Fishing Lines: Eerie tales from the bottom of the freezer

BURGLARS DISCOVERED an unexpected bonus when they broke into a large outbuilding adjoining a Yorkshire house. It contained three huge chest freezers. None was locked, and each was loaded with food. It must have taken the robbers several tiptoed trips to pile the frozen chunks into their getaway transport. In the darkness (essential backdrop for such villainy) they could not see precisely what they had nabbed. No doubt they wondered over the occupation of the home's occupant. A butcher, perhaps?

Next morning, the extent of the theft was uncovered. The victim called the police. They did forensic things, trod on a few plants, took a statement and went off chuckling. "Maybe we won't tell the press about this one straight away," they said.

The wronged man was not a butcher, though with enough meat to feed the Stretford End it was a reasonable assumption. He was a taxidermist. Those freezers contained animals he had skinned (taxidermists use the skin, but none of the innards). Disposing of carcasses is always a problem, especially when they come from foxes, badgers, buzzards, crows, dogs, two cats and a horse.

This particular taxidermist also had a deal with local zoos and wildlife parks, whereby he collected animals that died from disease or old age. So his freezers, as well as the more mundane stuff, also contained bits of a bear, a lion and a serval, as well as a few macaws and smaller birds.

If it hadn't been for that midnight raid, the carcasses would have ended up at a nearby maggot farm. Maggots are not too pernickity about the freshness of their food, whether they're eating badger, bear or buzzard. Humans, however, might be a little more fussy on discovering that Sunday lunch was once someone's old Labrador. Sadly, I don't know the end of this story, and whether the burglars really did tuck into Tiddles without realising what they were eating.

Some of the meat, certainly, could have tasted as if it had been well hung. Taxidermists often have animals in their freezers for a couple of years until they start working on them. But then, I guess most people have a few permafrost items lurking deep in their freezers, rime-encrusted shapes that haven't seen daylight for a year. How many, though, have kept anything in their deep-freezes for more than 30 years?

If Jim Anthony, of Ohio, invites you round for supper, it would be wise to plead a prior engagement. He kept a pike chilled for 37 years, though, to be fair, he was not saving it for a dinner party. Anthony was fishing in Lake Erie when he caught a fish he did not recognise. He took it home, wrapped it up and popped it in the freezer, resolving to take it in and have it identified.

Time passed. His family grew up. But his polar pike nestled, undisturbed, in the freezer. It could even have outlasted Anthony himself, now 63. But one day he read a newspaper article about a special variety of pike, the blue pike, which was declared extinct in its only US home, Lake Erie, in 1975. The fish looked familiar. Anthony shifted through the packs of frozen peas, compared the picture. It was the same fish.

When Anthony took his pike along to scientists, they became very excited. Canadian anglers claim to have caught blue pike in Lake Ontario, Lake Manitoba and parts of the Lake Huron and St Lawrence river system. But these have been dismissed as a type of walleye, a pike-like fish. Scientists had no examples of the species to make DNA comparisons. Anthony's fish should change all that, and reveal whether the last blue pike have interbred with walleye, or whether the separate species still survives.

This might not strike you as very exciting. But for ichthyologists, such a discovery (and especially the manner of it) is the stuff of dreams, the equivalent of finding a coelacanth in your bath.

It's probably a good job Anthony lives in an area where freezer raids are as rare as his blue pike. Imagine eating such a historic fish. And imagine what it would have tasted like.

Suggested Topics
Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Bianca Miller and Katie Bulmer-Cooke are scrutinised by Lord Sugar's aide Nick Hewer on The Apprentice final
tvBut Bianca Miller has taken on board his comments over pricing
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Elton John and David Furnish exchange marriage vows
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
News
in picturesWounded and mangy husky puppy rescued from dump
News
newsAstonishing moment a kangaroo takes down a drone
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Director / Operations Director

£50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an incredible opportunity for a ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

£16000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Administrator is requir...

Recruitment Genius: EWI / IWI Installer

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of design...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Analyst - Chessington

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Service Desk Analyst - Chessington, Surrey...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'