Posted by: Loren Coleman on January 16th, 2007
Once is happenstance.
Twice is coincidence.
Three times is enemy action.
– from Goldfinger by Ian Fleming, who achieved the rank of Commander in British Naval Intelligence.
Rumors are sweeping throughout Kashmir of a mystery millionaire who will pay a high bounty on the capture of giant owls. Now we hear that some are saying this is just a cover story for the CIA. That this news is related to the hunt for bin Laden.
Does this sound like something from the covert intelligence days of millionaire Tom Slick in that part of the world? Why are two other "giant owl" stories being reported from two other parts of the world at the same time? Is there twilight language being broadcast in these news items? What’s going on here?
I have written on how cryptid searching has been used to hide spying (see here, for example). It seems all of that kind of factual crypto-spying is behind a somewhat tongue-in-cheek suggestion at "CIA Disinformation Tracks Bin Laden With Overweight Owl Rumors" to explain what is going on in Kashmir right now.
But don’t laugh. Those that joke may be trying to conceal a deeper truth. Is all this about hiding in plain sight? Some details on the Kashmir owl story can be found in the Indo-Asian News Service for January 14, 2007:
A bizarre rumour in Jammu and Kashmir that an owl weighing over three kilograms can turn its owner into a millionaire has spread like wild fire in the rest of northern India. The Srinagar office of IANS is receiving scores of telephone calls daily from northern India, with callers desperate to know the contact numbers of the mysterious man who has offered a fortune for such owls. And at least one Hindi newspaper that carried the original story says its phone lines are literally jammed.
People are even capturing some owls weighing nearly 7 pounds, hoping to get some money off their efforts from the mystery millionaire.
"Sir, I have an owl weighing 3.1 kilo. The bird is in good health and unharmed. Please tell me where is it to be delivered so that I can collect my reward," pleaded Naresh Kumar, who said he was calling from New Delhi.
Reporters are having trouble tracking the rumors down.
Those making the queries about the dream merchant who floated the rumour about the million-rupee owl are not just the ordinary citizens. Many journalists too are eager to interview either the elusive owl buyer or simply some of the locals who have been braving the winter chill in Kashmir to chase an owl in the state’s northern parts.
The Eurasian Eagle Owl (Bubo bubo) is a species of horned owl found throughout Europe and Asia.
As to the photo at the top of the blog, it is a very real bird. During the last month, headlines have blared the news, "Giant Owl Terrorizing Community In England."
Concurrently with the rumors coming out of Kashmir, I have found that over in the United Kingdom a "giant" owl has reportedly been attacking people. But are the reports somewhat more colorful that real? Nevertheless, these news items are getting people’s attention. For example, on January 11th, the UK media noted: "A giant eagle owl is reported to be terrorizing residents in Middlesborough, England. With its 5-ft wingspan, the bird can easily pick up foxes, small dogs and deer."
Meanwhile, during all this, skeptic Joe Nickell was floating about his newest "giant owl" explanation theory to debunk yet another unknown entity. This means that Nickell has now used owls to explain: (1) Mothman sightings; (2) the Flatwoods Monster sightings; and, most recently, (3) the Kelly creatures sightings. Even his fellow skeptics must see how worn out that tired old bird is getting! Or maybe Joe Nickell is a spy?
Are all of these stories nothing more than coded messages being sent out by MI6, MI5, ONI, or the CIA on the wings of giant owls? Less we forget, the character picked out by Ian Fleming named Bond, James Bond, was inspired by an American ornithologist, the author of Birds of the West Indies.
‘Tis strange ~ but true; for truth is always strange;
Stranger than fiction: if it could be told,
How much would novels gain by the exchange!
– Lord Byron.
Late in the day, I noticed that the annual CIA World Factbook, which also serves as a tool for the military, intelligence services, and international travelers, has an “owl” coincidence to it. Intriguingly, CIA World Factbook online proudly reports it utilizes XQuery and OWL technology. Boing Boing’s David Pescovitz informs me that “OWL stands for Web Ontology Language. Not quite an acronym, but close enough I guess. It’s basically a programming (mark-up) language to publish information on the Web in such a way that’s it’s easier for computers to process.” The other mark-up language is HTML, which is much more familiar to me and most people, and supposedly makes it easier for “humans” to process data. BTW, the CIA World Factbook remains one of the largest and longest-running public domain publications produced by any intelligence agency in the world.