The hot summer in Europe saw more than the usual number of exotic creatures appearing. A North American snapping turtle 25cm (10in) long and weighing 5kg (11lb) was rescued by Monique Schiller near the harbour of Bregenz on the Austrian side of Lake Constance. She found the animal in the grass close to a cycle path. ( Vorarlberger
Nachrichten, 11 July 2017). On 11 July, an iguana was spotted on a forest path at Agatharied in Bavaria and rescued by a team of fire-fighters. It was identified as an Australian Pogona or bearded dragon and brought to an animal shelter. ( Merkur, Munich, 11 July 2017).
Now for snakes: A leopardspotted snake, more than 2m (6.5ft) in length, tried to enter a car at Elche in Valencia, Spain, and was removed and returned “to its natural habitat” by police officers. ( ABC, Madrid, 13 June 2017). A boa constrictor, this time 1.5m (5ft) in length, was found in a forest at Arogno, Canton Ticino, Switzerland. The animal was motionless and appeared dead, but came back to life in an animal shelter. ( Provincia di Como, 14 June 2017). In Germany, another 2m (6.5ft) female boa constrictor was discovered close to a playground at Witten an der Ruhr on 30 June. The snake was taken by firefighters to the local firestation, where she slept in a large bin before being handed over to a snake expert. ( Westfälischer
Anzeiger, 2 July 2017). In the morning of 20 July 2017, workers cleaning a house in Düsseldorf’s Lichtenbroich area opened a wooden box in the garden when a snake tried to escape. They called the firefighters, who caught a 1m (3ft) royal python. The animal was taken to the zoo at Brüggen. (RP Online, 20 July
2017). Then, firefighters from Melk, Lower Austria, caught a “long snake” on the grounds of the local football club in midJuly. The animal was returned to the floodplain forest of the Danube. ( Niederösterreichische
Nachrichten, 22 July 2017). Police officers removed a long, black, red, and yellow-striped “domestic serpent” over 1m long from a house in Elda, Alicante, Spain. It had crept in through an open window. ( ABC, Madrid, 22 July 2017).
In July, residents of the city of Middelburg in the Netherlands were also hunting for a large snake. A picture was taken of the 2m-long, green-yellow creature, but the photo was too fuzzy to identify what kind of snake it was and whether or not it was poisonous. A search by local police was unsuccessful. ( Hart van Nederland, 28 July 2017). About a month before, alerted by a terrible smell, a hiker discovered a dead Indian python in a ditch near a railroad track in the Dutch city of Oosterbeek. The cadaver was 4.7m (15ft) long. According to an employee of the animal rescue service, the snake was “big enough to strangle a person”. Police said they had no idea where the snake had come from. ( De Gelderlander, 23 June 2017).
Also in July, Egyptian vultures ( Neophron percnopterus) made a comeback in Italy, where they were believed to be extinct. They were spotted and photographed or filmed on several occasions in Caserta. ( Il Quaderno, 5 July 2017; Corriere del Mezzogiorno, 6 July 2017).
In October 2016, a couple from the small town of Datteln in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, dressed up as clowns, and ran around the streets causing mayhem with the local traffic as cars swerved to avoid them. The pair were arrested and put on trial for dangerous disruption of traffic in Recklinghausen in June 2017. The 35-year-old woman was sentenced to six months probation, her 29-year-old partner given a 1,000 Euro fine. It was the first “evil clown” trial in Germany. ( Die
Rheinpfalz, 10 June 2017). On 7 April 2017, an eightyear-old girl stopped people in the streets of Kaiserslautern, Germany, telling them her friend had been grabbed and kidnapped by an unidentified older man. She had seen the man dragging her friend into a car, which then drove off. Police searched the area for the car; however, after further enquiries, they found the allegedly missing friend at home with her parents. After an “intense examination” the girl admitted she had invented the crime. ( Rheinpfalz am
Sonntag, 9 April 2017).
The mysterious whistling sound that annoyed residents of St Augustin-Menden, near Bonn, Germany, early in June was soon identified by police
as coming from a machine that drained moisture from a flat. ( Radio Rhein-Sieg, 8& 9 June 2017). However, other noises have plagued towns and cities in the region for years. For example, a humming and whistling low frequency noise “tormented” 70-year-old Friedrich Kautz in the Cologne quarter of Bickendorf. It was just bearable in the daytime, but got worse at night. He said he felt vibrations and heard sounds like a car motor running, and blamed a transformer in a neighbouring room. He was not alone, though: mysterious sounds were heard in the southern centre (“a monotonous droning noise”) and in Cologne-Dellbrück (“high pitched, easily audible whistling tone”) but their source remained unidentified. ( Kölner Stadt
Anzeiger, 2 August 2016). The prime suspect was a new tram line – number 17 – which runs along all the roads where unidentified sounds had been reported by 19 sufferers. Residents had established a map showing locations, and the Cologne department for the environment promised to check. ( Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger, 25 Feb + 2 Mar 2016). The hum, though, had been reported previously in 2014 and 2005. ( ka-news.de, 1 Apr 2014; Kölnische Rundschau, 1 Apr 2005).
For years, a mysterious humming noise has kept residents of the city of Zutphen in the Netherlands awake at night. Its cause is still a mystery, despite hundreds of reports, the foundation of a pressure group in 2014 (it disbanded last July) and a number of official investigations. The sound, especially audible at night, is described as a “low frequency, machinelike sound, as if coming from many ventilators all working at the same time”. The municipality took the complaints very seriously and two investigations were conducted, a spokesperson stated. ( De Telegraaf, 5 July 2017).
A terrible stench was reported in a part of Tongelre, a neighbourhood in the city of Eindhoven, the Netherlands, and kept emergency services busy. Residents complained about a ‘chemical smell’. The source was traced to a bucket in a garden, which contained a dead skunk. The man in whose garden the dead animal was found claimed that the skunk attacked him repeatedly and sprayed him. He had managed to fend the creature off and kill it. Firemen had to be called in to combat the stench, which was so severe that police and firemen developed headaches and burning eyes. They later returned in special suits to spray the garden with chlorine. Where the skunk came from remains a mystery. ( Algemeen Dagblad, 7 July 2017).
On 3 July, a passer-by called police to report a strange man dancing around a tree and singing in Steinen, BadenWürttemberg, Germany. Officers arrived and found the man was not mad, but merely performing his martial arts and relaxation techniques. He usually practised in a forest, he explained, but was waiting for a doctor’s appointment and decided to put the time to good use. ( Neue Osnabrücker
Zeitung, 4 July 2017). Less harmless was the man who posed as police officer in Thurow near Neustrelitz. He rang the doorbell, presented an ID card, and began questioning a woman in her house. She thought the ID card looked suspicious and later reported this to the police, who found it couldn’t have been one of theirs. The motive of the false policeman was not clear at the time of reporting. ( Nordkurier, Neubrandenburg, 9 July 2017).
HITLER IN HOLLAND
A grocery chain in the Netherlands has taken a colouring book for children off its shelves after customers alerted the store that it contained a picture depicting Adolf Hitler, including a swastika. A spokesperson for the company stated that the book had been in stores for only half a day and that perhaps a few dozen had been sold. It had taken the book off the shelves as it deemed the picture of Hitler “inappropriate”. The Belgian publisher of the book said it was a “regrettable mistake”, and explained that the book had been produced in India. “I suspect the person who created the colouring pictures took a book about famous persons and chose a few, amongst whom unfortunately was Adolf Hitler. Maybe he didn’t know who he was.” ( De Telegraaf, Het Parool, NRC Handelsblad, 5 Apr 2017).
In Sweden, hundreds of children of refugees have fallen into a comatose state after hearing that their families will be expelled from the country. The syndrome, said to exist only in Sweden, has been named ‘Uppgivenhetssyndrom’ or resignation syndrome. A doctor said that the children have no illness or neurological disorder, but seem to have lost the will to live. The Swedes also refer to these children as ‘de apatiska’, the apathetic. Almost all patients are aged between eight and 15 years and are from the former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia. Often the children are from Roma or Uyghur families. ( 7S7, Express.
live, 30 Mar 2017).
33 years after it had been posted in France, a postcard was finally delivered to the address of René and Miranda Damhuis in the town of Glanerburg, the Netherlands. The postcard was addressed to the mother of René Damhuis, who had passed away in 2006. In the meantime, Damhuis had moved from that address, but the mailman knew where to track him down since Damhuis still lives in the small town. His brother Eduard, who was taking a holiday near Lake Annecy in France, had sent the postcard in 1984. A spokesperson for the Dutch postal services had no idea why it took so long for the postcard to arrive. “On average, it occurs once a year that a letter or postcard spends a number of years in the system, but 33 years is indeed a very long time.” ( De
Telegraaf, 19 July 2017).
ABOVE: The boa constrictor discovered near a playground in Witten an der Ruhr found a temporary home at the fire station.
ABOVE: Kira Vervloed with the colouring book she bought at a Dutch store.