Friday, September 20, 2013

Daily 2 Cents: 'Ole Red Eye' -- Searching For The Blue Tiger -- Hair Covered 'Human Monster'

Some people might consider this marker, off of Dicks Dam Road north of Cross Keys, a simple scarecrow. But others think it could be a totem for the mothman creature they say is skulking around the Adams County woods.

'Ole Red Eye'

The stream gurgle fades with the waning afternoon light, as you press deeper into the woods. A muddy shore gives way to thick grass heavy with rain. The path narrows, branches grasp and pull.

Something moves and you turn with a start -- a squirrel bounds away through the brush.

If it's March, or April, we're not having this conversation. You're not wide-eyed and alone and half-lost in a maze of trees and undergrowth.

But this is the season for ghouls and for legends. It's the time of year editors send reporters out to the wild, in search of fleeting phantoms. Thus, the mothman creature that reportedly lives in the rural Adams County woods.

And thus a soaked pair of shoes, and pants legs abloom with sharp briars. Leaves whispering, dusk falling as the trail leads you deeper, farther from home.

So how did it come to this?

Here's the story.

It's 1988, and a man living in the Baltimore area is set to meet an old friend from Adams County at a Boy Scout conference. The old friend mentions to the man, Lon Strickler, that Scout troops on overnight trips at Camp Conewago have recently been packing up their tents early, leaving the grounds in a rush of spinning tires. They've been waking in the night, the man said, to the sound of shrill crying.

Screaming sounds, out among the trees.

Strickler -- who had some experience in paranormal research -- was intrigued. He agreed to accompany his friend, and another man, to investigate for a night.

The group met at the Boy Scout camp off Dicks Dam Road north of Cross Keys, on a Friday night, around 7 p.m. They walked from the empty cabins about 500 yards into the woods, and then, following the Conewago Creek another 300 yards upstream, pitched their tents there along the shore. The talk was of sports and childhood camping trips, and night passed without incident.

There was little mention of the something they thought could be out in the woods. But still, Strickler would say later, it felt as if he were being watched.

Saturday dawned clear and cool, the sun warming a winding creek. The three men explored the area for most of the day, arriving back at camp again in the early evening. Conversation again covered football and food, the hours blurring and fading with a crackling campfire. Then, from somewhere in the shadows, a scream.

Maybe an owl, one man said. A bobcat, or a bird? But the three knew the local woods, and the animals. And this wasn't close, they said. This was something different. The wail of a child.

So the group grabbed stowed gear and crept away from the dying fire, out into the night. They searched for signs of tracks or disturbance, squinting to pick up movement among the trees, scanning the shadows under slivered moon.

Water murmured in the creek bed. Leaves split like eggshells underfoot. Breath streamed out in bursts of silence, white against the night. Strickler stopped.

There it is, he whispered.

Standing in the creek was a large, dark figure. It was tall as a man, and stood upright; its red eyes burned. In an eye blink the creature leapt from the creek with a dizzying burst of wind and water, melting away into the sky.

Its scream echoed over barren branches.

That was more than 20 years ago, Lon Strickler said recently, and he can still see it -- those eyes. And others have seen it in those woods, too, he said. Stories of sightings have come in from people he's never met. He's tracked them, and they still trickle in today.

Its become known, Strickler said, as the Conewago Phantom.

For all the build-up, though, and the obvious ghost-story selling points, few around the area had ever heard of the beast. Knocks on doors brought little more than puzzled, pitying looks. Trips down forgotten stone lanes yielded only empty stares.

Several people, at least, got a good laugh.

So as the late-day sun melts to twilight, there's little left to do but find that deserted Boy Scout camp.

Behind an iron gate lays a wide, empty field, with a slow hill running to a line of wooden cabins. The cabins, huddled close and backed by dense woods, are dark and boarded, with no signs of life save for a dent here, a long scratch in a split board there. Then, movement.

At the top of the stone drive a blue pickup rolls into view, slows, and rumbles to rest beside you with a diesel growl. Inside, a man with a hat pulled low and a wide, dark mustache. He kills the engine but the woods are somehow louder now, birdsong dripping down from the trees.

He jerks his head, beckoning.

"I hear you're looking for 'Ole Red Eye,'" the man says as you struggle your way across the loose stone. Kids at this camp been talking about him for years, he says, fresh dirt on his shirt sleeve, gravel in his voice. Some claim they've seen him.

There's something they're afraid of, he says, out in those woods.

He stares off into the shadows, and while you can't see up into the pickup, you notice the gun rack behind his head. You notice it's empty. And your eye goes to the black tarp behind him. It flaps loose in the wind, slick and wet.

He turns back, catches you looking. And a hungry smile forms under that mustache, as he reaches down with his right hand -- slowly -- his little eyes on yours.

The gray sky seems to sag in on itself, and your skin goes cold. The birds squawk and scream, trees pressing in as your voice fails.

"I imagine that's all just kid stories, though," the man says. And he takes a drink of the soda in his hand. The truck rumbles and lurches to life again, tires grinding into the stone. Be careful, he advises then, out here all alone.

But you're already right behind him. The swishing and sloshing of your soaked shoes forgotten, as you fumble with your keys, as you jump in your car. As you press down the automatic lock.

So silly, of course. But even those who don't believe -- those tree-branch fingers clawing at your window, that cold breath of wind creeping through the door -- this month we look twice over our shoulder.

Did you just hear something? - The Evening Sun - October 31, 2011

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Could the mythical blue tiger actually exist?

One of the world's most famous cryptids is the so-called blue tiger, first sighted in China a century ago. Cryptozoologists have even worked how such a creature might come to be. Here are the real genetics of a (probably) fake animal.

The blue tiger, or maltese tiger, came to international attention in 1910, when a missionary in the Fujian province of China noticed what he thought was a man in a blue suit. It turned out to be a tiger with a smoky blue coat striped with black. Understandably, few people took the word of a guy who, at first, mixed up a person and a big cat, but eventually the word, and the promise of a reward, got out and hunters got involved. There were some breathless accounts of near-captures, but no one ever managed to get the cat.

There still are breathless accounts of the maltese tiger. Stories turn up, from time to time. Some people claim a blue-tinted cub was born at the Oklahoma Zoo in 1964. The cub was killed in infancy by its mother, but pictures of the preserved animal show an unmistakably orange cub in a specimen jar with a darkness about its sides that could be shadows or could be a slight gray tint to the fur.

The Genetics of a Cryptid

Cryptid aficionados have theories as to how these tigers might be produced. Tigers have the agouti gene, a gene that determines whether animals - from dogs to horses, have patterned fur. It causes a range of pigmentation patterns in dogs and cats, as well as the darkening that is sometimes seen around the ears and lower legs of horses. One of the products of the agouti gene is the agouti signalling peptide. In mice, the presence of this peptide causes melanocytes - the pigment producing cells which would usually produce brown or black pigments - to suddenly start manufacturing the orange or yellow pheomelanin pigments.

Could the mythical blue tiger actually exist?

In domesticated animals, especially cats, there is also the dilution gene. This fades out the normal color, and produces the gray, and sometimes faintly blue, color that we sometimes see in cats. A maltese tiger, would have to have a combination of the agouti gene with the dilution gene. The agouti gene would give the tiger stripes, but the dilute gene would wash out the orange and turn it gray.

Tigers are relatively variable in their colors. There are pure white tigers with barely distinguishable stripes, white tigers with black stripes, and golden tigers that have slightly deeper gold stripes on a tawny background. Reports of black tigers or gray tigers still do turn up. Despite the stories told by hunters and the brief glimpses of hikers or farmers, it's doubtful that this kind of cat exists. It would be nice to see one, though. From a distance. - io9

Tales of the Cryptids: Mysterious Creatures That May or May Not Exist (Darby Creek Publishing)

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

Phantoms & Monsters: Cryptid Encounters


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Hair Covered “Human Monster,” Idaho, 1902

Algona Advance, Algona, Iowa - 31 January 1902

Hairy Monster Eight Feet Tall Terrifies Bannock County

According to the Pocatello, Idaho, correspondent of the Deseret News, residents of the little town of Chesterfield, located in an isolated portion of Bannock county, Idaho, are greatly excited over the appearance in that vicinity of an eight foot hair-covered human monster. He was first seen January 14, when he appeared among a party of young people who were skating on the river near John Gooch’s ranch. The creature showed fight. Flourishing a large club and uttering a series of yells he started to attack the skaters, who managed to reach their wagons and got away in safety. Measurements of his tracks showed the creature’s feet to be 22 inches long and seven inches broad, with the imprint of only four toes. Stockmen report having seen the tracks along the range west of the river. People of the neighborhood are feeling unsafe while the creature is at large, and have sent out twenty men to effect its capture.

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Infection turned man's gut into a brewery

A 61-year-old man with a history of home-brewing stumbled into a Texas emergency room complaining of dizziness. Nurses ran a Breathalyzer test and found the man's blood alcohol concentration was 0.37 percent, or almost five times the legal limit for driving in Texas. The man said he hadn't touched a drop of alcohol that day.

"He would get drunk out of the blue - on a Sunday morning after being at church, or really, just anytime," says Barabara Cordell, the dean of nursing at Panola College in Carthage, Texas. "His wife was so dismayed about it that she even bought a Breathalyzer." Other medical professionals put the man's problem down to "closet drinking." But Cordell and Dr. Justin McCarthy, a gastroenterologist in Lubbock, wanted to figure out what was really going on.

So the team searched the man's belongings for liquor and then isolated him in a hospital room for 24 hours. Throughout the day, he ate carbohydrate-rich foods, and the doctors periodically checked his blood for alcohol. At one point, it rose 0.12 percent. Eventually, McCarthy and Cordell pinpointed the culprit: an overabundance of brewer's yeast in his gut. According to Cordell and McCarthy, the man's intestinal tract was acting like his own internal brewery.

The patient had an infection with Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Cordell says. So when he ate or drank anything containing starch - a bagel, pasta or even a soda - the yeast fermented the sugars into ethanol, and he would get drunk. Essentially, he was brewing beer in his own gut. Cordell and McCarthy reported the case of "auto-brewery syndrome" a few months ago in the International Journal of Clinical Medicine. - NPR

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Man attempted exorcism on 80-year-old girlfriend

A 54-year-old man was arrested Tuesday after, deputies say, he held down his 80-year-old girlfriend and tried to perform an exorcism.

The alleged exorcism started Monday. David Edward Benes and his live-in girlfriend of three years got into a fight, a Pasco Sheriff's report states. He grabbed her, held her down and told her he was trying to "exorcise her and get the devil out of her."

At some point, Benes took batteries out of the house phones to keep her from calling for help, the report states. He confiscated her car keys and rigged the garage door to keep it from opening. Eventually she fell asleep, according to the report, and on Tuesday the exorcism began again.

It was unclear who contacted authorities, but deputies found Benes' girlfriend sitting outside the home crying. She had bruised and scratched arms. Benes was on the couch too drunk to remember what happened, the report states. He told deputies his girlfriend started the fight "because she is crazy."

Benes, of 2633 Albion St., was arrested on charges of domestic battery on a person 65 or older, tampering with a witness and false imprisonment. He remained in the Land O'Lakes jail Wednesday without bail. Records show he's been convicted of battery twice in Pasco County and once of violating a domestic violence injunction. - TampaBay

The Demonologist: The Extraordinary Career of Ed and Lorraine Warren

Hostage to the Devil: The Possession and Exorcism of Five Contemporary Americans


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