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Welcome to Weirdsville: They Who Lurk Below by M. Christian

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Be cautioned: this month’s expedition into the odd and the unusual has a certain … well, shall we say Miskatonic atmosphere– a shuffling, looming presence that waits just on the edge of our safe domain to ravish our bodies as well as our very souls.

It’s easy to discount our Weird Tales icons as being just near-schizophrenic hallucinations; half-waking, half-opium, delusions hung on a thin narrative framework — but with a little research, the turning over of some … well, not forbidden works, but let’s just say unordinary volumes, it’s easy to discover that there are, yes, quite real beasts, substantial monsters hiding out there in the world.

Two of them, in fact, might have given the more nefarious denizens of Providence and its degenerative and hideous outlying spawn the screaming jeebees.

The first of our monsters lives in a domain almost as frightening as its appearance — and its ferocity. Down where the pressure crushes all but the strongest, at depths where even the great whales feel the tons and tons trying to squeeze the life from them, they live — they live and they hunt.

It’s easy to think of our modern world as being solved, that the only real mysteries are those of proportion — “how do we take all the little elements we’ve unearthed in our thousands of years on the earth and use them to our best advantage?” — and so forth. The Nile, charted. The Poles, a subject for television travelogues. The mysteries, we deceive ourselves, are gone.

But they are not — and if we are not careful those same mysteries will suck the marrow from our bones.

Of this reality behind this one mystery, there can be no doubt — enough clues have been left behind: Sperm whales, those powerful hammers of blubber and muscle that prowl through the deep seas fearing nothing — least of all Ahab — have been found, mauled by tremendous battles. Their magnificent hides rippled and torn, they are grotesque testaments to the only thing that would dare attack them, the only creature in the seas that would take on their huge jaws, their crushing strength.

We have no idea how many of those whales, of course, may have lost those battles.

A piece of the puzzle can be found in the nature of those wounds. You can see similar, smaller ones — though not as small as a whine in the ear or too minuscule to be seen without a microscope — on other, more moderate sea creatures. But these other marks, the ones marking the great whales, have a profound difference: scale.

An average squid has suckers maybe only half an inch in diameter, and that is often considered abnormally large for some species. But for the species architeuthis this is more than small — this might even be minuscule for a hatchling.

The kraken is a common myth, a great sea beast that would rise up and tear the fragile ships to splinters, crushing the unfortunate sailors in its constricting tentacles. But as I’ll prove here, those fable-spinners may have had more facts than fables at their disposal, more experience than just conjecture.

We know they live — we have the bits and pieces to prove it. But it’s hard to say what’s the largest specimen of architeuthis ever brought up to our warm, bright world — mainly because every time some intrepid explorer or happenstance fisherman manages to find one the record only stands a short while till something even larger, more monstrous is lifted from the oppressive, frigid depths.

For instance, in one of their favorite territories — the deep waters of the Kaikoura Canyon, some one to three thousand feet deep — the remains of specimens have been found that stretch a modestly tentacled 50 to 60 feet long and could have weighed as much as a ton..

Others, though, have surfaced that made the discovers quake with as much fear as excitement, creatures who may have been as long as 100 feet, with tearing, razor rimmed suckers as much as three inches across. Three inches doesn’t sound like much, even 100 feet doesn’t sound like much — but closing your eyes for a moment and imagining this deep sea wolf blurring out of the oppressive depths, it’s obsidian-black beak ready to rip and bite … well, simple measurements can’t do it justice.

Well, maybe a few more inches, a scant more feet. One of my favorites, more than anything not only because of the size but also the location: It’s easy to dismiss these spawn of the truly deep monsters as hiding in the pressurized canyons, never venturing up to the surface. But these elusive creatures of nightmare have been seen up here, with us. Sometime during World War Two a British ship was steaming off the Indian Ocean’s Maldive Islands when a crewman peered over the side and into the nighttime sea —

— and something peered back at him. As long as the ship, the creature watched him for many minutes before finally, calmly, sinking back into the sea. The sailor reported the giant to be as long as the ship, and with an eye at least eighteen inches across. The ship was one hundred and seventy five feet long.

And if you’ve taken comfort in this calm exchange of glances, here’s a tale from the ‘30s: seems a Royal Norwegian Naval tanker was calmly trawling when it wasn’t looked at, didn’t simply catch sight of, but was — rather — attacked by one of these monsters, that rammed the huge boat and wrapped its great tentacles around the steel hull. In this battle, the beast lost — a victim of the ship’s propellers.

But in other cases … their ship had been sunk, gone to the bottom like many other vessels during the second world war. Lost in a bleak, freezing nighttime sea, they clustered together on their rafts — desperately watching the stars above for movement, any movement, that might signal a search plane.

They expected death from bullets, shells, torpedoes and even at the teeth of sharks, but they could not have anticipated this monster from the sea. With the barest of noises it came up from the primordial depths, an arcing tentacle dotted with razor-sharp suckers and neatly plucked a sailor from the safety of his raft, dragging him screaming down into the black ocean.

What’s great about this terror is the mystery — yeah, we think we’ve seen it all, walked everywhere on this globe, but the fact remains that there ARE mysteries, horrors we can’t even comprehend. Those measurements you see, are just pieces of the puzzle, fragments of the whole. No giant squid has even been captured, or even seen. They are like dreams … no, fever dreams, nightmares, schizophrenic monsters living down in the deepest, darkest parts of our world. They live, they hunt, they … wait.

Maybe, when they feel its time, they’ll let us see them. But, by then, it’ll be too late.


The last little avenue on this Lovecraftian trip is short, kind of innocent, but with an angle that I’m sure the Great Old Ones would appreciate.

It starts with an innocent question: What is the largest single organism alive on the earth?

Alive rules out the thunder lizards — which were creatures of nightmare all on their own. The obvious answers, quickly: not elephants, not sperm whales, not blue whales. In fact, according to some, the largest organism on this planet doesn’t live in the seas at all.

It lives in Michigan.

Under the dark, warm soil, slowly moving, expanding outwards, it lives. Patience isn’t something that humans really understand — for us it’s waiting a day, maybe a week, sometimes years. But for this creature of the loam, of the deep, primeval forest, patience is measured on a scale that shatters our childish time frame.

Numbers again — but in this case delivering more than hyperbole ever could: it weighs something like 200,000 pounds and covers more than 1.6 million square feet of dark, wooded forest. Living just a few inches under the surface, it methodically expands outward, one tiny part at a time. This single huge fungus, this lattice of the third kingdom, understands patience — this monstrous mushroom comprehends the real way a battle is fought.

Both of them hide, hiding in the dark — with shimmering eyes or glacial progress. Meanwhile we hustle and bustle, deluded into thinking we are masters of this globe.

Yes, both of them lurk — waiting ….

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Posted by on Thursday, December 15th, 2005. Filed under Lifestyle. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry