Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Urban Legends of Maryland, Part III: Bunnyman

What has to be one of the more laughably-named urban legend figures out there hails originally from the area of Fairfax, Virginia although stories of the axe-wielding, bunny-suit bedecked psychopath range into suburban Prince George's County, Maryland, home of the Goatman (with whom stories of the Bunnyman are confused).

Incredible as it may seem, the Bunnyman stories may have been based on real events. The Washington Post ran two articles detailing things that happened near Fairfax, Virginia in October, 1970; in one, an Air Force cadet reported that he had been visited by a man in "a white suit with long bunny ears" who ran out of some bushes, shouted a warning about trespassing on private property, and threw a hatchet at the car. Later that month, another article detailed a bunny-suited man wielding a long axe chopping at a home under construction, also near Fairfax. A security guard distinctly reported a figure about 5'8" and about 160 lbs. in his early twenties.

The Bunnyman was reported to have assaulted a church sign near Greenbelt, Maryland in the 1970s. Supposedly, in 1971, a young man in Hyattsville reported that a white bunny-suited man pounded on his door one evening and used an axe to attempt to gain entry. He also chopped two pillars on the porch. He was also reported from another home nearby.

Legends from Harford County tell of a ghostly rabbit-type creature, called the Witch-Rabbit, which haunted Rocks. In the manner of the Celtic pooka, it was reputed to shift shapes from one animal to another and thus to elude hunters. Could the Bunnyman be a similar "Witch-Rabbit"?

Check out the rest of the Urban Legends of Maryland mini-series:

Part One: Pigwoman
Part Two: Goatman

Urban Legends of Maryland, Part II: Goatman

The region near Bowie (Prince George's County) is the haunt of a variously-described monster named Goatman. Some will have it that he is a man with a goat's head. Others, that he is a goat-legged human figure, a traditional satyr. Still others, that he is a 6-foot tall hairy humanoid, a typical Bigfoot. Whatever the case, the stories of Goatman could have their origins in August 1957, when a gorilla-like creature was reported to be prowling around Brown Station Road in Upper Marlboro. Over 200 reports of the Abominable Phantom, as the creature was called, were received by police in the space of a week.

According to Marylandghosts.com, a Washington Post article appearing in November 1971 reported that a dog belonging to April Edwards of Bowie was killed, its severed head the only part of it that was found. The head was discovered by Willie Gheen and Ray Hayden. The night before, Ray's brother had encountered a 6-foot tall bipedal hairy creature which made whining, squealing sounds near the railroad tracks at Old Fletchertown Road.

The autumn of 1976 had Francine Abell seeing a grayish-brown, round-shouldered animnal with reflective red eyes cross the road in front of her car on Route 198 and then step over the guard rail and disappear. In March 1977, a NASA engineer witnessed a Bigfoot-type tossing a dog onto the road at I-95 and Powder Mill Road in Beltsville. In August 1982 a sighting of a gorilla-like animal was made in a field near the United States Agricultural Research Center (USARC) in Beltsville, a building with other bearings on the Goatman legend as seen below.

In August 2000, a number of construction workers saw a 12-foot tall Bigfoot-like creature roaming around suburban Prince George's. This seems unusually tall for a Sasquatch, if not exaggerated.

An undated encounter with Goatman was described by "thestereogod" in Weird Maryland, surfacing from the military housing complex near Andrews Air Force Base. A quadrupedal figure which later rose onto two legs was seen near a stream, and later hoofed footprints were found in the area.

The legendary version of the origin of Goatman has it that a scientist working at the USARC in Beltsville (above) became the axe-wielding beast-man, though the mechanism differs from teller to teller: some have it that the scientist simply went mad, and took up residence in the wooded lands. Others will have it that through a horrible accident, the scientist was mutated into a goatish figure. Yet another variation has the scientist working on a cure for cancer when this happened (living near a large pharmaceutical lab as I do, I can confirm that sheep and presumably goats are indeed used for generation of various vaccines and such -along with its area of origin, that makes this version sound as if it could be a response to the anthrax attacks immediately post-9/11).

Yet another variant of Goatman surfaces from Depression-era Anne Arundel County, and seems more believable. In this one, Goatman was an accident victim who suffered brain damage. In the accident, his head was disfigured and appeared to have two horn-like projections. He wandered the wilds, killing and eating animals raw, armed with a shotgun or sickle. He was apparently quite misanthropic.

Like all good urban legend figures, Goatman has particular haunts, though it's difficult to pin down just one. Of course, as mentioned above, one of his preferred regions is the area around Fletchertown Road near Bowie. Some also have him taking up residence at the Glenndale Asylum, and abandoned mental-health facility near Lanham-Seabrook - or maybe, as some variants have it, he is a former resident of the hospital.

Goatman is also reported to frequent the area around Lottsford Vista and Ardmore-Ardwick Road in Mitchellville as well as Tucker Road in Oxon Hill, where a satyr-like phantom terrorizes amorous teenagers.

In the area of Largo, Goatman is said to be tremendously fast and aggressive, running at speeds of up to 60 MPH and then launching himself at passing cars, accounting for a number of car accidents.

In another typical urban legend fashion, the stories of Goatman are hopelessly confused with other urban legends. One of the more notable of these is the notorious "Crybaby Bridge", which features in several urban legends nation-wide. The Crybaby Bridge associated with Goatman is on the border with Anne Arundel County, on Governor's Bridge Road. The bridge in question is an iron trestle, and legend has it that you can hear the crying of a baby who supposedly was hung from one of the iron beams. Some variants, though, claim this as Goatman Bridge, and the crying is no ghostly infant but Goatman himself. Another is on the Lottsford Vista Road.

As discussed in a previous post, the stories of Goatman and Bunnyman are inextricably linked. In fact, some variants have it that Bunnyman resembles a goat and that Goatman is simply a variant name for that figure. Some of the areas of Bunnyman legends, such as Greenbelt, are squarely in Goatman territory.

Goatman seems to have a notable antipathy towards dogs. The Bowie sighting discussed above involved the killing of a dog, and many have claimed to have seen Goatman throwing dogs off of overpasses on the Washington Beltway. Bigfoot also often have a dislike of dogs, the Beast of Seven Chutes and Momo having been seen with dead dogs. This is also a feature of the Mothman of West Virginia.

One wonders whether the frequenting by hairy hominids, etc. of the area near the USARC is due to the easy availability of prey animals such as goats and sheep.

Whether Goatman is a Bigfoot or NAPE, a strictly urban-legend figure, or something else entirely, is up for dispute. However, it does seem something has taken root in Prince George's County.

Check out the rest of the Urban Legends of Maryland mini-series:

Part One: Pigwoman

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The naked phantom of Manheim

Der Nockisher Mon, or The Naked Man, is an apparition supposedly haunting the neighborhood of Buchtown south of Manheim, Lancaster County. It was seen by Mary Ann Litzenberger sometime around the beginning of the 1900s. As Litzenberger said:
To my astonishment as I gazed across the field nearby, I saw the ghost of a stark-naked man rise up from a fence corner and slowly walk across the field, not looking right or left, but having a worried look on his face.

"I yelled with all my might to my sisters, saying in Dutch, 'A nockisher mon! Don't you see him?' But they insisted they didn't see anything of the kind.
After talking with a neighbor, Litzenberger went on:
She informed me that there really was such a spook, that she had seen it too, at different times. She explained that there had been a dispute about the correct line of the property, and the ghost of the farmer-owner verified it by stepping it off where it should be.
Why the ghost was naked, we may never know! Perhaps it was not a ghost, but a free-roaming spirit manifestation like the other "wild men" throughout history.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Dwayyo and others

Linda Godfrey has received this account via her website:
This sighting occurred in late fall of 1976 in Frederick Co. MD near the town of Thurmont. My friend had picked me up at my house and we had gone into town with plans to meet some other friends to drink some beers at a local pub. Since our friends had not yet arrived we decided to take a short drive up Rt. 77 to a field where it was common to observe deer feeding at night.

The field was on the edge of the woods which bordered the areas of the Cunningham Falls State Park and the Catoctin Mt. National Park. We drove off the main road onto a small private access road which led up to the field. Upon arriving we drove the car to a point where the headlights illuminated the area but to our disappointment no deer were to be seen. After spending several minutes there we turned the car around and slowly headed back down the small road from where we had entered.

Suddenly from the left side of the road a large creature, running on two legs, bounded and leaped across the road and disappeared into the brush on the other side. It passed directly in front of us not more than 30 feet away. My first reaction was shock and amazement but I quickly controlled my surprise and decided not to say anything to see if my friend would react and allow me to better determine what had just happened. Immediately he exclaimed “WHAT WAS THAT MAN!!!” In a calm but excited voice I replied “Tell me what you saw”, tell me what you saw!”

We both began to describe to each other the strange sight which had just passed before our eyes. Here I wish to add something that is hard to explain except to those who have had a similar experience. When one sees something that is totally unlike anything one has seen before it is actually hard to put into words or even cognitively recognize what that thing is or what you have seen. It is hard to get a point of reference for something unlike anything you have seen before. Thus we spent the next couple of minutes trying to calm down and decide just what it was we had seen. Needless to say we were both nervous and a little shaken from the experience and decided to continue directly back to town.

Both of us had a good look at the creature. It was likely at least 6 ft tall but inclined forward since it was moving quickly. Its head was fairly large and similar to the profile of a wolf. The body was covered in brown or brindle colored fur but the lower half had a striped pattern of noticeable darker and lighter banding. The forelegs (or arms) were slimmer and held out in front as it moved. The back legs were very muscled and thick similar to perhaps a kangaroo.

I do not recall the tail of the animal although my opinion is that it did have one. It moved in a leaping bounding motion and crossed the distance of the road in front of us in two or three leaps. It was very fast and athletic and was obviously trying to get away quickly. This was not a hominoid type creature; it did not have the characteristics of an ape. It was much more similar to a wolf or ferocious dog however it was definitely moving upright and appeared to be adapted for that type of mobility. I was particularly impressed by the size and strength of the back legs, the stripes on the lower half of the body and the canine-wolf-like head.

After we calmed down my friend and I talked about whether or not we should report what we had seen but we decided not to. I mentioned to him that years previously in the mid sixties there had been reports published in the local paper the Frederick News-Post of some hunters who had reported a similar creature in the Frederick Co. area. At that time they called the creature a “duwayo” (I am not sure the spelling is correct). Because of this we decided this is what we had seen.

That evening we told our friends the story but they weren’t too inclined to believe us unless they could see it for themselves and we were definitely not interested in going back to the area that evening. Since that time I have moved away from the area and have had only a few opportunities to see my friend who shared this experience with me. Every time we’ve met however he always asks me if I remember the night we saw the duwayo.
Mark Chorvinsky and Mark Opsasnick report that there was a sighting of "a large hairy creature running on two legs" made from the Cunningham Falls area where the above sighting took place by park rangers in 1978. And in the 1890s, a local farmer reported seeing a doglike creature 9 feet tall at Camp Greentop, only a bit northwest of this sighting off Manahan Road.

The Duwayo the witness mentions (Dwayyo or Wago) was first reported from Carroll County in 1944. It was reported to have uttered frightful screams and to have left footprints. The creature really became infamous on November 27, 1965 when it was seen by a John Becker at the Gambrill State Park further south along the South Mountain northwest of Frederick. However, no trace of a 'John Becker' could be found (the picture above is a depiction of this creature).

A woman in Ellerton, north of Myerstown, reported hearing screaming or crying sounds and another woman in Jefferson, along the southern reaches of South Mountain, said that she had seen a calf-sized dog chasing cows. University of Maryland students laughably claimed to have encountered the Dwayyo on campus there, and that it originated from the Amazon jungle.

(A 2006 article by Craig Heinselman records a similarly-described creature to the Dwayyo and more specifically to the Shookstown sighting described below from Nevada, where it is called the Whoahaw or Wahhoo. It also likens it to the "bearwolf" of Wisconsin.)

The Gambrill State Park near Shookstown was also the site of the sighting in 1966, by a 'Jim A.' of a screaming creature the size of a deer, dark brown in color. The shaggy-haired creature had a triangular head and pointed ears and chin and back slowly away from the witness. Its legs, he said, "stuck out from the side of the trunk of the body making its movements appear almost spider-like as it backed away."

In just the last post I mentioned the sightings of a "gorilla" further north along the South Mountain in Adams County, Pennsylvania. Some sightings of that creature described it as a kangaroo. That monster made a gurgling noise when it was heard.

Also from this area, stories of werewolves circulated around near Mt. Holly in Cumberland County, as described in Matt Lake's Weird Pennsylvania. In the early 1970s, someone giving his name only as "Skywalker" claimed to have seen a man-sized ape-like creature run across the road in the northern Adams County hills (it is notable that though discussed in connection with the werewolf legends, nothing in the description indicates a Bray Road-type animal).

There are also the sightings of the Dorlan Devil, a leaping kangaroo-type reported from Chester County and the Brandywine Valley. Traditions of the Red Dog Fox, a werefox, exist further south along the Brandywine near Wilmington, Delaware and a sighting of a kangaroo was reported from the nearby town of Concord.

The South Mountain area, of course, is also home to reports of a black dog called the Snarly Yow, described in an article I wrote for Mysterious Britain & Ireland.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Henry W. Shoemaker, Part VI: The Gorilla

In 1922, Shoemaker wrote Allegheny Episodes, which contained a tale called "The Gorilla". The tale, a story of murder and revenge, was a fictionalized account based on actual incidents which took place in the early 1920s in Pennsylvania and Maryland. These events are chronicled by Chad Arment.

The first incident, and apparently the one Shoemaker's story was based on, took place in December, 1920 when Samuel Bolig, 13, was attacked by a "gorilla" on his father's farm in Globe Mills (Snyder County), and his knee dislocated in the attack. It was said that the gorilla was an escapee from a circus in Williamsport. It was later reported that no other inhabitants of the area had reported sightings of the ape.

However, as an article on the case in the North American BioFortean Review reveals, a whole flap of sightings surfaced in 1921 from Adams County and surrounding areas.

1. Gettysburg (Adams County), January 19: The gorilla was spied sitting on a rock at Mount Rock. The only Mount Rock I could find is in Cumberland County, but it is described as very close to Gettysburg.

2. Idaville (Adams County), January 20: An animal described by some as a gorilla and by some as a kangaroo (shades of the Dorlan Devil) was pursued on Snyder's Hill and also on Pike Hill. It fled towards Cumberland County. Several hams were stolen from William Chamberlain's smokehouse and attributed to the gorilla.

3. Sunnyside (Cumberland County), January 24: Another sighting. A hunt was launched.

4. Waynesboro (Franklin County), January 26: Harry Shindledecker saw the gorilla near the baseball fields on Chestnut Street.

5. Rouzerville (Franklin County), January 26: The animal was seen by Henry Needy crouched at his brother's farm. Needy and two others hunted the gorilla, which they cornered at Mike Lookabaugh's farm, but it escaped. At one point, the hunters killed a black dog which they took to be the gorilla. The newspaper reported that Rouzerville had not known such excitement "since Lee's battered and disorganized legions came thundering down the mountain after the Battle of Gettysburg".

6. Monterey (Franklin County), January 26: In the evening, the animal was seen near the golf course on Mentzer's Gap Road by William Flohr and Maurice Molesworth. It was described as being about five feet tall. It approached them on all fours and made gurgling sounds.

7. Chambersburg (Franklin County), January 27: The gorilla was seen by Paul Gonder, who was gathering wood near Black's Gap.

8. Pen Mar (Franklin County), January 30: John Simmons saw the gorilla in broad daylight.

9. Rouzerville (Franklin County), February 2: The gorilla was seen crouching alongside s fence making a gurgling sound.

10. Franklintown (York County), February 9: Abraham Lau shot at what he thought was the gorilla and found he had shot his neighbor's mule.

11. Jack's Mountain (Adams County), February 9: Harvey Minnich and Frank Rodgers saw the gorilla as they were returning from York to Waynesboro.

A few weeks later, the editors of the Waynesboro Press ran another story of a supposed gorilla killed by William Quimby, a farmer in Queen Anne's County, Maryland. The encounter supposedly took place at Willoughby, a widely-dispersed handful of farms south of Starr and right on the southern border of the county. This story was apparently meant to close the case of the Pennsylvania gorilla, but it is unclear what, if anything, this case had to do with the Pennsylvania ones.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Henry W. Shoemaker, Part V: Undead mountain lions

Shoemaker recounts several tales of various superstitions held about the mountain lion, including several of animated taxidermy mounts. The stories of the animated cougars seem to be unique to Snyder County and environs.

In Centerville (Snyder County), in 1864, a hunter killed a mountain lion and mounted it on the roof of his home. The lion's mate is supposed to have leapt upon the roof and knocked the mount to the ground, scooping it up and carrying it into the forests of Jack's Mountain, where the mounted cougar is supposed to have returned to life. A similar tale originates from Troxelville, again in Snyder County. Here, the skin of a mountain lion left mounted in an attic is reputed to have been encountered, still mounted, stalking the forests of the White Mountains.

The body of a mountain lion killed by Lewis Dorman on Shreiner Mountain on Christmas Eve, 1868 as well was reputed to leave its case at a New Berlin museum on Halloween and to hunt mice! The panther's body is now kept at Albright College.

The Senecas (an Iroquoian tribe living around what is now Warren County) believed that the souls of tyrants and unfaithful queens passed into the bodies of panthers, and for this reason the cougar was hunted. The early German settlers believed that cougars glowed at night, and that their eyes flashed green fire.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Henry W, Shoemaker, Part IV: Long-tailed bobcats

Shoemaker's pamphlet "Felis Catus in Pennsylvania" describes an incident on January 16, 1922 in which a wildcat was killed in Nockamixon (Bucks County) by 16 year old Tunis Brady. Frightful screams had been heard in the vicinity for three years. A detailed description of the dead animal quoted in the pamphlet describes a cat about 2 1/2 feet in length and a foot in height, with a broad head. It was a smoky gray color, with yellowish patches on its undersides. It had an 11 inch long tail which was bushy and rather like a raccoon's. It had a white spot on its throat and was marked with black stripes. At the time, it was believed that the animal may have been similar to a European wildcat (Felis sylvestris) and the original article describing Brady's kill is quite clear on its not being a bobcat (Lynx rufus) or lynx (Lynx lynx).

Elsewhere in Shoemaker's article it is described how just such an animal was kept in the Philadelphia zoo, and labelled an "Indian Devil". Similar animals were to be found in the Blue Ridge Mountains and also in the Chestnut Ridge area in the western part of the state. In around 1920, Daniel Trouts killed two similar wildcats in the same area as Brady's kill. Robert Lyman's Forbidden Land describes these wildcats as being recorded from Potter County.

Karl Shuker has noted that long-tailed specimens of the normally short-tailed bobcat and lynx have been recorded. In fact, despite the early denials, the size of the animal and coloration meshes perfectly with commonly-accepted traits of the bobcat. The striped markings of the animal may not line up perfectly, but as some lynx subspecies such as the Iberian lynx have coats with a striped appearance, this is not out of the ordinary either.

Furthermore, bobcats can be melanistic (black). I have been wondering whether a melanistic long-tailed bobcat could account for some of the sightings of "black panthers" often recorded. Also, a wildcat with similar markings to the Nockamixon one could account for sightings of "tigers".

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Henry W. Shoemaker, Part III: Peter Pentz's maned cat

Another of Shoemaker's tales of the Lock Haven area in Clinton County was the account of a bizarre cat killed by the 'mountain man' Peter Pentz in 1798.

Shoemaker says that Pentz was visiting with Isaac Dougherty near McElhattan Run when they heard a commotion among Dougherty's animals. They found a steer dead, a large maned cat crouched over its body. Pentz and Dougherty tracked the animal up the side of Bald Eagle Mountain, eventually tracking it to a cavernous den in a 'bare place' (large rock-strewn clearings common to the area). Here, the two killed the maned cat and its mate, and captured three cubs.

Chad Arment points out that elsewhere in his writings (Extinct Pennsylvania Animals vol. 1) Shoemaker theorizes that Pentz's cat may have been "a modification of the prehistoric lions which Prof. Leidy called felis (sic) atrox". It is intriguing that such a similar idea to that espoused by Loren Coleman and Mark A. Hall was made over a half century before.

In the same passage he mentions that the Indians of Manhattan Island, New York, said that male cougar were maned. He also mentions later that the skin of a cougar killed along the Greenbrier River in West Virginia had a tail similar to that of an African lion.

In his original recounting of the tale, Shoemaker theorizes that the cat was an aberration of the normal cougar; it is perhaps possible that the genetic traits of Panthera atrox still exist in the genepool of the cougar accounting for lion-like attributes.

Recent studies have indicated that prehistoric lions including P. atrox lived until 13,000 years ago.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Henry W. Shoemaker, Part II: The White Wolf of Sugar Valley

A white wolf haunted the earliest settlers of Sugar Valley, near Loganton (Clinton County) around 1840. The wolf was first encountered by Philip Shreckengast of Tylersville near his barn. It had apparently been eating some animal as its mouth was bloodstained. Shreckengast managed to sever the wolf's tail by slamming the barn door. The wolf was also seen in the graveyard at Brungard's Church by a preacher, who said it was yelping "like a yellow cur that had had boiling water poured on it" as it ran out of the gate.

Granny McGill, a supposed witch living near Lock Haven, told Jacob Rishel that before contacting George Wilson (the killer of two "werewolves" in Wayne Township) they should attempt to locate a black lamb born during a new moon in the Autumn of the year. One was eventually procured, and the wolf was indeed trapped and killed.

The pelt was described as being shaggy and long-haired, almost like an Angora goat, rather than short-haired like the average wolf.

The head of the wolf was displayed mounted on a pole near Jacob Rishel's home. Children were afraid to pass by the head. It was reported that the jaws of the severed head moved, and that the eyes flashed green, and that as long as it was present it warded away wolves from Rishel's farm.

Shoemaker also recounts in his account of the white wolf in "Wolf Days in Pennsylvania" that another wolf which he likened to the French Beast of Gévaudan terrorized the area around Carroll, although no date is given for this event. This wolf was killed by John Schrack, who also had the pelt of the white wolf, as it was attempting a 16-foot leap over a stockade fence at a sheep pen. One of its paws was impaled on the top of the stockade for a good luck charm (elsewhere Shoemaker mentions that this tradition was a widespread one in Sugar Valley and elsewhere).

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Pennsylvania black dogs

On Mysterious Britain & Ireland, Part Two of my piece on American black dog mythology, focused on Pennsylvania.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Henry W. Shoemaker, Part I: The Black Wolf of Oak Valley and other werewolves

In Pennsylvania Mountain Stories (1909) is the tale of a ghostly black wolf in Oak Valley. Through cross-referencing with a few other tales of Granny Myers elsewhere in the volume, I've figured that this occurred in the valley about five miles north of Loganton (Clinton County) and the wolf-haunted Sugar Valley.

Silas Werninger shot two men and killed one after a row at a Youngmanstown hotel. He barricaded himself in his wife's cabin near Jacobsburg and while there shot two policemen sent to collect him. At some point, the house was set on fire, and while Mrs. Werninger and her children escaped, Silas slit his own throat. His body was buried in a grove of oak trees. That winter, a "big black shaggy dog" was seen near the oak grove where Silas was buried. Ira Sloppey, an old wolf-hunter from Clearfield County, said it was a large wolf. Sloppey was shot in the leg as a hunting party infiltrated the grove after the wolf. Dogs would not enter the grove, and soon the adjoining portion of the road was disused.

Sam Himes stopped to visit Granny Myers, a local witch. She said that it was not a wolf, but the ghost of Silas Werninger. To dispel the haunting, she said, his body would need to be exhumed and buried in the Lutheran cemetery in town. This was done, and within a few weeks Himes had killed the wolf.

Shoemaker also recounts other bits of werewolf lore from Clinton County. In "The Werwolf in Pennsylvania" (Shoemaker's spelling), he gives a tale which he heard from Peter Pentz, a famed "mountain man" who lived near McElhattan. Pentz' aunt, Divert Mary DePo, a midwife, was returning home one night in the 1850s when she saw an "enormous black dog". The werewolf rose up onto two legs and chased Mary home. There, Mary's husband used two pewter bullets (not silver) to shoot the werewolf dead. It fell and transformed into the body of a neighbor of theirs.

And in "Wolf Days in Pennsylvania" (1917), he gives an account of werewolves encountered in Wayne Township (the region where the above stories took place). He tells the tale of George Wilson, who was convinced that a neighbor of his was a witch, and took the shape of a wolf at night. He saw the huge brown wolf one night on his farm, and shot it in the foreleg with a silver bullet. It vanished, but a short while later the suspected witch was seen to have a broken arm. Another wolf was also killed by Wilson with a silver bullet, a three-legged creature, and one wonders if this one was the first come back for revenge.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The saga of the Hyote

In the summer of 2003, a family living in Joppa (Harford County), Maryland, saw a strange canine beast. Eventually they set up some game cameras to capture images of the creature, and they weren't disappointed. They got the above picture of the mysterious dog drinking from a horse trough. The sightings and photographs mostly went unreported for a year.

The following summer, another family in Glyndon (Baltimore County) reported something similar seen meandering through fields nearby and again got photographs of it. The animal was soon labelled the Hyote (hyena/coyote), after the Joppa and Glyndon photos made the national news. A stunningly original name, maybe, but at least it wasn't called a El Chupacabra or something.

It wasn't long, though, until the Glyndon witnesses captured an animal in a trap. What they had captured was a juvenile red fox with a severe case of sarcoptic mange (although some felt that it was an endocrine disorder). And although the residents who saw the animal were adamant that it wasn't what they had seen, in the minds of the media, the mystery was solved.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Dragons!

In November, 1883, an individual using only the initials R.B. wrote to the Frederick News in Maryland. He swore that at Catoctin Mountain he had seen, early one morning,
...a monstrous dragon with glaring eye-balls, and mouth wide open displaying a tongue, which hung like a flame of fire from its jaws, reared and plunged.
This may be the same as the dragon which supposedly guarded the mines at Silver Run, in Carroll County. In the 1760s, a silversmith by the name of John Ahrwud supposedly was shown a hidden vein of silver under Rattlesnake Hill by local Indians. Ahrwud was permitted to use the silver in his work: but he was never to become greedy and take more than he needed, nor to tell anyone of the mine. He broke this when he told his wife and daughter about the mine and thereafter was banned from the mine.

In the 1780s, according to "A Field Guide to the Monsters and Mystery Animals of Maryland," by Mark Chorvinsky and Mark Opsasnick, a German silversmith and his daughter saw a "fiery dragon with gaping jaws" in the Silver Run mine. Was this silversmith Ahrwud? A "large white fiery eyed monster" was seen near Rattlesnake Hill in 1885. It's usually thought of as a Bigfoot, but could it have been the dragon?

Another 1800s dragon tale, this time from Pennsylvania, supposedly occured at a country schoolhouse in Jenner Township (Somerset County). William Johnson and others swore that they had seen a monstrous serpent coiled around a schoolhouse built at the crossroads there, always at night and on the nights of a new moon. Only one coil of this serpent was seen - never a head nor tail. Apparently, anyone who trod on the serpent (not everyone could see it) was hurled to the ground.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Maryland and Delaware black dogs

Over on Mysterious Britain and Ireland is an article I've written on ghostly hounds in Maryland and Delaware.

Friday, November 13, 2009

A trip to Lock 49

On November 3, Mindi and I took a trip to Reading to do a bit of early Christmas shopping. While there, we decided to stop at the old Union Canal, so we could check out Lock 49. On August 17, 1875, Louise Bissinger, distraught over her husband's infidelities, took her three children on an outing along the Tulpehocken Creek. She had a basket tied around her waist, and when she reached the area of Lock 49, she grabbed her children tightly and plunged in. The children were still alive when witnesses arrived on the scene, but they drowned before the bodies could be pulled from the canal. The bodies were taken to Gring's Mill nearby. Later reports had it that while Mr. Bissinger mourned the deaths of his children, he callously was unmoved by the death of his wife. The stories have it that the ghostly forms of the Bissinger children are seen walking along the canal's towpath. Though the canal is now dry, the towpath is maintained by the Berks County Parks Department as a trail and it's commonplace to see joggers and cyclists along the old canal.

Lock 49 was a bit over a mile along the trail from the Wertz Bridge, a rather long wooden covered bridge bedecked with hex signs crossing the Tulpehocken. Shortly after entering the forested section of the path, after passing through what was the canal basin, I found a small conical structure about a foot tall made of three interlocked sticks. Similar stick structures have been previously found in areas of Bigfoot sightings and may be markers of some sort. This was probably in the area of what had been Lock 50. For the rest of the mile-long hike, I was hearing movement in the brush directly beside the path, movement which seemed to stop when I stopped and begin again once I started walking. This could easily have been squirrels but I didn't see anything there.

There were game trails leading all through the woods near Lock 49, though once again the skeptic in me wants to say these could have been due to the many local ghost hunting groups which have likely been all through these woods. I braved thornbushes and stray branches to follow these paths, which led from the maintained part of the trail clear through the canal bed and up the opposite bank, on which there was a second, less maintained trail.

The entire area is very near the Reading Airport, and the Berks County campus of Penn State, and not far from the Berkshire Mall.

Nick Redfern's book Man-Monkey is about the traditions of a shambling humanoid - what could be called a Bigfoot, though it is likely that it, like other British sightings, are something else - along the Union Canal in Shropshire, England. One aspect mentioned was the humanoid as the ghost of a suicide whose body was found in the canal. I had mentioned to him the coincidence of another Union Canal with a suicide in its history, as well. This possible presence of some sort of humanoid furthers the coincidence.

Tulpehocken is a Lenape (Delaware) word meaning "place of the turtle". The turtle, in Lenape lore, was the spirit entity which helped create the world. Like other cultures worldwide, the Lenape had the world resting on the back of a turtle. What does that mean? I don't know, quite possibly nothing.

Devotees of the ideas of Jim Brandon and Loren Coleman about so-called "twilight language" and the names that pop up again and again in Fortean contexts would be interested to know that there is a Warren Street in the area.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Manor Road Pig-Dog

On the morning of February 6, 2009, two men driving along Manor Road in Baltimore County saw a strange creature amble across their path. The animal had hind legs longer than the fore, and its face was a hybrid of dog and pig features. The two were quite clear that it was neither a dog or bear - it apparently had thinner legs than a bear and didn't move in the same way as a bear. A bear had recently been seen on Manor Road, making it possible that it was a bear, despite the denials.

Manor Road runs east of Loch Raven Reservoir.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Dauphin County Bigfoot

WHTM television has reported that a fellow in Dauphin County has released what may be a film of a Bigfoot (WHTM provides a still image of the supposed creature). The story's been making the rounds on various cryptozoological and Bigfoot blogs and websites recently. Several have posted to the effect that the whole deal is dubious at best, mostly due to the involvement of Tom Biscardi (best known for his association with the infamous 'gorilla suit in an icebox' Georgia Bigfoot hoax).

The sighting supposedly took place on the Appalachian Trail. The section of the Trail in Dauphin runs along the top of the mountains directly north of Harrisburg. The Pennsylvania Bigfoot Society has recorded only one sighting from Dauphin County, and that was considerably further north along the Susquehanna River directly across from the town of Liverpool.

Those individuals who have speculated that the Bigfoot was actually a branch may not be too far off. It is reported on the BFRO website that the witness in this case initially submitted the film to them, which apparently was of not a Bigfoot but of a leaf appearing human-sized due to forced perspective. After he was told this, he repossessed his film from the BFRO and resubmitted to Biscardi. In this instance, Biscardi may be vindicated - it seems as if he was duped rather than the culprit.

The incident at Liesenring and other Bigfoot/UFO reports

Over on Blogsquatcher, today's post is on the connected sightings of Bigfoot and UFOs. The Bigfoot/UFO connection has been present for years, and if all accounts are to be believed, before they were even called UFOs. Pennsylvania and Maryland are home to several reports of this connection.

The Sykesville, Maryland monster flap began in the early summer of 1973. Tony Dorsey was the first witness to the monster on the evening of May 29 at his home on Norris Avenue. According to The Bigfoot Casebook by Janet and Colin Bord, Dorsey's sighting came after he witnessed a UFO dropping an object of some type into a reservoir. Mark Opsasnick notes that Dorsey saw two luminous red eyes about the size of half-dollars, but did not see any sort of body ("Monsters of Maryland: Bigfoot", Strange Magazine 3).

The Chestnut Ridge area, which is Pennsylvania's Bigfoot hotspot, has seen the bulk of the UFO-related sightings. One of these was in 1975 in Jeanette. On May 19, a motorist saw a Bigfoot running quadrupedally, later rising onto two legs and running off into the forest. A UFO had been sighted in Jeanette on May 18. Other reports of synchronous Bigfoot and UFO sightings were reported from Midland and Uniontown. In the 1974 Uniontown sighting, several individual Bigfoot creatures were seen, as was a UFO. When one Bigfoot was shot at, it disappeared into thin air. In 1975, a report from Jumonville surfaced of a Bigfoot creature which, oddly, floated rather than walked and was later enveloped by a mist. When the mist receded, the Bigfoot was gone. Could the mist have been a sort of UFO? Many of these sightings were collected and investigated by Stan Gordon.

The most famous and bizarre humanoid report in Gordon's files, though, took place on October 25, 1973 in the small town of Liesenring near Connelsville. I'll post the Pennsylvania Bigfoot Society's description of the incident:
A man and two boys saw a UFO land in a field. Upon investigating, they observed 2 tall, hairy bipedal creatures walking along a fence line. The creatures had matted, dirty brown hair, glowing green eyes, broad shoulders, and small necks. They walked stiff-legged giving them an overall robot-like appearance. The man shot at the creatures, which caused the spherical UFO that had landed in the field, to leave the area immediately. Although the witness felt he didn't miss, the shots had little effect on the strange creatures. They simply turned around and traversed their way back along the fence line. A luminescent ring on the ground remained where the UFO had once been. The witness left the area and returned later with a Pennsylvania State Trooper. Although the glowing ring near the ground was still visible, its intensity had diminished. Several hours later the luminescent ring completely dissipated.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Of barking deer and climbing groundhogs

First, there's a nifty video on YouTube of a barking roe deer. I've also found recordings of white-tailed deer, the ubiquitous Pennsylvania species, making similar noises.

And over on Marcus Schneck's blog, there's a post indicating that groundhogs can climb trees, though they must do so very rarely.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Move over, Punxsutawney Phil

Just after Christmas, 2006, on December 29, public workers near the intersection of South Gilpin and Cypress Streets noticed a large fish lying on the shore of the Mahoning Creek. Upon examination, the fish turned out to be a three-foot bonnethead shark. Officer Heath Zeitler of the Punxsutawney police said "it might have been disposed of by some who had caught it while fishing elsewhere, or had previously kept it in a personal aquarium - a very large personal aquarium."

We might never know exactly where this shark came from. It had been theorized on Cryptomundo that the Punxsutawney shark could have wandered in from the Delaware River and through tributaries and such - while it is true that sharks have been known to wander into the Delaware, Jefferson County is extremely far from that river, and the Mahoning Creek empties into the Allegheny, anyway. Pittsburgh has seen several out-of-place animal reports over the years.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Ilya back home

Ilya, the manatee that made trips to the Chesapeake Bay and New England before being trapped in a tiny New Jersey creek, is back in Miami.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The ghosts of college mascots

In 1857, Pierson and Andy Lytle brought a Kentucky mule named Coaly into Pennsylvania to be part of a team of pack mules working on excavation and construction of the Penn State campus in State College. When the mule died in 1893, his remains were displayed in the Old Main building he helped construct. If this seems morbid, remember that the University College in London displays the preserved remains of philosopher Jeremy Bentham.

Over the years, the remains of the mule now known as "Old" Coaly were moved several times. When a fire damaged Old Main in the early 1900s, Old Coaly's body was moved into the basement of the Watts Hall dormitory. In the 1960s, he was displayed in the Agricultural Building, and his skeleton is now in the HUB Robeson Building.

But apparently, Old Coaly's spirit doesn't know of his resting place - or perhaps his stubborn mulish nature just keeps him bound to where he was. The braying of the mule is still heard in the hallways outside of his resting place in the basement of Watts Hall, and occasionally his form is seen standing in the corridor.

The Penn State campus in McKeesport is also home to an animal apparition, this time of a large sixteen-point stag named Duke. The stag is long dead, but a sixteen-point buck is still seen roaming around campus.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Phantom of O'Donnell Heights

In July of 1951, the east Baltimore district of O'Donnell Heights was prowled by a phantom. The black-robed, black-capped figure made his forays from a graveyard, jumping six-foot fences topped with barbed wire and leaping off of roofs in the manner of the British phantom Spring Heeled Jack, all without leaving a single track or trace. And for the two-week period the ghostly prowler patrolled the streets, late-night music was heard emanating from the graveyard's chapel.

The figure was reported to lurk underneath cars, calling out to young girls, beseeching them to "Come closer, my dear." He also apparently broke into old women's houses, and several people claimed that they heard him running on rooftops. Men armed with clubs, guns, and knives patrolled the streets, attempting to run down the phantom. At one point, they gave chase and the leaping phantom vanished in the graveyard. This was the last he was to be seen. By August, he had vanished as mysteriously as he had appeared.

According to an article on Maryland ghost stories appearing in the Baltimore City Paper, there were instances in which rooftop pipes and German Shepherd dogs were mistaken for the Phantom. There were also numerous instances which saw teenagers causing trouble and blaming it on the Phantom. By August, when the Phantom vanished, the police had begun arresting teenagers trespassing in the graveyard.

Whether the Phantom of O'Donnell Heights was a true Spring-Heel manifestation, a product of mass hysteria, or a real-life criminal given supernatural attributes may never be known.

As a reporter for the Baltimore Sun said on those hot nights during the Cold War,
The question of the prowler of O'Donnell Heights however, continued to be not one of phantoms, but of real people reacting to (and possibly creating) the unknown with their imaginations.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The horned skulls

It's one of the oddest and most-repeated stories of Pennsylvania's weird lore. A group of archaeologists working near an Indian burial mound in Sayre find many gigantic skeletons, 7 feet tall on average. Incredibly, a few of these had horns sprouting from their foreheads.

A good story, but not quite the way it happened.

In 1916, Professor W.K. Moorehead of Phillips-Andover College led an excavation team to Spanish Hill. Spanish Hill is a Native American site located in the center of town in South Waverly, Bradford County. This hill was the site of a Susquehannock village known to explorer Samuel de Champlain as Carantouan.

Soon after the Moorehead Expedition, in 1921, Louise W. Murray wrote an article about old Carantouan for American Anthropologist ("Aboriginal Sites In and Near 'Teaoga', now Athens, Pennsylvania"). Murray was a witness to the discovery of the horned skulls. In her words:
While the writer was present, one of the men in working a grave exclaimed, "There are horns over his head!" [Professor A.B.] Skinner said that indicated chieftainship. Later this was found to be a bundle burial, completely covered with antlers of Virginia deer. A passing visitor, however, heard the exclamation and attempted to verify it by interrogating a fun-loving Maine workman, and the story grew and was printed from coast to coast that one or more skulls had been found with horns growing from its forehead!
It is almost incredible to me that the story of the horned skulls has been repeated and retold for more than 90 years after the truth of the matter was known.

It is a fact, however, that many skeletons of Susquehannocks of unusual size have been found. Some were, indeed, over six and even seven feet tall. So perhaps at least the skeletons' stature was not exaggerated.

The Black Dog of Warfieldsburg

According to Ann W. Whitney and Caroline C. Bullock in Folk-Lore from Maryland, in 1887 two men on horseback were near Warfieldsburg's Ore Mine Bridge, in Carroll County, saw a large black dog on the other side of a fence. The dog passed through the fence, crossed the road, passed through a fence on the other side, and disappeared from view. Whitney and Bullock record that one of the men was amazed at the dog's size - apparently, the fact that it passed through two fences wasn't worthy of his mention.

They also record that a man was told that he could see a phantom dog if he stood underneath a tree near a bridge for an hour. He did so, and sure enough, the dog appeared. He stated that the dog then followed him for a little way. This is similar to the British black dogs, which often follow travellers. Another sighting which bears a parallel to British lore was one by a man driving a wagon down the road, who said that he saw the phantasmal dog dragging a chain. Barghest of the Yorkshire Moors is reputed to engage in just such a chain-dragging activity. This is also a feature of Cadejo of Central American lore, a black hound with hooved feet.

The black dog of Warfieldsburg can supposedly only be seen by an individual once. A cracking whip near the dog will make it vanish. This theory was unsuccessfully tested in the 1920s by one witness, whose whip passed right throught the dog.

The sadly deceased Mark Chorvinsky has recorded a sighting of a phantom hound near Warfieldsburg in 1975 ("Phantom Dogs in Maryland", Strange Magazine 19). Several people driving along the road heard a thud as the car impacted a large black dog. Some of the witnesses distinctly felt the creature underneath the wheels. Yet when the car stopped, the passengers "were amazed to see the dog standing on its huge paws. The beast bared its teeth, showing an ugly red mouth, then vanished as suddenly as it had appeared."

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Urban Legends of Maryland, Part I: Pigwoman

In 1814, numerous people throughout the city of London, England reported seeing a pig's head silhouetted by gaslight from within the confines of a passing carriage. At times, they even saw a piggish snout protruding from the carriage window. The legend of the Pig Lady was born, and through discussions in various newspapers, the theory was reached that it was a wealthy young woman from Manchester Square - this was none-too-complementary to the young woman in question! St. Bartholomew's Fair in London exhibited the "Pig Lady", which was actually a shaved bear in a dress.

It is tempting, however, to speculate whether the English could have imported the legends when they settled Cecil County, Maryland, because legends of the Pig Lady exist in Elkton and Rising Sun, both in that county.

The Elkton variant has it that she was a survivor of a house fire who fled into the forest, eventually taking up residence underneath Pig Lady Bridge near town. Sometimes the squeals and grunts of a pig are heard, but usually she magically makes your car stall and then she comes out and kills you with an axe. This makes her yet another of the bloodthirsty half-humans of Maryland lore, and she takes her place in the urban legend pantheon alongside Bunnyman, Boaman and Goatman.

Oh, she's also sometimes supposed to be an inbreeding Dupont, which ties the legends of the Pig Lady in with those of the Devil's Woods in Chester County, Pennsylvania. I'm not exactly sure why she's haunting a bridge in Elkton, Maryland rather than her family's estate, the Cult House, but there it is. One wonders if this helped to influence the swinish look to the monsters in M. Night Shyamalan's The Village, filmed in the Devil's Woods.

The versions in Rising Sun make her a a denizen of Lover's Lane - well, sort of, as she attacks the cars of necking teenagers in the Rising Sun town dump, surely one of the most romantic spots I can think of. This Pig Lady bangs on the side of the car until the teenagers drive away in search of a spot where they can continue their amorous encounter in peace.

Or maybe she haunts another old wooden bridge. Sometimes passersby's cars will stall and they'll hear scraping sounds. Then when they finally manage to drive away they'll find the hoofprints of the Pig Lady indented on their car.

Maybe the idea of a murderous, swine-faced humanoid sounds to you like a reject from the Saw movies or something out of an Insane Clown Posse song, but the stories have been around for generations.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Warren spook wolf

In his book American Myths & Legends (1903), Charles M. Skinner gives this account of a lupine creature he called "The White Wolf of Venango":
On Cornplanter's reserve in Venango County, Pennsylvania, lived an Indian family named Jacobs; big, athletic fellows, full of hard sense and afraid of but one thing: the white wolf. For to see the wolf was "bad medicine"; to chase it, death. There was never a doubt as to its being a real wolf; it had eaten too many hens and sheep and killed too many dogs to leave room for any question on that point. Yet traps would not catch him; dogs in packs could not bring him to bay; bullets either missed him or glanced from him. A young member of the Jacobs family engaged to guide a party of hunters through this region, and all went well until they had reached the head of the Clarion. On breaking camp at this spot Jim Jacobs took no part in the preparations. He smoked a silent pipe and said that the others must go on by themselves; for he had seen the white wolf, and that meant bad luck. They joked and gibed him without moving him in the least. He finished his pipe, told them by what trails they could reach McCarty's trading station, bade them adieu, struck into the forest labyrinth, and went home. He was killed in an accident soon after.

The hunters, scoffing at Jacobs's superstitions, kept on. They got the help of a trapper, who kept a number of dogs, and decided to leave the deer to their liberty for a time and hunt down this hoodoo. After much luring and watching they came upon the fellow's tracks and on a quantity of pheasant feathers, for he had left his lunch in a hurry, and presently, near Baker's Rocks, they saw him: white as a polar bear, three feet high at the shoulder, bristling and snarling. The eyes of this beast seemed to shoot red fire. Four rifle-shots rang out, and the wolf was gone, with the dogs in hot pursuit. In an hour he was overtaken again, and again the guns were emptied. The animal leaped over a cliff, sixty feet, into a stream, almost at the moment when the shots were fired. No blood was visible, no splash was heard. The dogs found no scent. It was the last time that the white wolf was seen, but in a few months every member of the hunting party was dead.
An examination of Henry W. Shoemaker's essay "Wolf Days in Pennsylvania", found in Extinct Pennsylvania Animals, Vol. 1: The Panther and the Wolf (1917), reveals some corroborating information: Jim Jacobson (Shoemaker refers to him once as Jacobs, and from then on as Jacobson) was born Samuel Jimmerson Jacobson in Potter County. Shoemaker later says:
In 1865, several wolves were killed by the Faddy boys, Seneca Indians, on the Cornplanter Reservation in Warren County. Wolves were plentiful on Cornplanter's Reservation and on Kinzua Creek as late as 1870 ... Jim Jacobs, the old Seneca elk hunter, was conspicuous among the redmen who hunted the last wolves in Warren and McKean Counties. According to some authorities, this mighty Nimrod was killed by a train near Bradford in 1880, although John C. French of Roulette, Potter County, declares that he saw him on the Seneca Reservation alive and well in September 1881.
Jacobs(on) was still alive at the beginning of Skinner's tale, although it is noted that he died shortly after. Given this statement by Shoemaker, we can possibly date the tale of the white wolf to the late 1870s or even 1880. After this, we are left with determining where, exactly, the story may have taken place. Unfortunately, that's much easier said than done. The only "Baker's Rocks" I could find were the Baker Rocks near Wrightsville in Warren County.

Gyantwachia, or Chief Cornplanter, was a war chieftain of the Seneca Iroquois, who as told in several sources, inhabited this area of Pennsylvania, later sharing it with the Lenape; after they were crowded out of the Delaware Valley, they moved westward and were allowed to settle here by the Iroquois. It should not go unnoticed that it was the Wolf clan, the Munsees, that settled here. The Cornplanter Reserve mentioned by both Skinner and Shoemaker was most likely a reference to the Cornplanter Tract or Grant, which was destroyed in the construction of the Kinzua Dam and is now almost wholly beneath the waters of the Allegheny Reservoir (Lake Kinzua).

In fact, Shoemaker refers to the following:
Edwin Grimes, while hunting in the Kinzua Valley in 1860 with Benjamin Main, killed a record grey wolf. The hide sold to the veteran wolfer LeRoy Lyman who pronounced it the biggest he had seen in his long experience in the forests of Northern Pennsylvania. John C. French, in commenting on the size of the Kinzua Valley wolf, says Edwin Grimes, Sam Grimes, and Ben Main agreed that the grand daddy wolf was at least two inches higher at the shoulder than average wolves and one inch taller than the largest they had ever seen. Continuing Mr. French said: "The wolf was not measured, but it must have been seven feet long without the tail. Ben Main, who was 5 feet 8 inches tall, could not swing the carcass free from the ground by taking an ear of the wolf in each hand and lifting the head at arms' length about his own; but Edwin Grimes, who stood 6 feet 2 inches, could just do so.
"Spook wolves" of the type mentioned in this tale infested northern Pennsylvania, with Shoemaker also recounting a supernaturally-charged white wolf from the Sugar Valley in Clinton County and also a number of werewolves from Wayne Township, also in that county. Given the fact that he elsewhere says that the spook wolves of the northern counties were usually gray, it is tempting to wonder whether the huge wolf killed in 1860 near Kinzua was given supernatural attributes and served as the basis of Skinner's story. If so, it was in Warren County, not Venango.

Cryptozoologically, it's most tempting to wonder whether the skin purchased by Lyman is still in existence.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Chesapeake manatee trapped in New Jersey

The Philadelphia Inquirer ran a story on October 17 about the manatee Ilya, which was last seen near a refinery along the Arthur Kill in northern New Jersey. Story here.

Ilya is the same individual seen in the Chesapeake Bay several times, and then near the mouth of the Susquehanna River. He later wandered into waters off of New England.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Delaware River whales, sharks and monsters

From the Universal York blog, this post on a whale displayed in a York County barn belonging to one Samuel Spangler sometime in the first half of the 1800s. The whale is described as having been caught in the Delaware River. This wouldn't be unheard of.

The Philadelphia Inquirer (December 6, 1994) reported that a 30-foot right whale (Eubalaena glacialis) dubbed "Waldo the Wrong-Way Right Whale" was found in the Delaware between Philadelphia and New Jersey. Wildlife officials managed to point it back towards the sea, but in early 1995 the whale had returned and was beached temporarily at an oil refinery near Pennsauken, New Jersey. "Waldo" was last seen in waters off Canada.

In April, 2005, NBC's Today carried reports on a beluga whale that had been seen around Trenton and Beverly, New Jersey. The animal was identified as one called Helis, whose native territory was in the St. Lawrence River. Helis had left the Delaware Bay around April 18, but by the 29th he was back in the river near Burlington Island. He was later seen near the Walt Whitman Bridge moving south. There were a few reports of the beluga from the Schuylkill River, but I don't know whether these were confirmed. By the end of the month, he had again moved out of the river.

The New York Times (May 1, 1922) reported that a 12-foot shark "said to have been of the man-eating variety" was killed by Joseph Fletcher in Tacony, Pennsylvania.

Several species of sharks live in the Delaware Bay and may make their way up the river; the Tacony shark is most likely to have been a bull shark. Other dangerous species such as the hammerhead and thresher exist in the Bay, but these prefer open waters and would not likely be found upstream. The bull shark is also the likely culprit in the attacks at Matawan, New Jersey in 1916.

The book Totally Bizarre Pennsylvania mentions a sighting of a supposed sea monster near the Benjamin Franklin Bridge in August, 1975. Peter Evangelidis reported that he and his girlfriend were along the river at Penn's Landing when he saw what he first thought to be a "bunch of black inner tubes or tires floating down the river, about 30 yards out" but that was moving against the current of the river. After a moment there was a violent splash and "this sleek head of an animal that should not have existed sprung its head out of the dark river no more than 30 feet from us". A canal cuts across Delaware, joining the Chesapeake Bay to the Delaware Bay. Evangelidis wondered whether the Chesapeake Bay sea serpent, Chessie, could have made it through the waterway and into Philadelphia. 1975 also saw reports of both sharks and whales from the Delaware, so it conceivably could have been one of these.

The above is the photo Evangelidis took of the creature.

Annville pythons doing better

From the Lebanon Daily News, October 18, an update on two pythons found in Annville this summer, as posted on Cryptomundo on August 4 of this year.

Jellyfish found in quarry

The Lancaster Intelligencer Journal/New Era reported on October 16 that freshwater jellyfish had been found in an unnamed quarry in Lancaster Township on October 11. An online comment on the story says that it took place at the Wabank Quarry on Wabank Road.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Mountain lions in the Poconos

The Pocono Record has recently run two articles on the mountain lion in Pennsylvania here, and here.

The 1874 extinction date is a bit odd, as there's no less than 22 cougar kills after the Hawk Mountain (Berks) kill that year, placing the date at 1917 at the earliest.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Of nightmares, ghosts, UFOs, and pythons

Over on the CFZ blog, Neil Arnold has an interesting post on some sort of ophidian nightmare. The story's pretty neat, and not altogether unlike the experiences that take place in a hypnagogic or hypnapompic state with the crushing sensations. Sure, there are differences (for instance, Neil reports the ability to move) and I find it very interesting that while Neil's girlfriend didn't see the apparition, she experienced the same phenomenon.

In the past, I've done a lot of thinking on these hallucinatory states and how they may account for a lot of the stranger creature sightings out there. For those who aren't familiar with the terms, they refer to a type of hallucination that is sometimes experienced either when falling asleep (hypnagogic) or immediately upon waking (hypnapompic). These nearly always occur in conjunction with sleep paralysis, where a person's mind and body don't "sync up" in their states of wakefulness which results in an inability of the muscles to move although the surroundings can be perceived normally. This state of neither sleep nor wakefulness results in imagery from dreams being seen in normal surroundings. Through means not necessarily explained, the hallucinations can occur in conjunction with sensory phenomena, such as a feeling of being pricked by needles. Obviously, some researchers have connected this phenomena with many of the ghost sightings and UFO abduction stories out there.

I myself have had experiences at least twice with similar states. Once, in about 1995, I awoke quite late at night to find myself unable to move, with a black silhouette of a man, his arms held rigidly at his sides, standing in a corner of my bedroom. After a few moments, he vanished. On another occasion, as I lay waking up, I distinctly felt someone sit on my bed and place their arms on my shoulders.

This phenomena, I can vouch, is indeed very disturbing and frightening.

These states aren't fully understood. Personally, I would not at all doubt there could be variants of the phenomena where the individual is fully mobile. Likewise, given the physical sensations sometimes associated with the hallucinations, I wouldn't rule out the possibility that through some psychosomatic mechanism the marks associated could manifest on the body.

Perhaps these hallucinatory states don't even necessarily occur with sleep, perhaps it's possible to have them during waking hours, as well. To bring this to a more Fortean context, perhaps through some unknown mechanism the hallucinations can manifest physically and lead others to have experiences with an image ripped from someone else's dream.

Who knows?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Unexplained animal aggression... and the CFZ?

So, we all know that last week, the latest expedition to Sumatra in search of the orang pendek returned. Soon after their return came news of an earthquake and flooding that hit Sumatra - and a city where they had been, according to Richard Freeman. Within the next few days, Adam Davies, who had been on the expedition, became ill. There's an interesting post on Cryptomundo about some things that've been going on in the last few days. And I have some personal experiences with this, which I'll post about after this story.
Perhaps you have noticed some clumping of certain news that seems to stir up non-human animals and people.

At the end of September, a 7.6 magnitude earthquake hit Sumatra killing hundreds, while the day before an 8.0 magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Samoa, triggering a tsunami that flattened whole towns and killed hundreds of people. Tidal forces were showing themselves to be powerful leading into October.

If you have been watching the skies, you may have noticed the Harvest Moon in the North; 2009’s Full Moon occurred on the 4th, Sunday, worldwide, at 06:10 Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).

Did you hear what else happened recently?

1. In the first incident since the fatal tiger attack at the San Francisco Zoo on Christmas Day 2007 (Full Moon was on December 24, 2007), a man got into the grizzly bear exhibit at the same zoo on September 26th. He was found “conscious but unresponsive” and taken into custody by paramedics.

2. Five raccoons “gang attacked” up on a woman on Saturday, October 3rd, and left her with serious injuries from bites. Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said 74-year-old Gretchen Whitted in Lakeland, Florida, was suddenly attacked when she tried to shoo the animals away from her front door. “When she fell down, they enveloped her,” said Judd, who warned the public to be alert to the aggressive raccoons. “She’s literally bitten and scratched from face and the chest all the way down through the legs.”

3. Sunday afternoon, October 4th, a Mossy Head, Florida woman was airlifted to a hospital with injuries sustained from an emu’s claw while trying to corral the large flightless bird. The woman was injured while attempting to corral a group of emus for transport to an animal shelter.

4. Thirty-seven year old Kelly Ann Walz of Ross Township, Pennsylvania was killed by her pet bear. It happened her home Sunday night, October 4th. Officers say she was cleaning the bear’s cage when the three-hundred fifty pound bear mauled her. State officials say Walz threw a shovel full of dog food to one side of the cage to distract the bear while she cleaned the other side of the cage, but the bear still attacked. Others saw the attack and called for help, at which point a neighbor shot and killed the bear.

5. At 1:00 am, October 5th, a man suffered “significant” arm injuries after allegedly sneaking into the tiger enclosure of the Calgary Zoo, Alberta, Canada. The Siberian tiger, named Vitali, attacked one of the pair of 27-year-old men who scaled the zoo’s 2.4-meter-high fence near the west public gate early on Monday morning. Rosemarie Siever of Edmonton, was visiting the zoo with her husband, Charles Macdonald, the day after, and hearing about the attack, said not breaching safety enclosures is common sense. “He’s a moron, that’s all I have to say,” she said.

Humans seem to be out of whack too.

Or maybe it all is just a bunch of coincidences. Or not? Do you recall the recent wave of other cat attacks?

Like I’ve asked before during times like these, were any cryptid encounters recorded anywhere too?
I can't think of any real notable cryptozoology the last few days, other than a find of Bigfoot tracks in Oregon, but there've been a few UFO sightings recently. I myself saw this past Thursday night a series of three lights which I at first took to be an airplane tailing a helicopter, but both continued at steady rates of speed. I suppose it could have been one of the triangle UFOs often reported.

I've noticed the last few days that my dog (a beagle/basset mix) has been unusually aggressive. Nothing big, but she's been jumping at people and biting your legs and fingers more than normal. She's also been more restless than normal. Mindi and I had assumed it was because she's currently teething, but given this, maybe it's not. Also, my in-laws' dog has also been aggressive, which isn't normal for him. I don't know if it could have anything to do with it, but as I'm writing this, we have some really severe winds here.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Insert clever Oz-themed pun here

On the CFZ News blog, I found a link to this recent story:
ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Authorities say a woman was killed by her pet black bear as she cleaned its cage.

State police say 37-year-old Kelly Ann Walz was mauled to death Sunday evening by the 350-pound (160-kilogram) bear.

The Morning Call newspaper reports that a state Game Commission spokesman says Walz kept the bear inside a steel and concrete cage near her house in northeastern Pennsylvania.

Officials say Walz threw some dog food to one side of the cage to distract the bear while she cleaned the other side. At some point the bear turned on her and attacked.

The bear was shot and killed. No information was available about who shot the bear.

Game officials say Walz also owned a Bengal tiger and an African lion and had licenses to own them.
Serves the stupid fool right for having a bear, lion, and tiger...

Monday, October 5, 2009

Chupacabra in Maryland... not...

WHITE PLAINS, Md. - Mulder and Scully from the "X-Files" may be needed in Charles County.

A man who speaks fluent Spanish, but little English, went to the County Sheriff's Department to report that he had seen something bizarre last month in the White Plains area.

"A brownish type animal that he described as a chupacabra, which is a mythical animal in the spanish culture," spokeswoman Crystal Hunt says.

Chupacabras are usually described as doglike creatures, but the man in this case says the animal walked on long arms like a monkey. When the report was made Sept. 19, county investigators searched the area and found nothing. A farmer in the same area reported finding several dead kittens in a nearby barn that day, but there's nothing indicating a link to the strange creature.

Hunt says investigators poured flour on the ground in the area of the sighting, so if the animal returned, it would leave visible tracks. They also set several traps in the area. But Hunt says "to date, nothing has been found."

There have been no additional sightings.

Anyone with any additional information is asked to call the Charles County Sheriff's Office at 301-932-2222.
Stop calling Bigfoot and mystery canines, etc. Chupacabra, people! Sheesh, the Chupacabra is fast becoming the modern Jersey Devil. Let's just throw every unexplained sighting into one big heap...

The bull-beggar in Virginia

In Ghost Stories From the American South, W.K. McNeil recounts a folktale gathered from a man by the name of Mart Rankin:
I was batchin' then, up there in Virginia. Been out on my horse, and my little dog had followed me. When I got to the lane -- guess I was about two hundred yards from the end of it -- I spied two men. They was walkin' together purty fast, keepin' step. I watched 'em. They had four times as far to go as I did. I kept on watchin' them an' never took my eye off of 'em till they got to the lane. Then the little old dog jumped a rabbit, and I turned to look.

That quick they disappeared or turned into somethin', one. They was a black thing about the size of a sheep thrashed around an' took up through the field, tearin' up brush heaps where there wasn't no brush heaps an' makin' a lot of noise. It didn't look like nothin' I'd ever seen. Don't know what it was, but they had turned into it..
Another book of folktales, Virginia Folk Legends, recounts a tale gathered from Mrs. R.V. Brayhill:
My grandfather Pernell had a large farm and in those days the farms all had to be fenced and the cattle run outside [the fence]. And between his farm and the Crysel farm was a haunted woods. The road was a narrow wagon road going through a thick pine forest between the two farms, and often people had seen and heard things as they pass[ed] through this pine thicket. My mother and my Aunt Bittish said that often as they went over this road at night that they would hear the most pitiful cry, as if someone were in distress, and then an animal that resembled a big black bear would brush by them and then it would suddenly vanish.

And one time the fence around the farm caught fire about three o'clock in the morning. And Aunt Bitty saw the fence burning and she come running over to my father's to get him and my brothers to go help put the fire out. And as she was coming through the pine forest there was something that looked like two men came running behind her, and as they passed her they suddenly disappeared. Bitty said she was scared almost to death, but it was closer to my father's than it was back home, and she was through the haunted woods. So she came running to my father's for help. The family left the haunted farm and went to another community.
A last bit of information regarding this is contained in An Encyclopedia of Fairies by Katherine Briggs:
Its meaning is unspecified, but it did not perish with the 16th century, for there is still a Bullbeggar Lane in Surrey, which once contained a barn haunted by a bullbeggar, and traditions of a bullbeggar who haunted Creech Hill near Bruton in Somerset were recollected by Ruth Tongue from oral tradition in 1906 and published by her in County Folk-Lore (vol. VIII, pp. 121-2). In the 1880s two crossed bodies were dug up in quarrying operations, and crumbled to dust when they were exposed to the air. For some unexplained reason they were supposed to have been a Saxon and a Norman, and after this finding, Creech Hill had a bad name and was supposed to be haunted by following footsteps and a black uncanny shape. A farmer coming home late one night saw a figure lying on the road and went to its help. It suddenly shot up to an uncanny height and chased him to his own threshold. His family ran to his rescue and saw it bounding away with wild laughter. Another night traveller was attacked on Creech Hill and held his own from midnight to cock-crow with the help of an ashen staff. This bullbeggar was considered a bogy or bogey-beast rather than a ghost because two bodies were found.
While I'm not certain where in the state these stories were gathered, in Accomack County there is a Bullbegger Creek. This is on the peninsula of Virginia on the eastern shores of the lower Chesapeake Bay. Sightings of Bigfoot and so-called "devils" have surfaced from the adjacent regions of Maryland's Eastern Shore.

Not Pennsylvania or Maryland, but close enough to be irresistible. Just by virtue of the name, I'll be needing to keep my eyes open as to things at Bullbegger Creek.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Caterpillars

Researcher Stan Gordon wrote a piece for the Paranormal News detailing a sighting which took place on June 27, 2009. A number of motorists travelling near Mt. Pleasant, in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, reported to Gordon the sighting of a creature which "looked like a giant caterpillar". It was about 7 inches in length, tapered at the ends and thicker in the middle, and appeared to be segmented. It was a blue-white color but the witness noted that it was not luminescent.

Within a few moments, the four witnesses encountered a second worm... and another... and another. In all, six or seven individuals were seen both in the road and beside it.

In September the same year, Brian Seech of the Center for Unexplained Events forwarded a second report to Stan Gordon, this one originating from Youngwood, again in Westmoreland County. This one was of what the witnesses first took to be a snake, about four feet long which before their eyes "broke" into eight smaller creatures anywhere between six and eight inches in length. The witnesses reported that each of these creatures seemed to have four legs, and was of a dark color, with a "shiny wet" texture.

Then, they claimed, the smaller animals assumed a ring-like position and then reformed into a large snake and slithered away.

Chad Arment has noted that the so-called hickory horned devil, the caterpillar of the regal moth, is the largest variety of caterpillar in Pennsylvania and can grow 6-7 inches long. The larvae have a greenish coloration and segmented appearance much like those in the first sighting. The witnesses did not to my knowledge report any sort of horn-like appendages that these larvae sport. Many people on websites note sightings of hickory horned devils from roadways and also note that they are highly visible from a distance.

As for the second sighting, Arment notes that there are a number of species of caterpillars which migrate in what is called a processional pattern; processionally-migrating caterpillars can at times be difficult to distinguish from one another, possibly giving the appearance of a snake. None of these processional caterpillars are known to exist in Pennsylvania. He does believe it possible, however, that there could be some present. The most famous is the pine processionary caterpillar. It is interesting that another detail of the second sighting claimed that after the snake broke apart, its components formed a ring-like pattern before it reformed; just such a pattern is shown in the photos on this page.

I had at first been thinking that the second sighting, at least, may have had some sort of mammalian explanation, rather than an entomological one; the wet-shiny appearance, four legs and dark color practically screamed otter or weasel (the barely 7-inch least weasel is native to the western half of the state). But these revelations (to me) of caterpillars of a similar size and appearance and that there are similarly-behaving caterpillars to the second sighting leads me to wonder whether there may be some as yet unidentified moth native to the state.

And obviously, such a thing would not be outside the realm of possibility at all!

I am in contact with Stan Gordon and will let you know if anything more develops.

Apologies to E.F. Benson for the title of this post, which is shamelessly ripped from the title of one of his stories.

A tale of UFOs, tripods, giant mantises, and thunderbirds

A strange report was submitted to the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON) page. It begins with a typical UFO report, but soon recounts a number of anomalous experiences which "followed" the witness, from War of the Worlds-style metallic tripods to giant insects and birds. Very interesting, provided the witness wasn't on some sort of hallucinogenic (a fact I am far from convinced of). Here's the complete report:

On 8-15-2009 at 2:45am I was buzzed for about 5 seconds by a 4 foot round luminescent orb on the roof of the building that I work in, in Philadelphia . It materialized about a foot away from me, blocking my way and making a buzzing sound, it then took off and dematerialized in approximately a 6 feet distance. At this time I decided to turn around and leave the roof.

I found a photo of the object here. http://www.ufoarea.com/aas_ufophiladelphia.html

About an hour later at 3:45am I was walking through a machine room on the roof, near the same location of the orb, when I encountered a 3 foot tall triped creature. It was standing by an electrical transformer looking up at the conduits. I observed it for about 30 seconds from a distance of four feet before it turned around and noticed me. I was looking down at it! It had a beautiful baby blue eye which was moving rapidly, just one, a long eye lid and rubbery looking legs with bulbous feet. I could see it was starting to panic because it started stomping his feet like a mad skunk or jumping up and down and making a high pitch squeaking sound almost like a cats toy. I was blocking it’s way to the open roll up door leading to the roof behind me. I put up an open hand in a gesture to let it know that I wouldn’t hurt it and backed up towards a different part of the machine room, away from it’s path to the door, but kept my eye on the creature. I watched it walking down the isle slowly when it started to move. It stopped where I had turned to get out of its way, it then turned and looked me over for a couple of seconds. I couldn’t help myself and started to laugh at it. I felt like a child who saw a monkey for the first time or something! I got the impression that it was thanking me but I think I also offended it because it started to leer at me and it's eye changed to a lighter color. I could be wrong, it may have took a bow! The triped then took off running in the direction of the door disappearing behind machinery in the area. I didn't feel threatened in any way by this creature but I was quite sure that cornering it was a bad idea! In hindsight of this encounter I'm left with a feeling a of wonder. The buildings electrical generator was permanently shut down about a year ago.

On this same morning I'm doing my paper work in the control booth, and a larger than man sized Praying Mantis comes up to the window and just stairs at me for about a minute. I did not feel comfortable with this encounter considering the nature of this kind of insect. I sat there and didn’t move a muscle until it left. I have also heard screeching sounds in the roof machine room, in the direction of the roll up door which made my hair stand up on the back of my neck around the same time for 2 nights.

The next night 8-16-09 I'm mopping the floor in the machine room, on the roof and I come back to the sink to fill my bucket and there was a little springs and clip neatly arranged next to each other on the floor in front of the sink. I think the triped came back. There was no one else in the machine room. Was it trying to tell me something, were they gifts or was it trying to help me? I don’t know. Its a mystery! The triped may have been back the next night too, but I didn’t see it! It had moved stuff around like a toddler would have. It was into everything exploring I guess.

On 8-18-09 at around 3:00am I was witness to a giant bird above Eakins Oval with a 40 foot wing span or better, it had rectangle shaped wings and no tail feathers, I didn't see any feet or head either. All I could make out was the huge wings with all of the feathers moving in the breeze and there were hundreds of them, there were no primary feathers that I could see. It looked like a enormous kite. I'm a bird watcher and never seen a bird like this before. I was really quite fed up with all the paranormal stuff happening to me at this time so I watched it for about 4 minuets and decided to just ignored it and go on about my business before it did something really weird and unexplainable. "Wow " A Sumerian god come to earth! An angle maybe? I can take see an alien off my bucket list! Nothing else has happened since.