Bigfoot in Big Bear

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The state of California is being sued for not recognizing Bigfoot as a species.
“I ran into a Sasquatch — a Bigfoot.  We were face to face.  He was 30 feet up in the tree,” said 46-year-old Cynthia Ackley.  She and her two daughters, 11 and 14, encountered a Bigfoot (or Kissel) last March in Lake Arrowhead, CA.
“He looked like a neanderthal man with hair all over him. He had solid black eyes. He had no expression on his face at all. He did not show his teeth. He just stared at the three of us,” said Cynthia.  She thought he looked about 800 pounds.  Her younger daughter also reported seeing two more identical cryptids on the ground.
Cynthia Ackley has been a Bigfoot enthusiast and researcher for over two decades, so she was quite disappointed when the park ranger told her she’d probably seen a bear.  So she teamed up with Bigfoot documentary filmmaker Tom Standing and sued the state in San Bernardino Superior Court on the 18th of last month.
The San Bernardino Sun reported:
“The lawsuit alleges the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the state Natural Resources Agency have been derelict in their duty by not acknowledging the existence of the Sasquatch species, despite a mountain of documented and scientific evidence. It has had a chilling effect on the study of the Sasquatch, considered illegitimate and relegated to the category of paranormal research. It has damaged Ackley’s ‘livelihood, public image and credibility,’ as well as others dedicated to the study of the bipedal hominid, according to the lawsuit.”
Cynthia Ackley is apparently concerned about the public’s safety, since 800 pound humanoids can probably do a great deal of damage.  “People have to be warned about these things. They are big.”  According to Fish and Wildlife spokesman Andrew Hughan, Bigfoot is not a recognized species by his agency.  Safety warnings cannot be issued for nonexistent beasts.  I'm sure Ackley is crossing her fingers that this case could be a big step forward for cryptozoology.
This is Cynthia Ackley’s third Bigfoot sighting since 1997.
-Rachel Hsu

Science: Mirror Monsters

An old wives’ tale says that if a young unmarried woman carries a candle into a dark room and looks in the mirror on Halloween night, she’ll see the face of her future husband.  The Troxler  Effect tells us we can see something far worse.
In a 2010 experiment by Dr. Giovanni Caputo at the University of Urbino, 50 test subjects were told to watch their own reflections in low light for 10 minutes.  33 subjects reported seeing massive deformations of their own face.  People reported seeing their faces transform into one of their parents’, animal faces, or monsters after just ten minutes of observation.  These changes would last for seven seconds on average, and the deformations didn’t stay put in one place.  The longer their brains got accustomed to the same image, the more fictional information bled into their perception.  For most of the subjects, these effects began in about a minute.
It makes sense to filter out extraneous sensory perceptions; there’s no reason for your body to constantly be conscious of the contact lenses in your eyes, your clothes against your skin, or the way your tongue rests inside your mouth.  Our eyes constantly make micro-vibrations so that we don’t filter out visual information as easily as we can ignore a repetitive noise or pervasive smell.  But if you stare long enough, the Troxler Effect starts to take form. 
Dr. Caputo’s experiment is easy to replicate.  First, get comfy in front of a mirror.  Make sure you can see the details and fine lines of your face, but that the light is low enough that it’s hard to see color.  Make sure the light source is not visible in the mirror so that the only thing you’re focusing on is yourself.
Then just wait.

Primer: Vampires

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In Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula, vampires are pale, fanged creatures who create no reflection and cast no shadow.  The count is immortal, with enhanced strength and senses, with the power to shape shift into a wolf, a bat, dust, and fog.  Decapitation, a stake to the heart, or fire can kill him, but not sunlight — in fact, he’s strengthened by the midday sun.  Surprised?
Vampires are classic monsters, easy halloween costumes, and pop culture sex icons.  Throughout their history in literature and folklore, there’s not much consistency as to what makes a vampire.  Their traits, rules, and powers often vary from story to story, even things as established as pale skin, pointy teeth, or drinking blood.
In traditional European folklore, vampires were splotchy, unattractively bloated, leaking blood and bodily fluids from the nose and mouth.  Their nails were overgrown and they were thought to attack by night so that in the day they could retreat to their coffins.  If these vampires sound a lot like decomposing corpses, it’s because they are: suspected vampires were exhumed and inspected, and since bodies were often buried as soon as possible, what we now know to be usual signs of decomposition were seen as supernatural events.  The buildup of gasses in the stomach looked like a bloated gut after a night of feasting.  The desiccation of skin made nails appear longer and claw-like.  Frightful peasants formed a narrative around these unsightly corpses and the notion of vampires were born.
The Count in Sesame Street is purple-skinned, enjoys sunlight, sleeps in a bed at night, and casts a shadow (though still has no reflection).  There’s no implication that he drinks human blood.  His entire character is based around a fairly obscure vampire trait of arithmomania, the compulsive need to count, which is found in the original folklore but not Stoker’s Dracula, Anne Rice, Buffy, D&D, or Twilight.
Stephenie Meyer’s approach to vampires in Twilight has been widely mocked.  They’re pale, but lack fangs.  The main characters of the series are “vegetarian vampires” and drink animal blood instead of human blood.  Sunlight doesn’t hurt them but does cause their skin to conspicuously sparkle.  But Stephenie Meyer does her research: most of her vampires are gifted and possess one special talent cribbed from other vampire mythoi.  The main couple both possess telepathic links, like Bram Stoker’s Dracula.  One has telekinesis, like Nosferatu and Anne Rice’s vampires.
To be a vampire, you don’t have to drink blood, have fangs, or be pale.  The only thing that’s clear about vampires is that they’re cryptids without necessary distinctive traits.  If you really love counting, who knows?  You might be one too.
-Rachel Hsu