Thursday 11 July 2019

Guest post: The Tildenville Skeleton

The Tildenville Skeleton
Guest post by Ari Kaness

Came across this while doing research on something else and thought it might be of interest to readers here:

Tildenville skeleton, Lake Apopka, Florida
Discovered in 2018 by kayakers, this immense skeleton—approximately 23 meters (75 feet) long, with a wing span of about 15 meters (50 feet)—was originally identified as a previously unknown pterosaur species, tentatively placed in the Azhdarchoidea group. This identification was cast into severe doubt by later radiocarbon dating, which estimated an age of around 8000 B.C.—well past the age of the dinosaurs. DNA and mDNA tests proved unhelpful in identifying the species. Bones found near and over the skeleton were successfully identified as human from about the same time-frame. Reports of fire and smoke rising from the bones have not been independently verified.

Lake Apopka
Cool, right? Especialy since I couldn’t help thinking: what would you have to go through to fake something like this? To start with, how do you gather 10,000 year-old bones (assuming that radiocarbon dating info is accurate)—enough to cover a 75-foot skeleton? (For those reading along, that’s about half the width of a football field, more or less.) How do you then ensure that those bones won’t have enough DNA and mDNA to be identified as, well, horse bones or something like that? (I assume horses of some sort were around 10,000 years ago, though it’s completely possible that this is just a false impression I’ve gotten from watching too many movies.) Why throw human bones into the mix? Where do you get the human bones? Do you, well, go hunting in graveyards—and if so, how do you guarantee you won’t get caught? (As I’ve found out while researching various true crimes, Florida has some tough laws against desecrating graveyards. Not recommended.) How do you age the human bones so that they have the same radiocarbon dating? (That can be faked, right? Wrong? Physics: not my thing.)

And then, how do you ensure that it will be found by random kayakers? And if that’s your goal, why Lake Apopka? One of the most polluted lakes in Florida, the water is usually so brown people can barely see Florida bass in it, let alone faked skeletons. I feel like the fakers were taking a real risk here.

Though it is quite shallow, which would make putting a fake skeleton into it much easier, I guess.

And also, where is the thing now? Google seems to indicate that the skeleton was taken to one of those tourist trap wax museums—you know the ones—or to someplace on I-Drive, between the theme parks, which seems probable. More probable than a suggestion from some anonymous person on Reddit that the skeleton was snatched up by people in Hazmat suits and taken to some top secret location in Georgia. Georgia doesn’t have any top secret locations. Or an even less probable legend, also found on Reddit, that the skeleton burst into flames during an attempt to remove it, killing everyone involved, keeping its current location a secret—something that would be just slightly more probable if Google Images and the Wayback Machine didn’t show several images of happy and very unsinged people standing or wading right next to the huge bones, and lifting some of the smaller bones—apparently from the wing—high into the air with their hands.

And yet, diligent checking on my part (that is, clicking through Google results while drinking coffee) doesn’t disclose where the skeleton might be now.

A definite mystery, and one I do intend to solve—but first, to track down more info about those other mysterious deaths on Lake Apopka.

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