Tazelwurm – Part Ic

Posted by: Loren Coleman on July 6th, 2007

Tazelwurm

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.

S O M E R E L A T E D A S P E C T S
H o a x e s
I have found some April-fool hoaxes in various newspapers. They have, however, always been cleared up by the respective editors in one of the following issues. Around 1939 a Munich newspaper carried a story about an alleged Tatzelwurm workers had catched in one of the urban sewage canals. It was only a short-lived sensation because the thing was identified as a hellbender (Menopoma) that had escaped from the Hellabrunn zoological gardens two years previously 29). In 1930 an alleged Tatzelwurm was photographed near lake Übersee (Bavaria) and in Upper Austria two men presented the hide of a big lizard they had allegedly slain. Both cases turned out to be hoaxes (Meu3/64-65). In 1944 two young people submitted a stuffed specimen of what they claimed to be a Tatzelwurm to Austrian experts. It was an Australian Trachysaurus rugosus Gray (Klein/64).
F e e d b a c k f r o m t h e T r a d i t i o n
The influence of tradition and hearsay on perception and reporting by, or on the behavior of witnesses is obvious in some cases. Examples are case (1894.b. Ennstal) and (1895.b. Donnersbachwald). In case (1933.x. Bernhartstal) the witness talked to the animal using a sort of charm 30). The alleged ability of the animal to fly could also belong into this category as for instance, the South Tyrolean tradition of the ‘Fliegete Viper’ (flying viper), (Fin1).
S y n c h r o n i c i t i e s
In some cases of alleged physical evidence the Tatzelwurm connection might have been only an imaginary one. In case (1919. Eichelekar) a number of horses was found dead at the bottom of a wall of rocks. The occurrence was half forgotten, when one day lumberjacks from the region reported a giant snake that had threatened them. Now the dead horses were remembered and people believed they had been frightened by the snake and paniced. A case of 12 horses that had fallen to their death was reported in July 1988 from the Arz-valley, 12 kilometers south of Innsbruck 31). It was assumed they had stampeded because of a flash of lightning in their vicinity. Tatzelwurms are no longer fashionable today.
It seems that the appearance of the Tatzelwurm was sometimes also regarded as an omen. At Inzing in the past century the traces of a Tatzelwurm were allegedly seen in the years of great floods 32). They were two feet wide and looked as if a log had been dragged through the grass, while the imprints of the paws were visible on both sides (1804., 1856.). On August 9th, 1921 a flood disaster came upon the town of Klausen, 40 kilometers south of the Brenner-pass. Later there was a rumour that the day before an ‘arm-thick, white worm’ had been seen in the cellar of the parsonage (1921.08.08.).
M i l k i n g o f C o w s b y S n a k e s ?
This age old belief, already mentioned by Plini (23-79) in his Naturalis historia, is sometimes also ascribed to the Tatzelwurm. Quite naturally such things are used to ridicule the whole subject. Indeed, a more prosaic explanation would be, that such tales were an excuse for milk thefts (Dob/146). Meusburger is undecided but he relates some cases of snakes sucking milk from cows (Meu4/393-396). In a Brazilian case a farmer is said to have shot a snake directly from the udder (Hub/371). The same belief was held in the Ozark country, Missouri, where a certain serpent was even called ‘milk snake’ (Ran/257). In Yugoslavia the popular name for the Coluber quatorlineatus was ‘Kravorsaz’ which means ‘cow milker’ (Meu4/394). And in South Tyrol as well as in the Ozarks it has been hinted that cows apparently prefer snakes to being milked by man (Meu4/395, Ran/257).
According to Bre1/335-336 it can be ‘entirely ruled out’ that snakes are able to suck milk from a cow’s udder. One might legitimately ask whether this should really be so absolutely impossible when snakes can fold back their poison fangs, expanding the mouth to such an extent that they swallow prey considerably thicker than the own body?
P a r a n o r m a l P h e n o m e n a ?
In case of the so called Loch Ness monster for example the difficulties in accounting for the continuous existence, the feeding and the propagation of a relatively large animal in an isolated lake, have led to various extraordinary assumptions. One of them is the idea that the animal is some sort of transient reality, a temporary existence originating in some parallel world, other dimension etc. if it is not a hallucination nourished by the age old traditions in the region. As far as the Tatzelwurm is concerned there is at least one observation (1909.) pointing in this direction. A women saw a nude man’s tigh dangling from a walnut tree. When the watchdog barked up to the thing, the phenomenon disappeared ‘as if dried up by the sun’. Four years erlier a farmer had seen the same apparition on a chestnut tree (1905.s.) 33). The observers claimed that the ‘Haselwurm’ may sometimes assume this form.
A T a t z e l w u r m E x p l a i n e d
In May 1944 the headmaster of an elementary school sent experts the carcass of a peculiar animal, asking for its identification. He suggested it could be either the long sought Tatzelwurm or a snake with the legs of a half digested animal projecting from its cloaca. On examination it turned out to be a male specimen of the black viper (Vipera berus L. var prester) with the two genitals 34) turned inside out and looking very much like paws (Klei/63). Case (1969.08.) could be an observation of this sort if there were not the statements that the animal was ‘baby-thick’. On the other hand the blowing up of the neck looks very much like one of the typical warning reactions of snakes.
Mimicking the Head ?
Perhaps because the genitals at the rear could not account for the observation of fore legs, earlier authors have touched this matter only very cursory (Meu1/177, Flu1/120). Now I have found an interesting phenomenal detail, that could perhaps explain why people may confuse the tail of a snake with its head and consequently take the genitals at the rear as fore paws. Mertens 35) reports that some snakes imitate typical head movements with their tail in order to distract the attention of an enemy from their front partition (Mer/30-31 and plate 7). Together with the turned out genitals a surprised observer could then take the thing for a reptile with fore legs. Yet there are two drawbacks for this explanation. First, it is not known whether both phenomena may occur simultaneously and second, among the snakes mentioned there is none indigenous to the Alps 36).
T H E H I S T O R Y O F T H E D I S C U S S I O N
The origins of the Tatzelwurm tradition in the Austrian, the Swiss and the Bavarian Alps are unknown. Dalla Torre implies that it is a remnant of older dragon lore (Dal/213). It seems that the scientific discussion about the the Tatzelwurm as a possible animal species started at the begin of the 19. century, i.e. approximately at the time when the touristic exploitation of the Alps began.
Some Psychological Aspects
Could this mean that Tatzelwurm reports were only generated by an interaction between the native inhabitants and the tourists flowing into the country? Then such reports would have to be regarded as a sociopsychological phenomenon and not so much as a zoological problem. It is, however, very unlikely that this explanation could account for more than a negligible number of the reports. It seems that people were rather reluctant to narrate such things to strangers 37). Yet the rejection of Tatzelwurm reports is often based on the premise that the reporters cannot be trusted. Unfortunately none of the critics has enlisted the services of trained psychologists in order to evaluate the reliability of the witnesses 38). Instead they have, by sweeping statements concerning the rural population (Dal/208-210, Ste/453-455), rejected the reports of persons whom they had, with one exception (1929.05.l. Igls), not even interviewed.
Independent Development of Synonyms for the Tatzelwurm
While minor variations among the many synonyms for the Tatzelwurm are certainly the result of mere spelling errors, some of them have obviously developed in situ 39) in different regions of the Alps. In Switzerland for example the thing was always called ‘Stollwurm’ or ‘Stollenwurm’ while the term ‘Tatzelwurm’ was unknown there (Dob/142’3). This is in itself a strong indication that the inhabitants of different valleys have independently from each other seen something they considered extraordinary.
T h e F i r s t N e w s
H ü b n e r 1 7 9 6
The earliest reference I have looked up dates back to 1796 and it reads as follows: ‘… The green lizard (Lacerta agil.L. called ‘Hadachsel’ in the mountains), a sort of Lacerta seps L., which is, however, not yet described exactly, and in the mountains known and feared under the name of the Birgstutzen’. Footnote: ‘The inhabitants of the Alps tell all kinds of stories about these animals, being presumably to a large part products of horror. The Birgstutzen have 4 short legs, and they have allegedly nearly the thickness of an arm and the length of an ell, if fear does not enlarge any measure. Considered to be very poisonous, they are a cross between lizard and snake, as far as can be inferred from the much differing descriptions’ (Hüb/868-869).
S c h u l t e s J. A. 1 8 0 9
In the description of his six travels through Upper Austria Schultes 40) writes that in the region of the Gmündener See (today this lake is called ‘Traunsee’) there are lizards that are ‘little alligators’. In a footnote he relates his talk with the surgeon Wattmann who is the informant in case (1781.s.), where a ‘Lindwurm’ was shot by a farmer. On the basis of Wattmann’s description he considered the five foot animal a lizard (Sch.A./108-109).
S t u d e r 1 8 1 4
Studer relates the following about the Stollenwurm by people in the upland of the Canton Berne in the region from Unterseen to the Grimselpass and towards Gadmen (Switzerland): ‘….there is the nearly unanimous legend and the almost general belief, that after a hot weather, or when a change in weather is imminent, a sort of snakes with very short feet show themselves, which the inhabitants, who call a snake WÊuÊrÊm and a short, thick foot a SÊtÊoÊlÊlÊeÊn, therefore also call SÊtÊoÊl l e n w ? r m e r ‘. The animal is described as a sort of short, thick snake, with two, sometimes four or six feet. Some reported even quite a lot of teats or warts dangling down from the bellow and used for locomotion (Stu/127-129). Studer quotes Scheuchzer 41) saying in his natural history of 1746, vol.2, p. 237 that some tales of dragons might relate to real animals, whether ‘they constitute a particular species or, as some claim, freaks of snakes a.s.o.’.
Studer himself, who criticizes Scheuchzer for his ‘useless expenditure of scholarship’ in collecting ‘excessive fables’ of dragons and Lindwurms, nevertheless admits that a thing like the Stollenwurm might actually exist in the Alps. He points out that the Mexican Bipes canaliculatus, ‘seems to have – size excepted, because it is not longer than 8.5 inches – an unmistakable resemblance to our Stollenwurms, as they are described’ (Stu/134-136).
V i e r t h a l e r 1 8 1 6
A similar reference like that by Hübner suggesting an extraordinary sort of snakes can be found in a book of travels by Vierthaler 42). In 1816 he wrote about the Tennengebirge (Tennen mountain range) between the Lammer and the Salzach rivers, Austria, that there lives ‘a sort of vipers, called Bergstutzen by the natives of the Alps and much feared. Allegedly they have a length of 2 1/3 feet and the thickness of a strong man’s arm. Their velocity as well as the horror of them, have put them out of examination by scientists’ (Vie/91).
W y s s 1 8 1 7
A year later, Wyss 43) reported: ‘While dragons in present day Switzerland are considered extinct or exterminated, the upland is still full of legends and testimonies about a snake-like monster, which is called by the local name of the S t o l l e n w u r m , seen here and there nearly every year, according to the unsuspicious testimony of many country folk. The being is described as a sort of snake, having very short little feet; and because the snakes on the whole are called Würmer, a short thick foot however is called Stollen, thus the name for this creature was formed. Nearly always the animal is ascribed a round cat head, now 2, then 4, sometimes more feet like caterpillars. Occasionally they are portrayed as hairy and usually as thick and short. I don’t dare, however, to accept the pecularity of
this creature as established (Wys1/422-423).
W y s s 1 8 1 9
In 1819, Wyss added: ” The conformity in the descriptions given by different persons not knowing each other, is certainly peculiar and could consist some evidence of the real existence of such a creature; yet, already since 10 and 12 years the ‘Naturforschende Gesellschaft’ at Bern has promised a considerable reward, renewing this promise from year to year, for that one, who would deliver such an animal alive or dead and this has not yet happened 44). For the time being, the real existence of it must therefore still be very doubtful” (Wys2/120-121).
S c h u l t e s G. 1 8 3 6
Forestry superintendent’s G. von Schultes pocketbook (Sch.G.) is the first carrying a picture of the Bergstutz (see also Mag/17). After quoting his namesake J.A. Schultes with case (1871.s.) he presents case (1833.b.) related to him by the witness. Schultes makes the interesting suggestion that the Bergstutz may really be rare because ‘it is known from experience that all beings whose habit shows the undecidedness of the transitions from a class, order, genus and species to another, propagate only extremely sparse’. He admits, however, that ‘this is not scientific conviction but just a belief appearing readily, when knowledge is unable to go on’ (Sch.G./35-36).
K o h l 1 8 5 4
An (unconscious?) desire to refute at any cost evidence favourable to the TWH is demonstrated by Kohl 45) when he writes: ‘The most miraculous thing with this totally unfounded myth is its common incidence in the alpine valleys. You can travel hundred miles in the mountains and find in every valley people, giving of the Stollenwurm – in the various locations there are different names for it – completely corresponding descriptions’ (Kohl/324) 46).
K o b e l l 1 8 5 9
The book ‘Wildanger’ by Kobell 47), published in 1859, drew the attention of many people to the TWH. Kobell, familiar with all aspects of hunting – its history, its techniques, its superstitions and its magic practices – did in no way ridicule the TWH. After quoting three cases (1779, 1781.s.,1833.b.) he mentiones a chamois-buck seen at Freising as well as a crocodile catched in the Po river 48) arguing that animals can get to places far from their original habitat. Thus the Tatzelwurm might be a creature living most of the time in inaccessible gorges and caves, appearing only now and then in places visited by man. In any case the existence of such an animal can neither be affirmed nor denied (Kob/464-470).
P r o p o n e n t s a n d O p p o n e n t s
D a l l a T o r r e 1 8 8 7
In 1887 a leading German alpinist periodical published an article about dragon lore in the Alps (Dal), by Professor Dalla Torre 49). who makes unmistakably clear that he has no high opinion of the native alpine inhabitant’s zoological competence and his thruthfulness as a reporter. Besides that the inhabitant of the Alps is, according to Dalla Torre, superstitious, a tormentor of animals 50) and a braggart, who has a pronounced penchant to see bizarrely formed creatures 51).
With regard to dragons, Dalla Torre concludes they were only exaggerated descriptions of everyday snakes and lizards and he sets this explanation against Leydig’s 52) suggestion, that not all saurians might have become extinct before the arrival of man and that the memory of them might ‘have been conserved in the spirit of the myth until today’.
When it comes to the Tatzelwurm Dalla Torre cites a number of cases, scarcely actually discussing or evaluating one of them individually. He concludes that the Tatzelwurm must be a mythical construct assembled from the components of several animals. He suggests this question should be approached using all the literature and all myths from all valleys and countries. “Until then” he writes, “we can state only one thing for sure: ‘Among the animals that are, there are many that are not'” (Dal/223-224) 53).
D o b l h o f f 1 8 9 5
In 1895, a Tatzelwurm article by Doblhoff 54), appeared in the first volume of a newly founded periodical for Austrian folklore (Dob1). Doblhoff refrains from any statements discriminating against the rural population 55). After referring to historic cases he quotes more recent ones but, like Dalla Torre he does not evaluate them individually. He quotes and partly discusses 56), known snakes, lizards, woodchucks, otters and weasels as explanations for Tatzelwurm sightings and he mentions also Studer’s Bipes caniculatus (sic). Admitting that the ‘thick, cat-like head’ often described argues against the snake (Dob/155), he plays for a moment with the assumption that larger saurians may still have existed in historic times (Dob/156/160), that perhaps isolated specimens of the giant salamander (Megalobatrachus) could still be alive (Dob/156) or that there may be an animal ‘like Bipes or Seps, but dying out’ (Dob/160). On the other hand he thinks the cat-comparison as well as the name ‘Büffel’ may point toward a mammal. While he excludes the polecat as an explanation, the woodchuck is regarded a more likely candidate in some cases with the reservation that the woodchuck cannot jump and in Styria where a number of Tatzelwurm reports came from there were then no woodchucks (Dob/157) 57). The otter is also considered as it crawls like a snake (the otter comes ‘like a black worm’, Kob/341) and on snow and ice it glides. It can appear at considerable altitudes when passing from one water to another 58). Often it is seen standing upright for some time and if catched it spits and fights to the last gasp (Dob/157-158). The behavior of the weasel is similar but in addition it is considered very aggressive, attacking sometimes humans by itself (Dob/158-159).
Doblhoff finally concludes the cause for Tatzelwurm reports may be several, known animals which, under the conditions of high altitudes, hunger, thirst and after long marches, are transformed into mythical creatures by the percipient, when ‘the fear of death, resting in the depths of the soul, breaks out with elementary force, like the electric current of an accumulator’ (Dob/161). Although this explanation sounds awfully modern it is actually not very convincing as the majority of the observations were made below 2000 meters (see catalogue), i e hardly at levels, where people begin to see things, and exhaustion, hunger or thirst can scarcely be inferred from any of the reports.
Another of Doblhoff’s psychological arguments holds that people are first shocked by the sight of, say, a simple snake. While running away shame comes up and in order to haveÊan excuse for his cowardice, “the reporter needs the exaggeration, transforming a little snake of 50 centimeters into a ‘Wurm’ as tall as a dog and as long as a room” (Dob/162). Unfortunately he does not explain why a witness should tell such an occurence at all. He himself is not consequent when he writes on the same page that if one had shot a supposed Tatzelwurm and then noticed his error he would have been careful not to tell of his delusion.
Doblhoff’s most intimate thoughts are revealed by his final statement that the Tatzelwurm ‘certainly belongs in the field of folkloristic research, like pathological phenomena in the body must be studied by the anthropologist’ (Dob/163).
1 9 2 5 – 1 9 2 7
Aside from minor communications Doblhoff’s article seems to have been the last word for quite a time. From 1925 to 1927 the ‘Tiroler Heimatblätter’, Innsbruck, a monthly on matters of local history and geography, published four articles on the topic (Fil1, Fil2, Gra, Sin1), but no debate ensued.
V e n z m e r and F l u c h e r 1930-1932
In 1930 Dr. Gerhard Venzmer, a regular contributor to the well-known German popular scientific periodical ‘Kosmos’ also took up the topic (Ven), with the result that the editors received an ‘extremely large number of communications and manuscripts’ (Flu1/118), which were turned over to the agricultural engineer Hans Flucher in Saalfelden, Austria. In 1931 and 1932 the ‘Kosmos’ published three short articles by Flucher (Flu1, Flu2, Flu3) who, after comparing the pros and cons thought it right ‘to adhere to a true core in the Tatzelwurm question’.
T h e ‘ S c h l e r n’ 1 9 3 1 – 1 9 3 4
At about the same time the discussion was also taken up by the ‘Schlern’, Bozen, a periodical of much the same kind as the ‘Tiroler Heimatblätter’ mentioned above. Actually the ‘Schlern’ must be considered the most extensive reference on Tatzelwurm matters.
M e u s b u r g e r 1 9 3 1
After some communications by readers an article by Dr. Karl Meusburger 59) was published in December 1931 (Meu2), discussing 45 cases. For 16 cases he proposes known mammals like weasels, ermines, martens and otters as an explanation. In order to reconcile the reported size and characteristics of mammals with the likewise observed reptilian skin structure, Meusburger resorts to the assumption, that hairless mammals suffering from ichthyosis and/or skin eruptions might sometimes have been taken for Tatzelwurms (Meu2/468/470). 60)
Meusburger finally concludes that 13 cases at least justify the assumption of the existence, in isolated places of the Alps, of an animal unknown to science, rare indeed and perhaps even dying out and belonging to the reptiles (Meu2/478). Obviously with regard to Doblhoff’s psychological explanations and Dalla Torre’s devastating criticism of the alpine inhabitant’s mentality he rejects the attempt to debunk the whole topic as a product of fear and superstition. He remarks that mythical and superstitious traditions concerning the Tatzelwurm don’t necessarily argue against its real existence, as ‘nobody will deny the existence of the Ostrogoth king Theodoric the Great, just because he became the center of a large cycle of legends as Theodoric of Verona’ (Meu2/477).
F l u c h e r 1 9 3 2
A year later, in December 1932 the ‘Schlern’ carried an article by. Hans Flucher (Flu4). Flucher corrects some of Meusburger’s errors, adding 10 cases already published in the ‘Kosmos’ and 10 completely new ones. He agrees with Meusburger’s explanation that hairless mustelines may account for some reports, but he points out that if this was the explanation for all cases, this would long have been recognized by the ancestors (Flu4/507). Against the objection, that the Tatzelwurm couldn’t have been overlooked so long by science if it was real, he argues as follows:
– the Tatzelwurm is an extremely rare animal, ‘more extinct than dying out’,
– it is very shy and lives preferably in caves,
– the rural people are either ignorant regarding the scientific value of such an animal and don’t preserve its carcass or they don’t chase it because they believe this would invoke misfortune and disaster,
– the methodics of Tatzelwurm research is inadequate. Significant reports are explained away by impossible arguments or ridiculed (Flu4/507-508).
N i c o l u s s i 1 9 3 3
The next to enter the Tatzelwurm scene was Jakob Nicolussi, a retired headmaster. He was the first and only researcher to attempt a sort of taxonomical or statistical analysis of the reported characteristics (Nic). Nicolussi considers 21 descriptors like size, shape, number of paws, tail, etc. and concludes that the Tatzelwurm could be a lizard of the family Helodermatidae (Nic/124), therefore proposing for it the name ‘Heloderma europaeum’ (Nic/126). Hairs and bristles observed in some cases are explained by him as vegetable fibres or hairs of mammals taken up by the lizard when crawling through underbrush etc. (Nic/121). It seems that Nicolussi was strongly biassed in favour of a quadruped, because his conclusion is not supported by his own statistics. Among the 65 cases presented by Meusburger and Flucher he lists 33 where two paws have been observed but only 14 with four paws. Admittedly however, Nicolussi presents a good case in favour of his hypothesis, provided that all observations of only two paws could be discarded as faulty.
M e u s b u r g e r 1 9 3 4
In 1934 the ‘Schlern’ carried an article by Meusburger (Meu3), adding another 20 cases. He rejects some of the earlier ones – not always quite reasonably as it seems 61). As he has no doubts, that the Tatzelwurm ‘ if it exists at all’ must be a vertebrate and among the known species (living or extinct) there is not a single one with more than four extremities, he specifically discards all reports of more than four paws (Meu3/65-66). Then he renews his conclusion that the ‘genuine Tatzelwurm’ is a reptile, 30 to 60 cms long, lizard-like, with two fore legs and ‘perhaps hind legs too’ (Meu3/71), closing with the words: ‘I can only hardly, yes, very hardly indeed imagine that all testimonies submitted are to be discarded each and all’ (Meu3/85).
S t e i n b ö c k 1 9 3 4
Contrary to Meusburger however, the zoologist Professor Steinböck 62), saw no difficulties in doing exactly this when his views were published in the ‘Schlern’ (Ste). Examining the 85 cases presented he concludes that ‘there is neither the slightes direct evidence for the existence of the Tatzelwurm, nor a probable argument for it’ (Ste/467) and he calls Nicolussi’s Heloderma europeum a ‘meaningless conception’ (Ste/468).
Steinböck’s methodics in dealing with the TWH rests largely on the premise that ‘simple people’ are unable to observe and report correctly. He points out that among the reporters of the 85 cases there are only 4 civil servants, 1 engineer and 3 teachers, while the “overwhelming majority are ‘simple-minded natives of the Alps'” (Ste/453-454) 63). Thus 43% of the cases are explained as known snakes (Ste/454-458), 27% are considered inconclusive because of missing data or legendary details (Ste/461-463), and 7% are rejected as worthless, incredible or as fabrication (Ste/463-464). The rest is explained by known amphibeans, lizards and mammals (Ste/458-461). Not a single case the benefit of the doubt is granted.
Steinböck claims that ‘horrible’ snakes are easily overestimated in size, but the two experiences related by him to prove the point cannot be considered valid. Once he and his friend saw, while skiing, what they believed to be a woodchuck running across a snow-field. At close range they recognized it as a snow-mouse. In another case he and twoÊother mountaineers had thought they could see in the fog, at a distance of 30 paces a person atop a mountain but it was a root stock only 35 cms high (Ste/454-455). It is well known that size estimates are often erroneous when the object in question is observed against an uniformely colored, diffuse background. But Tatzelwurm observations have usually been made on sunny days against a background of plants, and rocks and at distances of a few meters so that false estimates of the above sort are hardly possible.
In other respects it is equally difficult to duplicate Steinböck’s reasoning. Case (1893.s. Stodertal) for exampleÊis explained as a viper although the girl, who could view the dead animal calmly, spoke of feet like a that of a lizard. But this is simply brushed aside with the strange remark: ‘Without hesitation I take upon myself the reproach of being undiscerning, as legs have also been observed, apparently even four’ (Ste/456). The witnesses in case (1908.s. Kufstein) were apparently never interviewed by the critic. Yet he labels the case an ‘impertinent fabrication’, because the witnesses didn’t make it public immediately and on the assumption a reptile of the alleged size couldn’t live unseen near Kufstein (Ste/464). Only in case (1929.05.l) the witness was interviewed. Steinböck considered him very imaginative and suggested that he might have disturbed a snake while eating a toad or a frog, but the witness stuck to his assertion. The latter’s original statement, that he had distinctly seen fore legs, was ignored.
Finally Flucher and Meusburger are criticized for having selected ‘only those reports that can at least to some degree stand a scientific test’. Thus ‘the outsider gets the impression, that there must be some truth in the matter’. If however, ‘all cases, even the scientifically most impossible ones are considered, then you soon become aware that Tatzelwurm research is not primarily a task for the zoologist, but for the folklorist’ (Ste/465) 64). Unfortunately Meusburger, Flucher and Nicolussi were never given an opportunity to reply. In a final clause the editor announced categorically that with Steinböck’s article the ‘Schlern’ would definitely close the matter. Fourteen years later the topic was taken up again ‘at the expressive request of the editor’ (Tra1/250) and from 1948 to now about ten new reports were published. There was, however, never again such an extensive discussion as in the thirties.
L a t e s t N e w s
In its October 1982 issue the ‘Kosmos’ reprinted an one page excerpt of one of Flucher’s articles, remarking that “the ‘Kosmos’ won’t dare to repeat the question (concerning the Tatzelwurm) once more today. Who knows, what reports would still reach us even now!” (Kos). Two years ago a local Tyrolean paper carried a report about a teacher, who has apparently revived Studer’s Bipes hypothesis (DH).
Closing
It is well possible that by the negative attidude of some scientists a chance was missed to verify in the eleventh hour the existence of a rare animal already dying out. Perhaps they cannot be reproached with this in view of their deeply rooted, insurmountable disregard for the testimonies of the country folk and their ever present fear of being taken in by some hoaxer and then being ridiculed by the colleagues. It seems, that the whole affair was very probably also a social and even a sort of ideological confrontation, the opponents of the TWH considering themselves as a sort of standard bearers of enlightenment, smelling antiquated superstitions or even damnable obscurantism behind matters not easily amenable to scientific methodics. The proponents, in turn, were largely educationalists and clerics, a category of persons always committed to the preservation of traditional beliefs. Considering this and the zeitgeist of the era, the development of the Tatzelwurm debate was at least to some degree preprogrammed.

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.


2 Responses to “Tazelwurm – Part Ic”

  1. AtomicMrEMonster responds:

    I find it extremely odd that the writer casts doubt on the idea that snakes do not drink milk. Correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t snakes unable to digest milk?

    I also find it odd that he doesn’t seem to consider that a reporter’s enlarging the size of a snake to justify their cowardice is happening subconsciously rather than consciously. I’m no psychologist, but wouldn’t “self love” come into play in order for a person who normally thinks of themselves as being brave to explain why they were afraid of a snake?

    As for why they’d report such a thing, why wouldn’t someone want to warn others about a large, potentially dangerous animal, especially one that’s rumored to live in the area (although I feel that belief in the Tazelwurm’s existence decreases in “more modern” times). Granted, this would not explain all sightings.

  2. Ceroill responds:

    Interesting. Thanks for the continuing article. I see many analogs to the current situation with cryptozoology.




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