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IS NOSFERATU AN ILLUMINATED VAMPIRE?

by on Jul.16, 2017, under Syndicated from the Web

Reposted from ShukerNature | Go to Original Post

Is the devil – or vampire – in the detail? Close-up of the mysterious, sinister-looking entity lurking in the upper margin of folio 28v from the Sankt Florian Psalter (public domain)
Just in case you’re wondering, the illuminated vampire under consideration here is definitely not one of the sparkling, shimmering, but invariably angst-ridden teenage variety that frequent a certain series of romance-driven novels (and accompanying films) for young adults. No indeed, this one is none other than Nosferatu himself, the dreaded Count Orlok of the long incisors and even longer ears, and this present ShukerNature blog article of mine records my unexpected discovery of him, or someone very much like him, in an exceedingly unlikely locality – a medieval illuminated manuscript!
ShukerNature readers may well recall that some time ago I documented an astonishingly Yoda-like entity existing far far away from his usual galactic Star Wars abode as a Jedi Knight – residing instead inside an early illuminated manuscript known as the Smithfield Decretals (click hereto read my article), dating from c.1300-1340. Apparently, however, he wasn’t the only fictitious figure to lurk undetected until recent times within the rarified illustrative realm of medieval marginalia, as now revealed.
Comparison of my official Yoda model with the Yoda-like entity hidden away in the Smithfield Decretals (© Dr Karl Shuker/public domain)
As I noted when blogging previously about the presence of snail-cat illustrations in illuminated manuscripts (click here), psalters were volumes of predominantly medieval age that normally contained the 150 psalms of the Old Testament and a liturgical calendar. They were also beautifully illustrated in illuminated form by monks.
One of the most ornate examples is the Sankt Florian Psalter, also known as the Saint Florian Psalter or the Psalterium Trilingue. It was written between the late 14th and early 15thCenturies, and its text is presented in three different languages – Latin, Polish, and German (the Polish version contains the earliest presentation of the psalms in Polish). It was first discovered in 1827, by local librarian Father Josef Chmel, at the St Florian monastery of Sankt Florian – the Austrian town after which this psalter is named – and is currently held as a priceless religious and iconographical treasure at the National Library of Poland, in Warsaw.
The beginning of Psalm 1, gorgeously illuminated in the margins with assorted plants, animals, human figures, and other adornments, from the Sankt Florian Psalter – click to enlarge (public domain)
Yet despite its beauty and historical significance, the Sankt Florian Psalter is a notably mysterious work, inasmuch as its creator(s), original owners, and provenance are all currently unknown (although certain localities in Poland are variously favoured as the identity of the latter). But these are not the only mysteries or anomalies associated with this famous literary – and artistic – masterpiece.
The Sankt Florian Psalter consists of 297 + IV folios, and can be viewed online in its entirety here. Reiterating from my snail-cats article, manuscripts from the Middle Ages were bound without page numbers. In relation to such manuscripts, the term ‘folio’ (commonly abbreviated to ‘fol’ or simply ‘f’) is used in place of ‘page’, and the front or top side of each folio is referred to as the recto (‘r’), with the back or under side of each folio being the verso (‘v’). Consequently, as examples of how folios are designated in such manuscripts, the front side of a manuscript’s fifth folio would be referred to as f 5r, and the back of the manuscript’s 17th folio as f 17v. Bearing in mind that some consist of as many as 300 folios or even more, illuminated manuscripts housed in libraries sometimes have the respective number of each constituent folio lightly pencilled upon its recto side’s top-right corner, for ease of access to specific folios.
A snail-cat, as delightfully depicted in the Maastricht Hours, an illuminated religious manuscript dating from the early 1300s and originating in the Netherlands (public domain)
During my earlier researches into snail-cats and other exotic zoological marginalia portrayed in illuminated manuscripts (click here), I viewed a varied assortment of these latter works online, including the Sankt Florian Psalter. I didn’t locate any snail-cats in it, but what I did find was far more startling, and is as follows. In the margin directly above the upper edge of text on the Sankt Florian Psalter‘s f 28v (click hereto view this folio online within the psalter itself) is a very elaborate, colourful decoration consisting of swirling feathers and leaves, clusters of bright golden berries, a bird, a lion, a large human face portrayed in profile…and, partially encircled by a feather and a leaf, a very unusual humanoid figure. He may be cloaked and shown only from the waist up, but just one look at his face is more than enough to reveal just how strange and sinister he is.
To begin with, this eerie entity’s skin is a very pale, unhealthy-looking grey shade, his highly domed head is entirely hairless, his arched jet-black eyebrows have a decidedly satanic appearance, and his eyes below them are large and staring. But what sets him well apart from what may otherwise be conceivably identified as some form of stern religious figure wearing a pinkish-red cloak are his extraordinarily long, donkey-like ears, and his noticeably conspicuous teeth, which are not only very large and ghostly-white but also unmistakeably pointed.
The mysterious neo-Nosferatuan figure depicted on f 28v of the Sankt Florian Psalter (public domain)
Not so long ago, as mentioned in a recent ShukerNature post (click here), I watched the 1979 art-house remake (starring Klaus Kinski) of the classic silent German Expressionist horror movie from 1922, Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror, directed by F.W. Murnau – in which Max Schreck played Count Orlock the vampire, or Nosferatu. And to my amazement, when looking at the weird, grotesque figure standing aloof among the illuminated margin adornments of f 28v from the Sankt Florian Psalter, I realised that he bore an uncanny resemblance to Klaus Kinski’s Nosferatu, and even more so to Max Schreck’s original version!
The cloak itself (albeit pink rather than black), the extra-long asinine ears, the pale and grim countenance, the domed hairless head, the large staring eyes, and, above all, the white pointed teeth – a veritable vampire of Nosferatuan nature but portrayed in illuminated splendour was gazing back at me from one of the world’s most celebrated medieval psalters, a psalter that had been created at least 600 years ago!
Comparing the cloaked figure from the Sankt Florian Psalter with Max Schreck’s portrayal of Nosferatu, the vampirish Count Orlok (public domain)
Never having encountered any mention of this truly bizarre coincidence before, I searched online to discover if anyone else had drawn the same comparison, but could only find a few very scant mentions of the psalter-depicted entity in question on some Polish websites. Like all the best vampires, therefore, the sharp-toothed stranger from the Sankt Florian Psalter had for the most part entirely eluded detection. Only one notable exception came to light, a lengthier, more detailed Polish article that had been written and posted online to advertise the one-day-only public display of this invaluable psalter, on 23 April 2016, at the Palace of the Republic of Poland, in Warsaw.
The article had been uploaded onto the Polona/Blogwebsite on 14 April 2016 (click hereto access it), and by an extraordinary coincidence it had been written by none other than Łukasz Kozak, the expert in relation to medieval times and editor at the National Digital Library of Poland whose earlier, equally informative online article regarding the anomalous ‘Locust of Kalisz’ had been instrumental in guiding my own researches concerning this latter hitherto-obscure cryptid (click here to read my recent ShukerNature blog article documenting it).
The bizarre ‘Locust of Kalisz‘ drawing, depicting one of many such insects allegedly encountered near this Polish city in 1749 (public domain)
What was particularly interesting about Łukasz’s article, however, was not only his own comparison of the psalter’s mystery figure with Nosferatu, but a second, alternative comparison of it made by him as well. Providing a stark contrast to the darkness epitomised by the fictional Nosferatu, Łukasz noted how the figure also resembled a notable fictitious entity embodying the light side – none other than the Star Wars movie franchise’s big-eared, cloak-garbed Yoda!
And indeed, as shown below, there is certainly a resemblance, but less marked, at least in my opinion, than either the similarity between the figure and Nosferatu or the similarity between the earlier-mentioned Smithfield Decretals figure and Yoda. Nevertheless, how can we explain any such resemblances between modern-day fictitious beings and enigmatic, decidedly odd-looking entities depicted in illuminated manuscripts many centuries earlier, and by cloistered monks with little if any first-hand knowledge of the outside world anyway?
Three-way comparison featuring the cloaked figure from the Sankt Florian Psalter, Max Schreck’s portrayal of Nosferatu, and my official model of Yoda (public domain/public domain/© Dr Karl Shuker)
As noted in my ShukerNature article dealing with it (here), one popular explanation of this Yoda-like entity as depicted in the Smithfield Decretals is that in reality it may represent the devil attired as a demonic doctor of canon law, signifying that some clerics charged to uphold the law were actually corrupt and exploitative of their flock. Alternatively, it might simply represent a devil or demon in human form that is hoping to lure and tempt the unwary away from the paths of righteousness, and I consider it most likely that this or something similar is what the Sankt Florian Psalter‘s Nosferatu-like figure is intended to represent too. In religious imagery and classical western mythology, the donkey or ass is sometimes seen as an evil beast, so the addition of ass-like ears to a figure is a deft, easily-executed way of conveying visually the inherently malign nature of the figure, irrespective of his religious garb and other outward suggestions of piety and propriety.
Nevertheless, it is nothing if not intriguing to discover just how very like such purposefully ambiguous representations are to analogous versions created entirely independently and several centuries later in time. Then again, when dealing with entities as wily and astute as vampires and Jedi Knights, I suppose that we shouldn’t really be surprised at anything!
View of the entire f 28v folio from the Sankt Florian Psalter, showing the Nosferatu-like mystery figure in situ (public domain)
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IS NOSFERATU AN ILLUMINATED VAMPIRE?

by on Jul.16, 2017, under Syndicated from the Web

Reposted from ShukerNature | Go to Original Post

Is the devil – or vampire – in the detail? Close-up of the mysterious, sinister-looking entity lurking in the upper margin of folio 28v from the Sankt Florian Psalter (public domain)
Just in case you’re wondering, the illuminated vampire under consideration here is definitely not one of the sparkling, shimmering, but invariably angst-ridden teenage variety that frequent a certain series of romance-driven novels (and accompanying films) for young adults. No indeed, this one is none other than Nosferatu himself, the dreaded Count Orlok of the long incisors and even longer ears, and this present ShukerNature blog article of mine records my unexpected discovery of him, or someone very much like him, in an exceedingly unlikely locality – a medieval illuminated manuscript!
ShukerNature readers may well recall that some time ago I documented an astonishingly Yoda-like entity existing far far away from his usual galactic Star Wars abode as a Jedi Knight – residing instead inside an early illuminated manuscript known as the Smithfield Decretals (click hereto read my article), dating from c.1300-1340. Apparently, however, he wasn’t the only fictitious figure to lurk undetected until recent times within the rarified illustrative realm of medieval marginalia, as now revealed.
Comparison of my official Yoda model with the Yoda-like entity hidden away in the Smithfield Decretals (© Dr Karl Shuker/public domain)
As I noted when blogging previously about the presence of snail-cat illustrations in illuminated manuscripts (click here), psalters were volumes of predominantly medieval age that normally contained the 150 psalms of the Old Testament and a liturgical calendar. They were also beautifully illustrated in illuminated form by monks.
One of the most ornate examples is the Sankt Florian Psalter, also known as the Saint Florian Psalter or the Psalterium Trilingue. It was written between the late 14th and early 15thCenturies, and its text is presented in three different languages – Latin, Polish, and German (the Polish version contains the earliest presentation of the psalms in Polish). It was first discovered in 1827, by local librarian Father Josef Chmel, at the St Florian monastery of Sankt Florian – the Austrian town after which this psalter is named – and is currently held as a priceless religious and iconographical treasure at the National Library of Poland, in Warsaw.
The beginning of Psalm 1, gorgeously illuminated in the margins with assorted plants, animals, human figures, and other adornments, from the Sankt Florian Psalter – click to enlarge (public domain)
Yet despite its beauty and historical significance, the Sankt Florian Psalter is a notably mysterious work, inasmuch as its creator(s), original owners, and provenance are all currently unknown (although certain localities in Poland are variously favoured as the identity of the latter). But these are not the only mysteries or anomalies associated with this famous literary – and artistic – masterpiece.
The Sankt Florian Psalter consists of 297 + IV folios, and can be viewed online in its entirety here. Reiterating from my snail-cats article, manuscripts from the Middle Ages were bound without page numbers. In relation to such manuscripts, the term ‘folio’ (commonly abbreviated to ‘fol’ or simply ‘f’) is used in place of ‘page’, and the front or top side of each folio is referred to as the recto (‘r’), with the back or under side of each folio being the verso (‘v’). Consequently, as examples of how folios are designated in such manuscripts, the front side of a manuscript’s fifth folio would be referred to as f 5r, and the back of the manuscript’s 17th folio as f 17v. Bearing in mind that some consist of as many as 300 folios or even more, illuminated manuscripts housed in libraries sometimes have the respective number of each constituent folio lightly pencilled upon its recto side’s top-right corner, for ease of access to specific folios.
A snail-cat, as delightfully depicted in the Maastricht Hours, an illuminated religious manuscript dating from the early 1300s and originating in the Netherlands (public domain)
During my earlier researches into snail-cats and other exotic zoological marginalia portrayed in illuminated manuscripts (click here), I viewed a varied assortment of these latter works online, including the Sankt Florian Psalter. I didn’t locate any snail-cats in it, but what I did find was far more startling, and is as follows. In the margin directly above the upper edge of text on the Sankt Florian Psalter‘s f 28v (click hereto view this folio online within the psalter itself) is a very elaborate, colourful decoration consisting of swirling feathers and leaves, clusters of bright golden berries, a bird, a lion, a large human face portrayed in profile…and, partially encircled by a feather and a leaf, a very unusual humanoid figure. He may be cloaked and shown only from the waist up, but just one look at his face is more than enough to reveal just how strange and sinister he is.
To begin with, this eerie entity’s skin is a very pale, unhealthy-looking grey shade, his highly domed head is entirely hairless, his arched jet-black eyebrows have a decidedly satanic appearance, and his eyes below them are large and staring. But what sets him well apart from what may otherwise be conceivably identified as some form of stern religious figure wearing a pinkish-red cloak are his extraordinarily long, donkey-like ears, and his noticeably conspicuous teeth, which are not only very large and ghostly-white but also unmistakeably pointed.
The mysterious neo-Nosferatuan figure depicted on f 28v of the Sankt Florian Psalter (public domain)
Not so long ago, as mentioned in a recent ShukerNature post (click here), I watched the 1979 art-house remake (starring Klaus Kinski) of the classic silent German Expressionist horror movie from 1922, Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror, directed by F.W. Murnau – in which Max Schreck played Count Orlock the vampire, or Nosferatu. And to my amazement, when looking at the weird, grotesque figure standing aloof among the illuminated margin adornments of f 28v from the Sankt Florian Psalter, I realised that he bore an uncanny resemblance to Klaus Kinski’s Nosferatu, and even more so to Max Schreck’s original version!
The cloak itself (albeit pink rather than black), the extra-long asinine ears, the pale and grim countenance, the domed hairless head, the large staring eyes, and, above all, the white pointed teeth – a veritable vampire of Nosferatuan nature but portrayed in illuminated splendour was gazing back at me from one of the world’s most celebrated medieval psalters, a psalter that had been created at least 600 years ago!
Comparing the cloaked figure from the Sankt Florian Psalter with Max Schreck’s portrayal of Nosferatu, the vampirish Count Orlok (public domain)
Never having encountered any mention of this truly bizarre coincidence before, I searched online to discover if anyone else had drawn the same comparison, but could only find a few very scant mentions of the psalter-depicted entity in question on some Polish websites. Like all the best vampires, therefore, the sharp-toothed stranger from the Sankt Florian Psalter had for the most part entirely eluded detection. Only one notable exception came to light, a lengthier, more detailed Polish article that had been written and posted online to advertise the one-day-only public display of this invaluable psalter, on 23 April 2016, at the Palace of the Republic of Poland, in Warsaw.
The article had been uploaded onto the Polona/Blogwebsite on 14 April 2016 (click hereto access it), and by an extraordinary coincidence it had been written by none other than Łukasz Kozak, the expert in relation to medieval times and editor at the National Digital Library of Poland whose earlier, equally informative online article regarding the anomalous ‘Locust of Kalisz’ had been instrumental in guiding my own researches concerning this latter hitherto-obscure cryptid (click here to read my recent ShukerNature blog article documenting it).
The bizarre ‘Locust of Kalisz‘ drawing, depicting one of many such insects allegedly encountered near this Polish city in 1749 (public domain)
What was particularly interesting about Łukasz’s article, however, was not only his own comparison of the psalter’s mystery figure with Nosferatu, but a second, alternative comparison of it made by him as well. Providing a stark contrast to the darkness epitomised by the fictional Nosferatu, Łukasz noted how the figure also resembled a notable fictitious entity embodying the light side – none other than the Star Wars movie franchise’s big-eared, cloak-garbed Yoda!
And indeed, as shown below, there is certainly a resemblance, but less marked, at least in my opinion, than either the similarity between the figure and Nosferatu or the similarity between the earlier-mentioned Smithfield Decretals figure and Yoda. Nevertheless, how can we explain any such resemblances between modern-day fictitious beings and enigmatic, decidedly odd-looking entities depicted in illuminated manuscripts many centuries earlier, and by cloistered monks with little if any first-hand knowledge of the outside world anyway?
Three-way comparison featuring the cloaked figure from the Sankt Florian Psalter, Max Schreck’s portrayal of Nosferatu, and my official model of Yoda (public domain/public domain/© Dr Karl Shuker)
As noted in my ShukerNature article dealing with it (here), one popular explanation of this Yoda-like entity as depicted in the Smithfield Decretals is that in reality it may represent the devil attired as a demonic doctor of canon law, signifying that some clerics charged to uphold the law were actually corrupt and exploitative of their flock. Alternatively, it might simply represent a devil or demon in human form that is hoping to lure and tempt the unwary away from the paths of righteousness, and I consider it most likely that this or something similar is what the Sankt Florian Psalter‘s Nosferatu-like figure is intended to represent too. In religious imagery and classical western mythology, the donkey or ass is sometimes seen as an evil beast, so the addition of ass-like ears to a figure is a deft, easily-executed way of conveying visually the inherently malign nature of the figure, irrespective of his religious garb and other outward suggestions of piety and propriety.
Nevertheless, it is nothing if not intriguing to discover just how very like such purposefully ambiguous representations are to analogous versions created entirely independently and several centuries later in time. Then again, when dealing with entities as wily and astute as vampires and Jedi Knights, I suppose that we shouldn’t really be surprised at anything!
View of the entire f 28v folio from the Sankt Florian Psalter, showing the Nosferatu-like mystery figure in situ (public domain)
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THE LOCUST OF KALISZ? MORE LIKE A DALI-ESQUE DEATHSHEAD!

by on Jul.15, 2017, under Syndicated from the Web

Reposted from ShukerNature | Go to Original Post

Close-up of the so-called ‘Locust of Kalisz’ drawing, contained in the scrapbook album compiled and given by friends to General Joachim Daniel von Jauch as a birthday present sometime during the early 1750s (public domain)
Its many shortcomings and dark aspects notwithstanding, I have long considered the internet to be the greatest cabinet of curiosities ever assembled, a limitless repository replete with wonders and marvels of every conceivable – and inconceivable – kind, all awaiting uncovering and investigation by those with a mind to do so. Over the years, I have documented here on ShukerNature an extremely diverse array of my own cryptozoology-related discoveries made in this manner, of which the present one is just the latest in a very extensive and – at least for me, but I hope for you too – a thoroughly entrancing series with no end in sight, thankfully.
And so it was that while idly browsing last night through the vast virtual art gallery of online images that is freely available via Wikimedia Commons, I typed ‘Cryptozoology’ in its search engine bar, and instantly called up an entertaining selection of pictures appertaining to mystery beasts. As I browsed through them, I recognised every one with varying degrees of familiarity – until, that is, I came to the extraordinary drawing that opens this current ShukerNature article, and was immediately aware that I had never encountered it before.
As can be seen here, on Wikimedia Commons this drawing has been entitled ‘Szarańcza z Kalisza’, which translates from Polish as ‘Locust of Kalisz’, dates from no earlier than 1749, and is accompanied by the following description: ‘Zmierzchnica trupia główka ze sztambucha generała Joachima Daniela Jaucha’ (very loosely translated via Google Translate as ‘the dreaded head of General Joachim Daniel Jauch on paper’). What can this weird insect be, who was Joachim Daniel Jauch, and what is their common history? Needless to say, my sense of cryptozoological curiosity was irresistibly stimulated, and so, in best Sherlockian response, the game was afoot!
The ‘Locust of Kalisz‘ drawing with its bilingual caption inscribed below it – click to enlarge (public domain)
My first line of investigation was to translate the handwritten caption inscribed directly below the drawing itself. It was present in two separate languages, Old Polish and German, but the script was very faint in both, the ink having long since faded considerably. Happily, however, with great thanks to the much-welcomed translation skills of Facebook friend Miroslav Fismeister and one of his friends, Polish novelist Daniel Koziarski, for the Old Polish version and the much-appreciated assistance of German cryptozoological friend and colleague Markus Bühler for the German version, I am able to provide the following English translation:
The year 1749: A plague of locusts fell a mile from Kalisz, of which two were caught, one was held in Gniezno capital and the other in the OO. Reformation church in Kalisz. When taken in the hand, it was screaming like a bat, yellow foam was coming from its mouth, all of it was hairy, Death on the chest, two hairy legs, squirrel’s teeth, etc.
Kalisz is a city in central Poland (and the oldest still existing anywhere in thus country), and Gniezno is a city in central-western Poland that was this country’s first capital city. Morever, the OO. Reformation church in Kalisz was conceivably a Reformed Franciscan church and is apparently now the Church of the Holy Family there. Sadly, I currently have no information concerning the fate of the two captured specimens – were they preserved and retained somewhere, I wonder, or simply discarded? Hence I am treating this case as an investigation still in progress. However, combining the verbal description’s details with the visual details present in the drawing did swiftly enable me to identify the insect. Albeit exhibiting considerable artistic licence and not a little inaccuracy, whereas the drawing clearly does not portray a locust it was evidently inspired by Acherontia atropos – the deathshead hawk moth, one of Europe’s largest lepidopterans (click herefor a ShukerNature blog article devoted to this morphologically and behaviourally distinctive species).
True, the characteristic thoracic marking resembling a skull and earning this particular moth its familiar English name was depicted ventrally rather than dorsally in this strange drawing, and in it the insect had been given a grinning human face sporting a decidedly Salvador Dali-esque upward-curving moustache, but this latter feature may have been intended as a whimsical adaptation of the moth’s long thick antennae. Indeed, in overall appearance the depicted insect definitely seems to constitute a deliberately comical, humanoid caricature of A. atropos, which would explain why it was only given two legs (but ending in claws, like a moth’s, rather than human feet), yet incorporating certain unequivocally Acherontian attributes too, such as the banding upon its rear wings, and its hairy body. Of particular relevance here is that the creature’s alleged bat-like screaming – ostensibly nonsensical in relation to a moth – is actually a famous, characteristic feature of this particular moth species For it can emit a shrill, high-pitched squeaking sound, which is created by the moth’s powerful inhalation of air into its pharynx, causing a stiffened flap called the epipharynx to vibrate very rapidly (click here for more details).
Exquisite 19th-Century illustration of a deathshead hawk moth (public domain)
But what about the description of the drawing assigned to it on Wikimedia Commons? Clearly “the dreaded head” means “the deathshead”, referring to the eponymous moth species, but who was General Joachim Daniel Jauch? I soon discovered that he was General Joachim Daniel von Jauch (1688-1754), a German-born architect, civilian engineer, and military man, who had supervised the Baroque development of Warsaw, being responsible for the urban planning and designing or rebuilding of many of its new buildings, and he had also served in the Polish army as an artilleryman, steadily rising up through the ranks. But how was Jauch linked to the humanoid deathshead hawk moth drawing?
In spite of its very striking, memorable appearance, this enigmatic illustration conjured forth a surprisingly scant amount of information when utilising it as the focus of a Google Image-based internet search. However, I am nothing if not persistent (i.e. stubborn!), so eventually I unearthed sufficient details to flesh out its hitherto-opaque history. The drawing originated in a scrapbook-like album filled with all manner of artwork, which was seemingly compiled by some of Jauch’s friends as a birthday present for him and presented to him during the early 1750s (precise year not known), i.e. not long before his death.
Containing over 150 exquisite drawings and other art, variously executed in pen-ink, sepia-ink, crayon, pencil, watercolour, and gouache, this unique and very beautiful leather-covered album can be viewed directly online at the website of the National Digital Library of Poland (Biblioteki Cyfrowej Polona), and the humanoid moth (aka Locust of Kalisz) with its accompanying handwritten bilingual caption can be found on p. 95 (click hereto view this page and to access the entire album). The diverse artwork includes various architectural designs, sketches and graphics, scenes from mythology, antique sculpture studies, natural history illustrations, and portraits.
Page 95 from Jauch’s album, showing the ‘humanoid moth’ (aka Locust of Kalisz) drawing in situ (public domain)
I also discovered a concise, excellent online article in Polish concerning this drawing (click here), in relation to which Google Translate once again came to my rescue by yielding a workable English version. Dated 11 March 2014, the article was written by Łukasz Kozak, an expert in relation to medieval times and editor at the National Digital Library of Poland, and had been posted on the latter’s website. In it, he confirmed that the insect was indeed intended to be a deathshead hawk moth, and documented what I too have written about elsewhere regarding this species’ unusual squeaking ability. However, he also provided some very welcome additional information concerning the background history of this intriguing case, including the following details.
As noted earlier, the album is filled with many images, which include numerous full-colour illustrations of plants and animals (such as rodents, birds, reptiles, and insects) that are generally portrayed in a very accurate, naturalistic manner. The artist responsible for these latter illustrations is believed to have been Fraulein de Naumann, as Łukasz had revealed during his own investigation of the moth drawing. She was probably the daughter of architect Johann Christoph von Naumann, who in turn was not only Jauch’s predecessor at the architect office where he had worked but also his brother-in-law. Łukasz then went on to reveal the deathshead hawk moth as the species upon which the drawing had been based, and gave some interesting examples from fact and fiction previously unknown to me regarding how the eerie nature of its squeaking had terrified persons in the past who were unfamiliar with this osensibly unnatural ability, thus filling them with superstitious dread.
Łukasz also appears in a short online video in which he looks through Jauch’s album, displays the moth drawing, and then discusses it. This video is embedded in an article written by him and first posted on the Newsweek Polska website on 11 February 2015, but unfortunately as he speaks only in Polish I was initially unable to obtain any information from it (click hereto access the article and view the video). Happily, however, Katarzyna Bylok, the Polish girlfriend of fellow Fortean/mystery beast investigator Matt Cook, kindly viewed it for me earlier this evening, and the details concerning it that she passed onto me afterwards via Matt confirm that Łukasz was merely reiterating the details that he had previously presented in his March 2014 article. Many thanks indeed to Katarzyna and Matt for kindly assisting me regarding this.
Still of Łukasz Kozak from Newsweek Polska video (© Łukasz Kozak/Newsweek Polska – reproduced here on a strictly non-commercial Fair Use basis for educational purposes only)
However, there are certain key issues related to this memorable drawing that remain unresolved – or do they?
Notable among these is why Fraulein de Naumann prepared such a surreal, unrealistic image anyway, bearing in mind that all of her other illustrations in the album were so life-like. Might it have been a humorous caricature of Jauch himself?
The following painting of Jauch was prepared in c.1720, and he is not portrayed in it with a moustache of any kind, but perhaps he grew and maintained one in later years?
General Joachim Daniel von Jauch, painted in c.1720, artist unknown (public domain)
Alternatively, could it have even been a comical representation of her own father, as she would have known that he and Jauch had worked in the same office? Or perhaps it was not based upon a real person at all, but was just a light-hearted doodle created in jest to add some merriment to the album, bearing in mind that it had been created specifically as a birthday present for him?

Yet another theory that has been suggested by some writers online, including biologist Prof. Stanislaw Czachorowski in an article of 9 February 2014 dealing with the deathshead hawk moth (click here), and which would certainly explain why it differed so dramatically from the other wildlife illustrations, is also worth considering. Namely, that this drawing was in fact produced by Jauch himself, and was based not upon any sightings of his own but only upon secondhand descriptions or lurid folkloric accounts of the deathshead hawk moth (another reason for its stark inaccuracy), which he interpolated in a blank space on p. 95 of his album alongside the realistic illustrations of Fraulein de Naumann.

As for this drawing’s comparably mystifying caption, what are the ‘squirrel teeth’ referred to in it when describing the moth, and what is the yellow foam seemingly regurgitated by the moth? The caterpillar of the deathshead hawk moth has sizeable mandibles that it will click together and even use to bite aggressors, so these could conceivably be likened to squirrel teeth; but the adult moth only has a slender nectar-imbibing proboscis. Might the phrase instead be a somewhat peculiar allusion to the moth’s antennae? In fact, having viewed the following excellent close-up photograph of a deathshead hawk moth’s face, the answer now seems clear to me. The ‘squirrel teeth’ are simply the two ridged, outer edges of the moth’s proboscis, which do superficially resemble curved rodent teeth.

Face of a deathshead hawk moth, showing its ridge-edged proboscis (© owner presently unknown to me – reproduced here on a strictly non-commercial Fair Use educational basis only)

It is well known that the caterpillars of hawk moths will regurgitate the sticky (and sometimes toxic) content of their foregut if attacked; but because the mouthparts of caterpillars are very different from those of adult moths, could the latter accomplish such behaviour? Nevertheless, I do recall reading somewhere that certain adult moths will indeed perform this activity as a defence mechanism if need be, so perhaps the deathshead hawk moth is one such species.

Then again, if the drawing itself was intended only as a joke, a spoof, not as a realistic depiction of anything that may truly have appeared near Kalisz in 1749 (and in view of the moth’s grinning moustachioed face, this seems ever more likely the more I reflect upon it), maybe the caption was composed in an equally tongue-in-cheek manner and should therefore be taken no more seriously than the drawing.

Equally mystifying is why the insect in the drawing was referred to as a locust, given that it looked nothing like one and was indisputably inspired by a deathshead hawk moth. However, the implication from the drawing’s caption is that in 1749 a sizeable number of such insects appeared near Kalisz, and other Polish accounts concerning this incident that I have read online support that implication, so it seems plausible that the term ‘locust’ was being applied not literally but figuratively, an allusion to the large numbers of this insect that had appeared near the city that year.
A 19th-Century illustration of locusts (public domain)
Even so, this is still odd, because although I have read occasional accounts of veritable swarms of certain hawk moth species occurring in various localities down through the ages, I haven’t read anything comparable relating specifically to the deathshead hawk moth. Having said that: in my ShukerNaturearticle on this species (click here), I do refer to a singular incident in which approximately 300 specimens were attracted to a single beehive within a short period of time. The reason for this was that the deathshead has a great liking for honey, so much so in fact that some researchers have even suggested that its uncanny squeaking ability may actually be an attempt to impersonate the specific sound that a queen bee produces to keep her workers passive, and thence allow the moth to enter the hive and consume its honey without being attacked by the hive’s worker bees. Consequently, in exceptional circumstances large numbers of deathsheads may indeed occur. So although I haven’t been able as yet to trace any corroboration that is independent of the moth drawing, perhaps one such occurrence took place near Kalisz, Poland, during 1749.
Clearly there is still much to uncover regarding this fascinating case, but what I have provided here so far would already appear to be the most detailed account of it ever presented in English. So, now that its curious story is readily accessible to a much greater audience than before, perhaps additional details will be forthcoming from readers, to plug the gaps remaining in its history. Consequently, as I noted earlier here, I consider this article and investigation of mine to be a work in progress, so I would be extremely grateful to receive any supplementary information relating to it. And as is always true with my researches, all such submissions will be fully credited by me if utilised in updates to this article.
Incidentally, there is actually a Facebook page, in Polish, devoted to the humanoid moth drawing from Jauch’s album – entitled ‘Szarańcza z Kalisza’, it contains various relevant posts and comments, plus a delightful animated GIF of this drawing, created by Mieszko Saktura. Click hereto visit and Like its page (I have).
Polish postage stamp depicting the deathshead hawk moth (public domain)
And finally: for another ShukerNature blog article concerning an equally bizarre illustration of an alleged locust that clearly was nothing of the kind, be sure to click hereand read all about the extraordinary locust dragon of Nicolaes de Bruyn from 1594.
The original, truly bizarre 1594 illustration by Nicolaes de Bruyn of an apparent locust dragon (public domain)
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THE LOCUST OF KALISZ? MORE LIKE A DALI-ESQUE DEATHSHEAD!

by on Jul.15, 2017, under Syndicated from the Web

Reposted from ShukerNature | Go to Original Post

Close-up of the so-called ‘Locust of Kalisz’ drawing, contained in the scrapbook album compiled and given by friends to General Joachim Daniel von Jauch as a birthday present sometime during the early 1750s (public domain)
Its many shortcomings and dark aspects notwithstanding, I have long considered the internet to be the greatest cabinet of curiosities ever assembled, a limitless repository replete with wonders and marvels of every conceivable – and inconceivable – kind, all awaiting uncovering and investigation by those with a mind to do so. Over the years, I have documented here on ShukerNature an extremely diverse array of my own cryptozoology-related discoveries made in this manner, of which the present one is just the latest in a very extensive and – at least for me, but I hope for you too – a thoroughly entrancing series with no end in sight, thankfully.
And so it was that while idly browsing last night through the vast virtual art gallery of online images that is freely available via Wikimedia Commons, I typed ‘Cryptozoology’ in its search engine bar, and instantly called up an entertaining selection of pictures appertaining to mystery beasts. As I browsed through them, I recognised every one with varying degrees of familiarity – until, that is, I came to the extraordinary drawing that opens this current ShukerNature article, and was immediately aware that I had never encountered it before.
As can be seen here, on Wikimedia Commons this drawing has been entitled ‘Szarańcza z Kalisza’, which translates from Polish as ‘Locust of Kalisz’, dates from no earlier than 1749, and is accompanied by the following description: ‘Zmierzchnica trupia główka ze sztambucha generała Joachima Daniela Jaucha’ (very loosely translated via Google Translate as ‘the dreaded head of General Joachim Daniel Jauch on paper’). What can this weird insect be, who was Joachim Daniel Jauch, and what is their common history? Needless to say, my sense of cryptozoological curiosity was irresistibly stimulated, and so, in best Sherlockian response, the game was afoot!
The ‘Locust of Kalisz‘ drawing with its bilingual caption inscribed below it – click to enlarge (public domain)
My first line of investigation was to translate the handwritten caption inscribed directly below the drawing itself. It was present in two separate languages, Old Polish and German, but the script was very faint in both, the ink having long since faded considerably. Happily, however, with great thanks to the much-welcomed translation skills of Facebook friend Miroslav Fismeister and one of his friends, Polish novelist Daniel Koziarski, for the Old Polish version and the much-appreciated assistance of German cryptozoological friend and colleague Markus Bühler for the German version, I am able to provide the following English translation:
The year 1749: A plague of locusts fell a mile from Kalisz, of which two were caught, one was held in Gniezno capital and the other in the OO. Reformation church in Kalisz. When taken in the hand, it was screaming like a bat, yellow foam was coming from its mouth, all of it was hairy, Death on the chest, two hairy legs, squirrel’s teeth, etc.
Kalisz is a city in central Poland (and the oldest still existing anywhere in thus country), and Gniezno is a city in central-western Poland that was this country’s first capital city. Morever, the OO. Reformation church in Kalisz was conceivably a Reformed Franciscan church and is apparently now the Church of the Holy Family there. Sadly, I currently have no information concerning the fate of the two captured specimens – were they preserved and retained somewhere, I wonder, or simply discarded? Hence I am treating this case as an investigation still in progress. However, combining the verbal description’s details with the visual details present in the drawing did swiftly enable me to identify the insect. Albeit exhibiting considerable artistic licence and not a little inaccuracy, whereas the drawing clearly does not portray a locust it was evidently inspired by Acherontia atropos – the deathshead hawk moth, one of Europe’s largest lepidopterans (click herefor a ShukerNature blog article devoted to this morphologically and behaviourally distinctive species).
True, the characteristic thoracic marking resembling a skull and earning this particular moth its familiar English name was depicted ventrally rather than dorsally in this strange drawing, and in it the insect had been given a grinning human face sporting a decidedly Salvador Dali-esque upward-curving moustache, but this latter feature may have been intended as a whimsical adaptation of the moth’s long thick antennae. Indeed, in overall appearance the depicted insect definitely seems to constitute a deliberately comical, humanoid caricature of A. atropos, which would explain why it was only given two legs (but ending in claws, like a moth’s, rather than human feet), yet incorporating certain unequivocally Acherontian attributes too, such as the banding upon its rear wings, and its hairy body. Of particular relevance here is that the creature’s alleged bat-like screaming – ostensibly nonsensical in relation to a moth – is actually a famous, characteristic feature of this particular moth species For it can emit a shrill, high-pitched squeaking sound, which is created by the moth’s powerful inhalation of air into its pharynx, causing a stiffened flap called the epipharynx to vibrate very rapidly (click here for more details).
Exquisite 19th-Century illustration of a deathshead hawk moth (public domain)
But what about the description of the drawing assigned to it on Wikimedia Commons? Clearly “the dreaded head” means “the deathshead”, referring to the eponymous moth species, but who was General Joachim Daniel Jauch? I soon discovered that he was General Joachim Daniel von Jauch (1688-1754), a German-born architect, civilian engineer, and military man, who had supervised the Baroque development of Warsaw, being responsible for the urban planning and designing or rebuilding of many of its new buildings, and he had also served in the Polish army as an artilleryman, steadily rising up through the ranks. But how was Jauch linked to the humanoid deathshead hawk moth drawing?
In spite of its very striking, memorable appearance, this enigmatic illustration conjured forth a surprisingly scant amount of information when utilising it as the focus of a Google Image-based internet search. However, I am nothing if not persistent (i.e. stubborn!), so eventually I unearthed sufficient details to flesh out its hitherto-opaque history. The drawing originated in a scrapbook-like album filled with all manner of artwork, which was seemingly compiled by some of Jauch’s friends as a birthday present for him and presented to him during the early 1750s (precise year not known), i.e. not long before his death.
Containing over 150 exquisite drawings and other art, variously executed in pen-ink, sepia-ink, crayon, pencil, watercolour, and gouache, this unique and very beautiful leather-covered album can be viewed directly online at the website of the National Digital Library of Poland (Biblioteki Cyfrowej Polona), and the humanoid moth (aka Locust of Kalisz) with its accompanying handwritten bilingual caption can be found on p. 95 (click hereto view this page and to access the entire album). The diverse artwork includes various architectural designs, sketches and graphics, scenes from mythology, antique sculpture studies, natural history illustrations, and portraits.
Page 95 from Jauch’s album, showing the ‘humanoid moth’ (aka Locust of Kalisz) drawing in situ (public domain)
I also discovered a concise, excellent online article in Polish concerning this drawing (click here), in relation to which Google Translate once again came to my rescue by yielding a workable English version. Dated 11 March 2014, the article was written by Łukasz Kozak, an expert in relation to medieval times and editor at the National Digital Library of Poland, and had been posted on the latter’s website. In it, he confirmed that the insect was indeed intended to be a deathshead hawk moth, and documented what I too have written about elsewhere regarding this species’ unusual squeaking ability. However, he also provided some very welcome additional information concerning the background history of this intriguing case, including the following details.
As noted earlier, the album is filled with many images, which include numerous full-colour illustrations of plants and animals (such as rodents, birds, reptiles, and insects) that are generally portrayed in a very accurate, naturalistic manner. The artist responsible for these latter illustrations is believed to have been Fraulein de Naumann, as Łukasz had revealed during his own investigation of the moth drawing. She was probably the daughter of architect Johann Christoph von Naumann, who in turn was not only Jauch’s predecessor at the architect office where he had worked but also his brother-in-law. Łukasz then went on to reveal the deathshead hawk moth as the species upon which the drawing had been based, and gave some interesting examples from fact and fiction previously unknown to me regarding how the eerie nature of its squeaking had terrified persons in the past who were unfamiliar with this osensibly unnatural ability, thus filling them with superstitious dread.
Łukasz also appears in a short online video in which he looks through Jauch’s album, displays the moth drawing, and then discusses it. This video is embedded in an article written by him and first posted on the Newsweek Polska website on 11 February 2015, but unfortunately as he speaks only in Polish I was initially unable to obtain any information from it (click hereto access the article and view the video). Happily, however, Katarzyna Bylok, the Polish girlfriend of fellow Fortean/mystery beast investigator Matt Cook, kindly viewed it for me earlier this evening, and the details concerning it that she passed onto me afterwards via Matt confirm that Łukasz was merely reiterating the details that he had previously presented in his March 2014 article. Many thanks indeed to Katarzyna and Matt for kindly assisting me regarding this.
Still of Łukasz Kozak from Newsweek Polska video (© Łukasz Kozak/Newsweek Polska – reproduced here on a strictly non-commercial Fair Use basis for educational purposes only)
However, there are certain key issues related to this memorable drawing that remain unresolved – or do they?
Notable among these is why Fraulein de Naumann prepared such a surreal, unrealistic image anyway, bearing in mind that all of her other illustrations in the album were so life-like. Might it have been a humorous caricature of Jauch himself?
The following painting of Jauch was prepared in c.1720, and he is not portrayed in it with a moustache of any kind, but perhaps he grew and maintained one in later years?
General Joachim Daniel von Jauch, painted in c.1720, artist unknown (public domain)
Alternatively, could it have even been a comical representation of her own father, as she would have known that he and Jauch had worked in the same office? Or perhaps it was not based upon a real person at all, but was just a light-hearted doodle created in jest to add some merriment to the album, bearing in mind that it had been created specifically as a birthday present for him?

Yet another theory that has been suggested by some writers online, including biologist Prof. Stanislaw Czachorowski in an article of 9 February 2014 dealing with the deathshead hawk moth (click here), and which would certainly explain why it differed so dramatically from the other wildlife illustrations, is also worth considering. Namely, that this drawing was in fact produced by Jauch himself, and was based not upon any sightings of his own but only upon secondhand descriptions or lurid folkloric accounts of the deathshead hawk moth (another reason for its stark inaccuracy), which he interpolated in a blank space on p. 95 of his album alongside the realistic illustrations of Fraulein de Naumann.

As for this drawing’s comparably mystifying caption, what are the ‘squirrel teeth’ referred to in it when describing the moth, and what is the yellow foam seemingly regurgitated by the moth? The caterpillar of the deathshead hawk moth has sizeable mandibles that it will click together and even use to bite aggressors, so these could conceivably be likened to squirrel teeth; but the adult moth only has a slender nectar-imbibing proboscis. Might the phrase instead be a somewhat peculiar allusion to the moth’s antennae? In fact, having viewed the following excellent close-up photograph of a deathshead hawk moth’s face, the answer now seems clear to me. The ‘squirrel teeth’ are simply the two ridged, outer edges of the moth’s proboscis, which do superficially resemble curved rodent teeth.

Face of a deathshead hawk moth, showing its ridge-edged proboscis (© owner presently unknown to me – reproduced here on a strictly non-commercial Fair Use educational basis only)

It is well known that the caterpillars of hawk moths will regurgitate the sticky (and sometimes toxic) content of their foregut if attacked; but because the mouthparts of caterpillars are very different from those of adult moths, could the latter accomplish such behaviour? Nevertheless, I do recall reading somewhere that certain adult moths will indeed perform this activity as a defence mechanism if need be, so perhaps the deathshead hawk moth is one such species.

Then again, if the drawing itself was intended only as a joke, a spoof, not as a realistic depiction of anything that may truly have appeared near Kalisz in 1749 (and in view of the moth’s grinning moustachioed face, this seems ever more likely the more I reflect upon it), maybe the caption was composed in an equally tongue-in-cheek manner and should therefore be taken no more seriously than the drawing.

Equally mystifying is why the insect in the drawing was referred to as a locust, given that it looked nothing like one and was indisputably inspired by a deathshead hawk moth. However, the implication from the drawing’s caption is that in 1749 a sizeable number of such insects appeared near Kalisz, and other Polish accounts concerning this incident that I have read online support that implication, so it seems plausible that the term ‘locust’ was being applied not literally but figuratively, an allusion to the large numbers of this insect that had appeared near the city that year.
A 19th-Century illustration of locusts (public domain)
Even so, this is still odd, because although I have read occasional accounts of veritable swarms of certain hawk moth species occurring in various localities down through the ages, I haven’t read anything comparable relating specifically to the deathshead hawk moth. Having said that: in my ShukerNaturearticle on this species (click here), I do refer to a singular incident in which approximately 300 specimens were attracted to a single beehive within a short period of time. The reason for this was that the deathshead has a great liking for honey, so much so in fact that some researchers have even suggested that its uncanny squeaking ability may actually be an attempt to impersonate the specific sound that a queen bee produces to keep her workers passive, and thence allow the moth to enter the hive and consume its honey without being attacked by the hive’s worker bees. Consequently, in exceptional circumstances large numbers of deathsheads may indeed occur. So although I haven’t been able as yet to trace any corroboration that is independent of the moth drawing, perhaps one such occurrence took place near Kalisz, Poland, during 1749.
Clearly there is still much to uncover regarding this fascinating case, but what I have provided here so far would already appear to be the most detailed account of it ever presented in English. So, now that its curious story is readily accessible to a much greater audience than before, perhaps additional details will be forthcoming from readers, to plug the gaps remaining in its history. Consequently, as I noted earlier here, I consider this article and investigation of mine to be a work in progress, so I would be extremely grateful to receive any supplementary information relating to it. And as is always true with my researches, all such submissions will be fully credited by me if utilised in updates to this article.
Incidentally, there is actually a Facebook page, in Polish, devoted to the humanoid moth drawing from Jauch’s album – entitled ‘Szarańcza z Kalisza’, it contains various relevant posts and comments, plus a delightful animated GIF of this drawing, created by Mieszko Saktura. Click hereto visit and Like its page (I have).
Polish postage stamp depicting the deathshead hawk moth (public domain)
And finally: for another ShukerNature blog article concerning an equally bizarre illustration of an alleged locust that clearly was nothing of the kind, be sure to click hereand read all about the extraordinary locust dragon of Nicolaes de Bruyn from 1594.
The original, truly bizarre 1594 illustration by Nicolaes de Bruyn of an apparent locust dragon (public domain)
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IS THE OZENKADNOOK TIGER A CARDBOARD CRYPTID?

by on Jul.08, 2017, under Syndicated from the Web

Reposted from ShukerNature | Go to Original Post

The (in)famous Ozenkadnook tiger photograph (copyright owner’s identity presently ambiguous, it would seem – see below – although traditionally attributed to Rilla Martin)
One of cryptozoology’s most iconic images is the so-called Ozenkadnook Tiger Photograph, reproduced above. It depicts a large, seemingly dark-bodied, white-striped Australian mystery beast supposedly snapped in b/w during 1964 by Melbourne-based Rilla Martin while holidaying in Victoria. She had apparently been driving along a dirt track near Ozenkadnook when she saw the creature at the edge of some woods, and after stopping the car she managed to snap a single photo of it before it ran off.
In typical cryptozoological tradition, the photo’s depiction of the beast is far from clear; but as its burly head looks vaguely dog-like, it has inspired various Aussie cryptid enthusiasts to speculate that the striped creature may be a living mainland thylacine Thylacinus cynocephalus. Yet this externally wolf-like marsupial officially died out here over 3,000 years ago, i.e. long before its official extinction on Tasmania in 1936.

A pre-1936 public domain photograph of a living Tasmanian thylacine in captivity, colourised by person(s) unknown to me; found online (public domain/colourising © unknown to me)

Moreover, the bizarre reverse-striping pattern exhibited by the photographed creature bears no resemblance to the thylacine’s striping, and has led others to suggest that these markings are not genuine features of it at all, but merely constitute reflected sunlight.
Having said that, such a situation would not in itself automatically exclude the thylacine from consideration as an identity for this mystery beast, as succinctly demonstrated by the following very pertinent photograph:
Pre-1936 photograph of a captive thylacine dappled by sunlight and somewhat resembling the photographed Ozenkadnook tiger (public domain)
Less likely than a thylacine explanation, but suggested by some mystery beast fans, is that the Ozenkadnook tiger was a living marsupial lion Thylacoleo carnifex, which according to the currently-documented fossil record became extinct around 50,000 years ago (although there are a couple of intriguing aboriginal petroglyphs in existence that depict a mysterious beast very reminiscent of Thylacoleobut which are only around 6,500 years old, thereby indicating if identified correctly that this singular species did persist into relatively recent times).
Yet even if has survived right up to the present day undiscovered by science (and popularly proposed by cryptozoologists as the identity of an elusive feline cryptid known as the yarri or Queensland marsupial tiger), its morphology as deduced from fossil finds differs markedly from that of the creature in the photograph.
Specially prepared colour drawing of the yarri or Queensland tiger to which the reverse striping coat pattern ostensibly exhibited by the Ozenkadnook tiger has been deliberately applied, in order to show how the former cryptid might look if it were one and the same species as the latter cryptid, depicted below it (© Markus Bühler / copyright owner’s identity presently ambiguous, it would seem – see below – although traditionally attributed to Rilla Martin)
Less contentious options on offer include a dingo or a domestic dog, whereas more sceptical views have leaned toward an unspecified hoax of some kind. With no consensus of opinion surfacing, the controversy as to what Martin’s photo really depicts has rumbled on for over 50 years, but in a recent newspaper article (click here) a remarkable new allegation was made.

Namely, that the beast was nothing more than a large cardboard cut-out, created, painted with stripes, and then photographed in the bush by the father of one Bill Leak – a recently-deceased newspaper cartoonist – with a friend. Bill’s father was apparently well known for his love of practical jokes, and the allegation was made in The Australian on 24 March 2017 by ‘Jack the Insider’, aka columnist Peter Hoysted, who had known Bill and had included this claim as part of a memorial article regarding him.

A taxiderm Tasmanian thylacine and a thylacine skeleton at Tring Natural History Museum, two views  (© Dr Karl Shuker)

Supposedly, the hoax was only staged and the photo snapped as a joke to show some friends, but allegedly the photo somehow reached the media and soon attracted appreciable global attention, at which point Leak Snr became nervous that the truth would be exposed, so he destroyed the cut-out and told his son never to speak to anyone about it. Yet clearly he did, at least after his father’s death, hence Hoysted’s report following Bill’s own death.

Various subsequent coverages have seized upon this ‘confession by proxy’ as proof that the Ozenkadnook Tiger photo is truly a hoax and should therefore be dismissed as being of any potential cryptozoological significance. However, in my opinion such an attitude overlooks two glaring and decidedly worrying shortcomings concerning Hoysted’s recent revelation.
Alongside a thylacine picture in my study (© Dr Karl Shuker)

Firstly, the revelation is entirely anecdotal (and not even first-hand), as there seems to be no physical, tangible evidence substantiating it. True, in an update of 20 August 2010 to an article of his own concerning this perplexing picture that he had originally posted on his Tetrapod Zoology blog two days earlier (click hereto read it),  British palaeontologist and cryptozoology chronicler Dr Darren Naish did point out an unidentified object in it that he interpreted as possibly being an artificial supporting structure, which if so would be consistent with the creature being merely a cardboard cut-out. But obviously this interpretation is merely a personal opinion, not a verified fact.

Sadly, however, opinions are all that can be offered regarding what may or may not be present in this photo because, very regrettably, the original negative was lost back in the mid-1960s when it was loaned to a newspaper. Consequently, there is no opportunity to subject it to the high-tech type of photographic analysis available nowadays.

Outstanding thylacine model sculpted and painted by Facebook friend Jeff Johnson (© Jeff Johnson)


Secondly, Hoysted’s revelation signally yet inexplicably fails to include any mention of Rilla Martin, the person who for the past five decades has been the name directly associated with the snapping of this photo, and who has even been interviewed by the media concerning it. Indeed, as noted by Darren in his 2010 article, although the photo is popularly known as the Ozenkadnook tiger photo it is even better known, at least by some, as the Rilla Martin photo, thus emphasising just how closely associated she is with it.

In a new Tetrapod Zoology article concerning the Ozenkadnook tiger photo, documenting Hoysted’s newspaper article and posted online on 29 March 2017 (click here), Darren mentioned that he had personally asked Hoysted how Martin had become involved if it was actually Bill Leak’s father who had snapped the photo, not her. In response, Hoysted had “surmised that Martin somehow agreed to take credit for the photo, but other details are as yet unclear”. In short, this is just Hoysted’s personal opinion, uncorroborated by any tangible evidence.

Thylacine (aka Tasmanian tiger) illustration in eminent 19th-Century Australian zoologist Gerard Krefft’s opus The Mammals of Australia, 1871 (public domain)

Consequently, until – if ever – these two fundamental flaws can be resolved, I for one shall continue to consider as unproven this latest allegation regarding the enigmatic Ozenkadnook Tiger Photograph. In situations of this kind, I always ask myself one simple question: if unsubstantiated claims like these were being put forward in support of a cryptid’s status as a reality, rather than in support of a cryptid’s status as a hoax, would they be so readily accepted by sceptics? And I think that we all know the answer to that question.

For more information regarding this Australian cryptid as well as related musings concerning putative surviving mainland thylacines and marsupial lions, be sure to check out my books Mystery Cats of the World, Cats of Magic, Mythology, and Mystery, and Still In Search Of Prehistoric Survivors.

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GREEN GROW THE TIGERS, O – AT LEAST IN VIETNAM?

by on Jun.30, 2017, under Syndicated from the Web

Reposted from ShukerNature | Go to Original Post

Here’s one I made earlier – a green tiger created by me via computerised photo-manipulation (© Dr Karl Shuker)
Quoting from a previous ShukerNature blog article of mine (click hereto read it):
In various of my books, articles, and ShukerNature posts concerning cryptozoological and mythological big cats, I have documented lions of many different hues and shades, including black lions (click here, here, and here), white lions (click here), grey lions, red lions, golden lions, and even an alleged green lion (click here) – but never a blue lion. Blue tigers, yes (click here) – blue lions, no. Until now, that is.
I then went on to reveal that I had recently discovered some African and Asian legends relating to blue lions that I had never known about before, and I devoted the rest of that blog article to them.
But why am I reiterating all of this here? The reason is that I now find myself in a comparable situation with tigers. Over the years, I have documented tigers in virtually every conceivable shade and stripe version – blue tigers as already noted, plus black tigers (click here), white tigers (here), golden tigers (here), snow tigers (here), red tigers, brown tigers, double-striped tigers, and even stripeless tigers (all of which are also collectively documented in my books Mystery Cats of the Worldand Cats of Magic, Mythology, and Mystery) – except for one. I had never encountered a report or sighting of a green tiger – until now, that is.
In an earlier ShukerNature article, I mentioned how correspondent James Nicholls from Perth, Australia, had sent me a fascinating email on 27 June 2017 concerning a hitherto-obscure published account from 1821 concerning giant oil-drinking spiders reputedly inhabiting two of Europe’s very notable edifices of worship, an account that almost certainly inspired Bram Stoker to insert a short, comparable account in his classic Gothic novel Dracula(1897). Click here to read on ShukerNature my investigation of this fascinating subject. However, that wasn’t the only remarkable piece of information contained in James’s email to me.
It also included a link to a thoroughly extraordinary account on the website Reddit, which had been posted on Christmas Day 2016 by someone with the username AnathemaMaranatha and seemingly of American nationality (judging from their style of grammar and spelling, and various other Reddit posts by them), and consisted of their supposed first-hand eyewitness description of a truly unique mystery cat. It reads as follows: (Or click here to view it in its original format on Reddit.)
Okay. I saw a green tiger. I wasn’t alone.
We were out towards the Cambodian border in summer of 1969, an American light infantry company of about 100 or so guys. We were operating in flatlands, thick jungle, along a river. (Saigon River? Not sure.) Bright, sunny day.
We were proceeding single file when point platoon came to a stop, there was some yelling (we were stealthy – yelling is bad) from the point, then point platoon radioed for the Command Post (CP – the company commander and his people) to come up to point.
When we got there, we found the point team glaring at each other – some kind of tussle. Point and drag were standing in the machine gunner’s line of fire glaring at him. The machine gunner had wanted to shoot. Point and drag stopped him. He didn’t like that.
The object of discussion was across a jungle opening maybe 15 meters away, just peeking at us over the elephant grass. It was a bigtiger – biggest I’ve ever seen, Frank Frazetta-style big, but without the lady.
Here’s the insane part. The tiger was white where a tiger is white and black where a tiger is black, but all the orange parts were a pale green. We all saw it, maybe twenty grunts and me. The machine gunner was arguing that we have to shoot it, because otherwise no one would believe it. He had a point.
But the rest of us were just awestruck. I mean, it might as well have been an archangel, wings halo and all. I felt an impulse to kneel. I don’t think I was alone.
The tiger stood there checking us out for maybe 15 minutes, not worried, not angry, just a curious cat. Then he turned and disappeared.
Don’t believe me? That’s okay. I don’t believe it myself. I mean WTF was that? Hallucinogenic elephant grass? Some trick of the light? The tiger walked through some kind of green pollen just before we saw it? No freakin’ idea.
There it is, OP. I don’t believe it, and I sawit. Or hallucinated it. Me and all my blues. Make of it what you will. I’m done.
In fact, this person did make a few additional, minor comments in reply to various responses from other Reddit readers, of which the following one is well worth recording here:
I apologize for not making clear that the tiger was scaring the shit out of all us. He did NOT look sick or malnourished. He looked like he could be right in the middle of all of us in no time flat. He thought so, too. Didn’t seem the least bit scared of us.
And I guess he wasn’t hungry.
Another of my computer-generated green tigers (© Dr Karl Shuker)
Not surprisingly, faced with an account from someone claiming to have encountered a green tiger, my initial reaction was to assume that it was just a spoof, a joke, not to be taken seriously. But then I decided to investigate the credentials of the person who had posted it, especially as their account did sound as if it had been written by someone familiar with military action in Vietnam, and I was very intrigued to discover that they had written a number of other, much more mainstream and very detailed accounts on Reddit concerning their alleged time and military service there during the Vietnam War that all seemed entirely authentic (e.g. click here), and had been well-received by Vietnam veterans who would surely spot and soon expose any imposter. Consequently, it seems both reasonable and parsimonious to assume that this person’s Vietnam-related testimony is indeed genuine.
But a green tiger? Really? I noticed that the green tiger account had attracted an interesting response (by someone with the unfortunate username eggshitter):
It was a bright sunny day right? Is there any chance that there was some murky green pool that reflected the light on to the tiger? Maybe he had just been rolling around in the grass?
Other, later posters made similar comments. They reminded me of a suggestion that has been put forward in the past concerning the blue tigers of Fujian, China – namely, that perhaps their distinctive fur colouration was simply due to their having rolled in bluish-coloured mud. However, as I have pointed out when responding to this suggestion, if that were true the entire tiger would look blue, whereas eyewitnesses have specifically mentioned seeing their black stripes and pale underparts, which of course would have been obscured if they had rolled in mud. The same logic, therefore, can be applied to the green tiger had it merely been rolling around in grass, or even, perhaps, in an alga-choked jungle pool.
Conversely, an optical illusion induced by reflected light is certainly possible. Yet bearing in mind the substantial length of time of the observation (15 minutes), and which was made by several different people simultaneously rather than just a single observer, this might initially seem somewhat improbable too.
On 19 November 2012, however, after having blogged about an alleged green lion seen in Uganda, East Africa (click here), I had received a fascinating response from John Valentini Jr (a Cryptomundo website reader who had seen a link to my article posted there by fellow cryptozoologist Nick Redfern), and which is also directly relevant to this present green tiger conundrum. So here is the summary of John’s response that I added as a comment below my green lion blog article:
One day, while visiting a local zoo, John photographed a lioness, of totally normal colouration, but when he received his negatives and prints back from the developers (i.e. back in the days before digital photography), he was very surprised to discover that in them the lioness was green! She had been walking through an expanse of grass with her body held low when he had photographed her, and at the precise angle that John was photographing her the green light reflecting from the grass had made her look green. (Some grass, noted John, can be around 18-26% reflective.) Having to concentrate keeping his camera focused upon her through only a small viewfinder and thick glass, however, John hadn’t noticed this optical effect himself – not until the negatives and prints had subsequently revealed it. Consequently, John speculates that perhaps, if viewed at precisely the correct angle, a similar effect could occur with a lion observed in the wild in decent light conditions but with plenty of green foliage around it, and that this may explain the Ugandan prospector’s claimed sighting of a green lion.

Needless to say, I am delighted that John documented his extraordinary photographic experience on Cryptomundo in response to the link to this ShukerNature article of mine, as it may indeed offer a very plausible, rational explanation for the alleged green lion of Uganda – but one so remarkable that I would never even have thought of it, had John not posted it – so many thanks, John, once again!
Yes indeed, and it may also offer an equally plausible, rational explanation for the alleged green tiger of Vietnam – always assuming, of course, that the report is genuine. And there, at least for now, is where this most intriguing case rests, currently unproven but undeniably curious.
Of course, despite having bewailed the fact that I had never previously encountered anything about green tigers, there is one undoubted exception…of sorts. And that exception, as cartoon and super-hero fans everywhere are no doubt only too ready and waiting to remind me, is of course a certain golden-striped green tiger named Cringer – the very large but also very cowardly feline companion of Prince Adam, aka He-Man, in the very popular Masters of the Universe cartoon TV series (1983-1985) produced by Filmation (and also in the later movie starring Dolph Lundgren). Of course, when He-Man points his sword towards Cringer and fires an energy beam at him, Cringer redeems himself by transforming (albeit reluctantly) into his even bigger and now totally fearless, ferocious alter-ego felid called Battle Cat.
Two views of my original 1983 model of Cringer/Battle Cat (© Dr Karl Shuker)
As far as I am aware, however, neither as Cringer nor as Battle Cat has this green-furred tigerine celebrity ever paid a visit to Vietnam…

Finally: just in case anyone is confused by this ShukerNature article’s main title, it is a play on the title of a traditional English folk song, ‘Green Grow The Rushes, O’, which was also often used with children as a counting song (and should not be confused, incidentally, with the similarly-titled song ‘Green Grow The Rushes’ by Robert Burns).

I am extremely grateful to James Nicholls for very kindly bringing this apparent eyewitness report of a green tiger to my attention.
My two books on mystery cats (© Dr Karl Shuker)
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GREEN GROW THE TIGERS, O – AT LEAST IN VIETNAM?

by on Jun.30, 2017, under Syndicated from the Web

Reposted from ShukerNature | Go to Original Post

Here’s one I made earlier – a green tiger created by me via computerised photo-manipulation (© Dr Karl Shuker)
Quoting from a previous ShukerNature blog article of mine (click hereto read it):
In various of my books, articles, and ShukerNature posts concerning cryptozoological and mythological big cats, I have documented lions of many different hues and shades, including black lions (click here, here, and here), white lions (click here), grey lions, red lions, golden lions, and even an alleged green lion (click here) – but never a blue lion. Blue tigers, yes (click here) – blue lions, no. Until now, that is.
I then went on to reveal that I had recently discovered some African and Asian legends relating to blue lions that I had never known about before, and I devoted the rest of that blog article to them.
But why am I reiterating all of this here? The reason is that I now find myself in a comparable situation with tigers. Over the years, I have documented tigers in virtually every conceivable shade and stripe version – blue tigers as already noted, plus black tigers (click here), white tigers (here), golden tigers (here), snow tigers (here), red tigers, brown tigers, double-striped tigers, and even stripeless tigers (all of which are also collectively documented in my books Mystery Cats of the Worldand Cats of Magic, Mythology, and Mystery) – except for one. I had never encountered a report or sighting of a green tiger – until now, that is.
In an earlier ShukerNature article, I mentioned how correspondent James Nicholls from Perth, Australia, had sent me a fascinating email on 27 June 2017 concerning a hitherto-obscure published account from 1821 concerning giant oil-drinking spiders reputedly inhabiting two of Europe’s very notable edifices of worship, an account that almost certainly inspired Bram Stoker to insert a short, comparable account in his classic Gothic novel Dracula(1897). Click here to read on ShukerNature my investigation of this fascinating subject. However, that wasn’t the only remarkable piece of information contained in James’s email to me.
It also included a link to a thoroughly extraordinary account on the website Reddit, which had been posted on Christmas Day 2016 by someone with the username AnathemaMaranatha and seemingly of American nationality (judging from their style of grammar and spelling, and various other Reddit posts by them), and consisted of their supposed first-hand eyewitness description of a truly unique mystery cat. It reads as follows: (Or click here to view it in its original format on Reddit.)
Okay. I saw a green tiger. I wasn’t alone.
We were out towards the Cambodian border in summer of 1969, an American light infantry company of about 100 or so guys. We were operating in flatlands, thick jungle, along a river. (Saigon River? Not sure.) Bright, sunny day.
We were proceeding single file when point platoon came to a stop, there was some yelling (we were stealthy – yelling is bad) from the point, then point platoon radioed for the Command Post (CP – the company commander and his people) to come up to point.
When we got there, we found the point team glaring at each other – some kind of tussle. Point and drag were standing in the machine gunner’s line of fire glaring at him. The machine gunner had wanted to shoot. Point and drag stopped him. He didn’t like that.
The object of discussion was across a jungle opening maybe 15 meters away, just peeking at us over the elephant grass. It was a bigtiger – biggest I’ve ever seen, Frank Frazetta-style big, but without the lady.
Here’s the insane part. The tiger was white where a tiger is white and black where a tiger is black, but all the orange parts were a pale green. We all saw it, maybe twenty grunts and me. The machine gunner was arguing that we have to shoot it, because otherwise no one would believe it. He had a point.
But the rest of us were just awestruck. I mean, it might as well have been an archangel, wings halo and all. I felt an impulse to kneel. I don’t think I was alone.
The tiger stood there checking us out for maybe 15 minutes, not worried, not angry, just a curious cat. Then he turned and disappeared.
Don’t believe me? That’s okay. I don’t believe it myself. I mean WTF was that? Hallucinogenic elephant grass? Some trick of the light? The tiger walked through some kind of green pollen just before we saw it? No freakin’ idea.
There it is, OP. I don’t believe it, and I sawit. Or hallucinated it. Me and all my blues. Make of it what you will. I’m done.
In fact, this person did make a few additional, minor comments in reply to various responses from other Reddit readers, of which the following one is well worth recording here:
I apologize for not making clear that the tiger was scaring the shit out of all us. He did NOT look sick or malnourished. He looked like he could be right in the middle of all of us in no time flat. He thought so, too. Didn’t seem the least bit scared of us.
And I guess he wasn’t hungry.
Another of my computer-generated green tigers (© Dr Karl Shuker)
Not surprisingly, faced with an account from someone claiming to have encountered a green tiger, my initial reaction was to assume that it was just a spoof, a joke, not to be taken seriously. But then I decided to investigate the credentials of the person who had posted it, especially as their account did sound as if it had been written by someone familiar with military action in Vietnam, and I was very intrigued to discover that they had written a number of other, much more mainstream and very detailed accounts on Reddit concerning their alleged time and military service there during the Vietnam War that all seemed entirely authentic (e.g. click here), and had been well-received by Vietnam veterans who would surely spot and soon expose any imposter. Consequently, it seems both reasonable and parsimonious to assume that this person’s Vietnam-related testimony is indeed genuine.
But a green tiger? Really? I noticed that the green tiger account had attracted an interesting response (by someone with the unfortunate username eggshitter):
It was a bright sunny day right? Is there any chance that there was some murky green pool that reflected the light on to the tiger? Maybe he had just been rolling around in the grass?
Other, later posters made similar comments. They reminded me of a suggestion that has been put forward in the past concerning the blue tigers of Fujian, China – namely, that perhaps their distinctive fur colouration was simply due to their having rolled in bluish-coloured mud. However, as I have pointed out when responding to this suggestion, if that were true the entire tiger would look blue, whereas eyewitnesses have specifically mentioned seeing their black stripes and pale underparts, which of course would have been obscured if they had rolled in mud. The same logic, therefore, can be applied to the green tiger had it merely been rolling around in grass, or even, perhaps, in an alga-choked jungle pool.
Conversely, an optical illusion induced by reflected light is certainly possible. Yet bearing in mind the substantial length of time of the observation (15 minutes), and which was made by several different people simultaneously rather than just a single observer, this might initially seem somewhat improbable too.
On 19 November 2012, however, after having blogged about an alleged green lion seen in Uganda, East Africa (click here), I had received a fascinating response from John Valentini Jr (a Cryptomundo website reader who had seen a link to my article posted there by fellow cryptozoologist Nick Redfern), and which is also directly relevant to this present green tiger conundrum. So here is the summary of John’s response that I added as a comment below my green lion blog article:
One day, while visiting a local zoo, John photographed a lioness, of totally normal colouration, but when he received his negatives and prints back from the developers (i.e. back in the days before digital photography), he was very surprised to discover that in them the lioness was green! She had been walking through an expanse of grass with her body held low when he had photographed her, and at the precise angle that John was photographing her the green light reflecting from the grass had made her look green. (Some grass, noted John, can be around 18-26% reflective.) Having to concentrate keeping his camera focused upon her through only a small viewfinder and thick glass, however, John hadn’t noticed this optical effect himself – not until the negatives and prints had subsequently revealed it. Consequently, John speculates that perhaps, if viewed at precisely the correct angle, a similar effect could occur with a lion observed in the wild in decent light conditions but with plenty of green foliage around it, and that this may explain the Ugandan prospector’s claimed sighting of a green lion.

Needless to say, I am delighted that John documented his extraordinary photographic experience on Cryptomundo in response to the link to this ShukerNature article of mine, as it may indeed offer a very plausible, rational explanation for the alleged green lion of Uganda – but one so remarkable that I would never even have thought of it, had John not posted it – so many thanks, John, once again!
Yes indeed, and it may also offer an equally plausible, rational explanation for the alleged green tiger of Vietnam – always assuming, of course, that the report is genuine. And there, at least for now, is where this most intriguing case rests, currently unproven but undeniably curious.
Of course, despite having bewailed the fact that I had never previously encountered anything about green tigers, there is one undoubted exception…of sorts. And that exception, as cartoon and super-hero fans everywhere are no doubt only too ready and waiting to remind me, is of course a certain golden-striped green tiger named Cringer – the very large but also very cowardly feline companion of Prince Adam, aka He-Man, in the very popular Masters of the Universe cartoon TV series (1983-1985) produced by Filmation (and also in the later movie starring Dolph Lundgren). Of course, when He-Man points his sword towards Cringer and fires an energy beam at him, Cringer redeems himself by transforming (albeit reluctantly) into his even bigger and now totally fearless, ferocious alter-ego felid called Battle Cat.
Two views of my original 1983 model of Cringer/Battle Cat (© Dr Karl Shuker)
As far as I am aware, however, neither as Cringer nor as Battle Cat has this green-furred tigerine celebrity ever paid a visit to Vietnam…

Finally: just in case anyone is confused by this ShukerNature article’s main title, it is a play on the title of a traditional English folk song, ‘Green Grow The Rushes, O’, which was also often used with children as a counting song (and should not be confused, incidentally, with the similarly-titled song ‘Green Grow The Rushes’ by Robert Burns).

I am extremely grateful to James Nicholls for very kindly bringing this apparent eyewitness report of a green tiger to my attention.
My two books on mystery cats (© Dr Karl Shuker)
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DRACULA, VAN HELSING, AND GIANT SPIDERS IN THE CATHEDRAL

by on Jun.28, 2017, under Syndicated from the Web

Reposted from ShukerNature | Go to Original Post

Official movie poster for the 1979 horror film Nosferatu the Vampyre (© Werner Herzog Filmproduktion/20th Century Fox – reproduced here on a strictly non-commercial Fair Use basis only)
A few weeks ago, I finally found time to watch a horror film that I had long been planning to see. Directed by Werner Herzog and starring Klaus Kinski in spellbinding form as the title character, the film in question was Nosferatu the Vampyre, the very stylish 1979 West German art-house remake of the cult 1922 German silent movie Nosferatu(starring Max Schreck), which in turn was loosely based upon Bram Stoker’s classic epistolary vampire novel Dracula.
Little did I think while viewing it that only a short time later I would be investigating a fascinating but hitherto-obscure cryptozoological conundrum tucked away within the pages of the selfsame famous novel that had inspired this film – but that is precisely what happened, providing further confirmation for what I have always known, especially when dealing with mystery animals. Always expect the unexpected, and you will never be disappointed.
So here is that recent investigation of mine, presented here as a ShukerNature exclusive – the ever-curious case of Dracula, Van Helsing, and Giant Spiders in the Cathedral.
Bram Stoker in 1906 (public domain)
Many years ago, while reading Stoker’s Dracula, which was originally published in 1897, I was intrigued by the following short but memorable aside spoken by the eminent vampire hunter Prof. Abraham Van Helsing to his former student Dr John Seward:
Can you tell me why, when other spiders die small and soon, that one great spider lived for centuries in the tower of the old Spanish church and grew and grew, till, on descending, he could drink the oil of all the church lamps?
At the time of reading it, however, I simply assumed that this extraordinary statement was nothing more than the product of Stoker’s very fertile, and febrile, imagination. Consequently, I swiftly dismissed it from my mind, never considering for a moment that it may actually have been inspired by reality.
And then, just a few days ago, I received a fascinating email from a correspondent that has incited me to revisit this brief passage from Dracula and reassess it in a much more enlightened manner.
Hugh Jackman as Van Helsing in the 2004 Universal Pictures movie Van Helsing(© Universal Pictures, included here on a strictly non-commercial Fair Use basis only)
Received by me on 27 June 2017, the illuminating email in question was from James Nicholls of Perth, Australia, who very kindly informed me that in 1821 two separate periodicals, the Edinburgh Magazine and Literary Miscellany (vol. 88, July-December, p. 268) and The Atheneum; or, Spirit of the English Magazines (vol. 9, April-October, p. 485), had published the following short but fascinating account (referred to hereafter in this ShukerNature blog article of mine as the 1821 account), concerning giant oil-drinking spiders lurking amid the shadows of two major European edifices of religious worship:
The sexton of the church of St Eustace, at Paris, amazed to find frequently a particular lamp extinct early, and yet the oil consumed only, sat up several nights to perceive the cause. At length he discovered that a spider of surprising size came down the cord to drink the oil. A still more extraordinary instance of the same kind occurred during the year 1751, in the Cathedral of Milan. A vast spider was observed there, which fed on the oil of the lamps. M. Morland, of the Academy of Sciences, has described this spider, and furnished a drawing of it. It weighed four pounds, and was sent to the Emperor of Austria, and is now in the Imperial Museum at Vienna.
Needless to say, reading through this remarkable account, one is irresistibly reminded of Van Helsing’s comment as penned by Stoker in Dracula – so much so, in fact, that surely there can be little if any doubt that this was indeed Stoker’s source of inspiration for that comment, especially as this account was published 76 years before Stoker’s novel first appeared in print.
Presumably, Stoker either misremembered the locations given for these stupendous spiders in the account, or he purposefully changed them in order to make it look as if Van Helsing had only retained a hazy, incompletely accurate memory of the account. Both of these possibilities could satisfactorily explain why he cited a Spanish church rather than either the French one or Milan Cathedral as named in the account.
Exquisite 19th-Century illustration of Milan Cathedral, capturing very effectively its immense size – big enough, surely, to conceal even the most monstrous of spiders amid the shadows embracing its upper regions during the hours of daylight? (public domain)
But might there be any factual substance to the above account, or was it too merely a work of fiction? Initially, the concept of any kind of oil-drinking spider, irrespective of body size considerations for the time being, seemed ludicrous. After all, kerosene would surely be toxic to such creatures. But when I began to research the account, I began to wonder.
For I discovered that back when it was published, during the early 1800s, and especially during the even earlier time period named by it during which the giant cathedral spider of Milan was reportedly discovered, i.e. during the early 1750s, the oil commonly used in lamps was derived from whale blubber or rendered animal fat, and therefore could conceivably be nutritious for spiders.
Moreover, spiders typically imbibe their sustenance in liquid form anyway; on account of the narrowness of their gut, they cannot digest solid food, so after immobilising or killing their prey with injected venom or enshrouding silk, they pump digestive enzymes into it from their midgut, then suck the prey’s now-liquefied tissues into their gut. So the oil-drinking proclivity attributed to these great spiders is not as implausible as one might otherwise assume.
My book Mirabilis (© Dr Karl Shuker)
But what about their prodigious magnitude? My book Mirabilis; A Carnival of Cryptozoology and Unnatural History (2013) contains an exceedingly comprehensive chapter documenting a varied array of giant spider reports originating from all over the world. Within that chapter (as well as within a ShukerNature blog article on giant spiders excerpted and expanded from it – click here), I discussed as follows the crucial physiological flaw inherent in all speculation concerning the plausibility (or otherwise)  of such creatures:
The fundamental problem when considering giant spiders is not one of zoogeography but rather one of physiology. Their tracheal respiratory system (consisting of a network of minute tubes carrying oxygen to every cell in the body) prevents insects from attaining huge sizes in the modern world, because the tracheae could not transport oxygen efficiently enough inside insects of giant stature. During the late Carboniferous and early Permian Periods, 300 million years ago, huge dragonflies existed, but back in those primeval ages the atmosphere’s oxygen level was far greater than it is today, thereby compensating for the tracheal system’s inefficiency.
Some of the largest known spiders also utilise a tracheal respiratory system, whereas smaller spiders employ flattened organs of passive respiration called book lungs. Yet neither system is sufficiently competent to enable spiders to attain enormous sizes, based upon current knowledge at least. So if a giant spider does thrive…it must have evolved a radically different, much more advanced respiratory system, not just a greatly enlarged body.
Also, giant spiders are very much the embodiment of primeval bogey beasts, created both consciously, by parents to playfully scare their children and to make them aware of the potential danger posed by various real but highly venomous species, and unconsciously, by the human imagination working overtime in relation to creatures whose potential danger is buried very deep within the fundamental human psyche. Surely it can be no coincidence that giant spiders, almost invariably of evil intent, appear in the traditional folklore and mythology of very different cultures all around the world.
Keep away from spiders, kids, or this might happen to you! (public domain)
Then again, outrageous journalistic hokum was extremely common in the West during much of the 19th Century, i.e. when the 1821 account was published, so perhaps that is all that it ever was, with no basis whatsoever in fact. After all, elsewhere on ShukerNature I have already documented such arachnological absurdities as the deadly giant siren-singing spider of Paris, France (click here), and the giant flying tomb spider of Rome, Italy (click here), both of which debuted in highly-suspect 19th-Century newspaper reports.
Since receiving the 1821 account from James Nicholls, I have conducted some appreciable online research in a quest for supplementary details appertaining to its contents, and have uncovered a few additional coverages of it, some back in the 1820s and others from modern times. However, all of them confine themselves almost exclusively to the details already provided in the Edinburgh Magazine and Literary Miscellany and The Atheneum.
Indeed, the most informative version that I have accessed so far, entitled ‘The King of the Spiders’, remains the one that appeared in The Atheneum, so here it is in full:

‘The King of the Spiders’ article from Vol. 9 (April-October 1821) of The Atheneum; or, Spirit of the English Magazines (public domain)
As can be seen, in addition to the standard details present in other versions, it also actually contains Morand’s own verbal description (in French) of the giant Milan Cathedral spider. This translates into English as:
The body, the colour of soot, rounded, terminated in a point, with the back and the limbs hairy, weighed four pounds.
Two of the most notable 20th-Century publications to include mention of it are English spider authority W.S. Bristowe’s A Book of Spiders (1947), and eminent British zoologist Prof. John L. Cloudsley-Thompson’s authoritative work Spiders, Scorpions, Centipedes and Mites: The Ecology and Natural History of Woodlice, Myriapods, and Arachnids (1958). Worth noting is Bristowe’s line of delightfully tongue-in-cheek speculation that he pursued in his coverage of the events detailed in the 1821 account:
I suspect the sexton [of St Eustace’s Church in Paris] was under grave suspicion of borrowing the oil himself until he reported seeing [the giant spider stealing it].
Although he never stated it overtly, to my mind Bristowe’s wording indicates that he entertained the possibility that the sexton had invented the entire giant spider story in order to conceal the fact that it was he who was stealing the oil. Who knows – perhaps the sexton had been aware of the report of the great spider from Milan Cathedral, and so was inspired by it to create a version of his own in order to hide his nefarious involvement in the oil’s disappearance in his own place of worship.
Retitled as Spiders, reprint of W.S. Bristowe’s A Book of Spiders (© King Penguin Books, reproduced here on a strictly non-commercial Fair Use basis only)
Sadly, the 1821 account tantalises rather than teaches its readers, by offering more questions than answers. Who, for instance, was Morland (or Morand, as so named in The Atheneum‘s version of events), who produced a drawing of the great spider of Milan Cathedral from 1751, and where is that drawing today? Does it still survive? I wonder if Morland (or Morand) could have been the English animal artist George Morland (1763-1804). And which museum is being referred to in the 1821 account as ‘the Imperial Museum at Vienna’? However, it may well be Austria’s Imperial Treasury Museum, which is housed at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna, and contains many secular and ecclesiastical items spanning more than a millennium in European history.
In any event, I deem it highly unlikely that a preserved 4-lb spider exists in any museum collection within Austria – after all, as Bristowe pithily observed in his own coverage, it would be as big as a pekingese dog! Having said that, I would love to be proved wrong, so if anyone reading this article has knowledge of where such a specimen might be held today if it ever did once exist, I would greatly welcome details.
Nevertheless, having reported two separate specimens of giant spider means that the 1821 account is guaranteed to be of very appreciable interest and importance to cryptid seekers anyway. This makes it all the more surprising that (at least as far as I’m aware) its documentation in this present ShukerNature blog article of mine is the very first time that it has ever appeared in any strictly cryptozoological context.

Face to face – a (very) close encounter of the arachnid kind! (Vicky Nunn/public domain)

Now that it has very belatedly done so, however, let us hope that it elicits further details concerning those spiders of stature documented within it, and perhaps concerning additional specimens too.
I wish to offer my most sincere and grateful thanks to James Nicholls for kindly bringing the 1821 account to my attention.
Finally: how could any article inspired by Stoker’s Gothic literary masterpiece be considered at an end without having included at least one appearance from a member of the undead fanged fraternity – so here it is:
A vampire from the modern school of bloodsuckers, complete with fashionably-unkempt rock star looks, locks, and designer stubble, but clearly retaining the old school’s fangs, ferocity, and mainstream malevolence – not a sparkle, shimmer, or outbreak of whimpering fangless adolescent angst to be seen anywhere here! (© David de la Luz/Wikipedia CC BY-SA 2.0 licence)
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BRIDE OF THE LINDORM

by on Jun.07, 2017, under Syndicated from the Web

Reposted from ShukerNature | Go to Original Post

The prince meeting his lindorm brother, from Folk Tales of the World, written by Roger Lancelyn Green, illustrated by Janet and Anne Grahame Johnstone, and published in 1966 by Purnell and Sons Ltd (© Roger Lancelyn Green/ Janet and Anne Grahame Johnstone/Purnell and Sons Ltd – reproduced here on a strictly non-commercial Fair Use basis only)
I owe much of my lifelong love of mythology to the wonderful works of Roger Lancelyn Green that my mother Mary Shuker bought for me when I was a child, in which he retold countless famous and little-known myths, legends, folktales, and fables from all around the world. Moreover, it was within these works that I first encountered many enthralling fabulous beasts and other folkloric entities, including the Japanese tanuki, the Mexican kuil kaax (click here for my ShukerNature coverage of this magical woodland spirit), the Australian kurreah (click here), and – in Green’s delightful book Folk Tales of the World, exquisitely illustrated throughout in full colour by Janet and Anne Grahame Johnstone, which I still treasure to this day – the Swedish lindorm.
Lindorms are semi-dragons inasmuch as they occupy an intermediate echelon in the evolution of the dragon from the serpent. Typically (but not invariably) two-legged and wingless, lindorms have greater affinities with the serpents than with the classical dragons (in contrast, wyverns, which are also semi-dragons, possess not only a pair of legs but also a pair of wings, so they are closer to the classical dragons than to the serpents).
A sturdy typical two-limbed lindorm readily demonstrating its semi-dragon status, intermediate between a limbless serpent dragon and a quadrupedal classical dragon (public domain)
Incidentally, the term ‘lindorm’ should not be (but often is) confused with ‘lindworm’ – which technically should only be applied to wingless four-limbed classical dragons. In heraldry, however, it is commonly applied to lindorms.
Lindorms were commonly met with in churchyards, where they ghoulishly devoured human corpses, and would sometimes invade churches too. They occurred in great numbers amid the mountainous peaks of central Europe – indeed, the elaborate dragon-shaped fountain in Klagenfurt, Austria, was inspired by the discovery in 1335 of a supposed lindorm skull (it later proved to be from a woolly rhinoceros!).
A limbless Swedish lindorm, resembling a gigantic snake (© Richard Svensson)
Their favourite land, however, was Sweden, which contained quite a variety of versions, including legless lindorms and even one that sported a small pair of fore-wings instead of a pair of legs. But most Swedish lindorms were of the typical two-limbed variety. There are many traditional tales from this Scandinavian country concerning these particular semi-dragons, but perhaps the most celebrated example is the one that I shall now retell here.
A rare winged Swedish lindorm (© Richard Svensson)
Untold centuries ago, the Swedish monarch’s queen lay in her bedchamber, about to give birth to twins – the fulfilment of many years of empty longing for the children that she seemed destined never to conceive. She smiled, as she remembered how, in final desperation, she had consulted a soothsayer who had assured her that in less than a year’s time she would be granted two handsome sons – provided that she ate two fresh onions as soon as she returned home to the palace.
The advice seemed quite bizarre, but the queen was so aroused by the chance, however slim, that it offered to her that she made her way back to the palace at once, anxious to seek out the necessary vegetables without delay. Recalling this scene, she also remembered hearing the soothsayer calling after her, but as she had already told her about the onions, the soothsayer’s message clearly couldn’t have been of much importance, and so the queen hadn’t wasted time turning back. Instead, she had continued her journey home, and upon arriving had ordered two crisp, mature onions to be brought to her immediately.
When she received them, the queen was so excited by the promise that these innocuous vegetables held that she ate the first one whole, without even stopping to peel the skins from it. Not surprisingly, however, it tasted quite revolting – and so in spite of her enthusiasm she spent time carefully peeling the second one, stripping away every layer of skin, before finally eating it. Nine months had passed since then, and now, precisely as prophesied by the soothsayer, she was about to bear her greatly-desired children.
‘The Serpent of Arabia’ – a lindorm sumptuously depicted in the Ripley Scroll, a 15th-Century alchemical manuscript of emblematic symbolism, and of unknown origin but named after Sir George Ripley, a famous English alchemist (public domain)
The palace courtiers and staff eagerly clamoured outside the royal bedchamber, awaiting the official announcement of the new princes’ births. Suddenly, an ear-splitting scream echoed within the chamber – but it was not the lusty cry of a newborn baby. It was, instead, a shriek of horror – an eldritch wail that leapt unbidden from the throat of the royal midwife when she set eyes upon the queen’s firstborn. It was male – but it was not human.
The queen had given birth to a lindorm – a hideous snake-like dragon, whose wingless elongate body thrashed upon the marble floor in innumerable scaly coils, and from whose shoulders sprang a pair of powerful limbs with taloned feet. Deathly pale and so repulsed by the creature that she was unable even to whisper, let alone scream, it was the queen, still in labour with her second child, who leaned down, took the young lindorm in her arms – and hurled it, with all the power that her loathing could summon, through a nearby window, from where the creature plummeted into the dense forest surrounding the palace.
Weakened from the exertion, she sank back upon the bed, and gave birth again – but this time to a perfectly healthy, fresh-faced boy, with golden hair and sparkling blue eyes.
Encountering a traditional two-limbed lindorm in Switzerland, from Itinera per Helvetiae Alpinas Regiones Facta Annis 1702-1711 by Swiss scholar Johann Jakob Scheuchzer, 1723 (public domain)
Years passed by, and the boy became a youthful prince in search of a bride – but what he found was his brother, the lindorm. The prince had been riding around the perimeter of the vast forest encompassing the palace when, without warning, a huge ophidian head had emerged from a thorny bush directly ahead. Rearing up until its green-scaled body resembled a towering tree, the lindorm gazed down at the youth with unblinking eyes of amber that effortlessly penetrated his innermost thoughts. And as the prince stared back, mesmerised and motionless before this monstrous entity, he heard its voice, intoning deep within his mind – a voice that assured him with cold, reptilian detachment and certainty that he would never find a wife until he, his elder brother, had obtained the true love of a willing bride.
Accordingly, over the next few months a succession of village maidens were given to the lindorm, in the hope of overcoming this barrier to the young prince’s quest for a bride. Needless to say, however, none of the maidens were thrilled at the prospect of marriage to a lindorm, so none came willingly – and, inevitably therefore, none was accepted by the monster. The situation seemed irreconcilable – until one day, that is, when the next maiden selected to be the lindorm’s bride had the good fortune to encounter beforehand the soothsayer whom the queen had consulted all those years ago. After listening sympathetically as the maiden spoke of her impending plight, the soothsayer whispered into her ear some words of advice that swiftly replaced her sadness with a smile of joy.
The maiden instructing the lindorm to shed its first skin, as portrayed by Arthur Rackham (public domain)
That night, the maiden was presented to the lindorm, who gruffly told her to take off her dresses – of which she seemed to be wearing a surprising number. She agreed to do this – but only after extracting from the lindorm the promise that for every dress she took off, it would shed a layer of skin. This it did, until only a single layer remained – and until the maiden was clothed in just a single robe.
The maiden removing her first dress, watched closely by the lindorm after shedding its first skin as demanded by her – illustrated by Henry Justice Ford (public domain)
Despite remembering the soothsayer’s words, it was not without a degree of nervousness that she then removed this final gown and stood still, and naked, before the great dragon.
The lindorm moved towards her, and the maiden tensed – fearing yet desiring what was to come, for if the soothsayer had spoken truthfully to her there would be great happiness, and great love, ahead. And so she stood erect, motionless, as the serpentine monster leisurely, almost tenderly, enveloped her body in its scaly coils. She had expected them to feel cold and slimy, and was therefore pleasantly surprised by their warmth and softness – embracing and caressing her in their muscular folds.
Even so, she felt a flicker of terror rising within her – a desire to close her eyes, to scream, to flee, to do anything rather than remain here. Then the words of the wise old soothsayer came back to her, calming her mind, and she relaxed again.
Gazing about her, she noticed that the lindorm’s last layer of skin was so thin as to be almost translucent, and was beginning to peel away, folding back upon itself like a cluster of withered leaves. At the same time, a strange green mist manifested all around, bathing the lindorm in a viridescent haze until she was aware of the creature’s continuing presence only from the embrace of its sinuous body.
Gradually, however, the mist dispersed – and revealed that she was no longer wrapped within the serpentine coils of a lindorm after all, but within the firm arms of the most handsome man she had ever seen!
A somewhat Oriental-looking lindorm (public domain)
The soothsayer had indeed spoken truthfully – by following her instructions, the enchantment that had incarcerated him within the guise of a lindorm had been dispelled, and here was the elder prince, heir to the country’s throne, and for whom the maiden would indeed be a very willing bride. The joyful marriage took place without delay, and after the old queen had given her blessing to the newly-weds, who were now the new king and queen, she felt someone lightly tap her shoulder.
It was the soothsayer, who revealed to her the information that she had not stayed to hear all those years ago – namely, make sure that she peeled both onions before eating them!
This ShukerNature blog article is excerpted from my book Dragons: A Natural History (1995). See also my more recent book, Dragons in Zoology, Cryptozoology, and Culture(2013), for detailed coverage of lindorms in mythology, cryptozoology, and natural history.

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BRIDE OF THE LINDORM

by on Jun.07, 2017, under Syndicated from the Web

Reposted from ShukerNature | Go to Original Post

The prince meeting his lindorm brother, from Folk Tales of the World, written by Roger Lancelyn Green, illustrated by Janet and Anne Grahame Johnstone, and published in 1966 by Purnell and Sons Ltd (© Roger Lancelyn Green/ Janet and Anne Grahame Johnstone/Purnell and Sons Ltd – reproduced here on a strictly non-commercial Fair Use basis only)
I owe much of my lifelong love of mythology to the wonderful works of Roger Lancelyn Green that my mother Mary Shuker bought for me when I was a child, in which he retold countless famous and little-known myths, legends, folktales, and fables from all around the world. Moreover, it was within these works that I first encountered many enthralling fabulous beasts and other folkloric entities, including the Japanese tanuki, the Mexican kuil kaax (click here for my ShukerNature coverage of this magical woodland spirit), the Australian kurreah (click here), and – in Green’s delightful book Folk Tales of the World, exquisitely illustrated throughout in full colour by Janet and Anne Grahame Johnstone, which I still treasure to this day – the Swedish lindorm.
Lindorms are semi-dragons inasmuch as they occupy an intermediate echelon in the evolution of the dragon from the serpent. Typically (but not invariably) two-legged and wingless, lindorms have greater affinities with the serpents than with the classical dragons (in contrast, wyverns, which are also semi-dragons, possess not only a pair of legs but also a pair of wings, so they are closer to the classical dragons than to the serpents).
A sturdy typical two-limbed lindorm readily demonstrating its semi-dragon status, intermediate between a limbless serpent dragon and a quadrupedal classical dragon (public domain)
Incidentally, the term ‘lindorm’ should not be (but often is) confused with ‘lindworm’ – which technically should only be applied to wingless four-limbed classical dragons. In heraldry, however, it is commonly applied to lindorms.
Lindorms were commonly met with in churchyards, where they ghoulishly devoured human corpses, and would sometimes invade churches too. They occurred in great numbers amid the mountainous peaks of central Europe – indeed, the elaborate dragon-shaped fountain in Klagenfurt, Austria, was inspired by the discovery in 1335 of a supposed lindorm skull (it later proved to be from a woolly rhinoceros!).
A limbless Swedish lindorm, resembling a gigantic snake (© Richard Svensson)
Their favourite land, however, was Sweden, which contained quite a variety of versions, including legless lindorms and even one that sported a small pair of fore-wings instead of a pair of legs. But most Swedish lindorms were of the typical two-limbed variety. There are many traditional tales from this Scandinavian country concerning these particular semi-dragons, but perhaps the most celebrated example is the one that I shall now retell here.
A rare winged Swedish lindorm (© Richard Svensson)
Untold centuries ago, the Swedish monarch’s queen lay in her bedchamber, about to give birth to twins – the fulfilment of many years of empty longing for the children that she seemed destined never to conceive. She smiled, as she remembered how, in final desperation, she had consulted a soothsayer who had assured her that in less than a year’s time she would be granted two handsome sons – provided that she ate two fresh onions as soon as she returned home to the palace.
The advice seemed quite bizarre, but the queen was so aroused by the chance, however slim, that it offered to her that she made her way back to the palace at once, anxious to seek out the necessary vegetables without delay. Recalling this scene, she also remembered hearing the soothsayer calling after her, but as she had already told her about the onions, the soothsayer’s message clearly couldn’t have been of much importance, and so the queen hadn’t wasted time turning back. Instead, she had continued her journey home, and upon arriving had ordered two crisp, mature onions to be brought to her immediately.
When she received them, the queen was so excited by the promise that these innocuous vegetables held that she ate the first one whole, without even stopping to peel the skins from it. Not surprisingly, however, it tasted quite revolting – and so in spite of her enthusiasm she spent time carefully peeling the second one, stripping away every layer of skin, before finally eating it. Nine months had passed since then, and now, precisely as prophesied by the soothsayer, she was about to bear her greatly-desired children.
‘The Serpent of Arabia’ – a lindorm sumptuously depicted in the Ripley Scroll, a 15th-Century alchemical manuscript of emblematic symbolism, and of unknown origin but named after Sir George Ripley, a famous English alchemist (public domain)
The palace courtiers and staff eagerly clamoured outside the royal bedchamber, awaiting the official announcement of the new princes’ births. Suddenly, an ear-splitting scream echoed within the chamber – but it was not the lusty cry of a newborn baby. It was, instead, a shriek of horror – an eldritch wail that leapt unbidden from the throat of the royal midwife when she set eyes upon the queen’s firstborn. It was male – but it was not human.
The queen had given birth to a lindorm – a hideous snake-like dragon, whose wingless elongate body thrashed upon the marble floor in innumerable scaly coils, and from whose shoulders sprang a pair of powerful limbs with taloned feet. Deathly pale and so repulsed by the creature that she was unable even to whisper, let alone scream, it was the queen, still in labour with her second child, who leaned down, took the young lindorm in her arms – and hurled it, with all the power that her loathing could summon, through a nearby window, from where the creature plummeted into the dense forest surrounding the palace.
Weakened from the exertion, she sank back upon the bed, and gave birth again – but this time to a perfectly healthy, fresh-faced boy, with golden hair and sparkling blue eyes.
Encountering a traditional two-limbed lindorm in Switzerland, from Itinera per Helvetiae Alpinas Regiones Facta Annis 1702-1711 by Swiss scholar Johann Jakob Scheuchzer, 1723 (public domain)
Years passed by, and the boy became a youthful prince in search of a bride – but what he found was his brother, the lindorm. The prince had been riding around the perimeter of the vast forest encompassing the palace when, without warning, a huge ophidian head had emerged from a thorny bush directly ahead. Rearing up until its green-scaled body resembled a towering tree, the lindorm gazed down at the youth with unblinking eyes of amber that effortlessly penetrated his innermost thoughts. And as the prince stared back, mesmerised and motionless before this monstrous entity, he heard its voice, intoning deep within his mind – a voice that assured him with cold, reptilian detachment and certainty that he would never find a wife until he, his elder brother, had obtained the true love of a willing bride.
Accordingly, over the next few months a succession of village maidens were given to the lindorm, in the hope of overcoming this barrier to the young prince’s quest for a bride. Needless to say, however, none of the maidens were thrilled at the prospect of marriage to a lindorm, so none came willingly – and, inevitably therefore, none was accepted by the monster. The situation seemed irreconcilable – until one day, that is, when the next maiden selected to be the lindorm’s bride had the good fortune to encounter beforehand the soothsayer whom the queen had consulted all those years ago. After listening sympathetically as the maiden spoke of her impending plight, the soothsayer whispered into her ear some words of advice that swiftly replaced her sadness with a smile of joy.
The maiden instructing the lindorm to shed its first skin, as portrayed by Arthur Rackham (public domain)
That night, the maiden was presented to the lindorm, who gruffly told her to take off her dresses – of which she seemed to be wearing a surprising number. She agreed to do this – but only after extracting from the lindorm the promise that for every dress she took off, it would shed a layer of skin. This it did, until only a single layer remained – and until the maiden was clothed in just a single robe.
The maiden removing her first dress, watched closely by the lindorm after shedding its first skin as demanded by her – illustrated by Henry Justice Ford (public domain)
Despite remembering the soothsayer’s words, it was not without a degree of nervousness that she then removed this final gown and stood still, and naked, before the great dragon.
The lindorm moved towards her, and the maiden tensed – fearing yet desiring what was to come, for if the soothsayer had spoken truthfully to her there would be great happiness, and great love, ahead. And so she stood erect, motionless, as the serpentine monster leisurely, almost tenderly, enveloped her body in its scaly coils. She had expected them to feel cold and slimy, and was therefore pleasantly surprised by their warmth and softness – embracing and caressing her in their muscular folds.
Even so, she felt a flicker of terror rising within her – a desire to close her eyes, to scream, to flee, to do anything rather than remain here. Then the words of the wise old soothsayer came back to her, calming her mind, and she relaxed again.
Gazing about her, she noticed that the lindorm’s last layer of skin was so thin as to be almost translucent, and was beginning to peel away, folding back upon itself like a cluster of withered leaves. At the same time, a strange green mist manifested all around, bathing the lindorm in a viridescent haze until she was aware of the creature’s continuing presence only from the embrace of its sinuous body.
Gradually, however, the mist dispersed – and revealed that she was no longer wrapped within the serpentine coils of a lindorm after all, but within the firm arms of the most handsome man she had ever seen!
A somewhat Oriental-looking lindorm (public domain)
The soothsayer had indeed spoken truthfully – by following her instructions, the enchantment that had incarcerated him within the guise of a lindorm had been dispelled, and here was the elder prince, heir to the country’s throne, and for whom the maiden would indeed be a very willing bride. The joyful marriage took place without delay, and after the old queen had given her blessing to the newly-weds, who were now the new king and queen, she felt someone lightly tap her shoulder.
It was the soothsayer, who revealed to her the information that she had not stayed to hear all those years ago – namely, make sure that she peeled both onions before eating them!
This ShukerNature blog article is excerpted from my book Dragons: A Natural History (1995). See also my more recent book, Dragons in Zoology, Cryptozoology, and Culture(2013), for detailed coverage of lindorms in mythology, cryptozoology, and natural history.

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