A simple paleontologist discovers a mysterious ancient creature that was sucking the blood from its victims.
When I sailed for Peru, to accept a position as field paleontologist for the International Petroleum Company at their oil fields near Talara, I little dreamed what amazing experiences and astounding adventures were in store for me.
The life of a paleontologist is not, as a rule, an exciting or adventurous one. In fact, there is scarcely a branch of scientific field work that promises so little in the way of adventure, peril or thrills. Fossils, interesting as they may be to the trained scientist who studies them, are not what one might call dangerous game. Neither are they elusive, shy nor suspicious of human beings. And, aside from the ordinary and to-be-expected hardships of camp life and field work, hunting fossils is perhaps the safest and tamest of professions. And as I was to hunt and study the smallest and most abundant of fossils — namely, diatoms and foraminifera — for the presence of certain species of these minute fossil animals is known to have a very direct bearing upon petroleum deposits, and as my hunting ground was in the open desert where there were neither wild animals nor wild men, and as my entire field of activities was within sight and sound of the busy oil refineries, the wells, the pump-houses and the well ordered "camp" or town, the possibility of any excitement, any danger or anything unusual never occurred to me. And had anyone suggested such eventualities, I most assuredly would have laughed them to scorn. Yet, so strange is fate and so whimsical her moods, and so little do we know of the future that, within a few months after my arrival at Talara, I was to have some of the most astounding, even incredible experiences that ever came into the life of any man. Indeed, were it not that the facts are well known, and that meager reports of the remarkable occurrence have already been published in the press, I should hesitate to write of them for fear of being classed as a romancer and as writing fiction in the guise of fact. But I feel that, as precisely the same things may — in fact, probably will — recur again somewhere — even if not in Peru — and many human lives, perhaps entire communities, may be destroyed by such recurrences, the public should be acquainted with all the facts and details of the visitation, and thus should be prepared for its repetition.
But before beginning my story, I wish to disclaim the undue credit that has been accorded me for solving the baffling mystery of those terrible times and for saving the lives of hundreds — probably thousands — of my fellow men and fellow women. Any man with scientific training, a knowledge of zoology and with an interest in the unusual forms of animal and plants life could have done more than I did. It merely chanced that I was on the spot, that my scientific interests had been aroused before the happenings occurred and that I had always taken a deep interest in the botany of the tropics. Never before had this fad been of any real value to me or to anyone else. In the first place I never had visited the tropics and in the second place I made paleontology my life work and confined my studies to invertebrate paleontology at that. Yet I cannot help feeling that my amateurish interest in plant life must have been inspired by the Divinity and for the sole purpose which it later and so fortunately fulfilled.
One thing more I must mention, for it had a very great bearing upon the affair and enabled me to make dedications and to understand matters that otherwise would have been impossible to understand. During my postgraduate course at Yale I was greatly interested in the deep-sea researches of the United States Fish Commission under the direction of Professor Verrill, who was my instructor.