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No. 83: Sep-Oct 1992

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Tangled-tails tales

"Rat kings" have always been a favorite Fortean pheomenon. They are clusters of rats whose tails have somehow become knotted or glued together. Naturalists also find "squirrel kings" in the wild. However improbable these "kings" may seem, new cases keep coming to the fore. Here follows the first of two, as recounted in the Fortean Times;

"The first incident occurred in Easton, Pennsylvania, in 1989. As 16-yearold Crystal Cresseveur set off for church around midday on Sunday 24 September, she noticed a commotion in the hedge outside her house, it was a writhing furry bundle of six young squirrels all squeaking at once. At first she thought they were playing but she soon realized they were in a panic, and as they pulled in all directions at once they had become firmly stuck among the trunk of the bushes. She called her father, Paul, and their neighbour, Charles Kootares, and with help from the growing crowd of onlookers, managed to extract the frantic cluster from the hedge."

In this case, the squirrels' tails could not be disentangled, and the poor animals were put to sleep. The second incident occurred in Baltimore on September 18, 1991. Here, the squirrels' tails were tangled and stuck together by tree sap, hair, and nesting debris.

(Anonymous; "Tangled Tales," Fortean Times, no. 63, p. 13, 1992.)

Comment. Squirrel kings have even received a modicum of attention in the scientific literature: Animal Kingdom, 55:46, 1952. (See Incredible Life.) Some involve several adult squirrels, and it is hard to imagine how such active animals could become mutually tied and/ or stuck together.

Reference. Our catalog Biological Anomalies: Mammals I also deals with the problem of "rat kings." Information on this volume as well as our handbook Incredible Life can be found here.

From Science Frontiers #83, SEP-OCT 1992. 1992-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987