Friday, August 15, 2008

Press Conference Doesn't Even Convince Fellow Bigfoot Hunters

Matthew Whitter, Rick Dyer and Tom Biscardi promised conclusive DNA evidence, put produced that of a human and a possum. All the "Three Stooges of cryptozoology" had to offer at today's much-hyped press conference were two blurry pictures and a message of conservation. That message? They didn't want to reveal any further information about Bigfoot in order to safeguard this "endangered species." Bullshit.

There are so many news article about this farce of a press conference that it is almost embarrassing. Both for the three stooges and the news agencies involved. Each story offers something little different about the story; more background here, a few more quotes from the press conference there. The only way I can take a truly "fair and balanced" look at this story is to touch on each article individually. So as not to play favorites, I will present the articles in alphabetical order based on the name of the news agency.

Let's start with the Associated Press piece. The AP story quotes Bigfoot researcher and Idaho State University professor Jeffrey Meldrum as not being at all convinced by the "evidence" presented at the press conference:

"'What I've seen so far is not compelling in the least, and I think the pictures cast grave doubts on their claim. It just looks like a costume with some fake guts thrown on top for effect.'"

If you decide to read any further, Meldrum's name will become very familiar to you. Nearly every story I found quotes him at least once. The AP story also brought up the three separate stories Whitter and Dyer (whom I've decided to call Larry and Curly, since Biscardi is clearly the brains of the operation) have presented describing their "discovery" of the body:

"In one, the animal was shot by a former felon, and the men followed it into the woods. In a second version, they found a "family of Bigfoot" in North Georgia mountains. In the third, the two were hiking and stumbled upon the corpse with open wounds."

A story from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution paints a pictures of these two rubes that does not lend them any more credibility. I wonder how hard they had to stifle their laughter after releasing this gem:

"Still 'we’re now the best Bigfoot hunters in the world,' said Whitton, 31, of Ellenwood, who with Dyer, 28, wore ballcaps advertising their Web site."

The AJC article also reveals some the pair's antics before they hit the big time, talking in front fancy reporters and their cameras:

"They previously posted a video of the purported bigfoot on YouTube in which Whitton’s brother pretended to be a scientist, then announced it was all done in fun. And a recorded greeting on Whitton’s phone formerly claimed he and Dyer were leading expeditions to find not just bigfoot but also the Loch Ness monster and leprechauns."

Larry and Curly's excuse for this? They wanted to throw off all the "psychos" who were apparently hounding them after the first spoke of their discovery on a Bigfoot-themed radio show.

The AJC report also offers more information on the hoax Biscardi (Moe) perpetrated in 2005:

"In 2005, Biscardi claimed he had come across a woman in Nevada who had captured two living bigfoot creatures. He charged about $15 for visitors to his Web site to see blurry streaming video claiming to show the captured creatures."

The next story from the CBC offers little we haven't heard before, but does provide a concise explanation of the fruits of the DNA tests, and Moe's tortured explanation:

"Biscardi vowed that DNA evidence would vindicate the men. But he later said that one of the three samples sent for examination came back as human DNA, another was inconclusive, and a third came back as the DNA of a possum, which he said could have been from something the Bigfoot ate."

But since Moe never says from which part of the Bigfoot "body" the DNA samples were taken, this explanation doesn't seem to have a leg on which to stand. Even if the sample was taken from the alleged stomach of the beast after just enjoying a hearty meal of possum, the DNA would most likely have been destroyed in the digestion process.

The CBC article also reiterates the AP claim of Larry and Curly's three different "discovery" stories:

"Whitton and Dyer have so far offered three different tales about how they came to find the creature: In one, the animal was shot by a former felon, and the men followed it into the woods. In a second version, they found a "family of Bigfoot" in North Georgia mountains. In the third, the two were hiking and stumbled upon the corpse with open wounds."

The article posted on the Discovery News website quotes Meldrum much more extensively, clearly showing how laughable he, a self-described Bigfoot researcher, thinks this whole thing is:

"'What they are claiming to be Bigfoot in a photograph doesn't look natural,' Jeffrey Meldrum, a professor of anatomy in the Department of Biological Sciences at Idaho State University, told Discovery News. 'When the photo is juxtaposed next to an off-the-shelf costume, the resemblance is remarkable,' Meldrum added."

The Discovery article also offers some context for this situation. Georgia resident Charles Doyle, who is a noted folklorist and an associate professor of English at the University of Georgia describes the reasons why such an outlandish tale is proving popular in his region:

"'Much of the lore of Bigfoot, I suspect, is what one eminent folklorist a generation ago called "fakelore" -- invented figures with little or no basis in actual oral tradition that are passed off as local folklore, figures like Paul Bunyan and Pecos Bill -- for purposes of PR, attracting tourists, selling tabloid newspapers and magazines, creating children's literature, etc.,' Doyle explained."

The article is only worthy of mention because the reporter actually sought out a Halloween costume seller to comment on the alleged picture of the "body" lying in a freezer:

"'It definitely looks like our costume,' Jerry Parrino, owner of, told"

When even Fox News sees fit to rag on your credibility like this, you know you have a serious problem.

At last we come to the final article in my alphabetical hall of shame. This one comes from Scientific American, and presents a full-on interview with our good buddy Jeff Meldrum. In it, Meldrum actually identifies the scientist who preformed the DNA tests, but does not let any credibility seep into the story because of it:

"All the rumors about the bigfoot DNA results are just that: rumors. I spoke to Curtis Nelson (a biologist from the University of Minnesota) who is doing the DNA tests, and he all he could say is that there are no results yet—he can't say anything more due to a nondisclosure agreement. Apparently Curt just received a vial of tissue in the mail, and there's no chain of custody, no validation that this tissue came from the corpse in question. Since there is no known Sasquatch genetic material to compare it to, he may just end up with a gene sequence that doesn't match any other primates, at best."

The SciAm article was posted before the actual press conference, explaining Meldrum's description of the DNA samples as "rumors."

Meldrum's phone must have been ringing off the hook because of the three stooges. I feel a bit sorry for the guy. I cannot wait to see where Larry, Moe and Curly turn up next after being raked through the coals of critical thinking by so many news organizations. A few articles mentioned Moe claiming more test results will be revealed on Monday, but I somehow doubt it.

A side note, Jeremy the Skeptic will put on hold for the next two weeks. I'm glad I had to chance to write about this hilarious story as my last post for a while. Nothing makes me happier than to see blatant hoaxers get their asses handed to them by the news media.

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Alleged Bigfoot Body to be Unveiled Friday, August 15

This story has been bouncing around on various cryptozoology-themed blogs and websites for the past few days. Two self-proclaimed bigfoot hunters from Georgia (the US Georgia, not the one under siege by Russia) have apparently found their very own Bigfoot body. The team of Matthew Whitton and Rick Dyer issued a press release on August 12 announcing that they would be revealing DNA and photographic evidence at a press conference to be held in Palo Alto, CA on Friday. The event will be opened to verified members of the news media only.

The link to the press release takes you to the website of Searching for Bigfoot Inc, the company of man named Tom Biscardi. In a recent radio interview, Whitton and Dyer described Biscardi as a "real bigfoot hunter" and because of this, Whitton and Dyer have only let Biscardi analyze the body so far. From the article:

"'The only person we would allow to come down and verify the body was 'the real Bigfoot Hunter,' Tom Biscardi,' Dyer said."

Whitton and Dyer claim in the press release that a team of scientists, all of them unnamed, will be studying the body in detail:

"Extensive scientific studies will be done on the body by a team of scientists including a molecular biologist, an anthropologist, a paleontologist and other scientists over the next few months at an undisclosed location. The studies will be carefully documented and the findings will be released to the world, according to Biscardi."

I imagine by now some readers may find something a bit fishy about the clandestine manner in which Dyer and Whitton are handling this matter. They don't name the experts that are in line to examine the body, they keep the location a secret and they promise to present only "DNA evidence and photo evidence" at the press conference. Why wouldn't they want to bring the actual body? Pictures of it, which can be found at the press release link, already show it residing in a cooler. Why couldn't they arrange to have it flown to the press conference in California. For that matter, why even have the press conference in California?

Benjamin Radford, managing editor for Skeptical Inquirer, brings up another interesting point in an article posted on Apparently, Biscardi was involved in a similar "unveiling" in 2005:

"A man named Tom Biscardi, founder of something called the Great American Bigfoot Research Organization, once claimed he had captured a Bigfoot. On Aug. 19, 2005, Biscardi appeared on the radio show "Coast to Coast with George Noory." Biscardi claimed his group had captured a Bigfoot a week earlier, a male beast that weighed over 400 pounds and stood 8-feet tall. He said he would be presenting photos of it several days later. It turned out to be a hoax."

The press release also mentions a documentary released by Biscardi in 2006 called "Bigfoot Lives." Could this whole thing be an elaborate publicity stunt? Even if a hoax is revealed, I'm sure the attention already drawn to Biscardi has increased sales of his documentary.

No matter what this turns out to be, genuine scientific discovery or monkey suit in a cooler, I would love to be able to go to that press conference tomorrow. I'll just have to be content to sit on the sidelines and wait for CNN to bring the earth-shattering discovery to me.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

University of California's Rejection of Creationist Textbooks Ruled Constitutional by a California Federal Court

The National Center for Science Education reported yesterday the defendants in Association of Christian Schools International et al. v. Roman Stearns et al. have prevailed. The lawsuit, originally filed on August 25, 2005, was focused around the Association of Christian Schools International's disapproval of the University of California system's policies and statements relevant to evaluating the qualifications of applicants for admission. The Association, along with Calvary Chapel Christian School in Murrieta, California, and a handful of students at the school, sued the defendants, claiming the UC system unconstitutionally denied the applications of students from Christian schools. UC deemed the Christian high school course work inadequate preparation for college. The UC system claimed Christian school biology courses which used textbooks entitled Biology: God's Living Creation from A Beka Books and Biology for Christian Schools from Bob Jones University Press were, "inconsistent with the viewpoints and knowledge generally accepted in the scientific community."

On March 26, 2008, Judge S. James Otero ruled in favor of the defendants' motion establishing the constitutionality of the university system's policies and statements relevant to evaluating the qualifications of applicants for admission. However, the plantiffs' claim that UC policies and statements relevant to the specific cases cited in the lawsuit were unconstitutional was still unresolved. The defendants' motion for a judgment on the plantiffs' specific cases was granted in the ruling Judge Otero set down on August 8, 2008. The ruling ended: "Because Plaintiffs fail to raise any genuine issue of material fact to support their as-applied claims, Defendants' Motion is GRANTED" (emphasis in original).

The August 8 ruling addressed UC's rejection of a biology course submitted by Calvary Baptist school which used Biology: God's Living Creation as its textbook. The book was evaluated by Barbara Sawrey, the Associate Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate Education, and faculty member in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry at UC San Diego. Sawrey described the book as taking an "overall un-scientific approach to the subject matter." Expert witnesses for the defense Donald Kennedy, editor-in-chief of Science, and Francisco J. Ayala, University Professor and Donald Bren Professor of Biological Sciences, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology at UC Irvine's School of Biological Sciences, had similar reactions to both Creation and Biology for Christian Schools. From the NCSE article:

"Kennedy wrote, 'the problem is not ... that the creationist view is taught as an alternative to scientific explanations, but that the nature of science, the theory of evolution, and critical thinking are not taught adequately.'"

A little more research on the books themselves turned up some interesting excerpts from each of them. On A Beka Book's website were Creation can be ordered, a snapshot of two pages describing the human skeletal system can be found. Here are two of eight questions offered to students as a section review:

" 7. In a paragraph, describe how the structure of the skull is an example of God's design and provision for man."

"8. Men and woman both have exactly twelve pairs of ribs. Why is this not a contradiction of Genesis 2: 21-22?"

Also, excerpts of Biology for Christian Schools found through a Wikipedia explanation of the case (I didn't rely solely on Wikipedia's description, the quoted text can be found on page 40 of the PDF of the ruling) prove Kennedy's description of the book is accurate. From the Wikipedia article:

" Plaintiff's evidence also supports Defendants' conclusion that these biology texts are inappropriate for use as the primary or sole text. Plaintiffs' own biology expert, Professor Michael Behe, testified that 'it is personally abusive and pedagogically damaging to de facto require students to subscribe to an idea. . . . Requiring a student to, effectively, consent to an idea violates his personal integrity. Such a wrenching violation [may cause] a terrible educational outcome.' (Behe Decl. Para. 59.)

Yet, the two Christian biology texts at issue commit this 'wrenching violation.' For example, Biology for Christian Schools declares on the very first page that:

  1. 'Whatever the Bible says is so; whatever man says may or may not be so, is the only [position] a Christian can take. . . .'
  2. 'If [scientific] conclusions contradict the Word of God, the conclusions are wrong, no matter how many scientific facts may appear to back them.'
  3. 'Christians must disregard [scientific hypotheses or theories] that contradict the Bible.' (Phillips Decl. Ex. B, at xi.)"
Intelligent design proponent Dr. Micheal Behe's testimony on behalf of the defendants did not prove convincing to the judge, even though he was the plantiffs' expert witness. Judge Otero wrote in his ruling:

"'Plaintiffs offer little admissible evidence to the contrary. Plaintiffs' Biology expert, Dr. Michael Behe, submitted a declaration concluding that the BJU text mentions standard scientific content. ... However, Professor Behe "did not consider how much detail or depth" the texts gave to this standard content. ... Therefore, Professor Behe fails to refute one of Professor Kennedy's primary concerns that the nature of science, the theory of evolution, and critical thinking are not taught adequately. Accordingly, there is no genuine issue of material fact as to this issue. Defendants had a rational basis for rejecting Calvary Baptist's proposed Biology course.'"

I'm sure it's obvious by now, and by my previous posts, that I whole-heartedly agree with Judge Otero's ruling. It's hilarious to me that the textbooks in question did not even pretend to be non-religious. No ambiguous "designer" mentioned there; the books unabashedly gave the Christian god credit for creation of the universe. A case like this shows how incredibly free private schools in this country are to teach pretty much anything they want. They really have no fear of any angry "evolutionists" coming in and trying to squelch their beliefs. However, if these private schools want their students to be accepted in the real world, like the UC system, they clearly have to do better. It's ironic that scientists never try to sue anyone to get evolution taught in these private schools, while the reverse is all too prevalent. If the theory of evolution is really this huge conspiracy to get "god" out of the classroom, as some fundamentalist Christians claim, wouldn't evolutionary scientists be trying their hardest to get their theory into the schools where it is least accepted?

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Alleged Chupacabra Caught on Video by Texas Police

A video originally posted on a San Antonio news station's website(KEN 5) has made it all the way to the CNN Video News site. The video of the alleged chupacabra was captured in the small town of Cuero, Texas, just southwest of San Antonio, by DeWitt County Sheriff's Deputy Brandon Riedel.

On August 8, Riedel and his partner were checking fence lines on a dirt road near Cuero when they saw a strange, coyote-sized creature running alongside the road. Riedel, who has been on the job for eight years, had the presence of mind to turn on his patrol car's dashboard camera, in order to capture video of the creature. From the approximately minute-long glimpse of the animal, Riedel said he noticed several unusual features, such as its short front legs and long back legs, hairless skin and long snout. A snout, the San Antonio reporter claims, is the, "type of feature that legends are made of." Riedel said he has never seen anything like this in his many years of patrolling Cuero's dusty back roads.

Here's a still I made from one of the videos, where the snout in question is clearly visible:

Dewitt Count Sheriff Joe (or Jode, the two videos use different first names) Zavesky said the animal is most likely some sort of coyote hybrid, but expects many "experts" to be asking for the video. Despite his explanation, he also claimed, "We still don't what it is." It appears Zavesky might be more interested in the media attention sightings of similar creatures have recently brought to Cuero than finding out what the animal truly is. Quoted from both videos:

"I love this for DeWitt county." Zavesky said, "It has brought alot of attention to us,and I believe there's something to it."

Stories of the chupacabra first caused a stir in the small Texas town when a rancher named Phylis Canion found the carcass of a coyote-like animal on her property in July 2007. Canion's neighbors claimed the deceased creature was responsible for their missing cats and chickens in recent years. Some livestock carcasses were allegedly found with their blood drained. Riedel claims the animal in the video is identical to the creature found on Canion's ranch, or at least identical to the animal about which he has read in the newspapers.

In November of 2007, a story posted on KEN 5's website reported that a DNA test performed by biologists at Texas State University had revealed the true identity of the carcass: a coyote. From the article:

"'The DNA sequence is a virtually identical match to DNA from the coyote,' Mike Forstner, a Texas State University biologist, said in a news release Thursday night. 'This is probably the answer a lot of folks thought might be the outcome. I, myself, really thought it was a domestic dog, but the Cuero chupacabra is a Texas coyote.'"

Only the video on CNN's site mentions this information, while both reports refer to the creature as anything but what it really is. "Goatsucker" and "creature of the night" were terms used by the CNN reporter, with the San Antonio reporter calling it a "legend" more than once. Why did neither of these reports call it a coyote? It's also interesting to note that the San Antonio report misspells Riedel's name. The dashboard camera's time clock in the upper right hand corner spells it "Riedel," which would presumably be the correct spelling since it is Riedel's patrol car. However, the San Antonio report attributes the officer onscreen as "Corp. Brandon Reidel." Is this how journalism is done in Texas?

Forstner admitted the DNA test on the carcass found one year ago did not explain the coyote's hairless skin or other unusual features, but sees those unexplained traits as just more questions to be answered:

"'That is the best part about science. The first answers often lead to more questions and then better explanations of the world in which we live,' Forstner said. 'We've taken additional skin samples and we will try to determine the cause of the hair loss. Folks fear what they don't understand, and a big part of the goal in science is to explain the natural world,'"

I like the way this Forstner guy thinks. Science can still be filled with mystery without propagating tales of a hairless, bloodsucking beast. There are so many more interesting, if less sensational, stories here. Is this a new species of coyote? Has a particularly virile male coyote been knocking up family dogs over the last few years? Is there some unknown mutation making its way through the local coyote gene pool? Is it some combination of all three? All these would have made great news stories, and could prove to be legitimate scientific questions. But of course the local news team chose to go for the "chupacabra" angle. When did science become less interesting than mythology?

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Monday, August 11, 2008

Pareidolia Mondays: Is Jesus in Your Five?

A story posted on the Pensacola News Journal website on August 8 tells of a local woman who has supposedly found a picture of Jesus on her cell phone. Linda Square, 47, was working a volunteer shift at a local laundromat when she decided to take some time for herself and scroll through the numerous pictures of family and friends on her cell phone.

She came across a photo that at first appeared blurry to her. However, a 90 degree shift revealed something she had never noticed before: the alleged image of Jesus Christ. From the article:

"She made out what appeared to be silhouette of her in the foreground on the right, next to an unknown figure. Taking a closer look, she soon was convinced who had made an appearance on her cell phone. It was Jesus Christ."
The above image is an extreme close-up of Square's picture. The article claims that "Shadows of a face and the highlights of what appears to be a beard clearly can be seen," but the only thing that is clear to me is the fact Square most likely attempted to take a picture with her finger in the way of the lens. Square apparently said she does not remember taking the photo or where she could have been at the time. She even took her phone to the store where she purchased it, to make sure everyone knows the photo is genuine. The employee at the phone store assured her that the image was created by her phone, and that no one had sent it to her.

Square claims "she isn't concerned about skeptics," not that the reporter who wrote the article went to the trouble to find any. All she cares about is what the photo means to her:

"'I feel that His message to me is that He is coming back, and He wants me to be ready when He comes. And He's letting me know that He's with me and that He's beside me and He wants me to follow Him. And I'm going to follow Him.'"

The funniest bit of this whole story, for me at least, is what Square decided to do with the photo after she realized its significance:

"Square says discovering the image already has had an impact on her life. So excited was she about this, in fact, that she had T-shirts made with the image and the words 'Jesus & Me.'"

She may be mistaken, just like every other case of pareidolia about which I've written, but at least she's proud of it. And, as far as the article says, Square is not trying to sell the shirt design she came up with; although I might be tempted to buy one were she inclined to do so. I would have loved to see the look on the person's face who made the shirt.

Employee at t-shirt shop:
"You want what written under this picture?"

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Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Fox Ridge Park Ghost

While it has been fun trolling through various news websites, scanning them for news fit to write about for this blog, there is nothing quite like writing your own story. Checking on sources, talking to people, doing real investigative work. The thrill produced from such endeavors is really hard to describe, but it's a feeling I find simply intoxicating. But, enough waxing poetic about doing what amounts to exciting homework, let me tell you what I've been up to the past few days.

All this started with the discovery of Haunted Vegas Tours. Driving all over my hometown in a bus, stopping at nearly all the alleged ghost hangouts Sin City has to offer immediately jumped out at me. What experience would be more appropriate to write about for a blog called "Jeremy the Skeptic"? All the sites the tour visits offer an opportunity to interview eyewitnesses, research a bit of Las Vegas history and really exercise my investigative reporter muscles. Fortunately, I'll be taking this very tour on August 27, accompanied by my beautiful girlfriend, who seems just as excited about the experience as I am. I plan to write a full account of my experiences on the tour, alongside background on each of the allegedly haunted sites. A few days ago, I started research on the stories that will be told on the tour. What follows are the fruits of my efforts so far.

The first site that seemed ripe for investigation was Fox Ridge Park in Henderson, approximately one mile from my house. To those who don't live in Nevada, Henderson borders Las Vegas, and holds the distinction of being Nevada's fastest growing city. The Haunted Vegas Tour advertises Fox Ridge as a chance to get off the bus and stretch your legs a bit, and to capture the alleged ghost of a boy killed in a drunk driving accident on film. From the "ghost blog" on the tour's website:

"The swing at Fox Ridge park in Henderson Nevada is home to the ghost of a little boy who likes to swing late at night. It seems that the ghostly youngster doesn't like to be bothered while swinging. If you look him in the eyes his face turns into a "demon" and he vanishes."

The drunk-driving account comes from a book entitled Weird Las Vegas and Nevada, which happens to be co-written by Tim Cridland, one of the Haunted Vegas Tour guides. The book cites an unnamed Las Vegas paranormal investigation group as the source for the story. Finding which Vegas paranormal investigative group provided the book's information would be my next objective.

Both the authors of Weird Las Vegas and the Haunted Vegas Tours website cite a woman named Janice Oberding as a historian and paranormal investigator with whom they consulted regarding the most well-known ghost stories in Vegas. Oberding is the author of Haunted Nevada, a book published in 2003 recounting all the various ghost stories that permeate Nevada's past. I looked up Oberding's name and found her website, which describes her as a member of Las Vegas Paranormal investigations (LVPI). (LVPI's website has an elaborate Flash animation intro that might take a while to load over some connections. Just a warning.) LVPI appeared to be just the Vegas paranormal group for which I was looking.

The first e-mail sent off in this entire endeavor went to the head of LVPI; a Mike C. I asked if LVPI was indeed the group mentioned in Weird Las Vegas and if they were, would he be able to provide me with any details regarding the alleged ghost. This is what Mr. C. told me:

"I can tell you that the park is haunted by the boy who was killed by a drunk driver. Boy's name is unknown and a woman who was killed by an axe. The boy plays on the swings and the lady walks the perimeter of the park looking for her kids."

While the little boy story fit with Weird Las Vegas's account, the murdered woman was an addition I had never heard. I replied to Mike C. asking if he knew when the boy or woman were killed, and if he knew of any police reports or newspaper articles that supported the stories. He has yet to reply to me.

I sent out a flurry of other e-mails asking about the Fox Ridge story, one to Oberding, others to various ghost-themed websites listing Fox Ridge as one of many haunted sites in Henderson. All contained the question, phrased basically the same, "Where did you hear this story?" (I have yet to receive replies to any of them.) With those sent, I decided I could only do so much with my face 12 inches from my computer screen and my mouse furiously finding its way through links, as if it was searching for some elusive piece of digital cheese. I needed to see this place for myself. So, equipped with camera, pen and notebook, I drove the approximately 20 minutes to Fox Ridge Park.

What first greeted me as I turned the corner onto the street adjacent to the park was a flood of childhood memories. It turns out I had spent more than one hot, summer day with my friends at Fox Ridge as a fourth-grade student. At that time, I don't remember hearing any tales of deceased children or women cleaved by axes inhabiting the park. I suppose that's for the better. At that age, such stories would have never let me return to the playground and swing sets I found so enjoyable.

With the nostalgia fading, I found a parking space and made my way across the street to the well-tended grass of the park. I was searching for some sort of memorial to a child killed in a drunk-driving accident. All the tales never said where the boy was killed, but I felt it was safe to presume it was somewhere near the park. Why else would the boy's ghost bother to haunt the place? What I found were 10 memorial plaques placed at the base of 10 trees; one plaque to a tree. Each plaque was about the size of a phone book, and seemed to be professionally placed. Some subsequent research found that a memorial tree and plaque could be bought from the Henderson Department of Parks and Recreation for $250 US. Some of the plaques described people that could have been the boy or murdered woman, so I took pictures of those and continued my trek around the park. While decidedly not frightening during the day, I could see how Fox Ridge could take on a haunted air in the middle of the night. The slightest breeze made the chains of the swing sets clink and the leaves of the numerous trees rustle ominously. However, I heard nothing but cars passing by and the drone of lovesick cicadas. If the park is indeed haunted, no ghost saw fit to make its appearance known to me.

With the names of some possible ghosts in hand, I returned home and delved into the online archives of the Las Vegas Review Journal (RJ), the city's largest newspaper. I hoped to find any article describing deaths similar to the ones told in the story. I was able to affirmatively rule out five of the 11 memorial plaques whose names I recorded. One story ruled out three plaques at once: those of Esther, Cynthia and Cathy Perez. All three women were killed in 1996 in a car accident. No drunk driver was reportedly involved. From the RJ article:

"Esther Perez was killed on Interstate 15 near the California-Nevada border when the sport-utility vehicle she was traveling in with her daughters Cathy, 16, and Cynthia, 17, veered out of control and then flipped, California Highway Patrol officer Ed Martinez said."

The forth plaque held the name of a woman who could have fit the description of the murdered ghost. Her name was Brenda Stuart-Rowsell. I was able to find her obituary in a 2005 edition of the RJ:

"BRENDA STUART ROWSELL We would like to say to our beloved wife, mother, daughter, sister, aunt, niece, cousin, and friend, Brenda Lynn (Stuart) Rowsell, 28, a homemaker, of Henderson, who was called to be with her Heavenly Father Monday, Feb. 7, 2005, in Henderson; that we love you very much and we will see you later. Brenda was born April 23, 1976, in Salt Lake City. Brenda is survived by her husband, Eric; children, Eric, Ashley, Kara and Katie; mother, Karen; father, Jim (Scherry); brothers, Richard (Mindy) and Bryan; sister, Rachel; grandparents, Al and Genette Taylor and Don Cole; aunt, Janice (Ron); uncles, Roger and Ray (Sherri); and numerous cousins, nieces, and nephews who will miss her always. Brenda has been reunited with her grandmother, Joann Cole."

No mention of a murder in the obituary, nor could I find any news story describing such an occurrence.

The fifth plague contained the names of two men: Steve M. Szany and Dave A. Bender. No age was given for either of them on the plaque, so I thought either one of them could have been the boy allegedly killed by a drunk driver. It turned these two men were murdered in 2000 by Stephen Ciolino. From the RJ story describing Ciolino's sentencing in 2005:

"In a sentencing hearing, Stephen Ciolino acknowledged in the courtroom of District Judge Jennifer Togliatti that he participated in the murders of David Bender, 21, and Steve Szany, 22, at a Henderson apartment complex in 2000."

Searches of the names of the rest of the plaques turned up absolutely no news stories, nor any records from the Clark County Coroner's office. In fact, I found no stories telling of any drunk driving accident near Fox Ridge Park. I called the elementary school bordering the park, Estes McDoniel Elementary School, on Friday to see if any teachers there had heard the stories. The school was unfortunately closed for the day. I plan to try again Monday.

After I went as far as I could go with the names on the memorial plaques, I decided to search for further retellings of the Fox Ridge ghost tale. This is where the story gets a bit interesting. I could find no account of the alleged haunting before 2005. The earliest record of it I found was a story in the RJ about the Haunted Vegas Tour. From the article:

"A highlight of the tour comes at the halfway point, when visitors leave the bus to take a nighttime walk in Henderson's Fox Ridge Park where, some say, a deceased boy still visits. According to a tour guide, a swing in the park occasionally can be seen moving, even when there's no breeze."

The Fox Ridge ghost is also absent from Oberding's 2003 book, Haunted Nevada. Why did she not see fit to include it? How did the story make it into Weird Las Vegas, which was published in 2007? Did the people at LVPI simply make it up, or is everyone involved? These sorts of questions, though asked in a less accusatory tone, made up the various e-mails to which I have yet to receive replies. I was amazed at how many ghost-themed websites just list this story with absolutely no sources. Doesn't anyone do any research? It also bugs me how the majority of stories in Haunted Nevada cite that ubiquitous bastion of credible information, "some." But that's a whole separate post.

I'm determined to get to the bottom of this. I have no idea how long it will take for the people mentioned above to reply to my e-mail questions. Perhaps a call to Estes McDoniel Elementary will clear some of this up, but I somehow doubt it. The tour itself may provide the answers I seek, though it might be difficult to talk to the guides while they're working. The best lead I have so far is a tentative interview I have with Haunted Vegas Tour guide and Weird Las Vegas co-author Tim Cridland tomorrow. I will of course post any further developments here.

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Saturday, August 09, 2008

Alleged Ghost Sighting in North Carolina High School

A video posted on on August 8 tells of an alleged ghost caught on camera in an Asheville, North Carolina high school. The text of the story can be found on a North Carolina CBS News affiliates website.

The camera, activated by a motion sensor, caught the shadowy figure in the rotunda of Asheville High school at 2:31 AM on August 1. Charlie Glazener, executive director of public relations for the local school district, says he does not know quite what to call it. Quoted from the story:

"'I’m a logical person, and I wanted to be able to explain to these folks, or anybody, this is what I think it is. It’s a bat flying around here, and it casts a shadow; but then why is the shadow down here from a different angle, and it’s not in the shape of a bat?'"

The shadow remains on camera for approximately 24 seconds, and in that time crosses the view of the camera, and appears to cast a shadow in the hallway directly in front of the camera. The anchorwoman reporting says this second shadow in the hallway is what is "perplexing to skeptics." Honestly, I wasn't that perplexed. It appears to me to be an insect flying extremely close to the various light sources in the rotunda, thereby producing large shadows.

The article also quotes a teacher at the high school,
Martha Geitner. What she had to say made me feel extremely sorry for any students how have to endure her classes:

'It’s a ghost! Of course it’s a ghost! It’s the ghost of some former student who is really angry with his teacher and has come back to get back with the teacher, and he’s just making himself known at this time.'"

Now, she may have just been playing up the story a bit for television cameras, but this kind of attitude from an educator is simply unacceptable. What ever happened to critical thinking, Martha? It's sad when the PR director for the school district is more reasonable than one of its teachers.

Of course, the reporter had to find someone from the local paranormal investigations group.
Sarah Harrison, of the Asheville Paranormal Society, provided the service for this particular story:

'Well, I have watched the video and I can’t debunk it. The fact that it set off the motion detectors means something physical was there. The shape morphed into something that was human shaped. I have seen many video surveillance footage of alleged ghosts and this is the only one that I can’t debunk. Many video’s of 'ghosts' are hoaxes, but I think this would be impossible to hoax.'"

A careful look at video will reveal the shadow changing shape, as shadows are wont to do, but it hardly "morphs into something that was human shaped." She is right, though, the video would be difficult to hoax. But, hoaxes only account for some alleged ghost sightings. The rest are usually misidentifications of strictly normal occurrences. It's interesting that while this story contains the prerequisite paranormal "expert," the token skeptic is nowhere to be found. Perhaps the reasonableness of the PR director was enough meet the requirement.

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Friday, August 08, 2008

8/8/08 Means Nothing

The absurdity of the superstition that today's date is somehow fortuitous and will, among other things, make the Olympics run smoothly was discussed in an article by Benjamin Radford posted today on

Since eight is a lucky number in China, Radford writes that's the reason the Olympics are slated to begin at 8:08:08 PM (local time) today. However, the Chinese do not hold a monopoly on numerical superstitions, as Radford points out:

"Last year on July 7, 2007, weddings were scheduled for that date at triple the usual number, and thousands of people played sevens in the lotteries. In Florida, for example, 30,000 people chose the lucky number sevens for the Cash 3 game and the Play 4 game (all were losers)."

Radford goes on to list some of the more humorous examples of this superstition revealing itself in American culture, like the deals the Super 8 Motel chain is offering today, or the announcement of an organization called the Expolitics Institute. A recent press release from the group states that today, August 8 2008, will be Galactic Freedom Day, in which the public should seek to reveal government and corporate agreements with extraterrestrials. From the release:

"On 8/8/08 a multinational consortium of citizen organizations conducts a positive intention event concerning government and corporate agreements involving extraterrestrial life and technology. The goal is to expose and nullify these agreements due to their non-representational status. On 8/8/08 at 8 pm [UT/GMT] individuals and small groups around the planet will convene to celebrate the inaugural Galactic Freedom Day."

I don't know about you, but I don't remember seeing any governmental bodies or large companies reveal any ties with aliens today. Or for that matter, any "citizen organizations" calling on these groups to reveal anything. Oh well, maybe on September 9 next year.

Bradford also brings up the point that ultimately, time and date designations are entirely arbitrary. In other words, they are completely human constructed. Why should anyone denote any particular significance to a date designation that could be a written any number of ways? In case some people haven't noticed, the date today is actually 8/8/2008. Radford comments:

"Though the official start time of the Olympics is filled with eights, it is just as correct to say that the games will start at 2000:08 on 08/08/5768 (using military time and the Jewish calendar)."

Testing to see whether certain numbers are in fact lucky would be fairly easy, Radford writes:

"For example, to do a study to find out if significantly fewer people than average die at the ages of 8 or 88. Or if most people born on certain significant dates (say, 8/8/1988) are healthier or richer than their counterparts."

The simple truth is, these tests have been done, and they consistently fail. If numbers such as seven and eight truly kept more people alive, wouldn't more people than average be born on these allegedly fortuitous dates? Wouldn't these numbers be showing up many more places?

It seems whenever a string of identical numbers line up in any date or time designation, most people can't help but ascribe significance to them. I cannot tell you how many times friends of mine have told me to make a wish anytime a nearby digital clock reads 11:11. The number superstition, like so many claims of the paranormal, is a construct of the human mind. As can be seen from the many cases of pareidolia about which I've written, humans are hard-wired to see meaning in things; to detect order in chaos.

If you really want an example of the number superstition run rampant, think about this: in my hometown of Las Vegas, not a single hotel tower has a 13th floor. Of course, all towers over 13 stories have 13th floors, it's just none of them are designated as such. Mind you, I don't blame the hotel-casino owners for this. The owners are just giving their customers what they want.

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Thursday, August 07, 2008

Conservatives Pray for Rain on Obama

Today seemed to be slow when it came to news of a paranormal nature, so here's a story I found on PZ Myers' blog that just made me laugh.

An NBC News affiliate in Colorado reported that a video producer for Focus on a the Family, a conservative Christian lobbying group headed by James Dobson, wants people to pray for bad weather when presumptive Democratic nominee for president Barack Obama makes his speech during the Democratic National Convention in Denver. Obama plans to give his acceptance speech at the Convention, which is being held outdoors at Invesco Field on August 28.

The video producer, Stuart Shepard, made his request to the faithful during his most recent internet video for Focus on the Family. From the article:

"He says he's only partly joking.

'Sure it's boyish humor perhaps to wish for something like that, but at the same time it's something people feel very strongly about. They're concerned about where he would take the nation,' said Shepard"

So, if people are concerned about where a presidential candidate would take the country, one should wish undesirably weather on that candidate for one day? As Dr. Myers and commentors on his blog suggested, why not wish something more harsh than rain on Obama? Weather like fire from the sky, or falling frogs? Why waste God's considerable talent, demonstrated to terrifying effectiveness in the Old Testament of the Bible, on something as simple as rain?

Things like this prove just how desperate some factions of the religious right have gotten in the past few months. First they freak out because some biology professor threw a cracker in the garbage, then they plan to boycott McDonalds for supporting the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, now they're wishing for what amounts to a theistic wet willy on an innocent presidential candidate. Will the compassion of some Christian conservatives never end?

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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

More Commentary on the Needles Object

The more I think about this story, the more it seems like a hoax to me. Take a look at the various factors at play:

  • The on-camera witnesses in the article know each other. (I neglected to mention this in the original post, and for that I apologize.) From the article:

"Coincidentally, Frank Costigan, the ex-cop, works on investigations for David Hayes. When he came in to the radio station, he told Hayes about the thing he had seen in the sky, and Hayes told him about the Men in Black."

What this says to me is that two townspeople may have conspired to bring some publicity to their otherwise sleepy hamlet.

  • The fact that Knapp said he could not find "Bob on the river." You'd think a guy living in a houseboat in the middle of the nearby Colorado river would be pretty easy to spot. Linda Howe was able to find Bob, although he refused to give his real name, which makes this whole story even more suspicious.
  • Knapp said this early on in the article:

"Somewhere in the rough terrain just west of the Colorado River and south of Needles is a point of impact, maybe some burn marks, created by something that fell from the sky."

But he never mentions anyone ever going out there to see for themselves. You'd think a big time investigative reporter such as Knapp would want to go check that out. Also, Knapp admits that his investigative team contact several government agencies about this, but reported no one knew anything about it:

"The I-Team phoned nearly every agency we could think of to see if they had received any report or knew anything. We were not surprised to learn that no one knew anything."

Either this is an elaborate government cover-up, or nothing actually happened.

I decided to send an e-mail to Knapp with these questions. I'll report any reply he sends here.

Thanks to the nice people at the Bad Astronomy and Universe Today Forum for the discussion on this topic.

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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Unknown Object Falls From the Sky in Needles, California

This is the first news story I've posted on which a news team from my hometown of Las Vegas has reported. I must admit, this is fairly exciting. I can't really pinpoint why, maybe because I can actually talk to the report who did the story face to face if I wanted to. Anyway, here it is.

Channel 8 Eyewitness News recently reported that an unknown object with a "turquoise hue" streaked across the sky on the morning of May 14 and struck the dry, cracked earth near the small town of Needles, CA; about 100 miles south of Las Vegas. This story was reported on by Channel 8 chief investigative reporter George Knapp, a local newsman with the reputation of being the "UFO guy" due to his numerous reports on Area 51 over the years.

Knapp talked to two witnesses of the event, one of whom was Frank Costigan. Costigan, who worked as the chief of airport security at Los Angeles International Airport for seven years, said the mystery object flew out of the northeast, heading southwest, traveling very fast, at one point slowing down and then speeding up again.

"'It went behind a hill, and I waited to see if I could hear it crash because as big as it was, it was bound to make noise,' Costigan said. But Costigan never heard a crash."

The second eyewitness was David Hayes, owner of KTOX radio in Needles. Hayes said he saw a formation of dark vehicles getting off the highway hours after the initial impact. He claims the lead vehicle was, "a large truck with a dome on top and a black structure that reminded him of a stealth fighter."

"'It seemed like it was some kind of surveillance vehicle -- four-wheel drive. It had government plates, U.S. government plates and behind it were a couple of vans that looked like support vehicles,' said Hayes."

Hayes claims to have been followed back to the radio station by one of the men in the vehicles, men who Hayes described as a having a "military bearing" but were not in uniform. Knapp asked Hayes if they had a "Men in Black" feel, to which Hayes replied, "Absolutely." Knapp then refers to the presumed government agents later on in the article as the "Men in Black." This decision by Knapp seems a bit irresponsible to me, since Hayes clearly described the men as not in uniform.

A third witness popped up, who was only ever referred to as "Bob on the river." Bob claims he saw the object from his houseboat on the nearby Colorado River. Bob described the object as having the turquoise hue, and landing with a thump approximately 100 yards from the river.

In an interview with journalist Linda Howe, Bob described the object being carried away by a skycrane helicopter. From Knapp's article:

"Bob says he saw at least five helicopters flying in formation, including a large sky crane. The crane picked up the oval shaped object, still glowing, and flew away, heading in the direction of Las Vegas. One odd detail, the choppers arrived only 17 minutes after the object crashed."

Bob described the object to Hayes as "about the size of a semi-trailer" with an oblong shape. In Howe's article, Bob describes the flames that surrounded the object in more detail:

"Oh, yes, but a turquoise-blue fire with some green in it. And it hit the ground and bounced. But there were many other pieces – there were at least nine other pieces that bounced up in a circle around the turquoise blue-green object."

Knapp claims the radio station received a call from the Laughlin, NV airport, approximately 30 miles north of Needles. The caller from the airport claimed they had seen an influx of so-called "Jenny" planes; the airline that flies workers to military base in Nevada known as Area 51. However, the airport could not confirm this since no one is on duty there after 6pm.

Knapp finished the article by admitting that he could not personally find "Bob on the river," and by promising to keep his readers updated on a few Freedom of Information requests he has filed.

I was pleasantly surprised to not find the words "alien" or "extraterrestrial" anywhere in this article. The article does use the acronym "UFO" in the title, but I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and presume they mean "Unidentified Falling Object." The Men in Black thing was a little goofy, but Knapp does have to make the article interesting.

The object seems, to me at least, to have been a satellite. That would explain the semi-trailer size and the lack of explosion on impact. Most Earth-orbiting satellites run on solar power stored in batteries; that is, contain little that would conceivably explode. Only satellites that don't orbit Earth use nuclear power. The large solar panels that accompany most satellites could have given the object its perceived oblong shape. As for the turquoise flames described by "Bob," I have an inquiry pending as to whether satellites are built with materials that would burn turquoise after being exposed to the heat of re-entry.

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Monday, August 04, 2008

Jeremy the Skeptic Presents: Pareidolia Mondays!

In order to get my readers (however few there may be) through the seemingly endless feeling Mondays at work can often produce, I present to you the first ever installment of Pareidolia Mondays. From now on, at least one post Monday will present a news story that features a case of pareidolia, since there is usually one per week (if you search news websites hard enough). So, without further gilding the lily and no more ado, I present this week's story.

A Fox News affiliate (most of the pareidolia stories I've come across are from Fox News, coincidence?) reported recently that a family in Houston, Texas is in possession of a pancake with the likeness(es) of Jesus and/or the Virgin Mary.

The mother of the family, who was not named, was making breakfast for her son when she flipped the pancake in question. Once it came to rest in the griddle, she and another family member "James" noticed the allegedly holy image. James claims to see the images of Jesus and Mary Magdalene with *gasp* their baby. Doesn't he know that's a sacrilege? An image of Jesus and his mother I could understand, but why would God choose to portray his son in such a non-traditional light?

James alerted his friend (or family member, the article is not clear) Joe about the miraculous occurrence, and Joe maintains that the image depicts Jesus and the Virgin Mary. Despite the disagreement between the two men, they can agree that the pancake is a good omen. The family's not quite sure what they're going to do with the pancake, except that they're going to hang onto it. James said he thought it wouldn't be right to profit from it.

The video to go along with the story is worth a watch, if you want to see a local news anchor talk to the family and perform her own "test" of the image's authenticity. In order to "make sure it wasn't a fluke," the reporter made two of her own fairly misshapen pancakes on the same exact pan. What was the outcome? Neither creation offered an image similar to that of the holy pancake! That's proof enough for me! Where do I sign up to become one of those Christians you hear so much about?

My first reaction to the pancake? I think it looks like Ronald McDonald holding a sack of hamburgers while comforting his big, purple friend Grimace. But, I'll leave the decision up to my readers. Here is the picture that went along with the article:

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Sunday, August 03, 2008

Woman Blames Child's Severed Fingers on Voodoo Curse

A story reported by BBC News on Friday tells of a woman who pulled two severed fingers from her purse while she was on the stand at London's Snaresbrook Crown court. Remi Fakorede, 46, claimed the fingers belonged to one of her six children, and had fallen off as a result of a voodoo curse.

The Nigerian-born woman, living in the Hackney section of London, removed the gruesome contents of her purse during a trial in which she was accused of a 925,000 pound ($1.75 million US) tax credit fraud. She claimed the same curse that took two of her child's fingers also caused her to participate in the fraud. From the article:

"Fakorede was convicted of one count of fraud totaling £925,933 ($1,759,272 US) while one of her daughters, 21-year-old Denise Shofolawe-Coker, was found guilty of laundering £70,000 ($133,000 US) of the stolen money."

"The court heard Fakorede, who holds joint Nigerian and British citizenship, invented 20 aliases to make 39 false tax credit claims over a five-year period. She was found out when she then tried to claim childcare as well."

Presiding over the trial, Judge Jacqueline Beech returned Fakorede and her daughter into custody until September 8 when pre-sentencing reports are planed. Judge Beech warned the pair they faced "inevitable" imprisonment for their "breathtaking" dishonesty.

"Fakorede blamed the fraud on unknown 'forces of darkness,' who she said had placed a 'voodoo' curse on her family."

"Although it is understood one of her children had lost part of her hand after suffering renal problems and developing gangrene, DNA test results are now awaited to determine who the body parts belonged to."

Fakorede claimed the "dark forces" which caused her, and her daughter apparently, to commit the fraud were so powerful that they caused two of her child's fingers to fall off. The article does not say how old the allegedly affected child is, or even reveal the child's gender, but does say the body parts in question were a "child's fingers." Perhaps these facts were kept hidden to protect the privacy of the family. Fortunately, Social Services and the Child Protection Agency were called after Fakorede's dactylic exhibition. I was hoping the fingers belonged to the daughter who laundered the money. That way, Fakorede's curse explanation would have been a little more believable. After all, it would make a relative amount of sense (as much sense as can be attributed to an alleged voodoo curse) that the person acting under the influence of the curse would suffer the detrimental physical effects.

According to an article from, "voodoo" is a completely imagined religion, based upon the actual West African-based spiritual tradition of "Vodun." From the article:

"The name is traceable to an African word for 'spirit.' Vodun's can be directly traced to the West African Yoruba people who lived in 18th and 19th century Dahomey. Its roots may go back 6,000 years in Africa. That country occupied parts of today's Togo, Benin and Nigeria."

So, if Fakorede actually gave a "voodoo curse" as the reason for her malfeasance, she might have been betraying a cultural separation from her Nigerian roots. In other words, she has clearly been influenced by the curse-heavy, pop culture idea of "voodoo," rather then the religion of Vodun from which voodoo has sprung.

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Saturday, August 02, 2008

Montauk Monster Update

A story posted yesterday on claims the Montauk monster mystery has gotten even more mysterious. Well, not if you actually read the story and have even a tenuous grasp on reality. In the first five paragraphs, the article quotes two animal experts claiming it is a dead raccoon.

The first expert is none other than Animal Planet host Jeff Corwin. Now, I was always more fond of the late Steve Irwin, but I did always appreciate Corwin's sense of humor and passion for wildlife conservation. Anyway, Corwin explains in an interview with Bill Hemmer and Megyn Kelly (the video of which can be found here) what he has deduced the animal to be:

"'What you think is a beak is actually the canine teeth,' Corwin said. 'What we have is an incredibly rare' — dramatic pause — 'raccoon.'"

The article also claims New York Magazine contacted the East Hampton Department of Environmental Analysis. A representative from the Department stated rather flatly that the animal was a raccoon.

The rest of the article offers no new information, only testimony on the carcass's apparently unknown whereabouts. However,
the East Hampton Department of Environmental Analysis did claim that animal control, which falls under their jurisdiction, did not remove the body from the beach. All we know is that the body is no longer on the beach. It's most likely in the possession of some quick-thinking entrepreneur who plans to sell it on eBay to the highest-bidding cryptozoology fan.

So it turns out I was wrong in surmising the animal was a small breed of dog. I did manage to come closer than most people who claim the animal had a beak. Speaking of beaks, anyone reading this should really watch Corwin's interview on Fox News. I wouldn't want to ruin it for anyone, but Corwin does a great job of examining the animal from the most famous picture of it and comes to reasonable, logical conclusions. The female anchor, however, stubbornly hangs onto misinformation, not listening at all to the animal expert. Watch it all the way through to see Fox News ignorance defined.

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Friday, August 01, 2008

Rotting Animal Corpse Causes Internet Sensation

I must admit, I was avoiding this story just because there was so little credible information in the first day or two it was making its rounds on the interwebs. However, an article released today sheds some much-needed light on the mystery of the "Montauk Monster."

The article from provides perhaps the most insight into this story. Jenna Hewitt of Montauk, New York, a city at the eastern tip of Long Island, and three of her friends found the carcass while visiting the beach. Hewitt snapped the most circulated picture of the creature, the one that makes it appear to have a beak:

What most stories, like the one by MSNBC describing it as having a "dinosaur beak," don't tell you is that Hewitt's group of friends was the second to discover the creature. Christina Pampalone, part of the first group of beach-goers from the New York area, took her own pictures of the creature, which make it seem much less mysterious:From Pampalone's photo, the "beak" is clearly the front part of the skull which has simply rotted away. This photo also makes the proportions of the animal much more clear. Gone are the disproportionately small head and pointed ears. The animal was apparently between two and three feet in length.

The Newsday article reports Pampalone's friend, Ryan O'Shea, said everyone to whom he showed Pampalone's pictures said it looked like a dead dog. O'Shea had something else to say on the matter:

"'But looking at the claws, and at the teeth in the front, it looked like it could be something else, something vicious," O'Shea said"

Granted, the exposed skull and bottom teeth do give the carcass a slightly sinister look, but that is what most dogs look like underneath. With my severely limited experience with dogs (I watch dog shows), it looks to me like a French Bulldog or Pug skull. The short ears on the carcass are also indicative of both breeds.

The last handful of paragraphs in the Newsday article list claims of others seeing the animal in various parts of eastern New York state. One eyewitness even claims to have seen the beast alive:

"Ryan Kelso, via iPhone, said he spotted it -- alive! -- in the Montauk dunes. 'It looked about the size of an average fox, gray in color, eyes like a mole, hairless and was breathing quite heavily,' he wrote, 'needless to say we were freaked out by this discovery and fled the area quickly.'"

However, these eyewitnesses offer no tangible evidence to support their claims, just first-hand testimony. It's not a long stretch of the imagination to think that some of these "eyewitnesses" might be embellishing their respective stories a bit due to the media attention this find has received. Either way, I doubt the "Montauk monster," which Pampalone reported had been moved from the backyard of her friend's house to a new location, has been the subject of its last news story.

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