Category Archives: Science

The World of the Mysterious (5)

I said last time that I would take Cliff Barackman, James “Bobo” Fay, Ranae Holland and Matt Moneymaker back into history and legend, to see if I could find any creatures, perhaps based on Bigfoot, mentioned over the course of the last 5,000 years or so.  I spoke of Enkidu, and Moses’ Twelve Spies in the land of  Canaan. I also rejected Goliath, and I described Grendel who, although I thought he was possibly not as dangerous as he has been portrayed, I thought was not necessarily armless.

This time, I would like to touch upon the story of Jean Grin, a subject which I have explored before. It all took place in early 19th century France  in the wonderfully picturesque and unspoilt region of Lozère, which is here:

This time the situation is a little more complex in that Jean Grin was, supposedly, a historical figure who was active as recently as 1800. He lived in a mountain ravine, in a crude cottage of stone with what is now a collapsed roof, surrounded by pine trees and dry scrubland. Inside, against the very rock itself, there is the oven where he roasted children to eat. Outside are several piles of stones covered with soil, supposedly the burial places of his victims:

Jean Grin was living here because of his inability to get along with his neighbours. They called him an ogre, and considered him an ambiguous being, “mi-homme mi-bête”, half way between animal and man. Soon after his arrival in the ravine, he seemed increasingly to take on the attributes of a savage, brutal, wild person that no social norms could restrain:

Young shepherds and shepherdesses began to disappear in the surrounding region. At the time, in a neighbouring area, there had been severe problems with some kind of mystery animal, either a very large wolf or a canid of an unknown species. It had been termed the “Beast of Veyreau” or “La Bête de Veyreau” and I have already written about it:

Whatever the killer in Lozère was, it only attacked weak people or children. In just six months, from June-December 1799,  three victims were killed and eaten.

Physically, Jean Grin was by now dreadful to look at. He supposedly wore just animal skins and he could run extremely fast across the countryside and up and down slopes:In the dark, his eyes gleamed bright, shining red and you could see him coming from far away. Jean Grin too has been given the attributes of a Bigfoot. Memories from centuries ago have been added to his story. He had luminous red eyes.  He possessed prodigious speed both going up and coming down mountainsides. He had an appearance generally thought to be “mi-homme mi-bête”. In addition, photographs show that he lived in exactly the same kind of dry, rocky environment where Bigfoot lives nowadays in the Sierra Nevada of California:

It is my contention though, that the story of Jean Grin is obviously much, much older than a mere 200 years. Indeed, I think that quite a complex process has therefore come about here.

Firstly, the people had a dim memory from centuries previously of Bigfoot type creatures in the forest and in the mountains. Secondly, there was an eccentric and unpopular man called Jean Grin who lived in the area. He was big and ugly. Thirdly, an unknown animal,  the “Beast of Veyreau”, was attacking, killing and eating the young children who were left on their own to guard the flocks of sheep.

And what has happened is that these three elements, of Bigfoot, of gory deaths and of weird loners have all been melded together to give us the present legend. There are no Bigfoots in France nowadays, but in the centuries when the east of the country, in particular, was covered in extensive thick forest, I think there were, and recent enough for memories to linger on.

Next time, England’s Bigfoot.

 

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The World of the Mysterious (4)

I said last time that I would take my Syma X5C-1 2.4G HD Camera RC Quadcopter RTF RC Helicopter with 2.0MP Camera back into history and legend to see if I could find any hints of creatures similar to Bigfoot mentioned over the course of the last 5,000 years or so. I spoke of Enkidu and Moses’ Twelve Spies in the land of  Canaan. I also  rejected Goliath, an obvious candidate, but not a valid one. Here’s Enkidu’s pal, Gilgamesh again:

In my researches, however, I did find “Beowulf”. This is an Old English epic poem written between 975-1025 AD. It concerns Hrothgar, the king of the Danes, who has grave problems with the fact that his feasting hall is repeatedly being attacked by a monster known as Grendel:

Here’s an old illustration of the creature:

Wikipedia describes events from the point of view of Grendel:

“Grendel is “harrowed” by the sounds of singing that come every night from the hall. He is unable to bear it anymore, and attacks. Grendel continues to attack the Hall every night for twelve years, killing its inhabitants and making this magnificent hall unusable. Beowulf arrives to destroy Grendel. He is welcomed with a banquet. Beowulf and his warriors bed down in the hall to await the creature. Grendel stalks outside the building for a time, spying the warriors inside. He makes a sudden attack, bursting the door with his fists and continuing through the entry. The first warrior Grendel finds is asleep, so he seizes the man and devours him.”

There are so many similarities here with the behaviour of Bigfoot. Active at night, attracted by noise, stalking round the building, looking at the people inside, smashing in through the door, and, certainly according to some of the tales of the Native Americans, eating one of the humans.

Grendel’s exact appearance is never directly described by the original Beowulf poet, except that he is “man-like”. He is referred to as a “sceadugenga”, which means “a shadow walker, a night goer”. This latter phrase, “night goer”, is a good fit for Bigfoot.

I’ve already shown you an older illustration of the monster. More modern sources such as films seem to just do what they feel like on the day:

Mind you, Grendel is big. So big, in fact, that when his head is finally cut off, it takes four men to move it. This is Goliath’s head, but I’m sure you’ll get the idea and that you’ll forgive me, especially when you notice the stone shaped hole in the Big Man’s forehead :

Back to the story. Having seen what he was dealing with, Beowulf decides to fight Grendel without using any weapons because he thinks he can match him. As Grendel comes into the hall, Beowulf leaps up and grabs his hand. Beowulf’s retainers come to help but their swords are unable to pierce Grendel’s skin. Beowulf then rips off Grendel’s arm and Grendel flees to the marsh where he lives and, indeed, dies.

Some excellent similarities there. Grendel’s size, his home in a watery place such as a marsh and his impenetrable skin.

A translation of the poem by Seamus Heaney in 1999 describes Grendel’s arm which gets ripped off in the struggle:

“Every nail, claw-scale and spur, every spike
and welt on the hand of that heathen brute
was like barbed steel. Everybody said
there was no honed iron hard enough
to pierce him through, no time proofed blade
that could cut his brutal, blood-caked claw.”

The Iroquois, a Native American tribe of the eastern Great Lakes area, described a whole race of giants twice as big as men, with bodies covered in rock-hard scales that repelled all of their weapons. Here we are:

Modern man has also repeatedly been baffled by the apparent ability of Bigfoot to escape both rifle and shotgun fire.

I’ll finish with three quick references to literature and legend of roughly the same period. Firstly the “kelpie” of Celtic folklore which is often seen as a water horse, but which could change shape and become a “rough, shaggy man who leaps behind a solitary rider, gripping and crushing him… tearing apart and devouring humans”.

Secondly a tale comes from Norway (not that far from Beowulf territory) called “Konungs skuggsjá” or Speculum Regale or “the King’s Mirror”. It was written around 1250 and describes a “wild man”

“It once happened in that country (and this seems indeed strange) that a living creature was caught in the forest as to which no one could say definitely whether it was a man or some other animal; for no one could get a word from it or be sure that it understood human speech. It had the human shape, however, in every detail, both as to hands and face and feet; but the entire body was covered with hair as the beasts are, and down the back it had a long coarse mane like that of a horse, which fell to both sides and trailed along the ground when the creature stooped in walking.”

The mane on this unknown, hairy creature…is that the origin of the confusion about the shape-shifting Kelpie which was both a “rough, shaggy man” and a water horse?

Perhaps it looked a little bit like the fake documentary made recently:

The third detail involves the Long Man of Wilmington who adorns a hillside in East Sussex. He is 235 feet tall and he is cunningly designed to look perfectly in proportion when viewed from below. He dates from, apparently, the 1600s and he carries two large sticks, and, even allowing for the effects of perspective, he does have enormously long arms, just like Bigfoot:

And next time, “ce sera une visite en France”.

 

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The World of the Mysterious (3)

I said last time that I would take my trailcams back into history and legend to see if I could find any suggestions that creatures similar to Bigfoot were mentioned over the course of the last 5,000 years or so. I told you of Enkidu, the creation of the god Anu, and the companion of Gilgamesh, who was one third human and two thirds beast, very hairy and very wild:

The most obvious place to continue the search, of course, is the Bible. In the Book of Numbers, Moses sends out his Twelve Spies to have a look at the land of  Canaan. They return and say that they have seen fearsome giants there. They tell him:

“The land, through which we have gone to search, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature. And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.”

What I will freely admit though, is that in another version of some of the quotation above, the translation is given as:

“And there we saw the Nephilim, the sons of Anak, who come of the Nephilim; and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.”

I don’t know what’s happening here or how it is possible to translate a word as “giant” and then on another occasion as “Nephilim”. What I did find out, though, is that the proper name ‘Anak’ is the Hebrew word for “giant” (ענק). Here’s a picture I found of the Twelve Spies, recounting the size of the giants in Canaan. It looks like the recreation of a Bigfoot sighting in “Finding Bigfoot” when Bobo stretches his hand over his head and Ranae says “But that makes it fifteen feet tall!”:

Because of this idea that there were giants in Canaan, I also looked at the possibility that the famous Goliath was not a human being but some kind of Bigfoot. In actual fact this proved not to have been a very likely thing to have occurred. The general feeling seems to be that successive translators have just added a cubit here and a cubit there and that is why the Big Man  is nine feet tall rather than just over six feet, which was not desperately taller than King Saul himself. There are also a great many other details about Goliath known from other sources which prove that he was a human being rather than a member of another species:

According to Wikipedia, the exaggeration of his height is relatively easy to trace:

“the Dead Sea Scrolls text of Samuel, the 1st-century historian Josephus, and the 4th-century Septuagint manuscripts, all give his height as “four cubits and a span” (6 feet 9 inches) whereas the Masoretic Text gives this as “six cubits and a span” (9 feet 9 inches)”.

When I was a little boy around nine or ten years of age, our entire class, forty or so of us, all helped to make a two dimensional Goliath with paper and cardboard. He was actually dressed as a Roman soldier with armour of tinfoil and a red curtain for his little kilt. He was six cubits and a span tall and, trust me, he was extremely large!

Just for comparison, here is Robert Pershing Wadlow, who was almost nine feet tall:

Sadly, I couldn’t find any pictures of Robert with nine or ten year old children. Don’t forget though, that Goliath would have been at least a foot taller than the famous American, allegedly.

 

 

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The World of the Mysterious (2)

I said last time that I would take my thermal imaging camera into history and legend to see if I could find any intimations that creatures similar to Bigfoot were mentioned over the course of the last 5,000 years or so:

Have you ever read “The Epic of  Gilgamesh”? It is a fantastic tale of adventure, demons, despotism, eternal life, physical beauty, the secrets of the gods, sex, temple prostitutes, a twin-peaked mountain and bull wrestling. And that’s only about two thirds of the plot. It makes “Lust in the Dust” look like Jane Austen. No wonder there’s a statue of him at Sydney University:

The hero of the epic, Gilgamesh, was probably a real king who came from Sumeria, present day Iraq, in around 2800-2500 BC. He has a companion called Enkidu who, for me, is based on knowledge of a Bigfoot type ape. Enkidu was deliberately created by the god Anu as one third human and two thirds beast. He was suckled by the animals and he is portrayed as being brawny, “endowed with strength”, hairy and he wears animal skins as garments. Wearing tattered clothes is a frequent epithet in many early reports of Bigfoot from North America.

But why does Enkidu bother with animal skins? We know from other descriptions of him in the book that he was completely covered in shaggy hair, all over his body. He must have looked fairly terrifying because when an ordinary human, an animal trapper, first meets Enkidu, the author says that the “trapper’s face was stark with fear”. This is a common element of Bigfoot encounters, not surprisingly, perhaps! Here is Enkidu vanquishing the bull of Heaven:

Enkidu has responsibility for protecting the animals, but he also lives among them as an animal himself. This is the reason that he is portrayed with what look to be cows’ horns and ears, and in the next illustration, hooves:

Much more like Bigfoot are his hairy legs. Don’t miss the hooves:

One interesting feature of Enkidu is that he was fashioned entirely from clay and he has no soul. Man, of course, is fashioned from clay but he does have a soul, given to him by the breath of God during his creation process. No soul, of course, and you might become a Golem, another gigantic creature from, very roughly, the same part of the world.

The only detail lacking with Enkidu is the huge stature but it must not be forgotten that a very high proportion of Bigfoot encounters in the early days of the USA concerned beings of the same size as a man.  Very often they had the remnants of tatty clothes on them but there always was that covering of fur. I just can’t get over Enkidu’s hairy legs! :

The descriptions of Enkidu certainly tick a lot of boxes for his being based on a Bigfoot type creature, something which, thousands of years ago, roamed, perhaps, forests now long cut down, or even the marshes of Iraq. These now largely drained areas were once the largest wetlands in Western Eurasia.

“The Epic of Gilgamesh” is available for free at :

https://archive.org/details/TheEpicofGilgamesh_201606

I selected the Pdf and then right clicked and went to “save target as” which means that I could choose which folder to put it in.
The book is also available at http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/18897
Here, I right clicked on “Read this book online: HTML” which again allows me to decide where it goes.
This version is not as good as the previous one, which is excellent, and I’m not sure that it is complete, but it does have text in Ancient Sumerian , transliterated into English form. So…….

it-bi-e-ma iluGilgamiš šu-na-tam i-pa-aš-šar.
iz-za-kar-am a-na um-mi-šu
um-mi i-na ša-a-at mu-ši-ti-i̭a
ša-am-ḫa-ku-ma at-ta-na-al-la-ak
i-na bi-ri-it id-da-tim
ib-ba-šu-nim-ma ka-ka-’a ša-ma-i
ki-?-?-rum ša a-nim im-ku-ut a-na ṣi-ri-i̭a
áš-ši-šu-ma ik-ta-bi-it e-li-i̭a
ilam iš-šu-ma nu-uš-ša-šu6 u-ul el-ti-’i̭
ad-ki ma-tum pa-ḫi-ir7 e-li-šu
id-lu-tum ú-na-ša-ku ši-pi-šu

which means

“Gilgamish arose interpreting dreams,
addressing his mother.
“My mother! during my night
I, having become lusty, wandered about
in the midst of omens.
And there came out stars in the heavens,
Like a … of heaven he fell upon me.
I bore him but he was too heavy for me.
He bore a net but I was not able to bear it.
I summoned the land to assemble unto him,
that heroes might kiss his feet.”

It’s certainly something for the kids to think about for “Show and tell”.

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The World of the Mysterious (1)

I believe in Bigfoot. Or rather, insofar as I think that Bigfoot is an undiscovered ape which still lives in the immensity of North America’s forests, rather than a deity, I think that he exists. I do hope for his own sake, however, that he is never found:

I believe that Bigfoot is just one relict population of several around the world. The North American species is one of a number of very large ape-like humans (or human-like apes) that, at one time, lived in all of the forests and wild places of the northern hemisphere. He has been called by many names…I found quite quickly the alma, the almasti, the menk,  the omah,  the sasquatch,  the yeren, the yeti and the yowie, an inhabitant of the forests of Australia. All of them are very similar creatures, although they have been reported by different people in different isolated places in the world, separated by thousands of miles. One thing for definite is that the people could not possibly have collaborated with each other, particularly before around 1850:

Just try reading the old reports from the 19th century. The oldest I have found so far dates from 1818 in New York State. One of my favourite Bigfoot books carries a large number of similar reports for the whole of North America. They portray many details about Bigfoot which are still witnessed today, such as Bigfoot’s whistling. How could these people have possibly got together so long ago to invent tales which are so similar to each other? The Native Americans often depict Bigfoot as a creature who whistles. That is probably their most frequently encountered evidence of his existence. Look at this totem pole:

In my personal opinion, what has happened is that the people of many different parts of the world have lived calmly and quietly together in small numbers, either hunting or farming their land, for hundreds and hundreds of years. During that time, as fairly harmless inhabitants of a largely virgin landscape, they have come into regular contact with creatures which were very much like the Bigfoot of today. These beings were big, hairy and quite often, smelly. Sometimes they were fierce but usually they did relatively little damage. Here’s a Menk, out in the unexplored woods of the eastern Urals in Russia:

It’s my belief that the literature of the distant past reflects the existence of these denizens of the forest. Hundreds of years have elapsed between these different works of literature and because of that, and the geographical separation between them, they will not all have the same details, but they will have some of them. These details might include the creatures’ enormous size, their hairiness and their fierceness. Being thought fierce goes with the territory, though, when you’re ten feet tall:

Next time we’ll take the Bigfoot trailcams into ancient literature.

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the Gloster Meteor at Hendon (2)

Last time I was talking about my visit to RAF Hendon where I saw the Messerschmitt Me 262, and I also saw the first RAF jet fighter, the Gloster Meteor F8. I ended the post by saying what the Meteor’s good points were:

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Set against the positives of the Meteor, though, is its dreadful safety record which soon led to the new jet fighter being called “The Meatbox”.

Almost 900 were lost by the RAF, the peak year being 1953 with 145 crashes:

Factors to blame were apparently poor brakes, the landing gear, completely different flying characteristics from piston engined aircraft, a flight endurance of less than 60 minutes which caused pilots to run out of fuel and lots of difficulties when only one engine was working. Even with two engines, response times were very sluggish. To add to the list, when pilots in those days were taught how to fly on one engine, the other engine was switched off completely so, to quote the forum where I found it, “you had no chance if you fouled it up”. The aircraft also apparently had a nasty habit of diving straight into the ground when any flap or the undercarriage was lowered when the wing mounted airbrakes were out. There were no ejection seats in early aircraft and it was therefore very difficult to bale out of, although it was extremely easy to hit the tail on the way out. The foreign air forces had the same kind of difficulties. Here is a Belgian crash:

According to one account I found, the Coroner at Darlington actually subpoenaed the commander of the local base to make him come and explain the steadily increasing size of the RAF section of the municipal cemetery. No problem for the commander. All he needed to do was to invoke the Official Secrets Act and it was problem solved. At least one student pilot on every course was being killed. No 74 Squadron had three killed in as many months:

In “The Meteor Boys” by Steve Bond there is an account by a prospective young pilot of his going on a course to learn to fly Meteors at RAF Driffield. He went to a funeral on his first Thursday and then to another the following Monday, and a third on the following Thursday.
In foreign service in the Netherlands, the Meteor was the second most dangerous jet aircraft they ever had with almost 36 crashes in every 100,000 hours of flying. (And the winner is…… the F-84 Thunderjet with almost 56 crashes per 100K hours):


Perhaps we should put these figures for the Meteor in RAF service in context, though. One forum I came across said that in 1953 the RAF lost 486 aircraft with 334 fatalities. The other years of the 1950s are believed to be 1950 : 380 aircraft lost and 238 fatalities, 1951 : 490 aircraft lost and 280 fatalities, 1952 : 507 aircraft lost and 318 fatalities, 1954 : 452 aircraft lost and 283 fatalities, 1955 : 305 aircraft lost and 182 fatalities, 1956 : 270 aircraft lost and 150 fatalities, 1957 : 233 aircraft lost and 139 fatalities, 1958 : 128 aircraft lost and 87 fatalities and 1959 : 102 aircraft lost and 59 fatalities

If my trusty calculator is correct, that makes 3,353 aircraft lost and 2,070 young men killed. My quick mental arithmetic says that you had, therefore, a 61.73575902177% chance of a premature death if anything went wrong with your 1950s RAF aircraft.

It must have been this kind of situation that provoked Prime Minister Winston Churchill to ask the Air Minister “Is the RAF training or killing its pilots?” The Air Minister told Churchill not to worry as these kind of figures were merely par for the course.
None of this takes away from the Meteor, though, the honour of being the first ever British jet fighter:

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My Dad came across a Gloster Meteor once:

“one day in late 1944, everybody was in the mess at Lossiemouth, eating their lunch and drinking their cups of tea. Suddenly the door was flung open, and a very excited young man came in shouting “Quick ! Quick ! Come outside and see this ! There’s a crate out here without any props ! ”

And sure enough, outside the mess hall, on the runway, stood one of the RAF’s first jet aircraft, a Gloster Meteor, a fighter plane which did not have any propellers. The mechanics could not believe that the strange aircraft would even be capable of flight. But then they realised…..

“ No more prop changes ! ”

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Fred joins the RAF (4)

We left Fred last time in Blackpool doing his basic training with Sergeant Parry. All of the RAF’s young volunteers were billeted in boarding houses which, in peacetime, would have accommodated holiday makers. Here are Fred and his friends:

And here is the section with Fred in it. It always reminds me of the RAF version of “Where’s Wally?”:

The boarding house landladies in Blackpool were paid for every recruit they took, but a substantial minority saw this as a fine opportunity to profiteer, accepting money for meals that were never to materialise in the quantities that the payments might have implied. Instead, these unscrupulous women either ate the food themselves, or, more frequently, sold it to their neighbours, who were themselves short of food because of rationing.

In the boarding house where Fred was billeted, thanks to their particular greedy grasping landlady, the individual portions served, were, at best, markedly small. One day, after Physical Training on the beach, Fred and his friend Jacques, came back early from their exercise.

Jacques was Fred’s best pal at this time. He was the son of a Yorkshire farmer, with the physical build, and indeed the appetite for food, to match his origins. Here is the group as a whole in a formal class photograph:

And here are Fred and Jacques as a close-up :

If you remember,  Fred and Jacques had come back early from their Physical Training on the beach. Fred went straight upstairs to wash and make sure he was properly dressed for the meal. Jacques, however, went immediately into the dining room where he found a whole ham, meant for twelve hungry young recruits, waiting in the centre of the table. Jacques, clearly accustomed to Yorkshire farmer sized servings, immediately presumed that the meat was for him and without further ado, he ate the lot.

The reaction of his colleagues when they eventually arrived from their afternoon’s exertions, has not been recorded for posterity, but at best, they were not very impressed.

One of the other men in Fred’s boarding house had  a knowledge both of chemistry and of the behaviour of dogs. One fine, sunny day he went down to the local chemist’s shop, and bought a very large quantity of aniseed concentrate which he then proceeded to dilute:

He took this magic potion and laid scent trails through the streets of Blackpool, all of which led back to the boarding house. He then continued the trails inside the building, entering through both the front and the back doors, leading up the stairs to the different floors, then onto the landings, into the bedrooms and into the bathrooms. In short, his aniseed trails reached every single square inch of the property. Aniseed is desperately attractive to dogs. Once they get the scent…

…off they go, like addicts to their next fix:

They just cannot resist that aniseedy smell:

The result was one glorious afternoon of revenge, as every dog in Blackpool, driven crazy by the overpowering and intoxicating scent of aniseed, arrived at the house and ran berserk, up and down the stairs, careering backwards and forwards along the landings, chasing in and out of the rooms, widdling, piddling and scent marking up every wall and in every recess and corner as they went.

Never make an enemy of the RAF.

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