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Winchester-Nabu Detective Agency Year Six: Case File No. 36-296

stock photo of white stag drinking from a puddle

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Where We Left Off:

The Winchester-Nabu Detective researched the legends of doppelgängers to see if Gus has one.

Ghost Whisperer:

Once again, we owe this case file to the trail camera technology. If you haven’t read previous cases, we have captured images of white-tailed deer, Jersey devil-deer, bears, volkolaks, kitsune, foxes, stray cats, turkeys; and possibly a dinosaur and ghostly spirits!

Below: images of white-tailed deer—a doe and a buck—looking as you would expect in the night mode of the camera. High contrast. Glowing eyeballs. Their surfaces reflecting back as much light as the lens could gather.

When I saw the image (below) as they were taken by the camera’s night mode, it gave off a spooky quality. This happened more than once. There was something about how the light and dark swept around each other. For some reason, I decided to try swapping the image into negative mode with an app. The image produced was beautiful and magical.

a male buck deer with a fawn behind it
The original image from the trail cam.

In European fairy tales, creatures of the deer family (Cervids) are more likely to be bigger than our New Jersey white-tailed deer. The red deer seems to be a prominent animal character to be hunted, chased, or protected by goddesses and gods like Artemis. Tapestries depict the white stag or white hart, an especially sought after target for its mystical qualities and rarity. Some say the white stag can never be caught. It represents the wisdom we always seek. This incredible beast is often interchanged with the unicorn.

negative contrast of a male buck with antlers and a fawn
The negative of the original image.

Depending on your taste in fairy tales, they are either modernized with what the romance writers call HEA, which is short for happily ever after; or they are more true to their dark roots of pain, suffering, broken hearts, and death. One thing is certain, no matter what kind of Cervid crosses your path, their qualities of grace and strength are enough to leave one breathless.

Reality is more like those dark Grimm’s tales. The animals don’t always fair well. That’s a heavy theme in one of the comics I reviewed, Scurry, which is rated “middle grade” but has a lot of animal welfare tragedy. Fiction reflects devastation sometimes. In the real world case, it isn’t nuclear fallout, but CWD, chronic wasting disease—affecting our white-tailed deer population. It’s easily transmittable which is why the NJDEP has set strict regulations that would otherwise seem overboard:

KEEP NJ CWD FREE Whole Deer Carcass Ban

  • Hunters are banned from bringing a whole carcass from any member of the Cervid family (including but not limited to white-tailed deer, black-tailed deer, mule deer, elk, red deer, moose, sika deer, caribou and reindeer) into New Jersey from ANY other state or country.
  • Hunters are banned from bringing a non-taxidermied head of any member of the Cervid family harvested into New Jersey from ANY other state or country.
  • ONLY completely boned-out meat (meat with all bones removed), cleaned skullcaps and hides, shed antlers, and clean upper canine teeth of any member of the Cervid family may be brought into New Jersey.

Deer-Derived Scent and Lure Ban

  • Lures and scents made from deer are banned for sale, possession, and use while hunting in New Jersey, including deer urine and deer glandular secretions, as infectious prions that cause CWD can be found in these fluids.
  • ONLY synthetic scents or natural lures made from species not in the deer family are legal for deer hunting in New Jersey.
  • Many synthetic products are readily available at sporting goods stores and online retailers. Hunters must use these products as part of New Jersey’s effort to keep CWD out of the state.

This isn’t only a New Jersey problem which is why transporting a body into the state is banned. Many states, Canadian provinces, and European countries have had cases of CWD. The NJDEP claims that our state has zero cases of CWD. Gee, it’s almost like isolating infected specimens protects a community.

Gordon Ramsay: who would have thought that? Amazing!

Deer hunting is actually something I’m not opposed to as I am the bear hunt. It seems our state has a decent population of white-tailed deer and they are able to reproduce without their young being murdered.

Deer Hunting Trivia in NJ:

The 2021-2022 season had some interesting numbers: 36,787 killed versus the prior season, 54,980. I am curious about why the year 2000 has the historical highest number of deer harvested: 77,444. And the previous year, 1999, was close behind in second place with 75,398. Was this a Y2K-End-of-the-World trend? Did people think commercial industries for food would collapse so they went hunting instead?

Oliver and Gus sat with me in the office as we did more internet research about deer. Even though, I was more interested in ghost stories about deer, I did come across notable facts. White-tailed deer are not present in all 50 states. You might think that’s obvious that they wouldn’t have made it to Hawaii, but humans are stupid and introduced them so they are an invasive species in paradise. They are also not native to Alaska, California, Oregon, Nevada, and New Mexico.

What to do if you hit a deer:

We really don’t know how many living deer there are. Based on what I know about the dead ones, even accidental deer killing can be tracked by such things as police reports. It sucks, but there are things to do after hitting one. Move your car to a safe spot is number one. Obviously if anyone is injured call 9-1-1. That might seem unlikely, but I was personally involved in a collision where the deer hit the windshield and I thought it was going to crash into my face impaling my skull with sharp hooves. The windshield prevented that terrifying scenario. Call your insurance company and take photos for them. Also, you probably should call the state or local police in case the animal is not dead. It’s an unpleasant situation, but around here, sometimes the cops have to put a bullet in an injured animal. Maybe times have changed since I was fed this information in the 1990s. Now there are wildlife rehabilitation rescues like Antler Ridge and Cedar Run. If the animal can’t be saved, you can also contact wildlife refuges that need deer meat for their animals like Lakota Wolf Preserve.

Okay, maybe you were not looking for tips on what to do if you hit a deer. This is pertinent to the case because one of our early investigations involved a beloved mother doe who frequented our yard. She had babies each year. One year she showed up with a limp. We started to find bones in the woods that were clearly scattered but in a path showing the body was dragged by another creature. Her case was crucial in developing my interest in skeletons and physiology.

Several months ago, the Grumpy Old Man told me that he saw our limping mother doe! How could that be? I hadn’t seen her in years because I’m pretty sure I have her bones in the detective agency office. After seeing the ghostly images from the trailcam, I began to speculate that perhaps the Grumpy Old Man saw a ghost of Virginia the Deer. I took my idea to the boys and that’s why I began my research into supernatural and spectral lore of cervids.

It turns out that we aren’t the first group to think that ghost deer exist. We’ve previously discussed amazing sightings of genetically natural white deer. It’s a rare and incredible sight. There have been some here in this area, but I’ve never personally seen one.

Jesse Durdel wrote Have You Seen a Spirit Deer? and his description sounds exactly like the image of our negative image! Read this excerpt:

I was a munitions storage crew member and at the time I worked the night shift, transporting bombs and components to various locations within the area of the base.  One night I was driving a forklift back to the “shop” from one of the farther storage locations in the base.  As I rounded the corner, the headlights of my forklift shone on a bright white deer standing in the middle of the road back to the shop.  A buck, white as a ghost and charcoal black eyes.  I had never seen one of the like before nor since (in person). It looked at me as if I was no consequence and it slowly walked off the road with no apparent concern or apprehension.

Generally speaking, people use the term “ghost deer” to mean an albino, leucistic, or piebald deer. We know that’s not what the Grumpy Old Man saw because he claimed to have the same limping doe who spent a lot of time in our backyard in the day. She was tawny with a white underbelly like one would expect. He didn’t describe in colorful detail what he saw. I think if he had witnessed a ghostly white deer, he would have said so.

Have you ever seen a ghost?

What’s your idea of a ghost? Is it someone who looks exactly like they did in life (for pop culture examples: the main character in Ghost Whisperer or the little boy in The Sixth Sense)? Is a ghost supposed to look like what the visual effects artists made in Ghostbusters—spectral, translucent, floating or flying?

Case Findings:

While we probably have ghost deer in the sense of supernatural specters of deceased deer, it seems that our only eyewitness account leans in favor of such an entity looking natural as it did in life and not ghostly white as our negative photo manipulation shows.

Case Status: Closed


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