Posted by: Craig Woolheater on November 25th, 2013
Interview with Dr. Karl P.N. Shuker by Jeffery Pritchett.
Jeffery Pritchett is the host of The Church Of Mabus Show bringing you high strange stories from professionals in the carousel of fields surrounding the paranormal.
1. What was your inspiration and motivation behind assembling your book “Mirabilis A Carnival of Cryptozoology and Unnatural History”?
Over the past few years, I had written many magazine articles and had also blogged on my ShukerNature blog about a wide range of particularly unusual or little-known mystery and controversial animals, and had subsequently obtained further information concerning many of these. So I decided to update a selection of the most interesting and entertaining of these articles as chapters for an entire book, and thus Mirabilis was born.
2. I really dig the Carnival feeling by the way. Would you care to go into some of your background with Cryptozoology for our reader’s sakes?
Thanks. I was inspired by Charles G. Finney’s classic fantasy novel The Circus of Dr Lao, and also Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes, for the carnival approach and title for Mirabilis. And the wonderful front cover artwork continuing this same theme was created by renowned artist Anthony Wallis. I have been interested in cryptozoology ever since my late mother – Mary Shuker (to whom I have dedicated Mirabilis; sadly, she passed away just a few weeks before it was published) – bought me Bernard Heuvelmans’s seminal book On the Track of Unknown Animals when I was aged around 13-14 (during the early 1970s). And after obtaining my PhD in zoology and comparative physiology at university, I became a full-time writer and freelance media consultant, specialising in cryptozoology and animal mythology. Since 1989, I have had 19 books and hundreds of articles published, the vast majority on cryptozoology or other animal anomalies and also animal mythology. Subjects covered by my books include mystery cats of the world, new and rediscovered animals from 1900 to the present day, alleged living dinosaurs and other supposed prehistoric survivors, dragons, and several wide-ranging cryptozoological compendia.
3. What can you tell us about the Tusked Megalopedus and the Sukotyro?
A Facebook colleague asked me if I’d ever heard of a creature called the tusked megalopedus. I hadn’t, so I did some research, and finally discovered that it wasn’t real, but merely a mystery beast invented for a novel. However, while researching this, I learnt of another mysterious creature called the sukotyro, which did apparently exist at one time. Indeed, it had originally appeared in all of the major zoological works, but by the 1800s doubt was being cast upon its reality, after which it vanished from the literature. Yet it may indeed have been real, and could well have simply died out before it had ever been formally categorised by science. Native to the Indonesian island of Java, it supposedly resembled a combination of elephant and giant pig, with a boar-like snout, but elephant-like tusks, though judging from the principal illustration of it that still exists, these tusks bizarrely emerged from just below its eyes rather than from its mouth as in typical tusked mammals. It is possible that if the sukotyro were real, it was related to a strange-tusked wild pig of Indonesia called the babirusa, or may even have been a surviving type of prehistoric elephant known as a stegodont, but with no physical specimens to examine, it is unlikely that we shall ever know for sure.
4. Would you share some information with us about Mega tortoises and Titanic tortoises?
My chapter on these animals is the most comprehensive coverage of such beasts ever published, and is divided into three sections – gigantic sea turtles, huge land tortoises, and enormous freshwater turtles. Some of the sea specimens are said to have been the size of whales, and therefore if judged accurately by their eyewitnesses are far bigger than anything known to exist today. The land tortoises include some controversial examples of Galapagos giant tortoise that are thought to have died out long ago but which may still exist today. Also included is a detailed review of some anomalous statues of giant land tortoises in Mongolia that most closely resemble prehistoric forms that supposedly became extinct thousands of years ago there. And the freshwater forms include Tibet’s bizarre unidentified hippoturtleox, which resembles a huge aquatic turtle but bears a pair of horns on its head, plus the ndendecki, a gigantic softshelled turtle said to inhabit the Congo’s swamplands.
5. Okay is there really such a thing as a horned hare?
Yes, and no. There are many stuffed specimens of European horned hare, but just like America’s jackalopes these are hoaxes, created by skilfully adding the sharp tines of deer antlers or the prongs of antelopes to taxiderm rabbits. However, in a few cases the creatures are real, because they are suffering from a bizarre virus that causes them to grow horny structures on their head and face.
6. Could you share some intriguing information about Sea serpents with us?
I’ve covered quite a range of sea serpents in various chapters. In one chapter, I document the true identity of the Masbate sea serpent, washed ashore several years ago in the Philippines, but which was eventually identified conclusively as a dead basking shark, the first ever recorded from the Philippines. I also chronicle several cases of supposed but never confirmed marine crocodiles, which apparently resemble normal crocodiles but have flippers instead of limbs, and are of immense size. In addition, I reveal how certain remarkable fossil specimens were once thought to be the bones of dead sea serpents, before their true identity was uncovered. Also included is the Madagascan tompondrano or Lord of the Sea, which is an enormous scaly sea serpent that, if real, may conceivably be a colossal species of shrimp-like crustacean, its great size effectively buoyed by its watery medium.
7. This is a wild card question if you will. What particular creature from the book would you like to tell us about?
There is an entire chapter devoted to gigantic spiders, covering them more extensively than any other publication. These have always fascinated me, such as the puppy-sized horror allegedly encountered at close range by a horrified Australian soldier in Papua New Guinea during World War 2. A similar creature was independently seen here during the same period of time by an American soldier too. Even more terrifying is the j’ba fofi, a Congolese monster spider so huge that it has been mistakenly taken by eyewitnesses for an old man or large monkey crossing the road. Child-abducting, horse-killing giant spiders have been reported from Venezuela and Colombia in South America. Of course, basic arachnid biology should preclude spiders from ever attaining such immense sizes – unless they had evolved novel respiratory mechanisms to overcome such limitations.
8. Alright what do you mean by the chapter, “You know when you’ve been Trunkoed”?
There is a soft drink in Britain called Tango, which used in one very popular advertising campaign the slogan “You know when you’ve been Tangoed”, so that’s where I got the idea for this chapter’s title from! Trunko is a name that I coined for a longstanding mystery sea creature allegedly killed by whales and then washed ashore in South Africa during the early 1920s but never formally identified. It was said to resembled a huge elephant-trunked creature with no discernable head or limbs but covered in long white fur like a polar bear. No samples were taken from its beached carcase, which was later carried back out to sea and was never seen again. No photographs were taken of it either – or so everyone thought until a few years ago, when I and a fellow cryptozoologist, Markus Hemmler, jointly uncovered some photos of Trunko’s beached carcase that had been published in the 1920s in a magazine but totally forgotten about afterwards for over 80 years until we found them. From the appearance of Trunko in them, I was able to conclude with certainty that it was actually a globster, i.e. the remains of a sperm whale from which virtually all of the skeleton had gone, leaving behind little more than an enormous sac of collagen, covered in exposed connective tissue, which explains its snow-white hair. So it had not been some exotic, undiscovered form of marine elephant after all.
9. Are you working on any future books or projects you can share with us? Also any links you’d like to share? Thank you for this opportunity to interview you.
Yes, my 20th book is due out later this year too, and is an extensive documentation of dragons in zoology, cryptozoology, and culture, covering every conceivable aspect of dragons in our past and present lives.
My award-winning ShukerNature blog has new articles added to it almost daily, with well over 300 presently uploaded.
See also my official website for detailed accounts of all of my books.
Co-founder of Cryptomundo in 2005. I have appeared in or contributed to the following TV programs, documentaries and films: OLN's Mysterious Encounters: "Caddo Critter", Southern Fried Bigfoot, Travel Channel's Weird Travels: "Bigfoot", History Channel's MonsterQuest: "Swamp Stalker", The Wild Man of the Navidad Destination America's Monsters and Mysteries in America: Texas Terror - Lake Worth Monster.