GHOST­WATCH

Fortean Times - - Con­tents - Un­fazed by Brexit, UL­RICH MA­GIN and THEO PAI­J­MANS round up the weird­est news from across Europe...

OUT-OF-PLACE AN­I­MALS

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).

WEIRD CRIME

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).

MYS­TERY SOUNDS

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).

…AND SMELLS

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).

STRANGE BE­HAV­IOUR

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).

MYS­TERY CON­DI­TION

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).

DE­LAYED MAIL

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.

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