Wednesday, September 30, 2009


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.

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.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The leaping monsters of the Brandywine Valley

On January 21, 1932 James McCandless, walking near the town of Eagle in Chester County, Pennsylvania, saw a "hideous form, half-man, half-beast, on all fours, and covered with dirt or hair". A short time later, two employees of a nursery near Dorlan reported that they were frightened by a monstrous leaping thing, "neither man nor beast", which approached them. A McCandless and a hunting party canvassed the Dorlan area but found no sign of the creature - nary a track, nor any sign of exactly where it came from, or went.

I cannot tell whether the McCandless sighting, recounted by Loren Coleman in Mysterious America, and the Dorlan sightings, from Ghost Stories of Chester County by Charles Adams III refer to two separate incidents or one. But as Coleman notes that others reported sighting the creature before McCandless organized the hunting party, I have assumed the were different ones.

The "Dorlan Devil", as it was known, vanished for a few years before reappearing to be witnessed by Cydney Ladley, a Downingtown man who was travelling to Milford Mills. Ladley reported that the creature was similar to "an oversized kangaroo with long black hair and eyes like red saucers" and a passenger in his car confirmed his sighting. Ladley reported that the animal leaped across the road in a single bound and vanished into some marshland. Like McCandless, Ladley organized a party to search for the beast but came up empty-handed. The site of Ladley's sighting is now submerged beneath the waters of Marsh Creek Lake.

(The red eyes are a typical feature of Pennsylvania Bigfoot reports, and a high degree of agility is also reported on occasion. The Bigfoot seen at Latrobe, in Westmoreland County near Pittsburgh, in August of 1973 was reported to take enormous leaps.)

But these were not the only sightings of leaping monstrosities in Chester County and surrounding areas. On February 15, 1939, Sylvester Scott reported seeing a creature which leapt like a deer and made horrible wailing sounds from nearby Coatesville, and another wailing creature haunted the Sheep's Hill neighborhood near Pottstown, in Montgomery County ("Montie the Monster" may have been a black panther) in November, 1945. The Pennsylvania Bigfoot Society recorded that eerie screams, assumed to be those of a Bigfoot, were heard near Schwenksville in the 1990s. As Schwenksville is near Pottstown, perhaps they weren't.

In the southern portions of Chester County, near the Delaware state line, a dense forest called the Devil's Woods in urban legend stretches off of Cossart Road. Behind the typical urban legend standbys of Satanic ritual, inbreeding and phantom pick-up trucks are traditions of humanoid creatures haunting the woods - possibly yet another link in the riddle of the leaping monstrosities of the Brandywine Valley.

Sandhill cranes and pelicans

The Lancaster Intelligencer Journal/New Era ran a story on August 18, 2009 on sightings of brown pelicans and that old stand-by of cryptozoological reports, the sandhill crane, in Lancaster County.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Suscon Screamer

Pennsylvania has many urban legends which may be based upon cryptozoological phenomena. One of these is the legend of what is called the Suscon Screamer. The screaming thing is reputed to haunt the area around where the Susquehanna Railroad once crossed over Suscon Road south of Wilkes-Barre. The former bridge is also known among locals as the Boo-Boo Bridge or, more ominously, the Black Bridge.

Unearthly screams have been heard reverberating through the forests near the little town of Suscon for generations and some residents have even phoned the Pittston Township police to complain of the shrieks.

Some versions of the story, in traditional ghost story fashion, have it that a ghostly female haunts the area, whether it be a victim of a car crash, a love-crossed suicide, or one of the ubiquitous phantom hitch-hikers.

One of the more popular versions has it that the tiny town is haunted by a porcine swamp monster that emerged from one of the surrounding bogs. In the 1970s, the Wilkes-Barre Times-Leader reported that a local hunter heard something tramping around through the trees. Through his binoculars, he saw something
...about 6' long with a long snout. It weighed about 200 pounds and was gray in color. It had webbed feet with long claws and had a huge head...the ground was clawed up as if 100 turkeys had gone through.
This sighting was actually investigated by the Pennsylvania Game Commission, although the hunter refused to take the investigators to the area due to fear of the monster. The hunter did, however, say that the creature he saw was neither bear nor coyote.

The Pennsylvania Bigfoot Society has recorded that in May of 1976, there was a sighting of a group of four 6' brown humanoids at one of the lakes south of Suscon. There were also sightings recorded from Harveyville, also in Luzerne County (1984), and also from Dickson City immediately north of Scranton, in neigboring Lackawanna County (2003).

Another popular version has it that the Screamer was actually a panther that escaped from a circus train; although the specific date of this supposed crash is unknown, older residents of Suscon still remembered it, at least as of 1995 (when Pocono Ghosts, Legends and Lore by Charles Adams III and David Seibold was published). If this identity of the Screamer were true, by this late date it would doubtless be the cat's restless phantom.

A bit more on the Trenton gator

The article appearing in the September 3, 2009 edition of the Trentonian, which was captured in the Trenton, NJ's Stacy Park, contains a quote from Jose Munoz, an animal control officer employed by the city, who noted that the alligator seen in the waters of the Log Basin was larger than the one captured. He said that several witnesses, as well, felt that the caged alligator was not the same one they had seen in the waters - the city's plan was to reset the cage traps after removing the reptile in case there was another one present.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

More on the Tiger of Uniontown

The Pittsburgh Daily Courier ran an article on September 3, 2009 that went more in-depth about the sightings of a 'tiger' in Uniontown, Fayette County:
Call it a case of mistaken identity. Fayette County 911 received calls Tuesday evening of a tiger on the loose in the area of Carr and Rankin Air Shaft roads in North Union.

The "tiger" had not escaped from the Wild Animal Orphanage nor from Camelot Veterinary Clinic, both run by Dr. William Sheperd. All their big cats were accounted for. The cat was considerably smaller -- a domestic tabby.

No tiger was ever on the loose. No cougar was spotted, said authorities. Both the state Game Commission and Camelot Veterinary were swamped with calls about the animal.

A couple spotted the feline at 6:15 p.m. Tuesday and called 911 after 9 p.m.

Karen Osler, big-cat handler and wild-animal caretaker for the Wild Animal Orphanage, said she went to the house where a man and a woman had seen the animal, which they described to her as "bright orange."

"The woman told me at first it was a fox because it was so orange," Osler said. "She said it was maybe 2 feet long, 3 feet with its long tail. She said they'd seen it since June."

Osler did not identify the man or the woman.

Sheperd was on call to tranquilize the "tiger" and give it a home or release it, with permission of the Game Commission. Osler did not spot the cat Tuesday night, although a line of people armed with spotlights, rifles and pitch forks were gathering near the residence as she was leaving.

Osler received a second call from the pair Wednesday evening ,saying they had seen the same tiger again.

"I'm looking for this tiger," Osler said. "Dr. Sheperd is ready to come and tranq it. I look and about 100 yards away, it's an orange tabby cat walking in the field -- a short-haired, domestic tabby. I got 10 feet away from the cat, to show them a size comparison. The cat bolted about 20 feet away and stopped. It was 12 to 15 pounds -- an average tom cat."

Osler said cougars have been spotted in the area. She said she saw one near Camelot Veterinary five years ago, but they have tawny coats and avoid being spotted.

"I would rather be wrong than for it to be a displaced or misplaced exotic feline," she said, referring to the orange tabby.

Osler said she might return today with a humane trap and some food to remove the tom cat from the area.

"It's just amazing to me how the rumor has spread," she said. "People were locking up their pets and livestock, and a farmer in Lemont Furnace said three of his cows were attacked -- I would like to see those cows."

Osler said bear hunters sometimes misjudge distance and shoot what they think is a large black bear and end up shooting a cub that is closer than they thought. She also said she has encountered people who generalize and identify all feline species as "tigers."

"I don't doubt they believed what they saw was a tiger," she said.

"I'm hoping the community can calm down. It was a tabby cat. All our exotic cats are accounted for," Osler said.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Jacobs Photos - Bigfoot or bear?

In late 2007, the media was abuzz about a series of photographs taken by a stationary trail camera with an infrared flash set up by Rick Jacobs in northwestern Pennsylvania. The camera captured a few photos of what were clearly bear, followed by two images (one of these is above) which many feel show a Bigfoot in a hunched position. The creature in the photos was apparently about the size of an adult bear, although analysis of limb ratios was more in line with a primate identity.

The explanation offered by the Game Commission was that the photographs depicted a bear afflicted with mange (the BFRO website feature on the Jacobs Photos includes a photograph of a mangy bear).

Couple catches a cougar - or is it? - on film

WPXI reported that in October of 2007, Bill and Mindy Shearer of South Buffalo Township, Armstrong County, Pennsylvania, spotted what they believed was a mountain lion near their home. They said that the creature was lying and rolling on its back and they were certain it was a cat, not a dog or deer. The explanation, of course, was offered that it was an escapee pet.

Unforttunately, my computer won't run the associated video of their sighting, so I can't offer any opinion on it. Interested readers can find the video at the above link.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Another Bay manatee reported

The Annapolis Capital for July 20, 2009 reported that another manatee had been seen in the waters of the Chesapeake Bay near the mouth of the Susquehanna River. Policeman Marcus Rodriguez said he saw the aquatic mammal in the waters of a marina in Havre de Grace, Maryland. Rodriguez said that the manatee nosed around among aquatic weeds for a bit and then swam away.

The manatee was identified as an individual dubbed Ilya. Previous sightings of Ilya had been recorded only from the manatee's more typical Southern waters. By August of 2009 a manatee identified as Ilya had ranged as far north as Cape Cod, in Massachusetts.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Coatesville Creature

Loren Coleman reported on Cryptomundo on an old account of something near Coatesville, Pennsylvania - from the Lebanon Daily News, February 15, 1939:
A mysterious animal - described by witnesses as having a small head, a neck a foot long, the jumping ability of a deer and a scream like that of two cats - was reported prowling through Chester county woods today.

There were some who received the reports with skepticism, but Sylvester Scott, 31-year-old farmer, vowed he saw the what-is-it and three times had heard its eerie wail echoing over the countryside. Others said they had been “gunning” for it.

Scott declared the creature appeared one day in a field where he was spreading fertilizer.

“It stood two or two and a half feet off the ground,” he said. “It was colored like a deer in front, with white on the flanks. It had paws, remember, and not hoofs.

“It jumped just like a deer, about two feet up in the air. It had a very small head on the end of its neck, which was a foot long anyway. It was a fast runner, all right. It ran away from my dogs - beagles - and they didn’t seem to want to follow. Neither did I.”

One hunter said he thought it was a charmois [chamois], while others declared it might be some sort of a African Springbok.

“It screams only at night,” said Scott. “Once I fired my shotgun at the place where the noise was coming from, but it got away. Others have heard its wail, which does not seem to come directly from the monster itself, but issues in an unearthly scream all around you.”
The periodical Doubt (the account is repeated in Pursuit) places a "monster described as a cross between a giraffe, a dog and a deer, that wails like a woman" in Coatesville in February, 1946. Whether it is an error in transcription of this account or whether it is a separate one, I don't know.

Montie the Monster

In November of 1945, residents of Pottstown, Pennsylvania reported sightings of a bizarre creature in the Sheep's Hill area. The monster was dubbed Montie. The beast raided hen houses, and frightened children with his growls: it supposedly "cried like a baby", by one account. Others attribute screams, barks, wails and hyena-like laughs to the creature. Although likewise described physically in many ways, most seemed to agree that it was black with a long tail. This appearance, along with the sounds it made, make it likely to have been one of the typically-seen black cougars.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Lenape Stone

The so-called Lenape Stone, likely an ornamental gorget of the type often buried with notable warriors, was discovered by Barnard Hansell in 1872 (a second piece was discovered in 1881) near Wycombe, Pennsylvania. The carvings on the stone depict traditional motifs such as fish, birds, and turtles and also what appears to be a mammoth or mastodon, types of prehistoric elephants. Several members of the Bucks County Historical Society, among them H.C. Mercer, examined the stone carving. Mercer was a proponent of the stone's authenticity, although that was called into question as early as 1884. The following is an excerpt of a letter from D.G. Brinton, an archaeologist and ethnologist from the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia:
Certain artistic details, as the lightnings shooting in various directions from a central point (as from the hand of Jove), were also unknown to the art notions of the red race. The treatment of the sun as a face, with rays shooting from it, I also consider foreign to the pictography of the Delaware Indians, nor have I yet seen any specimens proved to be of their manufacture that present it. It is found, indeed, in Chippeway pictography, but there only in late examples.

The execution of such imitations also usually betrays their origin. The lines on the Lenape Stone are obviously cut with a metal instrument, making clean incisions, deepest in the centre and tapering to points-quite different from the scratch of a flint point. Shrewder fabricators than the unknown author of this one make use of flint points. Some of the Western 'tablets' have been so inscribed. They may thus conceal their tools, but there are other resources for the archaeologist. The surface of all stones undergoes a certain chemical change on exposure to the air, which is called by the French term patine. In many varieties, as flints, jasper, and hard shales, this affords a decisive means of discriminating a modern from an ancient inscription or arrow-head. It requires the use of the microscope and some practice, but with these most of such impostures can be detected.
Several other scholars were of a similar feeling, that the Lenape Stone was hoaxed. Some have noted that the stone was broken, and that the mammoth carving does not align properly when the halves are joined.

The Lenape Stone is currently housed in the Mercer Museum in Doylestown.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

More mangy foxes in Maryland

The Towson (MD) Times carried a story on September 9 about an upswing in sightings of foxes with mange. Both Pennsylvania's 'Yardley Yeti' and the Maryland 'Hyote' are mangy foxes.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Chesapeake loggerhead

The Baltimore Sun reported on August 14 about a sighting of a loggerhead turtle in the Chesapeake Bay off of Kent Island. This is interesting in regards to sightings of Chessie that have taken place in that part of the Bay.
Imagine sitting in a small boat in quiet, open water on the Chesapeake Bay and peering down into the murky depths, when suddenly a massive SOMETHING breaks the surface right in front of you, not four feet away.

That's what Jack Cover reports happened to him this week as he was out on Eastern Bay, not far from Kent Island. Cover, general curator for the National Aquarium, was looking for comb jellies to add to the aquarium's jellyfish exhibit.

Cover reports in his blog that his gaze was diverted briefly by a cownose ray swimming on the surface in the distance, when without warning "a big object lauched out of the water like a polaris missile." His initial shocked reaction was that a diver was surfacing, then he recognized this was a marine diver - a loggerhead turtle.

"It was the strangest experience,'' Cover told me. He says he wasn't the only one startled, either. The sea turtle, after gasping for air, took one look at him and dove back under water. He watched it surface again four more times, each time farther away.

It's a rare treat to see a loggerhead this far up the bay. Cover says they're seen more often in the lower bay, drawn in from the Atlantic in a quest for horseshoe crabs and blue crabs to feed upon.

But it may become rarer still to see the big sea turtles anywhere in the bay, or elsewhere along the Atlantic coast for that matter. A group of biologists reviewing the status of loggerheads for the National Marine Fisheries Service has found that their populations off both the Atlantic and Pacific U.S. coasts are in danger of extinction. The chief threat is from being unintentionally caught in fishing gear, primarily commercial longlines but also gillnets. Their nesting beaches also are under pressure. Dustin Cranor of Oceana, a Washington-based environmental group, reports that Florida officials say this year was one of the worst on record for sea turtle nesting there, in one of their prime areas for laying eggs.

Oceana and other conservation groups have petitioned the federal government to declare loggerhead populations on those two coasts endangered and to impose protective measures. For more, go here and here.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Chessie the sea monster

'Chessie' is the name given to the sea serpent that supposedly inhabits the waters of Maryland's Chesapeake Bay. While the first confirmed sighting of a reptilian oddity that may or may not have been Chessie took place in 1933, the sighting of a 'dragon' on the Patuxent River, legends of a reptilian monster haunting the confluence of the Piscataway Creek and the Potomac River date back to the 1800s. Chessie was sighted in 1965 swimming in the South River near Annapolis. In 1977, it was sighted where the Potomac empties into the Chesapeake, and in 1978 the serpent returned to haunt Calvert Cliffs. That same year, something left three-toed tracks near Leonardtown on the Potomac. Sightings continued throughout the late 1970s and early 1980s. In 1982, Robert Frew filmed a 'giant eel' off of Love Point, on Kent Island. Reports of Chessie have died off since the 1980s. Leatherback turtles in the waters of the bay have been mistaken for Chessie, and a manatee which made its way into the Chesapeake in the 1990s was nicknamed Chessie after the monster.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Montauk Monster follow-up; was it a hoax?

Fox News has reported that an anonymous Internet poster claims to have hoaxed the Montauk Monster from summer, 2008. The man claims to have found a dead raccoon, which he and his friends burnt and sent into the sea. The monster was found on a beach near Montauk, New York. Theories on its identity ranged from an alien, to a dead raccoon or dog, to an escapee experiment from the Plum Island animal disease research center.

A grasshopper of a different hue

English newspaper The Sun reports on the discovery of an aberrant grasshopper:
A SCHOOLBOY has stumbled on a rare PINK grasshopper.

Eagle-eyed Daniel Tate, 11, was taking part in the first Minibeasts in the Marshes event at Seaton Marshes, Devon, when he came across the little hopper.

Experts say it is a common green grasshopper which just happens to be pink.

Daniel said: "I was looking for grasshoppers when I saw something pink.

"I thought it was a flower but I saw it moving, so I tried to catch it. It jumped so then I knew it was a grasshopper.

"I was really excited to hear that no one else had found a pink grasshopper at that place before."

James Chubb, education ranger for East Devon council, said: "There are billions of meadow grasshoppers across England but this is the first pink one I have ever seen.

"It is caused by a genetic mutation in its reproductive cycle.

"It's almost a full adult, so it has survived this long being bright pink there is a chance it will live to reproduce and pass on its pink gene."

Thursday, September 10, 2009

An alligator in Allentown

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on September 10 that an alligator had been found in Allentown, Pennsylvania:
One week after a 4-foot alligator was snared in a Trenton pond, a much larger cousin was caught in Allentown.

Early yesterday afternoon, a passerby reported seeing a 6-foot gator sunning itself on the bank of Jordan Creek in a busy park with a playground, basketball courts and baseball fields.

"We formulated a little bit of plan," said Police Capt. Stephen Mould. "I think it was based primarily on what we watched with The Crocodile Hunter" - the TV series hosted by Steve Irwin before the Aussie was killed by a stingray's barb.

After the gator's neck was snared in a loop of rope at the end of a pole, one of the police or animal control officers straddled the creature and forced its head down as it thrashed its tail. Tape secured the jaws, rope the legs.

"He looks healthy. He's nice and fat and sassy," said Gary Lee, a reptile lover from Emmaus, who said he'd probably keep it in a bathtub until he could find a home, perhaps at a Poconos reptile farm.

The critter, probably an abandoned or escaped pet, seemed to be about 10 to 15 years old, Lee told the Allentown Morning Call.

It was estimated to weigh about 130 pounds.

The Trenton gator, recovered by state biologists on Sept. 2, was lured into a big trap using chicken legs and chicken livers, according to Darlene Yuhas, spokeswoman for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Matawan maneaters: a New Jersey horror

On the evening of July 1, 1916, Charles Vansant was swimming in the surf off Beach Haven in Ocean County (New Jersey) when he was attacked by a shark, which stripped the flesh from his left thigh. He died about an hour later. The second attack took place on July 6, when Charles Bruder was attacked off Spring Lake; he bled to death before the lifeguards even returned him to shore. But for all this, the horror was about to come even closer to home.

On July 12, 12-year old Lester Stillwell and other boys were playing at the Wyckoff Dock on Matawan Creek near the town of Matawan, some 16 miles inland. While there, the boys saw an 'old black weather-beaten board or a weathered log' which turned out, unfortunately, to be a shark. Stillwell was pulled underwater and killed; people attempted to rescue the boy. One of these, Watson Fisher, was also killed by the shark as he swam in search of the boy's body. Half an hour later and a half mile away, another young boy, Joseph Dunn, was attacked by a shark, but survived.

An 8-foot long great white shark was killed by Michael Schleisser in Raritan Bay near the mouth of Matawan Creek. It was widely reported that Schleisser's kill was the maneater, although differing opinions surfaced - in 1916, Barrett Smith wrote that it could have been a sea turtle, rather than a shark - an odd theory, to be sure. In modern times, biologists Richard Ellis and George Llano both feel that the shark may have been a bull shark (which can survive in fresh water) although ichthyologist George Burgess notes that Matawan Creek was extremely brackish and a great white may still be to blame.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Supposed thunderbird photo debunked

Cryptomundo has reported that in July of 2007 a photograph purportedly of a thunderbird was taken from an apartment building in Bethel Park, Pennsylvania. The bird was apparently flying at the head of a thunderstorm. However, Loren Coleman and many other of the site's readers identified the photo as being of not a bird, but of the top of one of the large lights in the parking lot which just happened to appear to be a bird heralding the storm.

Short, white creature seen in Carbondale

Cryptomundo reports that a four-foot tall, long-haired, white Bigfoot was witnessed in a wooded area near a mine in Carbondale, Pennsylvania during the summer of 2008. The report was treated none-to-seriously by the local media. Local investigators report that there had been rumors of screams and other sounds from that patch of woods for years.

The story of the Snallygaster

The Blue Ridge Mountains are home to Maryland's own version of the more famous Jersey Devil, the Snallygaster (derived from the German schnellegeist or 'fast spirit'). The Snallygaster was first sighted in 1909, during the major 'flap' of sightings of its New Jersey cousin, although traditions of it reputedly dated back much further. The creature was winged, beaked and clawed. A James Harding saw the creature, and claimed it had one eye and the features of a tiger and a vampire. In 1932, George Danforth and Charles Cushwa, two revenue agents, saw the beast lying dead in a moonshine still. Its body was destroyed. Perhaps its fate - drowned in homemade whiskey - was an indicator of the whole story's origin.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The transparent thing

The Paranormal News reports that in August of 2009, near Route 15 in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, a strange humanoid apparition was seen. The creature descended from a tree and ran across the witness' yard. It was about three feet tall, with skinny legs and bird-like feet. The witness described the creature as nearly transparent in appearance.

A black-eyed hairy monster in Uniontown

The Paranormal News reports that on July 10, 2009 a hominid encounter was reported from Uniontown, Pennsylvania. The report was investigated by the Pennsylvania Bigfoot Society, who found that at around 6:00 PM, the witness' car swerved to avoid hitting a figure which approached the road. After a few moments, she saw the creature again running down the roadway. She described a dark humanoid shape, 6 feet or taller, She reported that the entire face wss hairy, and that the creature had round, black eyes with no apparent irises. The long-armed creature had a flat black nose, no visible mouth, and a head that was oddly elongated. Upon investigation, a series of scratches on the car's trunk were found.

Eric Altman of the Pennsylvania Bigfoot Society also reported that the witness described the being as more of a canine hominid than a Bigfoot.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

'Tiger' in western Pennsylvania reported on September 2, 2009 that a 'tiger' had been seen in Uniontown, Pennsylvania and elsewhere.
Some residents in Fayette County swear they've seen a tiger on the loose.

State police said they're keeping an eye out for the beast after sightings came in from all across the city.

Dispatchers said people calling in about the alleged tiger swamped their switchboard on Tuesday night.

However, on Thursday, the Pennsylvania State Police said a large cat expert from the wildlife sanctuary in Grindestone viewed the reported tiger and determined it was a tabby house cat of normal size.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A white otter in Scotland

The CFZ News blog has reported on the discovery of a white otter in Scotland:
An otter charity has said an image of a rare albino otter has been captured by an amateur wildlife photographer.

Karen Jack said the sight of the white animal eating a fish on rocks in Moray was "surreal".

Grace Yoxon, of the Skye-based International Otter Survival Fund (IOSF) said the otter was "extremely rare".

Ms Jack had to wait for the animal to reappear from the sea after catching a quick glimpse of it earlier.

She said: "I have been into photography for about three years as a hobby and love photographing wildlife, landscapes and my two cats.

"But it was just an amazing and surreal view of the albino otter, and for it to sit there and eat while we watched on was mind blowing."

Mrs Yoxon added: "It is extremely rare to see albino animals in the wild and to be able to get such wonderful photos is exceptional.

"Karen was extremely lucky to have her camera with her - I am very envious."

In March, IOSF took into its care an otter which latched on to two teenagers who were sledging, then followed them home.

The cub was spotted in snow under a bush at Windygates, Fife, in February.

He was nicknamed Dylan because one of the youngsters was playing a harmonica - an instrument synonymous with singer Bob Dylan.

South American pacu caught near Brownstown

Lancaster Online reported on September 1 about the capture of a South American fish in the Conestoga near Brownstown, Pennsylvania:
Eric Laubach and Steve Bergstrom both thought there was something fishy about the "sunfish" Eric's 5-year-old son, Jake, hauled out of the Conestoga River Sunday evening.

"We were catching some nice sunnies, but this one was a lot bigger than the others," Bergstrom said.

Holding the 12-inch-long fish in his hand as he prepared to remove the hook from its mouth, Laubach got a look at the fish's jaws.

That's when he saw teeth.

"I knew Steve used to have piranhas, so I said to him, 'You gotta look at this, I think it's a piranha,' " Laubach said.

Bergstrom seconded his friend's identification, but noticed "that thing was a lot bigger than any piranha I ever had."

Based on the shape of the fish's teeth and its overall size, however, it most likely is a red-bellied pacu.

Piranhas have a protruding lower jaw lined with triangular teeth used for tearing apart flesh.

The lower jaw of a pacu is flush with its upper jaw and its teeth are closer to square than triangular. Pacus will eat anything, but prefer fruits and vegetables, according to the state Fish and Boat Commission's Web site.

And while a 12-inch-long piranha would be about as big as that species is known to grow, a foot-long pacu is a common length for that fish, which can grow to more than 25 inches.

Pacu or piranha — neither one belongs in the Conestoga River.

Both fish are native to South America, but are commonly kept in aquariums in North America.

Red-bellied pacus have been caught in the Conestoga River before. Officials with the Fish and Boat Commission have said in the past the tropical fish likely were pets released into the wild by their owners — an illegal act in Pennsylvania.

Thinking the fish was a piranha, Laubach and Bergstrom didn't feel comfortable returning Jake's catch to the Conestoga River behind Bergstrom's house on Riveredge Drive in Manheim Township.

So they took it into the house and put it in an aquarium kept by 5-year-old Wells Bergstrom, who was fishing with Jake at the time the fish was caught.

When the men did some research on the fish, they found a notice on the Fish and Boat Commission's Web site that stated such fish should be removed from the wild when caught.

"We called the Game Commission (Monday) and they told us not to put it back, too," said Bergstrom's wife, Tonya.

The fish died in Jake's aquarium Monday, and Bergstrom was considering having it mounted by a taxidermist.

"It sure is going to be something to talk about for a long time," he said.
Note the article says this isn't the first time this species has been found...

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

How big do otters get?

In the BioFortean Review (November 2006), Chad Arment reports on a huge otter killed near Portage, Maine in 1949.
Portage, Dec. 3. (AP)—The otter Walter Bolstridge trapped may have been the giant of the otter world.

Game Warden Wilfred L. Atkins said the animal's glossy pelt measured 66 inches long. The average otter is about 40 inches.

And Bolstridge said that before being skinned, the huge otter was about 76 inches long from the tip of its nose to the end of its tail.

State Fish and Game Commissioner George J. Stoble said an otter as big as Bolstridge's trophy may be a world's record.

Bolstridge caught the otter recently on the Big Fish River, between Portage and St. Froid Lakes, in Northern Maine.

Mink trapping was disappointing in the area in the month-long season that ended last Wednesday. Rain and snow hampered trappers.

At Hollis, Alfred Hall, 78-year-old coon hunter, also took a good-sized otter this week that his coon dogs had tracked for some distance at night through the brush.

The dogs cornered the animals in a thicket and Hall shot it with a 22-caliber pistol, after one of his two hounds had been badly mauled by the animal.
As river otters have been shown to be extant in Pennsylvania, 6+ foot specimens are certainly relevant to any monster reports...

What lies behind The Village

In 2004, writer-director M. Night Shyamalan, a native of Philadelphia, released The Village. The film features red-cloaked humanoids that dwell in a forest outside a small village (hence the clever name). However, not very many people realize that there are, indeed, stories about the woods where it was filmed.

The woods in question are, in fact, the Devil's Woods, along Cossart Road near Chadd's Ford. The Devil's Woods are home to the infamous "skull tree" of Pennsylvania lore. The story goes that the Cult House (a large structure in the forest) was once the home of the wealthy DuPonts. In true urban legend fashion, the woods are host to all sorts of Satanic ritual, animal sacrifice, and the infamous black SUVs that chase the curious away.

The woods are also reputed to be home to monstrous, inbred creatures, the products of some of the rituals that took place there. Although doubtless an urban legend with little if any truth, it is interesting nonetheless - The Village was based on at least quasi-fact, or what passes for fact in the minds of many.