Friday, January 31, 2014

Supernatural Friday: Sea Monsters

Sea monsters have been seen by man since man has taken to sailing the seas or fishing it. Sea monsters are believed to be mythical or legendary beasts, usually of immense size.  Marine monsters can take many forms, including sea dragons, sea serpents, or multi-armed beasts. Definition of a "monster" can mean many things, something that is frightening to humans, especially they never seen the animals before. Some sea monsters may have been based on scientifically accepted creatures such as whales and types of giant and colossal squid and octopus. Sometimes they can be slimy or scaly, often pictured threatening ships or spouting jets of water.

Historically, decorative drawings of heraldic dolphins and sea monsters were used to illustrate maps, such as the Carta marina. This practice died away with the advent of modern cartography.

There is a Tlingit legend about a sea monster named Gunakadeit/ This monster was thought to bring prosperity and good luck to a village in crisis, people starving in the home they made for themselves on the southeastern coast of Alaska.

Some sea monsters seen have been recorded from those in the past. Sir Humphrey Gilbert claimed to have encountered a lion-like monster with "glaring eyes" on his return voyage after formally claiming St. John's, Newfoundland (1583) for England. Another account of an encounter with a sea monster comes from July 1734. Hans Egede, a Dano-Norwegian missionary, reported that on a voyage to Gothaab/Nuuk on the western coast of Greenland he observed. Here is partial of what Hans noted: “a most terrible creature, resembling nothing they saw before. The monster lifted its head so high that it seemed to be higher than the crow's nest on the mainmast. The head was small and the body short and wrinkled. The unknown creature was using giant fins which propelled it through the water. Later the sailors saw its tail as well. The monster was longer than our whole ship.” Some cryptologist was say this sounds like a plesiosaurus.  Interestingly, since this was 1734 and dinosaurs and prehistoric reptiles hadn’t been discovered and catalogued yet by experts. About plesiosaurus, it is often mistakenly referred to as a dinosaur, when in fact it is a prehistoric marine reptile which lived at the same time as the dinosaurs. It had a long neck, four paddle-like flippers and a tail. The long neck of Plesiosaurus is supported by approximately 40 individual vertebrae. For comparison, a human has only seven neck vertebrae.

Can a plesiosaurus have existed in 1734? Or had Hans mistaken some common whale or large fish or even a seal, for a sea monster? After all, when we think of sea-going ships back then, many were not as big as we see in the movies.  And I doubted a missionary would use a galleon.

Many marine animals and fish have been mistaken for sea monsters. One that is rarest among whales and that is the spade-toothed beaked whale. Scientists rarely seen it alive and until recently, only had limited skeletal evidence that they even existed. So rare is the species that when a pair of dead whales washed up on a New Zealand beach in late 2010, scientists didn't even know what they had. Testing, such as DNA, proved what it was. Scientists were ecstatic. That’s because only three partial specimens of the species were known to exist -- two collected in New Zealand in 1872 and in the 1950s and a third found on Robinson Crusoe Island off the coast of Chile in 1986. The spade-toothed beaked whale looks similar to a large black, white and gray dolphin with its long pointed snout. Scientists believe they grow to be about 17 feet long. Adult males have large exposed teeth as the name suggests. There is only guess work about other beaked whales, which are often boat-shy, spend little time at the surface and dive to depths of 6,600 feet. They probably dine on squid. So imagine one coming to the surface in the past and what a fisherman in a small fishing boat thought it was.

Oarfish can grow big and they mostly live in the deep ocean. One found in Catalina Island's Toyon Bay October 15, 2013 was so big -- 18 feet long -- that it required 15 people to hold it chest-high in a trophy photo taken by the Catalina Island Marine Institute. Being so long, it can be mistaken for a sea serpent.

I wrote about Chessie, a sea monster seen off the coast of Virginia in the Chesapeake Bay and in the Appomattox River by Hopewell.

From a chapter in my nonfiction ghost book, Haunted Richmond II:

Most times when someone goes fishing, you expect to catch fish. There may even be frogs in the water, but a sea serpent? That’s what did swim the waters of the Appomattox River in Hopewell in the 80s.
Chessie was seen mostly in Chesapeake Bay. For years, people reported sightings of a serpent-like creature with flippers—not unlike Nessie of Loch Ness in that respect. It even made the news in the late 60s.
Witnesses say that the creature might be about twenty-five to forty feet in length, dark, with no limbs, fins, or distinguishable details on its oval head. It was also no more than a foot across in width.
It appeared at one time that Chessie decided to leave the bay and swim upriver to Hopewell. A woman caught sight of the creature one day. The witness had gone out to dinner with her husband at the Harbor Light Restaurant. When she got out of the car, she noticed something strange with a long, undulating body that swam closer and closer. It matched descriptions of the beast seen in Chesapeake Bay.
Of course, since then, it has not been seen, neither in the river nor in Chesapeake Bay. At least that I know of. So next time you go boating on the river or plan to go fishing, take care. Chessie might still be living beneath the water

Sea Monsters in Myths (I won’t talk abouteach one now—maybe one day on each one, but you can google and look each one up):
The Aspidochelone, a giant turtle or whale that appeared to be an island, and lured sailors to their doom
Capricorn, Babylonian Water-Goat, in the Zodiac
Charybdis of Homer, a monstrous whirlpool that sucked any ship nearby beneath the ocean
Coinchenn, from whose bone the Gae Bulg is made in Celtic mythology
The Devil Whale, Extremely large demonic whale, the size of an island.
Hydra, Greece
Iku-Turso, reputedly a type of colossal octopus or walrus
Jörmungandr, the Norse Midgard Serpent.
Kraken, a gigantic octopus, squid or crab-like creature
Scylla of Homer, a six-headed, twelve-legged serpentine that devoured six men from each ship that passed by
Sirens of Homer
The Rainbow Fish
Yacumama, South America

Sea Monsters in Fiction in Writing and Onscreen:
The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms
Monster From the Ocean Floor
Bacoon in Star Fox 64.
Creatures of H. P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos, including Cthulhu itself.
Creatures of The X-Files episodes Agua Mala.
Creatures in such sci-fi/horror films as Deepstar Six, The Rift, Deep Rising and Deep Shock.
Carcharodon Megalodon in Steve Alten's Meg series.
Fictional portrayals of the Giant Squid.
Giant octopus in It Came from Beneath the Sea.
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (giant octopus attacks the Nautilus)
Behemoth, the Sea Monster
Kraken as depicted in Clash of the Titans (both the 1981 and 2010 versions).
Kraken as depicted in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest.—this was more Lovecraftian in nature.
Leviathan in the Gears of War series.
Moby Dick
Nabooian sea monsters in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.
Ichthyosaur and plesiosaur in A Journey to the Center of the Earth.
The Terrible Dogfish
Title creature of Peter Benchley's White Shark.
The War God Goura
Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus
      Mega Shark Versus Crocosaurus
The Two-Headed Shark
Pacific Rim
 Godzilla (2014)

Next time you decide to take a boat ride on the ocean or head to the beach, keep a eye on the sea, as you never know what you might see. Wait a minute…see that…do you think it might be….

Sunday, January 12, 2014

My Personal Appearance at Marscon January 17-19, 2014

Join me this upcoming weekend, January 17-19th, in Williamsburg, Virginia at Marscon. The science fiction, fantasy and horror convention will be held at Fort Magruder Hotel and Conference Center, 6945 Pocahontas Trail.

What I Will Be Participating In

10 pm-1 am The Haunting of Fort Magruder
Jefferson Davis 1 and 2 Pamela K. Kinney, Cheralyn Lambeth, Mark Layne
In the first two hours, the ghostly hosts will introduce you to ghost hunting and show off some of their findings from past searches of historical Fort Magruder. Then it’s off on a new paranormal hunt to gather more thrills, chills, and evidence of paranormal activity.

11 am-noon Getting Work as an Extra
General Hooker’s Angela Pritchett, Cheralyn Lambeth, Pamela K. Kinney
The panelists discuss methods for getting work as an extra in television and film or other acting work.

2 pm-3 pm Author Signing Event
General Early’s Jim C. Hines, Carrie Ryan, Mark Rogers, and other writer guests.
Get books signed by the MarsCon Guests of Honor and other participating writing guests.

Supernatural Friday: "A Ghost By Any Other Name is a GHOST!"

"A Ghost By Any Other Name is a GHOST!" 

Slithering through the ether
A breath of cool breeze,
Or something else.
It haunts corners of deserted buildings
A lost soul, or demonic thing.
Sometimes, they are like radio,
Repeating endlessly over and over.
Other times, they communicate.
Move objects and appear to us.
Ghosts, specters, phantoms,
Orbs, apparitions, revenant,
Haint, shade, shadow person,
So many descriptions, so many names.
Doesn’t matter;
Haunting is what they do!

Friday, January 03, 2014

Supernatural Friday: History of Witchcraft

The word ‘Witchcraft’ has been derived from the word ‘Wicca’ meaning ‘the wise one’. Witchcraft has been seen as a magical phenomenon, a pagan worship or religion, sorcery, devil worship, and others, at different periods in our world history.

Thousands of years ago, people lived much more primitive lives than we have in our technological society today.  Without the luxury of modern medicine and treatments, when a person was sick, ill or in pain there was little that could be done about it.  Becoming ill was much more dangerous in those ancient days, and the ramifications of any sickness were frequently much more serious.  But some women and even men learned the value of healing herbs, and other types of homeopathic treatments.  These people were actually very wise when it came to their knowledge of herbal remedies.  These astute women, skilled in the art of natural medicine, also sometimes functioned as midwives and assisted in the delivery of babies, using various plant-based medicines to ease the pain and suffering experienced during childbirth.

The earliest records of the concept and practice of witchcraft can be traced to the early days of humankind when witchcraft was seen as magical a phenomenon that was invoked for magical rites which ensured good luck, protection against diseases, and other reasons.
However, it was not until 1000 AD that the practice of Witchcraft and witches invoked the wrath of priests, Christianity, and members of the society. Witchcraft, seen as a religion of the ancient and traditional pagan religion which worships the feminine, earthly, and masculine aspects of God, was considered as anti-Christian and a heresy.

Held to be against the declarations and beliefs of the Church, witches were considered as evil, making pacts and connections with the Devil. It was even believed that witches engaged in practices such as flying, invisibility, killing, taming black wolves and cats to spy on people, and others.  The belief in the existence of witches was strengthened particularly after Pope Innocent VIII issued a declaration in the 1498 confirming their existence in society, and inquisition increased, although in 1200, killing of witches had already become authorized by Pope Gregory IX. The Inquisition thus began after 1200 on orders of the Church to discover the witches or heretics who were believed to be evil and against the Church. Full-fledged killing of witches was, however, recorded in the 1500s and 1600s.  The first crusade against witches was held in 1022 AD when a witch was burned to death.

In Salem in 1692, 150 people were tried as suspects of practicing witchcraft. Unlike Europe, where those tried and convicted of witchcraft (those that survived being piled on with the increasing weight of stones or dunked in a river to see if they swam or sank), in Salem, those convicted of witchcraft and executed, were done so by hanging.
People suspected as witches were usually burned at stakes, and those pleading their innocence were either stoned to death or even sometimes thrown in water to prove their innocence. Witches usually faced severe and painful deaths or punishments.

Unlike the cases in Salem, Massachusetts, where women had been accused unjustly and declared guilty, then hung, another commonwealth, Virginia handled the witchcraft thing much better. To curb runaway charges of witchcraft like in New England, the Virginia General Assembly passed in 1662, “An Act for Punishment of Scandalous Persons.” It stated that women who acted peculiar and scandalous and caused their husbands to bring suits against those accusing their wives of witchcraft, after judgment had been passed, the woman would be punished by ducking. If the slander was enormous, the damages were adjusted at a greater amount then five hundred pounds of tobacco.
So except for Witches are as much a part of Virginia’s history and folklore as anywhere else. There were homes in Virginia that have witch doors—crosses carved on the paneled doors to keep the witches away—and people made witch bottles to protect them against witches—though the bottles were used mainly in the Tidewater area. An Indian idol, “Okee,” was considered to be a “devil-witch” by John Smith himself after the colonists landed at Jamestown and settled it. In 1654, according to author and historian Richard Beale Davis, there was a conviction of witchcraft in Virginia that resulted in an execution on a ship bound for Jamestown. This would have been long before the witchcraft trials at Salem. At that time, witches were believed to conjure up storms at sea, along with causing widespread illness among the passengers. When a severe storm happened and threatened the vessel commanded by Captain Bennett, he ordered the death of a woman named Catherine Grady, all because she was a “witch at sea.”

Today, no one is hung or burned at the stake for witchcraft. In the United States people can do whatever religion they want to believe in, long as they don’t do harm to others. We’ve came a long way from our tribal ancestors who sat around a campfire or a bonfire and huddled in fears of evil spirits, demons and witches.