Monday, February 8, 2010

Lascivious Centaur

Now apparently extinct (if it ever existed), the Lascivious Centaur was not a centaur at all, of course, in the traditional sense. It was actually a lizard standing about knee-high. The creature roamed an area of far northern California near the Oregon border during the 19th Century.

While some scholars believe that the Lascivious Centaur, which was rarely sighted and never captured, was a cryptozoological creature that never existed, contemporary trappers, fur traders, explorers, "mountain men" and their chroniclers were passionate in their claims of its existence. The creature was notorious for attacking hunters and explorers in the middle of the night, approaching undetected while they slept and then furiously licking the area around the victim's face and neck. One theory maintains that they were attracted to the salt in the sweat of the explorers, who of course rarely bathed. This unbelievably strange behavior is what, along with its appearance, gave the creature its name.

Legend has it that "mountain man" Joe Walker was on a hunting trip somewhere in what is now northeastern California when he woke up in the middle of the night and found a knee-high lizard, sporting a chinstrap beard and a tiger-striped tail, furiously licking his face. Biographers say that the hardened explorer immediately returned to Chicago, slept with lanterns permanently lit, and carved a trail of debauchery through the entire city for over a year. Walker himself denied the entire incident, and maintained that he had spent that year on a "hunting trip" in search of a "giant panther", but it was common knowledge that he always slept with his head and neck covered.

Sightings of the creature faded away with the big wave of migration across the Oregon Trail in 1843, and by the end of the 19th Century the Centaur had virtually disappeared from contemporary chronicles. Did the creature die off, or did the stories just end? Locally, some Californians still speak in whispers about the mysterious lizard, but no fossil record exists, nor is there any concrete evidence for the existence of the odd lizard. There were a wave of "sightings" near Humboldt in the late 1970's, but those were eventually traced to a mutant crop of Marijuana. Students at Humboldt State University, in a mocking salute, adopted the unusual Chinstrap Beard in an homage. The lizard is so obscure that it has never even been featured on a documentary or television show, even those exploring the likes of Bigfoot or the Abominable Snowman. Even the X Files passed, although Chris Carter did pen an episode that the network later vetoed, fearing that it was too unbelievable. Scientists continue to speculate.

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