THE WINCHESTER-NABU DETECTIVE AGENCY

Gus on a leash
AMBER LOVE 11-SEP-2017 My work is supported by the generous backers who tolerate my cat stories at Patreon.com/amberunmasked and they also get first access to what’s happening with my books and podcast. Also, buy my books with these handy links below:

ADVENTURES WITH GUS – CHAPTER EIGHTEEN: WORLD OF WITCHERSCAPE

Where we left off…

Detective Inspector Guster Nabu and his primary human caregiver, Amber Love, discovered two amazing artifacts on their last exploration.

INTERIOR. THE WINCHESTER-NABU ESTATE. AMBER SITS AT HER DESK.

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It was so dark this morning at 6AM when Gus roused me from bed. The feeling of elation from a full night of sleep can’t be described. Mind you, I pretty much medicated myself enough to knock out a horse. Gus was well-behaved considering how mischievous he can be; letting me sleep two extra hours was delightful. Most days he pulls things off the nightstand and cries non-stop to get me up. Today he was good. He pulled off one thing from the nightstand which didn’t make a loud clunk to the floor. I heard him running up and the down the stairs with Oliver and having brief tumbles of Jiu Jitsu.

The rain started almost as soon as I was finished with a morning yoga practice. I took the boys to the porch. Oliver was content as usual; Gus wanted to go in and out and in and out. I can trust Ollie not to get into trouble out there so I brought Gus inside because it was time to get to work.

Before returning to the exciting tasks of archaeological investigations, there were other things on the To Do List. Boring crap like updating the checkbook to the fun task of doing a tarot reading. Then it really was time to get cracking on decoding the mysteries of the first artifact Gus and I found in the forest near the top of this little mountain: the antlers.

winchester-nabu antler

Don’t forget to read through the back story of this discovery first in chapter 17.

Theory #1:

It might be easy to assume that sightings of deer in the area automatically makes this first find a deer antler. This wouldn’t be New Jersey if mysteries were solved with the rudimentary application of Occam’s razor.

deer

Being neophytes to outdoor adventures, Gus and I haven’t learned any tracking skills based on footprints. He is mostly driven by scent, sound, and the sight of movements.

Reference: NJ Hunter Ed. Course

Theory #2:

We’re only a couple hours drive from the geographic origin of the infamous Jersey Devil. When it comes to cryptozoology, the Jersey Devil is fairly unique. There might be various types of forest apes or sea monsters but there is only one monster described the way a Jersey Devil is. Due to a lack of quantifiable evidence, no one can be precisely sure of the size or characteristics. We don’t know how it breeds, for example. There have even been news reports of tiny creatures suspected of being Jersey Devils. Of course it was covered up, the reports rescinded, and new reports issued that those were black squirrels with mange.

jersey devil
Source: The Odyssey Online Museum

 

Gus presented his own theory: that the original species called the Jersey Devil was able to mate successfully with other common animals which created breeds the size of enormous dogs, smaller than horses; enormous dogs like the Irish Wolfhound might be good candidates based on the body structure compared to drawings of the Jersey Devil (useless trivia: according to Pottermore, the Irish Wolfhound is also Amber’s Patronus). We took a looked at a ton of images. Google isn’t the most helpful here; it tends to show the same ones repeatedly because the size is different or they pop up on multiple websites.

Irish wolfhound
Source: By bouyeros (personnel fujifilm 8000sd) CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

 

What we did notice were traits that are common and traits that vary. The horns were a variable. Some were shaped like antelopes seen in Africa while other artist renditions show them as small versions one might see on a goat. There were even versions without any horns at all. The antler we retrieved has three distinct prongs. That rules out singular horns like anything descended from antelopes or rams.

opossum
Assumed to be playing dead opossum. Photo by Amber

 

As far as other evidence we’ve noted, we have heard unusual shrieks from the woods. I went in search of the animal shrieking one hot afternoon without Gus. I did find something: an opossum lying on its back. I took a picture and immediately sent it to my nature-loving friend in Florida, Neliza Drew. I described the sounds and she said the opossums are generally more catlike with hissing sounds. That wasn’t at all what we heard. I did, however, learn that the “playing possum” defensive nature of the animal is involuntary and could last for hours. The poor little thing could have been so scared so that it simply fell over. It wasn’t there the next day so if it was in fact killed, whatever did it must have come back for the meal. If it was pretending, I guess the stasis wore off and it went on its merry way.

What could have scared a badass creature like an opossum? Maybe it was whatever the hell Gus and I have stumbled upon — the real origin of the shrieks and antlers.

Gus antlers

One thing that we noted in our research of the Cervidae family is that the animals shed their antlers every year. The antlers begin to regenerate in the spring. Another interesting fact about this growth is that the hormonal regulation of antler growth depends not only nutrients available but also the length of daylight. When the antlers are still covered in the soft velvet fur, they are rich in blood supply and vulnerable to injury.

Was the antler shed or broken off in battle?

If we are to categorize a half-breed of Jersey Devil with some type of Cervidae mammal, there’s a possibility that females of the species would also have antlers which is a natural trait of caribou. Otherwise, it’s extremely rare for females of the deer variety to have antlers unless there’s a hormone issue. If it’s a relative of the white-tail deer, there is some basis to the theory that a male Jersey Devil offspring would shed antlers annually. Based on the flat surface at the base of the specimen we have, we can make the reasonable assumption that this antler was shed in early spring. It wasn’t buried deep into the dirt and was fairly clean. If nutritional intake also determines the Jersey Devil antler growth and we don’t have access to that information, there’s no telling how old such a creature is.

Reference: University of Missouri, “Antler Development in White-tailed Deer: Implications for Management

Theory #3:

BUT WAIT…

What if the specimen retrieved from the hill isn’t related to Jersey Devils nor white-tail deer? There are other theories.

Jackalope Square
Source: By Montanabw (Own work) CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

 

Based on the knowledge of migrating food sources, real estate development eliminating/pushing habitats, and other factors such as exotic pet collections, there could be other species in these hills that might not be obvious. One such critter is the American Jackalope usually described as a jackrabbit sporting antelope style antlers. While they are more known in the Great Plains states, there’s a possibility jackalopes could be living among our Eastern cottontails.

When Gus and I evaluated jackalope images, it seemed like the antler shape could be a discrepancy just like the problem we had with some of the Jersey Devil renderings. Research suggests that horned rabbits have antlers in common with North America “pronghorns” which are related to antelopes but not true antelopes which are found in Africa. Pronghorns are also common in the Great Plains like alleged jackalopes.

Could a jackalope migrate or be taken by exotic breeders to the eastern side of the country? Sure, why not?

Theory #4

Perhaps this theory is our favorite because it’s the least likely. Jackalopes are cute though often considered vicious. They have a European cousin of sorts known for having an evolutionary advantage. The Bavarian Wolpertinger is a legendary rabbit creature which not only has the fangs and antlers of the American Jackalope, but they also have wings!

Some of the taxidermied specimens seen online are truly the things of nightmares. Duck heads. Pheasant feet. Lamb ears.

Wolpertinger
Source: “Wolpertinger” illustration after “Young Hare” by Albrecht Dürer
Uploaded By Rainer Zenz, GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

 

The more common description is that the Wolpertinger or Volpertinger (also has a variety of names based on dialects), is a rabbit body including the legs, deer style antlers, and pheasant wings.

If we break this down into specific animal origins of the body parts, New Jersey has all of them. Gus and I live only a few minutes drive from a State of New Jersey Dept. of Fish and Game pheasant farm. As previously noted, we have an abundance of Eastern cottontail rabbits and white-tail deer. The state has also been introduced with populations of the New England cottontail, European hare, black-tailed jackrabbit, and white-tailed jackrabbit. Maybe there were some Moreau style experiments in the area.

Or we can seek blame in colonialism. During colonization, pockets of Europeans stayed together within the New Jersey towns just as you see in big cities where neighborhoods are called Chinatown, Little Italy, etc. One little village about twenty minutes from us was known as German Valley. During the war, it was renamed to Long Valley and anything with the word “German” in it erased. I remember when Americans attempted to do this to French fries and French toast, but when it comes to New Jersey diners, which are indeed epic, you won’t see Freedom toast or fries on the menus.

bunny

It should be obvious, but worth stating that the region called Bavaria has been under different rule based on domination. From the Holy Roman Empire and the Celts to today’s modern Germany free state, Bavaria has specific identity and culture made up of a diverse history. Immigration in the United States once being a more open-door policy allowed ships of Europeans to arrive and make new lives here. This is where Guster Nabu’s Fourth Theory comes in and hits even closer to home:

When Prussia defeated Austria and Bavaria, which was backing them up, the Kingdom of Bavaria made the decision not to join the North German Federation. However, they ultimately did when it was time to side with their former enemy Prussia against the French.

Our family is allegedly Prussian with French, English, and Polish mixed in to a melting pot. Whether Prussian or Bohemian, we have the Eastern European blood and body shapes to go along with the DNA. However we also have the alabaster skin of the folks from the British islands. So who the fuck knows for sure? I’m not shelling out $100 for one of those tests.

Gus posited (really we had this whole conversation) that my family brought over some things they considered of cultural value to preserve their legacy. Think of it as a Prussian version of Noah’s ark only instead of owning the ship, they ended up on one from Cunard or whoever made ships back then. Part of their stockpile of “valuable” goods included not only the finer things in terms of jewels and weaponry, but also animals, recipes, and a deep love for Black Forest cake. Two of those animals were a breeding pair of Wolpertingers.

WoW wolpertinger
World of Warcraft “braufest” guide

Like their North American jackalope cousins, Wolpertingers have appeared in video games, fiction, and news features about weird shit.

What comes next?

Now that we’ve documented our theories on the first artifact, I’ll get busy researching the mysterious second artifact. Once Gus approves those notes, they’ll be shared. Patreon backers get to read them first!

ScoobyDoo

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