Rhys Darby
Comedian Rhys Darby on life in New Zealand

Rhys Darby: Weird and wonderful is always bigger in Texas

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The Cryptid Factor team (from left) Leon 'Buttons' Kirkbeck, Rhys Darby and David Farrier.
The Cryptid Factor team (from left) Leon 'Buttons' Kirkbeck, Rhys Darby and David Farrier.

As some of you may know, in my spare time I have an avid interest in the field of cryptozoology. Perhaps you've heard of my radio show called The Cryptid Factor.

It's a Fortean fun discussion group that sees its members, myself, David Farrier and producer Leon "Buttons" Kirkbeck literally rolling in the aisles with joy as we channel our youthful imaginations and regale our listeners with the latest on all things weird.

The show itself has been broadcast on no less than three radio stations in the Auckland region, each time looking for a new home due to either dismissal, dismay or ease of proximity. Thanks to podcasting through Soundcloud and iTunes we have gained new fans living beyond the outer reaches of the Grey Lynn realm. In fact, we now have fans numbering in the tens of thousands spreading right across the globe. With this in mind and to mark the fifth anniversary of our audio oddness the CF team decided it was high time we made a pilot show of the televisual kind.

Last week we ventured to Austin, Texas, a city that really prides itself on being weird. Our major calling there was the official Museum of the Weird, a wonderful treasure trove of eclectic oddities. If you're a fan of the paranormal and in particular cryptid creatures this place is a must-see.

It's an eerie labyrinth of fantastical exhibits from Sasquatch footprint casts to a 3000-year-old mummy. Mythological specimens litter the walls like the mysterious man-fish, the fierce furry trout and the notorious Fiji mermaid. The ultimate room (where cameras could not go) housed the mighty Minnesota Iceman, a hairy hominid from the 1960s encased in a frozen glass coffin.

Once we'd explored the socks off this place we met our respected cryptozoologist friend Craig Woolheater in the freak-show theatre for an interview. Craig filled us in on his knowledge of all things chupacabra, a legendary beast that originated in Puerto Rico and through some mysterious turn of metamor-phosis has since shown up in Southwest America.

"It's not the same animal," he says "but the creature we're finding here in Texas is some sort of off-shoot that's for sure."

If you haven't heard of the chupacabra then let me fill you in. Like a South American bogeyman this creature has become folklore. Its name literally means goat-sucker, for that's what it does. It gets by entirely on the blood sucked from the necks of goats and chickens. The original description of el chupacabra will probably remind parents of the Gruffalo but it's not the Gruffalo, oh no. It's smaller and freakier and less likely to be outwitted by a mouse. But is it real? Well, the next day we found out the truth. Without giving too much away, let me just say this ...

There are a lot of naysayers out there who believe these things are simply coyotes with mange. They're not. They're real. We saw one stuffed and mounted in a lady's house. Her name was Phylis (the lady not the chupacabra). Arrrgghhh, I've already said too much!

- NZ Herald

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