While there are a large number of strange creatures in the field of Cryptozoology, thre are also some that are hardly known. And, we'll focus on the latter today. A fascinating story of nothing less than a real-life dragon can be found in the pages of Charles Igglesden’s 1906 book, A Saunter Through Kent With Pen & Pencil. Kent being a county in southern England. Of a dragon reportedly seen in Cranbrook, Kent, centuries earlier, Igglesden wrote: “The magnificently wooded park of a hundred and fifty acres is richly watered by a huge lake made in 1812 and a smaller one within the grounds, while further west is an old mill pond that rejoices in a curious legend. It is an old one and the subject of it is very ancient indeed and as rare as it is horrible.” He continued that nothing less than a flying dragon was said to haunt the pond but that “on certain – or uncertain – nights of the year it wings its flight over the park and pays a visit to the big lake yonder. But he always returns to the Mill Pond and it is said to pay special attention of a vicious kind to young men and women who have jilted their lovers. A legend with a moral is this. But a winged dragon! A dragon of the ordinary kind is bad enough. But a flying dragon! Augh!”
Igglesden had more to add to the story: “It is a Mr. Tomlin’s opinion that there is stronger evidence of the existence of this dragon than of most of his kind and of his fires gone out in the closing years of the last century. Nothing short of this monster’s malign influence could account for the curious fact that, till the coming of Mr. Tomlin’s eldest daughter, no child had been born at Angley Park for upwards of a hundred years.” Over the years, numerous monster-seekers have flocked to the specific area in question – in hopes of encountering the dragon. Its presence is far less today, however, than it was in centuries past. Nevertheless, it’s worth noting that in December 1997, a local policeman, on duty during the early hours of a chilly, windy, Saturday morning, caught a brief sight of a “bloody great bird, about twenty feet across,” in the skies of Cranbrook. The ancient dragon crossing the night sky? Maybe! Now, onto another strange - and lesser-known - creature in Cryptozoology.
On January 6, 1954, the Lumberton, North Carolina, Robesonian newspaper published a sensational article titled “Vampire Strikes At Woman; Police Chief Warns Parents.” It began in startling style: “Worried parents kept a close eye on their children today as a strange ‘vampire’ beast continued to roam the countryside.” Indeed, sightings and killings had been going on since December 29 and plunged the good folk of the small town of Bladenboro, North Carolina into states of fear and outrage. Although many eye-witnesses described the animal as looking like a black leopard, there were some who said it was more akin to a sleek-looking bear. Adding to the confusion, the tracks of the creature were said to be dog-like, rather than feline in appearance. It was a creepy conundrum, to be sure. The most terrifying aspect of the story, however, was the claim of both the newspaper and the witnesses that the creature “sucks blood from its victims.” And thus was quickly born a vampire legend. Very quickly.
Now, let's see how Cryptozoology ties in with astronomy. In September 1959, a groundbreaking paper – Searching for Interstellar Communications, written by Cornell University physicists, Phillip Morrison and Giuseppe Conconi – was published in the pages of Nature. The paper was focused upon the idea of searching for extraterrestrial life via the medium of microwaves. Approximately eight months later, one Frank Drake decided to test the theories and ideas of Morrison and Conconi for himself. Drake did so at the Green Bank National Radio Astronomy Observatory, located in West Virginia. Despite lasting for 150 hours, the search of the heavens for evidence of messages from alien intelligences was not successful. Drake, however, was not to be dissuaded or defeated quite so easily as that. In October 1961, the very first conference on what became known as the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) was convened at Green Bank. It was here that Drake unleashed his now famous and much championed Drake Equation upon the world, and which is an admittedly controversial method for attempting to ascertain the scale of intelligent civilizations that may exist in the known universe. Since then, SETI has been at the forefront of research into the search for alien life.
When Frank Drake elected to make it his life’s work to search for alien intelligences, he went down a road that eventually led him to the Arecibo Radio Telescope, which is located on the island of Puerto Rico, and where he, Drake, eventually rose to the position of Director. As Drake noted in his 1994 book, Is Anyone Out There?, it was at some point early in his tenure as Director – in the mid-1960s – that a guard at the observatory claimed to have seen a sinister-looking man dressed in a black cloak “walking the narrow trail around the perimeter of the bowl.” The guard was of the opinion that the dark figure was nothing less than a blood-draining – and blood-drinking – vampire. Despite his skepticism, Drake politely accepted the guard’s report and agreed to at least take a look at it. Forty eight hours later, said Drake, “I really was forced to look into it…because a cow was found dead on a nearby farm, with all the blood drained from its body. The vampire rumor spread had already spread through the observatory staff, and now the cow incident whipped the fears of many people into a frenzy.” Now, to a very different saga.
F.W. Kemp was an officer with the Provisional Archives who, with his wife, had an extraordinary encounter in the early 1930s. It was an encounter with something that can only be classified as a monster. Indeed, Kemp’s words make that abundantly clear. So impressed was he by the encounter, Kemp prepared the following statement for interested parties: “On August 10, 1932, I was with my wife and son on Chatham Island in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. My wife called my attention to a mysterious something coming through the channel between Strong Tide Island and Chatham Island. Imagine my astonishment on observing a huge creature with head out of the water traveling about four miles per hour against the tide. Even at that speed a considerable wash was thrown on the rocks, which gave me the impression that it was more reptile than serpent to make so much displacement. The channel at this point is about 500 yard wide. Swimming to the steep rocks of the Island opposite, the creature shot its head out of water on the rock, and moving its head from side to side, appeared to taking its bearings. Then fold after fold its body came to surface. Towards the tail it appeared serrated with something moving flail-like at the extreme end. The movements were like those of a crocodile. Around the head appeared a sort of mane, which drifted round the body like kelp."
There's more to the story: “The Thing’s presence seemed to change the whole landscape, which make it difficult to describe my experiences. It did not seem to belong to the present scheme of things, but rather to the Long Ago when the world was young. The position it held on the rock was momentary. My wife and sixteen-year-old son ran to a point of land to get a clearer view. I think the sounds they made disturbed the animal. The sea being very calm, it seemed to slip back into deep water; there was a great commotion under the surface and it disappeared like a flash. In my opinion, its speed must be terrific and it senses of smell, sight and hearing developed to a very high degree. It would be terribly hard to photograph, as its movements are different from anything I have ever seen or heard of. I should say its length to be not less than eighty feet. There were some logs on Strong Tide Island which gave me a good idea as to the size of monster as it passed them. I took a measurement of one the next day which was over sixty feet in length, and the creature overlapped it to a large extent at each end. I put a newspaper on the spot where it rested its head and took an observation from our previous point of vantage. The animal’s was very much larger than the double sheet of newspaper. The body must have been at least five feet thick, and was of a bluish-green color which shone in the sun like aluminum. I could not determine the shape of the head, but it was much thicker than the body.”
Beginning in the Cascades of Southern Oregon and extending down to Copco Lake, south of the California-Oregon border, the river is some 250 miles in length and takes its name from the Native American term for “swiftness.” However, the creature that Jeffrey Shaw and his wife claim to have seen on a summer’s day more than forty years ago can hardly be termed swift. According to Shaw, he and his wife had rented a pleasant wooden cabin on one particular stretch of the river and would most days sit near the water’s edge with a couple of bottles of white wine and a well-stocked picnic basket. As someone whose schedule with the military was incredibly hectic, said Shaw, the pair relished some much welcome peace and quiet while simultaneously communing with nature. And commune with nature they most certainly did. The Shaw’s had taken a ten-day vacation and all was normal for the first half of the week; however, it was six or seven days into their break from the rigid confines of the Air Force that matters took a very weird and dramatic turn. On the day in question, the Shaw’s had driven fifteen or twenty miles in search of a particular sandbank they had been told about that was apparently the perfect area for a private water-side feast. Unfortunately, they failed to locate the place in question; and so, as fate would have it, they stopped at a shady, grassy area some two to three hundred yards from the edge of the water. And with blankets, wine, and a plentiful supply of food laid out, they enjoyed a romantic lunch under a warm and sunny sky.
It was perhaps a little more than two hours into their day of fun when Jeffrey Shaw’s wife saw out of the corner of her eye what she first thought was a large black bear ambling along at the edge of the woods and heading in the direction of the water. Concerned, she whispered to her husband and pointed in the direction where the creature was maneuvering among the trees and the bushes. But a closer look revealed that it was certainly no black bear. Jeffrey Shaw explained to me that as the trees and bushes became less dense, he and his wife were able to get a much clearer view of the animal that was “shuffling” towards the lake. At first glance, he said, the creature was continually obscured by the woods and therefore initially appeared to be only about six or seven feet in length – which is what had led his wife to assume it had merely been a black bear on all-fours. Now, however, they could see that it was closer to thirty feet long, and appeared to resemble either a giant snake or a monstrous eel. Both of the Shaw’s confirmed to me that the creature seemed to have great trouble moving on land, hence their “shuffling” description; to which they added that it seemed to “wriggle from side to side” as it moved, while its body appeared to be “continually vibrating” as it did so. They were unable to discern the nature of the beast’s head, said Jeffrey Shaw, adding that “the whole thing reminded us of a big black pipe.”
The Shaw’s stated that they did not feel frightened in the presence of the unknown creature; only awe-struck. And while they did not actually see it enter the water, they were sure that this was its ultimate destination. At no time did it make any noise as it passed by, said the couple, and it appeared not to notice them in the slightest. On the following two days they returned to the same spot, hoping to see the remarkable animal once again; and Jeffrey Shaw even camped out one night near the water’s edge, hoping for a truly close encounter. It was unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective) not to be, however. Whatever the true nature of the beast, it summarily failed to appear again for Jeffrey Shaw and his wife. The Klamath waters continued – and continue to this day – to keep a tight grip on their dark secrets, it would appear. And, these are just a few of the lesser-known creatures in the realm of Cryptozoology.