Wednesday, March 10, 2010

MONSTERQUEST - Lizard Monster

History Channel - Original Air Date: 3/10/09

The show scours Appalachia looking for the "Flatwoods Monster" a lizard-man seen in isolated parts of West Virginia.  Oddly, the creature seems to drive a hovercraft-like vehicle (or outfit) and emit noxious gas.  The story begins with a group of boys spotting a fireball in 1968, in Flatwoods, WV.  They followed where it fell and saw the monster; one was sickened by billowing fog/gas.  Joe Nickell, skeptic, believes the original reports (and memories of the thing) were distorted by strong emotions --in this case, fear.  Perhaps it was something fairly normal, misinterpreted.  MQ sends a team to investigate, including Frank Freschino, John Bainbridge, and renowned UFO researcher Dr. Stanton Friedman. They dig around a rotting tree where the creature was spotted, hoping to turn up evidence of toxins, but they find nothing unusual.  Freschino notes that many of the original witnesses were stricken with throat or lung cancer.  (I note that WV, with it's history of mining, has environmental and lifestyle issues that might produce pathologies like that without lizard men.)  The show then traces sightings back to the early 1500s and native American reports -- though there are sightings elsewhere in the world, too.  Next, the show relates the story of a Texan girl who discovered a strange skeleton in a cave: the so-called "starchild," which the show posits is a human-monster hybrid.  The owner of the skull makes a number of remarkable claims about the bones, and the MQ team's Dr. Susan Myster decides to perform some new tests.  A forensic artist will also try to recreate the skull's owner from existing data.

Meanwhile, the WV team sends up a balloon with a night-vision camera to see if venting coal gasses, which could cause hallucinations, may be in the area.  In 1952, a couple in a car encountered the Flatwoods Monster, which circled them -- emmiting sulfurous gas -- after their car stalled.  It touched the hood of the car, burning through the paint.  (Where that car is now, the show doesn't mention; nor does it show any photos.)  More recently,in 2004, a hunter spotted 3 whitish humanoid creatures, which Freschino believes are the same Flatwood monsters; he also believe the creatures wear armor (sometimes).  Nickell, though, believes that mass hysteria is a more likely explanation -- with rumors of monster spreading from one person to another.  He believes the Flatwood Monster started as a Cold War scare and has taken on a life of its own.  Dr. Myster concludes that the starchild is actually the skull of a human child, modified by a cultural practice (like "cradleboarding"), though it is unlike any modified skull she has seen before.  The skull was somewhat more dense than a "usual" human's, but still within standard variation.  So, no validation of the owner's fantastic claims.  The forensic reconstruction of the child's face does not look entirely human (though it's not terribly inhuman, either); it reminded me of an Egyptian pharaoh.  Soil samples tested from WV turn up nothing unusual - and even the previously "odd" samples turn up normal as well.  The team also fails to discover gas leaks.  The human stories remain compelling, but are they real?  Stanton Friedman notes that we should look forward, realizing that some of what we may have believed in the past is unjustified. (Well said, Stanton.)  I think Joe Nickell might agree with him.

This seems to be another MQ episodes tying together formerly unrelated monster and Fortean sightings -- in this case Flatwoods & starchild -- into one big "uber monster" conspiracy theory.   Because the connections the show draws are so tenuous, it will probably annoy researchers looking into the disparate sightings/phenomena.  It certainly annoys me.  But, I guess you gotta do what you can to fill up an hour of monster hunting -- especially after years of not finding any actual monsters.


danjalier said...

I have yet to see the episode. But I've been following the story of the Starchild skull for years. Dr. Myster's conclusion is nothing new. The Cradleboarding hypothesis was the first thing anyone in the realm of established mainstream forensic or medical science came up with. Did the show mention anything about the strange fibers interweaved into the bone? Or the fact that it's eye-ridges suggest it had strangely shaped eyes? Cradleboarding isn't the be-all end-all answer here. Just the "go-to" answer.

As for the Flatwoods monster, an interesting story. How that and the "Starchild skull" relate to each other is beyond me. It sounds like a piecemeal episode.

Stephen D. Sullivan said...

They mentioned the fibers and the eyes in the piece - but Dr. Myster didn't mention them again. Which means either she didn't notice them, or they weren't present, or they didn't seem out of the ordinary to her.

I always worry when people look at an object and say, "Is there anything strange about this?" because, chances are, there is something strange about nearly everything in the world - hair, bone, fiber, soil, etc. Better to create an hypothesis and test for that, to either prove or disprove -- which is what I think Dr. Myster did. Her conclusion: human.

And, yes, this episode seems to be another trying to tie together 2 things that don't go together in order to have a full hour worth of "monsters."

Stephen D. Sullivan said...

Oh, and a reminder to sign up for my mailing list, if you haven't already. The free story's going out this week. (March 18, 2010)