SAY LIZARD MAN IS BACK
by Whit Gibbons
March 9, 2008
believe a national story that was in the news last week. At least I couldn't
believe it anymore than I did two decades ago. The Lizard Man is back!
Being a herpetologist who is currently writing a book on lizards, I must
rehash the story once again.
was a mystery of such magnitude that it also reached the national news
media back then. The creature known as Lizard Man, as reported by Dan
Rather on CBS News, had attacked a car driven by a high-school student
in South Carolina, beating on the roof of the car and chewing on the chrome
about Lizard Man have been written, but the best investigative reporting
was by Lynne Katonak, a staff writer for the Aiken Standard. She started
her story by saying it was "time to get to the bottom of the Lizard
Man story and the only way to do that is to go to the experts."
experts were scientists from the University of Georgia's Savannah River
Ecology Laboratory. Four were herpetologists, who should know about lizards,
and included Justin Congdon, Nat Frazer, Jeff Lovich, and me. Chuck Lydeard
was the token mammalogist. As someone said, "we brought Chuck along
in case this thing turns out be more mammal than reptile."
the group of scientists the question, "Does this Lizard Man story
that "South Carolina lizards are not aggressive. However, that doesn't
rule out the possibility." He pointed out that some lizards such
as the 10-foot long Komodo dragons of Indonesia could be perceived as
very aggressive. I interjected that I had never heard of one that would
eat chrome, whereupon Justin noted that "no experiments have ever
been designed to feed metal to lizards."
if Scape Ore Swamp, the location of most Lizard Man sightings, would be
a typical habitat for a lizard. Justin replied that except for the coldest
regions of the world, lizards live anywhere including beaches, woodlands,
deserts, and swamps. "One group, the gecko lizards, even live in
and on buildings."
out that the swamp had once been the site of moonshine stills and asked
if the presence of illicit alcohol could have attracted Lizard Man. "I've
never come across a lizard with a drinking problem," replied Jeff.
"Sure, I've seen a lot of pickled lizards, but they are all in museums."
theory addressed was that Lizard Man was looking for a mate. I noted that
male lizards will sometimes move long distances looking for mates, and
Nat suggested that was why Lizard Man was always in a hurry. I made the
point that we must then assume that Lizard Women look like cars. Justin
suggested that instead of biting the chrome bumper Lizard Man was kissing
it. As far as Lizard Man walking upright, the herpetologists noted that
basilisk lizards of tropical America and collared lizards of the Southwest
run on their back legs.
able to get in a few comments related to his mammal expertise when a comparison
with Big Foot was brought up. He also pointed out that the very term Lizard
"Man" had implications of the creature being some sort of hybrid.
the interview saying "we're not saying the Lizard Man story is true
or false. The point is that there are so many amazing creatures in the
world that it's not necessary to make one up." We don't have to invent
mythical animals. We have enough real ones to keep us fascinated for a
Clearly, interviewing lizard experts was less than conclusive about the
reality of the story. The most telling comment about the original Lizard
Man story came from a local sheriff interviewed by Dan Rather. The clear-headed
officer of the law told the reporter that he had received a report that
day of "the Lizard Man walking down the Interstate holding hands
with Elvis." The officer pointed out how absurd such reports were,
noting that "everybody knows Elvis is dead. And even if it was him,
he wouldn't be holding hands with another man!"
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