It doesn’t seem unreasonable that sometime, someplace, somewhen, someone would visually record one of these incidents.
It seemed like it had happened last year. But giving the spoiler away early here, what turned out to be a videotape online showing such an event was instead the result of a Canadian film class assignment where a hoax video would earn a group of students an A.
Almost 42 million hits were garnered in December 2012.
I suppose if they had posted a videotape of an assassination attempt or a truck running over a puppy, the outcry against using hoaxes posted online as an academic assignment would be louder. But let’s look at the ethics here. A babynapping was what was shown. And despite the ridicule, serious cryptozoology studies are in place regarding large bird sighting.
Chris Stokel-Walker has written an outstanding essay at Buzz Feed, “How ‘Golden Eagle Snatches Kid’ Ruled The Internet,” about this video and the class that produced it.
It appears that cryptozoology, and some names you are familiar with were background to this faked melodrama.
Indeed a whole academic field is devoted to such events. Some cryptozoologists spend their life’s work trying to piece together historical references to (often giant) birds snatching babies and adults from their comfortable lives and flying them away. One of the most respected in this field is Mark A. Hall, 66, who worked for the USDA after gathering intelligence in West Berlin during the Cold War. He isn’t coming up with these theories off the top of his head: There are firsthand historical written accounts testifying that bird attacks are real.
Roc from Arabian Nights
Though some might question whether birds with a 25-foot wingspan ever existed (Hall believes they could have), there are certainly stories, apocryphal or not, that nod to their existence. Early Native Americans told stories around campfires of attacks by birds, including those of the Piasa, or “Bird that Devours Man.” In One Thousand and One Nights(also known as Arabian Nights), the giant bird Roc features heavily in the narrative. Like stories of gorgons, mermaids, and Cyclopes, historical, scientific, or factual evidence is scant, but the looming shadow of birds has hung over humanity for thousands of years.
One such report was contained in the May 17, 1888, edition of The Equity newspaper out of Bryson, Quebec, a three-hour drive from Montreal. Seven-year old Georgie Richards of Brier Hill, New York, repelled “a very large bald eagle” with “as large a club as he could wield.” The paper said it was “the first instance in which one of these voracious birds has attempted to carry off a child in St. Lawrence County.”
“Looking back over the century and a half of reports,” Hall wrote in his 2004 book Thunderbirds: America’s Living Legends of Giant Birds, “it would seem encounters in which a person is harmed occur every 30 to 40 years. At that pace, it’s about time for another incident of such a dangerous and dramatic nature.”
The students figured that if they could present footage that backed up thousands of years of apocryphal written evidence, that video could be huge. Their research uncovered a series of reported bird attacks throughout history — mostly based in northern Europe, says Archambault — and knew they could tap into that fear for their viral video. Source.
Mark is a friend and fellow researcher, of course. Indeed, his Thunderbirds book was the first one in a series called “Loren Coleman Presents,” so I was a bit shocked to find this title mentioned in relationship to this hoax.
There is even a hardbound version that was recently released.
While the article about the event does not even contain the word “ethics,” some academics are beginning to question the ethics of making your students fake such an event for a grade. Many professors say they see a difference between writing a hoax essay in class, on assignment, and faking a video that goes out on YouTube.
Certainly, within cryptozoology, the question must be asked, is there a great difference between what this Canadian class did and what the two Georgia hoaxsters did with their fakery (and have done again, apparently)?
What do you think?