I’m a huge X-Files fan!
The X-Files returns tonight (Sunday) on the Fox channel. Check your local listings and don’t forget: in some areas the X-Files start time might be delayed by the NFL post-game show – so pad your DVR stop time for the X-Files (i added an additional hour to the end of my X-Files recording).
Then the second episode is Monday evening on the Fox channel. Check your local listings.
Besides serving as a brilliant case study for the evolution of 1990s hairstyles, The X-Files taught an entire generation that Occam’s razor — the simplest explanation for strange phenomena is usually the correct one — is boring and stupid and completely wrong. No, the superior explanation is always 44 minutes of aliens and Sasquatches.
That same lesson applies to these four recent news stories, which are all so bizarre that even the Gillian Andersonest of Gillian Andersons would have a tough time denying the involvement of interstellar poltergeists.
#4. The Mars Rover Found a Mystery Rock (That Wasn’t There Before)
As far as exciting discoveries go, Mars has been kind of a wet noodle — the Opportunity rover has found no signs of ancient teleportation arks, atmospheric reactors, or dead John Carters. Just as it seemed we were all about to stop pretending we cared about any of Opportunity’s billion-dollar photographs of orange dirt, it sent back this picture:
Big deal, it’s a shiny rock. We’ve got those here on Earth. Now, look at a photo taken of the same area 12 days earlier:
That shiny rock wasn’t there two weeks prior. Scientists are baffled by the rock’s composition — it contains high amounts of sulfur, magnesium, and manganese, something they claim they’ve never seen before on the surface of Mars. Of course, all of this takes a back seat to the more pressing question: Who the hell put that rock there? Did it grow legs and crawl like the moon rocks in Apollo 18?
#3. A Wandering Pit Bull Was Found With an Old Black & White Photo in Its Collar
Earlier this month, animal rescue workers in Greenville, South Carolina, picked up a stray pit bull that had wandered into town with absolutely no identification … except for a completely unlabeled black-and-white photograph of a man from Grapes of Wrath times sitting on a porch banister and smiling tucked into its collar.
Presumably the photograph is a picture of either the dog’s human form before he was metamorphosed by a gypsy curse or the man that the dog was sent back in time to destroy. Considering that they have yet to find the dog’s owner or any explanation for its sudden, mysterious appearance, our guesses are as good as any.
Somewhat related: Fox Wants To Bring Back The X-Files, David Duchovny And Gillian Anderson (io9)
A devil is said to haunt the wooded Pine Barren of southern New Jersey. Dubbed the Jersey Devil, it has never been photographed or captured, but has appeared in dozens of books, films, and television shows including “The X-Files.”
Most accounts suggest that the creature has a horse-like face with antlers or horns sprouting from the top of its head. It walks on two legs, ending with cloven hooves or pig’s feet. The overall body shape resembles a kangaroo, though it also has wings like a bat. Some say it has a tail like a lizard; others say it has no tail at all. The monster is said to kill dogs, chickens and other small animals, as well as leave spooky cloven hoof prints in snow, and bellow a terrifying screech in the wooded darkness.
History of the Jersey Devil
The Jersey Devil is the subject of a legend dating from the early 18th century. There are several variations, but a common story holds that a woman named Mother Leeds (who was believed to have been the wife of a Daniel Leeds) gave birth to her 13th child on a dark and stormy night. Rumors claimed that she was a witch, and bore the Devil’s child. Shortly after birth, it changed form, growing wings, hooves and an equine head. It flew into the air with a bloodcurdling shriek, killing a midwife in the process, and headed toward the woods.
It sounds like a scene from a horror film or novel, too bizarre to be true. And indeed Brian Dunning of the Skeptoid podcast notes that there are holes in the popular story of the Jersey Devil: “In looking at the historical sources, we soon find that this story is not possible. … There appears to be no contemporary sources connecting Daniel Leeds or either of his wives to a devilish character of any sort, and … Although newspapers of the 1800s did occasionally print the Mother Leeds story as given in the legend, we seem to have a total lack of factual basis to anchor it to any real history.”
Despite its origins in legend, several people have claimed to have seen or encountered the Jersey Devil over the past 250 years. In a section on the topic in the encyclopedia “American Folklore,” folklorist Angus Kress Gillespie notes that “The Jersey Devil remained an obscure regional legend through most of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, until 1909 when a series of purported ‘Devil’ sightings inspired a Philadelphia businessman to stage a hoax. He painted a kangaroo green, attached fake wings to the helpless creature, and had it exhibited to the public.” The 1909 hoax (and others like it) inspired further sightings and reports, which continue to this day.
What Is the Jersey Devil?
Could the creature be real? The Jersey Devil’s diverse features are strong evidence that it does not — and cannot — exist as a real animal. The most obvious biologically implausible feature is its wings: they would need to be much bigger, and anchored in a much more massive musculoskeletal structure, to lift the animal’s body weight into the air. Birds and bats can fly because their bodies are relatively lightweight; the reputed heavy muscles and thick limbs of the Jersey Devil would never work; you’d have better luck putting butterfly wings on a rhino. Most images of the Jersey Devil look like a monster that a high school Dungeons & Dragons player might dream up as a composite of different, unrelated animals whose features could never actually exist in the same animal, but look weird and scary.
So what’s the explanation for the Jersey Devil? There’s very little to “explain”; we have a monster whose origin is obviously . . .