Extraordinary claims. Ordinary investigations.

Archive for July, 2008

The Montauk Monster

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Someone sent the image above to Gawker, warning that there is "a government animal testing facility very close by in Long Island”. But being a good blog, Gawker sure as hell knew that it probably wasn’t what it looked like. The “Montauk Monster” must have been yet another viral marketing ploy.

A good suspect emerged: “Cryptids are Real”, from Cartoon Network, which by the way is a very interesting site with good fictional depictions of unusual encounters with giant flying jellyfishes and the like. The Montauk Monster looks like a griffin, with its puzzling beak, even though the wings and claws do not fit:

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Even seasoned cryptozoologists such as Loren Coleman were puzzled, asking, like all of us, “what is this animal?.

skullmontaul341hjkTruth quickly emerged in the very comments of Gawker, oh Internet be praised.

The monster is simply “a decomposing and bloated dog, possibly a bulldog, boxer or other breed with similar facial structure (compact muzzle)”. Without fur, everything fits, from tail to… near the nose.

Which looks like a beak, but is in fact the frontal part of the dog’s skull, minus the muzzle.

Instead of yet another viral marketing hoax, this is simply yet another poor dead dog mistaken for a monster. Other examples include the Maine-Chupacabras, the Chupacabras of Florianopolis or the Elmendorf Beast.

Nothing as shocking as our exclusive photographic proof, of course. But it’s nice for a change the Montauk Monster wasn’t called a Chupacabras. [via Anomalist]

UPDATE: Loren Coleman posts a note from a local newspaper. It seems someone sent the photo to the paper first, which on July 23 had already quoted officials who said the thing must have been a raccoon. Not a dog.

A closer look does suggest a raccoon is also similar to what we are seeing. A raccoon skull, or specifically, jaw, fits nicely what we see. Then we have the paws. A raccoon has longer fingers, like those in the “Montauk Monster”.

Finally, we have the experts, including Town Natural Resources Director Larry Penny and Bandit Trappings and Pest Control Doug Johnston, quoted by the paper, who both considered it “a raccoon with its upper jaw missing”.

A search for “skinned raccoons” on Google is very unpleasant, and it seems raccoons are not that fat. But again, this could be a bloated, decomposing raccoon. The area around its bowels seems very stuffed, which may help give the impression of a dog.

Either way, not a “Monster”.

UPDATE: Hello to all the folks coming from Coast2Coast! In another twist of opinion, by looking at this new photo published just now on Newsday, by Christina Pampalone, it definitely looks like… not a raccoon:

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Reports also finally give it a size: from 2 and a half to three feet. Joye Brown suggests an otter, though I think the head of the "Monster" is too big. I’m back to the original guess of a dog, probably an unfortunate pug.

Hopefully this new photo will help experts identify the animal, as they also flipped their statements saying they couldn’t identify it from the original photo alone. And he will rest in peace, wherever he is now.

If you have more photos or reports on this poor animal, feel free to send them here.

UPDATE: Loren Coleman has two more photos. Dog, dog, dog. Poor Dog.

UPDATE: I moved the comments as to whether it was a pug or a raccoon to a new post.

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Captain Disillusion saves Bush from Evil Grey Alien

As usual, our superhero uses his powers of insightful comment and nice visual effects to save the day. Since our last post about him, he has also ghostbusted the Three Men and a Baby movie.

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Human sperm from dental pulp via mouse testicles

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In what must be one of the most unexpected headlines ever, two Russian scientists, now working in Brazil, managed the feat of a Brave New World.

Irina and Alexandre Kerkis identified stem cells in the dental pulp from a male human donor, isolated them, injected them in the testicle of a mouse and extracted afterwards human sperm produced by the animal.

As science journalist Marcelo Leite notes, the research is not directly useful — infertile adult men don’t usually have their first teeth from which the stem cells could be found. And it’s improbable that anyone would want, or be even allowed, to become pregnant from sperm produced in the testicles of a mouse. Beyond the obvious aversion to such an idea, it would also have its biological risks.

But it is an advance. The research paper, "Human sperm cells yielded by adult stem cells transplantation into mouse testis", has been presented in this year’s meeting of the European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology in Barcelona. The abstract can be read in Leite’s blog.

Though this all may sound unbelievable, especially after the infamous frauds from Hwang Woo-Suk, the research from the Kerkis is just one more of a series of similar attempts and achievements in the field.

"That hath such people in’t!"

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Ed Mitchell and the Roswell Red Herring

By now this is old news, as it is actually really old news, as Greg Bishop reminded, being more than a decade that Apollo astronaut Ed Mitchell expressed his opinions publicly about UFOs and aliens. But I thought I should add some more skeptical comments to what Phil Plait has already noted, reminding that Mitchell has a lot of (other) fringe beliefs (and that his ET opinions are no news).

First and foremost, what should be emphasized on Mitchell’s statements is his simple and plain honesty. And that’s extremely important because he clearly stated, many times over that:

I have never had first hand experiences of ETs or UFO phenomena. Rather, I rely upon the testimony of trusted “old timers”.

You would expect that someone who was the sixth man to walk on the Moon, who spent days beyond Earth, would have seen aliens spaceships. If alien spaceships are out there, of course. Or, if not, that he would at least be briefed beforehand on some secret procedures or even ordered to maintain secrecy, just in case such an event would happen.

But although Mitchell has claimed the government does hide the alien presence, he has also been honest as to his first-hand experience on Apollo, stating that neither he nor anyone from Apollo was ever ordered to maintain secrecy regarding UFOs.

Mitchell’s claims are all based on hearsay, as he promptly admits. Now, this doesn’t mean they are false, but it does mean they are simply hearsay, and anonymous at that, as he didn’t disclose the names of the people who confided all these secrets to him.

This must sound like the plain old and boring skeptical attack on testimonial evidence. And it is. But let me go further.

Suppose for an instant that Mitchell, a true old-time American national hero, did manage to break many levels of secrecy in the alleged Great Cosmic Conspiracy, and was let in on some “above top secret” information. That is plausible, or at least more plausible than some people coming from nowhere claiming inside knowledge, as is often the case.

Problem is, Mitchell didn’t reveal anything new. In fact, he is many, many years late on the latest fashions and hot UFO topics, and you may take his references to Roswell as evidence.

As you UFO buff must know, Roswell was not the beginning of ufology. It was news on 1947, true, but it was quickly ignored even by ufologists for decades afterwards. Ufology thrived on huge UFO flaps, contactees, intriguing cases, USAF’s Bluebook, and was even already into abductions when the Roswell case came back from the dead to full stardom only around the early 1980s. History was rewritten as Roswell turned into a pop culture icon, when in fact for more than three decades, UFO crash claims would more likely be associated with the Aztec UFO crash hoax.

Here’s what Mitchell has to say about Roswell:

The relevant part here is when Mitchell says that he came to be interested on the Roswell UFO crash as something alien only in the 1980s. That is, of course, after it was already a very public subject.

If Roswell was indeed a real alien spaceship crash retrieval event, as Mitchell believes, and as some ufologists have been claiming for the last twenty-plus years; and furthermore, if Mitchell’s sources are indeed good, wouldn’t you expect for him to have been interested about it before the whole public mythology developed itself?

This is nowhere near any proof that Mitchell’s claims are false. There’s not much to deny about Mitchell’s claims, as they are only hearsay and his personal beliefs. Testimonial evidence without any corroborating physical evidence would be useful if it contained some exclusive, verifiable information, but Mitchell’s revelations are no revelation at all.

Some may suggest he could be part of a disinformation campaign, but I think he’s just victim of a Total Perspective Vortex.

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A Brazilian Werewolf

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Priest distribute crucifixes to scare the mysterious man away

From the G1 news service:

‘Werewolf’ scares inhabitants in Ceara state
Suspect robs sheep and breaks into houses in the Ceara rural area. Police officer says someone is using masks to scare the naive.

Inhabitants from the rural area of Taua, Ceara, are scared with the doings of a ‘werewolf’ who is robbing sheep and breaking into houses of the locality. Two cases were registered by the city police this Wednesday, July 9.

Despite being a New Moon night this Monday, a woman said to the police that she saw a man “half-man and half-wolf”. On Tuesday, a 12 year old boy also told the police officers that he saw a similar figure near his house.

Both reports suggest that the figure is “very ugly and have a strong sulfur smell”. “I believe it is a person using a werewolf mask to scare the people of the area, who strongly believe in folk tales. They are innocent and naive people”, said the regional deputy officer, Marcos Sandro Lira.

He confirmed he recorded two official reports on the case. “We are investigating a possible group that is acting this way to commit some crimes, but nothing supernatural”, said Lira.

In the city the case has been already named the “midnight mystery”, and is being viewed with humor.

In the south of the country

In April of this year, inhabitants of Santana do Livramento, Rio Grande do Sul, also had their moments of terror with attacks of a “Black Caped Man". Without solid data about the apparitions, the investigation approached the records as mere folklore. "Unfortunately, we have more important things to solve", said deputy officer Eduardo Sant’Anna Finn.

Joke or reality, priest Valerio Silveira, 71, decided to react and adopted an emergency measure to help protect the followers of the Prayer House. He distributes "bloodied" crucifixes, painted red, claiming that the object repels the "Black Caped Man".

Will the Ceara Werewolf case be solved? Will the Black Caped Man be captured? Should we prepare our own bloodied crucifixes?

Brazil has also seen recently the case of the house with squirted blood, and is home of bizarre reports such as the boiling oil aliens, also from the more traditional northern states.

The reports of werewolves and black caped men coming from rural areas are similar to reports coming from India, or Tanzania.

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