Zoologist, media consultant, and science writer, Dr Karl Shuker is also one of the best known cryptozoologists in the world. He is the author of such seminal works as Mystery Cats of the World (1989), The Lost Ark: New and Rediscovered Animals of the 20th Century (1993; greatly expanded in 2012 as The Encyclopaedia of New and Rediscovered Animals), Dragons: A Natural History (1995), In Search of Prehistoric Survivors (1995), The Unexplained (1996), From Flying Toads To Snakes With Wings (1997), Mysteries of Planet Earth (1999), The Hidden Powers of Animals (2001), The Beasts That Hide From Man (2003), Extraordinary Animals Revisited (2007), Dr Shuker's Casebook (2008), Karl Shuker's Alien Zoo: From the Pages of Fortean Times (2010), Cats of Magic, Mythology, and Mystery (2012), Mirabilis: A Carnival of Cryptozoology and Unnatural History (2013), Dragons in Zoology, Cryptozoology, and Culture (2013), The Menagerie of Marvels (2014), A Manifestation of Monsters (2015), Here's Nessie! (2016), and what is widely considered to be his cryptozoological magnum opus, Still In Search Of Prehistoric Survivors (2016) - plus, very excitingly, his first two long-awaited, much-requested ShukerNature blog books (2019, 2020).

Dr Karl Shuker's Official Website - http://www.karlshuker.com/index.htm

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Wednesday 20 October 2010


Highly-acclaimed graphics artist Andy Paciorek sent me yesterday (19 October 2010) the upper of the two illustrations reproduced above, which has a fascinating if totally mystifying cryptozoological connection. The picture is a war cartoon, entitled 'De Vampyr' and was prepared by L J Jordaan for Der Groene Amsterdammer (an underground Dutch periodical) in 1940.

Yet this claw-footed, long-tailed, gasmask-wearing(!) 'vampire' bears scant similarity to the familiar Draculaesque variety with hypertrophied canines, prominent widow's peak, and a talent for melodramatic cloak-swishing!

Instead, as Andy so rightly pointed out, what it does resemble, and to a remarkable degree, is the chupacabra - a Hispanic mystery beast that did not come to widespread public and media attention until the mid-1990s. Of particular note is the Dutch war vampire's row of long dorsal spines, a very distinctive characteristic frequently reported for the chupacabra but not usually for other cryptids. Wings have also been cited for the chupacabra on occasion, as have powerful hind limbs, and its blood-sucking behaviour, often totally draining of blood the carcases of its animal victims, is well-documented - all features exhibited here by Jordaan's vampire, more than half a century before the chupacabra.

For visual comparison, the painting positioned directly below 'De Vampyr' here is of a chupacabra, produced by celebrated cryptozoological artist William Rebsamen, based upon eyewitness descriptions, and except for the chupacabra's quadrupedal rather than bipedal form, fundamental morphological similarities between the two entities are undeniable.

Just a baffling coincidence, or are the history and public evolution of the chupacabra more complex and of earlier origin than previously thought? Over to you...

Sunday 17 October 2010


Don't you just hate it when you discover some fascinating information somewhere, then, at some later date, you can't remember where you'd read it?

This happened lately to Martin Phillipps, a colleague of mine from New Zealand, who has contacted me to ask if either of the following two reports sounded familiar, as he cannot recall where he read them originally. Sadly, I had to confess that both of them were new to me, so is there anyone out there in cyberland who can offer any suggestions? Here are the two reports, as quoted directly from Martin's email of 9 October 2010 to me:

"I was wondering if you would be able to help me identify the source of two stories which I believe to be somewhere in my frustratingly large collection of books on paranormal and occult matters.

"In one story, if I remember correctly, there were two men walking along some rough coastal cliffs (it may have been in Britain but I cannot be sure) when they came over a rise and saw a very large orange bat-like creature sunning itself on the rocks just above the water line.

"I believe they described it as being a good thirty or forty feet across but I just cannot find this story anywhere now and it is very frustrating. You know how it is when your mind gets stuck on one particular problem and you are unable to find the relevant information!

"The other story, which I believe is likewise hiding amongst my collection, concerns a man, again I believe walking near the sea, and coming across a being who sounded exactly like a satyr or a Pan-like entity - cloven hooves and all. When this being became aware that he had been noticed he apparently said something along the lines of... "You are not meant to be able to see me!"

"As I cannot locate the book which included this marvelous tale I am not sure if there was much more to the conversation after that very intriguing opening line!

"Do either of these stories ring any bells with you? They were both recounted as non-fiction."

The first report is vaguely reminiscent of an account describing a huge winged nature deva that I documented in my book Mysteries of Planet Earth (1999).

And the second report is reminiscent of a section that I remember reading a long time ago in Paul Hawken's book The Magic of Findhorn, but is not identical, as the entity in the latter book was indeed Pan but was invisible.

Any thoughts regarding either or both of these reports would be very welcome!

Monday 11 October 2010


The European giant catfish or wels - could 'Gums' be an undiscovered relative? (public domain)
One of the world's most famous explorers is, or was, Lieutenant-Colonel Percy Fawcett, who mysteriously vanished in 1925 while exploring the vast uncharted jungles of Brazil. Before his tragic disappearance, however, he had penned a fascinating account of his explorations in these lands, which was published in 1953 as Exploration Fawcett. It contains brief accounts of several mystifying creatures, but none more so than his supposed giant toothless shark or manguruyu, to give it its local name.
According to Fawcett, the Paraguay River contains: "a freshwater shark, huge but toothless, said to attack men and swallow them if it gets a chance". In reality, however, very few sharks inhabit freshwater, and those that do are far from toothless. So if such a shark really does exist, it is dramatically different from anything currently known to science. However, it may not be a shark at all.
British cryptozoologist Mike Grayson has opined that it could be a very large sturgeon, some species of which are vaguely shark-like and can attain great sizes. However, he concedes that this is a very tentative identification, acknowledging that sturgeons do not attack and swallow people, and that there is no known species of South American sturgeon to act as a zoogeographical precedent anyway.
My own feeling is that a catfish identity may be more plausible. There are more species of catfishes in South America than anywhere else, and some of these latter are among the world's largest too. In Europe, the giant wels catfish Siluris glanis often been accused (unjustly or otherwise) of swallowing people, but even if this aspect is wholly folkloric, the concept of a giant catfish existing in South America is by no means impossible. True, catfishes usually possess teeth at least on their vomer bone. However, old specimens of some species are entirely toothless - as in, significantly, the giant pa beuk Pangasianodon gigas of southern Asia's Mekong River. Up to 8 ft long, it is the world's largest species of fish confined entirely to freshwater, yet it amazingly remained undiscovered by science until as late as 1930.
Perhaps Fawcett's giant toothless shark - aptly dubbed 'Gums' by Grayson - is in reality an elderly edentate catfish, belonging to a still-undescribed extra-large species. Alternatively, as German cryptozoologist Markus Bühler has mentioned to me, South America's piraiba Brachyplatystoma filamentosum, a huge species of goliath catfish, has a deceptively shark-like body outline and is already known to grow up to 12 ft long - so who knows, reports of 'Gums' may have been based upon sightings of exceptionally large, geriatric piraibas.

Piraiba (public domain)

Sunday 3 October 2010


Sachamama-like beast on 16th-Century Peruvian pottery
(Dr Karl Shuker)

In recent times, reports of giant anacondas and other serpentine colossi in South America have attracted notable media attention. Some of these reports, moreover, have referred to the sachamama, but in reality the latter is no 'ordinary' giant snake, because according to the local people who claim to have seen it, this bizarre Peruvian mystery creature resembles a snake with a shell!

On 14 August 1997, the villagers of Nueva Tacna, near Iquitos, in northern Peru, witnessed an incredible event. According to one eyewitness, local fisherman Maximo Inuacari, a loud rumbling sound reverberated from a patch of jungle, as if something large and heavy were roaming through it. Inuacari, sitting in his boat on the Napo River nearby, began to paddle away, and as he did so a 'monster' emerged from the jungle onto the shore behind him, having uprooted many trees and gouged a 1600-ft-long, 30-ft-wide trench during its noisy progression towards the river. According to Inuacari, it resembled a huge black cylinder, and dived into the water, creating a huge whirlpool that submerged several boats.

Another eyewitness, Luis Iluma, who had a better view of this bizarre beast, claimed that it had two tentacles like elephant trunks and two 3-ft-long 'ears' on its head, a muzzle, and a long black snake-like body bearing a shell-like structure in the middle of its back.

This is not an isolated record. Following the above incident, explorer-journalist Arnost Vasícek visited South America, and spoke to several people during his preparation of a detailed account (Blesk Magazin, 14 November 1997). Two were biology teacher Nelly Armos and director Carlos Quinto, both of whom were from a school near Oran, and who had spent a considerable time researching traditional accounts and lore of strange South American animals. One such creature, referred to in old Peruvian Indian legends, is the sachamama - a giant black snake with a large head bearing tentacles, and a calcareous shell upon its back.

According to the legends, this mysterious creature appears only very rarely, and can remain in a state of torpor underwater for many years. When it wakes, however, it can suck prey into its mouth from quite a distance, but cannot pursue prey through the jungle because its progression is impeded by its large shell. So was the beast seen by Inuacari and Iluma in August 1997 a real-life sachamama?

Its description in legends was echoed during the 19th Century by a missionary called de Vernazz, who claimed to have shot one that measured over 45 ft long and 6 ft thick while boating on the Pastaza River bordering Peru and Ecuador. Moreover, there are examples of ceramic pots and saucers from Peru's ancient Moche culture, dating back over 1500 years and owned by the Casinelli Museum in northern Peru's Trujillo region, which depict a huge black snake-like or slug-like beast with tentacles, and a conch-like shell on its back. In addition, Vasícek documented some 16th-Century examples of Peruvian pottery depicting a very similar animal, which also sported a forked tongue and two pairs of snail-like, bulbous-tipped feelers - one pair at the base of its snout, and the other pair at its snout's tip.

Assuming that the sachamama does exist - which is in itself a very big assumption - and that its local description is accurate, it is hardly likely to be a snake, judging from its tentacles and shell. But could it possibly be a giant species of slug? Slugs do possess cephalic (head-borne) tentacles, and some have an external shell on their back too. The existence of such a monstrous mollusc seems highly unlikely, but there is no doubt that something created havoc near Nueva Tacna on 14 August 1997 - as confirmed by local governor Jorge Chavez and various Peruvian journalists who flew over the area by helicopter shortly afterwards to survey the devastation. If it were not for its shell, the sachamama is very reminiscent of another trench-excavating mystery beast from South America - the Brazilian minhocão, which I believe may be a giant form of limbless amphibian called a caecilian.

Iquitos scientist Nixon Reugifa attempted to explain this destructive August 1997 visitation as the work of floodwater, and another idea offered by sceptics was that a wind vortex was responsible, but both were subsequently rejected. Indeed, Reugifa eventually discounted his own idea when more eyewitness accounts and details came to light that revealed the path taken by the destroying agent to be too selective to be satisfactorily explained by flooding. Similarly, none of the fishermen recalled feeling any sensation of wind movement during the incident, thereby eliminating the vortex hypothesis. So was the culprit a living legend? A snake with a shell? As yet, we simply have no answer.