by Oregon Chang
Recently I embarked on a spiritual enlightenment trip to Laos. It was an eye opener, at the very least. I did not forget to put in some R&R too; it was at one of those tourist trap shops where I noticed this poster as seen in the photo above.
"What is this?" I asked my local associate who was showing me the delightful sights and sounds of Laos.
"This, is what is known as the Naga, a legendary creature from Laos," she replied.
"Surely, you can't be serious," I asked. "This, whether its a fish or snake, is huge!"
She smiled and explained to me that this photo was taken in the 1970s, by a group of US army soldiers who were training in the area. They caught a Naga in the Mekong River near Nong Khai. Once believed to be a legendary mythical creature, now it has passed from legend into reality.
This photo become famously known as the "Queen of Nagas seized by American Army at Mekhong River, Laos Military Base". It was said to be taken on June 27, 1973 with the length of 7.80 meters.
This piqued my interest. I had to find out more.
The Naga refers to a snake, serpent or dragon-like creature prevalent in Hindu and Buddhist mythology. It is also especially mentioned in many South East Asian cultures, mainly Laos, Thailand and Cambodia.
The people of Laos especially fear and respect this creature; they even hold annual sacrifices to the Naga. This is for protection and safety while they transverse the Mekong river.
Adding to their belief that such a creature actually exists are the Naga Fireballs phenomena. This phenomenon occurs mostly around late October every year. A series of "fireball lights" rise from the Mekong River into the night sky. This is a similar effect to the St Elmo's Fire or Will O' the Wisp phenomena.
[The Will-o'-the-wisp phenomenon]
So are the legends true? Was a Naga really caught by soliders as seen in the photo? A quick investigation reveals that this photo was not faked, but more likely a photo or a normal oarfish.
This is a photo of some people holding up a dead oarfish I found on the internet. Notice the similarities?
Further research reveals that the photograph is actually that taken by USN LT DeeDee Van Wormer, of an oarfish found in late 1996 by US Navy SEAL trainees on the coast of Coronado, California.
This is a picture of the news report accompanying the actual photograph.
So the legend has been debunked. But how did a picture taken in the USA in 1996 become known as a famous photo said to be taken in Laos in 1973?
My research brought me to this article A Big Fish Tale written by Trevor Ranges. He surmised that an enterprising entrepreneur in Laos or Thailand probably chanced upon this photo on the internet and siezed the opportunity to use it for financial gain. The story and photo, coupled with the locals' strong beliefs in the creature, fueled the legend and so it grew.
There you have it. A legend debunked through simple investigation on the Internet. I mentioned my findings to my Laos associate.
She replied, "Well, even if its not a Naga in the photo, we still strongly believe that the Naga still resides in the river and we must respect it."
As a Master of the Paranormal, I would choose to believe that some creature must exists in the waters of the Mekong, otherwise there would not be such firm beliefs from the locals.
Whether its existence can be proven or not remains to be seen.