August 23rd, 2010


cryptozoology, lycanthropy, hypothermia, and pencils

As this is my first post, I just want to say that I love this comm, and I deeply appreciate all the information I've gained just from reading other people's posts. You guys are awesome.

Now for the questions:

My character is a cryptozoologist searching for a catlike creature identified, based on eyewitness reports, as a mishipezheu. He’s searching a mountainous region in northern Ohio or Pennsylvania. (I realize this is somewhat outside the area where the Ojibwa are located, but the identification is made by him, not the locals. I don’t think it’s too implausible for him to connect a mysterious creature to an Ojibwa legend in an area where they may have lived in the past, is it?)

Is there any special equipment that a cryptozoologist would bring with him? Google got me nothing but common sense items like a camera, pen, and paper, or basic camping/wilderness gear not specific to the job at hand. If it helps, he’s a college professor (of world mythologies, but with a strong background in zoology and ecology) so he’s going to take a more scientific approach to this than the Bigfoot hunting kooks you tend to hear about.

The character is taken by surprise by a snowstorm, and ends up lost and stranded, miles from civilization. Fortunately, he happens to be a werewolf. Unfortunately, the transformation can only occur at night, and is involuntary response to extreme stress, although with concentration he can shift in and out at will. He wrecks his car, is unconscious for a while, wakes up after sundown, panics, and transforms, which leaves his clothing shredded, making it absolutely necessary that he try to reach safety in wolf form (something he finds extremely unpleasant, but better than dying naked in the snow.) How much damage would his clothing actually take? The werewolf is basically a bigger version of a common gray wolf, retaining the same mass as the human form. I know the clothes would be damaged by the transformation, but I’m not sure where or how much tearing would occur.

He packs all the supplies he can into a backpack and sets out, but is not able to get to safety before sunrise. His supplies include his clothes, a space blanket, a lighter, a small knife, three spiral notebooks, and several hundred pencils that he neglected to dump out of the bag. (Other potentially useful items were either damaged in the wreck or not brought along at all. He wasn’t expecting to be there for more than a few hours, and doesn’t have a lot of common sense.)

He holes up in a cave and starts a fire with the pencils. Would this work? Google got me some very interesting videos on constructing makeshift flashlights out of pencil lead and a car battery, but nothing on actually burning pencils. Would the graphite, erasers, or metal bits cause any problems? He could break off the ends and split them open to remove the lead, but I’d rather he not think to do so if possible.

Also, how long would this fire last? Not until sunset, I’m sure, but how long could he wait before going out to collect firewood? (Also, would the graphite glow the way it does with an electrical current?) With his clothes damaged, would he be all right going out for short periods? And if he fell asleep lying next to the fire, and the fire subsequently burned out, how long would it be before he was in danger of freezing to death? Would the snow piling up in front of the cave mouth be enough to keep the residual heat in? He will be found, but I’d like for him to be able to make it until sunset.

Search terms:
Ojibwa; Ojibwa Ohio; northern Ohio mountains
cryptozoology; cryptozoology equipment; zoology field equipment
wolf anatomy; clothing stress
burning pencils; setting pencils on fire; how to set up a campfire
cold weather damaged clothing; hypothermia clothing

The last one got me, which was very helpful but didn't do much to help me nail down the timing, which is my biggest concern.

Thanks so much in advance, and please let me know if there's anything I can do to make a better post.
  • paulasj

Are coma patients put to death?


After a car accident, a seventeen year old boy has been in a coma for over a year.  There hasn't been any improvement in his condition for a long time, but he is able to dream.  The story revolves around both this dream-world and reality (it's up to the reader to guess which one is real).

Patien'ts doctor feels it's time for parents to consider their options (removing all life saving measures).  What test results would the doctor have to make this determination?  Or is it a judgement call?  And can those test results be explained away when the patient recovers?  

I need an answer to the last question to make the story work.


- I've googled "coma patients", "terminating life saving measures for coma patients", "ethics of ending life saving measures", "vegetative state". 
- I've also used my own experience with neurosurgeons as a patient's mother. 
- Columbia Universtiy Medical Center, online resources. 
- Interviewed pediatric physical therapists on muscle reactions during comas.