While Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster are well known, monster hunters are coming to Ireland this summer in search of an eel with a head like a horse.
It may sound like the opening for a Hollywood blockbuster but cryptozoologists from the US are making plans to explore Irish lakes in search of mysterious creatures this August – and make a documentary about their findings.
Cryptozoology is a subscience that aims to uncover creatures that are usually confined to folklore.
Ireland has a rich history of these animals, and the documentary makers are planning to search the lakes of Connemara for the horse eel – or peistes as they are known.
The fearsome eel is rumoured to be up to 30 feet long, with a mane of hair running along the back.
Richard Freeman is the head of the Fortean Centre of Zoology in Devon in the UK, and said this is the first time since the 1960s that the Horse Eel has been hunted for.
This centre is the only of it’s kind in the world and Richard, who is an ex-zookeeper, has been at the helm since founding it in 1992.
He is providing support for the documentary, Enigma, that Travis Wolfe and Allison Jorlean intend to shoot later this year.
He told The Irish Mirror: “The last proper investigations were carried out by Captain Lionel Leslie and author FW Holliday in the late 1960s.
“Captain Leslie used dynamite to force the creatures to the surface. He reported seeing one thrashing about at the surface after a blast had been set off.
“The creatures reported from the loughs are known locally as horse eels or peistes. They are said to resemble eels with a horse like mane running along the back.
“They range from 10 to 30 feet long and are capable of crawling across the land. The most famous sighting occurred in 1954 at Lough Fadda when Gorgina Carberry, a librarian from Clifden and her friends saw a 30 foot, eel-like beast with jaws like a shark.
“The creature she described as ‘wormy’ terrified her so much she had nightmares for years and would never return to the Lough alone or at night.”
However, Richard said this new study is particularly important because the ‘monsters’ may just be a massive strain of eel.
He said: “The monsters may be a gigantic, mutant strain of the common eel.
“The European eels live in freshwater but when it is ready to breed to swims out into the Sargasso Sea.
“The eels breed and die here and the young swim back the waters inhabited by their ancestors.
“However there is a theory that some eels never sexually develop. These eunuch eels as they are known, remain in freshwater and nobody knows just how long they live or how big they get.
“It is believed that these mutations arse on occasion within a normal population of eels.”
Enigma aims to uncover what is really in these lakes using state-of-the-art equipment and to document their findings.
Richard said that “if we can understand what causes such growth in eels we may be able to understand animal growth in general much better.”
When asked about the skepticism that surrounds cryptozoology, Richard said that he doesn’t pay any notice to it.
He said: “I stopped caring about what mainstream science thinks along time ago.
“The giant squid, the mountain gorilla, the Komodo dragon and the okapi were all dismissed as myths before they were discovered.
“Large animals are still being discovered today. The great days of zoology are not done.”
You can learn more about Richard’s work or reach out to him through http://www.cfz.org.uk and help fund Enigma here.
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