Thursday, September 30, 2010


SyFy - Original Air Date: 9/30/10

The show sets out to recreate the legendary griffon. They start with the body of a cave lion, then add in the face and hunting tactics of a Mongolian golden eagle.  Then they add the eagle's talons to the front legs and give it wings with a 25' span (so it can lift Mongolian horses). They give it swept-back ears, too.  Then they make a to-scale nest, out in Mongolia, for their beast to roost in.  (The end result looks a whole lot like Bill the Griffon from my series The Twilight Empire -- returning to the web soon.)  Finally, of course, they create a movie of the creature swooping over a city and generally terrorizing people.  It doesn't carry off any horses, but it does take a motorcycle -- and some other techno gear -- to its nest.

DESTINATION TRUTH - Ghost Fleet; Japanese River Monster

SyFy - Original Air Date: 9/30/10

The crew goes to the Micronesia check out Japanese WWII ghost wrecks and then to Japan itself to look for Kappa.  Truk Lagoon is a graveyard of WWII ships, patrolled by tiger sharks, and reputed to be haunted.  The team will conduct the "first ever" underwater paranormal investigation.  (Quotes because I have no way of verifying this claim.)  As always, they chat up the locals and hear spooky stories; supposedly, sunken vehicles can be heard running in the deep, 130 feet down.  Into the drink they go, turning up human remains and unexploded bombs, just for fun. They also hear mysterious noises that sound like trucks running.  At night, they check out haunts on one of the local islands and do some night diving, too.  More shadows and sounds, both above & below, ending in the now-standard consult with Grant & Jason from Ghost Hunters.  The spooky underwater sounds prove inconclusive; sounds carry a long way underwater.  A Flir (infrared) hit they determine to be merely a local villager walking by.  The underwatrer engine sounds, though, do sound like an engine, but is it paranormal?  Josh considers their trip a successful expansion of paranormal research.

Kappa, once feared throughout Japan, have become pop-culture icons. But recently, reptilian creatures have been sighted in Japanese rivers. Could the turtle-like Kappa be back?  The DT team samples the local kappa souvenirs and sees what purports to be the bones of a kappa foot.  Then they stay in a micro hotel, with rooms like a double-wide coffin before heading to Tono to check out the rivers.  They spot a giant koi fish, and Josh swims a frigid river to carry across a line to ferry equipment.  Then they set up the usual perimeter and camera traps, 'cause apparently monsters only come out at night, so that's when they always look.  (Point: Any night-hunting creature is gonna see -- and hear -- these guys, and avoid them, long before they can see it.)  They feel something moving in the river, catch something on an IR camera, and frighten some bats in a cave.  In analysis, the video is possibly a rare river otter, and the moving thing Josh felt an eel.  The foot bones are likely from a canine. Thus, the show concludes, the Kappa remains a colorful myth, fueled possibly, by misidentification of known creatures.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

DESTINATION TRUTH - Ghost of Haboro; Mngwa

SyFy - Original Air Date: 9/23/10

The DT crew goes to Japan to investigate a ghost and Africa to see about a mythical beast.  Haboro, Japan, was a mining town with a horrible safety record, and it's now purported to be huanted by ghosts. Locals note that it's not only dangerous because of ghosts, but because bears also live there.  The team goes down the officially-closed road to town and sets up camp in the spooky buildings and apartment complexes.  They spot some strange images on the Fleer (infrared) and encounter unexpected danger in rotted floors.  They also see strange lights and hear strange noises.  In the supposedly haunted 4th floor apartment, where they saw the Fleer hit, there's a makeshift shrine. Creepy.  They return to the US with plenty of EVPs and the strange Fleer image.  But could it be some kind of reflection?  Josh and company think the place is haunted.

In Tanzania, the crew is looking for the gray-furred, catlike man-eater, Mngwa.  They head for the Serengeti and talk to local witnesses. (I am impressed that some local hunters believe this creature to be real.)  At night, they do some stalking in a jeep, and more on foot, and see quite a few native animals.  (Kids, don't try this.)  They see a lot of eyes in the dark and take some print casts. But video shows nothing conclusive, and the print proves to be that of a large, very dangerous lion. The crew concludes that the mngwa most likely no longer exists, though its legend remains.


SyFy - Original Air Date: 9/23/10

The BL teams goes from the Caribbean to the South Pacific to recreate the shark god Dakuwanga.  They research types of sharks, from bulls to reefs to the ancient megalodon.  They swim with sharks and build a scale model on the beach from sand.  They dive into the deep to find Dakuwanga's lair, and run into sea snakes on land.  (The god can be either man, shark, or snake.)  Then they create a CGI movie of Dakuwanga attacking a submarine.  Just another day at the Beast Legends lab.

SyFy seems to have timed this episode to coincide with the release of Sharktopus (Saturday, 9/25/10), and that's fine with me, as (coincidentally) I'm flogging a shark story right now, too: "Monster Shark," which just became available on Amazon for Kindle and Smashwords for other ebook formats.  I have special 99 cent pricing on the story until 10/2/10, so be sure to take advantage of it while you can.  On Smashwords, you have to use the discount code: AY48G. Yeah, I usually don't plug my own stuff in reviews, but with this kind of timing, how could I resist?  Enjoy.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

DESTINATION TRUTH - Spirits of Angkor Wat & Canadian Lake Monster

SyFy - Original Air Date: 9/16/10

Josh and Crew go to Cambodia to look for ghosts in Angkor Wat, then head to Lake Okanagan, Canada, to find the Ogopogo.  Angkor Wat, the famous forty-square-mile temple complex, is up first, and the crew has the usual adventures with the locals, and interviews the usual witnesses, on their way.  Then they set up the standard perimeter cameras and start poking around in the dark.  Anyone who has seen the Tomb Raider series or numerous other video games will be familiar with the look of Angkor's amazing architecture, and it's just as creepy and amazing in real life.  Fairly quickly, Josh captures a shadowy, humanlike form on the Fleer (infrared) camera.  Just as quickly, they start seeing shapes moving through the darkness, though they don't fine anything, either human or animal.  They climb to the top of the complex, light some candles and make an offering; oddly, the candles blow out and they see a light darting through the building, though no one else is there.  Back in the states for analysis, they get the usual "voices" in their EVP work, but the figure on the thermal is the strangest bit of evidence.  Again, I wonder about in-lens reflections, but the team concludes that Angkor Wat has a paranormal presence.

On to Lake Okanagan to hunt the Ogopogo, Canada's Loch Ness Monster, reportedly a serpent-like creature 30-60' long.  After talking to the standard local eyewitnesses, they take a plane up and scout the lake.  They see a strange long shape in the water, but can't track it down, even though they go diving and check out a local underwater cave by hand and with an ROV (remotely operated vehicle).  Though Josh does see a large shape swim below him, he can't catch it; silty water limits the ROV's use.  They camp on Rattlesnake Island and set up the usual equipment.  They get a hit on their fish finder, but eventually dismiss it as possible debris.  They spot a shadow on the water on the night vision, but again can't track anything solid down, though the ROV gets caught on something, probably weeds.  A marine expert later suggests that many "Ogopogo" sightings are wakes or bubbles or other natural phenomena.  He also suggests a sturgeon may explain some sightings, though no sturgeon have been caught in Lake Okanagan.  Josh remains convinced, because of his close calls, that something strange may still lurk in the huge, deep lake.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


SyFy - Original Air Date: 9/16/10

The team looks into dragon legends, starting with the legend of Smok, a dragon supposedly killed in Poland. They find the bones of the beast in a church, and one clever team member determines they are: the skull of a rhino, the thigh of a mammoth (or elephant), and the jawbone of a whale (masquerading as a rib).  Similarly, dragon tracks turn out to belong to a dinosaur.  So they play with a gator to see how it swallows its prey whole, and then add the fangs of a puff adder, some gator skin, the belly of a gar fish, and bat wings (naturally - though they discard those in favor of a gliding membrane).  They also mess with a flamethrower setup. And that's our monster mash-up for this week, suitable for terrorizing woodland creatures or city dwellers. Look for it in a SyFy movie coming soon.  Maybe.

FACT OR FAKED: The Caretaker; Cutter

SyFy - Original Air Date: 8/19/10

Cases the group doesn't take this week include a UFO supposedly abducting aircraft, which they dismiss as likely CGI, as no planes have been reported mysteriously missing in Southern CA.  "Creepers" lurking about in a deserted hospital see a shadowy figure, but it looks like a planted dummy to me and the FF crew.  Skunk ape, the Florida version of Bigfoot, looks like a guy in a suit.  ("Look, everyone! Patterson film!" says one team leader, aping the onscreen actions.)  They finally settle on Colorado Cattle Mutilations (Cutter, I guess), and a Cemetery Phantom (Caretaker) caught on film in IN.  The "ghost" on the film was not seen by the people at the time, and locals say it was a "ghost train" passing through.

They go to Indiana first and talk to the witnesses, all believers of course, and no one seems at all suspicious that the image was not seen at the cemetery, only when reviewing the film later.  They set up at the site and try some possible explanations: ATV (too solid, too noisy), a dust devil (recreated by fan, but not convincing), and a man running in mist (similar, but...) Science having "failed," they turn to EVP sessions and catch the usual strange sounds: proof of nothing, in my estimation.  So they call this one "paranormal," and never even consider the idea that a camera malfunction or reflection (which seem mostly likely to me) could have caused this image.  One more case unsolved due to lack of effort and/or skepticism.

In Colorado, the team talks to witnesses, procures a dead cow, and does some experiments -- including a doctor cutting with an electric cauterizer and a laser to try to recreate the mutilations.  (Carcass donated later to a wolf sanctuary, so nothing goes to waste.)  Those techniques either don't work or take too long or both, so they leave the carcass out over night to check for predators. And, as they do that, they look for UFOs, too.  No UFOs show up, but they do find a bird feeding on the carcass, so they decide to try to replicate natural bloating.  They put an inflatable bladder inside cowhide and pump it up.  When they do, they discover that, under pressure, the cowhide rips in curving, surgical-looking lines.  Their conclusion: natural causes.  Score one for science!  (Though I have to point out that this conclusion has been reported and supported scientifically before -- including on IS IT REAL? Chupacabras.)  Maybe it's new to their audience, though.  Case closed.

DESTINATION TRUTH - Poltergeists of Pompeii & Nandi Beast

SyFy - Original Air Date: 9/9/10

Josh and company go to Pompeii to look for ghosts and Africa to look for a legendary lion-like beast.  They start out in old Italy, prowling around the ancient Roman city destroyed by a volcano 2000 (or so) years ago.  Pompeii is cool, and looks really spooky at night.  They take a crystal geode to the Temple of Ishtar to try to invoke the spirits living in the ruins.  And they actually catch a strange, humanlike shadow on their FLIR (infrared) camera, but find no one where they saw the image. (Note -- After viewing a recent Fact or Faked, I'm beginning to wonder if someone needs to seriously look into in-lens reflections for some of this equipment.)  Naturally, since ghosts are involved, they do EVP work, too.  After being creeped out for a while, they head back to check their video/audio with the Ghost Hunters, Jason & Grant.  As usual, the EVP work turns up strange noises/voices. (But is there any science?)  The GH guys like the shadow on the video, too -- very mysterious -- and the group concludes that Pompeii is a pretty spooky place, probably haunted.

Next, Josh & co. go searching for the Nandi Bear (beast) in Africa.  They hit the area in Kenya where the bear is reported to be, talk to locals, and set up the usual surveillance & camera traps, etc.  The African wilds can be a dangerous place, especially when you go poking around at night, and the team barely avoids lions and other local beasts.  Some kind of creature even prowls near their camp, barely within range of their cameras.  Back in LA, they analyze their footage, and discover that their camera traps have caught the beast in question: hyenas.  They conclude that hyenas (which even look like their CGI recreation of the Nandi Bear) are the likely origin of this myth.

Overall, this is a pretty good DT episode, if not the "season opening blockbuster" I hoped for. If you like Josh & his crew, you'll probably want to tune in for more of their shenanigans this season.


SyFy - Original Air Date: 9/9/10

The ads led me to believe that this was going to be some kind of serious investigation of mythical/legendary beasts, and I guess, in some ways, it is. I thought, though, that it would be a "Wow can these beasts be real?" show, or "What is the reality behind the myth?"  In that, I was completely mistaken.  This show, if the premier episode is any indication, rather, takes the reported mythical properties of such beasts, compares them to reality, and then uses those "statistics" to create a CGI version of the beast.  Yeah, it's recreating the monsters in CG, not investigating where the myths came from.  So, at the end we get a pretty cool monster, but no real "meat" whatsoever. And the Kraken they came up with this week was pretty cool.  And they stuff they did to recreate it, seeing real squids, climbing ship's masts, were pretty cool, too.  But, in the end, it seems to me that this show may be mostly of a "tryout" show for future SyFy CGI monster movies.  (And if they need writers for those movies, sign me up.)  It is not a paranormal investigation show.  If you like CGI monsters and just a tad of history/science, tune in.  But if you were expecting SyFy's answer to MonsterQuest, give it a pass.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Truth Behind UFOs Over Phoenix

National Geographic Channel - Original Air Date: Unknown (Viewed 9/2010)

While this show claims to be the "truth" about this well-known UFO incident, the vast amount of the show is taken up with eyewitness accounts and speculation about what it would take to create and fly a craft like the one reported by those witnesses. Normal propulsion and craft and pilots are ruled out, and there's plenty of talk about what it could "not" be.  "The fact is, no earthly explanations can account for the sightings," the show concludes about halfway through.  They do mention the military flares being dropped that night, but they quickly rule them out as an explanation for any of the sightings.  Clearly, none of these people have seen the first-class debunking in UFOs Over Phoenix, nor would they probably care if they had.  All of the "scientist/experts" in this show are actually UFO researchers; they all have a horse in this race.  There is very little, if any time, given to the possibility that the witnesses are merely wrong -- mistaken or unwittingly exaggerating what they've seen.  Thus does science die the death of a thousand cuts at the hands of "believers."  And make no mistake, despite its title, this show is for believers, not skeptics.  I expect better from National Geographic; sadly, this time, I did not get it.  I cannot tell if this is another in the "The Truth Behind..." series I've reported on before.  If it is, it falls considerably short of the standards of the others.  If you're looking for the truth for the Phoenix sightings, look elsewhere.