January 21, 2008

weirdest news stories of year 2007 - bear or bigfoot?

September 16, the Allegheny National Forest, the town of Ridgway, Pennsylvania, USA; Rick Jacobs, a hunter, fastened his auto-trigger camera to a tree in the hope to capture a deer, but instead he got pictures of a mysterious hairy, walking on all fours creature that many argue is a Sasquatch.

Jacobs wasn't present when the three photos were taken, the camera was motion sensitive & equipped with an automatic trigger that was set to go off when anything large enough set off the sensor, which did two bear cubs then the strange beast. The camera had also an infrared (invisible) flash making it possible to take picture in the dark.

Photo 1 - Two Bear Cubs (click to enlarge)

The Elk County deer hunter says he doubts anyone is more skeptical about the whole situation than he: “We hung on to them for a whole week before we did anything with them,” he said of the pictures. “We couldn’t figure out what they were. I’ve been hunting for years and I’ve never seen anything like this.”

Photo 2 - The Creature (click to enlarge)

Jacobs sent the photos to the Bigfoot Research Organization, which pursues reports of the legendary two-legged creature - the Bigfoot also known as the Sasquatch - that is thought to live in parts of the U.S. and Canada. "It appears to be a primate-like animal. In my opinion, it appears to be a juvenile Sasquatch," said Paul Majeta, field researcher for the Bigfoot Research Organization.

Employees in the Pennsylvania Game Commission challenged this explanation, saying that it looked like "a bear with a severe case of mange.", They also go on to say that conservation officers routinely trap bears to be tagged that look like the creature in the photos.

Photo 3 - The Creature (click to enlarge)

If you visit the BFRO site (Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization) there's a photo of a gorilla & another of a skinny bear, plus an analysis. According to them, the photo n°3 (above) of the creature would represent (according to experts they have spoken with) a healthy primate smelling the ground & not a skinny bear smelling the ground ... the bad quality of the photos in fact make it difficult to favour one or the other theory, but it seems many of the persons who saw them & who are used to see both bears & primates think the creature can't be a bear; if it's not a bear, what it is? Most likely a class of known or maybe unknown primate ... or maybe all this story is just a good old hoax?

January 15, 2008

weirdest news stories of year 2007 - monstrous hog!

Thursday May 3, outside Anniston, Alabama, USA; the Stones claimed boy Jamison, eleven years old, hunted a giant boar in an enclosure within a commercial hunting preserve called Lost Creek Plantation. the hog according to the hunters weighed 1,051 lb (477 kg) & was 9 feet 4 inch (2.84 m) in length from the tip of its snout to the end of its tail.

the hog is known as the "Monster Pig", "Pigzilla" or even "Hogzilla II". This last name refers to Hogzilla, another giant pig that was hunted in 2004 in Alapaha, Georgia, usa.

Hogzilla according to Ken Holyoak, the man upon whose farm the boar was shot and killed, weighed 1,000 pounds (450 kg) & was 12 feet (3.6 meters) long but according to later scientists studies performed for a National Geographic Society's documentary, it actually weighed 800 lb (360 kg) and was between 7.5 and 8 feet (2.25 and 2.4 meters) long; these dimensions even if diminished still make from Hogzilla an enormous pig, and the stones claim theirs (Hogzilla II) is even bigger.

The truth about the origins & hunting of the Monster Pig

the Stones report that Jamison chased the hog for three hours through hilly woods, firing repeatedly and missing, to finally wound the animal enough times that it collapsed and died. It was thought first the animal was a feral pig, but shortly after the story became famous, it was revealed it was actually a domestic pig sold to Lost Creek Plantation only four days before it was hunted. the monster pig lived under the name of Fred in a farm owned by Phil Blissitt who purchased it in december 2004 as a Christmas gift for his wife Rhonda, the "pet" was 6 week old then. the Blissitts finally sold the beast as they decided to get rid of all the pigs at their farm.

"I just wanted the truth to be told. That wasn't a wild pig," Rhonda Blissitt said. the Blissitts said they didn't know the animal generating all the media attention was Fred till they were contacted by Andy Howell, Game Warden for the Alabama Department of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries.

"Did you see that pig on TV?" Phil Blissitt recalled Howell asking. "I said, 'Yeah, I had one about that size.' He said, 'No, that one is yours.' "That's when I knew."'

"We were told that it was a feral hog," Mike Stone, Jamison's father told the press, "and we hunted it on the pretense that it was a feral hog.".

Phil Blissitt said also he became irritated when he learned about some people who thought the photos of Fred were doctored. "That was a big hog," he said.

now what about those pictures? & what about the claimed dimentions?

some time after the story broke, suspicion started to show over the authenticity of the Stones claims, especially because of the pictures they put on their website & showed to the press. There were two kinds of accusations:
  1. that the photos were made using perspective tricks, positioning elements in a way that create an optical illusion making the pig look larger than its actual size.
  2. That some of the photos were simply digitally retouched.
Dr. Richard Brandt, a retired New York University physicist made a long report on the perspective in the pictures on StinkyJournalism.org, he used complicated calculations & also simple examples like this one on moillusions.com; but instead of that I will only show you two pictures & you decide, they really don't need any comments:

the "Photoshop" theory

here, the guys from IntraHD.com, made a long & good report with a lot of pictures taken from MonsterPig.com (the Stones site) & some news sources, plus many animated demonstrations making everything clear (at least to me), I will give you one simple example here & you decide:

SO it seems that in the photo below, in which you can see Jamison & father Mike,

was in a first step, erased the father & in a second, cloned some elements from the background, as you can see in these two animated pictures:

(Click on pics to see animations)
The final result was this photo with Jamison alone:

Notice the interior of the red circle I added, you can see a white imperfection, that's most likely a part of the father's clothes, I really wonder what would be the point of tricking such a picture?!!

The stones continue to deny that the images were modified via their website, this article by Mike Stone is a good example.

Weight controversy

Anniston Star reported that the pig was weighed at the Clay County Farmer's Exchange in Lineville. Workers at the co-op verified that the basic truck scales used were recently certified by the state. But no workers from the co-op were present when the hog was weighed.

The problem is the number 1051 (the hog's weight), Jeff Kinder, the scale owner, who didn't witness the weigh-in, said he was baffled to hear the reported weight of 1,051 pounds because his scale — an old, manual style with sliding weights — only measures to the nearest 10.

"I didn't quite understand that," he said.

Mike Stone said the scale balanced one notch past the 1,050-pound mark, and he thought it meant a weight of 1,051 pounds.

"It probably weighed 1,060 pounds. We were just afraid to change it once the story was out," he said ...... Yeah Right!

January 03, 2008

weirdest news stories of year 2007 - legend of chupacabra

ugly coyote chupacabra
CUERO, Texas, the United States of America, in July; Phylis Canion & some of her neighbors discovered the bodies of three strange animals outside her ranch 80 miles (128 kilometers) southeast of San Antonio. Canion believes they may have discovered the mythical, blood sucker chupacabra.

The animals weigh about 40-pound (18-kilogram) each, they are mammals having big ears, large fanged teeth and grayish-blue, mostly hairless skin. Canion suspects, as have many rural denizens over the years, that some of these "chupacabras" may have killed 26 of her chickens during the past couple of years.

Canion has been a hunter all her life, & lived four years in Africa, but she says these creatures are incomparable to anything she saw before: “I’ve seen a lot of nasty stuff. I’ve never seen anything like this;” although they look like ugly hairless coyotes, Canion believed they could be vampire like beasts as the chickens she lost weren't eaten or carried away but got all their blood drained from them. To clear this matter, the woman couldn't find better ways then to take some photos & put the head of one of the animals in her freezer for later dna tests.

what's initially a chupacabra?

the word chupacabra is composed of two spanish words, "chupar", meaning "to suck" & "cabra" which means "goat", the whole means "goat sucker" in English; it is supposed to be a creature leaving in some parts of the Americas. sightings of the creature are reported especially among Latin American communities, it's said that it attacks livestock, especially goats & drink their blood. Physical descriptions vary, it would be as big as a small bear & have a row of spines reaching from the neck to the base of its tail. most experts agree that the creature is an urban legend, however it's not excluded it was originated from real events deformed later or wrongly interpreted.

so, what found canion?

DNA tests at the Texas State University-San Marcos were performed in November leaded to the result that the saved head had merely a coyote as owner.

similarly, in 2004, DNA tests on what was given the name the "Elmendorf Beast", determined it was also a coyote, the animal was a hairless dog-like creature killed by a rancher near San Antonio, USA, after attacking his livestock. Biologits said it was suffering from very severe cases of mange so were two other animals found dead few months later.

Sources: MSNBC, Wikipedia.

January 02, 2008

weirdest news stories of year 2007 - the human wolf

Shaun Ellis, a British animal researcher has recently spent 18 months living in captivity with a trio of wolf pups that had been abandoned by their mother at birth, educating them as wild wolves in the hope that they could survive in the wild.

Shaun is a big passionate about wolves & has spent about 16 years studying & living with them; he has written two books on his experience: “The Wolf Talk” (2003) & “Spirit of the Wolf” (2006).

Shaun interest for these animals evolved as he began recording wild wolf howls in the woods, using recording equipment at night in freezing temperatures and snow, and then playing them back repeatedly & listening to them patiently the next day. that learned him how to pick out individual pack members through their distinctive sounds. he spent seven years on the Nez Perce reservation in Idaho studying wolves where he first was able to get inside a pack of wolves and live among them.

Shaun has become an expert in the complicated sight and sound system used by wolves in communication; he believes he has mastered the language of wolves and communicates with them through posture, facial expression and vocalisation.

"It is a very simple language, as their world is far more complete than ours," he says.

he would like to see his findings used to allow wolf and human to coexist without conflict. Using their own methods of communication, wolves can be encouraged to stay away from areas where they might clash with man.

he had the chance to practice his methods in a farm in Poland which livestock had suffered wolf attacks, & since wolves are a protected species in Poland, the farmer hoped that Shaun might be able to find some non-violent way to keep the marauding pack away. Shaun's idea consisted of playing audio recordings of wolf howls, he believed if the local wolves heard howls coming from the farm they'd believe another pack had already claimed it as their territory. In order for this to work shaun had to determine the size of the pack and play back recordings of a similar-sized pack. Initial results were encouraging; in the first few weeks after the farmer began playing the recordings the farm suffered no further attacks.

shaun is determined to keep living with wolves. It has cost him his family and home—his partner and four children left him because of his total dedication to wolves. But he believes he can make a difference.

January 01, 2008

80 entries in the last year, what a number! happy 2008 btw!

there were exactly eighty posts published in this blog in the year 2007, why not 79?! why not 81?!! why 80??!!! I didn't rounded it deliberately, I swear! isn't that weird especially in a weird blog? I guess it is, but I've seen weirder since I created this blog a few months ago, let's see what the new year reserves ...

happy 2008!

weirdest news stories of year 2007 - a pet of the last hours

let's talk in this 4th part on the weirdest 2007 events about the cat oscar.

the third-floor dementia unit at Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Providence, Rhode Island, USA; the unit treats people with different illnesses, most of them are in the end stage & generally unaware of their surroundings. Steere House bills itself as a "pet friendly" facility; a few pets reside at the facility, providing comfort to the patients. among the animals there's Oscar the cat, Oscar makes his own rounds over the nursing home visiting different rooms & patients, but more bizarrely, the cat choose certain patients to stay with laying in their beds & those would generally die within two to four hours.

there were more than twenty-five cases in which Oscar predicted death & slept with the condemned persons; Oscar will stay by the patient until he or she takes their last breath, after which he will depart the room quietly. the accuracy of the cat led the staff to institute an unusual protocol: once he is discovered sleeping with a patient, staff will call family members to notify them of the patient's expected impending death. there are occasions when he is removed from the room at the family's request, but he is known to pace back and forth in front of the door and meow in protest.

Oscar has won an award for his compassion in being near patients in their final hours of life, many of whom would otherwise have died alone; the award is featured as a plaque mounted on a unit's wall. On it is engraved a commendation from a local hospice agency: "For his compassionate hospice care, this plaque is awarded to Oscar the Cat.".

there is no certainty on a scientific explanation to Oscar's behavior, Dr. Joan Teno & Dr. David Dosa, - affiliated with Alpert Medical School of Brown University - agree that the explanation could be specific odors resulting from certain chemicals released when someone is dying, & the cat is able to smell them; Some animal behavior experts approve this theory, adding that cats have a superb sense of smell & can certainly detect illness.

Dr. Daniel Estep, a certified applied animal behaviorist in Littleton, Colorado, however suggests that the explanation could be - instead of smell or sounds - the lack of movement of the persons who are about to die, the cat would be picking up on the fact that the person on the bed is very quiet.

also in not certain whether Oscar abilities are inborn or the result of learned behavior from living nearly his entire life in an end-stage medical facility, one of the supporters of the "smell" theory, Dr. Jill Goldman - a certified applied animal behaviorist in Laguna Beach, California - says that keeping a dying patient company maybe learned behavior: "There has been ample opportunity for him to make an association between 'that' smell [and death]".
"Making his way back up the hallway, Oscar arrives at Room 313. The door is open, and he proceeds inside. Mrs. K. is resting peacefully in her bed, her breathing steady but shallow. She is surrounded by photographs of her grandchildren and one from her wedding day. Despite these keepsakes, she is alone. Oscar jumps onto her bed and ... sniffs the air. He pauses to consider the situation, and then turns around twice before curling up beside Mrs. K.

One hour passes. Oscar waits. A nurse walks into the room to check on her patient. She pauses to note Oscar's presence. Concerned, she hurriedly leaves the room and returns to her desk. She grabs Mrs. K.'s chart off the medical-records rack and begins to make phone calls.

Within a half hour the family starts to arrive. Chairs are brought into the room, where the relatives begin their vigil. The priest is called to deliver last rites. And still, Oscar has not budged, instead purring and gently nuzzling Mrs. K. A young grandson asks his mother, "What is the cat doing here?" The mother, fighting back tears, tells him, "He is here to help Grandma get to heaven." Thirty minutes later, Mrs. K. takes her last earthly breath. With this, Oscar sits up, looks around, then departs the room so quietly that the grieving family barely notices."
David M. Dosa, M.D., M.P.H. - A Day in the Life of Oscar the Cat

end of the fourth part.

December 30, 2007

weirdest news stories of year 2007 - two faced calf & fast wheelchair

the death of the two faced calf

two faced calfa calf with two faces is dead about a month after her birth at a dairy farm owned by Kirk Heldreth in Rural Retreat, Virginia, USA. the word about the birth has spread quickly in southwest Virginia & drew crowds to the Farm. "I'll just have to tie the dogs extra tight," said the dairyman as he was expecting more that time.

The calf, which was born December 27, 2006, had two noses to breathes out & two tongues, which move independently, according to Heldreth. it had a single socket containing two eyes where the heads split. except for his weird & unusually large head, The animal had a normal body.

"It's the craziest thing I've ever seen," Heldreth said. he said that During the calf's birth, he first thought there were two calves. he was feeding her through a tube, and acknowledged he he wouldn't maintain that feeding schedule for long ... well, he didn't have to do.

The calf was the product of artificial insemination, which was supposed to create a "genetically superior specimen". "Genetically, this is one of my better calves," Heldreth said.

according to MedecineNet.com, the condition is called the Two-faced twin & Known medically as diprosopus:
two-faced twins are conjoined twins (incompletely separated identical twins). The twins have almost complete fusion of their bodies with one set of limbs. Part or all of the face is duplicated. The condition usually results in stillbirth.

wheelchair pushed five miles by truck

Paw Paw, Michigan, USA; Wednesday, June the 6th; A young man in his wheelchair found himself attached to a semi truck & pushed through streets a few miles before the truck driver stopped without even knowing about his uncommon passenger.

Ben Carpenter, 22, was forced into a wheelchair eight years ago because of a muscular dystrophy, the day of the accident was one of his twice-weekly outings. he crossed Red Arrow Highway in front of a semi truck & he didn't make the traffic light; while apparently the driver didn't see him & collided with the chair which caused the wheelchair's handles to become lodged in the truck's grille.

although Carpenter was crying for help, the driver wasn't able to hear him & continued the ride reaching speeds of 50mph (80km/h) down the Red Arrow Highway, "It was fast, I know that. Faster than this chair was made to go," Carpenter told local Wood TV.

Police, received strange reports from Passing motorists about the situation & initially thought it might have been a prank until they started receiving more calls. the truck driver luckily pulled over at the depot of his trucking company. "If I had gone any more miles, the tires would have been gone all the way," Carpenter said.

Police approached the driver and advised him of what happened. The driver did not believe them until he stepped out of the truck and saw Carpenter still sitting in the chair.

Mr. Carpenter was found unharmed & unfazed by the incident, but complained only that he had spilled his soda.
"I was happy. Thank God it was over, I thought it was kind of like a fair ride. I don't remember feeling any bumps though. I must have, but the road must have been pretty smooth." Carpenter said.
end of the third part, happy new year!