Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Wild Men of Rockaway Beach

"Wild, Weird Man Scares Rockaway" trumpeted the November 29th, 1893 edition of the New York Herald, a suiting way to describe the uproar the community of Rockaway Beach experienced in the fall of that year. A strange wild man was stalking the town, attacking people in the neighborhood and breaking into homes to steal food. Mass panic seized Rockaway Beach, with rumors running wild that the beast was devouring children and fear among the residents due to the fierce nature of the wild man. The strange creature itself was described in the article as being "large of stature, weird in appearance, with fierce, bloodshot eyes, long, flowing, matted hair and a shaggy beard."

It was first seen a week prior to the article by two men, "Red" McDowell and George Farrell, who were in their boat near the Rockaway Inlet shore when the wild man appeared on the beach, yelling wildly and bearing an axe. The men rowed quickly away from the shore and watched as the beast entered the cabin of one Uncle Dicky, an old clamdigger who used the cabin as a summer home.

No mention is made of what happened after this, but the following evening John Louth witnessed the creature "skulking" in the trees while driving through Rockaway Park. The next day, while walking along the same road, his daughter Susie was attacked by what she described as a "ragged and tattered tramp", who knocked her down with a slap on the back and then ran away, issuing loud yells.

The wild man was not seen again until the Friday before the article's publication, when, in the author's own words, "he turned himself loose in dead earnest and nearly ran everybody out of the place". "Bill" Tweedle, a plumber by trade, was the first early on Friday morning, when he reported encountering the wild man, who grabbed his gun and knocked him to the ground, all while clutching a half eaten chicken. Later that morning, "Ned" Tracy also witnessed the beast on the beach, this time eating raw clams. The wild man again ran off, only to return that afternoon to attack John Corning, a house mover, and his assistant William McVay while both men were working near the beach. He descended upon them and hit them with his fists, forcing Corning to fight back and try to grapple with the crazied brute. The creature escaped with the aid of what the newspaper called an "oilskin coat" and dashed away towards Rockaway Point, escaping until that evening when it next attacked the wife of the Rockaway Chief of Police, Mrs. McArthur. She was grabbed from behind by the wild man and brutally choked until one "Fred" Sauer came to her rescue, beating the beast off.

The wild man reappeared the next day, on that Saturday night, when it smashed through the window of a saloon in Rockaway, interrupting a game of cards. This time, the creature held a large cavalry sabre, smashing all the bottles and glasses withing reach while screaming "like a demon" before dashing out the door, leaving his sabre behind. In a fascinating turn of events, two days later "Red" McDowell and a group of young men rowed down to Uncle Dicky's cabin on Rockaway Beach, only to met by the wild man waving a gun, from which he fired a round of buckshot. The group retreated, with Chief McArthur later organizing a group together to go back to the cabin and apprehend the wild man. The results of this expedition remain unknown, as do any follow up reports of the mysterious wild man, although interestingly enough a different version of the preceding events was reported in a later newspaper article. In this later article, the location and basic flow of events remains the same, but some of the names and details have been changed, with "Red" McDowell being changed to Read Rockaway and William McVay being changed to George McVeigh, and Uncle Dicky's cabin being changed in the later story to an abandoned oyster house. The existence of two different articles with slightly different details in both makes things very problematical, as will be discussed below.

Finally, who was this bizarre wild man and what should we make of this bizarre episode? One popular theory at the time was that the wild man was the first mate of the wrecked Maggie Devine (Medicine in the later version), which had ran aground a few weeks prior during a fierce storm with all hands saved, except for James Rush, the mate who was thought drowned. It was thought, however, that he apparently survived the crash and was driven insane by it, emerging a few weeks later to terrorize Rockaway's populace. While it remains impossible to verify this, the use of weapons and the wearing of clothing by the wild man display a level of humanity that makes the "insane sailor" story more plausible. It remains interesting to note that the wild man, according to the article, seemed to lurk on or around Rockaway Beach, more specifically near Uncle Dicky's cabin, as if he was guarding his territory. It is possible that, if the wild man was James Rush, in his insanity he claimed the beach as his territory and attacked those whom he viewed as intruders. Perhaps, even, the wild man was Uncle Dicky himself, since the creature was seen entering his cabin, suggesting a connection to the man that, if followed up upon, was not mentioned in the article. This connection, however, remains frustratingly out of reach, for it would be impossible to follow up on this lead after over a century.

There is of course, one more option: that one or both of the versions may have been newspaper hoaxes created to boost sales. Newspapers in the 19th century were notorious for creating fake stories and passing them off as real simply to make their papers more interesting, since back then there weren't the strict regulations for journalist integrity as there are in contemporary times. The existence of two versions of the story that contain the same basic framework but have some slightly different details between them makes this theory plausible, but at this point all we can do is simply speculate and wonder.

(With my next blog entry, I plan on wrapping up the "wild man" series by examining several reports of wild men that bore a closer resemblance to the beings we know as Bigfoot/Sasquatch than actual human beings. Stay tuned!)

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Primates on Long Island

"Strange things are being seen these days", starts off the July 31, 1895 article in the New York Herald, "on the earth and in the sea - to say nothing of the woods. These are times of sea serpents, huge reptiles, wild men and bogies. Every day brings news that some wild and freakish thing has broken loose."

Bizarre creatures were stomping around on Long Island in those days, showcasing an amount of cryptozoological activity that rivaled what was to be found anywhere else in the country at the time. These were strange times indeed, during which "wildmen" and apelike animals were reported by many residents of the island and terrified them with their nighttime antics and piercing screams. The local newspapers regularly reported on such incidents, usually in a serious and straight forward manner, expressing as much puzzlement over the mysterious happenings as the actual witnesses themselves. These strange sightings defied all common sense, for a breeding population of apes to stay hidden on the island was clearly impossible, and it is unknown whether any zoos or circuses reported missing or escaped apes from their exhibits. Yet, for all their nonsensical nature, these reports continued to be documentated in the press as the people of Long Island persistently witnessed strange apelike creatures that evaded all capture and effort to prove their existence. The following cases, gathered from local newspapers of the time, are a sample of the bizarre events that had occurred on Long Island nearly a century ago in relation to reports of hairy, apelike animals:

Man, Beast or Demon? It's Loose in Amityville (New York Herald Tribune):

Amityville faced a mysterious vandal early in the twentieth century, described in the Tribune article as a "large monkey", who damaged private property and left no evidence behind other than small footprints. These footprints, described as being about eight inches long, not to mention "very spatulate, with long claw marks", were found near the home of a Mrs. Alfred C Abernethy, whose daughter Madeline was a witness. A Mrs. Harry Fajans, who lived nearby to the Abernethy home, also reported footprints found in her lawn, although whether these footprints were found to belong to any known species of animal remains unknown at this time.

According to the Tribune article, the primate reported in Amityville was first seen "about 1 a.m. on Sunday, August 25, by residents of North Massapequa, across the border, in Nassau County". Early September 4th, Ms. Madeline Abernethy reported that she was awakened by "a fearful chattering and yowling under her window, punctuated by the furious barking of the family dog." She later found the footprints, along with scratches on her automobile and that "the dust that covered it revealed the same footprint". Besides the automobile, the monkey also tore up an old fur coat and several mattresses in the outside garbage.

Interestingly enough, it is reported that Nassau County police disproved a report of a escaped chimpanzee from a circus in Farmingdale, demonstrating a rare example of even the officials turning down the "escaped zoo/circus animal" theory that is so routinely troted out in cases of out of place animal reports. There was speculation as to the exact identity of the creature, with guesses ranging from "a gorilla, chimpanzee, orang-outang, or just a man that walks like an ape". If there were any followup cases in Amityville, they still remain unknown for now.

Lion and Big Ape Play I-Spy with Nassau County (June 27, 1931 - New York Herald Tribune):

As reported in Charles Fort's classic book Wild Talents, Mineola in 1931 apparently suffered an epidemic of the maned and hairy kind, with lion and gorilla reports coming in steadily for at least a two month period from the Nassau County town. Indeed, as the author of the piece notes, "The lion and monkey situation in Nassau County is becoming acute and is under serious consideration by the police. More lions and monkeys have been seen loose in the last week, or at least have been seen by more residents of the county, than in any week ending June 26 since the compilation of lion and monkey statistics was started."

Focusing solely on the "monkey" reports for now (the lion issue will be part of a future blog), the creature was variously described as being "about half the size of a heavy set man" and "large and hairy and had a long face, grayish in hue". It is said to have first appeared in Albertson Square, frightening a family when it dropped out of a tree and then scrambled off into some brush alongside the road. It then reappeared two days later, being witnessed by a John Hammond of East Williston before disappearing once again. Patrolman Fred Koehler of the Nassau Country police is stated to have reported "that at least ten persons had seen the animal in the last three days."

Perhaps it is best to quote Mr. Fort (and his unique style of prose) for the history of the gorilla scare:

"And, near Mineola, Long Island, a gorilla was reported.

The first excitement was at Lewis & Valentine's nursery -- story told by half a dozen persons -- an ape that had come out of the woods, had looked them over, and had retreated. It seems that the police hadn't heard of "mass psychology": so they had to explain less learnedly. Several days later, they were so impressed with repeating stories that a dozen members of the Nassau County Police Department were armed with shot guns, and were assigned to ape-duty.

No circus had appeared anywhere near Mineola, about this time; and from neither any Zoo, nor from anybody's smaller menagerie, had the escape of any animal been reported. Ordinarily let nothing escape, or let nothing large, wild, and hairy appear, but let it be called an ape, anyway -- and, upon the rise of an ape-scare, one expects to hear of cows reported as gorillas: trees, shadows, vacancies taking on ape-forms. But -- New York Herald Tribune, June 27th -- Mrs. E.H. Tandy, of Star Cliff Drive, Malverne, reported something as if she had not heard of the ape-scare.(8) She called up the police station, saying that there was a lion in her back yard. The policeman, who incredulously received this message, waited for another policeman to return to the station, and share the joke. Both waited for the arrival of a third disbeliever. The three incredulous policemen set out, several hours after the telephone call, and by that time there wasn't anything to disturb anybody's conventional beliefs, in Mrs. Tandy's back yard. [103/104]

There was no marauding. All the stories were of a large and hairy animal that was appearing and disappearing --
And appearing and disappearing in the vast jungles not far from Mineola, Long Island, were skunks that were coming from lawyers. Some of them were caught and rendered inoffensive by disbarment. There was a capture of several dozen medical hyenas, who had been picking up livings in the trains of bootleggers. It could be that an occurrence, in New Jersey, was not at all special, but represented a slump back toward a state of about simian development. There was an examination of applicants for positions in the schools of Irvington. In mathematics, no question beyond arithmetic was asked; in spelling, no unusual word was listed. One hundred and sixteen applicants took the examination, and all failed to pass.
(9) The average mark was 31.5. The creep of jungle-life stripped clothes from people. Nudists appeared in many places.(10) And it was not until later in the year, that the staunchest opponent of disclosures spoke out in the name of decency, or swaddling -- or when Pope Pius XI refused to receive Mahatma Gandhi, unless he'd put on pants.(11)

Upon the 29th of June, the ape-story was taken so seriously, at Mineola, the Police Captain Earle Comstock ordered out a dozen special motor patrols, armed with revolvers and sawed-off shot guns, with gas and ball ammunition, led by Sergeant Berkley Hyde. A posse of citizens was organized, and it was joined by twenty nurserymen, who were armed with sickles, clubs, and pitchforks. Numerous footprints were found. "The prints seemed to be solely those of the hind feet, and were about the size [104/105] and shape of a man's hand, though the thumb was set farther back than would be the case with a man's hand." However, no ape was seen. As to prior observations, Policeman Fred Koehler, who had been assigned to investigate, reported statements by ten persons.

The animal disappeared, about the last of June. Upon July 18th, it was reported again, and by persons who were out of communication with each other. It was near Huntington, L.I. A nurseryman, named Stockman, called up the police, saying that members of his family had seen an animal, resembling a gorilla, running through shrubbery. Then a farmer, named Bruno, three miles away, telephoned that he had seen a strange animal. Policemen went to both places, and found tracks, but lost them in the woods. The animal was not reported again.

and finally for an oddball report that at first doesn't seem to fit in with the others (and which I am still trying to date):

Shrieking Apparition Rouses Long Island (New York Herald):

As with the population of Liberty, Ohio in 2005 (see here but ignore the idiot reporters), during the 1920s the towns of Quogue, Patchogue, and Eastport were visited by a unknown being that issued high pitched and terrifying screams in the night, drawing comparisons among some residents to the famed banshee of Irish folklore. Sidney Seaman, an engineer, claimed to have heard the cry on multiple occasions and states that while his brothers were out searching for the creature, "They heard a movement in the tangle of underbrush, a loud cry and then the animal went swiftly away from there."

Several different theories competed to establish the identity of the creature, including that it was a type of bird, a panther (which are known to sometimes issue a scream that sounds like the shriek of a woman), a primate of some sort, or, most interestingly, even the Jersey Devil itself (which a decade earlier had caused mass panic in New Jersey). To quote the article (which displays tongue firmly in cheek), "Many of the residents of Westhampton believe that the creature which is making all this adoo is a baboon which, Robinson Crusoe fashion, is said to have come ashore last fall on wreckage of a deep sea bark and to have taken to the woods. An equally reliable source of information ascribes the uproar to a monkey which several months ago escaped from the Douglaston home of Harry Williams, a song writer who is the author of that beautiful lyric entitled 'I'm Afraid to Go Home in the Dark'. The efforts of the animal to sing the words or to extract music from the tune which he heard while it was in the making might in a measure account for the terror of the Long Islanders".

Tongue in cheek explanations aside, what should we make of this report and the ones listed before it? Escaped apes and monkeys from a zoo and/or circus seems the most logical explanation, except there were no reports of escapees and indeed in the Amityville case even the police downplayed the idea. This of course is the persistent problem with the OOP(out of place) animals phenomenon as a whole, for Long Island has no breeding population of apes and certainly none could hide in the wild for very long without being discovered on the island. It is possible that the animals may have escaped from a private collector who chose not to report it, but this idea can only be brought forward so many times before it is made obvious that there would need to be an inexhaustible amount of private collectors to account for all the reports.

It is even possible, albeit very improbable, that at some of the reports may have been of juvenile Bigfoot, for it would explain some of the characteristics of the animals reported in the different cases. Sasquatch have been to issue piercing shrieks that terrify witnesses (as do other strange phenomena: see an example under the article "Ghosts of Long Island" and Loren Coleman's thoughts), and the beginning of the "Shrieking Apparition" article, notes that the beast had "eyes of flame" (although this may be just be a figure of speech). There are quite a few Bigfoot reports (and reports of other strange entities) that mention their "glowing red eyes", although this is often believed to be eye shine due to light reflecting off the eye, and of course a juvenile Bigfoot may very well look like a gorilla or monkey to a startled witness. There have not been any credible Sasquatch reports on the Island since, which is a blow against the theory, but the possibility still remains open, and thus should not be entirely ruled out.

Up Next: The Wildman of Rockaway Beach

Saturday, June 30, 2007

June 24th - St. John's Day

It is always fascinating to observe the frequent amount of anomalous activity that can occur on a given day, especially with how certain days seem to attract bizarre happenings and weird phenomenon more than most of the other 365 days during the year. Whether it is just coincedence or the proper alignment of the stars, these days seem more conducive to producing Fortean phenomena, making them ideal for the Fortean researcher attempting to study the different reported phenomenon and find a connection between it all.

One such day is June 24th, which marked the 60th anniversary of the Kenneth Arnold UFO Sighting, the sighting that sparked off the modern UFO era and first propeled the so called "flying saucers" into the eye of the public. It was thanks to this sighting that more people were willing to come out and admit their UFO sightings , jumpstarting the birth of ufology and leading to widespread public interest in the phenomenon. Besides that landmark sighting, "St. John's Day" ( a major Christian feast day marking the birth of Saint John the Baptist) has seen major UFO activity occur on this day, with most reports being of nocturnal lights and daylight discs, with incidents involving automobiles being a particular motif on this day.

The first such automobile-UFO case on this date occurred in 1964, as described in NICAP's UFO Investigator:

"Fifteen or more disc-shaped objects paced a truck driver and his wife in Vero Beach, Florida in the predawn hours. The discs flew along, tipping back and forth. They formed a V formation, then a circular formation; finally the objects split the formation and passed on either side of a group of trees. (Source: NICAP UFO Investigator, August 1964, p. 1)."

A similar case occurred two years later to a police officer in Virginia, as laid out here by multiple sources:

"Police officer William L. Stevens had a close encounter with a dirigible-shaped object 100 feet long and 30 feet thick at 3:30 a.m. He was driving on the Henrico Turnpike in Richmond, Virginia when the UFO approached. It had alternating white and greenish-yellow lights around its perimeter, and it was surrounded by a mist. It began to play a game of cat and mouse with his police cruiser. "It seemed to be playing with me," he said. It moved away when the officer turned on its flashing lights, maintaining a distance of a few hundred feet. After several minutes it departed, accelerating suddenly and making a high speed vertical climb. (Sources: Richard Hall, Uninvited Guests, p. 261; Gordon I. R. Lore, Jr., UFOs: A New Look, p. 9; Richard F. Haines, CE-5: Close Encounters of the Fifth Kind, p. 164; MUFON UFO Journal, June 1991, p. 12; UNICAT database, case 654, citing James E. McDonald)."

In 1995 a man in the town of Farmingdale, located in Nassau County, New York, encountered a UFO while sitting in his truck:

"A small disc-shaped object hovered over a truck in Farmingdale, New York at 11:30 p.m. at night. The driver could tell the UFO was close because it hovered below the low, overcast sky, so he got out of his vehicle and attempted to chase the UFO on foot, to no avail. (Source: Peter Davenport, National UFO Reporting Center, 1995 archive)."

Besides UFO cases involving automobiles, St. John's Day has also seen a fair share of USO reports, but only one case from 1977 involved actual interaction with the water:

"At one o'clock in the morning a UFO was sighted hovering over the sea from the coastal town of La Caleta, in the Dominican Republic. Sr. Cruz watched as the object extended a tube from its bottom, and then sucked up water. Two occupants could be seen inside the object, viewed through windows in the craft. Sr. Cruz's car engine failed, and he felt a numbing sensation in his arms and legs. (Sources: Leonte Objio, APRO Bulletin, January 1982, p. 6; Stendek, September 1978, p. 5)."

The two other USO cases on this date involved what appeared to be simple observation, with the craft displaying bizarre and complex maneuvers before vanishing off into the distance:

"A woman in Hampton Bay, New York saw something like "a large aircraft" about 30 meters wide flying very slowly and low at 6:30 p.m. It had a lighted red band around the middle and was coming straight toward her house with an oscillating motion. She still thought it was an aircraft of some new design when it stopped near her, only 25 meters above the ground. Then it flew backward over the water and hovered, making the same noise as a swarm of bees. The top section supported a series of red lights and a cabin with four portholes through which a control panel was visible. No occupants were seen. The cabin section rose above the object, rotated, then glided back. The object tilted toward the west and rose toward the southeast, disappearing within three seconds at an 80-degree angle of climb after the three minute long sighting. Two days later a yellowish moss was observed at the site. (Sources: Project Blue Book files counted in official statistics, June 1953, case 22; Jacques Vallee, Passport to Magonia: A Century of Landings, p. 203 (case 112))."

and a 1967 case from Trenton, Maine:

"Two people sighted a silver-gray, hat-shaped object hovering about 500 feet from the shoreline in Trenton, Maine at around 10 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time. It emitted a vapor at its base. The object ascended into a fog bank and descended again at a greater distance before moving away. (Source: Raymond E. Fowler, UFOs Interplanetary Visitors, pg. 349)."

Besides Close Encounters of the First and Second Kind, Close Encounters of the Third Kind have also been reported on this day, including in England (1967) and Argentina (1968):

" A man walking alone at night along a bridal path in Bovington, England came upon a strange figure bent down by the side of the path. The figure was short and was wearing what looked like a black, one-piece leather suit. He had a trowel in his hand and appeared to be digging in the earth. When he noticed the witness approaching the figure made a strange, high-pitched sound and was lost from sight. (Source: David F. Webb and Ted Bloecher, HUMCAT: Catalogue of Humanoid Reports, case 1967-51 (A1559), citing Jenny Randles, Awareness, Winter 1977). "


"A young woman named Torres was awakened at 1:10 a.m. in Laguna Raiva, Santa Fe, Argentina by an intense humming sound. She then noticed an oval-shaped light in the corner of her bedroom and inside the light stood two strangely dressed beings. They both wore metallic diving suits and helmets with visors. One was taller than the other and luminous white beams of light emanated from the tips of the fingers of both entities and from their visors and lower abdomens. Both beings vanished suddenly. (Source: Albert S. Rosales, Humanoid Contact Database 1968, case #822, citing Dr. Oscar A. Galindez, FSR, Vol. 27 # 1)."

The taking of soil samples by alleged UFO occupants has long been a staple of CE3 reports, as is demonstrated here and in the 1975 account which can be found here, among many others. Diving suits, as found in the Argentina case, are characteristic of many reported UFO entities (here, here, and here), with the "bedroom invader" aspect of the case bearing the hallmark of the abduction phenomenon that rose to prominence within the UFO field in the 1960s and has since become a seperate field of study within itself.

Loren Coleman has written extensively on the frequent occurrence of strange happenings on June 24th, devoting an annual blog entry to the subject which lists out all the known reports on this day of strange phenomena. His entry lists many of the strange and Fortean phenomena that have been reported on this day, which cover all the different fields, from ufology to cryptozoology to the very outer boundaries of reality. Here are some of those reports, taken from Coleman's blog entry:

"Knights Templars display “Mysterious Head” at Poitiers (1308). Founding of the Order of the Garter (1348). John Cabot discovers North America (1497). Galileo released (1633). “Woman of the Wilderness” utopian community arrives in America (1694). “W of W” angelic visions (1701). Grand Lodge of Freemasons inaugurated (1717). Ambrose Bierce born (1842). Red rain, Italy (1877). Ice fall, Ft. Lyon, Colorado (1877). Fall of jelly-like mass, Eton (1911). Fred Hoyle born (1915). Mick Fleetwood (1942) and Jeff Beck (1944) born.

First day of “flying saucer” history, Mt. Rainier & Mt. Adams, Washington State - famous Kenneth Arnold sighting - 60th anniversary (1947). Filmstock fire kills seventeen people, Brussels (1947). Movie theaters evaluated during huge fire, Perth Amboy, NJ (1947). United Airlines plane struck by lightning over Cleveland (1947). Invasion of grasshoppers battled with flame-throwers, Guatemala/El Salvador (1947). Woman attacked and killed by bees or wasps, Seattle (1947). Bizarre aerial sightings near Daggett, California (1950) and on Iwo Jima (1953).

Locals have Bigfoot sightings, Logan and Union counties, Ohio (1980). Chupacabras encountered outside disco, Maria Elena, Argentina (2000). Moose hunters see Bigfoot, near Fort Simpson, NWT, Canada (2002). Mysterious fire erupts in Gallipolis, Ohio resident’s car on bridge from Ohio to Point Pleasant, West Virginia (2003). Massive unusual aerial phenomena, Xalapa, Mexico (2005). “Aren’t You Chupacabra to See Me?” airs for first time on Cartoon Network (2005). Nestle uses Bigfoot-costumed marchers to launch Kit Kat Limited Edition – Cappuccino at the Giant Mahkota Parade, Malacca, and Jusco Tebrau City, Johor (2005).

Coleman wraps his blog with the perfect ending, which I will quote here in its entirety:

"Unexplained events. Mysterious fiery outbursts. Strange cryptid sightings. Beltane fires. Little people. Miracles. Bathing. Round dances. Collecting of glowworms. Folkloric incidents. Weird encounters.
Respect the wonder and adventure of the 24th of June. What events have dotted your past crypto-histories from this point on the calendar?
What’s in the mix on this day, the 60th anniversary of the beginning of the Age of Flying Saucers?"

The truth shall set you free.

Thursday, June 14, 2007


hey everyone, I know it's been a while since my last post, but I have not forgotten about this blog. I have been working on seperate articles and have one posted up on the UFO Digest website, which can be found at this address: http://www.ufodigest.com/news/0607/bigfoot.html. I am working on a new one at the moment, and have several ideas for this blog that I plan to put some thought into and see what I can come up with. Let me know what you think of the article, and thanks.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Out Of Place Alligators

On April 22, 2007, the New York Times reported a fascinating news story, namely that a two-foot long alligator had been found sunbathing by a small lake in Huntigton, N.Y., and had been captured by county police. At the time of the article's publication, the police were still looking for the owner of the animal, presumebly to press charges against the person for illegally owning an alligator. To the uninitiated, this would just seem to be a simple case of an escaped pet, but those of us who tend to look at the world through "Fortean-tinted glasses" (to borrow a phrase from Scott Maruna) will immediately think of the "crazy croc" phenomenon, which has been extensively documented by researchers such as Loren Coleman, who discussed it in his classic book Mysterious America.

Out of place animals are nothing new to the American landscape, and alligators in particular have popped up everywhere, making appearances in environments far outside their native territories. With this in mind, it is no surprise that even Long Island has had encounters with runaway alligators, although as in other cases they were always placed into the "escaped pet" context. Take for example, an article from the June 4th, 1896 edition of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

In this case, as is noted in the article, the feral alligator seen around Woodsburgh was said to be the escaped pet of a Mr. Reiner, sh0wcasing an early example of this explanation that has since been regularly used by police and the media to account for "crazy croc" reports. There are no known followups in the local media on this report, so the outcome remains sadly unknown(if anyone has any extra information related to this case, please email me).

Manhattan has also had its fair shares of OOP (out of place) alligator reports, which may have subsequently given rise to the urban legend of alligators that live in the sewers of New York City (again, as discussed in Loren Coleman's book Mysterious America). Most of the reports have already been uncovered and examined by Coleman and other researchers, but there may still be reports out there that have yet to see the light of day, such as one from Sept. 22, 1899, once again from the BDE:

Back in September of 1899, some boys witnessed something peculiar at 175 McKibbin street, located in the Eastern District. As the author of the article notes:

All those who came to see the animal at the Bock residence were puzzled over how it had come to wind up in a puddle in the Eastern District of Manhattan, with the boys even declaring that they had seen another alligator of similar size that they had been unable to capture. It was even speculated that there may have been more alligators lurking in the cellar, but whether this was ever proven to be true sadly remains unknown at the moment. As with most other cases of this type, the alligators were explained as being escapees:

Forget about drugs, the number one trade of illegal goods in this country must apparently be in alligators..

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

The Mapleton Phantom

As mentioned in my last post, in 1894 the town of Mapleton, Long Island experienced a ghost scare that would excite the imaginations of the town's residents and remain forever unequaled in the history of the island. The Mapleton Phantom received quite a bit of fame in its day and seems to have had even the scientific community curious about its identity. The apparition had several ghost-hunting expedtions after it in search of proof of its existence, and so this particular case is an oddity in the history of ghostly encounters and hauntings. Never again would a ghost create such excitement as to have scientific expeditions put together to track it down, and Long Island wouldn't again become famous for ghosts until the Amityville Horror hoax almost one hundred years later..

*NOTE* All articles taken (as always) from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle

1) Mapleton Slights Its Ghost (Aug. 11, 1894)

This tongue-in-cheek article, the first known mention of the Mapleton Phantom, laments that the residents of Mapleton seem to have been ignoring their resident apparition, despite a spectactular multiple-witness sighting from a train that had taken place the prior morning. Indeed, to quote a recounting of the event by Richard Larke, superintendent of the road, who was a passenger on the train at the time,

"We had just passed Woodlawn, the only station between Coney Island and Mapleton, without stopping, and had rounded the curve, when Fireman Van Pelt pulled my coat sleeve and pointed ahead, over to the left of the track. I saw what seemed to be a tall white figure. It seemed motionless at first, and you may believe me or not, but I'll take my oath that it was standing, or appeared to be standing, just where last Sunday's suicide occurred. It was tall and shadowylike. It had the appearance of a substance gradually melting into a filmy white nothing, and seemed to be covered with a long white, filmy vail. Two seconds after I saw it it began moving over toward the railroad track. It moved slowly at first, waving its long draped arms. I could see distinctly, as we approached nearer, that it motioned to us, gesticulating as one would do trying to stop a train. Engineer Mailon then saw it. He began to blow his whistle with a sucession of sharp toots and put on brakes. The thing didn't get out of the way, though it was careful to avoid the light of the head lamp, and the train was brought to a standstill. Just as the train stopped the thing glided off the track and skimmed along toward the woods, all the time gesticulating as if motioning someone to follow. It disappeared in the woods."

While the appearance of the Phantom in this particular instance was rather indistinct, the article provides a more detailed description of the apparition, presumeably based on (as of yet undiscovered by this author) prior encounters:

"It is tall and shadowylike. It melts into filmy white nothing. It has a white, filmy vail. Its arms are draped, or else it has puffed sleeves. It is about the size of a woman. It crouches. It has eyes of fire and is as big as a tree, but gets smaller when you look at it. It may have geunine feet, but perhaps they are imitation, for what use would feet be to a ghost? It can wail in a lonesome and despairing manner. Of course, it can glide. The most ordinary kind of a ghost can glide."

Scores of people riding the train claimed to have seen the ghost, but residents of Mapleton were skeptical of any claims of the paranormal, namely due to the fact that none of them had seen the phantom. Indeed, according to the Eagle article, the universal sentiment in Mapleton was that any claims of a ghost were "ridiculous". Hence, this explained why the author of the piece had lamented at its beginning that Mapleton was apathetic towards its resident ghost and its residents displayed no interest or curiousity.

Interestingly enough, as is noted above in the first quotation, the phantom had been seen right where a Margaret Barning had recently killed herself, providing a possible identity for the mysterious entity that would eventually become the hot topic of Mapleton.

2) The Ghost Bobs Up Again (Aug. 13, 1894)

Two days later the Phantom made news again, terrifying a work crew that had gone out after midnight on the Sea Beach railway, which was near the spot where the ghost had appeared to the train full of people two days prior, on August 11th. This new incident can be summarized as follows, in a direct quote from the article:

"Saturday night the Sea Beach railway had a work train out in charge of Conductor Hilger and Engineer Kirk. A gang of laborers was along. This train was on a side track just below Mapleton, near Woodlawn, waiting for the 1 o' clock train from Coney Island to pass. The latteh (sic?) train was running in two sections to accommodate the crowd. After the first section of twelve cars had gone by, Mike Clooch, one of the laborers on the work train, emitted a blood curdling yell, pointed toward the woods, where the ghost had been seen to retreat, and made for the locomotive. Everyone divined at once the cause of his fright. The other employes caught the alarm and a general panic ensued."

There was another witness to the appearance of the Phantom:

"Hilger, the conductor of the work train, declares that he saw the specter start up out of its favorite field and fly across the railroad track. This was after the first section of the 1 o'clock train had passed. It seems to indicate that the ghost had made a mistake as to the hour, and set out a little ahead of time. None of the employes on the second section of the train saw the ghost, so it seems not to have reappeared from the woods at once. So far as reported, the people on the work train were the only ones who saw it Saturday night."

In addition, other residents of Mapleton claimed to have encountered the apparition, with a Mr. Jere Lott and his coachman being among the first to run across the shadowy specter. John Hennessey, the coachman, had a particularly interesting experience with what he thought to be the Phantom, as he himself related:

"I'm the first man, I believe, who ran against that ghost. Thursday morning, about 12:30 o'clock - and that was a whole twenty-four hours before the train stopped out here to let the thing get out of the way - I was awakened by hearing a tapping at my window pane. It was gentle at first. Then it got louder and oftener. I woke up with a kind of a start, but lay right still. I thought it was birds at first, but soon found it was no bird's sound. Then I began to get up, and, as I stirred about, the tapping stopped, and I heard a brushing sound against the window and then all was still. Next morning, when I had the ghost had been seen by the train folks I knew that's what I'd heard."

Other witnesses included two servant girls working at a house near the Mapleton station who claimed to have seen the Phantom the same night of the mass sighting from the Sea Beach train, describing it as a "tall white figure skimming along over the ground". A flagman named George Washington Mills claimed to have heard a "low, despairing wail", and was indignant that his neighbors believed him to have heard nothing more supernatural than the wail of a neighborhood cat.

Just as in modern times, skeptics and debunkers put forth "explanations" to try and debunk the entire mystery, including that it was all in the minds of the witnesses or even that the ghost was nothing more than a stray pig! The Mapleton residents who claimed to have seen the specter were understandably resentful of being told that they were so ignorant or mistaken as to mistake a pig for a ghost.

3) Scientists Look For A Ghost (Aug. 22, 1894)

By now, almost ten days after the last article, a scientific expedition led by a Professor Edward Drinker Cope of the University of Penn. was put together in order to track down the mysterious Phantom. Oddly enough, the expedition was split between the scientific end and a military end, led by a Colonel John L. Burleigh. According to the article in the Eagle, the expedition met with failure as it failed to spot anything despite being camped out by the spot where Margaret Barning had shot herself, since general consensus in Mapleton by this date was that the ghost was of Margaret Barning, who was haunting the site of her suicide. However, the expedition did manage to find many more witnesses who claimed to have sighted the bizarre entity, bringing the number of people who allegedly claimed to have seen the Phantom well into the hundreds.

Although there are some elements of the different newspaper articles that are questionable, if all the accounts are to be believed, there was a genuine mystery in the town of Mapleton in 1894 that still remains unsolved over one hundred years later. My research into the case is still ongoing, but the Mapleton Phantom can safely join the ranks of strange and mysterious beings that invade our reality for a brief time only to eventually vanish back into the night.

Friday, March 23, 2007

The Freeport Ghost

As every student of Forteanea knows, during the past 70 years there have been numerous monster and "phantom attacker" scares in different parts of the country that typically shared the same characteristics: sightings of some type of bizarre entity would be reported, the locals would become scared and organize into groups to hunt down the invader, and the creature would disappear, never to be seen in those parts. Cryptozoology can point to the Momo case as one of their most famous, while the Mad Gasser of Mattoon has become one of the most widely studied "mass hysteria" incidents in Fortean history, studied not only from a Fortean point of view, but from a sociological perspective as well. However, one never hears about ghost -hunting expeditions, which makes the following account, taken from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, all the more interesting:

As reported in the Nov. 19th, 1893 edition of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, several residents of Freeport, Long Island encountered a bizarre phantom and described it as being eight feet tall and running silently near the speed of a "trotting horse", with a long and "spooklike" beard. It first chased a Martin Beacon and, according to the article, very nearily caught him until Beacon managed to get home and slam the door shut in the face of his pursuer. Interestingly enough, the next witness, an Austin Ellison, heard a strange voice calling his name before turning to see the being dissolve into nothingness, though Ellison was able to note that the face of the figure was covered with "long white hair". It next attacked John R. Losse, who reported that it looked like a man in very ragged clothes, and then chased after Joseph Bennett and Pauline Klein, both of whom were unable to clearly describe their pursuer. At the end, the writer notes that a ghost-hunting expedition had been put together to go out and search the night after the article was published.

It is possible that some or maybe even all of the reported encounters could be chalked down to a mentally unbalanced homeless man, and the fact that Bennett and Klein were unable to describe their pursuer could mean that it was just someone suffering from a mental disorder and not a paranormal incident. However, a strike against this theory is the claim by Ellision that he saw the alleged ghost dissolve into thin air, not to mention the strange speed displayed by the phantom, who was almost able to overtake Beacon in his pursuit. The fact that Ellison also allegedly heard a voice speak to him first before he saw the ghost is interesting as well, since in most cases ghosts tend to be largely silent and not prone to speaking to witnesses (though if I am wrong on this, someone please correct me).

Up next: The Mapleton Phantom - Long Island's Great Ghost Scare

*Note* - I am very bogged down with work for classes right now, 18 credits is killer, so as I said in my last post I am trying my best to update and get back to everyone. I plan to get the Mapleton post up by Sunday night the latest, so please be patient, if you read this and I have not responded to your email yet, I will, just give me some time. Thanks.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Long and Winding Road..

hey everyone, I apologize for such a long delay in updating, but I've been trying to get work done for my classes and so I've been a little behind in other areas that I've wanted to work on. In the next few days I plan on both writing a decent blog entry detailing ghost hunting expeditions on Long Island in the 19th century and also to get back to people who wrote me through email, so I ask you to please bear with me. For now though, here are two pieces I wrote a while ago, they are more op-ed pieces than the ones I usually write, but for now they will have to do:

"The Native Americans have many names and legends about the creature that the white man has come to know as Bigfoot or Sasquatch, but probably the most prominent one is that the creature only shows itself when there is big change on the horizon. "The Big Man", as is one name for the animal, is held to be a spirtual being, only showing itself to those who respect nature, and so the recent surge in reports has many of the tribes convinced that big change is coming soon, though they hold that change to be neither good or bad, but simply being what it is.
With the surge in recent years of reports of not only Bigfoot, but other anomalous happenings, it seems that change is indeed coming soon that may very well impact us all. UFO sightings continue to come in from across the globe, leaving no region of the Earth immune from their mysterious purpose and design. Crop Circles increase in complexity and design, culminating in the first ever 3D design recently found in an Oxfordshire field. Sightings of strange animals, encounters with bizarre entities, falls of fish from the sky, ghostly happenings, mystical occurrences...all of these reports are building up to something huge, something that has never been seen before in this planet's history and probably never will be seen again. 2012 is inching closer and closer with every new day, is this what is being built up towards? It is very possible, but not absoulte.
Big change is coming soon, now it is up to us to pay attention and keep our eyes and minds open for the new and possibly grand changes that are on their way."


" In 1955 a farmhouse in Kentucky was beseiged for an entire night by small, goblin-like creatures that proved resistant to bullets and would float away into the darkness come the morning.
In 1966 a headless, black winged humanoid flies around a town in West Virginia for an entire year, scaring the locals senseless and coincending with a wave of other strange activity, including UFO activity, poltergeist occurrences, and Men in Black visitations.
In 2003 a report is submitted telling of a bonfire gathering in the Illinois woods that is interrupted by the arrival of about thirty "stick people", who stand completely motionless but still manage to completely terrify the witnesses.
Now all three of these reports sound like something out of a science fiction or horror novel, but, with the possible exception of the last report, they are all true, and they all happened. They are not the only cases however, for plenty of other reports exist of encounters with winged humanoids, lake monsters, hairy bipeds, fairies, otherwordly beings, and strange creatures and entities that by all logical sense should not exist and certainly should not be generating reports in this manner. Yet, assuming the witnesses are telling the truth, and there is no reason to think that most of them aren't, then what could the appearance of these beings possibly mean? One reader at the Fortean Times forums submitted his theory that the purpose of these entities may be "to break us out of the box of our own thinking. And with that achieved, there really is no need to provide proof of their existence, or even very frequent exposure. The task is accomplished - our minds are freed to relate to the universe again with a re-opened sense of wonder and healthy curiosity." I find myself in agreement with this statement, though I wish to add that this doesn't mean I would say to give up searching for evidence of their existence, because this would be a faulty way of thinking, as evidence and proof must always be sought, not just for cryptozoology and its more paranormal branches, but for all fields of Fortean inquiry. Rather, I would say that it is the hunt itself that brings the most enrichment for the hunter, for it forces him/her, as said above, to open ones mind and expand the intectual horizons, adopting a new view of the universe that may have been impossible to formulate before the hunt began. These types of things will never be taken seriously by the mainstream public at large, due to the admitted bizarre nature of the reports, forver remaining on the fringe, but that is inconsequential at best, for there will always be those who walk to the beat of a different drummer, and who strive to bring light to the darkest and most bizarre corners of the world that all else have neglected. Even if there prove, for example, to be no such thing as stick people running around in Illinois, one will still be richer for the experience of looking, and will benefit tremendously, intectually and even spirtually from daring to pursue the parts of reality that have been deemed "impossible", and yet, still are."

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Ghosts of Long Island

While Long Island may not be known as a ufological or cryptozoological hotspot to most, if there's one thing that the island does have plenty of, it's ghosts. The most famous case from Long Island would without a doubt have to be the "Amityville haunting", spawning a series of movies and national interest in the events that took place in "High Hopes" despite the case eventually being exposed as a hoax. Regardless of this fact, reports of hauntings and ghostly experiences have being noted in local newspapers for over a century, serving as a documentation of the island's paranormal history. While there are many cases that could be discussed and analyzed, for now a small catalog of reports taken from that most Fortean of newspapers, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, shall serve as a quick illustration of the nature of ghost reports near the end of the 19th century:

1) Visits The Earth Again - The Screams of a Murderer's Ghost Heard in Port Jefferson (Aug. 11, 1889)

The residents of Port Jefferson were terrifed in this year by mysterious, ear-piercing screams issuing from a barn on the Emmet Darling property. It was known to the local residents as a place where a double murder had taken place many years prior, ending with the murderer, a Mr. Waters, hanging himself in said barn. The eerie screams are said to have begun soon afterwards, lasting for several decades and always ringing out from the barn roughly around midnight. Conventional explanations, such as a creaky weather vane or the call of a nocturnal bird, were put forth in order to explain the phenomenon, but all were ruled out as not being able to adequately explain the phenomenon. The screams eventually died out, but returned with a vengeance shortly before the article was written, despite that Emmet Darling's aunt, who lived at the property at the time, denied ever hearing the screams (one suspects that she might have been in denial). This article is interesting, not only because it took place in the town next to mine, but because strange, highpitched screams have long been a staple of Fortean phenomena. Indeed, as Loren Coleman writes in his book Mysterious America, "This peculiar sound - also described like that of a baby crying- often spills out of hanuted houses to bathe the locale in eerie vibration. Strangely, the awesome Bigfoot seem to emit this sound, as well as those elusive phantom panthers that prowl the landscape. And, of course, the legendary banshee is famous for its terrible scream. Often, a myriad of "unrelated" unexplained phenomena have the same element in common."

Now, of course, no honest or sensible researcher would try to link haunted houses to phantom panthers, or Bigfoot to the banshee, but it has been increasingly noted by researchers that many other types of phenomena do share many similar aspects. Whether this has any significance towards their meaning, however, still remains a subject of debate. (Note: In a later post, I plan on returning to the characteristic of high pitched screams in anomalous phenomena reports, and how it has been consistently included in reports throughout the decades).

2) A Lively Ghost - Which Is Causing Consternation Near Far Rockaway (Dec. 7th, 1885)

As the heading of the article noted, the specter that was seen regularly by "scores of persons" in the belfry of the Methodist Episcopal Church was indeed a playful character, jumping and dancing throughout the belfry. It also exhibited other curious behaviors, such as "enlarging and decreasing in size according to the angle of observation", or following certain witnesses and hanging around their homes for hours. Some people even claimed to hear the bell of the church ring at odd hours of the night. In fact, one night, as the article notes, "Half the village declares that at precisely ten o'clock the bell was tolled, and the other half is laughing at the superstitution, as they call it. Immediately after the tolling, three hearty amens were heard, and then the specter flattened itself out on the roof. This was interpretated to be an attitude of prayer."

It is noted that, appropriately enough, the ghost supposedly makes its appearance from a graveyard, though there are no reports in the article of any witnesses actually seeing the ghost appear in the adjacent cemetary. Jerome Clark, in his book Unnatural Phenomena, reported a news story from Arkansas in 1894 dealing with the appearance of a ghost in a belfry that was also alleged to have rung a bell, showing that at least some apparitions seem to have a fondness for church belfrys. Interestingly enough, although not related to ghosts and hauntings, Rockaway Beach was experiencing a "wildman scare" during this same period, with many people claiming to have witnessed a strange wildman on the nearby beach, and who was theorized to be an insane shipwrecked sailor (these reports and others from the island will be the subject of an upcoming post).

3) A Firey Tongue - The Latest Long Island Ghost Story (Dec. 18, 1885)

The "firey tongue" noted in the title of this piece belongs to a specter that was seen regularly on the Centerville race course just south of Woodhaven, and just like the stories from Port Jefferson and Far Rockaway noted above, it not only reappeared after a span of five years but was witnesses reguarly by scores of people every night. The ghost was seen to first appear in the vincity of the stables at the old Centerville Hotel and then moving at a quick speed across the race course, stopping at certain intervals and even reportedly saying "Whoa!". Disagreements (perhaps inevitably) arose between the witnesses on certain details such as whether the apparition was wearing a robe of white or a garment more the color of sheep's wool, and whether the specter was the ghost of one of two jockeys murdered on the track, or perhaps the troubled spirit of the murderer responsible for one of the bloody deeds. However, as the article notes, "But on one other point there is no disagreement - the ghost spits fire like a foundry chimney and leaves a sulphurous odor behind it."
The characteristic of fire spitting is something that does not come up in ghost reports very often, making this an unusual case if we stick mainly to looking at reports of ghosts and hauntings. If we broaden our range and look at other Fortean phenomena, however, we will notice that fire spitting is a detail that appeared in some Spring-Heeled Jack reports, to continue the train of thought noted earlier about similarities between anomalous phenomena occurences. While I would not advance the theory that Spring-Heeled Jack was a ghost, and the reports of his spitting fire may have very well been exaggerated, it remains an interesting coincedence none the less.

While these three accounts are but a small sample of the avilable reports from Long Island, and indeed I have some in my files that I have not touched upon yet, they represent the kind of ghostly experiences that Long Islanders have reported over the years and that form part of our paranormal history. In my next post, I plan on discussing the periodic "ghost scares" that have overtaken parts of the island from time to time, and which even led to the creation of ghost hunting expeditions. Stay tuned.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Of Dragons and Dinosaurs - Part 3

Thus announced the December 8th, 1901 edition of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, telling the strange story of a hunter's discovery in the Florida Everglades of what appeared to be an actual living dinosaur. The event is described in the article as follows:

Interestingly enough there is a dash of what seems like conspiracy thrown into the equation as well:

This article from 1901 is an amazing historical piece, not just because of the alleged shooting of a dinosaur, but because it effectively describes the field of cryptozoology decades before the likes of Sanderson and Heuvelmans. As told to the paper by an anomoyous source either within or connected to the group, it discusses a secret group of scientists who, according to the article, worked in secret to uncover living fossils and provide proof for their beliefs that many mythological creatures, such as dragons and griffins, were in fact based on medieval sightings of these living fossils. It then goes on to state that, given the type of climates that dinosaurs are known to have preferred, this group of scientists narrowed down the possible areas to search in in North America to two different areas: the Florida Everglades and, interestingly enough, the Dismal Swamp, between Virginia and North Carolina. Of these two, the Everglades seemed the more probable of the two, and thus the shooting as described above was the alleged result.

Why wasn't this discovery, and also the alleged discovery of proof of living mammoths, made public and announced to the world? The anomoyous source explains as follows:

The cryptozoological literature has spoken for years about the rumors of surving mammoths in Alaska and Siberia, and indeed there are documented newspaper accounts from over a century ago that discuss sightings of such animals. There are even accounts of brave explorers killing surviving mammoths to gather their skins and pelts, though such claims are few and far in between and some have been exposed as hoaxes. The newspaper's mysterious source goes on to describe one such hunting expedition that led to the death of a mammoth and the obtainment of its body as proof. As the source describes the final moments of the hunt:

What eventually happened to the remains?:

The newspaper account, when compared to the known hoax cited above, seems possibly to be a hoax, and that may indeed be the likely explanation for the whole piece, as newpaper hoaxes were notorious in the early days. However, assuming for the sake of argument that it is true and a valid report, could there have actually been a secret group of cryptozoologists going on expeditions back in the late 19th-early 20th centuries and obtaining the proof that modern cryptozoologists have struggled to obtain ever since? To put it into a larger context, can we believe any of the previously discussed reports dealing with dragons and dinosaurs to be true, or are they all newspaper hoaxes? Are some true, and others fake? If they are true, then what are we dealing with here? Some type of zooform phenomena, some now-extinct undiscovered animals, or something else? What do you think?

Monday, February 19, 2007


Just a quick note for anyone who might actually be reading this, but I am aware that I haven't updated in a week, just need to find the time to do so. Once I get the time, I plan on finishing my "Of Dragons and Dinosaurs" posts and then head back to Long Island to write about the ghosts of LI and then the wildmen and gorilla reports on the island from the late 19th-early 20th centuries. This post will be removed with my next update, but for now it's going to serve as a bookmark.


Sunday, February 11, 2007

Of Dragons and Dinosaurs - Part 2

For decades, stories and legends have emerged from the deepest regions of Africa regarding sightings of creatures known by names such as Mokele-mbembe, Emela-Ntouka, and the Kongamato. Thought by many to be surviving prehistoric reptiles, these creatures have inspired countless expeditions in search of evidence to prove their existence, all the way back to the early 20th century. Although there is of course debate over the identity of the different cryptids, and whether or not they even exist, it is generally acknowledged among cryptozoologists that the deep jungles of the Congo could. at least, possibly contain surving dinosaurs and denizens of the Mesozoic era. Viewed as being largely unchanged from prehistoric times, the deep regions of the Congo remain unexplored in many places, and thus this is used as an argument for the survival of living dinosaurs in Africa. What are we to make of more perplexing reports, however? Lake monsters such as Nessie, Champ, or Ogopogo are usually thought of by the general public to be surviving plesiosaurs, and of course there are the "U-28" and "U-85" cases which tell of World War I era encounters with bizarre creatures. While most reports of "living dinosaurs" have to be taken with a gigantic heaping of salt, especially since zealous Creationists have decided to twist the reports and put out false evidence to further their religious agenda, there are old newspaper accounts that are still worth reading and analyzing, even if just for their historical value. This article, from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle edition of Feb. 8, 1888, is one such report:

This "serpent" was described as follows:

What are we to make of such a strange creature? At first glance of the article it bears a similar description to a dinosaur, but the disproportion of the body is a curious addition to the report, since it brings to mind the image of an overly top heavy animal. However, since it is noted at the end that the creature walked on four legs, the addition of two large scales may signify it to be some kind of variation on the stegosaurus, though more research is needed to further elaborate on this theory.

Interestingly enough, thirteen years later from this report, there emerged a report from the Florida Everglades of an alleged dinosaur actually being killed....

Sunday, February 4, 2007

The Little People

In the December 25, 2005 edition of the Boston Herald, it was written that belief in fairies, elves, leprachauns, etc., collectively known as the "Little People" or "Hidden Folk", still flourishes in Europe, as for example in the case of Icelandic road planners who will always consult an elf expert before building a highway, in order to avoid building through elf territory. Many people in European countries still hold a mixture of fear and respect for the Hidden Folk, and will be especially careful not to arouse their anger , for they know that to do so would be disastrous. Such beliefs even extend to the United States, as reported in the lead article of the May 2006 issue of Fate Magazine, where it was reported that a small town in Minnesota, that was settled primarily by Scandinavian immigrants, told stories of what were called the Huldefolk, and a witness named Richard Connors even reported having an unexpected wrestling match with one of the beings!
As demonstrated in this account, belief in the Little People doesn't neccesarily stop at just the folklore and mythological angle, but instead continues on to reports of actual encounters with the Little People, mainly from the United States and Europe but not just limited to these countries. While such reports may sound absolutely incredible, there is a long history of sightings dating back for centuries, with one of the more recent and well known being from Wisconsin back in 1919. To quote from a post on the UFO Updates mailing list:
"13-year-old Harry Anderson saw twenty bald-headed little mennear Barron, Wisconsin, one summer night in 1919. Harry wasriding in a car with others in the Wisconsin countryside whenthe car ran out of oil. Harry walked to a farm to fetch some,and as he was walking back he saw twenty little men walkingalong towards him in single file. They had bald heads and whiteskins, and wore leather "knee-pants" held up by braces overtheir shoulders. They paid no attention to the terrified boy,who ducked out of sight behind a tree, but muttered tothemselves and sang a little song:"We won't stop fightingTill the end of the warIn Nineteen-Hundredand Ninety-Four".The terrified Anderson, "heart pumping", continued on his wayback to the car once the marching dwarfs had passed by, not oncelooking back behind him."
To give another example, this one took place in 1950 in Oregon:
"Ellen Jonerson, "aUniversity of Oregon graduate and a very intelligent person",saw a dark-skinned, 9- to 12-inch-tall "little man" wearing "alittle romper and a sort of plaid shirt" walking with a"waddling" motion across her breezeway, pass under the runningboard of a car, and disappear."


What are we to make of such reports? They are hardly the only ones of their kind out there, and yet the very idea of such beings existing seems too impossible to take seriously. Are they a hidden race that has somehow managed to more or less conceal its existence from humanity for centuries? Maybe they are nature spirits who have taken form, or perhaps they are a part of the Earth itself, literally formed from the planet's mana, or energy. Whatever the reason for their existence, the reason behind their being seen so scarcely now as opposed to centuries past, when many stories exist of interaction with the Little People, may be able to be attributed to humanity's current general disbelief toward such beings as being improbable and the stuff of stories and myths. While of course as stated above many people in European countries still believe in their existence, the prevailing idea about the Hidden Folk is that they aren't real and belong only in folklore and old stories told to scare children and the gullible. Maybe such entities are only seen in high numbers when people are more open to the idea and believe in them more, and without such belief the little people lose their power and fade into the background. This admittedly sounds like something out of a fantasy novel, and the reports of fairies, elves, etc. may indeed only be the stuff of myth and legend and nothing more, but there is an interesting account from Scotland dating March 1966 that, if true and at the moment I hold it to be an intriguing account and nothing more, may explain why mythological beings such as fairies, satyrs, centaurs, are so prevalent in ancient culture but not as much in the present day. This is from Colin Wilson's book Poltergeist:
"A man talking a walk in the Royal Botanical Gardens suddenly experienced a state of heightened perception. He then became aware of a figure or nature spirit resembling the God "Pan" standing nearby. The being had a pointed chin and ears, shaggy legs with cloven hooves with two little horns on his forehead. He was apparently naked. The witness saluted the being that seemed startled by the intrusion. During a brief conversation the being told the witness that he lived in the garden and that his task was to help the growth of trees. He also stated that they no longer were interested in humans since we no longer believed in them."
Perhaps it is the same for other anomalous entities as well, such as for example the creatures recounted in this posting, also from the UFO Updates mailing list:


Maybe such creatures only appear because there is still a segment of society that believes in the possibility of such beings, and without that segment to keep them alive the creatures would just disappear? I admit that I have my doubts about that theory, but I believe it to be one worth considering. While the existence of the Hidden Folk is far from proven, there is no shame in considering the possibilty and expanding one's world view just a little bit further.


Thursday, February 1, 2007

Of Dragons and Dinosaurs - Part 1

Here in the 21st century, dragons and dinosaurs have entered the popular consciousness as icons of pop culture, appearing everywhere one looks, much like the so called "Grays" of Ufological lore. Indeed, much like the Grays, it is possible to find images of those two groups of reptiles on cups, t-shirts, calendars, action figures, posters, etc., and also in literature, film, and video games. Indeed, as evidenced in the high ratings for the "Walking with Dinosaurs" special on the Discovery Channel, fascination with dinosaurs is at an high time high, and dragons have featured prominently in many of the fantasy shows and films that have been released in the past few years. However, one would be hard pressed to find a member of the average public who believes in the literal existence of dragons or who believes that living dinosaurs are still lurking in the deepest regi0ns of our planet. Contemporary wisdom tells us that the dinosaurs died out sixty-five million years ago as a result of an as of yet undetermined cataclysm, while dragons are strictly the inhabitants of the realm of myth and legend, and nothing more. This makes certain reports from newspapers and other sources all the more perplexing, for they describe encounters with creatures that should not or could not exist in our modern day world. Take this report, for example, as described in the February 12, 1882 edition of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, first brought to light in Jerome Clark's book Unexplained Phenomena:

Assuming the newspaper account is true, what the article describes as a "flying snake", or what we might call a "dragon", was a very frightening reality for the passengers of that California train upon that fateful day in February of 1882. It is obvious that there are no populations of giant flying snakes breeding in the wild, and yet such a beast stepped out of the twilight world for a short time only to sneak back into the shadows when its time was past, just another inhabitant of the Goblin Universe. Although, just two months later, two woodchippers working in Butte County, California, would report an even more bizarre entity, as reported in the April 1st 1882 edition of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle and taken from the original report from the Gridley Herald. They said, in a letter to the Herald, that the creature looked "something like a crocodile" and was "not less than eighteen feet in length". The most striking aspects of the creature were its twelve wings, six on each side, and its invulnerbility to bullets, which merely caused to utter "a cry similar to that of a calf and bear combined". The bullets, when striking against the "dragon", merely made a sound as if they were "striking against a thin piece of sheet iron". What kind of animal is this, whose image bears a striking similarity to the classic Western depiction of a dragon, but who can not be harmed by bullets? When considering the creature's appearance, the Crawfordsville Monster written about Charles Fort comes to mind. While bearing some glaring differences from the Butte Country Dragon, the Crawfordsville Monster also was in the range of twenty feet in length and propeled itself through the air with several rows of fins. It is entirely possible that the Crawfordsville Monster and the Butte County Dragon are related or even one in the same, since the sightings of the former were only a mere nine years later from the encounter with the Dragon.

However, each of the sightings discussed so far have been linked in that each has been of a solitary creature, and the creatures in question have posed no direct harm to human beings, with the possible exception of the attack on the train by the "Flying Snake", which seemed more out of anger than general malice. This then begs the question: have there been reports in which such creatures have posed a direct danger to other animals or even human beings? If one goes back yet again to that most Fortean of newspapers, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, there is yet another report from California of similar animals, this time proving that they can be quite dangerous. Taken from the September 10th, 1895 edition, the piece, entitled "The Dragons of Fresno", starts as follows:

The two dragons killed a number of wild ducks and also entered a Mr. A.X. Simmon's poultry yard and dismembered many of his hens, leaving them "bitten in two" and "partly devoured". Finally, a hunting party was assembled to catch or kill the two beasts, and after initial failure J.D.Daniels and a Mr. Templeton staked out the area in hopes of encountering the dragons. Their stakeout was a success, as J.D. Daniels reports:

It was at this point that the trail was lost, and a company of men assembled the next day to track down the wounded creature also ended in failure. The most interesting part, however, comes at the very end of the article:

Could a cast of this footprint be locked in a storage room or hidden away in an attic, just waiting to be discovered and heralded as proof of the authenticity of these stories? While it would wise not to hold one's breath, the possibilty is always open...

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Huntington's "Venturesome Burglar"

In September 1887, the quiet town of Huntington, Long Island, located in Suffolk County, was visited by a most mysterious burglar:

Hmm, a lone individual who tries to enter houses, terrorizes people but doesn't seriously harm them, and is impervious to bullets...sound familar? For readers of Fortean literature, the name "Spring Heeled Jack" inevitably comes to mind. To quote Wikipedia:

"Spring Heeled Jack (also Springheel Jack, Spring-heel Jack, etc.) is a character from English folklore said to have existed during the Victorian Era and able to jump extraordinarily high. The first recorded claimed sighting of Spring Heeled Jack occurred in 1837. Later alleged sightings were reported from all over England, from London up to Sheffield and Liverpool, but they were especially prevalent in suburban London and later in the Midlands and Scotland."

Jack was sighted all over England from 1837 until the early 20th century, frightening people with his bizarre appearance and even more bizarre habit of breathing fire, once temporarily blinding a Lucy Scales by doing so, but always bounding off into the night when pursued by police or angry townspeople. Bullets proved to be useless against him, as indeed when shot Jack would just laugh and jump over a tall brick wall to make his escape. Theories then and now have ranged from a deranged nobleman having a sort of twisted fun over dressing up and terrorizing people, to an extraterrestrial stranded on Earth, to the whole thing being nothing more than a combination of cultural myth and mass hysteria. Indeed, it might be tempting to write Jack off as such if it weren't for the scattered sightings that have persisted in the century since the last accepted sighting of Spring Heeled Jack.

Reports of similar "Rooftop Madmen", while not achieving nearly as much fame as Spring Heeled Jack, still prove a perplexing challenge to Fortean researchers. Take, for example, the Phantom of O'Donnell Heights (quoted from Mike Dash's thorough investigation of SHJ and similar cases:

"A few decades later, a very similar panic infected some low-class housing projects in Baltimore. A tall, thin, cloaked but this time black-clad ‘phantom’ haunted O’Donnell Heights between July and August 1951, scaling roofs and scaring people10. When a reporter from the BaltimoreSun interviewed the locals, one boy asserted that the phantom ‘sure is an athlete... you should have seen him go over that fence – just like a cat.’ The fence, the reporter noted, was ‘about six feet tall and trimmed with barbed wire along the top’. Others said they had seen the terror leap onto rooftops 20 feet off the ground and hop down again, without leaving any mark upon the ground11."

There are more recent examples of such cases, but the point has been made - Could this "venturesome burglar" from 1887, who broke into homes only to spring away when discovered and who was invincible to bullets, have been one of Spring Heeled Jack's "cousins"?

For one last thought, consider this account of an entity from Argentina, taken from UFO Roundup's March 16th, 2005 edition:

'Generally speaking, it attacks dwellings in which no man is present or happens to be away for various reasons. It tries to break in through backyards and alleyways, knowing that only women and children happen to be present. Fortunately, it has been unable to break into homes because the doors are locked,' explained Ana, one of the women attacked by the Lobizon, to the Cordoba newspaper La Manana."
"The woman's eyewitness account coincides with others who are able to see through their windows. 'It's a young person, thin and tall. Its eyes are bloodshot, and it's clad in black--I suppose with the intention of frightening the familes of the homes it's trying to break into.'"

Monday, January 22, 2007


Welcome to the Fortean Historical Archive, a blog devoted to exploring historical accounts of unexplained phenomena and shedding light upon these strange events. This blog will cover events from all over the vast spectrum of Forteanea, with a primary focus on those that have occurred on Long Island and in New York State. With that said, let the blogging begin!