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...

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