Thursday, 9 February 2017

Why the interest in Cryptozoology

This is from 2009 but as have been asked this again I will republish it.

My interest with cryptozoology started with visits to Loch Ness in the late 60’s and early 70’s. An impressionable teenager escaping from school and allowed to roam free, I met some wonderful characters such as Frank Searle , Dan Scott Taylor and Tim Dinsdale, plus some years an assortment of students, which was a great attraction to a teenage girl. Both Dan and Tim were real gentlemen, and I kept in touch with Dan on and off over the years until his death. I was supposed to meet up with Dan at his next visit to Loch Ness to see the new submarine, sadly this was not to be. Frank, well Frank was I think a showman, and I had the sense never to venture into his territory alone, He was also a ladies man. He like the others has also sadly passed away.
Loch Ness is surrounded by trees and bushes and not as easy to observe as people think. Those dark waters, scared me and thrilled me all at the same time and I would imagine the Loch Ness Beastie swimming in it’s waters. I corresponded with Nicholas Witchell when his book came out and spent a summer just observing the Loch, as he had. In the 60’s and 70’s a plesiosaur seemed a likely candidate for the creature but as I got older and learnt to do my own research, I realised it was unlikely as the loch had only been formed for about 10,000 years. Undeterred I have spent many hours by the Loch over the years and even once took a job for a year in the area so I could spend more time there. What is in there? Maybe Retired Professor Robert Rhines is right and the last Nessie is now dead. He hopes to find remains at the bottom of the loch. I think the similarity of so many lake sightings around the world means something is going on and something ,whether an optical illusion or a real animals there and in other lakes , and one day some tangible evidence will be found.

The other cryptid that interested me in those days and has continued to do so since, was the Yeti. Tales told by mountain climbers of seeing the footprints and hearing the sounds and then the film with Peter Cushing in black and white, scarred me for life, I had to learn more. The Yeti , a sort of mountain Bigfoot, was supposed to be sacred and talked of in hushed voices. The local’s name for the Yeti is metoh-kangmi, a term that was mistakenly translated into English as “abominable snowman.” This is a name that has stuck. Sir Edmund Hillary , the mountaineer, was said to believe in it and then changed his mind and said it was a legend, after testing a so called Yeti scalp he got from a monastery and finding it to from a known animal. There have been reports coming back to England since 1832 of the Yeti, seen by British travellers and army personnel. Something is up there and whatever it is walks about in bare feet so must be immune to the cold .Can anyone really think climbers will take off their boots to leave fake footprints in the snow? They would lose said toes to frost bite.

The world has moved on a lot since those heady days, when belief was enough to mount an expedition .The last few years ,I have taken an interest in snakes, fascinating creatures and would love one except either the cat would eat it or it would eat the cat !The stories of giant snakes have always had my interest. From old Tarzan films to the more modern film Anaconda I love to watch the giant snakes. Could they exist? Well recent fossils found and named Titanboa in honour of its immense size, show that for 10 million years the giant snakewas the largest land predator on earth. There are anacondas and pythons reported today up to 30 feet long. The reports since the 1800’s of giant snakes excite the imagination and Sir Percy Fawcett set off to find one and never returned. As a youngster I thought perhaps it found him and ate him. I think it is the romance of the giant snake that appeals, the Victorian type explorers in the jungles and swamps of Africa, South America and even the Everglades, searching for the unknown. 
So cryptozoology, romantic, exciting, and full of unknowns and the chance of new discoveries , what more could a person want ?

The Dragon of Glastonbury Tor

Glastonbury Tor ,a hill topped by a tower,stands out in the landscape and on misty mornings you can imagine being the gateway to another world. Around the sides of the Tor is terracing .It is much weathered but still visible.There are seven terraces cut deep into the hillside. Some say it was used for farming,others that it was part of a maze.Legend whispers  it was where a huge wyrm or dragon wrapped itself around the hill.
There are lots of stories of dragons in the Somerset area over the ages so stories of a  dragon  on the Tor would not be out of place.
Shervage Wood between Crowcombe and Holford was said  to be the haunt of at least one dragon. In one story it was a long dragon hacked to death by a forester from Holford.Another story states two men from Crowcombe engaged a double-headed winged lizard that terrorised the area, winning the battle by forcing the creature to eat burning pitch. Carvings on the benches in the Church of the Holy Ghost show some of the battle.
At Clevedon,  between Dolebury Hill and Cadbury Camp a dragon was reported to guard a secret stash of treasure concealed in this area. The same  story is associated with Castle Neroche south of Taunton where treasure is reputed to hidden around the iron Age Hill Fort. On Castleman’s Hill another dragon is supposed to have been vanquished.   Stapley Farm near Churchstanton, a dragon was killed by a knight and the swinging  of its tail carved out a hollow in a field known as Wormstall.
Kingston St.Mary, near Taunton,a fire-breathing dragon terrorized the region. A local hero rolled a boulder up a hill opposite the dragon’s lair and rolled the boulder down into the dragon’s gaping maw, choking it.
In Low Ham church is a spear supposed to have been used by a local  to kill a dragon that lived in the Athelney Marshes and fed on local livestock.
The village of Aller is reputed to be named after a local hero, John Aller, who slew a dragon. In one version of the story he was poisoned by the creature’s dying breaths, while in another he found a brood of hatchlings in a cave and blocked it up.
After a battle at the hill fort at Norton Fitzwarren, a dragon appeared and began to  devour children and destroying crops. Fulk Fitzwartine fought the creature  and after a long  struggle ,put a spear in its heart and cut off its head. In All Saints Church, a 16th-century rood screen depicts the story. 
In Wells the cathedral is built on the area where the villagers were afraid to access seven holy springs because of a wyvern, which was driven away by Bishop Jocelyn. At Wiviliscome  in the late  1820s, when the church was being constructed , the devil riding a green dragon is supposed to have thrown rocks at the reconstruction work until driven away by St. Andrew.

So could a dragon have wound itself around the Tor leaving the terraces? Well that depends on you and if you believe in dragons.