Saturday, December 30, 2017

The Dream I Had on June 17, 2009


Ten years ago I posted often on the Werewolf Cafe Forum.  I faded away from the Forum, and my personal thread was dropped.  Yesterday, however, I discovered a years-old "snapshot" of the Cafe on an archive site similar to the Wayback Machine.  For some reason I described a bizarre -- but fun -- dream I had in June, 2009.  Reading over it -- I think it's worth posting again!


Just to write something I'll outline the goofy dream I had last night.  I was the tired-est (most tired?) I've been in a long time, staying up to 1:00 am to do homework and online-quizzes, and this night taking our accounting class's first harrowing timed test.

I went home, sat on the floor to put some books on the lowest bookshelf, and nearly fell asleep there.  Barely made my way to the couch . . .

And I dreamed that I was some sort of petty thief, breaking into the main offices of a zoo to steal their take (I have no idea if that would be worth the trouble in real life).  The zoo offices were an endless maze of corridors, offices, doors, and even the entrances to the back-sides of the animal enclosures.  I had my swag, but I was totally lost.

Suddenly zookeepers or attendants came running down a hall.  One seized me by the shoulders.  "The White Tiger's escaped!  Don't just stand there -- look for it!  And whatever you do, DON'T TELL ANYBODY IT'S OUT or there'll be a panic!"

Then he ran on.  I continued looking for a way out.  I opened doors at random, and, wouldn't you know it, the white tiger was behind one.  So I ran and slammed a few doors behind me.

I somehow ended up behind the animal enclosures.  I opened a door and found a snow leopard's enclosure.  For some reason (perhaps because a friend of mine identifies with snow leopards) I was totally unafraid of it.

I opened another door and stepped out into another enclosure that was dark and apparently deserted.  I thought I could sneak out this way.

But then lights flashed on, and I saw that dozens of people lined the rail of the enclosure.  And a loudspeaker announced, "And now, Zookeeper Smith presents the White Tiger Cubs!"

Sure enough, here came 4 or 5 white tiger cubs gamboling in from stage left.  I held one up and people clapped.  One weisenheimer in the audience asked, "Where's the cubs' mother?"

Fortunately, the snow leopard leapt into the compound.  I stroked its fluffy fur and said, "Here she is!"

"That's not a tiger!" yelled the weisenheimer.

"Uh . . . They're adopted."  (Seriously, I said this in my dream.)


This is longer than I thought, so I'll break it in two.  So anyway I was rubbing the snow leopard's fluffy fur, when it crouched, head low in that feline about-to-pounce stance.  You've seen zoo enclosures, with a mesa-like living area, then the deep gully or moat, then the wall and railing for the people.  Well, this gully was only a few feet wide, and the railing was only a couple of feet high.  No wonder the White Tiger escaped, I thought.

Now the snow leopard jumped out as well, and the crowd parted for it.  I must have taken my faux role as zookeeper seriously, because I jumped out myself and ran after it.

I ran out the zoo gate and down the street.  On my right a safari truck full of zoo personnel roared by, leaving me in their dust.  On my left, Doc Savage, Man of Bronze, caught up with me and passed me.  (I had just moved my Doc Savage paperbacks from one bookshelf to another -- oh, never mind.)

Suddenly it occurred to me:  I had been trying to escape the zoo, myself.  So I kept running . . . and veered off down another road.

Now another vehicle passed.  This was a grimy old jeep full of the most cliched, typecast Southern rednecks you could imagine, wearing overalls and dirty T-shirts, their vehicle bristling with shotguns and rifles.  One of these fine gentlemen looked back at me and yelled, "Lookie there -- another one of them long-haired hippie Commies!"  Whereupon the jeep started in on a long U-turn.


This is the last chunk, really.  Anyway, they plainly meant me, so I dashed down a side street while they were turning.  The jeep was really slow, or I was faster now, because I managed to get by a few properties and jump under a long hedge before they turned the corner.  I pulled myself through the hedge into a yard -- actually a muddy garden -- and I lay stomach down, parallel to the hedge.

But the jeep stopped beside that hedge and honked the horn.  Then these bright outdoor lights flared on the eaves of the house sitting on the property.

"Hey, Bobby Ray!  Fetch yore shotgun and come on!"

Somehow I had chosen the yard of one of the rednecks' cronies to hide in.

(Kind of odd:  Usually my dreams take place in dim light.  If I try to flip on a light, the bulb won't work.  In fact, I'll do that in a dream to determine if I'm asleep or not.  The zookeeper's truck, however, had blindingly bright lights.  The redneck's headlights were dim and yellow, but the outdoor lights of the house were again blindingly bright.  Go and figure.)

Anyway, the cliched rednecks were piling out of their jeep, and ol' Bobby Ray was opening his front door, no doubt with firepower of his own.  With those glaring stadium lights, I couldn't imagine them missing me, down in the mud though I was.

Then, through the leaves and branches of the hedge, I saw the white tiger and the snow leopard padding up the street.  They sent out a telepathic message:  "Come with us."

I might have, but I was sure the gun-toting rednecks would see me.  And the tiger was pretty fierce-looking.  So I stayed in the mud.

The tiger stepped closer and snarled.  "Come with us or I will have to drag you along!"

Well, I didn't want tiger fangs sinking into my arm.  So I dragged myself back through the hedge and started down the street, flanked by the two big cats.

Then I woke up.  I didn't say it was a story -- just an interesting dream!

Monday, November 27, 2017

The Long Walk

Once a decade or so, I try to purge a few magazines.  I have thousands of books already; I don’t need magazines stacking up too.  So I looked over my oldest science magazines, figuring that their articles would be the most dated and most easily culled.

One of the oldest issues I have is Scientific American from November 1992.  There are actually several items here that are interesting, enough to make this issue a “keeper”, such as an article on the “Cambrian explosion” of life-forms about 600 million years ago, and another examining the relationships between Native American languages.

But I want to look at one tiny sidebar story that, again, is a randomly found item that curves toward the “Missing 411” series.

Actually, the subject is sort of peripheral to the 411 stories, but many discussions of the subject mention it:  the shoes, with severed human feet in them, washing ashore in British Columbia and Washington state:

The article in Scientific American is not quite so grotesque:  It appears that, on May 27, 1990, a freighter was caught in a powerful gale in the northeastern Pacific, and five shipping containers of Nike shoes, containing 80,000 tennis shoes altogether, were lost overboard.

And in early 1991, a decade and a half before the severed feet phenomenon began, the sneakers started washing ashore in British Columbia and Washington state.

Curtis B. Ebbesmeyer, who worked at a marine instruments company, and W. James Ingraham, Jr., of the National Maritime Fisheries Service, thought this made a great opportunity to study currents.  However, said Ebbesmeyer, “I tried to find the scientists who were tracking down the shoes, but nobody was.”  So Ebbesmeyer and Ingraham, with the help of a “network of beachcombers,” did it themselves.

About 1300 of the waterlogged shoes were recovered.  Using computers to backtrack the drift, Ebbesmeyer and Ingraham found out something interesting:  That the shoes washed ashore in British Columbia and Washington was itself something of an anomaly.

It seems that in most years the waters of the tropical Pacific would have been warmer, and the currents flowing north through the Salish Sea (the waterways around British Columbia) would have been faster and more powerful.  Under normal circumstances the shoes should have drifted to Alaska before coming ashore.

Perhaps, being weighed down with flesh and bone, the mystery shoes of recent years were heavy enough to beach farther south.  Or perhaps beachcombers in Alaska should be on the lookout for the grisly artifacts.

Powell, Corey S., “Flotsam Footwear,” Scientific American Vol.267 no. 5 (Nov. 1992), p. 26.

Saturday, November 25, 2017


Loren Coleman's Mothman: Evil Incarnate, which includes a sizable Appendix by Michael D. Winkle, "The Mothman Annotations," is to be released on December 15, 2017.  There's still time to pre-order:

Mothman: Evil Incarnate

AUTOGRAPHED - Mothman, Evil Incarnate: The Unauthorized Companion to The Mothman Prophecies by Loren Coleman (2017)

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Tales to Make Your Skin Crawl

Folklorist Henry W. Shoemaker, in an article called "Central Pennsylvania Legends," passes on a strange story he heard from an old man named Henry Rau, in Penn's Creek, Snyder County. It seems that in April of 1864 a farmer named Jake Sansom shot a male panther (mountain lion) as it raided his chicken coop. "He took the hide, which was a very fine one and very dark in color, and stuffed it with straw and leaves. We did not know of taxidermists or glass eyes in those days, so the completed job looked rather uncanny with the great empty eye sockets."

Mr. Sansom set the stuffed hide on the ridgepole of his woodshed. The cougar's mate lurked in the area for months thereafter.

That August there was a revival meeting held near New Berlin. Jake and his sons rode off in their wagon, leaving Mrs. Sansom and the crippled Sansom daughter to mind the house.

As if awaiting this opportunity, the female cougar invaded the farm, killed half a dozen hunting dogs, and hauled the stuffed skin of its mate down from the woodshed. She dragged the hide into the forest as the women watched.

Henry Rau emerged from his house to investigate the commotion. Mrs. Sansom told him what happened, and Rau gathered several men to chase the mountain lion. The Sansom men, on their way home, joined them. The panther's trail led to a pine forest on the slopes of Jack's Mountains. The hunters reached a spring and found, not one, but two cougars.

"When the larger brute wheeled, we noticed it had very imperfect eyes. We recognized it as the animated form of the stuffed carcass that for six months had been fastened to the ridgepole of old Jake's woodshed . . . I who had faced death at Malvern Hill and Chancellorsville allowed the two brutes to get away from me, without turning a finger to prevent it."

The men retreated. The whole neighborhood talked about the cougar dragging off its stuffed mate, "but our part of the adventure we kept dark." [1] A wise move.

In an article entitled "The Werwolf in Pennsylvania," Mr. Shoemaker briefly notes a similar story he heard in 1927, "of 'spook wolves' (stuffed wolves which went out at night and hunted)." Despite the title of his article, Shoemaker remarks that "These revived wolves could hardly be werwolves." [2] Still, there might be a connection.

Whoever heard of animal furs coming to life? Well, the Inuits of Greenland speak of artificial creatures called tupilaksTupilaks are often simply animal hides into which human and animal bones have been thrown. An angakok (shaman) brings the Frankensteinish thing to life with sorcery.

 A tupilak doesn't even have to be made from the hide of a single animal, or from skins of a single species. The Smithsonian publication Greenland Mummies displays a native drawing of a tupilak as a dog with a human head. On the same page is a photo of an Inuit carving; this tupilak has the head and upper body of a bear and the lower torso and legs of a man. [3]

Lawrence Millman's A Kayak Full of Ghosts carries the legend of a woman becoming a tupilak for revenge. There were once two hunters, Papik and Ailaq. Ailaq would harvest many seals, while Papik often came home with nothing. Jealous, Papik murdered Ailaq during a hunt. Ailaq's mother swore revenge. "The woman went down to the sea. She took along her bearskin rug and draped it over her entire body and let the incoming tide sweep her away." Later a group of hunters out on the ice saw "a she-bear twice the size of a house, with burning coals for eyes and sharp knives for claws." The bear invaded Papik's village, mangled the killer in his hut, and dragged him away "by his own intestines."
The bear lay down. When the people approached it, they found only a bear skin and human bones. [4]

* * * *

Suppose no one thinks to stuff a living animal skin to resemble a cougar, wolf, or bear? What would we have then? An animated fur rug? Strangely enough, there are stories of such things.

Manly Wade Wellman, the American fantasy writer famous for his tales of John the minstrel, created a pantheon of bizarre creatures for his Appalachian story-cycle, including "the Flat":

It lay on the ground like a broad, black, short-furred carpet rug. It humped and then flattened, the way a measuring worm moves. [5]

The Wellman book Worse Things Waiting contains an account called "Up Under the Roof," which he says "is as close to autobiography as I have ever come." If so, it would appear that Wellman's boyhood was haunted by a creature similar to the Flat.

Wellman was the only child in a large, crowded household, and his relatives seemed to resent his youthfulness. He was forced to sleep in a high, dusty, uncomfortable garret. In the summer of his twelfth year he started hearing something between the ceiling and the peak of the roof.

Years afterward, I was to see through a microscope the plodding of an amoeba. The thing up under the roof sounded as an amoeba looks, a mass that stretches out a thin, loose portion of itself, then rolls and flows all of its substance into that portion, and so creeps along.

The humping, flowing noise returned every night, to Wellman's dismay: "I was certain that it crouched there, almost within reach of me, that it gloated and hungered, and that it turned over in its dark sub-personal awareness the problem of when and how to come and take hold of me." [6] The one time he explored the area up under the roof he found nothing, but it appears another young boy had a run-in with an entity like the Flat, in Ireland, as described in Diarmuid MacManus' book Between Two Worlds (1977).

"Mr. George Hallet, a prominent professional man in the old city of Limerick, had a very queer experience when he was a youngster," during a summer holiday at Mount Temple House, several miles outside that city. Twelve-year-old Hallet slept in a bedroom on the second floor, next to a room full of old furniture and junk. He had no rug in his room.

Hallet had developed a habit of sleepwalking, but he always woke after taking only a few steps, whereupon he would scramble back into bed. One night he found himself at the opposite end of the narrow room. It was so dark he had to feel his way back.

However, he had not gone half way when one bare foot, put gingerly down as he felt his way, just touched something that was very soft and furry but by the feel of it flat like a rug. He stopped at once in alarm with his foot still poised, just touching the hairs of the "rug" . . . The next moment, in spite of himself, he lost his balance and his bare foot came down solidly on the thing he was so anxious to avoid, whereupon it let out a deafening, reverberating and blood-curdling scream and the fur, though still flat, seemed to come to life under his foot.

Hallet jumped into bed and pulled his blanket over his head, waiting through long, agonizing hours until the sun rose. Adult members of the household searched the room but found nothing. [7]

(I wonder if it is significant that both accounts of "Flats" concern boys aged twelve, and that they take place during the summer, in old houses where the layout of the building is important [to show how the boys were isolated near old junk]. The stories are even close chronologically: Wellman would have been twelve in 1915, and MacManus' 1977 book claims that Hallet's encounter occurred "fifty-five to sixty years ago," or between 1917 and 1922.)

* * * *

There is, in the folklore of North America, a bizarre critter called the Rumtifusel, an entity that resembles nothing so much as a flat, furry skin with a fine, rich texture like a mink coat. Sometimes an unsuspecting person investigates the Rumtifusel: "With a lightning-fast flick of its blanket-like body the Rumtifusel completely envelops its victim." [8] Off the coast of Chile, according to Jorge Luis Borges, fishermen must beware of "the Hide." The Hide resembles a stretched-out cow hide. "Its edges are furnished with numberless eyes, and . . . whenever persons or animals enter the water, the Hide rises to the surface and engulfs them with an irresistible force." [9]

Many legends of shape-shifters mention belts or hides of fur used to incite the change. The Norse warriors called "Berserks", for example, were thought to become wolves or bears in battle; the name "Berserk" means "bear shirt," referring to the furred skin believed to become an actual pelt when they transformed.

Some legends are a little blurry as to whether characters actually transform or simply wear quasi-living suits. The Selkies of Ireland, for instance, are described as people who slip on sealskins to become water-dwellers. Many stories speak of a man hiding the sealskin and taking a Selkie as a wife -- until she finds the skin again. The Navajos of the American West speak of "Skinwalkers." William Morgan's famous anthropological paper "Human-Wolves among the Navaho" lists many tales of Skinwalkers. A Navajo named Kejoji claimed to have seen one in his hogan one night as a young man. "The witch was after my mother. He was looking at her. He was in a mountain lion skin." [10] Another Navajo, Hajogo, told Morgan:

[S]ome older men put on skins at night, a wolf skin or a lion skin . . . I have always looked for tracks but I haven't ever found a wolf track or a lion track. (What kind of tracks would one of those men make?) They would be big, like a big paw. . . How do you think they work the tail? (I guess they just let it hang down.) No. They stuff clothes in it and then it stands out. [11]

These excerpts make it sound like the Skinwalkers are merely evil men dressed as animals. Other Navajo stories indicate that they take on wholly animal form.

* * * *

Perhaps certain costumes made of animal skins are "alive", conferring upon their wearers the senses and powers of the original beasts. Perhaps there is a spectrum of were-ness here: A would-be werewolf might start out with a costume that mimics an animal -- eventually he or she absorbs its power, or vice-versa. A new stage might be transforming with the aid of the skin. Finally, a full lycanthrope might appear, able to change without the pelt.

But what if a living skin is cast aside, or its master is killed? Such an entity might not accept life as a groping rug, humping and sliding like a hairy amoeba. More likely it would seek another human host. Perhaps Messrs. Wellman and Hallet just missed becoming Skinwalkers. Perhaps victims of the Hide and the Rumptifusel are not so much devoured as hijacked.

So if you ever hike down a forest trail and see an expensive-looking fur coat, all by itself, draped over a stump -- well, you shouldn't take what isn't yours. It just might take you, instead.


1. Shoemaker, Henry W. "Central Pennsylvania Legends," in George Korson, ed., Pennsylvania Songs and Legends. (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1949), pp. 195-202.

2. --. "Neighbors: The Werwolf in Pennsylvania," in New York Folklore Quarterly 7:2 (Summer, 1951), p. 155.

3. Hansen, Jens Peder, et alGreenland Mummies. (Washington, D. C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1991), p. 63.

4. Millman, Lawrence. Kayak Full of Ghosts. (Santa Barbara, CA: Capra Press, 1987), pp. 161-162.

5. Wellman, Manly Wade. Who Fears the Devil? (London: Star Books, 1975 [1963]), p. 98.

6. --. Worse Things Waiting. (Chapel Hill, N.C.: Carcosa, 1973), pp. 4-8.

7. MacManus, Diarmuid A. Between Two Worlds. (Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire: Colin Smythe, 1977), pp. 16-18.

8. Tryon, Henry H. Fearsome Critters. (Cornwall, NY: Idlewild Press, 1939), p. 35.

9. Borges, Jorge Luis, and Norman Thomas di Giovanni. Book of Imaginary Beings. (New York: Avon, 1969 [1967]), p. 100.

10. Morgan, William. "Human-Wolves among the Navaho." Yale University Publications in Anthropology No. 11 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1936), p. 29.

11. Ibid., pp. 12-13.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

The Giant Hill Fox

Giant Hill Fox

Description:  This rare vulpine beast grows to be larger than most wolves, usually possessing fur of a black or gray color.  Due to its odd appearance and fox-type antics (like balancing and hopping on its hind legs) it is often taken for a werewolf.  The Giant Hill Fox is clever at covering its tracks, making it so difficult to follow it can be mistaken for an apparition.  It dislikes the elaborate hunts formed in some countries to chase its smaller cousins and harries them from the shadows and woods.  It is not known if it has powers like the famous Kitsune of the East, but it demonstrates near-human intelligence and cunning.

Sources:  In an article in the British publication The Countryman, a woman named Vida Herbison writes of a strange encounter in Sussex.  One morning as she and a friend named Mike rode their horses along part of an ancient Roman road, heading, ironically, toward a foxhunting meet, “the horses shied as a gigantic grey wolf-like creature came loping across the field on our offside.”  It ignored the humans and horses completely as it crossed the track and vanished over a hill.  Vida’s friend cried, “What the devil was that?  Looked like a wolf, didn’t it?  A werewolf.”  They found no tracks, and inquiries as to possible owners, or animals escaping from circuses or zoos, were all negative.

In a later issue of The Countryman, a Doris W. Metcalf had this to say:  “I too have come across wolf-like creatures in this part of Sussex, before the 1939-45 war.  I always understood they were the last of an ancient line of hill foxes, though I have found them on the marshes too.”  One of Metcalf’s sightings took place on a summer day near Jevington.  As in the Herbison story, Ms. Metcalf was horseback riding with a companion when a large gray animal crossed the trail ahead of them, “taking not the slightest notice of us.”  It loped down into a hollow and vanished.  A second sighting took place during a foxhunt near Glenleigh Manor.  It appeared on a lane in front of Metcalf and some companions only “a yard or two away.”  When the humans stopped walking, it did as well, yet it otherwise didn’t acknowledge the people so close to it.  It “seemed to listen to the sounds of the hunt before turning and loping off across the marshes towards Pevensey.  Probably it was these big foxes that gave rise to many of the werewolf legends.”

Herbison, Vida.  "Ghosts I Have Known," in Countryman Vol. LIV, No. 4 (Winter 1957), pp. 633-636.

Metcalf, Doris W.  "Werewolves in Sussex," in Countryman Vol. LV, No. 2 (Summer 1958), p. 357.

Comments:  Foxes as big as or bigger than wolves?  The mind boggles.  I always wondered if you really could "expand" small animals to make them giants.  There might be physiological reasons against it.  But in Sussex they apparently have super-sized vulpines!  Even though we’re given only three sightings, there are common details that make them interesting:  the creatures seem unafraid of humans, to the point of ignoring them completely even if they’re only a few feet away.  Two were seen near foxhunts.  Perhaps they had hunts of their own in mind . . .

Thursday, October 5, 2017


Troy Taylor at American Hauntings ( ) wrote saying that if I had enough essays for a second book, he'd be happy to look it over, so my efforts have been concentrated in that direction these past few months.  That and a truly debilitating attack of bronchitis, for which I finally had to drag myself to the emergency room, kept me from blogging for months.

Anyway, here's another little tit-bit I found that takes us back into Missing 411 territory.

At about 9:00 PM on the night of January 19, 1954, Dr. Tom U. Johnson left his home on West Street, Coudersport, Pennsylvania, to make a house call. (Anyone remember those?)  As he drove past the C&PA Railroad tracks, his headlights lit up a strange and pathetic sight:  A toddler -- barely more than a baby, maybe 18 months old -- was waddling down the tracks.  He was barefoot, and he wore only a nightgown.  Snow covered the ground, and freezing rain was falling.

The doctor, naturally, stopped and picked up the cold, wet little child.  He conveyed the shivering waif back to his house, and his wife Eleanor took care of him while the doctor phoned neighbors up and down West Street.

He called the home of the Setzer family.  Mr. and Mrs. Setzer assured him that their young boy, Douglas, was asleep in his bed.  They checked, however, and found him gone.  They were astonished; they had no idea he'd gotten up, nor could they figure out how he left the house, which had been shut up tight against the winter cold.

The boy was soon returned to his parents.  Robert Lyman, Sr., historian and collector of strange Pennsylvania stories, points out that if the child had trotted on another two blocks, he would have reached the trestle over the Allegheny River and would have most likely fallen between the wooden ties into the icy waters below.

This story is so Four-Eleven-y it make my teeth ache.  A child, too young to talk and barely old enough to walk, somehow vanishes from a secure home, while his parents putter about obliviously in the adjoining rooms.  He is almost without clothing, during terrible weather, and for no apparent reason he marches resolutely off into the night.  David Paulides points out that lakes, reservoirs, rivers, etc., are often near points of disappearance.  If the physician had not been out at that exact time and place, then a river would have played a major and tragic part in this event.

Yet -- the toddler was found and rescued before his parents knew he had vanished from his bed.  So, technically, he was never really "missing"!

Paulides has collected so many reports of people missing in Pennsylvania, he considers the whole state a "cluster" of disappearances.

Lyman, Robert R., Sr.  Amazing Indeed! (Coudersport, PA: Leader Publishing, 1973), pp. 94-95.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

At Last, the Final Secret of the Thylacines!

"For about four months, in the year 1874, beginning upon January 8th, a killer was abroad, in Ireland.  In Land and Water, March 7, 1874, a correspondent writes that he had heard of depredations by a wolf, in Ireland, where the last native wolf had been killed in the year 1712.  According to him, a killer was running wild, in Cavan, slaying as many as 30 sheep in one night.  There is another account, in Land and Water, March 28.  Here, a correspondent writes that, in Cavan, sheep had been killed in a way that led to the belief that the marauder was not a dog.  This correspondent knew of 42 instances, in three townlands, in which sheep had been similarly killed — throats cut and blood sucked, but no flesh eaten.  The footprints were like a dog's, but were long and narrow, and showed traces of strong claws."

-- Charles Fort, LO!, Chapter 13

When I first developed the idea of a Fantasy World in which I would set epic stories and novels, I knew it would have to be inhabited by many strange and magical creatures.  Oh, there were the obvious fantasy tropes of Elves, Dwarves, Unicorns, Dragons -- but it was more fun to make up critters of my own.  One I had in mind -- that I never really fleshed out -- I dubbed the Cheshire Beast, a quadrupedal predator that appeared, struck at deer, or sheep, or even people, and vanished again, never seen coming or going, impossible to catch.  It was named, of course, for the Cheshire Cat.  The idea was that these creatures could teleport from their world to ours, attacking, eating, and fleeing with little fear of reprisal, leaving behind only dead animals and frightened farmers.  Perhaps a pack, mobbing someone, could carry him or her bodily back to the Otherworld.

Some readers will probably say, "Hey, these Cheshire Beasts sound a lot like Blink Dogs from Dungeons & Dragons!"  Maybe a bit, but my main inspiration was Charles Fort's LO!, especially Chapters 13 and 14, which are concerned with strange attacks on animals and people by creatures that seem to come from nowhere and then disappear without a trace.  The major theme of LO! was phenomena that might indicate teleportation, so Fort seemed to imply such marauders were, indeed, popping in and out from Elsewhere.


A few weeks ago the subject of thylacines showed up on my new FaceBook account.  Thylacines, aka Tasmanian wolves or Tasmanian tigers, "Tassies" for short, were meat-eating marsupials, the Down Under equivalent of big cats, wolves and jackals.  Doglike in form, they bore tigerish stripes on their hindquarters and had amazingly long jaws and tapering, kangaroo-like tails.  Though they could lope like canines, supposedly they could jump like a 'roo if need be.

Also, they officially went extinct in 1936, although people have reported seeing specimens sporadically ever since.  I put in a link to a film clip of the last known living thylacine, which died in the Hobart [Tasmania] Zoo.  All well and good.

I started digging through my mass of old magazines, hoping to find a few to delete.  Totally at random I pulled out the Fortean Times no. 76 (Aug-Sept 1994).  On page 38 there was an article, "Just What is a Bunyip, Anyway?", an interview with cryptid hunters Tony Healy and Paul Cropper, concerning mysterious creatures of Australia.  "There have been more than 400 reported thylacine sightings in Tasmania since the beast's 'extinction' in the 1930s."

Then I pulled out a FATE Magazine at random, Vol. 58 no. 9 (Sept 2005).  "Devil Pigs and Dinosaurs" by Dr. Karl Shuker described mythical animals of New Guinea, including the "dobsegna", which sounded suspiciously like a thylacine.  "Its head and shoulders are dog-like, but its mouth is huge and strong, and its tail is very long and thin.  Villagers claim that from its ribs to its hips it has no intestines (but this merely suggests that it is very thin in this particular body region), and that in this region it is striped." [p. 62]

In an aside, Shuker mentions that "the chronicles of cryptozoology are fairly bulging with unconfirmed post-1936 sightings [of Tassies] both on Tasmania and in mainland Australia," which in itself would be odd, as the marsupial carnivores became extinct on the Australian mainland about 2,000 years ago.


"In the month of May, 1810, something appeared at Ennerdale, near the border of England and Scotland, and killed sheep, not devouring them, sometimes seven or eight of them in a night, but biting into the jugular vein and sucking the blood.  That's the story.  The only mammal that I know of that does something like this is the vampire bat.  It has to be accepted that stories of the vampire bat are not myths.  Something was ravaging near Ennerdale, and the losses by sheep farmers were so serious that the whole region was aroused." -- LO!

A third magazine (arbitrarily yanked from the pile) was Fortean Times no. 298 (Apr 2013).  Inside there was an article, "The Wild Dog of Ennerdale," that brings us back to Fort's LO!

The Ennerdale story in particular has always stuck in my mind.  I'd looked up hundreds of Fort's sources during my college years, but Chamber's Journal (the main source of the Ennerdale story) was not available at the OSU or TU libraries.  So the one incident I really wanted to flesh out the "Cheshire Beasts" was the one I never could find.

So naturally I read "The Wild Dog of Ennerdale."

According to author Crispin Andrews, the descriptions of the Ennerdale beast sound amazingly like a thylacine.  Even the "vampire" aspect fitted:  According to conservationist Nick Mooney "Any carnivore will start at the best parts, blood being the best food.  If it's a big prey animal (like a sheep) that's all it can physically eat."  Apparently grown sheep are too large to be torn apart by a thylacine, so it can only eat a few soft organ and lap the blood.

Andrews uncovered a witness description that said the beast had stripes on the back half of its body.  Voila!  It was a Tasmanian tiger!

How did a Tassie end up near a small village in the Lake Country, near the Scottish border?  Well, the Romans, William the Conqueror, King John and others had colisiums, parks, and menageries.  As the centuries passed, there were also circuses, zoos, and private collections of exotic animals.  They had elephants, giraffes, lions, tigers, and hyenas.  Tassies are not mentioned, but "a thylacine could easily have found itself in a British menagerie."  I suppose.

At the end of his overview of the Ennerdale affair, Andrews lists some other cases of mysterious, ravening beasts that might have been thylacines:  1888, Winslow Arizona -- weird striped animal shot; neither the mountain man who shot it nor the local Navajos had ever seen anything like it.  1874, Cavan Ireland (mentioned above).  Nov. 1905, Badminton Gloucestershire -- blood-sucking beast.  1934, Tennessee -- animal kills dogs and leaps like a kangaroo.

Well, says Andrews, zoos lose animals.  I wonder how many zoos or circuses were near those areas, at those time periods.  How many such institutions even had thylacines back then?  How many zoos/menageries/circuses were near those places, in those eras, and had thylacines, and the thylacines escaped?  Sounds a bit off.

Finally, though, it hit me:  Here were my Cheshire Beasts!  The Tassies obviously saw what happened to the indigenous people of Tasmania and decided to leave, in a fashion unavailable to more mundane creatures.  They teleported to the mainland of Australia, then to New Guinea, England, Arizona, Tennessee, and I suppose they've been popping around the world ever since.

And maybe now, in a time when everyone regrets the downfall of the marsupial predators, they are venturing back to their island home, loping and hopping through the Tasmanian wilds with a big Cheshire grin on their muzzles.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Negative Correlations -- Pennsylvania

I was looking over an old, ratty issue of FATE Magazine (No. 212, Nov. 1967) to see if it was worth keeping.  For the most part I told myself "no", but I looked over an article called "UFO's:  Animal or Mineral?" by John Philip Bessor, written for the 20th anniversary of the Kenneth Arnold UFO sighting (which gave us the term "flying saucer").

Bessor claimed to have "noted that 'saucer belts' extend along both east and west coasts and from Oregon to Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and into West Virginia and Virginia." [p. 36]  Then he makes an eye-opening statement:  "Except for the southwestern portion of the state and the eastern area bordering New Jersey, Pennsylvania has been bypassed by the UFOs."

Now, this statement is incorrect, certainly in respect to recent decades, if you know anything about the work of Stan Gordon, author of Silent Invasion:  The Pennsylvania UFO-Bigfoot Casebook (2010).  Still, it was an amazing claim to read after going through the Missing 411 books of David Paulides.

Paulides has arrayed missing people in "clusters" across North America, but he threw up his hands when he came to Pennsylvania:  "the entire state is a cluster," he says at the beginning of Missing 411:  Eastern United States.  And on p. 169:  "Pennsylvania had more children disappear from 1934-1957 than any other state."  And:  "In 1968 the profile of people who went missing in Pennsylvania changed -- they got older.  It's also noteworthy that the last seven cases in this state were all men."  So Pennsylvania is a strange state, according to Paulides.

Even if Mr. Bessor was wrong, I at least find a bizarre coincidence here.  If Paulides had simply divided up Pennsylvania into clusters like he does every other state and Canadian province, I wouldn't have given the FATE article a second glance.  If Bessor had picked any other state in the Union to be devoid of UFOs, I wouldn't have blinked an eye.  And if Bessor was on to something, at least way back when, then this item should definitely go into my "Negative Correlations" area of Missing 411 Annotations, where I list phenomena that seem to avoid -- or maybe trade off occasionally with -- the 411 phenomenon.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

LO! and Strange (Dis) Appearances


Due in part, I believe, to the hacking of my computer and the need to create new passwords, email addresses, etc., I can't seem to access my "Fiction and Reality" blog.  Oh, well, I only used it for a few entries, which I will re-post here.  The title for this blog comes from a line in Robert Browning's poem "The Pied-Piper of Hamelin," and it is also the title of my sequel-poem to Browning, published early this year.  I hope to make this blog a portal opening onto wondrous things.  We'll see.

If you've been to my web site, the  Fantasy World Project

you probably noticed that I've devoted space over the past couple of years to the Missing 411 books of David Paulides:

Missing 411 Annotations
As I've written there, that series of strange disappearances reminded me of many other phenomena, some of which I would never have thought had any connections with one another.  This despite the criteria Paulides uses to weed out the hundreds of cases that might have more mundane explanations.

For instance, going way back to Charles Fort's LO! (1931), specifically Chapter 17, we are presented with a series of strange events that occurred in the early 20th Century that I always believed to be totally unique in the annals of paranormal/fortean stories.  Basically, men were being found, naked and amnesic, across England.

An excerpt from LO! chapter 17:
"Naked in the street -- strange conduct by a strange man." See the Chatham (Kent, England) News, Jan. 10, 1914. Early in the evening of Jan. 6th -- "weather bitterly cold" -- a naked man appeared, from nowhere that could be found out, in High Street, Chatham.

The man ran up and down the street, until a policeman caught him. He could tell nothing about himself. "Insanity," said the doctors, with their customary appearance of really saying something . . . This naked man of Chatham appeared suddenly. Nobody had seen him on his way to his appearing point. His clothes were searched for, but could not be found. Nowhere near Chatham was anybody reported missing.
And, farther along, ending Chapter 17:

Hants and Sussex News, Feb. 25, 1920 -- "one of the most sensational discoveries and most mysterious cases of tragedy that we have been called upon to record" -- a naked body of a man, found in a ploughed field, near Petersfield, Hampshire, England.

The mystery is in that there had not been a murder. A body had not been thrown from a car into this field. Here had appeared a naked man, not in possession of his senses. He had wandered, and he had died. It was not far from a road, and was about a mile from the nearest house. Prints of the man's bare feet were traced to the road, and across the road into another field. Police and many other persons searched for clothes, but nothing was found. A photograph of the man was published throughout England, but nobody had seen him, clothed or unclothed, before the finding of the body. At the inquest, the examining physician testified that the body was that of a man, between 35 and 40; well-nourished, and not a manual worker; well-cared-for, judging from such particulars as carefully trimmed finger nails. There were scratches upon the body, such as would be made by bushes and hedges, but there was no wound attributable to a weapon, and in the stomach there was no poison, nor drug. Death had been from syncope, due to exposure. "The case remains one of the most amazing tragedies that could be conceived of."

The mystery did not immediately subside. From time to time there were comments in the newspapers. London Daily News, April 16 -- "Although his photograph has been circulated north, east, south, and west, throughout the United Kingdom, the police are still without a clue, and there is no record of any missing person, bearing the slightest resemblance to this man, presumably of education and good standing."

* * * * * *
Ever since I first read LO! as a teenager, I thought nothing else in the literature resembled this series of naked men from nowhere.  Now, however, they sound like the ending of many a Missing 411 case:  People found with clothing gone, in "bitterly cold" weather, with no memory of what happened to them (if alive) and no obvious signs of death (if dead).

Heck, it seems like everything I read nowadays reminds me of the 411 books, somehow.  I bought an old issue of Argosy Magazine (Sept. 1974).  It was the "special shark issue," in honor of a blockbuster movie then in production called, of course, JAWS.  In an article called "Silent Death," author Fred Mackerodt suggests that there are many more shark attacks at America's beaches than the authorities would like us to know.  This article seems to have two strikes against it right out of the gate, since Paulides tries to filter out disappearances that 1) might be due to someone drowning/being lost at sea, and 2) might be due to an animal attack.  But Mackerodt writes (page 44B):

"Last year the National Safety Council reported that over 3000 people were 'drowned' at the beach.  In many of these cases, the bodies were never recovered . . . The swimmer simply doesn't show up back on the beach when it's time to go home, a search is made and nothing is found.  He is listed as drowned, body never recovered."

Mackerodt was suggesting that sharks ate these unfortunate people.  Forty-something years later, the above quote reminds me of how National Parks authorities will search for a missing person for a week or so, then apparently forget about him or her.  Then, eventually, they'll declare the victim "missing, presumed dead," and remove the name from any lists of vanished people.  And a different kind of amnesia sets in.