Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Tatzelwurm: The Alps Dragon


Here is a cryptid from the bucolic Swiss Alps, the home of my Strickler ancestors. An odd beast feared for its cunning skills and ferocious nature...known by many as the 'Alps Dragon'.

The Tatzelwurm is a mysterious cryptid that makes its home in the Alps and is a beast of legend in many Swiss communities. Reports of this mysterious creature vary in description, some sighting claim the Tatzelwurm to be lizard-like while others more bizarrely claim the features of a cat.

A common description of the enigmatic Tatzelwurm is that of a creature between 2 and 6 feet, completely covered in scales and with no hind legs but rather a long snake like body. The Tatzelwurm has 2 front legs and is said to have very big bright eyes and feline like ears which some witness’s claim gives the Tatzelwurm the appearance of a cat covered in scales rather than fur. Another notable feature is that the Tatzelwurm can apparently expel poisonous fumes that are strong enough to kill a human.

Hans Fuchs, a poor Swiss farmer was tending to his farm in the Alps. Suddenly he heard strange noises from his pig pen. He ran towards the pig pen to see what was attacking his prized pig and stopped in shock. What he saw that day in 1779 would not only kill his pig, but he would die the same day of a heart attack.

Before dying the man told of seeing a tatzelwurm (German for “worm with claws”) 5 – 7 feet in length with a snake-like body, clawed front legs and a large feline-like head with sharp teeth.

The creature can become extremely ferocious; If the creature doesn’t run away when it sees a person, it will turn and run toward the person emitting a high pitched call and would try to bite the person.

In 1828, a peasant supposedly found the corpse of a Tatzelwurm which by the time he had managed to bring it home crows had apparently eaten half of the creature. Even so, the Tatzelwurm built up quite a following of believers and was even considered fact in the nineteenth century. Its now believed that even if this creature did actually exist that because sightings are so rare now it may be completely extinct.


It is widely believed that the Tatzelwurm is actually some kind of rare salamander with characteristics resembling a Gila Monster, most notably the preferred habitat of underground burrows in mountainous areas. This could also explain the reports of poisonous fumes as the Gila Monster is extremely venomous and one of the worlds only venomous lizards, though it is not native to the region. The description of the Tatzelwurm even fits that of a Gila Monster even if it is some what of a loose fit. Another theory is that this creature could be some kind of giant skink, although skinks are also not native to the Alps.

The Tatzelwurm is said to have normal hibernation periods; sleeping during the winter in crevices on mountainsides (this is the reason for the name “Stollenwurm”) or they will even sometimes sleep in hay in a hay loft. In the following two centuries, many reports were received about a strange monster lurking in the Alps and attacking the livestock of farmers in remote villages.

There are many other tales of the legend of the Tatzelwurm. The first tale is that of a young girl who was working on a Swiss farm. While chopping down bean poles she accidentally disturbed the burrow of a Tatzelwurm and was attacked. The Tatzelwurm in this account was described as being of a gray coloration and about the size of a common domesticated cat with a fleshy hairless body and possessing only two front legs. According to the story the Tatzelwurm glared at the girl and she ran away describing big bright eyes to intense to meet.

Another story tells that of a man and his son out gathering herbs in the mountains when the man suddenly heard his son scream and seemed to be paralyzed in fear staring at a rock. The man sprinted to his son only to see a ‘gruesome monster’ under the rock near his son which hissed like a snake and had the face of a cat with big bright eyes. The man managed to stab the Tatzelwurm with a sharped stick easily fleshing the flesh. According to the story the ‘green blood’ of the creature sprayed out and burnt the mans leg making his journey home long and painful due to his limp.

In July 1883 or 1884, Kaspar Arnold saw a Tatzelwurm on the Spielberg, near Hochfilzen, Tirol, Austria. He watched it from a mountain restaurant for twenty minutes and was certain it only had two legs.

A two-legged Tatzelwurm leaped 9 feet in the air toward two witnesses near Rauris, Salzburg, Austria, in the summer of 1921. It was gray, about 2–3 feet long, and had a head like a cat.

In 1924 the five-foot-long skeleton allegedly was found by two men, who said it resembled a lizard’s.

In 1934, a Swiss photographer named Balkin claimed to have photographed a Tatzelwurm near Meiringen, Switzerland, but his photo was probably a faked image of a ceramic fish.

In the summer of 1969, a local man reported a 30-inch-long animal with two hind legs near Lengstein, Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy. It seemed to be inflating its neck.

In 1990, two naturalists found the skeleton of a lizardlike animal in the Alps near Domodossola, Italy. Giuseppe Costale saw a gray, crested reptile moving in a zigzag fashion on Pizzo Cronia in the same area on two occasions, in October 1991 and September 1992.


In the 1960′s a photograph emerged which was supposedly taken of the mysterious creature. This was given to a Geneva newspaper from a source unknown. Most researchers and cryptozoologists who have seen the photo are in agreement that it is probably a hoax – most likely by a mayor of a Bavarian town attempting to attract tourists.

In 1970, reports of an alleged Tatzelwurm were published in the Swiss newspaper La Tribune de Geneve by Georges Hardy.

In 2000 a strange skeleton was forwarded to a local college. Some scientists said at the time is the first physical proof of the Alpine Tatzelwurm. Along with the skeleton came a sizable donation as well. The original owner of the skeleton remains a mystery. The law firm of Gunterhaus Ltd. in Germany handled the donation and refuses to divulge the name of the contributor or why the Geneva Institute was selected to be the recipient.


As recently as 2009, many reports were made in the Tresivio area of Italy, near the Swiss border. Authorities chalked up most of these reports to "missing monitor lizards" that had escaped their masters. Some of the sightings were even said to be of "raptor" dinosaurs! Only the oldest residents of Tresivio called the mysterious creatures by the name they always knew them as..."basilisco" or basilisk. That was the Italian name for Tatzelwurm...a creature almost faded into non-existence.

The Tatzelwurm is also known in other European countries under different names:

* Stollenworm (Tunnel Worm)
* Bergstutzen (Mountain Stump)
* Springwurm (Jumping Worm)
* Daazelwurm
* Praatzelwurm
* Arassas (French Alps)


Sources:
unknownexplorers.com
newanimal.org
forteantimes.com
levelbeyond.com
itsnature.org
wormwoodchronicles.com
cryptozoologycryptids.wikia


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Cryptozoology A To Z: The Encyclopedia of Loch Monsters, Sasquatch, Chupacabras, and Other Authentic Mysteries of Nature

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