It's been a bit quiet on the old cryptozoology front recently. Too quiet in fact. Monsters eh? Never around scaring the bejesus out of people when you need them.
It's to be expected I guess. The so-called silly season is well and truly over. The time of the year when newspapers become desperate to fill their pages with anything even remotely resembling news has passed. Parliament's back in session. Television is about to drag itself out of it's summer slump. And as far as the tabloids are concerned, the new football season has begun giving them ample opportunity to pen stories about how some guy who kicks a ball for a living is brilliant/rubbish/having sex with prostitutes or Paris Hilton or both. As such, the stories about how Jimmy Insane from Batshitcrazysville got attacked by a giant bird with the head of a horse and Stephen Fry's legs are no longer required. A couple of months ago they'd have been solid page five material. However in this current climate they're unlikely to make it to print. Even if they do it's in a side column alongside "Man makes world's biggest doughnut" and "Woman, 87, learns to skateboard".
In fact right now we're left with scraps. Just bit and bobs. For example my personal friend (Gee Note: On, er, Facebook. What? That counts! Yes it does! Shut up.) Dr. Karl Shuker has found a photo of "Trunko" which he has posted on his blog. I would re-post it here but Karl mentions something about copy write laws and, I'll be honest, I have no idea what I would have to do to avoid infringing them. Long and the short of it though, there's a silhouette of somebody poking a bloody great big sea monster with stick. I don't know why, but I like that. It seems like something I would do. (Gee Note: "Holy nutballs!!! What the hell is that??? Seriously guys, keep your distance. It could be dangerous. Yeah. It's better to be safe than sorry. Although it's not moving. And it's not like it's got claws or big teeth or anything. And… it is covered with fur. Like a big teddy bear. Say, does anyone here have a stick? Let's poke it and see what happens!")
Sadly though outside of that the world of woovy bezerk creatures is as quiet as a compilation CD of Marcel Marceau's Greatest Hits. In fact if you want to talk strange animal sightings (Gee Note: Which I'm hoping you do. Otherwise this post is going to be rather disappointing I guess) one has to go all the way back to July for the last decent story.
Meet Graham Oxley. On July 27 Mr Oxley decided to take his dog for a walk on the beach in his home town of Paignton (Gee Note: So nice then named it… er… after a piece of art. GEDDIT?!? Paignton. Painting. I know. I'm a freakin' genius) in Devon. While there he did the things most people with dogs on a beach do. He wandered about, threw some sticks, and shouted a bit when it looked like his dog was heading in to the water to chase some seagulls. At some point during this tomfoolery Graham looked out in to the sea and, gosh darnit, caught a glimpse of something rather peculiar.
"I saw what I thought was a turtle." he said, "I saw a black dome which was more rounded than a turtle's shell and its head kept popping out of the water every five minutes. It seemed to lurk over some weeds in about four foot of water for around half an hour."
Now Mr Oxley is obviously a man who gets excited over turtles (Gee Note: Never saw "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of The Ooze" obviously. Seriously try watching that again 18 years after the fact. It's like sawing your eyeballs in half with a rusty chainsaw. Why doesn't Shredder die after falling in to a trash compactor? Why doesn't the over amplified sound make everyone's ears bleed rather than throwing one dude out of the room? Also, who the hell thought a Vanilla Ice cameo would be a good idea? I swear when I saw that chump faced weasel singing Ninja Rap half way through I came very close to setting the TV on fire. In fact if I wasn't already sitting down and convinced it would have been impossible to explain to the Future Ex Mrs. Davies, then Vanilla's goofy ass would have gone up in flames), and as such he rushed home to grab his camera. Alas by the time he came back the critter was already heading out to the open water. It was at that point Graham realised it wasn't a turtle at all.
"That was when I realised it wasn't a turtle at all" he said.
Hmmm. Well G-Ozzle (Gee Note: Is that right? I'm not really sure I have this Snoop speak thing down if I'm honest) what was it then?
"What I thought was the shell was actually the creature's back and it seemed to change colour like a chameleon. When it was in the shade it was a black colour and then when it swam off it changed to a greeny-brown. It seemed to camouflage itself. That's probably why not many people have spotted them. It was standing feeding on the weeds and had its back arched. My eyesight is perfect, I don't drink and I'm not on drugs."
I'm not sure why "My eyesight is perfect. I don't drink and I'm not on drugs." is an excuse to take him seriously. For a start I don't take drugs (Gee Note: I'm the child of a million "Just Say No" posters from the 1980's), but I do enjoy the occasional glass of wine, and without my specs I'm as blind as a white jury in a Rodney King trial. And I've never seen anything remotely close to what Mr. Oxley describes. I saw a swan that I thought looked a bit like Abraham Lincoln once. But a bizarre turtle-faced-chameleon-hippo thing? Never spied me one of them Jack. Secondly, is it just me or does justifying yourself like that scream "insecure"? It's like the guy who turns up to work in the office wearing a bright yellow shirt, a novelty tie, and says "Oh I see your looking at my shirt? I know. I'm just sooo crazy". No. No you're not. The guy sitting at his computer desk all day not talking to anyone before going home, stripping bollock naked, and feeding his cat whiskey while shouting "You’re the one for me Mrs. Tiddles!" over and over again. That sumbitch crazy. You? You just want people to think your fun, but haven't quite worked out how do it. My point is Graham, no one thinks you're a blind alcoholic spun out on crystal meth twenty four seven. Some people might think you're nuts, sure. But a junkie? Probably not.
Anyway it's tough to call you insane when you weren't the only person to see it.
Step forward Mrs Gill Pearce. Gill was chilling out max and relaxing all cool when she caught sight of the strange beastie having a rare old time in the waves. Again thinking it was a turtle she watched it chase a shoal of fish to the shore, before reporting the sighting to the Marine Conservation Society.
The MCS got rather excited about all this. In fact MCS's biodiversity programme manager Peter Richardson was quoted as saying
"At the moment it's an unidentified mystery creature and we don't know what it is. Two people have reported seeing a creature about three metres long with a small head on a two-and-a-half foot neck. It would be great to find out what it is so we are asking people in the area to look out for it."
The reason the MCS got in to such a flap was that not only were there now two separate sightings of what sounds remarkably like a small Plesiosaur, but also that Mrs Pearce had supplied a...
Wait for it…
A photo of the animal.
This one to be precise.
Yeah. OK. Not sure I'm going to join you in popping open those champagne bottles just yet.
I mean go back and look at the photo on Dr. Karl's blog for a bit. Now that may very well be the rotting corpse of a basking shark or some sort of whale (Gee Note: No really. The sea does very odd things to dead animals. Basically large ocean faring creatures get all kinds of mangled up when they pop off. The results are distorted, sometimes boneless chunks of skin and flesh called globsters which look a bit like a giant octopus drawn by someone who has never seen an octopus before and instead had a child describe one to them). But I can tell you what it isn't. It isn't a misidentified sperm whale, or a capsized boat, or an elephant wearing a Muppet skin coat. And I can tell you this because I can, you know, actually make out what's in the picture.
But the Pearce photo? I have no idea what that is. I mean it could be a log, or a crocodile, or that kid on the lilo who gets munched by the shark in Jaws. Look I know we all love things that are bit mysterious. The reason why the Gable Film became so popular is that you could just kinda maybe make out that the thing charging towards the camera was a werewolf.
But that thing? I'll be honest with you, I'd love to be able to look at that and go “Yes. It's obviously a Plesiosaur that has survived the extinction of the dinosaurs and the last ice age.” But I can't. Because all you have there is blobs. Blobs in some water.
So in conclusion it comes down to this. In 1925 someone managed to take a picture of sea monster that, while hindered by the technology of the era, manages to be fascinating and thought provoking even now. And then in 2010 someone else took a picture of a sea monster that looked, well, like a bad ink smudge viewed through a motorcycle helmet.
And it's frustrating because, for all our modern technology, we still don't have any conclusive photographic evidence that anything unusual exists out there. Nobody has yet to snap the Jersey Devil, or the Loch Ness Monster, or a UFO with enough clarity to make people stop and think. Hell the best evidence that Bigfoot exists, if you do believe it's authentic, is a home movie made in 1967 by Messrs Patterson and Gimlin. At a time when more and more of us are carrying around cameras where ever we go, whether they be digital or as part of a cell phone, then the fact that there's still no more hard evidence of cryptids roaming amongst us is pretty disheartening.
So to all you potential monster hunters out there. If you ever see Bigfoot or Nessie waddling down your street then grab your camera and start clicking away like you were paparazzi.
Because if that happens then maybe, just maybe, I'll have something interesting to read when I open up tomorrow's newspaper.