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Cryptozoology In the Vatican


A bizarre, still-unidentified mystery beast depicted in Pietro Candido Decembrio’s Animal Book (1460)
A few years ago, a friend bought me a wonderful little book entitled And To Every Beast…, one in a series of beautifully-illustrated thematic mini-volumes collectively entitled Treasures of the Vatican Library. All of them combine biblical quotations with illustrations selected from various tomes or manuscripts held in the vast collection of the Vatican’s library (which contains over one million printed books, as well as 150,000 manuscripts and some 100,000 prints).
And To Every Beast… (Millennium Books: Alexandria, NSW, Australia, 1994)
And To Every Beast… focused upon animals, real and mythological, but it greatly intrigued me, because although it contained versions of several famous illustrations present in other bestiaries, it also included some eye-opening pictures that I’d never seen before, of creatures that were so extraordinary as to be scarcely identifiable with anything known either to modern-day zoology or to zoomythology. This made all the more frustrating the fact that it did not state anywhere within its pages the original book or manuscript in the Vatican library that was the source of its pictures.
Happily, however, an online investigation via Google soon uncovered that elusive source publication. It was The Animal Book, written by famous Italian humanist and Renaissance author Pietro Candido Decembrio (1399-1477), commissioned by Ludovico Gonzaga, Marquis of Mantua, and published in 1460, with its illustrations added during the next century. So now, having solved that little mystery, here are some of this early tome’s most fascinating if baffling illustrations, together with some commentary by me on what they may, or may not, depict.
And where better to begin than with the totally bewildering, ostensibly aquatic mystery animal featured in the illustration opening this ShukerNature blog post and reproduced again below.
A hoofed, flippered, long-tailed, short-trunked mystery beast
Scouring the Web, I have found that some sites have sought to identify it as a sea lion, but I see little if any resemblance to those particular pinnipeds. More plausible, even if only for the trunk-like proboscis, is an elephant seal, but the depicted beast’s long tail and, especially, its hoofed forelegs, swiftly eliminate this from serious consideration – unless the artist was attempting to illustrate such a creature merely from a verbal description (and quite probably a somewhat less than accurate one at that), rather than a physical specimen, because elephant seals weren’t known scientifically until the mid-/late 1600s. Similarly, the aardvark Orycteropus afer, another potential identity (albeit greatly distorted), remained scientifically undescribed until 1766; and the platypus Ornithorhynchus anatinus, which has also been suggested by some, remained unknown to Europeans until 1798.
When I first looked at this picture, the identity that came into my mind was that of a desman, especially the Russian desman Desmana moschata – that large aquatic relative of moles, which possesses a proboscis, a long tail, and clawed flipper-like hindfeet. However, this species’ forefeet are also clawed and flipper-like, not hoofed (unless, once again, the artist was basing his illustration upon an inaccurate verbal description only?).
A stuffed Russian desman (Didier Descouens/Museum of Toulouse/Wikipedia)
Out of sheer desperation, I might even have considered the dramatic possibility that this was a portrait of the enigmatic Trunko – had I not been personally responsible for the latter entity’s conclusive exposure as a non-living globster (click here for the full revelation). Perhaps the most reasonable assumption is that it represents some hoax taxiderm specimen, created via the skilful union of body parts from a variety of different creatures and displayed at sideshows or other public exhibitions, alongside stuffed mermaids, preserved dragons, dried Jenny Hanivers, and other assorted fauna of the fraudulent, fabricated kind.
Equally perplexing is this illustration of a humanoid figure completely covered in green scales. One might be forgiven for initially assuming that it was meant to represent a merman. However, it possesses neither a fishtail (sporting instead a normal, fully-formed pair of legs) nor even any webbing between its fingers, in stark contrast to typical mermen – one of which is depicted elsewhere in the same book, thereby emphasising the difference between itself and this weird scaly human.
The scaly fish-man illustration
Conversely, it may constitute an image of a man suffering from ichthyosis – a sometimes-extreme skin disorder in which the sufferer can indeed be covered in thick green scale-like flakes of skin. In the distant past, several unfortunate persons with this unsightly but striking medical condition have been displayed at freak shows and similar exhibitions, usually labelled as ‘fish-men’.
The typical merman illustration
Much the same problems arise with many of the other creatures depicted in Candido’s book, i.e. are they (a) mythical, are they (b) real but sometimes inaccurately represented, or are they (c) potentially cryptozoological?
An oenophilic cynocephalus
Examples clearly belonging to the first of those three categories include a basilisk and a cockatrice, a griffin, an amphisbaena, a manticore, a flying horse, and a pair of onocentaurs; plus a donkey unicorn (or unicorn donkey?); a more typical white unicorn but with a red face and tricoloured horn; a manticore-related, tapir-reminiscent beast of legend known as a leucrocuta; a hairy dog-headed man or cynocephalus scrutinising a goblet of red wine; a peacock-crested, azure-breasted phoenix with crimson wings and rooster-like wattles; and a bat-winged, scaly-bodied, limbless aerial dragon known as an amphiptere.
A many-hued phoenix
Those from the second category, meanwhile, include such familiar beasts as a lion, a lynx, a leopard, an eagle, a lammergeyer, an owl, an elephant, a stag, various hounds and horses, and a pelican, all depicted fairly or very naturally. Also present, but in stark contrast to the above-listed animals in terms of accurate representation, is a brown giraffe patterned only with a light speckling of small white flecks and armed with a pair of long curved antelope-like horns. Nor should (or could!) we overlook a gaudy multicoloured rhinoceros with extraordinary body armour that was clearly based upon the famous rhinoceros engraving of 1515 by Albrecht Dürer.
A sparsely-patterned, antelope-horned giraffe
And creatures from the third (and most intriguing) category not only include the trunked mystery beast and scaly humanoid already discussed here. Also worthy of consideration are such curiosities as a snake bearing a veritable crown of horns around its brow; another one with a pair of lateral cow-like horns; a carnivorous deer (judging from its dentition) with antlers so palmate in shape that they resemble a pair of human hands; an even more mysterious carnivorous mammal with claws but a horse-like mane plus bright red fur mottled with grey and gold patches; and a frog sporting a pair of very long, slender, almost upright horns upon its head.
A lynx and the red mystery carnivore
What could have inspired such zoological oddities? A verbal description of a horned viper may possibly have inspired the bovine snake’s depiction, but what of the others?
A frog with horns
Whoever would have guessed that the Vatican was such a rich repository of cryptozoological and zoomythological exotica? And if you can obtain a copy of And To Every Beast…, please do so, because it’s a thoroughly delightful, beautiful little book – highly recommended!!!
The multicoloured rhino and red-faced unicorn

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This Legendary Cryptid From Sumatra Most Likely Exists

In the westernmost island of the archipelago in Indonesia is a jungle that is home to the most elusive Crytpid in the world, the Orang Pendek. The animal is said to be a cryptozoological wonder and is a bipedal primate that is small which has been seen by natives to the island along with researchers. This elusive animal may have been recently caught on video as proof of what is often called the miniature Bigfoot of Asia.

Evidence of The World’s Most Elusive Crytpid, The Orang Pendek

Orang Pendek Means Short Person

Orang Pendek translates to the short person in Indonesia and it is a primate species that has remained undiscovered and which might be from the homo genus. Locals, travelers, and researchers have over the years claimed to have seen the cryptid, many saying that they came across it purely by chance.

One thing that everyone who claims to have seen the Orang Pendek has said is that the animal is between 30 to 60 inches tall and covered in grey, brown or golden hair and is bipedal. This means the creature walks upright in the same way that a human being walks. What is even stranger about the creature is the fact that its facial features resemble those of a human being and differ totally from the majority of monkeys.

Is Orang Pendek The Lost Cousin of Human Beings?

Due to the creature having the facial looks of a human being the creature has been said to be the lost cousin of humans and it shares a common ancestor. A research group did come across the remains of human-like species in the region and it was small and they reported it as being Homo floresiensis, the real-life Hobbit. Many have said that this is the cryptid of Sumatra.

The Indonesia people have said that the Orang Pendek is a creature that shows great intelligence and it has the ability to be able to hide away from human beings. This has caused the people of Sumatra to be in fear of the creature. One native claimed an encounter with the creature and said that the animal had put its arms up into the air so as to make itself look bigger. Others have claimed of sightings that have been similar and of the creature showing aggression. It is not known if the creature has actually ever attacked anyone.

British Journalist Saw Orang Pendek in Jungle in Sumatra

British journalist, Debbie Martyr, is among the most famous of researchers who claimed to have seen the creature. In 1994 she said that she was out investigating and saw the Orang Pendek in the Sumatran jungle. While she was not able to capture the creature in a photo, she said that what she had witnessed was a bipedal primate that was unlike anything she had seen before.

The crew of a military helicopter also claimed to have seen the creature when the helicopter was flying over Kerinci Seblat National Park, which has been the center of the sightings of the Orang Pendek. It was said that the creature was in a tree, and it has a head that was a different shape to a human, more like an ape but the face was humanoid.

Video Evidence of the Orang Pendek

While there have been photographs of the Orang Pendek, there is one video film that has stood out above all else as being proof of the Orang Pendek. In the video, a small pygmy like creature is seen darting out of the woodland right in front of dirt-bikers. The creature takes off into the jungle, as one of the bikers tries to catch up with it. The creature is caught on film for only a few seconds.

The creature is seen to fall over, and then it picks up a long staff and runs off, it is thought to be wearing a loincloth. It was the size of a small human being, but the actual height is said to be difficult to judge because of the angles of the footage captured. The creature does seem to have less hair than what has been described by other people claiming to have seen the Orang Pendek, and this is one of the reasons some have said that the video was a hoax.

Researcher Took Cast of Footprint of Orang Pendek

Englishman Adam Davies is another researcher who has been tracking down the Orang Pendek. Davies claims that he made a cast of what is the footprint of the creature in the jungle in western Sumatra. He found that the cast did match up with descriptions that the Orang Pendek has a divergent toe like a monkey. However, there is a difference in the toes are not quite as long as monkeys. Instead they are wide and short the same as found on human beings.

Richard Freeman has been exploring regions such as western Sumatra for many years taking photographs. He said that he had taken photographs of about 60 species that have never been seen before and this means that there is a high possibility that there are an unknown species of primate in existence. Cynics have said that the sightings of the creature were in fact orangutans. There have been many confounding factors that go towards dispelling the skepticism, with the main issue being that orangutans have not been seen in that region of Sumatra.

It was also said that Orangutans use their arms and knuckles to balance with while walking and they do not walk fully upright. Many people have claimed that the Orang Pendek walks upright and strides out. While the Orang Pendek remains something of a mystery right now, researchers believe that they will find concrete evidence of the existence of them.


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Scientist John Bindernagel spent decades stalking sasquatch

In 1963, John Bindernagel shared with his university class a magazine report about a tall, hairy creature said to populate the forests of North America. His biology professor and classmates dismissed his interest with a laugh.

In the ensuing years, Mr. Bindernagel became a respected scientist who worked for the United Nations on three continents. After returning to Canada, his pursuit of a great ape of the woods became an obsession of sorts and he became world-renowned in cryptozoology circles for his work on a creature known variously as yeti, bigfoot, or sasquatch.

He made plaster casts of what he insisted were sasquatch footprints found on a Vancouver Island trail and claimed to have once heard the chimpanzee-like cry of the creature.

He never stopped searching and some others never stopped laughing.

Mr. Bindernagel, who has died at the age of 76, preferred the term Sasquatch in recognition of the Coast Salish name Sasq’ets for a mammal he insisted was alive and not just a supernatural being of myth.

The wildlife biologist spent four decades in search of the elusive creature, aware of the ridicule his pursuit garnered in some circles, notably the popular media.

“I don’t go around trying to convince people that the Sasquatch exists,” he once said. “What I’m looking for is a forum to explain and tell the evidence we have and say this is worthy of scientific scrutiny.”

John Albert Bindernagel was born in Kitchener, Ont., on Dec. 22, 1941, to Mona (née Sparrer) and Albert Bindernagel, a painter and decorator. He was an only child who enjoyed the solitude of exploring the woods and examining the creatures who lived there.

He graduated with a biology degree from the University of Guelph in Ontario in 1964, and later completed a doctorate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Mr. Bindernagel worked on contract as a wildlife conservation adviser for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in the Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago, as well as at the Serengeti Research Institute in Tanzania. In Iran, he wrote a report about conflicts in the forest habitat of the Caspian red deer (Cervus elaphus maral).

Even as he studied wildlife around the globe, he keenly followed reports of Sasquatch sightings in North America. In the 1970s, he moved to Courtenay on Vancouver Island, the forests of which he considered prime habitat for a giant hairy biped.

It was on a hike in Strathcona Provincial Park not far from his home, in 1988, that he encountered a trio of barefoot impressions in the soil that he was certain were those of sasquatch. Although he was in bear country, the prints lacked claws. He made plaster casts of the 38-centimetre (15-inch) prints, which he brought with him to university conferences, museum presentations and forums on mythical creatures, including those held during Sasquatch Daze at Harrison Hot Springs, a resort in B.C.’s Fraser Valley east of Vancouver that has used the sasquatch as a promotional lure for tourists for years.

Four years later, while hiking near Comox Lake, Mr. Bindernagel claimed to have heard a loud and resonant “whoop, whoop, whoop” call that reminded him of the great apes he had encountered in Africa.

He accumulated what he described as more than 2,000 witness accounts over a span of 150 years throughout the continent, including sightings in far-off Florida and even on the Niagara Peninsula.

Mr. Bindernagel wrote two books on the subject, North America’s Great Ape: The Sasquatch (1998) and The Discovery of the Sasquatch: Reconciling Culture, History and Science in the Discovery Process (2010), both released through his own Beachcomber Books imprint.

He never wavered in his belief that evidence of the existence of the creature would one day be confirmed.

“When the discovery of the sasquatch as an extant North American mammal is finally acknowledged, we will owe a huge debt to the aboriginal people for their willingness to explain the sasquatch to disbelieving anthropologists,” he wrote in 2014.

Although he had an aural encounter, Mr. Bindernagel never saw his elusive quarry. He knew more physical evidence would be needed before his work would be recognized for its scientific acumen instead of being dismissed as delusion.

“Some people just won’t be convinced until we have a carcass and bones,” he acknowledged.

He expressed a weariness at having spent a lifetime gathering evidence of the creature’s existence only to have his work dismissed as sensational tabloid fodder. He railed against describing sasquatch as a monster in popular culture and found the modern shorthand of referring to the creature as “squatch” to be disrespectful to aboriginal culture. He might have been unaware that the derivation became popular after a professional basketball team named its hairy ape mascot Squatch.

Others were not reluctant to poke fun at his findings. The late humourist Arthur Black once examined the case.

“Either John Bindernagel had the tracks of sasquatch,” he wrote, “or Dennis Rodman was running around the Canadian wilderness with a terrible case of gout.”

Mr. Bindernagel died of cancer on Jan. 18. He leaves his wife, the former Joan Keyes, as well as a son, a daughter and four grandchildren.

Read More On This At Cryptozoology – Google News

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Madagascar’s mysterious little people


There are plenty of reports of enormous hairy hominids from all over the world, and indeed they seem to be a phenomenon that spans across cultures. Yet equally as curious and bizarre are the stories of smaller, miniature versions of these man-like beasts. One place that has long has a tradition of curious little forest people is the island nation of Madagascar, which is a majestic land full of spectacular mysteries both known and unknown.

Located in the Indian Ocean off the coast of East Africa lies the island nation of Madagascar, or officially the Republic of Madagascar. The main island is the fourth largest island in the world, and broke off from the Indian peninsula approximately 88 million years ago, after which the flora and fauna went on to evolve in complete isolation. It is due to this unique geological history that the island has a wealthy abundance of completely unique species and ecosystems seen nowhere else on Earth, with many more thought to remain undocumented. Considering this remote isolation, the swaths of pristine, uncharted wilderness, such a plethora of unique wildlife, and the strong possibility of lost, unidentified species, it should come as no surprise that Madagascar also has its share of bizarre and elusive mystery monsters.

One of the more intriguing of Madagascar’s alleged strange denizens is a creature most commonly known as the Kalanoro, which is said to roam isolated pockets of rain forest and lurk in dark caverns all over the country. Known by a myriad of other names depending on the local tribe, such as the Kotoky or Vazimba, these odd beings are said to stand around 2 feet in height, with somewhat ape-like features and hooked fingers endowed with extremely long fingernails. They are mostly said to be covered in long hair, although it is often said that they also have some sort of quills or spines on their backs, and the eyes are typically said to be formidable and fierce. The creatures are often reported as loving water, and can supposedly be seen cavorting about in rivers or lakes. More unusual details include that they have only three toes that face backwards or that their eyes glow in the dark.

The Kalanoro are said to be for the most part shy and hiding from mankind, but will come forth under the cover of night to steal food from villages and even on occasion abduct children, and they are known to be rather aggressive if encountered. They are most often described as having prodigious strength for their size, and it is usually recommended to avoid them if at all possible, although sightings are remarkably rare. Interestingly, most of the lore and descriptions of the Kalanoro are remarkably consistent amongst the myriad tribes scattered about Madagascar, which prompted the great cryptozoologist Bernard Heuvelmans to once muse, “These legends may be fantastic, but they are found all over Madagascar, and it would be odd if they were utterly without foundation.” Indeed, far from just a completely folkloric legend there have been a few supposed sightings and encounters with the diminutive beasts on occasion. Some interesting early reports were written of in 1886 by a G. Herbert Smith within the pages of the Antananarivo Annual, where he said:

We next come to the forest, and from there we get endless stories of the Kalanoro, a sort of wild-man-of-the-woods, represented as very short of stature, covered with hair, with flowing beard, in the case of the male, and with an amiable weakness for the warmth of a fire. An eye-witness related that once, when spending a night in the heart of the forest, he lay awake watching the fire, which had died down to red embers, when suddenly he became aware of a figure answering to the above description warming himself at the fire, and apparently enjoying it immensely. According to his story, he put a summary end to the gentleman’s enjoyment by stealing down his hand, grasping a stick, and sending a shower of red-hot embers on to his unclothed visitor, who immediately, and most naturally, fled with a shriek. Another tells how, on a similar occasion, the male appeared first, and after inspecting the premises and finding, as well as a fire, some rice left in the pot, summoned his better half; the pair squatted in front of the fire and – touching picture of conjugal affection – proceeded to feed one another!

One must confess that the creature described looks suspiciously like one of the larger sorts of lemur; but in a village near Mahanoro, and on the verge of the forest, the inhabitants say that very frequently these wild people come foraging in their houses for remnants of food, and may be heard calling to one another in the street.

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