; Phantoms and Monsters: Pulse of the Paranormal

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Fortean / Oddball News: Record Florida Gator, Lions Eat Drunk and a Scottish Vampire Tale

State Record Alligator Caught in Florida

orlandosentinel - An alligator trapped Sunday by an Orlando man in a Brevard County lake broke the official state record for length.

Tres Ammerman, who traps gators as a hobby, caught the 14-foot, 3 1/2-inch male alligator in Lake Washington.

The previous official state record for length, set in 1997, was a 14-foot, 5/8-inch male alligator from Lake Monroe in Seminole County.

Alligators over 14 feet are very rare in Florida, said Arnold Brunell, the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission wildlife biologist who inspected the gator trapped by Ammerman.

"This was really something that we don't see much of," Brunell said.

Ammerman and two others were on their boat when they spotted the large gator on the shore Sunday night.

"I knew he was a giant gator when we saw his head," Ammerman said.

After harpooning the alligator, it did what the reptiles normally do — thrashed around, swam and pulled the boat.

T.J. Schause, Ammerman's nephew who was also on board, quipped that the gator pulled the watercraft faster than the motor.

The gator was too big to go in the boat, so the men essentially had to tow the reptile in.

It took the trio more than two hours to catch the gator and bring it to the boat dock. They then moved it to Ammerman's garage.

Brunell confirmed Monday that the gator broke the state record for length, but it is not the heaviest.

Ammerman's gator weighed in at 654 pounds. The Florida record for weight is a 1,043-pound alligator from Orange Lake in Alachua County.

There have been accounts of longer alligators being caught in Florida — including a 17.5-foot gator captured at Apopka in 1956 — but those are not considered official by state records.


Kids Really Do See Things Differently

newscientist - Children do not see objects in a fully grown-up way until the age of 13, a new study suggests.

When judging whether shaded images are convex or concave, adult brains assume that light comes from above unless there is reason to think otherwise. Young children have to learn this ability.

To investigate when this happens, Jim Stone at the University of Sheffield, UK, showed embossed shapes such as squares and shaded images such as footprints to 171 children aged from 4 to 10. Each child was shown 10 images and asked whether they were convex or concave. The "correct" answer assumed an object was lit from above.

The children got better with age, with the average score out of 10 improving by 0.43 each year (Perception, DOI: 10.1068/p6725). If children of other ages develop at the same rate, Stone predicts that babies will learn to assume that light comes from above at about 21 months. But this aspect of their visual perception won't be "fully grown" until the age of 13 or so.

"Children really do see the world differently to adults, inasmuch as their perceptions seem to be more variable," says Stone. "No wonder they can't look at a cloud without seeing a dog or a bear."

NOTE: ....or take everything their parents say as a complete contradiction. Lon


Don't Play With the Lions

thesun - A drunk barman at a game reserve was eaten alive by three lions following a marathon drinking session.

Jan-Friederick Bredenhand, 30, was pulled into the lions' pen by his legs after climbing up a fence pole, and was "ripped to pieces".

Police believe the food and drinks manager was drunk and wanted to "play" with the animals after an all-night party at the wildlife park in South Africa.

Tourist Veluchia Hassim told of seeing the beasts chewing on his carcass after being woken by screams at 5am on Sunday.

She said: "We ran to the encampment. It was horrific. The one lion was gnawing on his ribs when we got there."

The wildlife resort's owner, Johnny Janse van Rensburg, had to shoot the animals dead — just two weeks after he bought the business — so cops could recover the victim's remains.

A friend of Mr Bredenhand, Jamiel Jonas, said they had been partying all night.

He said: "After they braaied (barbecued) and partied at the ranch entrance, they came back home, but he wanted to play with the lions.

"Then just after 5am his friend came screaming for us to phone the police and for an ambulance. He was drunk.

"When we got to the camp we saw the remains of his body. Most of his stomach was torn out and his leg had been ripped off."

Police spokeswoman Gerda Swart said Mr Bredenhand is believed to have been seized by the legs and dragged to his gruesome death.

She said: "He climbed the fence around their enclosure and clearly got too close.

"Since he was drunk he may not have been in sound mind, but it was an incredibly dangerous and stupid thing to do.

"People who play dangerous games with animals like lions are asking for trouble - and he got it."

He was caught by a lone lion.

Ms Swart added: "After that there was nothing he could do - another male lion and a female joined the attack and ripped him to pieces.

"The man's friend watched the whole thing happen but couldn't do anything to help. He was very traumatised."

The victim's pal, Simon, ran to get help and flagged down a passing motorist.

Waldo Le Roux said: "He (Simon) came out of nowhere and was suddenly in the road right in front of me.

"I drove past, but he looked so upset that I turned around.

"He was screaming 'please help me, my friend is being eaten by a lion'."

Mr La Roux ran to the enclosure but Mr Bredenhand was already dead.

He said: "I tugged at the fence but I couldn't do anything."

The incident happened at the privately-run Addo Croc and Lion Ranch near Port Elizabeth.

Mr van Rensburg added: "There was no reason for him to be there.

"He was the bar and restaurant manager so he was not involved with the lions."

He had only been working at the resort for a month.

The incident was the second fatal lion attack at the ranch.

Former owner Lourens van Straaten was mauled by a male lion in July 2005 and declared brain dead a few days later.

He had been repairing an electric fence.


Iron Man of the Gorbals

dailyrecord - Hundreds of children were marauding between the tombstones and the city was gripped with terror. A vampire had been spotted in the cemetery.

Some of the brave monster-hunters were armed with makeshift weapons and dogs.

Most, though, were armed with nothing more sinister than a fertile imagination, fuelled by the magic of cinema and the wonder of American comics.

This might sound like a scene from Twilight or one of the other vampire films that have been sweeping the box office, but it's actually a Gorbals policeman recalling a night in Glasgow's southern Necropolis 47 years ago.

Teams of hysterical schoolchildren had staked out the graveyard and crypts in the hunt for a truly terrifying figment of collective hysteria.

There was a ghoul in the Gorbals. It had iron teeth. It had taken two boys.

And they were out to get it. Schoolboy Tam Smith was eating ice cream in a cafe with his aunt half a mile from the scene of the hysteria and horror when he first heard tales of fearsome fangs around the corner.

As he set out on his adventure to help slay the beast - or at least catch a glimpse of it - he felt no fear.

"I had my auntie Sadie with me," he recalled, laughing. "I was only seven but she was a right bully, I tell you. The boys were right feart of her.

"We had been sitting in the Station Cafe, next to the Bridge Street underground, after school with some of my pals.

"We were sitting there listening to the jukebox and a friend of hers ran in and told us there was a vampire in the graveyard."

Fired by childhood excitement and with his aunt Sadie safely to hand, Tam and his mates headed back into the graveyard, resting place to a quarter of a million souls.

He said: "The walls were lined with people.

We ventured through the gatehouse and there were loads of kids in there, some wandering around, some sitting on the walls.

"There were a lot of dogs too, and mums and dads with kids.

"We found a place to stand out of the way because there were so many people there.

"I think the whole of the Gorbals was in that graveyard. It's hard to put an estimate on the number of people."

Tam didn't see anything to substantiate claims of a bloodthirsty beast with a galvanised gub. But even now, almost half a century later, the spooky images and intoxicating excitement are vividly recalled.

"I can't remember how long we stayed," he said. "But one thing I remember clearly is that there was a furnace blast from the ironworks at Dixon Blazes when it started to get dark.

"It turned the sky flaming red right across the top end of the Gorbals and when that went up, everyone jumped.

"They thought that was the vampire, or the so-called Iron Man of the Gorbals.

"At one point, someone had been burning stuff in a nearby chapel lane and one of the stories was that the vampire had burned one of the boys there. Those were the kind of stories that were going around at the time.

"You would go to bed at night and wonder if these things were actually happening."

It seems unaimaginable now in the Grand Theft Auto days of heightened violence and teen fascination with vamp-sex TV dramas like True Blood, but this imaginary Gorbals bogeyman welded a power more fierce than any modern day character from computer games or books.

That night in Glasgow, this fictional beast unleashed a bolt of mass hysteria, similar, if on a smaller and less tragic scale, to the radio broadcast of HG Wells' War of The Worlds.

Tam said: "It was atmospheric, looking back it was great. Back then we had no TVs, we went to picture halls and cafes for entertainment, so it was amazing to have something like this happening on your doorstep.

"My great grandad stayed next to the graveyard, he looked out right on to it.

"The stories he would speak of were of the Iron Man, but other people were talking about The Man With The Iron Teeth, which might have been because of the iron works behind it.

"I remember the head mistress of Gorbals Public School telling us all in the dining room that we were to keep away from the graveyard.

"But of course, boys will be boys and we still climbed up there and looked around for this iron man or vampire. It was an adventure for us. For ages afterwards, people would come in to school and claim they'd seen it last night."

Naturally, this being Glasgow, even a fanged fiend was due a winch from time to time, and the local boys wasted no time concocting an iron lady for him ... long before the more terrifying real one made it to Downing Street.

Tam said: "There was an old lady who used to carry two cats in a basket. She would go to the graveyard to get peace away from the kids and let her cats have a wander.

"But she was in there the night we went looking for it and people were involving the 'cat woman' with the iron man. It was a shame when you think about it, she was an eccentric with wiry hair, but we called her Tin Lizzie. She was the iron man's 'burd'.

"It's a shame. The cat woman was ridiculed by kids, when you're young like that you don't think how that might hurt someone."

In those days, Glasgow was a city packed with picture halls, a fair proportion of which were in the Gorbals area.

In an echo of that need for entertainment, Radio 4 will this week broadcast a documentary about the mythical monster of the city's southside and how its terror spread as far as the House of Commons.

Presented by novelist Louise Welsh, The Gorbals Vampire explores how the myth of the child-killing bloodsucker led politicians to introduce the Children and Young Persons (Harmful Publications) Act 1955.

It was a response to the claim that an influx of American horror comics with names like Astounding Stories and Tales From The Crypt had made an impact on young minds in the west of Scotland.

Combined with the ready acceptance of apocryphal monsters sprung from the local iron works, the comics were seen by many as the reason for the sudden hysteria.

Academics have since pointed out, however, that none of the comics featured a vampire with iron teeth, leaving some looking to the Bible (Daniel 7:7 - featuring a monster with metal dentistry) and even a poem about a local bogeyman taught in surrounding schools.

Tam reckons the reason for the national interest in the story was fed by the reputation the Gorbals had across the UK.

He said: "The area had a reputation partly because of that No Mean City book. It gave the Gorbals a really bad name.

"We used to swap comics in each other's close stairways. I had Superman and Batman comics. But as a kid, you tend to believe these things were possible.

"There were 90,000 people who stayed in that area. I have often said that if there really was a ghost or a vampire in that area you would never know because there were too many people."

Brother of Daily Record psychic barber Gordon Smith, artist Tam is heavily involved in archiving the area, and his sculptures of the local pubs are popular.

He tells of another creepy experience after the iron-toothed vampire had moved on to his next city, involving the discovery of human bones on the Clydeside.

Tam said: "They were digging the foundations for a garage and came across skeletons. We all dashed along to see, and the police had bones laid out on big canopies. It turned out to be the skeletons of the leper colony (the 'bell' of which gave rise to the area being dubbed Gorbals after the 'gory bell') in the 12th Century."

Fortean / Oddball News: Record Florida Gator, Lions Eat Drunk and a Scottish Vampire Tale