Monthly Archives: July 2013

#21 – Quackers

There are probably very few jobs in the history of humanity more stressful than that of a Soviet Navy submarine officer at the height of the Cold War. Sure, being a binman’s got to be gross and exhausting, but it beats sitting in a pressurised tin can several hundred feet under sea level with a few dozen other stinky stressed-out Russians, your vodka-soddened finger hovering over the big red button that could potentially make you personally responsible for millions of innocent deaths. That’s a terrifying amount of pressure for anyone, regardless of how much you love Gorbachev and furry hats. Any additional stress must have felt like a needlessly spiteful flick in the balls – a flick in the balls delivered after some other bastard had already grabbed hold and knotted the whole package into a throbbing, fleshy pretzel.

Unfortunately, additional stress did come along, in the form of a probable cryptid actively fucking with these nuclear submarines, as if playing ‘tag!’ with a stressed-out world power capable of annihilating half the world was the most hilarious idea ever.

There's a very good reason why this man has never featured on an episode of Punk'd.

There’s a very good reason why this man has never featured on an episode of Punk’d.

It started with the deployment of ballistic submarines to the northern seas. Crews started reporting strange frog-like sounds picked up on their sonar which they soon started referring to as ‘quackers’, as apparently Russians are rubbish at onomatopoeias. These sounds appeared when the subs passed through certain zones and most worryingly of all, they weren’t stationary. They actively followed the submarines around at terrifying speeds, quacking repeatedly and apparently actively attempting to avoid sonar pulses sent out in response. Not that avoiding the pulses mattered – the Reds never managed to detect anything on their active sonar, making it practically impossible that the noises were being made by other submarines. When a vessel left the apparent patrol zones of these phenomena, they’d emit one final ‘quack’ and give up pursuit.

In summary, these weird noises pretty much followed the submarines for a bit, going “ner ner ner-ner ner!” like bullies with ADD, and when they got bored of the chase they’d put out one final “well, fuck you then” and head off home with all their toys. Whatever these signals were, they were made all the more terrifying by the fact that Doppler shift measurements put some of them at speeds of more than 200 knots. That’s a speed several hundred feet underwater, and to this day no known man-made vessel can match it. It”s a positively Roadrunner-esque level of utter dickery, except you need to replace Wile E Coyote with one of the biggest nuclear superpowers the world has ever seen.

And on top of that, a pigeon's miscarried on his head.

Screw this for a game of stick-your-mother-in-a-gulag.

Toward the end of the 1970s the areas apparently patrolled by the mystery noisemakers had expanded drastically from the Barents Sea right through to the North Sea and the North Atlantic. The Soviets were concerned enough to consider them a legitimate national security risk, and the Soviet Academy of Sciences was invited to form a joint commission with the Navy to investigate the source of the threat. This commission worked for over a decade, disbanding only when the quackers slowly faded and then disappeared entirely in the 1980s, never to be heard again.

Although it’s generally taken as fact that the commission never reached any solid conclusions regarding the origin of the sounds, their reports remain classified to this day. The only hard facts anyone seems to have about the Quackers is that they were definitely heard and something was definitely making them. The three main theories are all quite fun and go like this:

  • The were noises made by unknown Allied technology. It’s true that both sides were doing everything they could to figure out where the other’s sub’s were, but a detection technology that made sound in return just doesn’t seem that tactically sensible. Also, the sheer speed of the damn things would’ve been impossible to create in a craft in the late 1960s when they were first detected – hell, it’s not even possible today.
  • They were extraterrestrial in origin, which is a whole other blog and a whole other set of frothing nutcases.
  • They were made by some unknown form of marine life.

Obviously, I’m going to focus on option 3, ’cause that’s the whole bloody point isn’t it?

The sounds were initially dismissed as Orca mating calls, as they sounded rather similar – however, Orcas generally go bow-chicka-wow-wow near the surface, and no Quacker was ever detected at a depth of less than 200m. The recorded speeds of some of the noises also makes the whale idea seem rather unlikely, unless Reagan figured out a way to strap a rocket engine into Shamu’s anus and point the whole terrifying mess at the enemy.

Just you wait, you little fucker.

Just you wait, you little fucker.

Some form of giant squid has also been suggested as a possible candidate, and they’re certainly intelligent enough to emulate some of the Quacker behaviours. With no rigid skeleton, their physiology is also a possible explanation as to why they were never detected on active sonar. However, no known species of cephalopod possesses noise-making apparatus of any kind, meaning any Quacker squid would have to be a brand new and unusual species. One that apparently likes to shout at angry communists.

However, even the cryptid theory fails to account for the way in which Quackers first appeared, peaked and then vanished entirely. Such a drastic and sudden change in behaviour species-wide is entirely unheard of, meaning the whole mess is one enormous mystery.

But just bear this in mind – it was an enormous mystery that the Soviet Union feared enough to consider it a national security threat. Even at the height of all the Cold War paranoia, that’s a major credibility boost for the possible existence of a right bastard of a cryptid – one that apparently lives underwater and understands human psychology enough to try and trigger a global nuclear war. Ariel, you’re a fucking dick love.

"I can hear the flesh melting off their bones!"

“I can hear the flesh melting off their bones!”

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#20 – The Beast of Bladenboro

First of all, I apologise for being a bit erratic with the blog updates over the last couple of weeks – there’s a couple of hundred American readers every time I update, so if I can just explain myself to you, I’m writing this blog in England and for the last ten days or so it’s been hot, clear skies and sunny outside. This hasn’t happened here since about 1834, and I’ve been making the most of it. I apologise for my tardiness in updating, but not for spelling ‘apologise’ with an S. That’s just the way it’s supposed to be, you pricks.

Oh, and if you’re the guy in Indonesia who found the blog by googling “Scott and Virgil Thunderbirds Fucking”, I don’t apologise to you either. You need to have a cold bath and calm down and think about what the holy hell your mother would make of what you’re doing with your life.

With that bit of horrifying admin out of the way, let’s get back to the good stuff.

bladenboro

Bladenboro, North Carolina is the sort of sleepy little American town that could give Steven King an erection capable of cracking granite. It has a water tower, an old cotton gin and a small population of around 2000, all of whom I assume are pleasant folk who chew wheat and wear diesel-stained overalls as they go around their wholesome cinnamon-and-apple-pie lives. It’s the perfect setting for one of King’s typical middle-America romps with the paranormal – or at least it would be, if real life hadn’t already beaten him to the punch.

The winter of 1953-1954 saw a very unwelcome visitor come to Bladenboro. It started a few miles away from the town on December 29, 1953, when eyewitnesses saw a creature that was ‘sleek, black and about five feet long’ killing a local dog. The canine murders soon spread into the town itself, with Johnny Vause losing two of his pets on December 31st to an attack that left them ‘crushed and torn to ribbons’, with the top of one dog’s head torn clean off.

Each night for several consecutive nights, one or two more local animals would die in horribly violent attacks. On January 1st, Woodie Storm lost two dogs, and was presumably comforted in his grief by his brothers Boner Tornado and Lob-On Typhoon. The next night on January 2nd the much more sanely named farmer Gary Callaghan also lost one of his barking chums. On the 3rd, two more were killed, and this time local police chief Roy Fores wanted to know what the living piss was going on and decided to have one of the carcasses autopsied. The autopsy found the dog almost entirely drained of blood, with the bottom lip broken open and the jawbone smashed back. On top of that, of all the bodies found so far, one had an ear gnawed off and two were missing their tongues. Rabbits, goats and even cows soon added to the list of mangled animals, often found with heads ‘as flat as a fritter’, which is a genuine quote from a man nicknamed ‘Tater’ whose sobriety I’m sure is entirely beyond question.

I'd get that insurance policy updated if I were you.

I’d get that insurance policy updated if I were you.

It wasn’t long before witnesses came forward claiming to have seen the beast. It was described as generally catlike, but often bushy haired with some bear-like qualities and weighing anything up to 150 pounds. Some claimed to have seen it with one of its young following it around, while others noticed catlike tracks with distinct inch-long claws. On January 5th, Chief Fores himself and others saw the creature attack a dog from 100 feet away; later that afternoon, a local woman named C. E. Kinlaw claimed to have frightened away ‘a big mountain lion’ by screaming after she went out to investigate her own whimpering pets. Her quote after the encounter is a superb slice of hyperbole:

“After we first saw it, and my husband [scared it away], it circled back and came running toward the porch where I was standing. I screamed and it stopped on all fours, turned and ran off. […] You know, the Bible speaks of sights and wonders before the end of time. This could be one of them. The Bible’s coming true, day by day.”

I’ve looked, but thus far I’ve been unable to find the passage in the Bible that claims the Apocalypse starts with a lion chowing down on a few redneck labradoodles. I thought that quote was probably the most darn-tootin’ly Amurrrkan one I’d find when reading about the Beast, and it probably is, but this one from another eyewitness is equally hilarious and all kinds of wrong:

“I got two dogs, Niggy, the little black one, and Peewee, a brown one, that’s bigger. Me and my wife were sitting here in the living room. We heard the dogs get awful restless. My front light was on and Larry Moore […] had his back light on. I glanced out the window and saw this thing. It had me plumb spellbound. It was bout 20 inches high. It had a long tail, about 14 inches. The color of it was dark. It had a face exactly like a cat. Only I ain’t ever seen a cat that big.”

If you missed it, just read that first sentence again.

HIS LITTLE BLACK DOG IS CALLED ‘NIGGY’.

Say what?

Say what?

All of a sudden it seems Bladenboro is a little too small-town America.

Moving on, hysteria over the Beast soon reached fever pitch. It got to the point that anything up to a thousand hunters, trappers and amateurs from as far away as Arizona had descended on the little town to make their name by killing the creature – the panic and the kills themselves ended with the death of a large bobcat at the hands of a steel trap and a bullet to the head.

Sceptics argue that the bobcat simply wasn’t big enough to take down some of the larger animals killed, particularly in the gruesomely powerful way it apparently did. The mountain lion theory also seems outlandish, given that cougars aren’t indigenous to anywhere near the area. Oh, and one dead bobcat doesn’t explain the fact that the Beast apparently resurfaced briefly in 2007, and again started mangling heads faster than some bad acid at an Aphex Twin gig.

beastbladenboro

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#19 – The Queensland Tiger

Mystery cats often create more buzz than other cryptid sightings, because everyone loves cats. Cats that want burgers, ceiling cats, basement cats, box cats, nyan cats, cats that cat, cats cat cats – the fucking Internet can take any picture of a cat and make it so ball-twistingly omnipresent that you can barely search for porn these days without stumbling upon a video that you have no interest in seeing of some cooing Japanese bellend trying to coax his cat into a shoebox with a piece of ham. Then some other bellend will take that video, cut it with another video of another cat playing the ukelele, dub some obscene electronica music over the top of it and impose the words CAN HAZ HAM UKELELELE over every other frame and for no other reason than they hate you, every awful and tedious bore that you’ve ever worked in an office with will send it to you via every medium ever invented with the subject line “LOL CATS!” until you are so fucking surrounded by cats that you choke to death on all the airborne hair and are eaten by cats. This, the Internet has proven, is the evolutionary path that we have chosen for ourselves, and it’s a more terrifying prospect than Skynet.

FUCK YOU.

FUCK YOU.

Owing to hundreds of sightings of creatures like the Beast of Bodmin Moor, mystery cat scares are quite a British phenomenon – no other country in the world has had a police helicopter scrambled over a spaz-panic caused by a giant toy tiger – but local legends about mystery felids aren’t unique to our green and pleasant shores. Australia also has its own furball-hawking cryptid, and it’s a more intriguing prospect than an out-of-place big cat from a recognised species.

The Queensland Tiger has been known to the Aborigines for centuries as an animal the size of a German shepherd with a distinct striped back, prominent teeth in its catlike head and mean claws on its front paws with which it disembowels its victims. Of course, this being Australia, where animals are generally insane Picasso explosions of misplaced body parts (all of which are generally poisonous, pointy, racist or confusing), the Queensland Tiger probably isn’t a tiger at all. Or even a cat. Are you confused yet?

We're going to need a bigger litterbox.

We’re going to need a bigger litterbox.

Just because everything that breeds and lives in Australia is apparently a big fan of dungarees with a front pocket, the tiger is believed to be a still-living descendant of the Thylaceo, marsupial predators that were once the biggest carnivores in Australia. Thylaceo Carnifex was the size of a small lion and was terrifyingly specialised in killing the shit out of things, with the most powerful pound-for-pound bite of any mammal to have ever lived and a tail it could anchor as a tripod to free up the cat-like claws on its front legs. Just because the most powerful bite in mammal history isn’t enough when you could also be shredding stuff with greater haste and ferocity than an executive at Enron in its final days.

Although presumed extinct now, there’s at least one ancient example of Aboriginal cave art depicting a standoff between a Thylaceo and a hunter that would put it in much more modern times than the fossil record suggests. The picture features details like a tufted tail and striped back – details that the artist couldn’t have known from anything other than a real-life encounter with the animal.

A flurry of sightings around the tropical Queensland forests in the 1950s and 60s led to several expeditions being led in search of the elusive beast. No solid evidence has been found to prove its existence. However there’s one possible photo of the animal, taken by a woman named Rilla Martin in 1964. She was driving her car in Ozenkadnook (bless you) when she spotted a strange animal by the side of the road, which she managed to get a snap of just as it turned to move away:

Jesus, iPhones were shit in the sixties.

Jesus, iPhones were shit in the sixties.

Hardly conclusive, but it was enough to cause a bit of a stir at the time. Some have claimed it as a hoax, while others claim it’s more likely to be a Thylacine, more commonly known as the famous Tasmanian tiger – if that were the case, it’d be just as important a crytozoological find, as the last Thylacine is supposed to have died in a zoo in 1936.

What do you mean 'their natural habitat isn't a fucking stable?'

What do you mean ‘their natural habitat isn’t a fucking stable?’ They’ll be fine.

In summary – well done Australia. As if you didn’t have enough terrifying animals in the first place.

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#18 – The Lusca

If we sat down to think about the typical places we’d expect to encounter enormous monsters, most of us would probably picture a hellscape like a steaming, isolated jungle. Or a desert wasteland. Or the blood-covered set of Funhouse with the dessicated corpses of the twins swinging from ropes in the breeze. The point I’m making is that very few of us would blurt out a tropical island paradise like the Caribbean, but that’s exactly where you should expect to encounter the Lusca.

THE HORROR. And mojitos, presumably.

THE HORROR. And mojitos, presumably.

Of course, the most terrifying irritant you can expect to encounter on land in the Caribbean is not a cryptid, but some retard in a floral shirt named Tag who drinks rum out of a coconut and insists on calling you ‘brau’ when he pesters you to go surfing with him. And should you be unfortunate enough to encounter such a man you’ll be more than entitled to hope that the Lusca would just drag him off to the abyss, but unfortunately that hasn’t happened since the 15th century.

The man who would later write Columbus’ biography, Pietro Martire d’Anghiera, described in a book in 1500 the time a few years prior that a ‘monster’ rose from the Bahaman sea and dragged a man off the beach to his death. Although the creature wasn’t described, it’s probably the earliest recorded example of an encounter with the Lusca, nicknamed by the locals as “Him of the Hairy Hands”. Local fishermen have feared the legend of the colossal octopus for hundreds of years, and rather worryingly, short forays onto land to grab at shit they want to eat are a well-documented aspect of octopus behaviour.

Of course, the open ocean around one of the busiest and most popular tourist spots in the world wouldn’t be the most sensible place for a kraken from your nightmares to stash itself away. Any self-respecting monster needs a corner to itself to raise baby monsters and snack on fishermen in peace, and the ‘blue holes’ throughout the limestone plateau surrounding the Bahamas provide just that:

'Neptune's Bumholes' didn't catch on as a name, unfortunately.

‘Neptune’s Bumholes’ didn’t catch on as a name, unfortunately.

Essentially sinkholes in the sea, there are thousands of these caverns, many of them linked by underwater passages snaking their way through the rock. Fishermen have reported their strongest lines being broken by an unknown massive animal that resembles a 50-foot octopus, including even the steel cables on crab traps. Jacques Costeau himself, fascinated by the legend, even took time out of huffing garlicky brie-farts in an enclosed wetsuit to lead an expedition in search of the Lusca. The only relevant photographs captured on that attempt featured ‘an indefinable stretch of brown flesh’, which is the colour you’d expect from an octopus, and not the typical red of giant squid.

Other more excessive accounts have the Lusca pulling down entire boats, belching the undigestible wreckage back to the surface once it’s picked the tasty bits out of the debris. The nickname ‘Him of the Hairy Hands’ even makes sense, as it may be a reference to the fringes of cirri all over the tentacles of certain octopuses. In terms of sheer size, however, at 50 feet the Lusca would dwarf even the largest known giant octopus:

Yeah, go ahead and poke it, I'm sure everything will be fine.

Yeah, go ahead and poke it, I’m sure everything will be fine.

Some have argued that there might be a scientific explanation for the vanished boats in the blue holes – sudden tidal changes can occasionally suck water back through the caverns, causing large rolling whirlpools easily powerful enough to drag down a stray swimmer or small boat. When the currents reverse, a mushroom-cloud like belch of water rises to the surface, which could account for the way the monster appears to fart the unwanted bits back once it’s finished attacking. I should think seeing that happen to a couple of mates a few hundred years ago would fairly rapidly put the freeze-dried shits up anyone watching and give rise to a monster legend, but it doesn’t account for the fact that something big is still snapping lines and stealing crab traps all around the cave system to this day.

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