Friday, December 22, 2006

Animal Mutilations

Animal mutilations, or "mutes," are an interesting part of the Spooky Paradigm. Much of the Paradigm is witness-based, relying on witnesses (especially the vaunted "credible witness"). By contrast and definition, mutilated animals are physical evidence, and the actual process of mutilation or the mutilators themselves are generally not witnessed, though there are some exceptions.

Mute reports are persistant in the Spooky literature and reports, though flaps are reported. Intriguingly, the two main periods of public interest have come when the reports are not associated with UFOs. The modern mute phenomenon is typically traced back to the case of "Snippy" in 1967. As ironic as it would be, the first "mute" wasn't named "Snippy" but Lady. Furthermore, while cattle would become the focus of the animal mutilation phenomenon, Lady was a horse. And for a phenomenon that would come to be defined by supposed repeated patterns of damage to the mandible, the eye, the ear, and the anus and genitalia, Lady was missing flesh from much of the head and neck, exposing the bone.

The inspiration for thinking about this phenomenon was the recent appearance of "Snippy's" bones on Ebay. (more on the story here) "Snippy" of course now has a website and a blog, and is even on MySpace. As the reports and sites mention, Lady/"Snippy" died in the San Luis Valley of Colorado. The valley has been at the center of the mute mystery for a long time, and is one of the premier examples of what is called a "window" in various fields of the Spooky Paradigm. As I will be discussing in some other posts, windows are areas with intense and long-term reports of the various phenomena of the Spooky Paradigm. In many cases, these reports are not limited to one kind of phenomenon, but cover many. For this reason, windows are of particular interest to those that do not favor solidly materialist explanations for these reports, but rather follow a more Fortean "everything in the same bag" style. The San Luis Valley produced Christopher O'Brien, who wrote about what he called (in a series of books), The Mysterious Valley ( O'Brien's website). His first book is valuable to a student of the Spooky Paradigm and its researchers because O'Brien discusses his principles, methods, and evolution as a Fortean investigator, and I highly recommend it. Like others I'll discuss in a future post, O'Brien purposely erases the lines drawn between different fields in the Spooky Paradigm, seeing many of them and others not yet defined at work in the San Luis Valley.

The wave of mutes that occurred after the "Snippy" case continued through the 1970s, peaking at the end of the decade and the beginning of the 1980s as government got involved in trying to solve the mystery. The urgency of calls for investigation came not only from economic concerns over lost animals, but also from the popular theory that the mutes were the work of Satanists (a boogeyman growing in popularity at this same time with the political and cultural growth of the fundamentalist Religious Right as a movement). As this explanation waned, UFOs became increasingly associated with the phenomenon, to the point that they are inextricably linked by the present. The Spooky name most associated with mutes is Linda Moulton Howe, who also does not easily subdivide the Paradigm into discrete parts.

This recent report by Howe demonstrates the intriguing element of mutilations: the physical evidence. Mute scenes can be photographed, bodies collected, samples taken, and tests run. A common complaint in the Paradigm is that these phenomena cannot be studied in the lab on a repeat, replicable, basis. But mutes can be studied in this fashion. It was for this reason that the National Institute for Discovery Science got interested in the topic. Numerous reports and articles on the topic can be found in the Institute's section on "Animal Pathology Research."

The history of the first mute wave is complex, and I cannot do justice to it here. But after some highly publicized findings, greatly disputed by "mute" researchers, that what were called mutilations were just predation and taphonomy and not the work of devil worshippers, much of the oomph disappeared. The exception being the the inclusion of mutes into the UFO scene. The mute phenomenon didn't go away, but it did center in a second great wave of interest in the 1990s. This time a culprit was suggested, and became the focus of the complex: the chupacabras. There is some evidence that the idea of the chupacabras predates this period, but out of Brazil and Puerto Rico the chupacabras spread as the first major Spooky legend of the internet age, as well as something of a minor icon some associated with the growing cultural latino cultural influence in the United States. Much debate swirled around the appearance and nature of the goatsucking chupa, but at its core the legend was still about dead animals with strange physical marks. But any similarity between the chupa wave and the earlier mutes was largely lost between pop culture play with the icon and focus on sightings of the creature.

The repeated identification of alleged chupas as dogs with mange didn't help matters. But I think this phenomenon helps us understand mutes and UFOs a bit better. UFOs became associated with mutes not at the height of popular interest/concern, but rather after fears of Satanists had largely been dismissed. When their nature became less certain/worrisome rather than clearer, mutes were more easily associated with UFOs and firmly entered the Spooky Paradigm, one of mystery that skates alongside the mainstream. BioFort discusses this issue, in a parallel fashion but referring to the chupacabras, in an article on the cryptosemantics of cryptozoology. The Spooky identity in many ways rests on mystery and inexplicability. Anomalies. Fort's "The Damned." As BBC's Mike Rudin puts it, if a conspiracy theory turns out to be correct, it is quickly relabelled as investigative journalism.

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