Tazelwurm – Part Ib

Posted by: Loren Coleman on July 5th, 2007


During the next few days, I will be passing along the complete contributions of Austrian cryptozoologist Luis Schönherr on the cryptid Tatzelwurm. The beginnings of this, through incomplete portions first published in Pursuit, will now be fully shared by the author with the cryptozoology community. My sincere thanks to the efforts of French cryptozoologist Michel Raynal, for bringing this material to light. Please refer to sources and references in the final installment, as well as full credit to Luis Schönherr’s son, Martin Schönherr.

T h e S k i n
Skin texture (or structure of body) and hair etc. could be indications whether the animal observed could have been a vertebrate or an invertebrate, a mammal or a reptile. But even this characteristic is sometimes in conflict with other data as in case (1811.05. Im Boden), where the witness did observe hair, but also a snake-like head and a forked tongue.
A g g r e s s i v e n e s s
The reported aggressiveness of the animal in a substantial number of cases must be considered strange. The snakes and lizards of the Alps are usually rather fugitive beings. Snakes are deaf and their visual faculty is not good. It is hardly possible that such an animal attacks humans by itself or pursues (!) them as it has been alleged in some cases. The only possible animal in the Alps fitting this behavorial description could (perhaps) be the weasel 26).
H o w D o e s t h e T a t z e l w u r m M o v e ?
A Broad Jumper.
The alleged extraordinary width of the animal’s jumps is considered impossible by critics (Ste/456/460/462). While jumps of two or three meters are still conceivable, especially if some allowance is made for errors in the estimates, widths of eight (1921.s. Hochfilzenalm) or fifteen meters (1914.s. Marlinger Berg) are hard to digest. But just in the latter case an error in the estimate is not likely because the animal had disappeared behind a reference point of known distance. As the animal apparently jumped downwards a slope, this could perhaps explain something.
It is one of the traditions that the Tatzelwurm can jump only straight on. Therefore you must run zig-zag in order to escape. According to one source Johann Fuchs (1779.) in his confusion forgot this rule and was overtaken by the thing ‘im Vorhause des Fuchslehens’, i.e. in the entrance to or in the hallway of his property (Eck/178). Another tradition maintains, that on a slope the Tatzelwurm can only jump straight upwards or downwards. So, if you run at right angles to the grade, the worm is ‘thrown’, i.e. it tends to roll down the incline (Dob/150, Z™V1/263, Flu1/120, Gra/366). This notion has been ridiculed (Ste/458), but actually it is the behavior to be expected from an animal moving by jerks, specifically if it should have two fore legs only, using the tail in producing the elastic force for the jumps.
Can it Fly?
In the cases (1834.x.), (1865.s.) and (1899.s.) the animal was allegedly seen flying, a description that could perhaps be just another (exaggerated) expression for the animal’s ability to make wide jumps. Some tree snakes are able to flatten their body so that they can perform a sort of glide.
Vertical Undulations.
In a book on sea-serpents the author points out, that all fish, amphibeans and reptiles move by horizontal undulations, while mammals, birds, caterpillars and millipedes undulate vertically. An exception from this rule are the burrowing amphisbaenas which are able to undulate in all directions (Heu/96-100). According to Bre2/227 amphisbaenas move slowly straight on while slight vertical undulations go through the body. It is interesting that in case (1845.09. Pillersee) the snake was reported to have moved by ‘perpendicular undulations’.
P h y s i c a l E v i d e n c e
Tracks and Droppings
One of the strongest arguments against the physical existence of the Tatzelwurm, is the scarcity of alleged tracks and traces in the vegetation, and if one prefers to consider the alleged Tatzelwurm connection an explanatory myth, very little if anything at all, can be objected. If however the Tatzelwurm is a hibernating animal the chances of detecting a track otherwise readily visible on snow-covered ground, are, of course, greatly reduced. The same would be true if the animal lives most of the time underground in crevices etc. or if its way of living is burrowing. There is only one reference to alleged droppings of the Tatzelwurm. An old hunter in the Tyrol claimed they look like a forest snail (Opp/445). Whether the name ‘Schneckender Wurm’ (see table of synonyms) has something to do with this, I could not find out. 27)
Skeletons and carcasses
Contrary to traces on the ground, in a larger number of the reports, carcasses or skeletons are either explicitly mentioned or their existence might be inferred from the statement that a Tatzelwurm has been killed. Unfortunately such evidence has seldom been preserved for scientific examination. In one case identification of the skeleton is questionable (1924.x. Weisspriacher Lantschfeld), in another one (1827-8. Solothurn) nothing more was heard of the carcass sent to Heidelberg University. Often the animal was left where it was killed or it was burrowed. Although scientists never fail to suspect fraud in such cases (Ste/466), I think this behavior can be explained by ignorance regarding the scientific value or by the disgust so many people feel at the sight of dead animals, specifically reptiles.
Green ‘Blood’?
There are two cases of alleged Tatzelwurms shot (1894.b.ÊEnnstal)Ê or slain (1912.x. Mareit) where a green fluid (blood?) is said to have come out from the animal’s body. If the reports are authentic and the fluid was indeed blood this could point towards a metabolism and biochemistry completely different from any other mammal or reptile.
What Does the Tatzelwurm Feed on?
It has been argued that if the Tatzelwurm was real, the need for food would more often have brought it in contact with man. This is only correct under the assumption that it feeds on animals or plants of economic interest to man. But if it lived on reptiles, insects etc. and/or it was really a species dying out existing only in small isolated populations, it won’t often be noticed in this respect 28). Nevertheless, in some cases it was claimed that sheep, cattle and humans have been wounded or killed by Tatzelwurms, or that their disappearance was ascribed to it. But even if we take such reports as granted, who can know whether hunger was the motive?

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

4 Responses to “Tazelwurm – Part Ib”

  1. Ceroill responds:

    Thanks again for this continuing information. Very interesting.

  2. springheeledjack responds:

    What little I knew of the tatzelwurm led me to believe it lived in caves in the mountain areas…and as I said in the first installment, there never seemed to be too much info on it, as if it were just some obscure local icon kind of like the bodag in the Midwest (upper I believe).

    As always, it was just one of those funky stories that had enough detail about it to make you curious, but no where near enough info to give you any real feel for it other than a local tall tale or an “old wive’s tale” for kids. Still, interesting though.

    Loren do you know how many documented sightings or accounts there were in all and over what time frame?

  3. Loren Coleman responds:

    SHJ, you need not worry. Please be patient. A listing of the history of sightings will be part of this series, which will continue on a daily basis through the weekend.

  4. Rillo777 responds:

    Would the Sidewinder Rattlesnake also be considered an exception to the rule?

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