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Walter Montgomery via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Archaeologists Find ‘New Clues’ in Search for Roanoke’s Lost Colonists

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Walter Montgomery via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
The Baptism of Virginia Dare, by Walter Montgomery.

In 1587, British ships deposited 115 settlers on the island of Roanoke and sailed away. By the time Governor John White returned with provisions three years later, every single one of the settlers had vanished. The fate of the so-called Lost Colony has remained a mystery ever since. Now, archaeologists say they may be close to a solution: Excavations in North Carolina have uncovered dozens of artifacts from the late 16th century, The Virginian-Pilot reports.

The governor had been hesitant to leave in the first place. Just two months after the colonists arrived, White’s daughter gave birth to a little girl—the first English baby born in the New World. But his people’s need was dire, and so White set off for England, promising to return as soon as he could. In the event of trouble, White told the settlers, they should “remove 50 miles into the main.”

This ought to have provided a clear search area for both White and modern-day researchers. The problem, says archaeologist Clay Swindell of the First Colony Foundation, is that White apparently didn’t specify a direction.

“No one had a good understanding where the 50 miles might be,” Swindell told the Virginian-Pilot.

But over time, some locations have become more likely candidates than others. One of the current front-runners is a plot called Site X in Bertie County located about 49 nautical miles (57 miles) from Roanoke Island. Situated on high ground near a river, the site would have been appealing to settlers, as well as those who would have come before and after them. Historical records of, and excavations at, Site X have revealed wave after wave of inhabitants, including Native Americans and European settlers, and a governor’s plantation.

The site was first uncovered in 2007 during exploratory digs in preparation for a large land development deal. Preliminary excavations uncovered artifacts from both English and Native American settlements. The deal fell through, but the site had caught archaeologists’ attention.

Their interest only increased in 2012, when historians examining a map drawn by White found that he had included a fort in modern-day Bertie County. If White had been aware of a fort at that location, it’s possible he sent the colonists there. Search parties sent after the settlers never made it that far.

“We put two and two together,” Swindell said.

Swindell says the most recent excavations at Site X have uncovered dozens of artifacts from the colonists’ time, including nails, pieces of pottery, tools, and gun parts.

The team is not ready to declare victory just yet. Finding these items does not mean that Virginia Dare and her family were there, Swindell says, but it does mean that they could have been.

“We have new clues,” Swindell said. “That’s all we can say, there are new clues.”

[h/t The Virginian-Pilot]

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Before Bigfoot and Yeti, There Was the Legendary Wampahoofus of Vermont
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Mt. Mansfield, Vermont
Wikimedia // Public Domain

Long before Bigfoot and Yeti became well-known in Western popular culture, another legendary creature was said to roam the woods of Vermont’s Green Mountains. Quite possibly a distant cousin of the rackabore, a pig-like creature, and almost certainly a near-relative of the whangdoodle, which has no defined character, the wampahoofus was a large mammal that evolved with legs longer on one side than on the other. The result was either a left-leaning or right-leaning beast that could move rapidly around mountains and hillsides—but only in one direction, clockwise or counterclockwise. (By some accounts, the males always went clockwise, and the females counter-clockwise.) If, by some chance, it reversed course and ended up on the wrong side of a hill on the short side of its body, it could tumble down the slope to its death.

Although details vary, the wampahoofus (also called the gyascutus or gouger) was said to resemble a mix between a deer and wild boar. While the Vermont varieties had fur, a version with scales is also said to have existed elsewhere. Its color varied from a dark green to an almost glowing orange. Some were three-toed, others had five. There’s even mention of a cloven-hoofed wampahoofus, and one that grew a whistle at the end of its tail.

Males and females usually ignored each other, except during courtship and mating. When that period ended, they’d wander around the mountains, grazing on the vegetation and enjoying the sights below. Yet their herbivore lifestyle was not without its threats.

Although there are few reports of them being hunted, the wampahoofus was always on guard. Their unique limb structure only enabled them to move in certain areas—they never entered the valleys or climbed beyond a certain elevation. Only the females sometimes ventured higher than they should, and then only to nurse their calves. In a piece for Nature Compass, a publication from the Green Mountain Club, writer Maeve Kim said her dad’s great-grandfather once came across five of these “ungainly cows [wampahoofuses], each caring for one nursing calf," and that it was “quite a sight.”

The origins of the wampahoofus are a source of spirited debate. References to similar creatures can be found in records dating back hundreds of years, and not just in America. Sir Thomas Browne, for example, wrote in the 17th century that British Badgers or “Brocks” had legs of varied sizes. “That a Brock or Badger hath the legs on one side shorter then [sic] of the other, though an opinion perhaps not very ancient, is yet very general; received not only by Theorists and unexperienced believers, but assented unto by most who have the opportunity to behold and hunt them daily," he recorded.

However, most agree that this particular hybrid originated in the 1800s before the Civil War, and while Vermont seems the likely “birthplace,” there’s also speculation it was first spotted in northern Maine. Experts (a term used lightly) believe the wampahoofus came to life in the lumber camps of the northern woods.

Back then, logging was the largest and most profitable industry in Vermont and much of New England. Before railways and working roads, logs traveled down lakes, rivers, and other bodies of water. Lumberjacks spent months deep in the woods cutting trees and sending them off for processing. At night, around the blazing campfires, these hard-working men killed time sharing far-fetched stories and crafting all sorts of mythical and legendary creatures. Their vivid imaginations may well have sparked the tales of the wampahoofus and related variations elsewhere.

In Fearsome Critters, one of many collections of lumberjack folklore, author Henry Tyron described the migration of the wampahoofus, which he referred to as gougers, from east to west. “Normal Gougers must obviously, travel around the hillside, and in making their daily rounds for food they wear the characteristic, partly gouged-out paths so familiar to woodsmen. These paths were once very common in New England, but today they are thought to be most frequently seen in the partly forested regions of the West,” he wrote. One source told him that the gouger population had grown “too thick” in New England, and “There warn’t enough food to go around and somebody just had to move out.”

Other accounts claim that a pair of entrepreneurial New Englanders brought a wampahoofus (here called a gyascutus) south on a circus-style traveling show, although all that the eager crowd ever witnessed was a set of furry feet peeking from below an elaborate curtain. The showman would poke at the drape, causing the creature to wail and scream. Amidst the chaos, an alarm went off and the creature would escape unseen. A Midwestern newspaper warned residents of this “formidable animal" on the loose, stating that “there is no knowing the amount of mischief he may occasion while roaming at large and disturbing the cogitations of those quiet people who know nothing about him.” Yet, somehow, the Yankees always recaptured the devious beast and had it ready for the next show a few towns away.

Fact or fiction, evolution didn’t work out well for the wampahoofus. Although a left-leaning wampahoofus could mate with a right-leaning one, the result was a severely deformed offspring with mismatched legs—a poor hybrid that could not move and often perished soon after birth. As time passed, both the left-leaning and right-leaning wampahoofus’s legs became shorter and shorter. Eventually, mating became impossible and the species died out.

Today, the last traces of this elusive creature can be seen along Mount Mansfield, Vermont’s highest peak, where the Wampahoofus Trail intersects the journey to the summit. (The path was reportedly named by a professor who thought a nearby rock formation looked like the legendary creature.) These days, hikers may giggle at the trail's name, and some might snap a picture—but few know the woods are a place where a strange, wobbling creature once roamed.

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There’s a $1 Million Bounty on Bigfoot
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If you’re a Pennsylvania resident with evidence of giant ape-men trespassing in your backyard, Tom Biscardi wants to hear from you. The self-described “Godfather of Bigfoot” and his team of trackers are offering a $1 million bounty for "information leading to the capture or delivery of a bona fide Bigfoot," the Associated Press reports.

Biscardi has been searching for Bigfoot for 50 years. He was inspired to start the lifelong quest in 1967 after watching the Patterson-Gimlin film, a 59-second clip of what appears to be a large, furry creature striding around Bluff Creek in California.

In the time since, Biscardi has produced Bigfoot documentaries, launched a Bigfoot-hunting podcast, and founded Searching for Bigfoot, Inc., an organization dedicated to locating the legendary creature. Now he’s calling on the public to share any leads they may have on the cryptid’s whereabouts.

The hefty reward means the Searching for Bigfoot team is investigating up to 30 tips a day, most of which end up going nowhere. Most recently, Biscardi and his team, which includes his son T.J. and his grandson Tommy, were lured to the woods of Crawford County, Pennsylvania in search of hard evidence. They found one eroded heel print and sticks in unnatural arrangements, but Sasquatch himself was a no-show. "I want a creature," T.J. Biscardi told AP. "I'm done with pictures, done with prints, done with hair samples, done with fecal matter."

Even if they are able to capture a specimen of an animal most scientists agree doesn’t exist, convincing the public of its authenticity will be a challenge. Tom Biscardi has been involved with a few hoaxes in his career, including the discovery of a frozen Bigfoot “body” that turned out to be a rubber suit. Then there’s the legal complications involved with hunting a Bigfoot: Shooting the hypothetical beast for sport is against the law in some states, so Pennsylvania citizens might want to check with their wildlife department before setting off to claim the $1 million trophy.

[h/t WPXI]

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