Thursday, April 7, 2016

Vietnam Veterans Speak About the 'Rock Ape'

I have done a few posts over the years on sightings of large, upright apes of some kind that were encountered by American servicemen during the Vietnam war. At the end of each of those posts I have asked any Vietnam veterans who might have had an experience with one of these creatures to contact me. There has not been much of a response to my request but I cannot say that I am surprised. Most of the veterans I have met over the years who did tours in Southeast Asia do not like to talk about it much, at least not with people who were not there. This is, of course, more than understandable.

I have had some response, however, for which I am very grateful. Recently, I have received three email communications from Vietnam veterans who claim to have encountered what they called rock apes. Their messages are below. I have redacted their names so as to protect their privacy.

“In ‘69 I spent my whole tour in the bush (iron triangle) One night in ambush position I had last guard duty before dawn. We were positioned on the outside edge of a tree line. About 15 minutes into my watch I heard loud movement coming from a ways in the trees. As they got closer I determined it to be a troop of monkeys. But as they got closer these were really big monkeys. They started making loud noises like they were yelling and just tearing up the jungle. As the twilight became brighter I could see trees being shook, big trees that no human would be able to shake. I had a starlight scope mounted on my 16 but was never able to get a glimpse of what they were. There was so much racket going on I wondered why the noise didn't wake any of the other guys. They kept getting closer, I wondered if they knew we were there (maybe smelt us?) but they were so close I took the safety off the daisy chained claymores and was on the edge of blowing them when all of a sudden they just quit. It was lighter now and I would have been able to see them but they just vanished back into the jungle. It was so quiet it was eerie. One thing for sure, if they got hold of a human I'm sure he would have been shredded. I've always thought about what if they got just a little bit closer how many would I have killed because I was certainly loaded for bear.”


TCH Comment: The behavior described sounds like classic great ape intimidation behavior. The problem is that there are not supposed to be any apes in Vietnam.

“Rock apes are the real thing. I saw a band of them up on "Carlie Ridge" in Quang Nam Province in the spring of 1970. It was nightfall and I saw them through a Starlite scope. 10-15 of them headed away from us up a steep incline. They weren't VC because they walked as a pack side by side in the jungle and not in a military type line. They all looked to be very broad bodied and up to 5 ft tall.”


TCH Comment: Whatever this soldier saw, it certainly was not VC. The broad body and height described are typical of the rock ape reports I have read.

“I spent my whole tour in the bush in Vietnam. Have seen them both alive and dead. Only thing I can say I never seen them attack anyone. Had to kill one coming into lines one night. Never thought much about them other then they were apes. Yes, they did walk upright. About four and half to five tall. Saw them mostly around the Rock Pile. Heard a lot of different story about them in Nam. Like the throwing of rocks but never seen that myself. In my unit I would say that over 3/4 of the guys have seen them. As much as us Marines smell they were worse.”

- Anonymous, USMC

TCH Comment: I wish this marine had taken a picture of that dead ape. What he says about not thinking much about them other than they were apes is something that has been echoed many times. Most of the G.I.’s in Vietnam were very young and not up on what wildlife makes southeast Asia home. They simply did not know what they were encountering was not a species documented by science.

I have presented these emails exactly as they were sent to me. The stories are very similar to others I have been told or read about. The descriptions of appearance, behavior and even smell are very similar to those given by people across the globe who claim to have encountered large, bipedal, hair-covered “apes.”

Is there an unknown species of great ape or some kind of Wildman roaming the jungles of Vietnam and Cambodia? Perhaps, time will tell. Until then, we have the anecdotal accounts of our servicemen to ponder.

Make of them what you will.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Western Diamondback and Bluebonnet Rattlesnakes Terrorizing Texans

Rattlesnakes are nothing new to Texans. While dangerous, most would agree that the fearsome reputation of these snakes is completely overblown. Certainly, they are capable of doing great harm and are to be respected and left alone; however, when encountered, 99% of the time all they want to do is to get away. That being said, some Texans are beginning to see some changes in not only the behavior of rattlesnakes in the Lone Star State but in their appearance as well.

The buzz of a rattler's tail is something that you know instantly, whether you have ever heard it in person before or not. It is something that causes people to freeze in their tracks and slowly retreat from the area holding the snake. The rattling often keeps the snake and the human interloper safe. Something has changed, though, and fewer and fewer Lone Star rattlesnakes are giving their universally recognized warning.

“Behaviorally, the biggest change we are seeing in the Western diamondback is the reluctance to buzz or rattle,” said herpetologist Sid Finch of Caprock University. “More and more of them are staying quiet and behaving in a more stealthy and menacing manner.”

The reason for this change in behavior is debatable but most agree it is likely a combination of two factors that are the leading causes: rattlesnake roundups and feral hogs.

Finch said, “The explosion in popularity of these rattlesnake roundups has put a great deal of stress on the population. The snakes have learned that the loud individuals get taken away and only the quiet ones survive.” Finch continued, “If only the snakes who are more wary and quiet survive and breed, then their offspring are going to exhibit that trait as well.”

Feral hogs are playing a part in behavioral changes as well, according to Finch. “Hogs eat snakes. A rattlesnake buzzing its tail might as well be ringing the dinner bell for a hog,” he said. “This is another stressor on the population which has accelerated the learning curve of these snakes.”

As disturbing as the thought of a rattlesnake that does not give you a warning before striking might be, at least these Western diamondbacks still look the same and are easily recognizable. That is not the case in the eastern portion of the state where a new type of rattlesnake has appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, over the last ten years.

Finch explains, “The Bluebonnet rattlesnake is truly a remarkable case study, a miracle of evolution, if you will. The coloration, behavior and, it seems, seasonal appearance is unparalleled in snake annals.”

The Bluebonnet rattlesnake, as it has been dubbed, appears only in the spring months when the brush and trees begin to leaf out and the wildflowers start to bloom. The snake has a classic diamondback shaped pattern but the coloration is startlingly different. The Bluebonnet rattlesnake has purplish-blue markings that allow it to blend into the vast fields of Texas bluebonnets that pop up in the early spring. It is a strikingly beautiful animal but one that has been responsible for much heartache. It is a tradition in Texas for families to find a patch of bluebonnets and sit their young children in them in order to take a truly original Texas-style photo. Numerous children have suffered bites during these photo shoots and fear is starting to keep Texans from enjoying the treasure that is the official flower of the Lone Star State.

“Next to the coloration, the oddest thing about this snake is that it completely vanishes once summer sets in,” said Finch. “We have no idea where it goes. It just seems that when the bluebonnets are gone, so is the snake. It is quite remarkable.”

The next time you are out hiking in west Texas be sure and watch your step as you may not get a warning from the suddenly silent population of Western diamondbacks in the region. Those in central and east Texas need to be even more careful, as the Bluebonnet rattlesnake seems to have actually earned its nasty reputation.

Be careful out there.

Source: I.M. Kidding, (2016). The Gotcha Gazette. “Happy April Fool’s Day”