What age were you when you first realised there was no Tooth-Fairy; Santa Claus didn’t visit your home on Christmas Eve and the Easter Bunny was just another money spinner?
For as long as I can remember I had always been a precocious child, much to my mother’s embarrassment. At age five I went to school and let the cat out of the bag that if you really wanted to get the toys you’d seen on the telly; you had to lobby your parents, not write a letter to an imaginary fat man in a red suit. My poor mother had a lot of angry parents to appease after her little gobshite blabbed. And boy did I get a scolding!
Fairytales and myths have always fascinated me. And one that has recently stirred my interest just happens to be based on a so-called primate. It’s part of North American folklore. No-one has ever proven its existence. Yet the stories surrounding the Florida Skunk Ape are enough to rival those of Scotland’s very own Nessy.
According to recent reports in the US tabloids there have been more supposed sightings of this legendary ape-like creature in Florida’s Everglades. Over the years eye-witnesses have claimed to have caught sight of something which they say resembles BigFoot. But so far no hard evidence has ever been collected.
The Florida Skunk Ape was given its name after those who claim to have seen it said it was hairy, had a foul stench similar to a rubbish dump and ran on two legs. It was described as being around seven-foot tall with looks similar to an orangutan or gorilla.
To date the National Parks Service which patrols the Everglades – a world heritage site – has said the stories are a hoax. Believers say they’ve seen tracks in the form of footprints – sceptics argue it’s people larking about dressed up in an ape suit.
In 2009, there were a reported 250 unexplained sightings in North America, and locals claim the number would have been even higher if it wasn’t for fear of being ridiculed.
Earlier this month a documentary team from Canada made a two-hour programme which aired on the Discovery channel on whether its existence is fact or fiction - Bigfoot: The Definitive Guide. Ironically there was no definitive answer from the five experts interviewed, however one thing they did all agree on, is that certain species of animals continue to evade human detection – there’s still so much we’ve not yet discovered.
The internet is bursting with information on the Florida Skunk Ape. There’s plenty of amateur video on You Tube which has supposedly captured the elusive primate on record. But the shaky camera work and out of focus filming has a lot to be desired. The clearest image to date is from 11 years ago.
Two photographs were anonymously posted to the Sarasota county sheriff’s department in Florida with a letter in 2000. It was from a woman who claimed she’d seen the alleged Skunk Ape on the edge of her back garden. She claimed that on three different nights the ape had come to take apples from a bushel basket on her porch. She was convinced it was an escaped orangutan. Police patrols searched the area, they didn’t find a thing.
The study of “hidden animals” has been labelled by some as cryptozoology. Scientists however have criticised this method of research because of its reliance on anecdotal information with very little or no scientific evidence to support.
I love the idea of a new species of ape living in the Everglades, the area is the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States, so certainly big enough to accommodate it. But just as I knew at age five there was no such thing as Santa, I have a sneaky suspicion that this modern-day myth will only ever be just that.