Monthly Archives: May 2013

#13 – Thunderbirds & The Lawndale Incident

The legendary Thunderbirds are an intrinsic part of Native American culture. The Lakota, Ojibwa and Kwakwaka’wakw (which are an actual tribe, and not the sound of a duck sneezing) all tell tales of the times their tribes found themselves in strife, only to be rescued by the daring efforts of Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon and John.

If only the first white people they'd met had actually been this helpful.

If only the first white people they’d met had actually been this helpful.

Somebody fetch me a clean pair of trousers, as there’s a good chance I’ve just wit myself.

Obviously the real Thunderbird legends are quite different. The stories tell of immense birds that generated storms as they flew and cast lightning strikes from their talons – some Native Americans revere them as shapeshifters and ancestors, having taken human form to marry into the the tribe in the past. There’s probably a joke in there about having difficulty with your husband’s pecker, but I’ll be damned if I’m doing it.

What the hell would you get this guy for Father's Day?

Happy Father’s Day! It’s a dead rabbit.

Like many legends, however, it’s possible that there’s a grain of truth in all the exaggeration; lightning strikes and the summoning of storms may be flights of fancy, but that’s no reason to assume that the Thunderbird has no basis in reality whatsoever. The possibility of enormous unknown birds is an admittedly remote one, due in no small part to the simple fact that they’d be much more obvious and hard to miss than a submerging lake monster, but that doesn’t mean that sightings of them don’t take place. And in the case of the 1977 Lawndale Incident, they sometimes go a damn sight further than a simple sighting.

In 1977 Marlon Lowe was a carefree ten-year old kid in Illinois, playing happily in open fields near his home in Kickapoo Creek. And yes, that is its real name. I can only assume that there is very little to do in small town Illinois beyond kicking shit about and then naming places after the fun you’ve had. Marlon’s mother had guests round for a cookout – in all, there were seven witnesses to what would happen next, all of them remarkably consistent in their description of the Thunderbird.

Marlon as a child, here being embraced by his mother, dressed up as a character from Bo Selecta.

Marlon and his mother Ruth, here dressed as a Bo Selecta character.

Marlon suddenly ran screaming around the side of the house. He was being pursued by two enormous birds, each easily ten feet across and flying wing to wing. One of the massive creatures dived and grabbed the boy in its talons, carrying him off the ground for several feet. His mother Ruth screamed hysterically and spooked the bird, which promptly dropped the child before the two of them flew off in the direction of the creek.

The witnesses at the cookout were unanimous in their descriptions. The birds were huge and coal-black, with curved beaks and a ruff of white feathers around their white necks. The story was corroborated by a mechanic in town whose entire truck had been left in shadow when the two birds flew overhead before the attack.

The unknown birds seemed to share a lot of characteristics with enormous gliding birds like the Andean condor, particularly the ring of white feathers around the neck. Primarily carrion eaters, however, condors don’t hunt on the wing and aren’t considered to have anywhere near the talon strength required to carry prey or food any distance at all. Not only did these massive birds seem to be unknown to science, they also rather worryingly seemed to have a penchant for tiny ginger children (who as we all know have more than enough natural predators as it is).

There’s another possibility for the identity of the Lawndale Thunderbird. Thought to be fairly recently extinct in the grand scheme of history, the Teratorns cover five known species of giant predatory bird. Teratornis Merriami is the best known, with over a hundred examples recovered from the La Brea tar pits:

Teratornis_merriami

Spanning up to twelve feet across, this massive bird was contemporary with early man and bones found in ancient dump sites seem to indicate they were even hunted and killed. The larger beaks also suggest they were more active predators than condors, and thus may well have fancied pecking the ever-loving fuck out of the occasional baby in return.

Even Teratornis Merriami, however, is a tiny little bitch in comparison to its Teratorn cousin, found in Argentina. Meet this reconstruction of the largest bird that’s ever lived:

Sesame Street ain't got shit on this bad boy.

Sesame Street ain’t got shit on this bad boy.

Argentavis Magnificens was truly the stuff of nightmares. Anything up to two metres tall and seven metres across, this giant soaring bird probably used thermal currents to aid its flight – the sort of thermal currents that follow raging storms around. John Keel claims to have mapped thunderbird sightings and found that they correspond with storms moving across the United States. It’s highly unlikely that anything on the same scale as Argentavis Magnificens is still flapping about up there, but it would seem to explain a lot of Native American legends if something similar came spiraling out of the heart of a thunderstorm and spooked the crap out of their ancestors a few thousand years ago.

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#12 – The Dyatlov Pass Incident

One of the big problems with cryptid sightings is the credibility of the witnesses. The fast buck appeal of selling a hoax photograph or story is obvious; Bigfoot, Nessie and the Abominable Snowman sell countless books and articles every year. Because people want to believe, it doesn’t really matter that the primary source in these encounters is often a web-fingered monotoothed moonshine addict named Urkel whose primary concerns in life are incest and crystal meth. If you’re a little more analytical about it, the cryptid sightings with seemingly credible witnesses tend to be the more believable ones – if there isn’t a good reason to doubt those involved or their motives, it naturally seems a darn sight more likely that they genuinely encountered something extraordinary.

Which brings us to the 1959 Dyatlov Pass incident and the nine hikers who encountered something in the Ural Mountains. Their credibility gains an instant boost for their pure dedication to the story – they didn’t try to profit from it, because they were all far too busy being fucking dead.

On the left of the hug is Yuri Yudin, the jammiest motherfucker in Russian history.

On the left of the hug is Yuri Yudin, the jammiest little shit in Russian history.

I’m not a hiker or a climber. In fact, to me, freezing my tender little balls off up the side of a Russian mountain sounds about as fun and sensible as informing OJ Simpson that it’s over and I’ve met someone else. I spent my university days in an alcoholic coma, but things are apparently a little different in Russia – Igor Dyatlov, for example, decided that the best thing to do with his time at the Ural Polytechnical Institute was to lead a ten-person ski trek across a mountain pass in the Sverdlovsk Oblast. If you’re not sure where that is, rest assured that it’s somewhere between Hell itself and that bit at the back of the freezer that you never want to touch because it’ll rip the skin right off the tips of your fingers.

The ten experienced hikers began their trek through the mountain pass on January 27, 1959. A day later the lucky sod pictured above, Yuri Yudin, decided he was too ill to press on and turned back – he went on to live until April 2013, presumably feeling pretty bloody guilty every time he turned the heating on. His nine friends weren’t so lucky, and their final days had to be pieced together from the diaries and photos discovered at the various sites involved in their deaths, like a rubbish black and white Blair Witch Project.

Like this, but presumably with vodka instead of snot and communism instead of overacting.

Like this, but presumably with vodka instead of snot and communism instead of overacting.

Rescue teams eventually found their final camp off the planned course on the western slope of Mount Kolat Syakhyl, which translates from the local Mansi into “Mountain of the Dead”. Quite why the hell you’d want to go anywhere near a place called the Mountain of the Dead is beyond me, especially considering that Mount Slutty Supermodels In a Cocaine Jacuzzi was apparently just a few kilometres further east.

Investigators found a half-collapsed tent that had been frantically slashed open from the inside. Warm clothes and provisions were left behind – nine sets of tracks fled from the scene; some completely barefoot, one wearing one shoe, others just in socks. Further into the pass, by a large cedar at the edge of the woods, the first bodies were found – Yuri Krivonischenko and Yuri Doroshenko, both wearing nothing but their underwear and huddled around a wholly inadequate makeshift campfire. The branches of the tree were broken, indicating that someone had climbed it to look around. Three more bodies were found between the cedar and the abandoned camp, including that of Dyatlov himself.

The hikers setting up Camp Notgoingtoendwellski.

The hikers setting up Camp Notgoingtoendwellski.

The first five hikers all seemed to have died of exposure, which is understandable when you go bumbling about in -30 celsius temperatures wearing nothing more than your fuzzy Russian undies. The discovery of the final four bodies, however, changed the picture entirely.

On May 4th, 75 metres away from the cedar tree and covered by several metres of snow at the bottom of a ravine, the final four hikers were found. Despite having no obvious external trauma, three of them had serious or fatal injuries; a crushed skull, two massive chest fractures, and just to add a bit of horror, one missing fucking tongue. One doctor compared the injuries to car accidents or those caused by sudden, massive changes in pressure. The injuries made no apparent sense, and neither did the fact that the bodies tested positive for completely unexplainable levels of beta radiation.

The pass was closed to hikers and skiiers for years following the grisly incident, and the pass itself was renamed in Dyatlov’s honour. Conspiracy theories abound about what truly happened – one young witness claims to have seen an unnatural orange hue to the bodies at the hikers’ funerals, while a group hiking further south insisted there were strange lights in the sky the night that Dyatlov’s group frantically abandoned their tent and any hope of survival.

The official government inquiry didn’t do much to solve the mystery either. The final verdict was that an unknown and “compelling natural force” caused the hikers to flee their tent and meet their deaths, which is about as close as we’re ever going to get to a politician turning round and admitting that a RADIOACTIVE MOTHERFUCKING YETI murdered nine innocent people.

FEAR MY PLUTONIUM PENIS.

FEAR MY PLUTONIUM PENIS.

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#11 – The Momo

In one of the earliest and shittiest examples of infuriating celebrity name truncations going, ‘Momo’ is actually short for the ‘Missouri Monster’. And like one half of the pattern-following power couple RiBrown, it’s a thoroughly unlikeable beast that has a tendency to beat the crap out of attractive women sat in cars. Thankfully though the similarity ends there, as the Momo is yet to shamelessly resurface and somehow still sell rubbish records to teenaged idiots hoodwinked into believing that if you love someone then it’s alright to backhand them in their annoyingly undeserving chops every now and then.

"Are you serious? People actually seem to have forgiven me?"

“Are you serious? People actually seem to have forgiven me?”

In other news, I doubt RiBrown is a nickname that anyone actually uses for those two. ChriHanna is probably equally possible. Ergh, I hate life.

First up, I need to put on my pedantic hat and point out that ‘Bigfoot’ has become a bit of a misleading umbrella term for anything tall and hairy that comes out of the woods. It should in fact be a moniker specific to the myriad of similar hominid sightings from America’s Pacific Northwest. The Momo (or ‘Eastern Bigfoot’) is a markedly different beast from the archetypal Bigfoot in a number of ways; it has no apparent neck, a large head set directly on its shoulders, and a face completely covered in the same long, dark hair that coats the rest of its body. Basically, imagine a seven-foot tall Cousin It with arms and feet and you’re halfway there. Then add a fuckton of blood and a dead dog slung under one arm and you will have successfully baked that thought-batter into the sort of fucking horrible nightmare cookie that you ought to be ashamed to feed even your mortal enemies.

All that's missing is a pointy guitar and this would be the most metal photo of all time.

All that’s missing is a pointy guitar and this would be the most metal photo of all time.

Reports of a Bigfoot-like creature have popped up in the area around Louisiana since the 1940s. Momo’s distinctive heavy metal look has been linked to a famous sighting further north in Monroe, Michigan in July 1971. Christine Van Acker encountered the beast while sat with her mother in the car. Momo, apparently convinced from the look of her that he’d caught Myra Hindley, promptly reached into the car and punched Van Acker in the face. She was left with a black eye that she went on to plaster all over the national papers alongside a sketch of her attacker apparently drawn by a six year old with a brain injury:

MonroeMichigan1965Honestly, from that sketch, she could well have been attacked by a Boohbah.

"Let's make a kid's TV show about a bunch of animate clitoral hoods! I can't see that being weird at all!"

Cross a dayglow parka with a clitoral hood, and you’ve apparently got a hit kid’s TV show.

The real fun began further south and a year later near the outskirts of Louisiana. Doris Harrison was inside the house, with her two younger brothers playing outside. Suddenly she heard them scream; looking out the bathroom window, she saw a blood-drenched Momo stood by a tree, carrying a dead dog under one arm. The creature soon skulked off into the woods, apparently unwilling to elevate its dinner plans from Korean food to delicious redneck children. This first sighting sparked a good few days of hysteria; residents reported dogs becoming sick or disappearing, horrible odours and terrible howling sounds coming from the area. A neighbour, Ellis Minor, shone a light out into his yard when his dog barked one night and became the second person to come face to face with the Momo, which again fled into the woods.

Casts were made of the large three-toed prints the monster left behind and delivered to Lawrence Curtis at the Oklahoma City Zoo. He deemed them to be a hoax, but whether hoaxers staged the whole affair or just jumped on the bandwagon after a genuine cryptid sighting remains to be seen.

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#10 – The Con Rit

I mentioned the coelocanth in the blog a couple of weeks ago for a good reason – it’s the best example going of a creature that apparently disappeared from the fossil record reappearing millions of years later. Its existence lends a little plausibility to the theory that any number of cryptids could in fact be relict populations of long-thought vanished beasties – the Loch Ness monster could turn out to be a plesiosaur, for example:

I'm bored. This is boring. You're boring me Nessie.

If this beast was really Scottish, both that fish he’s eating and his wife would be battered.

If there truly are any massive cryptids still out there waiting to be discovered, it makes sense that they’d be aquatic for the simple reason that we don’t know as much about the fauna of our seas as we do about that of our land masses. DO A JOKE YOU BORING SHIT, I hear you cry. Ok, how about this – what’s sixty feet long, stinks, and loves hot wet places in Vietnam  (apart from your dad’s cock on a midlife crisis sex tour?)

THIS terrifying bastard.

THIS terrifying bastard. But seriously – your dad needs help.

Meet the Con Rit, a fairly unique species of sea serpent that’s been reported in the oceans off South East Asia. Described as anywhere up to sixty feet long and three feet wide, this horrifying monster is divided into armoured segments two feet across, each with a pair of lateral fins or filaments sprouting from either side.  The name is Vietnamese for ‘millipede’, presumably because the more size-accurate title of ‘maxipede’ has already been posthumously awarded to Jimmy Savile.

"Quick! I'll race you to see who can fuck an entire generation first!"

“Quick! I’ll race you to see who can fuck an entire generation first!”

Records of the Con Rit go as far back as the second century, when Greek military writer Aelian described the creature and reported them as prone to beaching themselves. For a more modern account we have to look to Dr A. Krempf, who was director of the Oceanographic and Fisheries Service of Indo-China in the 1920s. He interviewed Tran Van Con, who was apparently an actual human being and not a prank in which you get tricked into getting fellated by a drag queen in the back of a transit.

Van Con described encountering the beached corpse of a Con Rit in 1883 – he gave the measurements I described above, as well as noting that the body was dark brown above and yellow on the underside. Striking a stick against the globster’s carapace he noted that it rang like metal (in much the same way as the shell of a horseshoe crab does). Unfortunately, the headless body stank so badly that it was towed back out to sea before it could be properly studied.

On top of Van Con’s account the Con Rit also features heavily as the dragon in ancient Vietnamese legends, leading to some speculation that a real live monster of the sea could be the inspiration behind the archetypal Oriental dragon.

There are several other theories, including one from Bernard Heuvelmans, the founding father of cryptozoology. He saw the Con Rit as a possible surviving zeuglodon:

zeuglodon

I think this is how Tim Burton’s sperm looks.

This assumption was based on the evidence of the time, which seemed to imply that armoured carapaces were common among archaic whales. Modern experts disagree, so the identity of the Con Rit remains a mystery; if it’s a crustacean it’d easily be the biggest one ever identified, and if it’s a fish, it’s sure as all balls a truly bizarre one.

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