That time Davy Crockett met Bigfoot

Legendary American explorer, soldier, and folk hero Davy Crockett (1786-1836) may be known as the "King of the Wild Frontier," but we all know that title actually belongs to Bigfoot. I hadn't realized that the two actually met in 1835 in Nacogdoches, Texas, a year before Crockett's involvement in the Battle of the Alamo and his death. From Mysterious Universe:

Crockett purportedly took a seat upon a log, removing his sweaty shoes and digging into his small rations. As he ate his food, he sort of absent-mindedly tapped his axe against the wood, and that was when he claimed that an enormous bipedal beast that was “the shape and shade of a large ape man” and quite frightening in appearance materialized out of the trees and brush before him. He would describe the creature in a letter to his brother-in-law, Abner, as follows:

Whether it was the axe’s disturbance or possibly the heat of the sun which caused an apparition to slowly form in front of my eyes, I know not. As a Christian man, I swear to you, Abe, that what spirit came upon me was the shape and shade of a large ape man, the likes we might expect among the more bellicose and hostile Indian tribes in the Territories. The shade formed into the most deformed and ugly countenance. Covered in wild hair, with small and needling eyes, large broken rows of teeth, and the height of three foundlings, I spit upon the ground the bread I was eating.[...]

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The Creature from the Sandpits, a teenage prank that's endured for 60 years

In the 1960s in a small Southern town, high school student Clay Jennings Desmond and his friend were "out frogging at the sandpits" when Clay decided to scare his pal. The Creature from the Sandpits was born, its reputation spread across the land. Sixty years later, the monster still lives in the heart, minds, and nightmares of the locals. From Narratively:

As a small group gathered around my car, I said in a loud, quavering voice, “We were out frogging at the sandpits and we kept hearing something stalking us.” The equally soaked Scottie, now quieter and calmer in these safer environs, picked up the story as though we had rehearsed it.

Pointing at me, he said: “He heard something big in the bush while we were frog hunting. It sounded really big. I mean, like huge. When he turned his five-cell flashlight on it, oh my God!” He let out a theatrical gasp, his hand going to his throat. Limitations aside, he was a masterful performer with an audience.

I picked up the improv tale. “When I heard a stick snap, I knew it had to be something pretty large, real near us. I focused the light in that direction and saw this thing.”

“What thing?” asked the chorus of boys and girls outside the car. Our group of rapt listeners was quickly growing.

Scottie added inspired embellishments. “It was about seven feet tall,” he said with elaborate hand gestures, “had the face of a man, but covered with fur.

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A drive-in theater screening 'Twister' was hit by a twister. Or was it?

In 1996, a powerful storm tore through a Canadian drive-in theatre, destroying a screen. Some witnesses recall it was during a screening of 'Twister,' which includes a scene where a drive-in is destroyed by a twister. The short documentary "Twisted' looks at how memories can be distorted over time. Read the rest

The story of Snopes

All lies lead to the truth. For over 20 years, Snopes.com has been the Web's primary bullshit detector and debunker, from death by Pop Rocks to political lies. We need Snopes more than ever. For a Webby Awards exclusive feature, I commissioned talented journalist Rob Walker to explore the history of Snopes and founder David Mikkelson's relentless obsession with, of all things, the truth. From the article:

In the heat of the Republican presidential primary, Jerry Falwell Jr. appeared on The Sean Hannity Show to talk about the Donald Trump he has gotten to know—a man defined by “stuff the public never hears.” So he shared an anecdote about the time the billionaire’s limousine broke down, and a random passing couple stopped to help. Later, these Good Samaritans got some surprising news: As a gesture of thanks, Trump had paid off the their home mortgage. “Pretty impressive,” Hannity declared.

But wait a second. Who exactly were these people, and why couldn’t the limo driver just call AAA? Impressive as this anecdote sounds, is it true? Well, what does Snopes say? Founded more than two decades ago, Snopes.com was originally devoted to researching all manner of just-so tales and urban folklore sourced to a friend of a friend, or to no source at all. These days, when readers “submit a rumor” they’d like confirmed or debunked, it’s likely to be a tale tied to current events. And yes, Snopes founder David Mikkelson recognized that “impressive” Trump anecdote immediately.

“That same story had been told for years,” he says.

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Terrific profile on comedian Marty Feldman

Gene Wilder's death reminded me of the lovely 2008 interview Wilder did for the Legends series about Marty Feldman. Most Americans associate Feldman with his film roles, but he had a long career in UK radio and later in television before moving on to Hollywood. Read the rest

The (true) legend of Stagolee

The story of a deadly bar fight between a guy named Billy and a guy named Stagolee (or Stack Lee, or Stagger Lee) has worked its way into a broad swath of 20th-century music — from the blues of 1930s Southern prisoners, to Duke Ellington, to James Brown, to the Grateful Dead. At Davey D's Hip Hop History 101, Cecil Brown traces the true story behind the legend back to the red light district of St. Louis in 1895. Read the rest

Tales of a great Pacific Coast earthquake passed down in legend

Last year, the Eastern coast of Japan was struck by a massive 9.0 earthquake and tsunami. Since that happened, you've heard researchers talk about how it was not the first time that region had experienced an earthquake that large. Although the 2011 Tohoku earthquake has been called the biggest earthquake in Japan's recorded history, that's really only describing the relatively short history of scientifically measured earthquakes. The Japanese have kept written records, describing earthquakes that sound as though they could have been every bit as destructive. And those records date back 1600 years.

But written records aren't the only way of preserving local memories, or warning future generations about the destructive power of the Earth.

Geologic evidence shows that North America's Pacific Coast has experienced earthquakes on the scale of the Tohoku earthquake. (In fact, the Pacific Northwest is probably due for one of these large quakes. It's not an "if", but a "when".) The last time it happened, nobody in the area was keeping written documents. Instead, the story of a massive earthquake and a devastating tsunami—which probably occurred around the year 1700—have become a part of oral storytelling traditions. Ruth Ludwin, a seismologist at the University of Washington, has been collecting these stories since the early 1990s.

"There was a shaking, jumping up and trembling of the earth beneath, and a rolling up of the great waters."

So says an ancient tale told to generations of Quilleute and Hoh Indians. Variations of this saga of an epic battle between the Thunderbird and the Whale are found among Pacific Northwest Tribes from Vancouver Island to Oregon's Tillamook tribe.

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