Monday, August 31, 2009

Laying the Fisher cougar attack to rest

It's an older story, but just in case you missed it: the Eastern Cougar Foundation and other websites reported in late October, 2008 that the Pennsylvania Game Commission had released a report stating that the blood found on a knife that Samuel Fisher of Sadsbury Township, Lancaster County claimed to have used to fight off an attacking cougar was human. Fisher's supposed attack had taken place on October 9.

A western Pennsylvania river monster: the Ogua

Native American lore placed a monstrous creature called the Ogua in the Monongahela and Ohio Rivers. The Ogua was a chimerical creature shaped like a turtle, with a 15 foot tail and two heads that emerged from the water by night to hunt and kill deer, snaring them with its tail. Some Natives had stories that it was a monster generated by the legendary chief Hiawatha. European settlers reputedly encountered the beast, and an account is supposed to exist in the collection of West Virginia University.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Gray cougars

The Fort Myers (FL) News Press (August 22, 2009) has reported on the discovery by Mark Lotz of Florida Fish & Wildlife of two gray-colored male Florida panthers. The panthers were healthy otherwise. Eastern cougar researcher John Lutz notes that gray-coated cougars are not unknown.

Once again, not a Pennsylvania story but relevant to the erratically-colored cougars often seen.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The blue dwarf cyclops of Indiana County

The UFO Roundup newsletter for September 29, 1996 reported on the sighting of an unusual blue dwarf. The sighting occurred in the northern portions of the county, and was made by two 9 year olds. The creature they saw was roughly 4 feet tall, and swung its arms as it moved. The blue creature had a cone-shaped face, one eye in the place of its nose, four fingers and a proboscis or antenna protruding from the top of its head. Although something was made of the UFO sightings in the area at the time, the dwarf sighting had no apparent UFO connection.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Wooo-Wooo and the Delaware Water Gap Hooter

On April 13, 1968 the Blairstown (NJ) Press reported on somehting encountered by zoologist and author Ivan T. Sanderson at his farm near Columbia, NJ (in Warren County). Sanderson and Walter McGraw heard a strange hooting cry. Both Sanderson and McGraw felt the sound was emanating from a large bird they saw flying along the Kittatinny Mountain. A similar cry came moments later from the opposite bank of the Delaware River. Mark A. Hall writing in Thunderbirds! The Living Legend of Giant Birds has called this creature the "Wooo-Wooo" after the mens' description of the sound and feels it is a representative of his hypothetical "Bighoot", a giant owl.

Pocono Ghosts, Legends and Lore by David J. Seibold and Charles J. Adams III reports on the presence in the Delaware Water Gap area (on the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware opposite Sanderson's home) of a creature called the "Hooter", which has been heard by hunters and hikers in the woods. It can be theorized that the second call Sanderson heard may have been the Hooter.

Plan to study minks in England

The CFZ News blog has reported on a plan underway in England to study the mink. Minks in Britain are an invasive species blamed for the decline of other water-dwelling animals, most notably the water vole. The planned research involves using sensory collars to log the mink's activities on a daily basis.

Zebra mussels in the Susquehanna

From the Harrisburg Patriot-News (November 30, 2008):

Zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha), normally native to Russia, have been found in the Susquehanna River above the Conowingo Dam in Maryland. Zebra mussels are an invasive species recorded from several locations in North America, including Texas, Massachusetts and the Great Lakes region. The species can clog drainage and intake pipes and kill off native species. Also, in the Great Lakes, they were associated with an outbreak of disease that killed off waterfowl.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Yardley Yeti not even a Bigfoot

Don Polec wrote a story detailing the sightings of the rather unfortunately named Yardley Yeti in October, 2006. Ironically, the "Yeti" was a rather scrawny dog-like creature which was a reddish color. This photograph was taken by Jon Maberry near New Hope. Reports had also surfaced from Upper and Lower Makefield.

The beast in the photograph resembles the so-called Hyote of Baltimore County, Maryland, and like that animal was probably a dog or fox with mange.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Giant catfish in the Susquehanna

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported in 2002 that Greg Misenko of Lititz and others had caught flathead catfish at Safe Harbor Dam. Flathead catfish can get big, over 100 pounds. In fact, reported in July of that same year that a flathead five feet long and 103 pounds had been caught in Georgia, and the record-setter, at 123 pounds, was caught in Kansas.

Flatheads are normally found in only the Ohio, Allegheny and Monongahela rivers in Pennsylvania. Ecologists are concerned that the presence of the fish could upset the ecosystem of the Susquehanna. Flatheads have also been found in the Schuylkill and Delaware rivers.

Blue, white, and yellow lobsters

I know it's not from Pennsylvania, but I wanted to put it on here as a demonstration of how even a bizarre-looking thing might not necessarily be a new species. reports that Bill Marconi of Portsmouth, New Hampshire caught this weird-looking blue lobster. Freak lobster colorations result from the individual animal's processing the chemical astaxanthin differently. Total absence of astaxanthin can create white lobsters, many of which have been raised at the New England Aquarium.

The Boston Globe also reported in June that a bright yellow specimen had been caught off the coast of Canada.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Springheeled Jack in Philly

In May, 1905, a cleaning woman named Julia McGlone was leaving her workplace early one morning when a figure leapt down and assaulted her. The shadowy attacker left her with scratches all over her face and neck. McGlone screamed for a policeman who rushed to her aid. The policeman pulled a gun on the attacker, who "blew blue flames" into his face and leapt up a flight of stairs in a single bound, making his escape. This was only one of a series of attacks perpetrated by a tall, thin man in shining metallic clothing.

The descriptions of the Philadelphia prowler in 1905 tally up admirably well with the reports of a similarly-dressed and highly agile attacker in London, England who was recorded from as far back as 1837. He had a similar propensity for dazzling his victims with a bluish flame and making his escape before capture. The prowler was known as Springheeled Jack, and predated by half a century reports of another Jack stalking the London streets.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Lancaster County goat man

In Pennsylvania Dutch Country Ghosts, Legends, and Lore, Charles A. Adams III, author of several books on the paranormal lore of various regions of Pennsylvania, recounts an account of a creature seen in Lancaster County in 1973.

A man-sized gray creature with a white mane, fangs and claws and a wolflike appearance grabbed a chicken in view of two farmers. The farmers also reported that the beast was possessed of two sharp horns.

Chad Arment notes that the original report in Pursuit (the journal of Ivan T. Sanderson's Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained, or SITU) placed the creature in the Big Valley in Lancaster County, but as no such feature exists in the county, he speculates that the incident actually occurred in the Big Valley in Mifflin County. He also notes that the Big Valley was settled by many Amish from Lancaster County and that this may account for confusion.

An old report of something

From The American Weekly Mercury (November 3, 1743):
To be seen at the house of John SAUNDERS, Huntsman, the Upper End of Second-Street, Philadelphia, a strange and surprizing creature called a mouse, about the bigness of an horse, it has a face like a mouse, ears like an ass, neck and back like a camel, hind-parts like an horse, tail like a rabbet, and feet like an heifer, and is of two colours. It was but lately brought to town and came 400 miles, and is so fine limb'd, that it can jump six feet high. Price to men and women 6 pence, and 3 pence to children.
I have no idea. Part must be an error in transcription (why would such a large animal be called a mouse?). Maybe it's describing a moose? Though the bit about jumping six feet is an elaboration, to be sure.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Wolf Pond monster

From Myths and Legends of Our Own Land, by Charles Skinner:
A snake haunts Wolf Pond, Pennsylvania, that is an alleged relic of the Silurian age. It was last seen in September, 1887, when it unrolled thirty feet of itself before the eyes of an alarmed spectator -- again a fisherman. The beholder struck him with a pole, and in revenge the serpent capsized his boat; but he forbore to eat his enemy, and, diving to the bottom, disappeared. The creature had a black body, about six inches thick, ringed with dingy-yellow bands, and a mottled-green head, long and pointed, like a pike's.
Wolf Pond is in Dauphin County near Dietrich. Coloration-wise and general appearance-wise, this sounds as if it could have been a muskellunge (Esox masquinongy) which, in fact, is a type of pike. However, its size was doubtlessly exaggerated.

For what it's worth, here's Raystown Ray

For what it's worth, the Raystown Ray website reports another sighting and photograph of the beast near a dam. Unfortunately, as can be seen in the photograph, there is nothing to give indication it was even taken at Raystown Lake, in Huntingdon County.

The other photos of Ray are suspect in appearance (the other is nearly identical to this one and is shot from the exact same vantage point and angle). Add to that the fact that Raystown Lake is a manmade lake and the stories become suspect.

More on the Conestoga Capybara

From the Lancaster New Era (March 16, 2009):
Maybe it's TJ, who is still on the lam.

But it's not the roadkill on Route 472.

Theories are emerging about the mysterious creature that a mother and son spotted in Pequea Township within the past six weeks.

Tessa Barnett and her son, Austen, who live in Conestoga, saw the reddish, barrel-shaped creature at Cherry Hill Orchards on two separate occasions. They both said it was large, about 200 pounds, had coarse hair and moved in an odd, slithery, scampering way.

Heather Conver, of Conestoga, wonders if it's her escaped goat.

She and her family got the male goat, which they named TJ, back in October.

Sadly, TJ never made it into a fenced pen at their home on Conestoga Boulevard, which is less than a mile from where the Barnetts spotted the creature.

"He overpowered my dad and my husband when they got him out of the trailer," she said. "He just took off."

The family always has an eye out for the reddish-colored goat, which Conver estimated weighs more than 100 pounds and stands waist-high to her.

Neighbors told her they saw him in a nearby farmer's field about a month after he escaped, but no one has reported seeing him since then.JoAnn Thomas, of Manheim, wondered if the creature wandered southeast and was hit by a vehicle along Route 472, in Colerain Township, across from the entrance to Black Rock Retreat.

While on her way to Maryland Saturday, Thomas passed an unusual-looking animal lying dead on the side of the road. It was so strange, she turned her car around to take a second look at it, she said.

The animal had hooves and "an ugly-looking face," she said. "It was not something I had ever seen before."

Thomas said she did not think it was a deer, because she did not see any white on it. Nor was it a goat or a pig, she said.

Troy Groff, a member of the Colerain Township road crew, also saw the animal and said it was a deer, though he agreed it was hard to tell what it was.

"It really got plastered," he said.

So what is the mysterious creature?

Neither police nor state game commission officials have received any reports of unusual animal sightings. Game officials wondered last week if the animal was an escaped pig.

Patrons at the Conestoga Wagon Restaurant in Conestoga, a local gathering place, are wondering what the animal is, said waitress Lisa Thompson. The topic has created some local buzz.

"They were saying, 'How'd you like to run into one of those?' " she said.

Mrs. Barnett still is puzzling over what she and her son saw.

The Barnetts have a German shepherd, which weighs about 120 pounds, she said, so she knows what that size animal looks like.

"This is much bigger than my dog," said Mrs. Barnett, who works during the week in New York as an executive administrator for a Manhattan accounting firm.

She saw the animal as she was on the way to pick up her son, who works nights for the Executive Coach bus company near Willow Street. Austen, 20, saw it while on his way home from that job. Both spotted it between 2 and 4 a.m.

"I really would like to know what it is," Mrs. Barnett said of the animal, which had a long, straight tail. "I am convinced it could be a big beaver — that's what it looked like the most — but it would be too big."

As for TJ, Mrs. Barnett said, "It didn't look like a goat."

But Conver thinks it could be TJ.

Conver's father, Steve Ebersole, saw the story about the the creature in last week's New Era and told her about it.

"He said, 'I think somebody saw your goat.' I said, 'Shut up!' " she said, laughing. "My neighbor said, 'You oughta go out at 2 a.m. and sit there and wait.' "

"I grew up on a farm and animals would get out from time to time," Convers said. "I thought we'd catch him.

"I'm always on the lookout for that reddish-brown animal standing out in the weeds."

Susquehanna River monster

As mentioned on Cryptomundo, Ken Maurer of the Sunbury Daily Item reported a monster in the Susquehanna River:
For those of you who missed the “most mysterious sighting” question asked of The Daily Item’s Great Outdoors panel, I told of a large creature that I saw swimming in the Susquehanna River.

I have to say that I received several comments concerning my eyesight, mental state, and imagination. Well, I saw what I saw, several times actually. I don’t know what it was and I have thought about it quite a bit.

The other day an acquaintance who shall mercifully remain nameless came up to me and told me he read of my experience in the paper, and he was amazed because he witnessed the same mysterious sighting. His sighting was a couple of miles downstream from the area where I saw it. We discussed it at length. He felt that because of the size of it, it was a mammal of sorts, similar to a seal or otter.

I felt it was a fish of some kind. After much discussion, we sort of agreed that it must be a fish because the head never comes out of the water. I have witnessed seals, otters and beavers swimming, and the head always comes out of the water somewhere along the line.

Now, as to how this all started. About eight years ago, a good friend of mine told me about this “thing” he saw swimming in the river. He described a small submarine about to surface.

Of course, I thought he was nuts. Then one evening we went fishing and the “thing” showed up. At first I thought it was a deer swimming across the river, then it turned and came upstream. When it got closer, there was nothing sticking out of the water. It pushed a wake that made waves that lapped up on the shoreline. At about 50 yards, it sank out of sight. Creepy. Over the next year or two, I saw it several times and it always sank out of sight before it got close enough to be seen clearly.

The only fish I can think of that could create this disturbance is a huge carp. I’ve never seen a carp act like that, but what else could it be? It’s not a mammal because nothing ever comes out of the water. Between those of us who have seen it, we think it must be at least five or six feet long, which is far larger than any carp I’ve ever seen.

Before you jump in your boat and go looking for it, sightings are rare. I haven’t seen it for years, although last summer a guy told me about a very similar sighting in the same general area.

We live in a very civilized area. How could any creature live around here, on land or water, that we don’t know about?

Well, we don’t know everything. When darkness falls, the forest turns into a very different place. Many hunters have seen and heard things in the pre-dawn darkness that are hard to understand or explain. Coyotes, for example, are very common around here, yet many people have never seen one. Who would have ever thought someone would catch a gar out of the river? We have pictures of that.

The outdoorsman Izaak Walton said it best: “Rivers and the inhabitants of the watery elements are meant for wise men to ponder, and fools to pass by.”
Theories on its identity have ranged from a manatee (given the Chesapeake reports) to large catfish. Unfortunately, few details are given and as a result positive identification is impossible.

Pennsylvania's feral hogs

From The Daily Yonder (January 15, 2008):
The most controversial figures in Pennsylvania these days aren't running for president, but for their lives. Feral pigs have become a nuisance -- a hazard, some say -- in the Keystone State, rooting up the land, attacking deer and out-competing native animals for food. One major concern is that the wild pig population could threaten Pennsylvania's $271 million domestic hog industry by infecting farm animals. (No wild pigs in Pennsylvania have yet been found to carry disease.)

But put away your rifle, for now anyway. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled in December that feral hogs are "protected mammals." And until the state's Game Commission can draft regulations on wild boar hunting, shooting a feral pig is illegal.

Ironically, Pennsylvania's scourge of "wild" hogs was introduced by people -- specifically, landowners who imported these animals to be hunted for sport on private property.

"We found it alarming, the amount of hunting preserves that are actually bringing these hogs into the state," Harris Glass, told Joe Gorden of Johnstown's Tribune-Democrat. Glass, Pennsylvania's director of wildlife services, said the problem pigs escaped (or were intentionally released) from 15 game farms across the state. "Some of them actually advertise that there is no fence," he said. "Each of the five counties where we have confirmed feral hogs do have shooting preserves in them."

Gorden explains that not only the importation of wild pigs for hunting but the act of hunting itself has exacerbated the problem. According to Glass, hunting disperses the feral hog herds. Initially state wildlife officials thought there were some 20-30 "pockets" of wild pigs in the state. But, "just in Cambria and Bedford counties, there were probably 200 hogs removed this past hunting season," Glass said. Larger hunting parties especially tend to drive the animals farther afield. "With that kind of pressure, they've moving up over the ridge and into the next valley," Glass explained. "They are intelligent animals. They will avoid people. They're able to continue breeding, so as they spread and go into new areas, their population keeps growing and it gets harder to get a handle on things."

Until the December court ruling, wild hogs were considered private property and killing them was unregulated. Christian Berg of the Allentown's Morning Call spells out details of the court case, initiated against the state in 2004 for failing to enforce game code regulations on a 1500-acre hunting preserve along the New York border. While hunters want to designate Sus scrofa as private property and the Supreme Court calls them "wildlife, " the Pennsylvania Invasive Species Council has another designation for them: "invasives." That's a lot of titles for anybody, especially an unwittingly imported hooved animal.

Pennsylvania isn't the only state troubled by wild pigs. Missouri's Conservation Department apparently recommends "shoot on sight." Kansas, taking another tack, has banned hunting wild pigs altogether. But in Florida and South Texas, Harris Glass notes, "there is a whole culture built around hog hunting. If we get to that point in Pennsylvania, we are just not going to be able to stop it."

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners is likely to discuss establishing a feral hog season at its next meeting, January 29.

Chiques Creek photo identified, most likely

From Wild About PA (July 25, 2009):

This photograph taken along the Chiques Creek near Manheim most likely depicts a large male mink.

Otters in York County

From Wild About PA (July 21, 2009):
York County Wildlife Conservation Officer Michael Reeder recently picked up two road-killed river otters just south of Dillsburg.

Both animals were found within a mile of each other and a week apart.

"I have been hearing of more and more otter sightings in the area and this shows we have an increasing population," Reeder said.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Manatees in the Chesapeake

From the Washington Post (Sept. 26, 2008):
Two West Indian manatees were sighted in a Chesapeake Bay tributary near Baltimore this week in a rare appearance of Florida's beloved sea cow in Mid-Atlantic waters.

Gail Hill, who lives in the Baltimore County suburb of Essex, spotted the bulbous creatures about 6:15 p.m. Tuesday while she was tossing white bread and potato rolls into Norman Creek for the local mallards and Canada geese. At the end of the dock, something wide and gray came to the surface.

"At first, it looked like a big barrel popped up, and then it went under again," Hill, 57, said yesterday. She thought, at first, it might be a large carp. Then, noting a bump in the middle of its back, she thought she might be seeing the blowhole of a porpoise.

Then the animal raised its head to breathe.

"It's got a bulby-looking nose . . . almost like that Michelin tire commercial" mascot, she said. Another soon appeared by its side. A neighbor identified the animals right away: "He said, 'That's a manatee.' "

During that encounter, first reported by the Baltimore Sun, Hill snapped several pictures. Yesterday, the manatee expert at the National Aquarium in Baltimore said the sighting seemed legitimate.

"It is, more than likely, a manatee," Jennifer Dittmar said. One clue, she said, was the bump on the back. It's not a blowhole, she said, but a barnacle, which manatees often pick up in their slow-motion wanderings.

Manatees, docile vegetarians, have been declared an endangered species; collisions with boats are a serious threat. Their population is estimated between 3,000 and 3,500, and their home territories are Florida and the Caribbean.

But some have been spotted around the Chesapeake. The most famous was Chessie, a manatee that visited several times in the mid-1990s and was named for its resemblance to the bay's mythical sea monster.

Dittmar said the Baltimore aquarium receives three or four reports of sightings every year -- usually in August or September, after the bay's water has been warmed all summer. She asked anyone who spots a manatee to call the aquarium scientists' pager at 410-373-0083.

Scientists say that to travel north, the mammals use the Intercoastal Waterway, which can offer a buffet of underwater grasses, or they traverse the open Atlantic Ocean. It's not clear why they come.

"I don't know why they do it," said Cathy Beck, a scientist who studies manatees for the U.S. Geological Survey. She said she didn't know if climate change was playing a role. Beck said her current concern is whether these roaming manatees will find their way back south before the winter, because they cannot stand water colder than 68 degrees.

In Essex, Hill said the two manatees vanished when she and a neighbor got into a boat to follow them. "I've been looking ever since," she said.

"They're not the prettiest faces," she said. "But there's something lovable about them."

--David A. Fahrenthold, "Manatee pair make trip north to frolick in Md. tributary"

Bear remains in Pequea

From the Lancaster Intelligencer Journal (June 18, 2009):
Bones found by a trapper Tuesday in a section of woods in Pequea Township are the remains of a bear, officials determined Wednesday.

The foot and ankle bones appeared to be human remains, so police and a Lancaster County forensic team responded to the site in the 3500 block of Willow Street Pike.

Southern Regional police initially were dispatched to the woods after the trapper called 911 about 5 p.m., officials said. They called the forensic team and Lancaster County Coroner.

The team worked the scene surrounded by yellow caution tape for about five hours, and an officer was stationed there overnight.

The bones, which showed signs of being cut or sawed, were found near a trash bag that was stuffed into a hole.

"Think about it: a trash bag, cut bones and a hole," Southern Regional police Chief John Fiorill said. "That added to the thought this could possibly be a crime scene.

"We weren't taking any chances."

County Coroner Dr. Stephen Diamantoni said the bones looked human.

"Very much so," he said. "The foot and ankle of a bear looks very much like a human."

Fiorill said he also thought the bones looked human, so he called Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman to inform him of the potential crime scene.

"When you looked at it, it looked a lot like a part of a human skeleton," Fiorill said.

Investigators cleared the scene after Diamantoni ran a series of tests. Through work with a radiologist, the coroner determined the bones were indeed from a bear — an animal not known to live in such a setting.

Police learned a local taxidermist recently had skinned a bear for a customer, Fiorill said. The chief suggested an animal may have gotten to the discarded pieces and dragged them into the woods.

"It's funny now," Fiorill said Wednesday, "but at the time, we were like, 'What do we have here?'"

Brett Hambright, "Bear bones cause stir in Pequea"

A capybara in Lancaster County?

From the Lancaster New Era, March 12, 2009:
Is it an escaped pig?

Or maybe a giant rodent called a capybara?

Or possibly a giant beaver?

Tessa Barnett and her son, Austen, don't know.

All they know is they both saw a strange, reddish, barrel-shaped creature very early in the morning in the New Danville area on two separate occasions in the past six weeks.

"My son and I are totally freaked out by it," says Mrs. Barnett, 50, of Conestoga. "He said, when he saw it, 'I don't want to see that again.' "

Both mother and son saw the animal between 2 and 4 a.m. while passing the Cherry Hill Orchards property in Pequea Township. Mrs. Barnett saw it about six weeks ago, while on her way to pick up Austen, 20, at his job working nights at Executive Coach bus company near Willow Street.

Mrs. Barnett remembers her encounter vividly.

"The animal crossed the road in front of my car," Mrs. Barnett says. "It started out slowly, then it scampered.

"The way I described it is it slithered, it moved so strangely. It was almost like a bear with four broken legs. It looked like a giant beaver."

It had red, coarse fur and a long, straight tail, says Mrs. Barnett, who did not get to see the animal's head.

"I thought, 'What was that?' It wasn't a dog. At first I thought it was a pig. It had short legs."

Mrs. Barnett then wondered if the animal was some sort of escaped exotic pet, perhaps a capybara, the world's largest rodent. A native of South America, it can be seen in some zoos.

Mrs. Barnett works as an executive administrator for an accounting firm in Manhattan during the week. No stranger to either the big city or to Lancaster County, she knows her story sounds a little, well, crazy.

In fact, she did not report her sighting to the police or local officials.

"I told my family about it but I never told anyone else about it because it's weird, right?" she says.

But she also is firm that she didn't dream the animal that passed in front of her car's headlights.

"No, I don't think I'm seeing things. I definitely saw something," she says. "I know animals pretty well. It wasn't a pony or a miniature horse. It was more bearlike."

Mrs. Barnett might have chalked up her experience as one of those once-in-a-lifetime events that can't be verified. But then, she says, her son came home with a similar tale.

Austen saw the same creature on his way home from work early one morning last week. He was sleeping early today and not available for comment.

Mrs. Barnett said her son told her at first he thought the animal he saw, which was standing by the side of the road, was a bear. Then he saw it move.

"The way it moves is so weird," Mrs. Barnett says. "It creeped him out."

Mrs. Barnett saw the animal near the Cherry Hill Orchards store. Her son saw it along the orchard property on the New Danville Pike.

Cherry Hill officials did not return several calls today for comment.

Calls to local police, game commission officials and area residents did not turn up any reports of escaped pigs or pets, but generated some theories on what the animal could be.

"It could be a domestic pig that is escaped and is feral," said Jerry Feaser, state game commission spokesman.

He also said it could be an escaped Vietnamese pot-bellied pig, which some people keep as pets.

Feaser also wondered if the animal could be a nutria, a beaver-like rodent found in Maryland. However, nutria grow to be only 20 pounds, and the Barnetts described the animal as much larger.

Feaser said it is sometimes difficult to estimate an animal's size and not unusual for someone to overestimate weight.

Local game warden Dennis Warfel, who covers southern Lancaster County, said he has received no reports of anyone sighting the animal or any reports of escaped exotic pets.

He agreed with one of Feaser's theories.

"I would think this is most likely a domestic pig that has gotten away from somebody and the farmer hasn't found it yet," he said.

Southern Regional Police Chief John Fiorill said he periodically gets calls about loose pigs but has received none recently.

In the past, some of those calls were in relation to a pig that sometimes wandered from a farm on Slackwater Road.

But a call to the owner of the perambulating porker, named Smeagol after a character in the movie "The Lord of the Rings," revealed it could not be that pig.

"It's been in our freezer at least six months," said Rebecca Francis.

Residents who live along Long Lane, where Cherry Hill Orchards store is, said they had not seen any strange animals.

Clyde Thomas owns a lawn care business across Long Lane from the orchard store. His front window looks out on the property.

He hasn't seen anything but noted that between 2 and 4 a.m., when the animal was sighted, "I'm in the horizontal position."

Lavonda McClafferty, who lives across from the orchard, also has seen nothing.

"I'll be working in the yard all day today," she said, "so I'll be watching."

Mrs. Barnett admits she's a little worried people won't believe her story.

But she notes, "If two people in my family saw it, we can't be the only ones to see this creepy thing."

She does have a sense of humor about the whole strange experience.

Her family watches the television show "South Park," which featured an unusual creature called ManBearPig, described as "half man, half bear, half pig."

"That's what it looks like," she says, laughing. "Maybe that's what it is."

Cindy Stauffer, "Strange-looking, 200-pound creature sighted here"

Who, or what, is Mesingw?

In the lore and legend of the Lenape (Delaware) people, Mesingw is the "living solid face", the master of all the animals. He always wore the mask of a face making a hooting sound, painted red and black. Some places make him the Lenape version of Bigfoot, but there's no evidence he was thought of as anything but a spirit. Some people also mention the stories of Mesingw, or Mesinghalikun as he was also known, as relevant to the Jersey Devil. M.R. Harrington records that tribesman dressed as Mesingw during certain ceremonies. In The Indians of New Jersey: Dikon Among the Lenape, he writes:

Ku-les-ta! Listen! One time long ago there were three boys about your age who weren't treated very well; in fact their parents did not seem to care whether they lived or died. They were out in the forest one day thinking about their troubles when they saw a strange-looking hairy person with a big face half red and half black. This person said: "I am Mee-sing haw lee kun; I have taken pity on you and I will give you strength so that nothing can ever hurt you again. Come with me and I will show you my country!

He took one boy up in the air to the place where he came from; it was a great range of mountains up in the sky reaching from north to south. While he was showing the boy his country, he promised he should become stout and strong and should gain the power to get anything he wished. Then he brought the boy back to earth again.

Afterwards when the boy grew up and went hunting he used to see Mee-sing-haw-lee-kun riding on a buck, herding the deer together and giving his peculiar call 'Ho-ho-ho.'