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Peter Smith - Impossimals

By kind permission of the head curator of The National Museum of Antiquities

In 1902, Charles Burroughs - commonly known as ‘Bluster Burroughs’ and the foremost expert in the Victorian era of cryptozoology - disappeared whilst exploring the Congo. Famed for regularly capturing unknown species in the wild before the advent of portable photography, the whereabouts of his extensive collection of Defluo Impossimali or Lost Impossimal location paintings remained a mystery.

Painted on anything that came to hand during his numerous expeditions around the world, the paintings became a Victorian sensation. Exhibited widely throughout the Empire as part of the Impossisaurus Britannicas collection and viewed by some of the leading figures from the Victorian era, they are said to have influenced the likes of scientists, scholars and authors alike until their eventual disappearance in 1902 - a disappearance that coincided with Charles’ final expedition to find the lost Woolly Gullagaloo in an unexplored region of the Congo called Gwangu by the natives.

This was an expedition that Charles never returned from, prompting speculation that he had been devoured by a Striped Foofalow - an Impossimal renowned for its white teeth which it keeps in a jar when it's not eating.

Many people have searched for Charles and his missing paintings, but it was only when a young scholar assigned to cleaning duties disturbed a battered forgotten crate at the National Museum of Antiquities that the mystery began. The crate had remained unopened since its delivery in 1911, nine years after Charles Burroughs alleged disappearance. Not only did it contain the lost paintings of Charles Burroughs but also his extensive notes. Even more importantly, tucked away at the bottom, was his diaries; a collection that revealed the extraordinary life of this great explorer from humble beginnings, his rise to fame and ultimately to his last ever entry, dated July 4th 1911.


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