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Archive for the ‘cryptozoology art’ Category

 

Want a fast pictorial on how I became a creature investigator and author? Here’s an unsolicited, unexpected, unremunerated short video from art teacher Andy McGraff at Lakewood Elementary in Twin Lakes WI. He created it as part of his exploration of area artists for his students’ “learning at a distance” program. My connection with Andy is that I have a degree in art education and often subbed in the Lakewood art room where Andy now works (when the schools have not been closed due to a monstrous virus invasion.) Andy includes some of the original “Inside Edition” footage from  the early days of the Bray Road saga, and other undescribable things that made me laugh. It’s on Youtube at https://youtu.be/6bnAH8hpVQU

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Their business names–the Dairy State’s “Wisconsin Big Cat Rescue and Educational Shelter” and Tampa, Florida’s “Big Cats Shelter” (a.k.a. Greater Wynnewood Animal Park) are similar–and both take in tigers, lions and other hulking felines with nowhere else to go. But the two animal parks could not be more different in their goals and personnel, says Rock Falls, WI’s Jeff Kozlowski. He and his wife, Jennifer, run a small non-profit specializing in programs for school children, while Florida’s Big Cats Shelter is something else–in any way you wish to take that phrase.

But in summer 2019, my fledgling crew (White Lhasa Studios LLC) and I were busy filming in and around Hillsboro, Wisconsin. Kozlowski was on our list for his knowledge of big cats. We were totally unaware of the concurrent production of a TV series titled Tiger King after its flamboyant and freewheeling Floridian owner, known as Joe Exotic.

While Joe Exotic is the mainstay of the TV series, Kozlowski isn’t featured on the TV show and he has said on area media that he doesn’t mind at all. His interview with us for our award-winning* indie documentary, Return to Wildcat Mountain; Wisconsin’s Black Panther Nexus, involved possible big cat escapes and whether romance between jaguars and pumas could produce hybrids or occur at all. Our big ask, then, was whether a black jaguar could mate with a mountain lion to produce the mysterious black “panthers” we tracked. Kozlowski had a reasonable answer. We found him knowledgeable and willing to share his thoughts on every facet of big cat rescue.

Since Kozlowski is an important presence in Return to Wildcat Mountain, we also wanted to show him at his well-kept compound with a few of his own words. If you’d like to see more of our film, you may click the options below:

 SEE STREAMING VERSIONS HERE

and DVD’S HERE. (Dvd’s on sale until June 20th, 2020. Use Promo Code SPRINGCATS at checkout.)

*Return to Wildcat Mountain, released April 2020, won Best Documentary in the 4th Annual Midwest WeirdFest film festival, April 7-9 2020

Random Synchronicity of the day: Joe’s shelter is located in Florida’s Hillsborough County, while the Wisconsin shelter is only a bit over 15 miles from the Village of Hillsboro where we did the most work. Some would call this association of certain human and place names, “the name game.”

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Just in time for Easter…

Throughout the annals of cryptozoology, every once in a while a truly odd cryptid shows up. About this time this year I think of Virginia’s Bunny Man, hunted by Fairfax County Sheriff’s Deputies as it hopped through fields and neighborhoods, occasionally throwing  a hatchet through someone’s window. Everyone agreed it was a human dressed in a furry suit, usually white. There is a bridge named after him by locals, and a collection of crazed local lore in “Weird US,” 2004 by Mark Sceurman and Mark Moran.

Lesser known and more benign is the Michigan Bunny Man, which is more on the order of upright, over-sized animals.

BunnyManMI

In this version, the five-foot tall, upright rabbit creature was seen by a woman working at a camp in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in 1958, between Paulding and Bruce Crossing. The woman’s daughter said it ran away from her mother on two legs. The woman, whom I met at a book signing in Iron Mountain, said her mother wasn’t the type to make things up, and often marveled that she had seen such a thing. It also happens that this area is almost the exact spot of the famed Paulding Lights. The illustration is my own fanciful interpretation of the creature. Happy Easter!

 

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africanbirds6africanbirds2africanbirds1

Great flying creatures–from giant humanoid bat-beasts to heavenly, silver-white,  stork-like flyers–date back to the art and story cultures of most ancient civilizations around the world. Many of us are already familiar with ornithoids of early Sumerian and Egypt, Native American thunder birds, and other well-known examples, so it’s always a delight to find giant birds in places I’ve personally missed. A few months ago in Loveland, Colorado, my husband and happened upon just such a treasure. We were there to show a half-hour sneak peek of Return to Wildcat Mountain at Longmont’s Charles Dickens Horror Film Festival, when we found something lovely.

Here, the various types of Chapungu or “Great Spirit Bird” of Zimbabwe are depicted in stone sculptures created by modern-day African artists, the Shona people. The sculptures–with explanatory plaques–are displayed in a large, gracefully landscaped park. The Great Spirit Birds are said to protect the people and to warn of coming bad events (Pt. Pleasant’s Mothman and bridge collapse come to mind as an American parallel).

I’ve included a few of my own photos here but there are many more resources online. A good place to start is at http://www.chapungusculpturepark.com . (Note: Links have been a bit problematic) And keep looking up! Who knows what else is flying around up there, waiting for some writer or artisan to take  lasting note?

 

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rockcirclefencenwoods

An overnight gift on my deck? Something unusual turned up this morning on my backyard deck which overlooks part of the Green Belt that connects hiking paths around the city where I live.

My bedroom window overlooks it directly. I once had a wired-in, infra-red motion detector focused on the yard there but something bit the wire in two! That was a few months ago. But just lately, I’ve been getting wood knocks in groups of 3 from the woods back there. Always a few minutes after I turned my light off.

A couple of nights ago, the knocks occurred immediately after I turned off my light. I told the Hubz but I wasn’t too excited, could have been lots of things. Last night around 8 or 9 pm some of the neighborhood dogs started barking in alarm mode. Again, I’d usually figure a deer or rabbit, coyote or whatever…until whatever was being barked at decided it had enough and made that super deep “hobita-hobita” growel + vowel sound that I and many others have associated with Brother Bigfoot or Sister Squatch. The barking stopped immediately. Again I mentioned it to my resident skeptic and he said, “Hmph.” So this morning I took a look out there and was shocked to see a perfect circle of 5 white landscape rocks laid out on the deck near the back rail. They had to have been carried from some edging close to the house. I know my neighbors…none of them would have sneaked onto my yard to make a little rock feature for me. The deck is surrounded by wilted plant debris so no footprints. Here are a few pix from my photo record. And the quarter and standard card deck are for size comparison, not a test to see if my visitor wants to ante up for a game of poker. BTW the woods were completely silent…no squirrels, birds etc. Eerie!

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This Halloween offering is for those followers of the the Beast of Bray Road legend and encounters, who enjoy puzzling over the decades-old paper trail of ink-blotted arcana fished out of battered files.  I recently found two such items hidden in a drawer in a folder I’d marked, “Old Beast.” They actually fell out of the folder and right in my lap–an old makeshift bookmark and a page torn from the small notebook I used in my early reporting days.

I was about to throw them in the circular file but then I noticed the words, “Bray Road Werewolf” at the top of the bookmark. Beneath it was what I believe were my first written words about witness Lori Endrizzi and her mother, Pat ; “Lady claims daughter saw a werewolf on Bray Road 2 years ago.” I had added “Hospital Road,” because the sighting was near Bray’s intersection with that shortcut to Walworth County’s hospital complex. (Some names are redacted.)

BOBRfilenotes 1991

There were other brief comments from someone inviting me to cover a meeting on alleged mis-used animal traps, along with a mention of the county  animal shelter where I later met with Jon Fredrickson, the county’s then animal control officer. The bigger piece of paper includes more notes on that meeting, and a great Fredrickson quote, “The county’s getting stranger.” And best of all are my notes on his description of a wolf or coyote springing up when startled so that it only seemed to be walking upright. And I can’t leave out the mention of the large, clawed animal trail on Potter’s Road.

BOBRfilenotes1991b

For those who are not fans of very old paper trails, I give you (metaphorically), my growing collection of creature socks, all from friends, that also give me joy. Happy Halloween to ALL my friends, I just thank you all for being here.

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witness sketch of the Man-Bat of La Crosse, WI, 2006

My favorite motto is “Always look behind you, always look up.” And there seems to be a lot more reason over the past few years to obey that second half of the saying.

Although they’ve proven quite controversial, many dozens of giant, flying, sometimes bat-like creatures have been spotted above the city of Chicago and its environs in the past few years by a variety of eyewitnesses. This isn’t entirely new. There have been similar reports from around the US for decades, such as those describing Point Pleasant’s Mothman, Tacoma’s famed Batsquatch and others including the creature I called the Man Bat that almost flew right into the windshield of a truck on a country road near La Crosse, WI the night of September 26, 2006. I investigated that one on site quite soon after it was seen, and also heard from other area people who’d encountered it. Overall, these and the other eyewitnesses reporting sightings across the country seem as credible to me as any other group of cryptid spotters, and I do believe this is a phenomenon worthy of investigation.

I could not help wondering, though, why some–again, FAR from all–of the Chicago flyers were appearing over popular tourist areas such as Lincoln Square, the Gold Coast and the Art Institute of Chicago. Most cryptid sightings occur in rural or at least liminal places; the outskirts of a city rather than the downtown, for instance.

The Art Institute sighting reminded me of something I’d written in a 2009 book titled “Mythical Creatures” for the Chelsea House series, Mysteries, Legends and Unexplained Phenomena, edited by my late, great and dear friend Rosemary Guiley. (The book includes the story of the La Crosse Man Bat on pages 33-34.) Also, my youngest son has an art degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), and had some first-hand knowledge of various projects people were working on.

Before I go any farther, I want to be clear; I’m offering this idea only for what it’s worth—and only as it may provide insight to some encounters with the sky critter phenomenon. There are other ideas and theories out there. I’m not offering a solution or even a suggestion that any particular individual has been involved with the origin of these unknown flyers in any known way. But let’s look at one chapter, “Mixed Up Monsters,” of the book mentioned above.

My research on  that chapter back in 2009 had led me to the various, publicly exhibited works of an art professor at SAIC named Eduardo Kac (pronounced Katz) who’d become famous for his claim that he had produced a rabbit/jellyfish chimera named Alba that glowed green under black lights. The exhibition intended to display Alba to the world never happened, however. And more importantly to our discussion here were another facet of Kac’s work involving remote-controlled, bat-like robotic figures complete with sonar. Many researchers have studied and written about these bat-bots.

One such writer, a Stanford student named Thomas Loverro, offered a paper in the Stanford Undergraduate Research Journal on Kac’s work, divided into sections titled telepresence, biotelematics, robotics and transgenic art. https://web.stanford.edu/class/sts129/essays/Loverro2.htm

These artworks were created not with brushes or chisels, but with the latest scientific equipment. Or as a Dec. 12, 2018 Chicago Reader article put it, “…SAIC’s Bio Art Lab, where art is life—literally.” This futuristic genre had garnered its own space at SAIC, a lab in the basement of the MacLean Center at 112 S. Michigan.

Loverro also wrote “… [Kac’s] 1999 Darker Than Night interactive exhibit, which is a culmination of the works examined thus far. It brings computers, robots, animals, and humans together and asks them all to communicate with each other. Kac placed a robotic bat (“bat-bot”) in a cave with over three hundred Egyptian Fruit Bats in a zoo. The robotic bat was equipped with the ability to convert real bats’ high-frequency calls to within the audible range of humans and also rotate its head, where the sonar microphone was located. Human listeners could then remotely, via a virtual reality headset, turn their head to control the bat-bot’s microphone and immerse themselves in the world of the bat.”

http://www.web.stanford.edu/group/journal/cgi-bin/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Loverro_Hum_2002.pdf

Kac’s “bat-bot,” then, literally hung out with living bats.

http://www.web.stanford.edu/group/journal/cgi-bin/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Loverro_Hum_2002.pdf

SO…it could be mere coincidence. But since Kac is a Professor Emeritus at SAIC, and is undoubtedly well known to a generation of art students and other artists, could it also be that some follower or admirer of his work may have seen some of the early Chicago Flyer reports, remembered the bat-bots and designed one with drone technology for some short flights above downtown Chicago? Over the Art Institute? Where there is an art-bio-lab? I emailed Kac at his SAIC address to see if he had any idea whether such experiments were being undertaken in the school or elsewhere, but did not receive an answer. It’s possible he never received my inquiry. And also very possible he has never heard of Chicago’s flying things.

Again, this is all mere speculation and not a suggestion that any particular person, known or unknown, is involved. It doesn’t explain sightings in any other places, either, especially those in other states. But I do think it’s a good example of how in this day and age, investigators need to look outside the cave to explore all possibilities. At least knowing that bat-bots and other bio-mechanical-genetic “things” are being invented may help keep us looking up.

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