Beast Hunter – Swamp Monster of the Congo – S01E03

Pat is on the hunt for the Swamp Monster of the Congo. Perhaps it could be described as another version of Nessie, but this time it’s in the dense jungle. Could there be a creature hiding in the jungle that’s responsible for several deaths and striking fear into the villagers? Pat talks with several eyewitnesses to find out. Its name is Mokele-mbembe.

He talks to a man who says he saw the footprint and even caught a glimpse of the animal. Another takes him to the location where he saw Mokele-mbembe. As he gives details Pat thinks the animal could have been a very large crocodile. The villager seems almost offended by the insinuation. He knows the difference between a crocodile and Mokele-mbembe. While scouting this location he sets up trap cameras to see if he gets pictures of anything crossing the river where the sighting took place.

Another witness tells the story of his grandfather being killed by the creature while he was out fishing. The boat was broken in half and his grandfather died. The details are sketchy and the story seems a little hard to believe. All the stories up to this point lack detail and have no real evidence to support them. It’s really coming across as the stuff of legend and stories that have been handed down.

But the men of the village are going to prove they know the jungle and the creatures in it so they set up a hunting party and take Pat out to show him the animals. They want him to know this isn’t a case of mistaken identity.

They leave little doubt about their animal prowess so Pat takes out his iPad and goes through a picture lineup. They are very familiar with the animals he shows, but it’s the dinosaur that gets the most reaction. The villagers say that’s Mokele-mbembe and it’s what they’ve been seeing.

Just to give it a try, Pat heads out into the jungle with a thermal imager to see what he can find. There are lots of animals noises but nothing that would suggest Mokele-mbembe. At the end of the night he goes to check his trap cameras and find that elephants use this path to cross the river. Then the idea dawns on him, if villagers were to see an elephant crossing the river with just its back and trunk showing, would that be Mokele-mbembe? It would have many characteristics that people describe. And in the dark, making all that noise, perhaps covered in mud and hidden by trees would it look more dinosaur like?

In the end it could simply be a case of mistaken identity. Villagers are seeing elephants either in the river or walking through the jungle and become frightened. If they aren’t expecting it, it could be mistaken for a dinosaur. And the footprints could be distorted enough to appear different than an elephant.

But the jungle has hidden many packs of animals. Gorillas hid from many quite happily for decades until very recently so it is possible something much bigger is still waiting in the jungle to be discovered.

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Destination Truth – Haunted Island Prison/Ucumar – S04E10

Haunted Island Prison, Panama

Josh kicks off the regular season with a trip down to Panama to investigate a haunted prison. And not just any prison, but one that was managed by Manuel Noriega. And we all know what happened to him.

Many people report screams, voices, see apparitions and the sounds of the cells rattling. Not to mention the island is surrounded by shark infested waters, is now overgrown with vegetation and is home to many a deadly snake. It’s a lovely tourist attraction.

As you might expect, the fun begins with a trip to the market where Josh finds many elixirs you can use in your every day travels. They also outfit themselves with some very stylish hats. And if you talk to the right street vendor you can fend off the heat with a shower of shaved ice. The locals are very accommodating to groups with their own camera crews.

Josh interviews former professional boxer Roberto Duran who is no fan of the island. When training out there he was told about figures that hide in the forest, the sound of footsteps, screams and whining. He has no intention of ever going back out there again.

Another witness, a former inmate, actually escaped from the prison to get away from the ghosts. There are ghosts that bang on the cell bars and taunt the guards. He says there is another man they need to talk to who worked at the prison.

Getting to him turns out to be no easy feat as the road simply ends. Not to be stopped, Josh grabs some kayaks and heads down the river. The river turns into the Pacific and the kayaks turn over in the Pacific. The team is dumped amongst the waves and the rocks and manages to escape to dry land and continue on with the interview of their witness. Except they don’t have a translator and Gabe is not entirely versed in the language. His Spanish is merely at a high school level. But they muddle through and hear a story about a guard chasing down what he thought was a prisoner but turned out to be a spirit. The guard was so frightened he actually took his own life. I’m not sure what these guards are seeing but it’s putting some fear into them.

Since the island truly is an island and not just a few feet out in the water the team has to get there by boat and by helicopter. While Josh is surveying the scene from the air, the pilot says the weather is getting bad and he can’t land. Instead of going back and making another journey Josh decides to abandon ship and jumps out of the helicopter. It was pretty damn spectacular. One of the few aircraft that is working perfectly fine and he decides to ditch it.

As for the investigation they do come across some massive snakes right off the bat so definitely creatures lurking in the jungle. Josh heads over to the cell blocks where they hear a large crash. I like that he dismisses it as the building just collapsing in on itself. Clearly it’s a rotted mess. But in the cell blocks themselves they do hear footsteps and the sound of something banging against the bars. We need to keep in mind they’re in the jungle so obviously there are animals. It’s raining so there are sounds from that and the water is dripping which could also be making odd noises. There are definitely noises just as people describe, but are they paranormal?

Josh decides to try an EVP session and gets some of the lights on the meter. At the same time there is a big orb on the perimeter camera which turns out to be a bug floating around. See, not every ball of light is someone’s energy trying to invade your body.

Ryder gets a big scare as she works her way around the guard barracks, but it turns out to be a large frog playing in the water. That does go to show that there are odd noises and lots of movement but that they’re perfectly natural.

Josh thinks he sees something jump into the jungle but instead of going off and being eaten by a snake they figure it’s best to call it a night.

There is a lot going on out there but I think most everything can be easily explained. The animals are giving people a fright and the sound of the rain is playing tricks with them. Is there more going on out there? If there is, they weren’t able to capture it on this trip.

Ucumar, Buenos Aires

The Ucumar is a large animal that lives in the foothills and supposedly comes down to feed on the livestock of ranchers. It has dark fur, big claws and walks upright. Sort of sounds like El Chupacabra.

Once again we start off in the market where Josh and team hone their tango skills. Josh actually seems quite versed in this. And to fit into the mood of the place Josh gets an Indiana Jones hat and an old military truck to go with it. As they head out to look for witnesses they come across ranchers who just happen to be in the midst of a huge BBQ. Josh blends in and feels this is the place they should stay for awhile. Perhaps he has no plans of leaving.

The ranchers say they have seen the creature and even shot it. They produce a skull and say it’s not like anything else around. They also say the creature was seen looking for food around the local garbage dump so the team heads out to survey the land.

While out on the investigation the horses they’re riding get spooked so they have to go the rest of the way on foot. There is quite a bit of howling in the night and Rex takes a really big tumble down a hill after following what he thought was a figure or a shadow.

The perimeter alarm starts going off, but there is nothing in the area. Josh finds a cave and decides to have a look. He’s just about to leave when he discovers a big footprint inside. Right after that they get something on the thermal and hear some growling. They give chase but don’t catch up with it. Again, there is a lot going on but they aren’t really capturing anything.

With the investigation over, they head home to review the evidence.

The never before seen bones are from a dog so no Ucumar there. However, the footprint is from a bear that is very rare for that area. In fact Jim Dines says the footprint is quite a discovery on its own. The conclusion then is that people are seeing this bear and mistaking it for the Ucumar. It seems Josh has solved the mystery and shown the location of a bear whose population is dwindling. That’s not too shabby.

I have to say the best part was Josh jumping out of that helicopter. That was just cool!

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Beast Hunter – Nightmare of the Amazon – S01E02

For this adventure Pat heads to the Amazon to investigate the "Nightmare of the Amazon" or the Mapinguari. It’s a huge animal with powerful arms, big claws, a horrible stench and a mouth that may actually be in its chest. Over the years it has become a fixed part of the culture for many. And for some it has changed their lives.

Pat starts off the hunt by talking with locals who believe they actually shot the animal. It was lurking around their village and when they thought it was out to eat their livestock they shot at it. Right after that the villagers moved away and relocated to what they thought was a safer place by the river. It isn’t clear if this was their first sighting or perhaps one of many.

As Pat talks with more natives he understands that outsiders aren’t to be trusted. He doesn’t have the time it would take to develop a relationship over weeks or months so he decides to participate in the initiation ritual of men who will become hunters. This involves hunting for the Bullet Ant which has a potent sting. And not just one ant, but hundreds. Those ants are then woven into a set of gloves the initiate will wear for five minutes. Then the initiate will endure the pain.

Things don’t go fantastically well for Pat. He goes through with the initiation, but the pain is to the point of being overwhelming. He can’t think straight, he’s not entirely sure where he is and doesn’t know what to do to endure the suffering. He seems a little delusional. He might even be hallucinating. Whatever is going on, he’s having a rough time with it.

We catch back up with Pat quite a bit later after the pain the delusions have worn off. What happened during that time we don’t know. I’m sure they weren’t planning for him to stick his hands in a bucket full of venom so who knows if they had any sort of antidote.

But Pat presses on and meets a man who says he was attacked by the Mapinguari. He claims it grabbed him around the throat and broke his jaw. He feels certain it could have killed him and that he would have died if people hadn’t found him quickly. The details of the attack are pretty light. And there is nothing from the people who found him. However, he has never been back in the forest and left his job. Something seems to have changed him.

Pat begins to think that maybe a giant anteater is the cause of the problems. It can attack, it is able to emit a stench and has some of the other reported characteristics. But is the entire country mistaking an anteater for all their attacks?

Pat finds a professor who believes it exists. He’s taken eyewitness statements from nearly 90 people. Some even claim to have killed it. David Orem believes it might be a giant Ground Sloth, a beast that is 10 feet tall with huge claws and massive teeth. The Sloth lived in the area and only died out recently, and by recently he means 10,000 years ago.

Pat meets with another tribe that tells story of the Mapinguari. People firmly believe it exists and people only go into the forest with a silver bullet which is said to kill the beast.

When with the tribe, Pat heads into the forest with thermal imager and megaphone. His plan is to play sounds of animals and see if he can get a response. He even has what he believes is the call of the Mapinguari. As they play the calls there is a response that sounds similar to what they are sending out. Are they getting a true response or just stirring up the forest?

As a final experiment he shows a witness a series of photos on his iPad. The witness is unfamiliar with some animals, since they aren’t native to his area but recognizes some of the others. Even the anteater is recognized but he doesn’t think too much of it. But when it comes to the giant sloth he gets a positive reaction from his witness. He says something that is very similar to the animal in the picture is what attacked him. He believes something very similar is out there.

So what does Pat come away with? There are dozens of stories of people who’ve had experiences and belief in the creature is very strong. Is there a Giant Sloth still lurking out in the forest? Has it managed to survived? Is a relative still calling the forest a home? It lends a lot of credibility to the idea that the Mapinguari is a real creature. Since so much of the area is actually unexplored it is possible that a descendent is alive and well.

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Beast Hunter – Man Ape of Sumatra (Orang Pendek) – S01E01


Man Ape of Sumatra (Orang Pendek)

In the vast jungles of mystical Sumatra, locals have reported seeing a creature that looks something like an ape, yet it walks just like us. They’ve named it “Orang Pendek” – the little man of the forest. A recent scientific discovery proposes that another species of humans – nicknamed ‘hobbits’ – did once live in Indonesia. So could there be a new great ape waiting to be discovered? Or is it possible we’re not the only human species living on earth? Biologist and beast hunter Pat Spain investigates.

Pat Spain, man of action, Justin Timberlake lookalike. And in the off season, Beast Hunter. He’s taken up the mantle of looking for mysterious creatures that exist outside of our general understanding. In a similar vein to Destination Truth he’s looking for the stuff of legend, the creatures that are widely talked about but rarely seen. Usually the type that attacks a village or strikes fear into those who talk about it. And his search is going to take him all over the globe.

For the first episode Pat is looking for Orang Pendek or "little man of the forest". It’s an ape like creature that still manages to walk upright like a man. He heads off to Sumatra to talk to natives who’ve had multiple encounters with the creature over the years.

He starts things off in the local market where he gets more than a few laughs from the local women who think all men are "little men from the forest". Not having much luck there he goes to visit Debbie Martyr, a Tiger conservationist who’s been living in Sumatra for quite some time (4 earthquake cycles according to her) and claims to have had her own sighting of Orang Pendek. She says it walks on its two legs very gracefully but is still very hairy. She was quite shaken by the encounter and firmly believes there is another set of creatures living in the jungle.

To gather more evidence, Pat goes to visit a Shaman to see about his beliefs in the creature. Is it something real or just the stuff of folklore? The Shaman believes Orang Pendek is real and is far more than myth.

Pat then visits another man who claims Orang Pendek broke into his home and stole sugar. He confronted it, but the animal ran away without hurting anyone. He said it was very strong looking, but short. It walked on two legs and looked quite human.

He finally hooks up with Jeremy Holden, a wildlife photographer who has taken pictures of dozens of wild animals using trap cameras, some even thought to be extinct until he found them once again. He is a firm believer in Orang Pendek and believes it’s just a matter of time before they capture physical and photographic evidence of its existence. He believes it’s good at eluding predators and doesn’t follow the normal migratory and hunting trails used by regular animals. He agrees to take Pat to where he came across Orang Pendek.

Jeremy was out in the jungle when he heard it and managed to come across it just as it was disappearing back into the thick growth. He saw it as it was going away and also says it’s hairy and walks on two legs. He wasn’t able to see the face but firmly believes what he saw was Orang Pendek. He’s been setting out trap cameras ever since to try and capture a photo of it.

While checking out the jungle with Jeremy, Pat recalls an interview he had with Prof. Mike Morwood who found skeletons of a humanoid creature they dubbed the "Hobbit". A creature that could have survived up until the early 1900’s. There isn’t evidence to say this group of humanoids is still running around, but, they did exist and by all accounts only disappeared a little over 100 years ago. Is Orang Pendek related? Could it be a similar group that has just managed to stay in hiding? Is it this same group and they didn’t go extinct at all?

After hearing all the stories and with all the evidence in hand Pat decides to go out into the night with audio dish and thermal imager to see what he can find. During the night investigation he hears plenty of noises and the sounds of animals moving around in the jungle. There are plenty of things tripping the static cameras but in the end Orang Pendek is not caught on film. The sounds of the jungle are mysterious, but are they the sounds of a yet undiscovered humanoid? The evidence doesn’t support the claims, but with such dense forest growth, abundant food sources and limited accessibility by man, could something hide in the trees and elude the prying eyes of man? It certainly seems a possibility.

Orang Pendek didn’t make an appearance, but it’s just as important to find out what Orang Pendek isn’t. Is this simply a case of mistaken identity? Are people seeing other animals and either through fear or excitement getting a distorted image of it? Are the regular ape-like animals of the jungle just coming across as bigger and bolder than before? Or is there something more to it? Is there some other humanoid presence lurking in the jungle trying to stay out of the way or regular man?

While not a replacement for Destination Truth, I was quite entertained and engaged by Pat and his adventures. He does a lot of research about the people and culture as well as the animals of the area. He takes the approach of eliminating mistaken identity and tries to separate facts from the tall tales people tell him. It was a fine adventure from National Geographic and I’m looking to his next trip in the Amazon.

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