Saturday, April 9, 2011

Mermaids


Since deciding on my topic of Mermaids I have learned quite a number of things.
One thing I have a question of is if a siren is the same thing as a mermaid and if my paper should focus on both or just mention the difference briefly. The second question I have is if when writing my paper if i capitalize the word "mermaid."
There are many modern ways our culture uses mermaids in for example: Starbucks, Chicken of the Sea, and the beloved disney character the little mermaid. Also more recently there has been a possible sighting of a mermaid in the year 2009. "Is a Mermaid living under the sea in northern Israel?" gives more information on this topic.
My paper is slowly coming together. I am beginning to find more information on the mythology of mermaids and this is what I would like to go more in to depth about. Greece, Japan, Russia, Japan, North America, and the Celtic all have their own stories. Another topic to unfold is mermaids according to religion. Carving of mermaids appeared more increasingly in church decoration between the eleventh and fourteenth centuries where descriptions of real and imaginary creatures were used to help illustrate points of the Christian dogma.

Wilson Library light on books about thunderbirds?


Last week, I spent some time in the library searching for books that contained actual stories of real-life thunderbird encounters. While searching the library’s online database with the word “thunderbird” and other related search terms, most of the books I found involved legends and mythology of Native Americans, particularly those who live in the Pacific Northwest.

Although native myths vary between tribes, in general the mythical thunderbird is thought to be responsible for bringing storms and rain. Thunderbirds are said to be massive, eagle-like creatures that create thunder by flapping their wings and shoot lightning bolts out of their eyes. The thunderbird is a regular fixture on top of totem poles of native tribes in the Northwest. (see photo, from travel-vancouver-island.com)

I found myself wondering to what extent mythology plays in reported modern-day sightings of cryptids. I know that the Yeti, known to the people who live near the Himalayas, is seen to many locals as a mythological creature as much as it is seen as a cryptid that still lives today. How much does mythology and myth affect cryptozoology? That would be an interesting topic for a separate paper.

Anyways.

I had some difficulty locating books that spoke at length about real-life encounters with thunderbirds. I found references to thunderbirds in two cryptozoology reference books, Giants, Monsters & Dragons by Carol Rose and The encyclopedia of monsters by Daniel Cohen. There wasn’t a whole lot of information I haven’t already picked up off of Wikipedia. The thunderbird is said to be a massive bird-like creature with a wingspan up to 20 feet or more. It is sometimes reported to have scaly skin like that of a reptile. It is also said to be capable of picking up a deer or small child with its talons, which is nearly impossible for even the largest birds of prey known to exist.

I’m going to spend some more time in the library next week, and I will focus on other sources of information to find some specific stories and reported sightings. I know there are some interesting ones out there.

The Scoobies have hit the Books


With this week being super busy I have only been able to minimally start my research. I went to the library and found a number of books on Vampires!

The first is Slayers and their Vampires:A Cultural History of Killing the Dead. The key sections that I plan on looking more closely at are the chapters called "Conversation in the Balkans" and "Scapegoats and Demons" which both go into the folklore that discusses the vampire and see how it translates over different cultures. There are also a number of chapters in this book that talk about vampire hunters which seems to be an important aspect of understanding this creature because we must understand its natural predator.

The next book is The Vampire: A Casebook. This book contains a number of essays on the living dead. This entire book seems like it could be very useful. It has essays looking at the etymology of the word vampire to full essays examining vampires in Romania and Greece. One of the chapters I'm really interested in looking at is called "Clinical Vampirism: Blending Myth and Reality" where I feel I can learn a lot about the stuff that is real that the monster stories are based on.

Similar to that last chapter in mentioned in the previous book, I found a book called The Truth About Dracula. The first section of this book will be very useful. It is about the different recorded species of vampires living in Europe in the eighteenth-century. Later it also talks about the historical basis for the most famous vampire story ever, Dracula. In the end of the book it talks about different contemporary vampires from around the world as well.

Next I found Vampires, Burial, and Death. This goes into a great deal of the mythology surrounding vampires and should give a great deal of insight on what makes sense within the myth and where each part comes from. A really interesting part in this book is that it begins to talk about the idea of the "Soul After Death" which is a large part of the vampire myth and could be an interesting part of my research.

Along with the last book, this one seems to be one of the most useful for this project. It is called The Natural History of the Vampire. In this book the vampire is completely broken down into parts. It talks about its origins, traits and practices, vampires from different religions, and the modern vampire.

Finally I have a book called American Vampires: Fans, Victims, Practices. This is going to be very interesting because it looks strictly at the vampire in America which could be extremely interesting.

This is just an overview of the books I found. Hopefully by next week I'll have been able to read more in these books and be able to write more about them and share some more information!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Books on The Beast

I used quite the variety of keywords to find anything that mentioned the Beast of Gévaudan: The Beast of Gévaudan, Gévaudan, wolf Gévaudan, etc, etc. Finally, I decided to stop being so obstinately specific and widened my search to phrases such France wolf, wolf attack and French folklore, but even these resulted in meager pickings. I wanted to avoid searching for werewolves because the beast was only sometimes considered to be such, but in the end, I gave in--and found three decent sources.

They all provided generally the same information on the creature, though Mythical and Fabulous Creatures only discussed werewolves and didn't speak of the beast. It focused instead on the relationship between werewolves, Christianity and the power of the devil--whether he was behind the lycanthropy and if so, how he went about it. Could he truly transform a man into a wolf or was the wolf-appearance merely an immaterial guise?

This books also spoke briefly about the werwolf's love of female flesh, but also a page (or so) long discussion about a Frenchman named Gilles Garnier. Garnier went to trial for his dealings with the 'Lord of the Forest,' who "gave him the power...to change into a variety of beasts, including a wolf." (South, 273) Though there was no mention of the beast of Gévaudan, I still appreciated the brief discussion on lycanthropy in France for, as I mentioned earlier, there is some speculation as to whether or not the beast was actually a werewolf (and not just an insanely-large and oddly colored wolf).

The other two texts, The Werewolf and Witchcraft, Lycanthropy, Drugs and Disease, were interesting to compare side by side. The information they provided was similar--but only relatively. Witchcraft... describes the Beast of Gévaudan's reign of terror as between the years 1764 through 1767, while Werewolf states that the Wild Beast of Gévaudan was active in 1764 and '65. Makes me curious to inspect the sources of my sources...

Also included in The Werewolf was a lovely drawing of the beast that looks like a cross-breed between a lion, wolf and a large-toothed donkey.

















Bibliography:

Sidky, H. ,. Witchcraft, Lycanthropy, Drugs and Disease: an Anthropological Study of the European Witch-hunts. New York: Peter Lang, 2004. Print.

South, Malcolm. Mythical and Fabulous Creatures: a Source Book and Research Guide. New York: Greenwood, 1987. Print.

Summers, Montague. The Werewolf. New Hyde Park, NY: University, 1966. Print.

Huldufolk


When I began researching, I only used the term "gnome" when I was looking for small humanoid creatures. I had difficulty finding anything about gnomes as cryptids and mostly came up with facts on garden gnome decorations and gnomes in popular culture.
After Wednesday's lecture on control vocabulary I decided you try other terms, such as elf, in my research to get the information I wanted. I started on Wikipedia to see if there was anything obvious that I should begin looking for. There was some pretty interesting info on elf-lore from different cultures. I found that in Iceland gnomes/elves are called Huldufolk (hidden folk).
I knew that I wanted to start with gnome sightings in Iceland, and I had a hunch that the term "huldufolk" world get me the articles that I was interested in. I went into EBSCO and searched "huldufolk" "Iceland". The search came up with three articles, two were full text. The article "Magic Kingdom" had the most information.
Mala, Elisa. Psychology Today; May/Jun 2008, Vol. 41 Issue 3,p 21-21, p1
the author states that in a survey conducted in 2007 "Only 3 percent of Icelanders lay claim to personal encounters, but 8 percent believe in them outright and 54 percent won't deny their existence," She also went on to say that isolation, unpredictable natural phenomena, and religious tolerance may have fostered the high rates of Icelanders believing in these cryptids.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Aristocratic Misbehavior

In a History Today article, I found a story about the history of the Spring-Heeled Jack and other ‘ghosts’ that haunted the streets of London. However, these ghosts were not the average phantom. According to reports of the townsfolk during the 1800’s, these ghouls were “flesh and blood 'ghosts'”. They troubled citizens and made night time traveling dangerous and frightening. What is more, the ghosts appeared to be average men in traditional clothing. One of the ghosts was named Spring- Heeled Jack for his amazing jumping abilities. Early accounts included women being extremely frightened by being grabbed or spooked, while later tales mentioned a figure or ‘man’ breathing fire.

Many of these accounts filled the newspapers and warned the locals of what danger Spring-Heeled Jack and others could bring. Soon, it was rumored that these encounters were a gag and that the ghostly beings were just aristocrats fulfilling bets to terrorize the townspeople. In this way, Spring-Heeled Jack became known as the Victorian Boogeyman.

According to the article, the beliefs of aristocratic misbehavior may reflect “social tensions of the time”. During this time the citizens were not happy with the ruling class and distrusted their decisions.

This article was very interesting and gave a great background of Spring-Heeled Jack. I thought it was very intriguing that there were many other ghosts like him and that his presence was very real yet strongly questioned by the people of London.

My research so far

The Loch Ness monster, better known as Nessie or in Scottish Gaelic Niseag, resides in the Lake or Loch Ness near Iverness, Scotland. As Loch Ness is a huge lake located near Urquhart Castle, Nessie is frequently “seen” in Urquhart Bay. Nessie is one of the more prominent cryptids out there and has been reportedly seen since the time period of A.D. Nessie is a huge lake monster that the people of Scotland swear exists and is part of local legend. The creature is said to be part of a line of plesiosaurs that never went extinct (Wikipedia). Although this is the most common depiction, there are many different accounts of what Nessie actually looks like. She is somewhere between 20 to 60 feet in length, with a long neck, a small head, horn for breathing, and diamond shaped fins. During the 1930s Nessie became a worldwide phenomena, although many documents suggest that Nessie had been seen way before this time. According to Legend of Nessie.co.uk Nessie’s ancestors where out in the loch in 565 A.D. It was during this time that St. Columba was crossing the lake and reported to have seen a lake monster (Legend of Nessie.co.uk). The last reported sighting of Nessie was in 1960 by Tim Dinsdale as he filmed Nessie with his camera. More people tried to spot Nessie in 1976 and 1982 but no sightings were made. Nessie’s devoted followers still continue to believe that she is out there and are always looking for more proof.

I started off my research by looking at articles from databases like JSTOR and EBSCO host and I was hoping to find many articles since Nessie is such a popular cryptid. I did find tons of articles, though not all of them were about Nessie and never really described any new info relating to the monster. Most of the articles that I found were from scientific magazines, like Society For Science and The Public. In the four articles that I found for this magazine most of the articles were short and centered on if Nessie was an actual in the loch or if it was some hoax. The first article titled The Case for the Loch Ness Monster by the Science News written in 1976 was an article in favor of Nessie, especially after the first true group of “hunters” took under water pictures of a “large submerged object moving under the boat” (247). These hunters consisted of amateurs that many of the scientific community discredited. They took these pictures with a submerged camera that had a synchronized strobe light. This camera recorded the first ever picture of the monster of Loch Ness (Case of Loch Ness Monster, 247). This group, as stated, was severely discredited because they were amateurs but that does not discount what they found with their cameras. This article seems to be credible because it comes from a scientific magazine and does an acceptable job of posing both sides of the argument for Nessie. The article lets the reader decide if they want to believe Nessie is real or not rather than making the decision for them.

Another article that I found from the same journal is Is Nessie merely a bad case of the Shakes? This article seems to try to explain what Nessie could be rather than a lake monster. Loch Ness lies on a fault, Great Glen, and has three to four moderate earthquakes each century. According to Luigi Piccardi, a structural geologist, these earthquakes and seismic activity can explain the Nessie phenomena. Piccardi states, “that some of the more vivid sightings include observations of low humps breaking the surface. This could be explained by waves resulting from a focusing of seismic energy rumbling beneath and through the loch’s waters” (Is Nessie merely a bad case of the shakes, 5). Although this article was fairly short and did not give a lot of information regarding how these earthquakes could offer an alternate explain of the Loch Ness monster. I believe that this source is credible because, again, it is in a scientific magazine but it does not seem to offer a lot of explanation about the how and why this alternate explanation would be used instead of the monster Nessie.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Gnomes

The cryptid that I've decided to research are gnomes. I've been a fan of garden gnomes for a long time, mainly because they are very cute. Many cultures have similar lore about gnomes and elves living around human dwellings. A few years ago I heard a statistic that 80% of the population of Iceland believes that gnomes exist. I'm not sure if that is an accurate number, and hope to find a reliable source for that statistic.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Choosing a Monster

I have been a Washington native my whole life, and growing up in the northwest one hears stories of the big hairy creature known under the names Sasquatch and bigfoot. Is the missing link wandering the forests of the Pacific Northwest? There have been many reported sightings of a large bi-pedal creature. There seems to be a lot of material to read through on Sasquatch and this leads me to believe there is a larger chance for finding valid information.

Another cyptids history I am considering taking a look into is the Kraken. The kraken is a I have also been interested in the existence of a giant squid. Though compared to the amount of information available on Bigfoot, the Kraken has a miniscule amount. An additional reason I am doubtful about starting research on the Kraken is that the last reports of the animal, at least on the Wikipedia page and the first page of Google happened approximately 150 years ago. I don’t know if there is enough material to write on.

One Cryptid that has piqued my interest is the Loch Ness Monster. As it seems the second most likely, behind Sasquatch, to actually exist. Loch Ness, the lake the monster inhabits is extremely deep. There have been claims dating back the middle 500’s about a dinosaur-resembling creature motoring around the Loch, and it didn’t really come under the public eye until it was picked up by the national and international press in the summer of 1933. Paraphrasing, the first reported sighting to the press goes as follows, Goerge Spicer, a man visiting the lake with his wife had seen a large pre-historic esque creature wallowing back to the lake with a small animal in its mouth. A little further along the timeline, in 1934 the first recorded photograph of Nessie as the animal is being called, was published in a national newspaper. I think the vast amount of information on Nessie lends to the place in has taken in as a cultural icon. Nessie is a recognized figure in most developed countries and I bet if I were to survey people and ask what country Nessie is located in, the answers would be about 90 percent right. Though I assume other questions about the animal would most likely be answer incorrectly. This makes me want to dig a little deeper, into the history and literature of Nessie, its habits and hobbies.

There is a large base of cryptids to choose from, and I don’t have a clear decision yet on which one I will study and write upon. It is a big endeavor to write solely on one subject. In making the decision on who to devote my research to, I don’t want to make a snap decision.

Mythical creature choice

I think that doing vampires from a realistic point of view would be interesting....to divert from popular culture and avoid the whole Twilight obsession. Originating sometime during the Medieval period, with one of the first sighting in Modern Croatia; vampires have persisted universally, so research is not restricted to one location.
There is a significant following circling around the existence of vampires, with a field of 'vampirology' being the study of them...very 'complex and mysterious.'

I definitely have romantized the idea of vampires so I'm excited.

Black Shuck

Ah, after much searching I've decided on focusing my research this quarter on the Black Shuck. I haven't heard much information about it, but I am very eager to begin finding articles, videos, and other sources about it. As I didn't know anything about the Black Shuck, I wanted to find a bit of information about it just to find out what it is, where it lives, etc., so here it is: The Black Shuck originates from England and it allegedly inhabits the Norfolk/Essex area. It's a ghostly black dog with saucer sized malicious eyes. Legend has it that it brings ill fate and bad luck to whomever sees it, but it also terrifies its viewers at the moment they see it. The description reminds me of the Grim, from Harry Potter, although that might just be the inner nerd in me. There's many references to the Black Shuck in pop culture, which is really exciting! Here's a little picture of the Black Shuck:


Sunday, April 3, 2011

La Bête du Gévaudan

After a few days of delving into Wikipedia's list of cryptids, I've finally chosen the Beast of Gévaudan, a large wolf-like creature with a penchant for human. This beast was an...epicure, of sort; it tended not to feast on human flesh, but rather tended towards blood-sucking, mutilation and the consumption of the more succulent of human-organs.

The beast was mostly active in the mid-1700s in the French country of Gévaudan. At first, it was believed to be a common--if rather vicious and out-of-character--wolf. But rumor soon reported it to be donkey-sized and red-furred, with(depending on the description)two back hooves, instead of paws.

And, just for kicks, here's a trailer for a film based on the histories of this beast:



I'll probably watch it, mostly for entertainment's sake, though I imagine I might gain some sort of useful insight from it. A newer movie was released two years after this one, a film available only through Worldcat, from a university in France; much as I'd like to peruse it, I'm not sure I feel completely comfortable using school-funds to get a hold of a film I'd be watching mostly for my own amusement...

*NOTE for M: I mentioned I'd be posting under the name 'runedrum,' but I've decided to go simply as Jenn, as that's what I've used in previous school-associated blogs.