrassRoots UFOs

I'm a little embarrassed about doing this, but I'm proud of it and it has really made John Timmerman happy. Patrick Huyghe has re-published GrassRoots UFOs and, just after I had put the "slow-down notice" up for the blog, I found that it was being advertised on the Big Stage. It even had an unsolicited, and very generous, testimonial on the site [Amazon]. I put it below in case you'd like to read it.

P.S. Patrick just asked me if I would post the link to his site's book page for this, so I'll give it a try. http://www.anomalistbooks.com/swords.html


Folks, I just want to tell you that I'm traveling back to Michigan Saturday and the disruption might interfere with posting so often as I have been.

Doubtless this will displease some of you just as much as it does me [frankly these little adventures are keeping me going in the midst of the wear-&-tear of caring for Mom.] But it's for two good causes: it will refresh me for the higher duty, and it will give me some time to work on ordering the SITU files {John Reed is coming for a full day, and my local buddies will probably help a couple more --- we'll slowly get there}. And later I'll be able to get back to more anomalistics here.

But who knows exactly when???

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Peeking at Ivan's SITU files: Loch Morar's Monster, Part Two.

We were discussing the Loch Morar survey of 1970. What did they think they had found?

Somewhat surprisingly for me, the team believed that they had found quite a lot that they were willing to stand behind. I attribute this to having a team leader, Elizabeth Montgomery Campbell, who had an intellectually honest and sympathetic view of the mystery. She should be praised as a heroine of cryptozoology in my opinion, as we don't get many professionals willing to take honest views on any of these subjects. You can read the summation of what the team thought about the physical or structural aspects of Mhorag, as best deducible from the 27 case incidents. As you can see, the synthesis describes a "typical" elongated serpentine water animal with an indeterminate number of "humps" and a darkish coloration. We will never of course know how much of such a synthesis can be ascribed to what witnesses believe a thing should look like before the fact of observing it. What I take from this is that several persons saw something too large to be explained in mundane terms, and therefore encountered an elongated anomalous entity which "shouldn't be there".

To interject a paragraph of information from the surveys of the following two years: In the two years of following on-site surveys, the team uncovered or directly witnessed ten more cases. Two are of particular interest to me.

The first is illustrated at the left. This was a sighting by a "distinguished scientist", Dr. George Cooper. He was vacationing at the Loch when he saw the large log-like hump drifting in a soft "S"-like course. His daughter was watching intently at the critical moment when it submerged with a swirling movement in the water. Cooper was sufficiently impressed that he included the thing in a painting that he was sketching at the time [as seen on the left].

The second is an incident reported by Elizabeth Campbell herself. She was looking at a long dark thin object with a lighter colored trail in the water at great distance [through binoculars]. This was on the afternoon of a previously witnessed incident [as yet not reported] wherein two fishermen, on one of those famous dead calm, smooth-as-glass surface days, suddenly had their boat rocked by an unexplainable wave. They also noted that they had no luck at all with the fish that day. What I like about this most is that the phenomenon gave Elizabeth Campbell a glimpse of "her". ["Mhorag" is often dismissed as just a Scottish girl's name, but the old Gaelic meaning has the stem for "Great" {Mhor} in it, and is indeed feminine. Mhorag seems to be be the equivalent of a "great She', or an awesome female force of some kind, maybe even a Fairyworld Queen. The connection to the earlier view if "it" as a shapeshifting Mer-person is more obvious in this labeling. Naming a girl after the concept, long softened up by modernity, would be like naming a girl Regina.]

Again, astonishingly, the team was willing to make some rather bold conclusions [as you can read in the summary statement above]. As a scientific statement, it must include proper objective distance, but the conclusions clearly can be seen as sympathetic to the reality of a large unexplained creature in the Loch --- translation:"to our best guess, Mhorag exists"]. This conclusion was not missed by anyone despite the conservative language. A whole flurry of press accompanied it, and even some scientific journals took notice. As years have gone, and no further such reaffirmation occurred, the possible "respectable" status of Mhorag has slipped back into obscure ignorance by everyone but cryptozoologists.

Well, if Mhorag is/was real, What was it? Some people wanted to take the easiest way out of course and go with a known or easily deduced animal, and opt for a big eel. Ivan Sanderson always wanted some solution such as this or one in the next category. Sanderson disliked the paranormal. He wanted to research "things", stuff, physical objects. Wild as he was in his imagination, he wanted something to hold in his hands. That's why Ivan wanted SITU to pursue RESOLOGY, the study of "things" [and not ghosts or psychic matters].

Ivan had a separate file on giant eels which started way back in 1947. That was a witness sighting of a "sea serpent" that the witness thought might be a giant eel. Sanderson apparently rated that likely too, as he filed it that way. Heuvelmans also thought some sea serpents to be giant eels, and wrote Sanderson as such in 1965. Around that same time, Ivan wrote an article about the possibility of giant eels which was rejected by five magazines.

Heuvelmans, of course, believed that some sea serpent stories were quite novel [well beyond giant-eel-novelty] animals, of which the illustration above pictures some. Sanderson thought the same. He actually tried to classify sightings by a grid system with neck-length on one axis and tail-length on the other. As he does not, in his file, make any notes about Mhorag, we can't tell if he prefers any one possible creature over another. Our intuition is, that Sanderson being an adventurous mind, would have liked Mhorag to be one such animal, but wouldn't have minded it being a giant eel either. But he wouldn't have liked a Mermaid or other paranormal folkloric "solution".

But that is exactly what the first recorded witness [James Macdonald] and the early Scottish story tellers apparently thought that it was. It is likely what the people in the mid-20th century thought it was [remember in the famous 1969 case, the witnesses didn't tell anyone except close family "because of the Mhorag curse" upon one local clan.] In fact, the local people generally seem not to have given credence to a natural biological form for their explanations of Mhorag sightings. They had grown up in a culture with beliefs dating back hundreds of years; beliefs in mermaids, fairies, fauns, naiads, and all manner of folkloric beings. They believed in many aspects of the paranormal, despite the "enlightened" world attempting to expunge their "primitive ignorant" beliefs. No wonder that they didn't want to discuss these things with the research team. But I will surmise that there was one other reason that they opted for the "olde ways" rather than Sanderson/Heuvelmans-style cryptozoology. They were fishermen and real world people. They knew that for the spectacular manifestations of Mhorag, the biological "explanations" didn't make any sense.

Although I have every sympathy with their view, I will admit that you can take the fantastic too far. The map at the left is of a website that is trying to locate the spot of Harry Potter's Hogwarts School of Magick. The site places it at the extreme eastern edge of Loch Morar, and sees Mhorag as the Giant Squid in the Harry Potter novels. By the way, the arrows on the map are two powerful Leylines which somehow facilitate the Magick.

Well, it IS a nice map.

But I'll pass on that theory. I'll also pass on the giant eel and sea serpent-as-biological-entity theories. Our wonderful little Loch IS a wonderful place; but it is not over-run with a reproducing population of 60 or so Mhorags. The eco-survey showed far too little feed for an advanced animal, just as in Loch Ness. To drop down to the complexity of worms or below [to try to meet the feeding requirements] leaves one with creatures which show insufficient behavioral characteristics to duplicate the sightings. I believe that the locals disregard the flesh-and-blood Mhorags because they seem simply to make no sense. In that, real life people are generally like scientists: they go with all they feel they really know. On the other hand, they differ from scientists in that they don't throw away part of what they know just because some other guy tells them it's not possible. [Hmmm...WHO are the "scientists" in this sort of story?? --- seems like the "commonfolk" have the best claim].

So, looking at our nice loch, I'm pitching in with the people. The events seem to have happened; and the biologists seem to disprove their own best hopes. What's left?? "Something" from "somewhere else". Back in the day of the late 1880s, several Scottish amateur scholars were intensely "in the field" studying the foundational folklore and village tales of their culture. Fortunately for us, most of these field studies have been preserved. Some of these guys went into their work with obvious prejudice against the "ignorant uneducated" folks they were interviewing. But, and I was surprised, many did not.

Rather strangely, one such individual was named James Macdonald, just as our original Mhorag viewer. His emergence as a writer was so precisely similar to the other James Macdonald, that I thought they might be the same. But this fellow was a missionary just returned from Africa, who in 1888 [or so] was acting as an episcopalian minister in the parish of Reay. He was apparently ill-matched to the profession, as what he really wanted to do was study folk beliefs. One of his published talks, "Fauns and Fairies", was given before The Gaelic Society of Inverness in 1897. There he tells an astonishingly sympathetic view of Robert Kirk's description of the Fairyworld as well as associated beliefs among the people in Scotland and elsewhere. It is hard to read "tone" into the printed page, but then I found another paper wherein he lets it be known that he believes in such things generally and has experienced paranormal events himself. He says this about the folktales:
"they all point back to a time when woodland deities abounded, and when these passed into elves, fauns, and fairies. They are sportive or malevolent, according as the ideas of the Reformation or the pagan renaissance were pushed and almost forced upon the people".
"Scotland bade farewell, a sorrowful farewell, it may be, to its satyrs and its elves; its fauns and its fairies; its sunset wanderers and its midnight revellers, and left it to this [referring to the Gaelic Society] and kindred societies to rescue from oblivion the last Linants of a world to which we can hardly look back without a sigh, and wish we could feel 'As free as nature first made man. When wild in woods the noble savage ran.' "

Studies like both the James Macdonalds' and a myriad more from the times [see Evans-Wentz] indicate that the theory-of-choice among all but the Armchair-Enlightened would have been a Fairyworld entity for Mhorag. Sanderson would have disliked that. He had a file for Mermaids but never wrote a line in it [it was seventeen items without notation]. But, Good Soul Ivan, that is where I am going to go on this one. I don't know why our Fairyworld friends have disappeared [if they have], but they have at least one friend here. Exactly what sort of paranormal entity Mhorag may be, or have been, I have no more idea than perhaps anyone but Robert Kirk. But "something else" is part of our world, or a world quite "nearby".

The Christian conservatives are owed just as much of the "credit" for this expulsion as the "Armchair Enlightened". Taken together, both Religion and Science have thrown the "good people" off the Ark of Reality. But the more that I research into anomalies, I see these entities still lurking about. [not much in UFOs but in a lot else; and in some misplaced UFO cases too]. The Religion/Science mind-constrictors may have successfully thrown such entities out of their own Arks [the texts], but they don't REALLY seem to have gone away. You have to look and listen though ... how often have you been quiet lately ... with your eyes and mind open??

Who needs it?? Let's turn on the Lights.

By the way: to celebrate Ivan, Mhorag, and Hogwarts, tonight I ate Squid ... ah, Nemo's Revenge!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Peeking at Ivan's SITU files: Loch Morar's Monster, Part One.

We haven't been swimming for awhile, so lets look at one of Ivan's files about lake monsters. This is a good time to say something about his files in general. Ivan's files, in most part, aren't treasure chests containing the secret information which will answer all mysteries. In fact, I find them to be much like any serious adventurer-scholar's files --- not unlike those that you or I would make if we're simply collecting material on things which we aren't feverishly pursuing but find intriguing. The Loch Morar Monster file contains about 40 pages or so of paper [I didn't bother to make an exact count]. This consists in its majority of newspaper clippings about Morag sightings or other news coverage. Many of those clips are repetitive. Whereas in some files there are several unusual things, in this one there is only one; the report illustrated below.

This report is 37 pages [hmmm...I must revise my estimate above...call the file 75 pages] of rather scientific analysis of the Loch Morar situation coming from a formal study done in 1970. A good bit of the text consists of a look at the Loch's ecosystem [finding in it nothing larger than trout and salmon] and the geological structure and history. There was, however, a serious attempt to collect reports of incidents and see if they, in aggregate, made any sense.

Loch Morar is a nice Scottish lake not far from Loch Ness and far less populated. During the time of the survey, it was almost not populated at all except for its western end. Still, as you can see in the great picture above, it's an atmospheric place and boated upon by fishermen looking for trout, eels [the smallish kind], salmon, char, and stickleback. Several species can still migrate in from the sea, but if something like the Loch Ness Monster tried it, the shallower connecting water would make it hard to miss. Also, there appears to be zero chance that the two lochs are connected by underground tunnels [unless of course, George Hunt Williamson's Shangri-la super-tunneling engineers are involved]. Loch Morar holds a lot of water, though, allegedly more than Loch Ness in depth, and rivaling it in quantity.

The people around the lake were reserved folk and this, at least initially, caused troubles for the research team. It was the great hope that once on the site, they could go about the villages and countryside and collect many first and second hand tales of having seen the "monster". It turned out that almost no one wanted to talk about the thing and getting incident reports was worse than pulling teeth.

The team's second plan also struck out and even more completely. They were sure that a thorough scanning of the regional newspaper, the Oban Times, would produce many possible sightings going well into the past. No way. They discovered that the Times had a specific policy of NOT publishing anything on any such frivolous matters. This left them with nothing to do but try to "make friends" and hope for a few tales to trickle in.

That ultimately happened, though a trickle was all it ever amounted to. Ultimately they got 27 reports which they considered credible and three which they rejected. Humorously [to me anyway] one of the rejected reports came when the team leader rejected her own sighting as being too distant to be certain of the details. I can't help but loving that, and instantly fell in love with another girl.

Most of the 27 credible reports are mapped on this line drawing of the Loch. I've taken this directly from the report-body and only outlined the Loch to make it stand out a bit more. The number of filled-in dots don't add up to 27 because with some older cases the location couldn't be nailed down. Still, the team thought that, even given the lower population density towards the deeper eastern end, that the array might indicate that the beast might prefer slightly shallower water. The fact that there were no sightings at the higher populated extreme western end [and the shallowest water] made them think that a combination of too-shallow water plus lots of noise and people might be a deterrent to monstrous incursions. I'm not sure that I buy any of that and, intuitively, I'd go looking near the Loch's mid-section myself. By the way, today there are many more camper/hikers who go to the remoter end of the Loch, so it is not nearly so abandoned.

So what sort of "history" did they find that this thing had?? I was surprised to find that the earliest recorded information about the whateveritwas pointed to a folkloric entity akin to a nastier-than-usual mermaid and shapeshifter. That awareness made me pause for awhile and say to myself "uh-ohh; here we go again".

This early information comes from a remarkable person, James Macdonald, who wrote a very rare book, Tales of the Highlands, which was published almost privately in 1907. {I'd very much like to read this thing as it is purported to contain other interesting anomalistic things as well}. Almost no copies apparently exist but the team was loaned one to read. In it Macdonald describes his encounter with Mhorag in 1889 as you can read on the left. He believed that what he saw was a shapeshifting beautiful mermaid-like creature with a serpentine tail of significant length. The Mhorag [pronounced "Vorack", the ...ack being like the Scotch pronounce "ock" as in "Och Aye!!" and the spelling being shifted with Anglicization to Mhorag and finally Morag] was for Macdonald and the people thereabouts another entity in the Fairy, Faun, Naiad, group, and a Ban-Shi like portent of death to boot.

To support this view of the way the older people had thought, the team also located a fragment of an old ballad which sang: "Morag, Harbinger of Death, Giant Swimmer in deep-green Morar, The Loch that has no bottom ... , There it is that Morag the Monster lives".

In the interim between that olden era and recent times, the team was able to dig out almost nothing. In fact, while Nessie thrived on publicity nearby, Mhorag was left in dark obscurity. Then, during 1968-1969, seven reports came in. Only one had major impact, but it started a minor frenzy of interest in Nessie's "brother" [though "sister" would have been more to the tradition]. This was the McDonnell & Simpson case of August 16, 1969. [see the clipping to the left -- it is representative of several like this in Ivan's file].

These two local folks, out fishing at the time, were "attacked" by a very large serpentine creature with either a frog-like, eel-like, or serpent-like head. The one guy tried to beat it off with an oar, but Mhorag took a sizable bite out of it. The other guy got his gun and unloaded a blast into it, thinking that he not only hit the thing but put a hole in it. The beast turned and swam away. This is the case that drew national publicity but also the Loch Morar Study team which then did the report we're looking at. Ivan's file is particularly interesting at this point because it indicates why you value pressclippings. You can read the clippings in timeorder and look for consistency and additional facts due to the novel question asked. In this case, the clippings tend to support the quality of the witnesses' story even though a few details differ.

In the years following the 1970 study, the team went back the following two years and with less and less to show for it, then quit. Further sightings on Loch Morar have been rare or at least poorly publicized. I leave you with one alleged photo. In part two, I'll give the results/analysis of the team, and do some personal BS-ing about the theories.


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