FORTEAN FOL­LOW-UPS

All the lat­est up­dates on news items that have ap­peared in pre­vi­ous is­sues of Fortean Times

Fortean Times - - Strange Days -

HER­MIT WANTED [FT351:10]

Bel­gian stan Vanuytrecht (above), 58, a for­mer ar­tillery of­fi­cer who drives an East ger­man Tra­bant, beat 49 other can­di­dates to se­cure a job as one of Europe’s last her­mits. He is due to move into the 350-year-old her­mitage, built into a cliff above the Alpine vil­lage of saalfelden near salzburg in Aus­tria, which has been oc­cu­pied ev­ery year since its foun­da­tion. Ac­cord­ing to the job de­scrip­tion, the suc­cess­ful can­di­date should have a “con­nec­tion to chris­tian be­lief” and be “at peace with them­selves” at 1,400m (4,600ft) above sea level. The her­mitage has no heat­ing, run­ning wa­ter or elec­tric­ity. There are no neigh­bours and the views are stun­ning. “I thought I had no chance,” said white-bearded Mr Vanuytrecht, who comes from near Brus­sels. “When I read about the saalfelden her­mitage, I thought to my­self: that’s the place for me.” He had long dreamed of be­com­ing a her­mit but the op­por­tu­nity had not arisen. He thought his pre­vi­ous ex­pe­ri­ence work­ing with home­less peo­ple, al­co­holics, drug ad­dicts, pris­on­ers and psy­chi­atric pa­tients would stand him in good stead. His di­vorce and the poverty he ex­pe­ri­enced as a re­sult was also good prepa­ra­tion, he added. The trained sur­vey­ing tech­ni­cian, who is also a catholic dea­con, will not be com­pletely alone. He has been told to ex­pect a num­ber of vis­i­tors who come by to pray, chat and en­joy the view. He said he liked the idea of com­bin­ing the peace in the morn­ings and evenings with the in­ten­sive di­a­logue and pas­toral care of his vis­i­tors dur­ing the day. Ir­ish Times, D.Tele­graph, Guardian, 20 April 2017.

DE­PAR­TURE DE­NIED [FT349:20]

Mar­cella Jean Lee (above), 56, sold a chest freezer to a neigh­bour at a yard sale in golds­boro, north carolina, in May 2016 for $30, with instructions not to open the ap­pli­ance, say­ing it was be­ing used as a time cap­sule and that church mem­bers would come by at some point to col­lect the con­tents. How­ever, the neigh­bour later opened it up to find the body of Ms Lee’s mother Arma roush, 75, who was last seen alive in Au­gust 2015. The day af­ter she sold the freezer, Ms Lee had left town claim­ing she was head­ing to West Vir­ginia to be with her mother, who she said was now liv­ing at a nurs­ing home. she was even­tu­ally tracked down and ar­rested on 15 septem­ber, charged with con­ceal­ing and fail­ure to re­port a death. tele­graph.co.uk, 17 Sept 2016.

DOGGED DE­VO­TION [FT353:8-9]

A three-year-old bitch called Loung fell out of a car or pick-up truck on a main road through eastern Thai­land in 2015. The sukhumvit road, or Thai­land route 3, is a ma­jor high­way be­tween Bangkok and cam­bo­dia and Loung’s own­ers ap­par­ently didn’t no­tice she had fallen out un­til they reached home and had no idea where to look for her. Lo­cal peo­ple in the vil­lage of Ban nong Khon in chan­thaburi prov­ince fed her for months as she waited pa­tiently by the road­side for her owner to re­turn. she be­came some­thing of a mi­nor lo­cal celebrity and many peo­ple took pho­to­graphs of her, sub­se­quently posted on Face­book. Then in septem­ber 2016, af­ter wait­ing al­most a year for her own­ers, the faith­ful mutt was run over and killed as she strolled along the high­way. D.Mail (on­line), 26 Sept 2016.

GI­ANT SLOTHS [FT355:10-11]

Fol­low­ing our re­port of south Amer­i­can tun­nels al­legedly dug by an­cient gi­ant sloths, crews dig­ging a tun­nel for a new Los An­ge­les train line have found the re­mains of one of these crea­tures. The Metropoli­tan Trans­porta­tion Au­thor­ity said a fos­silised hip joint was dis­cov­ered in sandy clay 16ft (5m) be­low a ma­jor thor­ough­fare where the new line is be­ing built. The bone (be­low) is from a har­lan’s ground sloth, a mam­mal that roamed the Los An­ge­les basin 11,000 years ago. They grew up to 10ft (3m) in length and weighed up to 1,500lb (680kg). A bone from an ex­tinct bi­son was also found. (Sydney) D.Tele­graph, 3 June 2017.

WHITHER THE UNICORN?

I have of­ten stum­bled upon a hitherto un­sus­pected re­port of great in­ter­est while look­ing for some­thing en­tirely dif­fer­ent, and here is the lat­est ex­am­ple. While brows­ing through Vol. 9 (April-Oc­to­ber 1821) of a Bri­tish pe­ri­od­i­cal en­ti­tled The Atheneum; or, Spirit of the English Mag­a­zines in search of an ac­count con­cern­ing a gi­ant spi­der (which I did even­tu­ally lo­cate), I chanced upon a short but fas­ci­nat­ing re­port of a re­puted unicorn that had lately been sent to Bri­tain, pos­si­bly while still alive, but

which I’d never read about any­where else be­fore. Here it is: “THE UNICORN. “An­other an­i­mal re­sem­bling the de­scrip­tion of the unicorn, as given by Pliny, is now on its way to this coun­try from Africa; it nearly re­sem­bles the horse in fig­ure, but is much smaller, and the sin­gle horn pro­ject­ing from the fore head is con­sid­er­ably shorter than is given in the real or sup­posed de­lin­eations of that doubt­ful crea­ture.”

What could this very in­trigu­ing crea­ture have been? Bear­ing in mind that it was en­tirely un­known to me, what­ever it was had ev­i­dently failed to ex­cite the me­dia once it did ar­rive in Bri­tain, and yet its de­scrip­tion matches noth­ing fa­mil­iar from Africa. The facts that it was horse­like and bore its sin­gle horn upon its brow would seem, if re­ported cor­rectly, to elim­i­nate a young rhi­noc­eros. For both African species (black rhino and white rhino) have two horns each, but with nei­ther one borne upon the brow, and even as calves they are burly in form, not re­motely equine. Might it there­fore have been a freak spec­i­men of some an­te­lope species, in which a sin­gle cen­tral horn had de­vel­oped in­stead of the nor­mal pair of lat­eral horns? Oc­ca­sional ‘unicorn’ spec­i­mens of goats, sheep, and even deer have been con­firmed, so this would not be im­pos­si­ble.

More­over, cer­tain African an­telopes are su­per­fi­cially horse­like. In­deed, one in par­tic­u­lar, the roan an­te­lope, is suf­fi­ciently so for it to have been given the for­mal bi­no­mial name Hip­po­tra­gus equi­nus (‘horse horse-goat’). Equally am­bigu­ous is the state in which this mys­tery beast was sent to Bri­tain from Africa, be­cause the re­port does not make it clear whether the an­i­mal was dead or alive. If it were still alive, how­ever, where is it likely to have been sent? In later years, the premier re­cip­i­ent of ex­otic live beasts was Lon­don Zoo, but this es­tab­lish­ment did not open un­til 27 April 1828. In 1832, the an­i­mals con­tained in the Tower of Lon­don’s menagerie were trans­ferred to Lon­don Zoo’s col­lec­tion, so per­haps, back in 1821, the unicorn, or what­ever it was, had been sent to the Tower? Also, what­ever hap­pened to its re­mains? Are they lan­guish­ing un­stud­ied or even un­la­belled in a mu­seum some­where? If any­one has any knowl­edge con­cern­ing this tan­ta­lis­ing lost beast, we’d love to hear from you.

The Atheneum; or, Spirit of the English Mag­a­zines, vol. 9 (April-Oct 1821), p486.

ABOVE LEFT: A unicorn, with its sin­gle horn. ABOVE RIGHT: could the mys­te­ri­ous Atheneum crea­ture have been a freak roan an­te­lope with one horn?

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