The Friday Report: The moaning and groaning of the bells |

The Friday Report: The moaning and groaning of the bells

Felicia Muftic
Courtesy Photo |

Chronic readers know how deeply I regret not pursuing a career in cryptozoology. If you don’t know, that’s the scientific study of cryptids, secretive creatures that do not exist.

If a flash of confusion crossed your face, it’s simply because you haven’t thought it through: It is possible to live very well off grants and bug-eyed rich people while searching for a mythical beast that is definitely not hiding behind the next tree. Or the next.

How many searches and how much money has been spent just looking for Jimmy Hoffa, when half of New Jersey knows where he is? Not only knows where he is, but for a handsome non-refundable fee, plus expenses, will mount a day trip to try to find the barrel of cement he’s hiding in. Or maybe he’s in the next barrel, you just don’t know.

That’s the thing of it! If you’re looking for something that isn’t there, you don’t even have to get off the sofa because every effort is pointless. In the hunt for cryptids, all you need is a delusional billionaire (it’s like hunting rabbits there’s so many afoot), then dress up all your poker pals in Patagonia fleeces so they look ready to charge into the gloaming looking for the Dover Demon or the Loup Garou.

All set? Everyone ready? Oh, curse the luck! Three years of champagne and penthouse poker come to naught when the expedition gets canceled after you bribe some smarmy official to turn down the wilderness permit. On to the hunt for Chupacabra (donors)!

If something doesn’t exist, it’s logical that an immense amount of money can be spent looking for it. But whether it exists or not, if you don’t spend the money, you’ll never know.

Some ancient Burmese documents make mention of the Great Bell of Dhammazedi, the largest bronze bell ever cast. Eighteen feet tall and 12 feet wide, this behemoth weighed nearly three-quarters of a million pounds, as much as 22 railroad freight cars. The writings specify that the bell was cast on Feb. 5, 1484, and silver, gold, copper and tin made up the casting alloy. King Dhammazedi had it made for the peace-loving monks at the Shwedagon Pagoda over in the next valley.

For a hundred years, gentle monks deafened the countryside tolling the massive bell. But one dark day in 1580, Nga Zinka, an infamous Portuguese blackguard, stole the bell, thinking of the mountain of cannons he could turn it into.

The pirates tumbled the bell a quarter mile down to the creek and lashed it to Zinka’s boat. Elephants tortuously dragged the barge upstream to the confluence of the Bago and Yangon Rivers where they swamped in heavy waves and everything went to the bottom. Zinka survived and made it safely to shore where the kindly monks promptly impaled him on a stake.

Over the last 400 years, there have been many attempts to retrieve the sunken bell and all have been confounded by 18 inch visibility, 25 feet of mud, and at least 14 major shipwrecks littering the turbulent river floor.

Locals believe that the bell is guarded by spirits who like it just where it is, claiming that the bell rises out of the water during a full moon.

But what if after the hundreds of attempts and zillions of dollars, it turns out there never was a bell at all? Chit San Win is a historian who has closely followed all the failed efforts and spent most of his life researching the Dhammazedi Bell. After finding no other supporting evidence in ancient Burmese literature, he confesses doubt that the bell ever existed.

Help settle the matter by sending me a significant donation, care of this newspaper. And as quickly as I get settled in my New York City penthouse, we’ll start the search in earnest.

Meanwhile, six-figure donors will receive completely un-retouched sketches of the bell rising in the moonlight.

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