Police Hunt For Lion In English Countryside (And Fail To Find One)

cat, lion
A mysterious beast stalks the fields of Essex, England.

Over the weekend local police received calls from a number of eyewitnesses who claimed to have seen a lion in the fields near the village of St. Osyth. One person even snapped a predictably blurry and inconclusive picture of the beast. I’m not a wildlife expert but it looks like a house cat to me.

Police took the sightings seriously enough to scramble two helicopters and a team of officers and wildlife experts. They also checked with a local zoo and circus but neither reported a missing feline. After a long search they found … nothing.

A police spokesman said the sightings were probably due to “a large domestic cat or a wildcat,” the BBC reports. Police have called off the search and told people to enjoy themselves outdoors while remaining cautious. They should also have told them to stop overfeeding their pets with chips and kebabs and wasting police time.

This odd incident is actually part of a much bigger trend in the UK. Alien Big Cats, as they’re called, are giant felines not native to the area where they are spotted. Of course they’re never actually found. That would ruin the fun. We reported on one jaguar-like creature in Scotland three years ago and that’s just a drop in the Alien Big Cat bucket. The Big Cats in Britain research group has collected 240 different reports so far this year.

So why do Brits see lions and pumas in their fields while Americans get buzzed by UFOs? I guess it’s just one of those cultural differences we should all celebrate and not analyze too much. So next time you’re hiking in the UK, be sure to keep your camera out of focus. You might just start the next wave of Alien Big Cat sightings.

Don’t scoff too much, though. One woman said she was attacked by an Alien Big Cat. I’ve hiked a lot in England and Scotland and while I’ve never been attacked by an ABC (yes, that’s what they call them), I did nearly get attacked by cows.

[Photo courtesy Jennifer Barnard. As far as I know, this particular cat has never been the cause of a lion sighting]

Crucifixion nails found in Israel? Probably not.

Crucifixions, nail, Roman, Roman nailThere’s been a shocking archaeological discovery in Israel. Nails from the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ have been found!

Well, no, probably not.

The claim comes from Israeli Canadian documentary filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici, the Washington Post reports. Jacobovici has done several documentaries on Christian subjects and came across an archaeological report from 1990 mentioning the discovery of nails in the tomb of a man named Caiaphas. For those who know their Bible, this is the same name as the Jewish high priest who plotted to arrest Jesus and then gave him to the Romans. The name is right, the date of the tomb is right, so the nails must be those from the Crucifixion, right?

The Post quotes Jacobovici as saying, “There’s a general scholarly consensus that the tomb where the nails were found likely belonged to Caiaphas. Nails at that time were a dime a dozen, but finding one in a tomb is exceedingly rare.”

Actually neither of these statements is true. The Post quotes an Israeli archaeologist as saying that the inscriptions in the tomb aren’t clear as to the occupant’s identity, and I myself have seen Roman nails turn up in tombs. They were pretty common objects, after all.

The timing of this announcement just before Easter and just before Jacobovici’s next documentary comes out (titled “Nails of the Cross” to air Wednesday on the History Channel), adds to the suspicion that Jacobovici is fooling either himself or us.

There’s also the question of why a Jewish high priest would take the nails of someone who he thought was a false prophet to the grave with him, or even how he got them in the first place since it was Jesus’ family and followers who removed Jesus from the Cross.

In the view of this former archaeologist, this story is more of the usual sensationalism masking as science that fills so much of the media. A bit like the spurious discovery of Caligula’s tomb.

Never fear. There are plenty are saints’ relics in Rome, including enough nails for a dozen Crucifixions. Gadling’s own David Farley has even written a book about the Holy Foreskin, which you can also visit in Italy. Actually there’s more than one relic claiming to be the Holy Foreskin, but that’s another story. . .

[Image of Roman nails courtesy user Takkk via Wikimedia Commons. These are not the same nails that came from the tomb mentioned in this article.]