Extraordinary claims. Ordinary investigations.

Archive for February, 2009

Giant Stingray

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The photo is very real: this giant stingray may be the largest freshwater fish ever recorded. With an estimated weight between 550 to 990 pounds (250 to 450 kilograms), the image was captured as part of a National Geographic Society expedition in Thailand.

The stingray measuring around two meters in diameter was released later. Its tail was missing, and Zeb Hogan, Biologist from the University of Nevada, estimated its size with it could have reached 5 meters.

As part of the Megafishes Project, Hogan had already recorded last year a stingray four-meters long in Chachoengsao. And NatGeo has the video (the giant stingray appears near the end):

These giant stingrays were first described scientifically as recently as 1989, and the expedition and project are part of an effort to better understand, protect and preserve them.

Upon seeing these colossal stingrays, I couldn’t help but remember the infamous Garadiavolos, made from stingrays exploiting the fact their underside nostrils look like eyes, which along with its mouth give them a sort of pseudoface.

And I wonder how eerie the sighting of a giant stingray may be at night. Something like a Ningen. Fortunately – at least for the faint-hearted – as far as is known, they only survive in freshwater. And even if they survive in the sea, as can be seen in the videos they are not particularly dangerous, apart from their sting, of course. Notoriously, a stingray killed “Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin in 2006.

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Contrary to the illustration above, you can check real images of giant stingrays, via Google clicking below:

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[Above from ketessestars]

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The McThatcher effect

What happens when you combine two of the most interesting illusions? Above you can watch a video demonstration of the Thatcher effect. And below, the McGurk effect:

So, combine the two and you will have… the McThatcher effect:

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[via the most excellent cgr v2.0]

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Boxxy for President

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Boxxy was a happy normal 16-year-old girl who liked anime and played Gaia Online. She did nothing wrong. Nor did she do anything especially right. But for a day last month, she became one of the most searched terms in Google, the most-subscribed channel on Youtube and the reason for an “online civil war” that put one of the major Internet forums offline for a couple of hours.

A month after the phenomenon: keep reading for the Boxxy story, the Boxxy science, from online videos to American presidents.

Read more

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A Brazilian Werewolf – is back

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São Paulo, Feb 13: Woman claims to have been attacked by ‘werewolf’
According to the victim’s account, the creature looked like a big dog. Police is looking for a suspect that may have used a costume to attack the girl.

The inhabitants of São Sepé, Rio Grande do Sul, [Brazil] have one more reason to fear Friday the 13th. Besides the bad luck and the strange happenings during the day, a ‘werewolf’ is supposedly at large. One of the possible victims, a 20-year-old, recorded her complaint in the police.

According to the police, Kelly Martins Becker claims to have been attacked in the night of January 28 by an animal that looked like a big dog, that was standing on its back feet and walked as if it were a man. She made a sketch of the creature.

According to the complaint, the creature scratched the face and arms of the victim. The police informed that Kelly underwent medical examination, where the wounds were confirmed. Officers also claim they will investigate if someone is using a werewolf costume to scare people. No suspect was arrested until Friday.

AROUND THE COUNTRY
Cases similar to the one from São Sepé were recorded. In the rural area of Tauá, Ceará, locals asked for police help in July 2008, scared with sightings of an individual “half man and half wolf” that was stealing sheep and breaking into houses.

At the time, the police investigated the case, suspecting that a gang was using costumes to scare the locals and commit the crimes. The case, called ‘the midnight mystery’, then became a joke in the city.

In April 2008, some inhabitants of Santana do Livramento, Rio Grande do Sul, also had their moments of terror with the attacks of the ‘Man in the Black Cape’. With no solid evidence about the creature’s sightings, the police archived the records as folklore.”
From G1: Jovem do RS afirma ter sido atacada por ‘lobisomem’

monkeyman3We translated the reports about last year’s incidents, and this one even has a sketch of the creature. It’s relevant to note that São Sepé, the current werewolf-scared city, is near Santana do Livramento, last year’s scared city. Both being small rural cities. The photo above comes from Zero Hora, and the G1 link above has another photo of Kelly Becker and her sketch of the creature.

If you are a diligent Fortean, you will associate this series of reports with popular panics around the world and history, from the more recent Monkey Man in India (c. 2001) going as far back as the Spring-Heeled Jack in England (c. 1837 and onwards).

And those are just the more obviously similar and famous cases. So similar they are almost identical, with only a couple of differences, like the height of the Indian and the Brazilian creatures. Does this make them real?

Curiously, the more you acquaint yourself with numerous similar cases, the more an alternative explanation that sounds terrible at first looks more and more acceptable. It’s mass sociogenic illness. Or, as it’s popularly known, mass hysteria.

It’s a damned expression, due to no doubt much abuse. Robert Bartholomew is the name to look for if you still dread that term. See: Protean nature of mass sociogenic illness – From possessed nuns to chemical and biological terrorism fears.

We shouldn’t keep abusing the term and tagging everything as “mass hysteria” – criminals could be using costumes, and it’s not impossible that an unknown violent bipedal creature is lurking those places. Only highly improbable, the more so as no solid evidence ever comes up.

And the one important thing about ‘mass sociogenic illness” is that though the creatures may not be real, the victims are. They may also be highly educated, intelligent people.

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A suspicious UFO in Wichita

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I usually refrain from posting too many debunkings in a row, but what can I do? In the past few days dubious images have been raining, and some ordinary investigations are due.

The image above was sent by Daniel, February 6, 2009, to Dirk Vander Ploeg from UFO Digest. According to Ploeg:

“The majority of the evidence, including photographic evidence and testimonies from present and past air force personnel makes me believe the object photographed by Daniel is a B-2 Stealth transporting a Drone similar to the SR-71 Blackbird.”

Daniel “describes the object as being black and very shiny with a surface similar to glass. ‘You can see the glass reflecting off of it. The pink circular pattern in the sky was only there for 10 seconds or so’, he said”.

For my part, I think those reflections are exactly what are strange here. In the enhanced close-up below, by Bruce Jessop (see the original link in UfoDigest), pay special attention to the ‘orb” like reflection on the right:

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From the little I know, those light artifacts usually only show up in objects heavily out of focus. And the glaringly obvious inconsistency here is that all distant objects, from the trees to the clouds, are in focus. Except for the UFO.

If the blurring was due to extreme speed, it would be seen in the direction of the movement. It’s rather uniform around the UFO. The UFO is quite simply out of focus when all the distant objects are in focus.

That would add to the evidence that it could be actually a small, shiny, model near the camera, explaining that strange orb on the right.

Do you disagree? Feel free to correct me. I may be wrong, of course. Jason “Naveed” Westby thinks it’s a bird.

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