Here Be Monsters Podcast

The Podcast About the Unknown

HBM097: Fox Teeth

In the Westfjords of Iceland, people wait for birds to come ashore so that they can gather the feathers they leave behind.  These birds, called Eider Ducks, are the source of eiderdown, a ridiculously expensive and rare stuffing for bedding. 

This has landed the Arctic Fox in the crosshairs (quite literally).  These relatively common foxes are opportunistic eaters who snack on eider ducks if they get the chance.

Icelandic Language documentary on the production of eiderdown.

An Arctic Fox (vulpes lagopus).

An Arctic Fox (vulpes lagopus).

So the Icelandic government placed a bounty on each fox killed (if you can provide its tail as proof).  Hunters of the Westfjords set up elaborate baiting ambushes for the foxes, and wait in darkened houses with rifles in the middle of blizzards.

The taxidermied body of “Tripod”, a three-legged fox.  Pictured here carrying the body of a seabird (a razorbill).

The taxidermied body of “Tripod”, a three-legged fox.  Pictured here carrying the body of a seabird (a razorbill).

But some foxes are smart enough to outfox the hunters.

Megan Perra heard a rumor of a three legged Icelandic fox named “Tripod” that beat the odds.  A fox that grew to almost twice the normal size from stealing food from traps for three full years (or so the legend goes).  Megan is an illustrator/journalist from Portland, Oregon, and she’s currently working on a video documentary about the foxes’ interactions with humans. 

Megan retraces the steps of Tripod, from his birthplace in the Westfjords, to the lab in southern Iceland where he was dissected, and to his current home in a glass case at the Arctic Fox Centre.

She visits a rural gas station where she finds Jóhann Hannibalsson, the hunter who finally shot Tripod after years of trying.  The two of them go on a snowmobile ride that brings them to a cabin where, in the dark, Megan witnesses Jóhann’s version of a fox hunt. 

Along the way, Megan also speaks to Ester Unnsteinsdóttir (a fox researcher), Siggi Hjartarson (a hunter), Stephen “Midge” Midgley (Manager at the Arctic Fox Centre), and Þorvaldur “Doddi” Björnsson (the taxidermist who preserved Tripod’s body).

An Icelandic hunter, Jóhann Hannibalsson, at a remote cabin where he intends to shoot a fox.

An Icelandic hunter, Jóhann Hannibalsson, at a remote cabin where he intends to shoot a fox.

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Megan Perra produced this episode.  Jeff Emtman edited with help from Bethany Denton.  All visuals accompanying this episode are courtesy of Feral Five Creative Co / Megan Perra

Music: The Black Spot ||| Serocell


In other news, if you live in the Boston area, and would like free shipping on our HBM Meat Poster, Jeff will deliver you one on his bike (while supplies last).  Just purchase the poster as usual, then we’ll refund you the shipping cost.  Feel free to contact us if you’d like to know if the offer’s still good or to see if you live within delivery range. 

HBM075: The Weight of Science

Anita Woodley went to the Rhine Research Center for scientific confirmation.  Since childhood, she’d dreamt the future, able to predict imminent murders in her neighborhood.  She prayed away her abilities for a period of her early adulthood, but they returned unexpectedly after the birth of her first child.  Her psychic abilities troubled her.  Going to the Rhine Center was her doctor’s suggestion.  Her doctor said she wasn’t alone, that there were others with her gift.  

The Rhine Research Center is America’s oldest parapsychology lab.  It started in 1935 as the Duke Parapsychology Lab under the leadership of Dr. Joseph Banks Rhine.  Dr. Rhine, a botanist with a growing fascination of psychics, turned his attention from plants and towards ESP.  He devoted the rest of his life to legitimizing its study as a science.

Duke University severed its affiliation with the Rhine Center in 1965 when Dr. Rhine reached retirement age.  The lab moved off campus and operates today as an independent non-profit.

John G Kruth, the Rhine Center’s Executive Director, breaks ESP down into five categories: telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition, psychokinesis and survival studies (persistence of self outside of the body).

While living, Dr. Rhine believed he found evidence for ESP.  Other academics were skeptical.  What’s not up for debate is that Anita Woodley and others like her feel validated to have the weight of science confirming their abilities.  

Anita was given a test similar to a Ganzfeld Experiment.  Also, she was tested for remote viewing abilities.  She says that she scored highly.  Due to the Rhine’s policy of not releasing records, we couldn’t confirm this.    

Conduct your own Ganzfeld Experiment from the comfort of your home.

Find images in the static from the comfort of your own home.

We produced this episode in conjunction with Hi-Phi Nation, a story-driven philosophy podcast hosted by Barry Lam.  This episode serves as the introduction to his series called Hackademics which looks into modern overreliance on statistical significance.  Listen to Part OneListen to Part Two.

Barry Lam is a professor of philosophy at Vassar College and a visiting fellow at Duke University’s Story Lab.

Jeff Emtman edited this episode with help from Bethany Denton.

Music: The Black Spot | | | Serocell | | | Phantom Fauna

HBM050: The Scientist is not the Angel of Death

What's a life worth? About $25, before shipping.  At least, that's the case if you want a high-quality inbred lab mouse, like the C57BL/6J (in the biz, they just call them "black mice"). 

In this episode of Here Be Monsters, Jeff Emtman joins "The Scientist," an unnamed cancer researcher, for an after-hours trip to his lab, where they visit the hundreds of lab mice that he tends to.  The Scientist's job is to inject his mice with cancer cells, then attempt to cure them using experimental treatments.  After the cancers become too large, he kills the mice. 

Jeff Emtman wearing his protective garb prior to entering The Scientist's lab. 

Jeff Emtman wearing his protective garb prior to entering The Scientist's lab. 

The Scientist points to the spot where he injects cancer cells into lab mice. 

Trailer for "Fantastic Planet" (1973). AKA "La Planète sauvage".

The Scientist says that he is not a satanist, despite the satanic art that covers much of his body.   Instead, he considers himself a utilitarian, someone who believes that sacrifices must be made to promote the most good for the most beings (human or otherwise).  And "sacrifice" is actually the technical term he and others use for killing the mice.  The Scientist admits that it is a euphemistic word, but defends it because "from their sacrifice, you gain knowledge."

In his lab, the death comes via carbon dioxide, which is often thought to be the most painless option (though it has critics).  Other labs use cervical dislocation--though generally there's a requirement that the animal must be unconscious first.  

After the lab, Jeff and The Scientist sit out on a porch drinking beer, discussing the path to becoming a scientist, The Scientist's admiration of Neil Degrasse Tyson, and the beautiful French animated film, Fantastic Planet.

Music: Lucky Dragons ||| The Black Spot ||| Flowers