Some thoughts on 

Phantom Kangaroos


I have a theory.  That is, I have several theories, but there's one in particular which I hope will someday be known as Bart's Law.  The theory is this:  Anomalous phenomena occur all the time, but most people pay no attention.  

By "anomalous phenomena" I mean, of course, Weird Stuff that Happens.  That is, occurrences which do not mesh with our previous assumptions of reality.  One example of this is UFOs.  Another is Bigfoot, or Chupacabra, or cattle mutilations.  These are well known examples.  But there are many other odd events which go largely unnoticed.

Recently I was fixing some appliance in the kitchen, and dropped a small screw on the floor.  The screw was tiny, barely large enough to get a grip on between my fingertips.  But it was bright and shiny, so easy to see.  I watched this screw slip from my fingers, fall and hit the floor.  Then it disappeared completely. 

Thinking the screw must have bounced, I got down on the floor and looked all over from the lowest possible elevation.  It wasn't there.  I tried using a flashlight - no screw.  Finally I had to go find a substitute, another screw of the same size. 

I found the original screw the next day, right where I must have spent half an hour looking for it. 

I have discussed this event with various friends, and discover that almost everyone else has similar experiences.  Did the screw temporarily go into another dimension, or bounce forward through time?  Or was it just a case of poor eyesight?  I don't know.  Most people will agree the phenomenon exists, but don't place much importance on it.  They find the experience frustrating or amusing, but don't think it means anything. 

The above is by way of introduction to a few thoughts about my experience with phantom kangaroos.  

There may be some readers who have never heard of phantom kangaroos.  Yet this is a well documented phenomenon.  I have learned that the earliest recorded report of one was in 1899.  Not as many people in the United States have seen kangaroos as have seen Sasquatch, but they keep popping up (so to speak) from time to time.  Some articles, like the dropped screw, seem to vanish temporarily from our space/time.  Other things, especially certain types of animals, bounce into existence and out again.  

I believe I first heard of the 'roos back in 1980, when I was living in San Francisco.  One morning I was getting ready to go to work and listening to the radio.  There was a brief announcement that the Police were looking for a kangaroo which had apparently escaped from the zoo.  It was said to have been sighted near Golden Gate Park.  

"This is not a hoax or a joke," the radio newscaster declared.  "The Police Department says there's really a kangaroo on the loose!"

Needless to say, the animal was never captured, though there were some additional sighting reports.  Next day there was a brief mention that, actually, there were no animals reported missing from the zoo.  (In fact, I don't believe the San Francisco Zoo ever had any actual kangaroos.  Wallabees, yes.)

I was disappointed that I had never personally caught sight of the beast.  My disappointment was to continue.  Most of the people I know have had a UFO sighting at least once in their life.  Some of them don't want to talk about it, or they try to explain it away.  But most of them have seen something.  Despite many hours spent watching the skies both day and night, I have yet to glimpse a flying saucer.

As for kangaroos - forward to 1988.  At that time I was married to Wife #2.  Frequently we used to drive from San Francisco, where we lived, down to Mariposa, where we owned property.  Mariposa is another unique area, something like Lake County where I now reside, but even more rural.  It's a foothill region, old gold-mining territory, half way between the Central Valley mining area and the great Sierra range.  The main source of income today is tourism at Yosemite Valley.  

It was always about a four hour drive getting there.  We did a lot of driving in those days.  For some reason, I don't remember seeing much wildlife while driving, other than an occasional deer.  There were plenty of animals around - possums, raccoons, coyotes, foxes, bear, etc.  I just didn't see them from a car - either they were learning to avoid the highway, or I have an observation problem.  

One Sunday afternoon, however, we were starting on our long trip back to the City.  I remember I was driving across a small bridge over a dry creek.  The ground below was marshy, with a lot of vegetation.  

As we were crossing the bridge, Jana remarked, 

"I wonder what kind of animal that was?"

I had not noticed any animal.  I asked her what she meant.  

"I think it was dead," she said.  "It was lying on the ground.  It looked like a kangaroo."

I will always regret that I did not slam on the brakes, turn around and investigate.  Unfortunately, I had other worries on my mind at the time, and I wasn't entirely aware of the problem of the 'roos.  I did think about it later.  Whenever I went back to that place I kept my eyes open for possible hoppers, but never did glimpse one.

I had to shrug off the experience as one of those unexplainables - like the dropped screw.  I never thought the event would repeat itself a few years later, at some unexpected moment.

Sometimes I think the universe runs on rational and predictable lines, like a well-oiled machine.  Whenever I start believing that, something happens to bring me back to reality.  More often I suspect there's a god or gods or Superior Beings or something that enjoy playing practical jokes.  When I believe this, things almost make sense. 

Fast forward to December 1, 1993.  I am between marriages, working full time in San Francisco.

At this point I will quote directly from a letter of mine which was published in the January 1994 issue of INFO, the journal of the International Fortean Organization:

I am a supervisor with the San Francisco Department of Social Services.  On December 1, 1993 I drove from San Francisco to Santa Rosa to attend a two hour conference related to social work.  Riding with me was a lady whom I supervise.  Since she was the primary witness, I want to give a brief portrait of her.  The lady's name is Dorothy.  She is a middle aged woman, between 55 and 60.  She has been married twice and widowed, and her main interest, aside from the job, is raising her family.  While quite intelligent, she does not read many books that I know of and does not come across as an intellectual.  She is practical, level-headed, and not known to fantasize or hallucinate.  I have never heard her express any interest in subjects such as UFO's, Bigfoot, or anything else paranormal.  

On the way back from Santa Rosa, driving south on Highway 101, we conversed about the various farmlands we were driving through.  Dorothy comes from a farming family.  This region has some very old ranch and farm buildings, some of historical interest.  We were a few miles north of Olompali State Park.  This park is known for its Indian artifacts dating back 2,000 years, as well as for more recent, but historically interesting, ranch buildings.  It includes the last surviving Spanish adobe in Marin County. 

I was intent on my driving, watching the traffic ahead.  This was about 12:30 in the afternoon; the sky was cloudless and bright.  Dorothy, looking out the passenger-side window, casually asked, 

"Do they raise kangaroos out here, too?"

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"There was a bunch of kangaroos over there, five or six of them, all standing together."

Cautiously I suggested, 

"Maybe they were jackrabbits?"

"No, jackrabbits don't come that big.  These were big, with tiny little front paws, long ears, big hind legs and long tails.  I know what kangaroos look like."

I considered going back for another look, but it would have meant driving perhaps five miles before I could make a U-turn.  There was also the consideration that Dorothy would have thought I was nuts.  I have driven on this stretch of road hundreds of times in the past three or four years, and have yet to see a kangaroo.  Dorothy, of course, had never heard of "phantom kangaroos."  If I had not been reading INFO Journal and other obscure publications, I never would have either.  I have been interested in UFO's, Bigfoot, and other phantoms since I was a teenager, but have never seen one.  

Next time I intend to make a U-turn.  

I'm still waiting for the next time, but no doubt it won't happen again until my guard is completely down.  

I should mention that Olompali State Park is a place of "high strangeness level," to use a Fortean term.  It has probably been inhabited for even longer than the estimated 2000 years.  It's an ideal living site, with easy access to bay and wetlands, with a mild climate and good freshwater supply.  I have hiked through it and found mysterious stone circles and rock walls.  During the 19th Century, prisoners from San Quentin quarried rocks here, to make cobblestones for the streets of San Francisco.  The reference in my letter to the last Spanish adobe refers to a building discovered in the early 1960's.  According to the story, a Hippy commune was living in a 19th Century farmhouse on the land.  During a wild party one night, the house burned down.  After the ashes cooled, adobe walls were found inside the wood.  The house had been constructed over and around the older adobe. 

After this experience, I did some more reading about kangaroos and other phantom animals.  Black panthers are another type - people are forever reporting sightings of them in the most unlikely places, such as Chicago or England.  And then there are alligators and crocodiles.  A few years ago, there was a spate of sightings of "phantom clowns."  Giant birds are another ephemeral beast. 

One popular theory about these creatures is that they are "projections of the collective unconscious," as explained in the works of C.G. Jung.  I guess that's as good a theory as any - but I wonder why Americans would have kangaroos in their collective unconscious?  Most Americans have never seen one, except in movies.  Buffalo or bald eagles I could understand, but why the 'roos?  Are they trying to tell us something, and if so what?

Or maybe they're just bouncing through space/time, like that screw I dropped.  

For information on spooky kangaroos, look Here.

PS: Recently I received an e mail feedback to this article, which I quote in its entirety:

Hi, I just wanted to add to the San Francisco kangaroo mystery.  When I
was in 8th grade, I guess I would have been 14 years old, my mom and I
saw a kangaroo on the Presidio.  This was when the Presidio was an
active Army base.  This would have been about 1972.  We lived on the
Presidio, near the Golden Gate Bridge in Army housing.  One morning my
mom was driving me to school and we saw the kangaroo.  The Presidio is
very wooded, I remember lots of eucalyptus trees, and we were driving
around a bend going uphill and both of us saw the kangaroo, it was about
100 feet or so away, kind up uphill from us in a lightly wooded area. 
My mom slowed the car down and we just kind of watched it as we drove
by.  My mom always said that she was glad I was there when we saw it,
otherwise nobody would have believed her!  We never saw it again
although we were always watching out for it.  Anyway, that's how I found
your web site, I've always been interested in kangaroo sightings in
Northern California.  I always wondered where that kangaroo came from,
if it escaped from a zoo or had been a pet or what.

You can get rich enough to ride around in a big car
But no amount of money can change the view
                                 Gary Clail