Happy or scary All Saint's Eve or Halloween, whatever your pleasure might be. As you cheer on the zombies and alien predators extorting candy from you, give a few thoughts about what would have been really scary: the terrifying animals that humans lived with many centuries ago.
Have you ever wondered why shadows are so effective in the best horror movies? It's pretty clear to me that there is a collective genetic memory in all of us of the monsters that we think of as myths today, but which were horribly real as recently as 12,000-13,000 years ago. The world was full of creatures that wouldn't have minded dining on us, and deep in our collective consciousness is a reflexive response to particular shapes and shadows. The pareidolia I wrote of once was a survival mechanism; we needed to see those faces in the underbrush in time to climb or flee to safety.
This museum display in Sydney gave me the willies...Fossil Discovery Center of Madera County, which opened for business a few years ago. The fossil creatures on display were found by the bulldozers of the Fairmead Waste Facility. They were digging a garbage dump, and found a treasure trove of fossil bones; 27 species of mammals and a half dozen other creatures dating from the Pleistocene. I find it to be a wonderful science resource for the region. It is well worth a visit.
Fossil Discovery Center of Madera County
19450 Avenue 21 ½
Chowchilla, CA 93610
Take the Hwy 99 Exit 164, SW corner of Road 19 ½ & Avenue 21 ½