Friday, September 23, 2011

The devil went down to Maryland (1909)

From the Denton (Md.) Journal, January 30, 1909:
The “what-is-it” that made its first appearance in Greensboro on or about January 16th has been the subject of a great deal of speculation. What is the thing whose tracks are so much like those of a horse or mule, and travels where horses and mules cannot possibly go? Some of the footprints seemed to show that the hoof making them wore an iron shoe, even to the nails in the shoe. Many of these tracks were observed in Greensboro on the 17th inst., and were viewed carefully by many good-thinking citizens of the community, including Messrs. Joseph B. Orrell, R.D. Clark, William Sipple, Rev. J.H. Beauchamp, and a number of others. Nearly every garden in Greensboro bore marks of the presence of the strange animal. Some people are afraid they will meet it along the road, but many regard the thing as a myth, although none can give any explanation at all of the presence of the tracks. It is said it has but little use for some colored people, and dogs are so afraid of it that they will not go near its tracks. The animal, the writer was told, passed through a porch near town, knocking out the watch-dog, but was so swift in its movements that it could not be seen. It left traces of remarkable speed all about the place.

That the “air-horse” did not confine his operations to Greensboro seems to be proven by a Goldsboro correspondent, who writes: “The 'what-is-it' kept our people guessing for a week or ten days, and some of our timid and nervous ones in of nights. None, however, had the opportunity of making its acquaintance or of meeting it in combat.”

The accompanying drawing was made by Mr. J.V. Hauck, the Philadelphia Bulletin artist, from descriptions given him. The animal, bird or devil is said to be about three feet and a-half high, with a head like a collie dog and a face like a horse. It has a long neck, wings several feet in length, and back and legs like a crane, with horse's or mule's hoofs. It walked on its hind legs and held up two short front ones, with paws on them. Those who saw the creature said it didn't use the front legs at all while they were watching.

For some time after the jabberwock's tracks appeared it is said several well-known citizens did not like to leave the fireside's cheerful glow after the shades of night had fallen. If they were called away late in the afternoon they did not tarry; they wanted to go home – and they went.

One theorist has it that these strange visitors are from the fathomless caverns deep in the earth, and that the upheavals caused by the great earthquake in Southern Europe set them free, and that they are thus, as Shakespeare says, “doomed for a while to walk the night.”

The Centreville Observer last week said: “Rivalling in mystery and wonderment the days when hobgoblins and grotesque figures followed in the wake of giants that were then supposed to abound, is the strange animal which for the past few days has infested the districts of Barclay, Sudlersville and Roberts. Although evident everywhere by its tracks, not a single person has laid eyes upon the creature, human or supernatural, whatever it may be. The tracks first became noticeable after the snow of last week, first in Sudlersville and afterwards in the two other towns. In Sudlersville and Barclay the tracks were mostly in open fields close to woods, althoguh they were seen right in the heart of the former place. Upon coming to a woods the tracks vanish, leaving the impression that the animal might be a gorrilla [sic] or some climbing creature. At Roberts only was the size of the creature anywhere near ascertainable, and then the facts were brought out so vividly and startlingly that the tracks were soon abandoned by curiosity ridden hunters. The tracks came from the woods near Roberts, passed across an open field and under a bunch of brush only about two feet high, without disturbing it in the least, and passed between two trees not more than six inches apart. The prints are almost eight inches apart and are shaped like a hoof, being about 2 ½ inches wide and a little longer. Some have believed that it is the evil one prowling about in their vicinities, but as yet no signs of horns, pitchforks, or other necessary accompaniments have been discovered. Persons of a less superstitious nature think that it is some animal that has escaped from a passing show and spent the winter there.”

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Clarion County whatzit (1940)

Several representatives of a Pittsburgh zoo have joined residents in the Leeper and Snydersburg area in search for a strange animal said to have been seen in the district, according to reports received from Leeper. The animal is said to be about the size of a sheep with a head resembling that of a pig and a tail resembling that of a cow.

:: Warren Times-Mirror (August 5, 1940)

It's not made clear, but this seems to have been in Clarion County and in a pretty funky turn of coincidence, the article immediately below this one on the page mentions a state policeman named K.W. Leeper.

As to exactly what the creature was, I'm drawing somewhat of a blank. The piglike head summons up images of ursines, and its presumably possible that it could have been a mangy bear with a tufted tail similar to a cow's (though it wouldn't have been long enough) but it's also possible that it was a coyote. Coyotes possibly began to appear in Pennsylvania around this time (notwithstanding Henry W. Shoemaker's theories that some of what were historically called wolves in Pennsylvania were actually coyotes), probably either a mangy one or one with a tail denuded for some reason.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The summer of exotic animals (1987)

The summer of 1987 saw several tales of 'alien animals' in Bucks County, just north of Philadelphia.

A monkey was seen on July 15 in a cornfield along State Road in the area of Cutoff Road. A motorist driving the road said that a monkey "with an armful of sweet corn" ran across the road and into a wooded area. Police questioned farmers as to sightings of the monkey, but none had made any - unless it was the troublesome primate which had stolen no less than four rows of corn from one field.

(It should be noted that another erratic ape - the so-called "Monk" - seen in Latrobe in 1945 had a similar hankering for corn.)

But by Wednesday of that week, the monkey had moved on and was reported from the part of the township nearest the Lehigh County border. Shortly after ten o'clock that morning, the monkey had crossed the border into Coopersburg, Lehigh County where it was seen a few times scampering along on people's porches and splashing through swimming pools.

This monkey, though, was only "aping" a previously made sighting. On July 6, another monkey - this one a rhesus - was seen in East Rockhill Township in the area of Old Bethlehem Pike and Rich Hill Road. But while it might be tempting to speculate that the East Rockhill and Springfield monkeys were the same, such was apparently not the case as sightings of both were made on the same day. Most likely these monkeys were escapees from animal testing outfits (the Buckshire Corporation, which is involved in animal testing, is located in nearby Dublin and a monkey which roamed the area in 1984 was an escapee from Buckshire).

On about July 16, a two-foot long iguana was captured hiding in a bush in Doylestown. However, it was discovered that the reptile was one which had escaped from its owner on July 9.

Only two days after the saga of the Bucks/Lehigh monkey began, on July 17, two policemen in Nockamixon Township reported seeing a panther. Police later received many other reports of the large feline. A local store jokingly put a $100 bounty on the head of the cat, but that was later retracted after complaints from the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

On the same day that the monkey crossed into Lehigh, officials from the Philadelphia Zoo declared that the tracks of the "panther," which had been recovered, were merely those of a large dog. However, they were careful not to discount the possibility of some sort of large cat frequenting the area. The area is favorably close to where Tunis Brady shot his cat.

The next day, police in Bedminster Township reported that "People just called in... to say they saw a 24-inch long bobcat or panther. The people approached the animal. It let them get close and then scurried away."

Even the size of this one tallies well with a smallish bobcat or domestic cat. As many folks have shown time and time again, a large domestic cat is all that many reported "panthers" turn out to be.