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Social networking sites in Nigeria have been ablaze with the rumor that a woman turned into a snake at the Hotel Excel in Warri. The proprietor of the hotel, Chief Moses Odeh, has been doing everything he can to put out the rumor, but once these stories get started, they acquire a life of their own. (

African rumors still have true strangeness to them. Here in America, the majority of twitter and facebook rumors are fake reports of celebrity deaths... which get boring after a while. It'd be kind of refreshing to see a rumor claim that Madonna or Lady Gaga didn't die, but instead turned into a snake.
Categories: Animals, Paranormal, Urban Legends
Posted by Alex on Wed Feb 22, 2012
Comments (7)
An old mermaid was recently found, stored in the archives of the Buxton Museum and Art Gallery, and a research team from the University of Lincoln decided to examine it. So far they've discovered that its hair is human, its upper body is constructed of wood and wire, its teeth are carved bone, and its eyes are mollusc shell. Future tests will determine what fish its tail came from. (link: BBC News)

At first I thought it looked like the Bloomsbury Mermaid (pictured below). But no, they're definitely different mermaids. Though similar in design. (Thanks, Hudson!)

Categories: Animals, Cryptozoology
Posted by Alex on Thu Feb 16, 2012
Comments (6)
Back in 2009, bird watchers in New Zealand began reporting sightings of a red harrier hawk. There was speculation it was a new species. But in 2010 a hawk was found dead (hit by a car) that had been spray-painted red. So bird watchers realized there was no new species. There was just someone going around spray-painting birds.

Suspicion eventually focused on dairy farmer Grant Michael Teahan after a video was uploaded to youtube showing Teahan beside a bird trap covered in red spray paint.

Teahan denied the allegation, but last week a judge decided Teahan was lying. He'll be sentenced later this month.
Links:, Hawkes Bay Today.
Categories: Animals
Posted by Alex on Mon Jan 23, 2012
Comments (3)
Add this to the 'Things on Roofs' file: Police in Houston, Texas received reports of a tiger sitting on the roof of an abandoned hotel. The animal was causing a bit of a traffic jam as drivers stopped to look at it. But upon investigation, it turned out to be a toy tiger. I'm assuming it was the work of a prankster, who's now out a pretty nice stuffed animal. Link: BBC News.

Categories: Animals, Pranks
Posted by Alex on Fri Jan 20, 2012
Comments (7)
As far as death hoaxes goes, this is a strange one, both because it involves a chimp and also because it's a fake death report of someone who died long ago.

The story began last week, around Christmas, when it was reported that Cheetah, the chimp who played Tarzan's sidekick in the 1930s Tarzan films, had died at the ripe old age of 80. He had apparently spent the last decades of his life at the Suncoast Primate Sanctuary in Florida. The cause of death was kidney failure.

I remember seeing the headlines about the death and thinking it was odd a chimp could live that long. And sure enough, primate experts quickly disputed the story, saying there was no way a chimp could live to be 80. Chimps that live to 60 are considered very, very old. If Cheetah had lived to be 80, he would have been, by far, the oldest chimp in the world -- ever.

Nevertheless, Debbie Cobb, the director of the Sanctuary, is standing by her story. She insists that the chimp that died was acquired by the Sanctuary around 1960, at which time he was already close to 30. But unfortunately no documentation exists to prove the chimp's age.

So, given the lack of documentation and the dubious longevity of the chimp, it seems safe to assume that the chimp who died never starred in any Tarzan films. Links: abc news, ny times.
Categories: Animals, Death
Posted by Alex on Mon Jan 02, 2012
Comments (1)
The Telegraph recently listed the beach on Queensland's Fraser Island as among the most dangerous in the world. The reasons: sharks, jellyfish, strong rip currents, deadly spiders, the odd saltwater crocodile, and dingoes. But people around Fraser Island disagree. They don't dispute the presence of the sharks, jellyfish, rip currents, spiders, and dingoes. (Though they don't think dingoes are dangerous). But they do insist there are no crocodiles there, except for one — which is fake.

One of the locals owns a fake, but realistic-looking crocodile that he sometimes puts on the beach. Back in 2006 this crocodile made headlines in the Fraser Coast Chronicle when it scared some Korean tourists. And this seems to be where The Telegraph, five years later, picked up the notion that Fraser Island's beach is croc-infested. Links: Media Watch, Sydney Morning Herald.
Categories: Animals, Places
Posted by Alex on Tue Oct 25, 2011
Comments (4)
An albino, one-eyed shark, an image of which started circulating online back in July, has been confirmed by scientists to be real. (Link: Which shouldn't have been a surprise. Like the case of Cy the one-eyed kitten (from back in 2006), the mutant shark suffered from cyclopia. According to, this is a genetic abnormality in which, "the eyes are fused into a single enlarged eye that is placed below the nose (the nose may or may not form, if it forms it resembles a proboscis)."

One-eyed creatures are one of those phenomena that fit into the rule that sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction. In fact, off the top of my head I can't think of any hoaxes involving fake cyclops, unless you count this old Weekly World News story from 1989:

Categories: Animals
Posted by Alex on Mon Oct 24, 2011
Comments (3)
Recently I read Jan Bondeson's new book, Amazing Dogs: A Cabinet of Canine Curiosities. Bondeson is one of my favorite writers because he's a master at finding incredibly obscure but truly bizarre oddities from history, and he doesn't disappoint in this book. I plan to discuss the book more in a future post, because he's collected a lot of urban legends and hoaxes concerning dogs. For instance, he reveals the story of Greyfriar's Bobby to be a hoax (LaMa has posted about this in the forum). But for now what I want to share is a story he mentions in his first chapter (page 11) about a dog that could supposedly lay eggs. He writes:

Another quaint old dog book is Christian Franz Paullini's Cynographia Curiosa from 1685, a compilation of curious dog lore from innumerable ancient and contemporary sources. Standing out even among Paullini's manifold canine curiosities is the Egg-laying Dog of Vienna. A large mongrel cur, it laid many large eggs via the anus. After each of these strange births, it seemed weak and exhausted, but it soon recovered from its recent confinement and jumped around its master, who showed it as a curiosity. To impress the spectators, and to demonstrate that the eggs were genuine, the enterprising Austrian broke one of the dog's eggs, fried it in a pan, and ate it.

Most normal people would probably think that was an awful story and move on, but I was quite intrigued by it. It reminded me of the story of Mary Toft and the Rabbit Babies, but instead of a woman stuffing herself with dead rabbits, you had a guy stuffing eggs into his dog. Plus, it offered a curious variation on the ancient tradition of "bosom serpent" legends, which feature various animals crawling inside women, growing to full size, and then emerging in unsettling ways. The most famous modern version of these legends is the tale of the girl who gets impregnated by frog (or octopus) eggs while swimming in a pool. In the case of the egg-laying dog, we're dealing with a different species, but the theme of unnatural births is similar.

Unfortunately Bondeson didn't offer any more details about the case of the egg-laying dog, so I embarked on a fact-finding mission of my own to learn more.

First, I was able to find the book he mentioned, Cynographia Curiosa, on Google books. (I love Google Books -- a few years ago it would have been close to impossible to track down such an obscure book, but I found it after less than a minute of searching.) The book is in latin, and doesn't seem to have ever been translated, but dusting off my high-school latin, I found the story of the egg-laying dog in it. I've reproduced the latin text below, and then I've attempted a very rough translation. Actually, I've probably mistranslated parts of it, but it's close enough to tell that Paullini's text offers a few more details than what Bondeson provided, but it omits the detail about the owner of the dog eating one of the eggs:

Paullini Text

This is indeed a marvel, which Jungius, of the Academy of the Curious, has told (in Ephemeriden, Vol 1:2) of the egg-laying dog -- a dog which had devoured some food prepared by a country woman for her hens in order to make them lay larger and more numerous eggs. Following his master on a journey, the dog then was seen by many spectators to lay some eggs, one after another, excreting them through its anus. After which it was greatly tired, but the food having been removed, it was restored to its former vigor. (See Thesaurus Practicus adauct. by Besoldi, p.389). A friend told me a similar story. And we have heard a similar story about a dog in Westphalia that vomited eggs from its mouth. Were these true eggs? Who can believe it!

Paullini, in turn, attributed the story to Jungius. Some more searching revealed that Jungius was the German scholar Georg (or Joachim) Sebastian Jungius, who was apparently a member of a German scientific society known as the Academia Naturae Curiosorum (The Academy of the Curious as to Nature), which published the world's very first scientific journal, Miscellanea curiosa sive ephemeridum medicophysicarum germanicarum Academiae, in which the story of the egg-laying dog appeared (Series 1, Volume 2, page 348). I find it fascinating that early scientists were sitting around seriously considering topics such as egg-laying dogs.

Unfortunately, Google Books doesn't have a copy of the Miscellanea curiosa (at least, not a copy of the relevant volume), nor does any library in San Diego have it, so my investigation ended there.

And at about this stage in my research, I was starting to wonder why I was spending so much time investigating a seventeenth century egg-laying dog. But for what it's worth, I did find out that Bondeson also mentioned the story in an earlier book, The Two-Headed Boy and Other Medical Marvels. But he gave essentially the same details.

Plus, I found online the second reference given by Paullini -- Besold's Thesaurus Practicus. On page 389 it has some kind of reference (again in Latin) to a dog laying eggs, but I can't figure out what it's saying.
Categories: Animals, Birth/Babies
Posted by Alex on Mon Sep 26, 2011
Comments (3)
zebra donkeyUnidentified pranksters broke into the Sussex Horse Rescue Trust in Uckfield, East Sussex and transformed "Ant" the donkey into a zebra by spray-painting stripes on him ( Ant wasn't hurt in any way, though the spray paint reportedly had a strong, unpleasant smell. The RSPCA condemned the prank: "It's shocking people would think it was funny to spray-paint a donkey in this way. We take reports of animals being painted very seriously." This prank immediately reminded me of the tradition of Tijuana Zebras, which I last posted about back in 2006. I noted then that the Tijuana tradition of painting donkeys to look like zebras was dying out, but perhaps it's reemerging in Sussex.
Categories: Animals, Pranks
Posted by Alex on Thu Sep 22, 2011
Comments (2)
The St. Louis Zoo hasn't had much luck keeping its polar bears alive. From

The zoo's last polar bear, Hope, was euthanized in April when veterinarians found it had cancer. In May 2005 another polar bear, named Churchill, ate a fatal helping of cloth and plastic inside its bin and died while undergoing stomach surgery. Five weeks later, a polar bear named Penny died at the zoo from infection. Turns out, she had two dead fetuses inside her uterus, though zoo officials didn't know she was pregnant.

Their solution has been to install a family of robotic polar bears in the empty polar bear exhibit. In 100 years, after global warming has caused mass extinctions, maybe zoos will consist primarily of robotic animal simulacra!
(Thanks, Joe!)
Categories: Animals, Technology
Posted by Alex on Wed Nov 18, 2009
Comments (8)
A man who caught a 14-foot (4.2-meter) python in a Florida drain pipe was charged with perpetrating a hoax after wildlife officers discovered he owned the snake and put it in the pipe in order to stage the capture. Justin Matthews, a professional animal trapper, later admitted that he had "staged the event to call attention to a growing problem of irresponsible pet ownership," the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said on Thursday.

Link: Yahoo! News
Categories: Animals
Posted by Alex on Fri Nov 06, 2009
Comments (0)
Late for Halloween, but still an interesting three-minute diversion. On this Good Morning Yahoo video, a zoo educator from Connecticut's Beardsley zoo debunks some Halloween animal myths:
  • Can the horned owl turn its head all the way around? (No)
  • Are tarantulas deadly? (No)
  • Do bats get caught in your hair? (No, but they do fly close to people's heads to catch mosquitoes.)
  • Are black widows deadly? (No, but they do have strong venom)
  • Do scorpions glow in the dark? (Yes)
(Thanks, Big Gary!)
Categories: Animals
Posted by Alex on Tue Nov 03, 2009
Comments (2)
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