Tuesday, 17 December 2013


If you lived in Asbury Park (NJ) in 1909, you must be very old.  But you might have picked up a copy of the local newspaper, the Evening Press and read the astonishing story of Dan Possack.

Dan, the article informs us, was approached by an 18 foot tall bird which proceeded to address him in English.  Dan, unused to such encounters, took to his heels and his avian acquaintance went in hot pursuit.  At length it caught up with him and seized him.  A fight between the two ensued, but Dan had the advantage of having a hatchet, an implement large birds seldom carry.  He struck his feathered pursuer, knocking out one of its eyes.  The bird screamed, which is understandable in such trying circumstances, inflated its body and floated off.

What first struck me upon reading this thrilling tale was that this was a hoax story of the type newspaper editors were in the habit of using to fill up space when it was a slow news day.  But supposing there was some truth behind it, what could Dan Possack have encountered?

I reckon, if the whole thing is not a fabrication, that the bird was an ostrich or cassowary.  Dan would probably have recognized an ostrich and named it as such, but a cassowary is a much less known bird and it tends to be aggressive.  If you don't believe me, next time you see a cassowary, pull its feathers and see how it responds.  Cassowaries don't speak English, of course, but it might have made some noise that sounded like it.  The only question was what a cassowary might have been doing in New Jersey.  An illegal immigrant, perhaps?

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