Destination TruthEpisodes

Sea Monster and Bat Demon
Season 2 - Episode 204
Sea Monster and Bat Demon
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Vietnam: Tarasque


A run of new sightings prompts Josh Gates and his team to travel some 20 hours to Vietnam to hunt the Tarasque. Although sightings date back centuries, he was told by Mai Dinh Yen of the University of Hanoi that the first recorded report dates to the 19th century and might be something akin to a giant, underwater snake.

Dr. Vu Ngoc Thanh of the Hanoi Zoological Museum directs Josh to a northern region where fishers live in a floating village. Arriving in Halong Bay, the team comes prepared with squid for bait, hooks, an anchor, rope and other supplies. After talking to eyewitnesses, they head out on a large boat in search of their prey. Using a hydrophone and fish-finding sonar, the investigation begins.

When the team gets a hit indicating a large mass moving under their boat, Josh and Casey don their scuba gear and dive in. The visibility is at best murky, and the duo cannot see anything. Soon after, a second hit is detected, and the two make another dive. While searching, another vessel comes too close, and its engines create a strong undertow that nearly drags Josh and Casey into a large rusty buoy.

As night falls, the team takes to a kayak and a rowboat to begin exploring the area. Josh finds a cave and heads inside, noting he hears plenty of bats high overhead. As he goes deeper, he finds what he describes as "an enclosed lagoon" and hopes this might be the Tarasque's lair. He lights a flare, hoping that the light will attract the creature. Instead, he's greeted by silence. Outside, Casey notes a new reading coming close, so Josh returns to their position. The two boats follow the reading back toward their base boat but find nothing.

Once aboard, they set out their fishing hooks, laden with squid, and await a response. Hours pass; nothing happens. Exhausted, the team leaves the cameras running while they turn in for some much-needed rest. A handful of hours later, they awaken to find the bait gone but no creature caught on tape. Apparently, some time between the tape running out and the sun rising, something stealthily ate the squid from their hooks.

Back in Los Angeles, Casey processes the one image they captured. Even with software enhancements, it is hard to identify. Josh sends the image to Dr. Thanh, who makes an educated guess that it was a whale shark, though they are not normally seen so near to the coast. Josh is left to theorize that, over the years, whale sharks might have wandered close to the fishermen, and the natives crafted a legend about the unfamiliar aquatic mammals that has been handed down through the generations as the legend of the Tarasque.

Josh brings his team to the African island nation of Zanzibar to determine if a spate of reports about the demonic Popobawa might be real. The bat-winged, light-emitting creature has been sighted periodically, and as recently as 1995. What makes this interesting is that sightings are now being reported in Zanzibar's capital, Stone Town, as well as in the jungle areas.

Josh speaks with several eyewitnesses, including two who say they fought the Popobawa and survived. One describes being overwhelmed and "violated" by the Popobawa. He then talks with Dr. Sharrif Amed, who was hired by the government to help it deal with the creature. Amed gives Josh a substance both to attract the demon and to protect him from it. Downing the "nasty dirt," Josh is ready to continue the investigation.

Because the creature allegedly can fly, Casey sets up cameras atop the highest roof in Stone Town while Josh, Brad, Araceli and Ponch hit the streets. Twice during the night, Casey picks up suspicious readings, but both times, the team is unable to locate the flying creature. In fact, the night is quiet and peaceful. Reviewing the footage, Josh suspects Casey spotted bats, whose size does not match the reports of the Popobawa.

Josh then does some research and correlates the timing of Popobawa sightings and attacks with Zanzibar government elections. He speculates that the opposition party exploits superstitious beliefs to evoke feelings of terror among the people, for political gain. The Popobawa, he concludes, is an electoral tool — not a flesh-and-blood threat to humanity.


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