For many years now, I’ve noticed, with alarming regularity, the loyal sycophants and peasantry at Castle Blather tripping over their leg manacles and muttering such bizarre utterances as ‘Huh, kangaroos, yeah, what next’. It was only last week that curiosity eventually got the better of me, and nothing would do but for me to whisk a collection of them off to the torture rooms for questioning.
The shocking conclusion that I was appalled to reach, after they had been wheeled back to their cubicles and I had collated their wretched accounts, was that an alarmingly large quantity of reported anomalous animals had been described as ‘kangaroo-like’.
This puzzled me, since Captain Cook and his crew were reportedly the first Europeans to see kangaroos when their ship ‘The Endeavour’ reached Australia in 1770, which gave me to wonder, how did we describe the aforementioned mystery animals before this? As devil-like, or as manlike, or perhaps as bird-like?
Monsters of Achill
I will, if I may, present some examples:
The ‘Achill Island Monster’. Achill, an island joined to the Irish mainland in west Co. Mayo, had a series of alleged lake monster sightings in the mid to late sixties, with the creature climbing out of a lake or crossing a road. It was described by Graham J. McEwan as having a ‘long, thick tail, a swan shaped neck and a head like a sheep or greyhound with glittering eyes. It was dark brown and had shiny skin and, strangest of all, ran on its hind legs, rocking from side to side as it did so’.
Gay Dever, a 15 year old witness said that ‘it was much bigger than a horse, black in colour with a long, slender and sheep-looking head, long neck and tail. It moved like a kangaroo and its hind legs were bigger than the front ones’. (Mystery Animals of Ireland and Britain, Graham J. McEwan, 1986, published by Robert Hale, London ISBN 0-7090-2801-6)
Jan Ove-Sundberg has other ideas. ‘The most remarkable thing with this incident is that the witness accounts gives a close to perfect description of the carnivorous, supposedly extinct dinosaur Coelophysis! This is how Cooney-McNulty, and the palaeontologist and author E.H. Colbert, describes a Coelophysis: “It was about 2.5-3 meters long and as fully grown had a weight of 25-30 kilos. It had a long neck, a narrowing head and a very long tail. Its legs was long and slender and the frontlegs was shorter than the hindlegs. This dinosaur was carnivorous”‘.
In the U.S., The Jersey Devil has been instrumental in frightening the living daylights out of kids since the last century, and has assumed many legendary forms, such as hominoid, a deformed wild child, a cloven hoofed demon, and a 1909 hoax which involved a poor painted kangaroo with glued-on claws and wings. This, of course, brings to mind the ‘Devil’s Hoofprint’ phenomenon in Devonshire, England, reported in The Times on February 16th 1855, and mentioned at the beginning of chapter 28 of Charles Fort’s ‘Book of the Damned’ (ISBN 1-870870-53-0).
Demonic alien kangaroo vampire
The hoofprints were found in the snow on the morning of February 8th 1855, over a hundred miles or so of countryside, through numerous villages, on roofs, hedges, the tops of walls, and across rivers two miles wide. Fort tells of a correspondent who reckoned that it was possibly a kangaroo escaped from a menagerie, ‘the footprints being so peculiar and far apart gave rise to a scare that the devil was loose’. The fact that the ‘hoofprints’ were in single lines, rather than in parallel, gave Fort to conclude that ‘my own acceptance is that not less than a thousand one-legged kangaroos, each shod with a small horseshoe, could have marked that snow in Devonshire’. [Buy *The Book of the Damned* at the Blather Bookstore]
The Chupacabras phenomenon, a panic which began in Puerto Rico around March 1995, again implicated the unfortunate kangaroo. The Chupacabras, or ‘Goat Sucker’ is a strange creature ‘demonic alien kangaroo vampire‘ with red glowing eyes and fangs, which has now been blamed for the demise of countless goats, dogs, cats, chickens and various other domestic animals, not only in Puerto Rico, but also Costa Rica, Mexico, Texas, and Florida, and would you believe (I wouldn’t) the U.K., Germany and, (ahem) Ballymena, Northern Ireland. For more on the Goat Sucker, follow the Chupacabras links on the Hellshavian Forteana links page. The diatribes against the poor ‘roo show no sign of imminent cessation.
The recent issue of Fortean Times, FT103 has a article entitled ‘There’s a Flyin’ Marsupial’, which reports on the plethora of kangaroo sightings this year, in *Sweden* of all places. How it could possibly survive in the harsh Scandinavian winter is the premier question which bounces to mind. Swedish zoos are apparently missing nothing, and Swedish law doesn’t permit the ownership of foreign wild animals which may survive in the wild. Is it really a ‘roo?
And the Wallaby?
Why doesn’t the wallaby get blamed for any of this? The wallaby is now officially regarded as a wild creature in several countries to which it is not indigenous, including the U.K., and, as I seem to recall, Belgium.
And of course, one has to take large white rabbits into account, such as ‘Harvey’, fictionally encountered by actor and part-tim Yeti smuggler Jimmy Stewart a.k.a. Elwood P. Dowd, and allegedly seen in Co. Kerry by Robert Anton Wilson. And then of course, there’s the Easter Bunny, depicted by Matt Graeber as an extra-terrestrial/rabbit hybrid (Link dead: http://www.geocities.com/CapeCanaveral/Lab/8627/mg8.jpg). But bear in mind that some fictional kangaroos, unlike the marsupial ‘Lassie’ known as ‘Skippy’, are no pushover, such as *Tank Girl’s* boyfriend Booga, who is likely to shoot first and engage in polite discourse at a later date.
Perhaps some of these sightings could be ascribed to the frolics of a humongous jerboa?
Mystery Animals of Ireland and Britain, Graham J. McEwan (Amazon.com)
Mystery Animals of Ireland and Britain, Graham J. McEwan (Amazon.co.uk)
Dave (daev) Walsh
2nd October 1997