I have decided not to display the image under consideration in this present ShukerNature blog article, but it is available widely online - click here to view it if you so wish.
Over the years, certain online photos of bizarre but allegedly real entities have surfaced and resurfaced with monotonous regularity, in spite of repeated discrediting as hoaxes or misidentifications by cryptozoological researchers. I recently exposed ten of the most persistent offenders (click here), but at least most such photos are at worst tedious and at best somewhat amusing. However, there are certain others that are anything but amusing – on the contrary, they are both tragic and disturbing on account of what they truly depict, and are therefore in particular need of serious investigation and exposure. The photograph that is the subject of this present ShukerNature blog post is, I believe, a prime example of that latter category, which is why I feel it necessary to assess its credentials and credibility herewith.
As far as I have been able to discover, the photograph first began to attract serious online attention during November 2011, when it was circulated widely on Facebook and other social networking sites. The story accompanying it was that the depicted entity originated in Haiti (situated on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola), and that people there were actually fleeing their homes in terror because it apparently resembled a malign supernatural Haitian being known as a buck. Moreover, suggested/claimed identities by posters to the sites presenting it ranged wildly - from an aborted human foetus with developmental abnormalities, some form of grotesque mutation, or a photo-manipulated creation, to such bizarre notions as an alien baby, the aforementioned demonic buck, or a human-rabbit hybrid of either natural or artificial propagation.
(Worth noting, incidentally, is that in 2003 a team of Chinese scientists in Shanghai did succeed in creating human-rabbit chimaera cells in the laboratory by fusing human skin cells (contributing human nuclear DNA) with the egg cells of rabbits (contributing rabbit mitochondrial DNA), but these chimaeras were killed a few days later in order to retrieve embryonic stem cells, though it is not believed that viable foetuses would have resulted anyway, as humans and rabbits are far too distantly related taxonomically.)
After a few months, interest died down, then in November 2012 the photograph resurfaced and was recirculated widely online, but this time with a new back-story and an entirely different supposed provenance. It was even featured in serious, highly-respected media, such as Australia's Daily Telegraph, which reproduced the photo in an article released on 19 November 2012 (click here to access it). According to this source, the entity had been photographed not in Haiti but in the southwest African country of Namibia. Moreover, according to the story, a shooting party had encountered it foraging for food in dense jungle, and one of the party had shot but only wounded it, causing it to flee away into thick brush. However, the party succeeded in tracking it back to its nearby lair, where they found three other beings of the same kind. The wounded entity then attempted to attack the party, who shot it dead, but the other three beings escaped into the brush. The corpse of the dead entity was then taken back to the party's camp, and police took it away for a full forensic investigation. Needless to say, no follow-up reports revealing what this supposed investigation had discovered have been made public (at least not to my knowledge).
In February 2013 and also in October/November 2013, the photograph resurfaced yet again online, in sites such as Reddit and Triggspot, but now the provenance of its depicted entity had switched back to Haiti, though stories concerning it incorporated variations upon the Namibian plotline as well as the earlier lines of speculation from posters re human-rabbit hybrids or aliens.
And earlier this month (February 2014), a friend informed me that he had recently seen the photo being reported online with a third provenance - New Guinea.
So what is the truth about this contentious photograph and, most of all, what precisely does it portray? If we ignore for the time being the entity's bizarre head, and concentrate upon the rest of its body and what we can see of the person holding it, I think it most plausible that what we are looking at is either a newborn male human infant (possibly delivered by caesarean) or an extremely late aborted male human infant. The streaks of blood on its body would be normal and expected in either case, and the white waxy substance also present on its body would thus be vernix caseosa – a substance composed primarily of sebum, which begins to form upon the human foetus from around the eighteenth week of pregnancy. The infant's umbilical cord is readily visible hanging down the left side of its body (and thus seen on the right side in the photo, in which we are viewing the infant from the front), and using the size of the hand of the person holding it as a scale, the infant is the correct size for a newborn or late abort. In addition, the blue attire of the person holding the infant corresponds with hospital attire, as does the blue surgical glove worn by the person's hand.
So far, so straight forward. When examining the infant's head, however, matters become rather more complex. The infant's face is very distorted and/or mis-shaped, leading to two possibilities. This is either the result of photo-manipulation, i.e. a deliberate attempt to create a monstrous visage by computer-generated trickery; or, tragically, the infant's face is truly deformed, with maldeveloped eyes, nose, and mouth (fellow Fortean researcher Bob Skinner has opined that its mouth may be exhibiting a bilateral hare-lip condition, and I agree with him). One of its ears is also clearly visible, but apart from seeming a little large, this appears quite normal – in stark contrast to the grotesque length of what seems to be fleshy tissue emerging just above it and hanging downwards in a gross parody of a rabbit's ear. It is of course this grotesque structure that is responsible for the 'human-rabbit hybrid' claims – made by persons who evidently hadn’t noticed the infant's real, normal human ear!
What could this long fleshy expanse of tissue be? It is possible that it is not actually part of the infant's head at all, but is merely a section of the detached placenta that subsequently became attached to the infant's head during its delivery/abortion. Alternatively, it may be a portion of the infant's cranial tissue or even a portion of its brain if the cranium has been damaged during embryonic development and/or the brain has not developed correctly. There is a condition known as anencephaly, in which a sizeable portion of the brain, cranium, and skull cap do not develop, due to the rostral (anterior) neuropore - the temporary opening at the embryonic forebrain's extreme cephalic (rostral) pole - not closing during early embryogenesis (at approximately Day 25 in humans). Consequently, the portion of the brain that does develop is exposed and thus can theoretically emerge from the open, unprotected top of the skull, together with associated nervous tissue. However, the amount of flesh visible in the photograph seems more than might be expected if this were the case. Conversely, it is of course conceivable that part or all of this flesh is merely the product of photo-manipulation, to yield something reminiscent of a rabbit ear.
Finally, but most tragic of all: the positions of the infant's limbs (its right hand, incidentally, seems to have malformed digits), and also the expression on its face (if not added by photo-manipulation), are highly suggestive of the prospect that it was alive when the photograph was taken. This in turn makes the extremely rough, callous way in which it is being held even more heart-breaking.
Still requiring assessment is the location portrayed in the photograph. Might the latter have been snapped at a makeshift, impromptu field hospital in some remote tropical zone, which could also explain the presence of the bottle on the ground in the foreground? If not, then what else but photo-manipulation can plausibly reconcile the apparent presence of a correctly-attired hospital worker holding a newborn/late aborted infant in the middle of a jungle? (In the latter scenario, the bottle could have also been added via some deft, digital manipulation.) In any event, the stories of encountering this and similar entities in the jungle are obviously complete, nonsensical inventions that have been supplied to the media by person(s) unknown, as indeed has the photograph itself. I have been unsuccessful in tracing this controversial photograph's origin, and also in tracing any photos online that contain either the precise jungle scene in this photograph or the person standing behind the infant in it. So if, as seems most likely, these aspects of the photograph have indeed been incorporated into it from other sources, their origins currently remain unknown too.
However, I do feel it likely that the identity offered here by me for the entity is the correct one – a probably deformed newborn/aborted male human infant, alive when delivered but likely to have died from its condition shortly afterwards. I have no idea who could possibly have thought it novel or amusing to have created such a disturbing image, but I wholeheartedly believe it high time that this photograph be seen by all for what it truly is - a terrible indictment of humanity's inhumanity.
Consequently, I pray that this too-long-perused image's tragic little subject will now be left in peace, spared from any further attention of the freak-show variety, and granted the dignity in death that it was denied during its sad and all-too-brief span of life.
"Have pity on them all, for it is we who are the real monsters."
Dr Bernard Heuvelmans – On the Track of Unknown Animals