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Hot Moa Debate [[Living Fossil?]]



Regarding the hot moa debate between Loren Coleman and Derek Tearne--Derek is
right on the mark when he writes that "all one has to go on is the veracity
of the source.  In this case someone shown to be not only capable of fraud,
but someone who is not particularly hot on internal consistency."

I must agree with Derek 100%, and I know of what I write. When Loren Coleman
first wrote this case up for his then-column in Strange Magazine 11 I was
amazed that he was greatly downplaying the (to me) obvious aspects of the
case pointing to a hoax. I did not wish to contradict my columnist at the
time, but I was uncomfortable about the fact that all of the details were not
being made known to our readers. Loren and I had access to the same newspaper
articles via Karl P.N. Shuker, who turned us onto the case, and we talked
about the case on the phone on a number of occasions. 

 I discussed the problem with several of our editors at the time and it was a
rather controversial behind-the-scenes topic.  None of us were thrilled that
Loren was painting a weak case in a stronger light than it deserved, but we
wanted our columnists to feel free to write what they think without the
editorial staff stepping all over them.  Ultimately I concluded that Loren
had a right to say whatever he thought in his column, even if I personally
disagreed with his characterizations. While I did not wish to undermine
Coleman, neither was I happy that some pertinent details, including an
alleged liars contest between the Moa photographer and a friendly rival, were
omitted from Coleman's column. An entire newspaper article ran in New Zealand
discussing the bet between the two men to see who could get into the
newspapers first. Freaney won with his moa photo. Under some pressure,
probably from Freaney, the hotelier retracted his statement, but not until
after a good deal of damage was done to Freaney's credibility. The hotel
owner's claims about Freaney sounded quite candid and full of detail. I was
dismayed when Loren chose to characterize these highly significant claims
about problems with Mr. Freaney's credibility as "...word came out that the
sighting might be a hoax and then was quickly retracted by an individual
apparently trying to get publicity for himself." Strange 11, p.28.

This struck me as a mischaracterization of a more complex and problematic
situation.  Loren painted a picture of a credible witness unfairly attacked.
The picture I got from all  of the articles was that of a rather obvious
hoaxer.

Now that Loren is no longer associated with the magazine and the Moa issue
has resurfaced, this strikes me as the opportune time to discuss the case and
its ramifications more fully. It is obvious that Loren, after talking to
Paddy Freaney (at least his name was Freaney--not Heaney-- in 1993 when
Coleman first wrote about the case), bought into Freaney's story for various
reasons.  When one combines the early evidence of a hoax with the new info
that Derek brings up questioning the photographer's credibility, the odds of
a hoax are increased substantially and it is inane for Loren to keep acting
like there is a strong case here when it was very weak from the outset. I
will make certain that in the next issue of Strange the case is discussed as
fully as it should have been initially.

Mark 

note new address:  strange@cais.com

The Strange Web is coming!