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Where the wild things aren’t

Andrew Masterson

October 2013 will go down as a bittersweet watershed in the curious field of cryptozoology – the study of creatures that probably don’t exist.

Cryptozoologists are people who search for animals of folklore and rumour: yowies, bunyips, rogue panthers, ape-men, the Loch Ness monster, the Beast of Buderim, the Goatman of Maryland,  Oklahoma Octopus and many more.

In October, though, something really weird happened.

A well-respected mainstream geneticist, Dr Bryan Sykes, from Oxford University, announced that he had done DNA tests on two hair samples collected, centuries apart, by yeti hunters. The samples, he reported, both came from a species unknown to science.

For believers in the Abominable Snowman, that was the good news. The bad followed immediately: the species was not an ape, but some type of bear. The mysterious creature roaming the Himalayas was not so much Yeti as Yogi.

Sykes’ research, yet to be published in full, has done little to dampen the enthusiasm of Australia’s cryptozoological community. The hunt for our own ape-man, the Yowie, continues unabated.

Prime among the Yowie hunters is Rex Gilroy, 70, self-proclaimed ”father of Australian cryptozoology”, author, naturalist and hunter of improbable beasts.

”The silly sketches of Yowies as giant, hairy apes are all wrong,” he says. ”Yowies are a living form of [human ancestor] Homo erectus.”

Gilroy claims to have collected a  number of fossil hominid skulls – of Homo erectus and the even earlier Australopithecus – which he says proves that human ancestors were living in Australia long before the arrival of Aborigines.

Some of his best specimens were discovered near the Fish River in the central western district of NSW.

”I believe there is a population of Homo erectus still living there,” he said.

”The Yowie is no gorilla-like monster. It’s a fire-making, tool-making hominid. I’ve found campsites and stone tools, some of them only a few months old.”

Gilroy is also active in the hunt for two perennials of Australian cryptozoology – the thylacine and wild panthers.

This last is a popular target for investigation in Victoria. Reports of big cat sightings appear frequently in country newspapers, blurry video clips crop up on telly, and shots of hideously mauled dead sheep are often cited as evidence of big cat kills.

Indeed, in 2012 one of the first acts of incoming Victorian Premier Denis Napthine was to commission a review of big cat sightings. The review, conducted by the Department of Primary Industries, concluded that feral panthers, jaguars or other feline peak predators were almost certainly not roaming around the state.

However, because it is impossible to prove a negative, the report’s findings are unlikely to dampen the spirits of the cryptozoological sleuths. Prime among them is Simon Townsend, of Geelong, who heads a group called Big Cats Victoria.

”We are desperate for actual specimens,” he said, ”but that’s a difficult thing. We think the cats are Malay leopards – black leopards – and there are maybe only a couple of dozen across the state.”

Townsend is careful to separate his pursuit from the windier shores of crypto-research.

”We take this as a totally serious undertaking,” he said. ”We keep well away from the ‘goblin university’ folk. They’re not very useful when you’re after something that kills sheep and eats roos.”

Townsend enjoys a long-term collaboration with crypto-sceptic historian Dr David Waldron, based at Federation University in Ballarat. In 2012 the pair combined to produce a book: Snarls from the Tea-Tree: Big Cat Folklore. Waldron said that while ideas of yowies, bunyips and other fabulous beasts can be traced to the creation myths of different Aboriginal communities, the big cat idea arrived with the Europeans.

”Big cat stories go way back into the 19th century,” he said.

”Settlers found themselves in an alien landscape, and they had to try to make sense of things such as stock predation and farm failures.

”Their tools for doing this derived from European colonial experience in Africa and Asia – where there were big, dangerous animals, including big cats.”

Some early settlers, he said, were startled that there were no monkeys in Australia. In 1826, settlers visiting Rottnest Island heard sounds in the night, noted dig-marks in the ground, and saw a large shape in the water. They concluded the place was home to hippos.

Big cats in the bush are not, in one sense, mythical at all. There have been several cases, especially in the later 19th century, when  lions, pumas and so forth have escaped from travelling menageries and nicked off into the scrub. Waldron has a collection of skeletal remnants lodged in Federation University’s library.

The myth kicks in with the idea that these cats somehow survived, bred, and established permanent populations. The usual evidence for this – bizarre stock mutilations – is easily explained.

”Most likely, the mutilations are caused by multiple animals,” said Waldron. ”A wild dog kills the sheep, then a fox has a go, then birds, rats, and so forth. The result looks unusual.”

Back in NSW, Rex Gilroy, perhaps surprisingly, rejects the idea of wild big cats roaming the bush.

”The panther is a marsupial,” he says. ”It’s a large marsupial, possibly a relation to the extinct marsupial lion. There have been plenty of sightings around Katoomba.”

While many professional scientists dismiss cryptozoology as complete fruit-loopery, Professor Bill Laurence, a distinguished biologist at Queensland’s James Cook University, sees great value in the field.

He points out that cryptozoologists have a good record of finding ”Lazarus species” – types of animals presumed to be extinct but subsequently rediscovered. If the thylacine turns out not to be extinct, it will be a cryptozoologist who finds it, if only because no one else is looking.

”I think there is something similar between cryptozoologists and people who search for aliens, for instance,” Laurence said. ”There’s a desire for mystery, a love of the notion of something out there that we don’t understand. It touches something deep in the human spirit.”

As for Sykes’ possible Himalayan bear-cum-yeti discovery, Laurence is waiting for the full results to be published.

”A giant bear there would be very remarkable,” he said. ”What’s its food base? I’m a bit leery about it, but it’s certainly put the cat among the pigeons.”




Loch Ness monster spotted in a Chinese lake?

The ranger of the national park on the Changbai Plateau in China has published photographs in which, he says, you can see a strange creature living in the local lake Tian Chi. Talks about it are going on since 1962.

A man named Xiao Yu noticed an unusual dark object on the surface of the reservoir during his daily walk. He began filming the “monster” until it disappeared under water a few minutes later.

Lake Tian Chi is 4.9 square kilometers on the border of China and North Korea. Sometimes the North Korean military go fishing here on boats, but on the Chinese side, fishing in the lake and unauthorized visits to the park are strictly prohibited. Xiao Yu noted that he had seen boats on the lake more than once and would never have mistook them for a “monster.”

The caretaker’s message caused a stir in the Chinese media and social networks. The fact is that reports of a strange creature in Tian Chi have appeared regularly since 1962. He was nicknamed “the Chinese Loch Ness monster” and made the subject of conspiracy theories.

Biologists declined to comment on what exactly the park employee could see in the photo, because it is difficult to see something  in the picture in detail. They recalled that there are many plausible explanations for the Scottish Loch Ness monster. It can turn out to be both a large eel and periodically floating logs of Scottish pine.

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Bigfoots attacked tourists in the Ozark National Park, Arkansas

Fort Smith native Ellen (not her real name) tells us a thrilling and frightening encounter with Bigfoot in the Ozark National Park – outside Campbell Cemetery on Tuesday night. According to Ellen, she and her husband Robert decided to find a secluded place to live a couple of days far from civilization and even so that numerous tourists were many miles away.

Therefore, they chose the area of ​​the old abandoned Campbell cemetery, where no one had wandered in for about a hundred years. And now, according to Ellen, she and her husband heard something like an animal growl, permeating the air and coming from somewhere in the thicket. After a few minutes, the growl intensified and seemed to be closer.

“It sounded like some hefty creature had found its lunch,” says Ellen.

However, what slightly frightened Ellen was that their dogs, which always bark at the approach of predators, suddenly shrunk, huddled near the tent and began to whine. Then Ellen and Robert, in order to somehow cheer up the dogs, got out of the tent and also began to growl. But the joke failed.

In response to their voices, the growl from the thicket became really aggressive and began to spread around, from which Ellen and Robert realized that there were at least two creatures. Ellen did not even think about some “Bigfoot” and assumed either large wolves, or even bears, when suddenly hefty sticks and stones flew into the tent.

This infuriated Robert and assuming that some hooligans were hiding in the bushes, Robert gave the command to the dogs to teach the offenders a lesson.

“It was the biggest mistake of our life,” says Ellen and begins to cry.

According to her, when the dogs disappeared into the thickets from there, at first the sounds of a struggle were heard, then one of the dogs uttered such a monstrous cry that Ellen had never heard anything like it in her life. After that, everyone began to howl, whine and scream, and pieces of dogs flew towards the tent.

At first, Ellen and Robert thought that these were big stones again, but when they saw that a dog torn in half had been thrown at them, they came into indescribable horror and, leaving everything, rushed to run. Ellen and Robert went to the police first.

The police found a tent and equipment, but there were no pieces of dogs there, so the couple announced that they were crazy. However, friends told Ellen that something similar happened in the national park last month and we just reported about it.

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What aliens are doing at Loch Ness

What connects aliens to the Scottish lake monster? And why did many eyewitnesses say that a mysterious force prevented them from taking photos or videos of this monster? There are no answers to these questions yet.

Loch Ness, located in Scotland, is primarily famous for its mysterious monster, nicknamed Nessie, which according to various theories is either a huge eel, or a seal, or a prehistoric dinosaur. In turn, some associate the appearance of Nessie with the activities of aliens, and not from scratch.

It is true that strange lights or disc-shaped UFOs are regularly seen over Loch Ness, but there is also an eyewitness story about how aliens landed on the shore of the lake. This happened on August 14, 1971, when the eyewitness Jan Ove Sudberg (now deceased) was 23 years old. Early in the morning, between about 8:30 and 9:30 am, he was on the shores of Loch Ness in the Foyers Bay area.

Suddenly he stumbled upon something amazing and it was not a monster. Sudberg saw a clearing ahead, on which stood an unusual large object, shaped like a huge cigar. It was about 10 meters long, and at the top there was something like a cockpit. Near the object were “pilots” – humanoid creatures.

There were three of them and they were dressed in tight suits, similar to diving. When they entered the object and the object then rose high into the air, then Sudberg realized that he was observing aliens. As the ship gained altitude, it began to slowly fly over the hills towards the nearby Loch More Lake.

The story doesn’t end there. Sudberg was not a Scotsman, he came to Loch Ness as a tourist and flew back to his native Sweden shortly after seeing the aliens. And there a new stage in this strange story began. In Sudberg’s house, unusual phenomena began to occur, a poltergeist, he began to receive mysterious phone calls, and later even Men in Black came to him.

Soon Sudberg contacted the British researcher of anomalous phenomena, Ted Holiday, and told him his story. He also complained to him that he could not photograph UFOs and aliens in the photo, although he had a camera with him. He felt as if some force paralyzed his will and did not allow him to do it.

It is curious that Holiday later repeatedly encountered a similar phenomenon from Nessie’s eyewitnesses. All of them, when they saw the monster in the lake, for some unknown reason, either could not photograph it, or tried, but they did not succeed.

He also found out that much earlier eyewitnesses of Nessie faced this phenomenon. On November 12, 1933, eyewitness Hugh Gray captured a photograph of Nessie, which is considered the first 100% authentic photograph of the Loch Ness Monster.

Gray’s photo shows something serpentine floating in the water. However, few people know that when Gray saw this creature in the lake, he took as many as five pictures before it went under water.

However, only one out of five photographs showed the monster, the rest of the negatives for some reason turned out to be empty.

The conclusion seems to be obvious: the monster in Loch Ness is more than just a large eel, it has some powers to protect it, and in some way it is connected with UFOs and aliens.

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