"And though my spirit soared out
To trot the boggy moor
Morning found me in the yard
Scratching at the door..."
--DOGS IN THE NIGHT by B. Calvin
You turn on the tube one night (er...actually, if you're like me, you probably never turn it off). You hear the voiceover say, "And now back to our special premiere presentation of Shelley Duvall's BARD TO TEARS." You recall that this is Shelley's latest series, which features famous actors in wittily re-written versions of Shakespeare. Tonight, Peter Falk stars in HAMLET.
After zoning out for awhile, you realize that he is doing the "alas, Poor Yorick" scene. Something looks funny, though. The skull, which should be of his late, lamented pal, has two big fangs. It doesn't look human at all. You focus on the dialogue:
"Uh, geez, I don't know quite how to say this, but I think you've got something up your nose, there. My wife, she hates it when I get those. Isn't that some kind of egg? Looks like a cockroach egg to me. Well, I guess I'll be going."
Rusty as you are on Shakespeare, you just can't recall anything about cockroach eggs. Just before he leaves, Peter Falk, dressed appealingly in cod-piece and rumpled raincoat, says,
"Just one more thing. That, uh, egg: it's from a tropical cockroach, isn't it? Yeah, that's what I thought. So you couldn't be the murderer."
Okay, what does all this mean? Well, something's been killing livestock in an area of England called Bodmin Moor. People have been seeing big cats there (no, not like your overweight tabby: like panthers and such). So there was quite a bit of excitement when a skull was found in a river. Unfortunately, the skull did contain a tropical cockroach egg case, indicating that it had not been living in England (or at least that's one conclusion).
This led my local paper (the Contra Costa Times, 8/8/95) to AP story under the headline, "Big cats don't roam moor." Boy, too bad the rest of us can't use =that= reasoning, huh? All it takes is one hoax to prove that something isn't happening? "But, boss, remember that time you thought I was late and really somebody had set the clock ahead? So I =can't= be late: it's been proved to be impossible!" "But, teacher, remember the time Cody hid my homework, so you thought I didn't turn it in, but I really did? That =proves= I turned it in this time." Nah, wouldn't work, and it would be dishonest anyway.
Big cats will continue to be seen on Bodmin Moor, as well as other places around the U.K. and the world. There are lots of places where they are seen regularly, places where they don't belong. Near me, on Mount Diablo in California, there is a legendary Black Mountain Lion of Devil's Hole. In fact, last year the Eastern Puma Research Center listed 39 reports of black panthers being seen...in the East, where no panthers "officially" exist at all.
We know black "panthers" exist, so what would be so strange about people seeing them? Well, black panthers are actually leopards, which have a limited distribution (which does not include England or the U.S.). While some black panthers may be kept as pets, the sightings far out number what one could expect from uncaptured escapees. In the U.S. we do have mountain lions, so couldn't people be seeing black ones of those? The condition (melanism) which fairly commonly causes leopards to be black is =extremely= rare in mountain lions. I'm not sure that one case is even accepted by the scientific community.
And black panthers aren't all that are seen: are you aware that =maned= lions are seen in the U.S.? Again, there may be an occasional escapee, but, generally the owners get those back in short time, and amid considerable publicity. Certainly, big cats are kept illegally, which may account for an occasional sighting. But as Janet & Colin Bord pointed out in their landmark book, ALIEN ANIMALS, these big cats (called ABCs in the weird stuff trade: short for Alien Big Cats) are different from the ones we know in the zoos. More aggressive and prone to attack automobiles, for one thing. Imagine reporting =that= to your insurance agency!
This is Bufo saying, "If =everything= seemed normal, that =would= be weird!"