The Big Study

Friday, May 29, 2015

WHAT'S HARDER TO UNDERSTAND: UFOs or US?


This post is shrapnel from my flailing around trying to "recover" organization from the weekend's UFO get-together. Much paper has been flying about; a situation which was magnified by the arrival of the remnants of Onondaga College's discarded UFO archive collection [stimulated originally by CUFOS subscriber Steve Zalewski.] Now that Steve has passed [at least I've been given to believe that], Onondaga had no advocate for keeping the collection and wanted to free archive space --- there's a lesson there for those who think that any college is an eternally safe repository. Mark Rodeghier received notice of Onondaga's decision with a request that he should take the collection if CUFOS wished. Mark asked me. I asked "how much?" Onondaga said "six file drawers."

A few weeks ago six file drawer-sized boxes arrived at 818 South Park. I took them on the premise that I'd search through everything, save out what little I assessed that CUFOS didn't have, offer the remnants to my weekend friends, and pitch the shrapnel into the recycling bin. All that has happened, and every page poked into by multiple UFOlogists. Nothing important escaped. But I had more filing to do.

This post comes out of a rare-ish newsletter originating with the early Chicago-area Rocket Society. The leading, and nearly only, article in this June 1950 publication was "A Scientific Analysis of the Flying Disk Reports." I find it interesting for several reasons, so you're getting stuck with reading about it.


Before I jump directly into this newsletter, it's helpful to know that by June 1950 we've not only had the big 1947 flap, but inside Wright-Patterson's Project SIGN thoughts about the disks being extraterrestrial had held sway, the USAF Pentagon had rebelled against that, Saturday Evening Post's Sidney Shallet had gotten into Wright Pat for his mind-boggling article in 1949, and in 1950 White Sands missile commander Robert McLaughlin has written a TRUE article almost flatly stating that the disks had to be extraterrestrial. Some of the above information was hidden from the public, and other bits were separated by authoritative-sounding Air Force claims that it was bunk. The "intellectual" atmosphere for a scientist, or an engineer, or a technical writer, was puzzling and fascinating in the extreme.

This is the atmosphere which produced Don Keyhoe, but he wasn't the only one --- he was the most life-long pain-in-the-Air-Force's-butt, but other writers and scientists felt that the USAF was covering something up as well. When the 1949 Saturday Evening Post article{s} came out, the USAF "coincidentally" prepared a review of the flying disks entitled "Project Saucer", and invited anyone [particularly newswriters] to come to the Pentagon and read it. Keyhoe was one who did. Apparently a Chicago-based technical writer, and member of the Chicago Rocket Society, was another. The Air Force's release was a colossal snafu by them, as it gave the impression of an even greater support for the strangeness of the flying disks than Shallet's modestly-written pieces. Keyhoe smelled a rat. Apparently so did George A. Whittington.

Whittington probably shared out the information in the Project Saucer release with his Rocket Society colleagues as they waited for further revelations from the Air Force. As SIGN had been smashed down by the anti-saucer Pentagon, none did. Then in January of 1950, Keyhoe unloaded his TRUE article, "The Flying Saucers are Real", and in March TRUE followed with Commander McLaughlin's " How Scientists Tracked a Flying Saucer." Keyhoe was a retired marine with no particular expertise in advanced flying technology [despite being a pilot himself and personally knowing heavyweight Navy technologists], but Robert McLaughlin was one of the Navy's top missile experts, AND in command of Naval research at White Sands. He had a powerful voice. {Note that neither Keyhoe nor McLaughlin were Air Force.}

Whittington heard McLaughlin loud and clear. His talk to the Rocket Society [March or April, it's not dated] gave the following views:
a). The military has plenty of evidence for the reality of the flying disks and there is no question of their reality;
b). They want the public to believe that they have the situation in hand, thus the admission of an on-task Project Saucer [he could not have known the internal politics that had brought "Saucer"/SIGN down and replaced it with the incompetent Grudge, then nothing at all for a time];
c). The Air Force is acting so quietly about this that they must not only know that the disks are interplanetary technology, but know far more than that, even to the extent of contact.

Whittington then went on to speculate why the Pentagon would not release the whole facts, citing everything from panic to warmongering overreaction to war industry economic dislocations, or just simply that communications were primitive and information releases were premature. Whittington then said that although he had spoken his views "lightly" and humorously, he was not joking. The expert authority of Commander McLaughlin essentially assured him that the flying disks were advanced flying machines well beyond our capabilities.

That position was shortly buttressed by another Rocket Society member of greater technical "presence."


First, what was the Chicago Rocket Society anyway? It was an "amateur" membership in that you did not have to be exceptionally qualified to belong [just love rocketry], but it was one of the elite such societies in the country. The Society hosted the overall American Rocket Society national meeting in 1957, and that's one of the Nazi Paperclip rocket experts pictured at that meeting above.


I couldn't find a picture of sometime-president of the Rocket Society, Dr. Norman J. Bowman, but he might be in one of the pictures above [about adult advisors with the High Schoolers of the Northern Indiana Rocket Club]. Bowman was a secondhand helper there. {I also put this up here since I found that the pictures contained a photo of a genius ex-Notre Dame classmate of mine, Physics major Ray Durand. ... nostalgia, but the darned guy would sneak into my dorm room and shout out all the answers to the NYT crossword puzzle when I was trying to work it.}

Bowman was a real rocket expert.

 

 Bowman was a research chemist at Standard Oil Research Laboratories in Whiting, Indiana and, obviously from the publications above, knew a lot about the state of American rockets, missiles, and Space Flight. So when Bowman was invited to give a talk to the Chicago Association of News Broadcasters, people listened. {This talk was presented then in the June 1950 Rocket News Letter, whereupon it comes down to me and you.}

Bowman's talk showed great familiarity with whatever the intelligent layman had available to him at the time [ex. Project Saucer release, SEP article, TRUE articles] as well as an expert training within which to evaluate the information, and the scuttlebutt which doubtlessly was passing back and forth among his colleagues in the rocketry "business". After repeating the background points of the Project Saucer evaluation he said this:

"I believe it is the almost universal conclusion of persons, including most scientists, who have studied the reports, that there is some unusual aircraft being commonly observed. I personally feel this is well established beyond any reasonable doubt and it is on this basis that I shall proceed (with the rest of the concepts and deductions of his talk)."

Hmmmm... right on, Dr. Bowman.

He went on to remark:

"PROPULSION: The most striking fact about the disks is that in practically no case has a visible means of propulsion been observed nor has any noise been heard. It is most surprising that noise from a propeller or other means of propulsion, or a jet trail, has not been observed. This seems to indicate some new means of propulsion." 

Speaking then about shapes, speed, altitudes, and range --- ALL of which defied modern aircraft performance --- he then said:

"MANOEUVERABILITY: Next to the lack of visible propulsion mechanism, this is the most striking feature of the disks. They have universally been reported to change linear velocity, altitude, and direction with almost incredible rapidity. Accelerations calculated for these changes have commonly run to 20Gs or more, which is beyond the ability of our human body to endure even for a short time. It further seems very doubtful that these disks are pilotless guided missiles, as they have manoeuvered in a manner with aircraft, and almost engaged in dogfights, which would be impossible for guided aircraft, particularly as they must have been out of sight of their home base. It is well known that the big bottleneck in our guided missile program is the guiding mechanism." 


Bowman reflected upon the then-recent US News and World Report story that the disks were only Navy developments from the war era. You can almost feel him scratching his head at the stupidity of this, calling the Navy craft The Flounder and remarking on its primitiveness. How anyone could be floating such bunk mystified him. 


He also wondered how [why?] a world class scientist like Irving Langmuir would be speaking an Air Force line about the disks being confusions and errors et al. He probably didn't know that Langmuir was an oldtime Air Force Scientific Advisor linked into the Pentagon. 

Bowman wasn't cowed by Langmuir or the Air Force's public mockery. He closed his talk with a frank discussion of the extraterrestrial hypothesis from an engineer-scientist's point of view. He said that it was unfortunate that some were dismissing this as pulp fantasy. On the contrary, he pointed out that we were close to being able to build an orbiting rocket and therefore a space station. He spoke of ultimately using nuclear power plants to make serious lifting of payloads and people possible.

"If we forecast space flight for ourselves, why should it be unbelievable that intelligent life elsewhere in this universe has achieved it somewhat ahead of us? Those who say it is impossible would, I fear, have also stated unequivocally in 1940 that the atomic bomb was impossible.
 Well, to summarize what I have said: It is my belief that the data is adequate to say that the flying disks are real and that some type of unusual aircraft is commonly being observed. If one takes the best authenticated reports as being substantially correct, the performance characteristics of the ships are beyond current earth technology and one must conclude that they are indeed extraterrestrial space ships. On the other hand, if the reports have been consistently exaggerated to a considerable extent, it must be concluded that the disks are simply some new type of US aircraft." 

It's clear that Bowman didn't buy Consistent Considerable Exaggeration here. 



Over at Wright-Patterson's T2 intelligence program, Colonel Mack McCoy during the Project SIGN days didn't buy "lousy reporting" either. Mack had stretched his imagination trying to figure how these things could even get here from foreign soil. Some kind of floating aircraft carrier? He asked ex-German wizards --- no luck. Nothing like that had been under development let alone flown.

McCoy's engineering buddies at SIGN [Albert Deyarmond at left and Alfred Loedding at right] also could not see the way around what to them was a simple engineering conclusion: These things are WAY too clever to be ours.


Down the road at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the Nuclear Energy for Aircraft Propulsion {NEPA} was getting started. It had ideas and designs for propulsion systems on the board [intriguingly, it also attracted UFO overflights.] We as engineers, knew that nuclear-powered flight was possible and could "get us off the ground" and into space.



Over at the Air Force thinktank RAND, chief designer Jimmy Lipp had already roughed out the overview and pieces for an "Earth-circling spacecraft". We knew all these things, but still....

Lipp is a case in point. He ostensibly at least, HATED UFOs. His nephew was longtime UFOlogist Bob Wood. Lipp was so intimidating in his hatred of the subject that Bob rarely even mentioned it to him. 

Why was that? Do some, even very smart people, FEAR the idea of extraterrestrial visitation so much that they just deny it away? Listening to the Lipps, Menzels, Langmuirs of the world, one might make a theory about that. 

But so many of their peers didn't feel that way at all. And some of the most responsible of them did not feel that way. 


NATO chief Lionel Chassin....
 Air Marshall George Jones ....

CIA chief Admiral Roscoe Hillenkoetter...

All these men during this period and throughout the 1950s expressed dismay that the UFOs were not being taken seriously, and the ETH ignored.


Art Lundahl, the best intelligence photo interpreter that we ever had, felt that he had seen plenty of solid photographic evidence for the disks and that the ETH was the only thing to explain them.


Astronaut-to-be Deke Slayton had a mid-air encounter with a disk over Wisconsin during this period. NASA didn't like him to talk about it, but Slayton never felt that he had an explanation. 

In 1952, Pentagon intelligence analyst Stephan Possony was head of the USAF Special Study Group working out of General John Samford's office. One of Possony's projects was trying to figure means of communicating with the saucer pilots. --- right in synch with George Whittington's speculations. 


So, as we stare at a photo allegedly taken by a person near an airbase in 1950, we can reflect: The professional engineers thought that we had plenty of evidence WAY back then [let alone now] to be talking about and taking the ETH very seriously --- BUT WE STILL AREN'T.

So, what's easier to understand: UFOs or US? 

Peace, folks, and a happy start to the summer.





Tuesday, May 26, 2015

UFO Meeting at 818 South Park



Hello, folks. The UFO History Group get-together [which has been occupying a lot of my attention for the last two weeks {since I was host}] has come to pass, and I believe that a report on it would be of at least mild interest. Eleven folks migrated into Kalamazoo from around the country [Tom Tulien/MN, Linda Murphy/MI, John Reed/MD, Rob Swiatek/VA, Robert Powell/TX{strategically hiding from CIA surveillance behind Rob }, Bill Murphy/MI standing, Jan Aldrich/CT, Sue Swiatek/VA, Will Matthews/MI, and Eddie Bullard/IN.] I am claiming to be behind the camera.


It was a very good time --- these folks like each other and like to be part of a team. We discussed interesting things and "news". Some of that news was that all three of Jan Aldrich, Robert Powell, and Barry Greenwood [who joined us on Skype for a bit], have, in three separate ways [USAF case index cards, Otis AFB documents, Viet Nam history documents] found UFO incident reports allegedly reported to the Air Force system BUT WHICH DID NOT REGISTER IN THE PROJECT BLUE BOOK RECORDS. At the very least this means that a mother-load of UFO military reports exists out there in hidden cubbyholes, which are, however, accessible by us if we can just figure out the right "questions" to ask. 


{{ Up on the roof on a perfect Michigan day --- fellow second from the left is one of my house buddies, Fr. Michael Howell, semi-retired Catholic priest and a great friend }}.

Another thing of interest were Robert's revelations about how well MUFON was acting [but unfortunately still mainly behind the scenes and still dependent largely upon himself and a few critical guys on the scientific review board and the Director of the Star Team investigations. ... and most importantly, himself --- this is me saying this, not Robert.] MUFON's case reporting mechanism is now getting about an equal share of reports as is NUFORC [c.6000 per year]. MUFON is, in my opinion, a FAR better choice as a reporting destination as every report gets assessed and, if it has seeming merit, gets acted upon. Of those 6000 cases per year, the case review board will sift out about 90 as particularly interesting. Those will all be parceled out to the state directors, who then have responsibility for the investigations --- if they blow it, it's on them. Of the 90, about ten will be considered excellent cases as to credibility, strangeness, and solid investigation. These ten cases MUFON will consider eminently defensible in front of any reasonable open-minded individual. I, despite a very good friendship with Robert, had not realized that the behind-the-scenes work was getting that well organized. I wonder if MUFON knows how much they owe him?


We skyped, for the first time, both to Barry Greenwood in Massachusetts and Bill Chalker in Australia, with modest success --- the connection to Australia was stronger than the connection to Massachusetts, proving that Skype is in fact Magic and not Science. The picture above is Bill skyping back at us [he's the little window at the bottom right.] Barry told us about the Viet Nam news [oddly involving an Australian ship] and Bill told us about everything else.

Although the skyping didn't have anything to do with it, the third thing of interest [at least to us] was the decision to go forward, at a very modest pace, with the idea of a master book on UFO phenomenology --- think chapters on the case categories [CE1, Distant Objects, Radar Cases et al] including readable narratives followed by intellectual studies --- and doing this with the mild twist of making our website-in-process largely dedicated to "book support" information [think of a reader getting curious beyond the book text and being able to go right to the website where "book search" sent them to a large number of vetted supplements to the text.] This concept puts a double-barreled strain on us for both book and resource production, but with patience and perhaps trustworthy "outside" help, we should slowly grind it out. We see this as important as we believe that there has never been an english-language book on UFO phenomenology which has contained both readable engaging narratives and scholarly research. Just like UFOs and Government for the human-response history, this book is the other necessary bookend for the University shelves [more than 90 universities now have UFOs and Government.]

Lots of other things were discussed and are being done. The most significant of these for a historian of the anomalies is that John Reed is preserving the entire collection of the notes of Charles Fort in a format which will be readable, searchable, and available to researchers.

Stuff still happens, folks, and stuff is still out there to do. I can recall someone showing me the website of some trollish disrespectful boor who stated that he could not wait for us oldtimers to die so that the youth could jump in and solve all this. That same person said that none of us do any research. I'm not sure what reality those slurs could exist in; it is not mine. My friends are Warriors for research on UFOs and the anomalies --- and we produce.

God Bless all of them, and may they have long lives [despite the sociopathic voodoo of some cheap shot artists out there].

And God Bless all of you, too ... and if I can get a little of that, maybe I can get more work out now for the blog.

Till then.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Are There Doors in the World?


A novel that I like quite a bit is Charles deLint's The Little Country. In that book he allows the reader to believe that there are places where [my phrase now] "the world grows thin" and one can pass from one reality to another --- for we Earthlings, Terra to Faerie, or whatever one wants to call your favorite "other place". In deLint's book, the transporting place was the Men-an-Tol in Cornwall. 

I used the picture above long ago { 11/21/09 } on this blog to lead off a wildly Out Proctor claim by an old Alaskan copper miner that he had in fact stumbled through such a portal and knew exactly where it was. He had written of all people a UFOlogist about this, and his letter was passed on to Allen Hynek, who I presume did nothing about it --- it would have been a cold rough trip to the Yellowknife Copper Mountains region of upper Canada. 


This was the general region that he described....


.... and this was the specific. There is a Willow Creek running west/east on the left side of the map, and a lake pooling in it. He mentioned Willow Lake as his main camp. {so get your tickets}.


The countryside is not scenic. The ground is mainly rock with a moss and lichen cover. His job was to wander about this area pounding on promising looking surfaces, and if lucky taking samples for lab analysis. It was near the end of a tenure out in this wilderness when he was finished with his job and just decided to wander, when his adventure happened. Before I go into it though, here is why I'm writing about this again: a regular reader of this blog noticed that this story, slightly different [as it came from a relative of the witness whose letter Hynek had] had been been posted on another site. As the story was the same [all the settings were identical plus the beginning and ending], but different [the original witness correspondence had left out some high strangeness], this "news" cried out for a new hearing.


The part of the story that I had had him walking into a nearby but new area and coming upon a narrow gully, almost a cleft, in the low mountain there. This cleft was only four feet wide and about 50 feet long. It took a 50 foot drop to get down there. {some of this fellow's description is a bit unclear to me, but I'm going to assume that it was the initial gouge in the cliff-face which was 4x50 and after that you got out into a small gully which widened out a little.}

Once into this gully he saw some odd rocks which were very puzzling to him plus one old dead tree and no other signs of life. What fixed his attention though was a "stable" highly localized fog bank shaped like a tube. This was too much to resist so he walked into it.

In "my" letter, he walks two steps into the mist and begins to see a vast grassy field which increased in height as he walked until it was three feet high. Startled, he walked back out. He couldn't resist however and again walked back in.



As he penetrated the mist further, he began to see more to his left and right which allowed him to see much greenery and even what he called "an oasis", as the mist left him. In my letters at this moment he says his mind went blank except for a fight or flight instinct, and he forced himself to stagger and crawl out of there, soon returning to camp. But with the new material from his relative, it appears that he left a little something out --- understandable when you read it and consider that he was trying to get people to believe his story so as to go back up there with him to reclaim this location.

So what happened when the mist cleared and he was surrounded by the beautiful green world?


He had company .... apparently interested company. My composition above isn't exactly accurate [ robes only went to the knees and they had sandals ] but the feeling is creepily in synch with the way these entities made our fellow feel. ... which was almost nauseous with fear and shaken. He said that these "persons" just hung there in the air staring at him from their vantage of three feet off the ground. They never addressed him nor one another ... just silently stared.

This, understandably, made him want to get-the-hell out of there, and he scrambled up a nearby slope to put distance between them. One of the entities continued to turn in his direction as he climbed. There was one more Whackland experience before he "got back to reality." He came to a small hillside lake, or something. This "lake" consisted of two triangular bodies of water separated by a regular row of plants, and generally looking geometrically constructed. Well, OK, so what?

The "lake" sloped seriously downhill AND ITS WATER LEVEL SLOPED PARALLEL TO THE HILLSIDE. Uhhhhh .... WAIT A MINUTE!!! He was so shook up at the moment that the impossibility of this [in our reality of physical law] didn't fully register on him until he was well away.

Somehow he got into familiar rocky mossy country and found his way to camp.



Did our fine fellow not only walk trough a portal mist into Faerie but even encounter two of its inhabitants? His, as we know, is not the only such claim even in my files. Diarmuid MacManus has a few such tales of blundering across a threshhold onto "The Stray Sod". And it's intriguing, and annoying, that some UFO cases have these darn mists just before the weirdness happens.


Well, what can I tell you?: I like the idea. I liked going to deLint's portal in Cornwall too, and even going through the Men-an-Tol opening --- no, I wasn't too fat [and it was very unkind of you to think that]. But I WAS obviously unworthy as no Faeryland landscape appeared other than the Cornish landscape itself. [which can be pretty close].

So, once again, an abject failure ... but maybe it was a moment of fun for you.

Peace.


Monday, May 4, 2015

Down in the Cryptodumps, part four: Stuff Flying Around With Wings.


Back to the Cryptozoology Dump Box from the SITU collection that I was once perusing and making copies for filing, which never took place [panic not, readers, all the originals DID get back in Ivan's files.] My Fortean Heart is pure and my finger tips not sticky.

Today: weird stuff flying about not related to UFOs.


TEXAS AERIAL TITANS. 

c.1976 News accounts were coming out of Texas of a very big bird seen. SITU received several clippings. Ivan had already passed away, but he would have been interested [as I'll show you later]. The Texas sightings reported seeing a flying animal around 15-20 feet in wingspan. The majority of the sightings were along the Rio Grande on both the US and Mexican sides. 

Perhaps the human mind was playing jokes or perhaps The Universe was, but earlier in 1975 palaeontologists discovered, in Texas, the largest fossil pterosaur ever found. The beast had a wingspan of nearly fifty feet, and its skeleton challenged science to tell how it could even get off the ground. The "Texas Pterosaur" seemed a ripe candidate for inspiring goofy Texas sightings.

The hitch in that hypothesis was that not all the witnesses could easily be written off as goofs. One sighting was by three k-12 teachers and another by two policemen. Both "birds" were about one third the size of the Texas Pterosaur. 


OJIBWE THUNDERBIRDS.

A letter in the files from the same time came from a researcher looking into cryptozoological mysteries in Eastern Canada. He referred to thunderbird sightings from two areas, approximately as marked on the map above. The Quebec [Laurentian-area] information was from a trip that he had taken in 1975. A Quebecair pilot told him that his plane had been buzzed by a bird of approximately 25' wingspan as he was flying over the Laurentians in 1972. Another man told the correspondent that he had seen a similar bird in the same area in 1969. 



The Northern Ontario information came from a woman researching Ojibwe legends of the Thunderbird. The Thunderbird is a primary Nature Force/Deity/Manitou of the Peoples of the Ojibwe/Chippewa. The old pictoglyph above is from the Jeffers Minnesota park. This lady said that during her interviews several Native Americans of the area told her that they had seen the Thunderbird nests in Northern Ontario. 



IVAN'S VIEWS: 

Sanderson would have been interested in all this 1975-6 input had he lived. He had a fairly extensive resource notebook on the topic. When you glance through this thing, you notice that Ivan had some favorite bits which sort-of hooked him. 



Though not buying everything that he read in this article, much of the thing [minus the tone] intrigued him. 



One case that he liked has been repeated many times. You can read it above. But he also said that to get the gist of the subject, readers should read the entirety of Pearl's article. 



Another case, which Ivan might not have seen, appeared in PURSUIT after his death in an article by Curt Sutherly. Sutherly was intellectually "congenial" to both Pterodactyls and Thunderbirds, but informed us in the article that they were two utterly different things: Pterodactyls were physically/biologically real animals of the past, which possibly could have lasted into prehistoric-humans' times but are now extinct, and Thunderbirds were "monsters popping in and out of our reality", semi-real parodies of physical/biological things, that he wished to call "para-creatures". 



 Ivan wouldn't have liked Sutherly's conclusions [though I would] {The above are Ivan's notes} . 

Ivan didn't like non-physical things in general. He was a hands-on and in the lab [or the zoo] kind of guy. He'd MUCH prefer a still existent pterosaur AND an unknown really big raptor of some kind to any other set of choices. For Sutherly, the Ojibwe, and myself, the Thunderbird as a "Real" Manitou is quite the most compelling of the hypothetical sets. 




PIASA BIRD. 

This was in a large box of things sent to SITU from Joan Whritenhour's organization after her passing. A good bit of that stuff wasn't too interesting, but the organization had some "odd" contacts that SITU didn't have. Occasionally a mention of something would occur in a letter or newsclipping that was right down SITUs alley. As you can read, the report is of a "monster bird" in the vicinity of Belvidere, IL which is close enough to be called Piasa Bird Territory. In 1948 there was a flurry of sightings in that area all the way down river towards St. Louis. 



I'm a fan of the idea of the Piasa Bird. It's one of those cryptozoological mysteries which has a long but solid provenance thoroughly attached to Native American lore. There were two other Piasa Bird references in this cryptobox: One was a FATE magazine article that I didn't think much of, and the other was the oldtime article above. This latter was one of Ivan's articles --- he had a little group of photocopies of 19th century newsclips that he was apparently once reading. 

The 1889 clip above is quite enthusiastic for the possibility of a real Piasa. It is based upon knowledge by someone who was a scholar and serious about finding out about the painting on the hillside. It comes at a time just after one of the great collectors of information about American pictographs had published his work. The writer knew of McAdams' book on the Relics of Ancient Races as well as having talked to one of the most important informants of the time, John Russell. The writer also may have talked to the pictograph collector, or maybe it was he himself doing the writing.


Here's our pictograph hero, Garrick Mallery. Preserving the designs of the ancient Native American pictographs was his avocation and his passion. He ended up creation an 8oo page manuscript of his work. Within that work he mentions the Piasa Bird. 

So what's that all about? The FATE magazine article stated that the Piasa Bird had no wings. It intimated that we probably had no idea what the thing was like at all because the glyph was so degraded by the time anybody looked. But I disagree and I think that Garrick Mallery and John Russell disagree. There is a statement by some early viewer that the "Bird" was a crudely drawn monster with no wings. FATE takes that as the definitive reference. But Russell [I believe] states that because of the brown-red color of the wings, you will have a hard time seeing them from a distance and in less than good lighting conditions. Then, as what is for me the coup de grace, Mallery publishes this in his monograph:


Our favorite Mississippi Flying Monster could fly by wing after all. 

Why do I care? Well, it's a small matter in the larger business of living one's life, admittedly, but having a winged Piasa makes several things "fit" and others maybe possible. The "fit" is with the Native American legends, even those told way back to Marquette and Joliet. It "fits" with the idea of the powerful spirits or Manitous that we've talked about earlier. It "fits" with the dislike that the modern Native Americans had for that particular dangerous-in-their-stories manifestation, so much so that they fired guns at the image once firearms arrived. 

And, the Piasa Bird, unlike almost all other old images anywhere, is pretty close to a "proper" British-style Dragon [if it has wings]. As longtime readers of this blog know, we searched [some time ago] rather intensely trying to find a proper dragon anywhere, and, with the possible exception of "Beowulf's Bane" {not Grendel but the other thing, that killed him}, came up almost empty.

With wings our Piasa Bird remains a rare candidate for an ancient romantic concept. 


STURM'S DRAGONS.

Inspired by this small victory, I looked a bit for Dragons. I came across this quizzical fellow, Christopher Christian Sturm { even for a Catholic like myself, I think that Christopher Christian is overdoing it .} He wrote of Dragons in his famous work.



Sadly, Mr. Sturm's flying dragons turn out to be Swamp Gas. The irony of that staggers me. 

I DO notice, however, that "swamp gas" seems a little insubstantial to deal with all the things that Sturm mentions --- it seems that the "sophisticated" English doubters were busily substituting one anomaly for another. But dragonless still am I. 


Ivan had the book above in his SITU library --- I don't have any means of knowing if he read it. It contains things about Vietnamese animals so he may have. It was one of those items which was marginal at best to any interest that SITU would have, and I considered passing it on to someone else. But first I wondered what "Vermilion Bird" meant. 


The Vermilion Bird is a deity or Nature Power --- the Phoenix. In some renditions it looked pretty dragonish to me. 


In Chinese mythology it is one of the four directional powers, one of which is the Azure Dragon. So, my Vermilion Bird seems to be no Dragon either. 


But the Vietnamese had other ideas. In their view, and especially before the Chinese influence thoroughly took over [we're talking mediaeval times here, not recently], these images of powerful significant Spirits sort of melded together. The important Spirit was the Kua, or water dragon, who mated with a goddess/fairy queen to produce the warrior dynasties of early Vietnam. 


The stories say that these dragons lived offshore in places like Ha Long Bay even until recent times. What did they look like? 


Curses! Foiled again!! I'm looking for Dragons and find Sea Serpents instead!!!

Happy Hunting, Folks.

Till next time, Peace.


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