Reaction Weekend

The Katanga Snake – brilliant hoax or beguiling horror?

BY Harry Cluff   /  28 November 2020

In 1959, fighter pilot Colonel Remy Van Lierde was flying a helicopter over the Katanga region of the Congo. He was returning from a mission to an airbase at Kamina, when suddenly across a clearing in the jungle below, he spotted an enormous snake dramatically uncoiling its colossal girth. At a glance, he estimated its size at 50-60 feet, making it one of the largest snakes ever seen. Naturally, he decided to circle round several times to allow a crewmember to take photographs of the extraordinary creature they had discovered. The pictures they procured created a sensation and were even sent to CIA officials for forensic verification, but to this day the riddle of the Katanga snake remains unsolved.

The snake Van Lierde and his associates saw, was described as “green and brown” with a “white underbelly”. This account of its coloration, size and location have led some to speculate that the snake was a python, a species well-known for reaching gargantuan proportions. According to Van Lierde, as he lowered his chopper to get a better a look at this real-world basilisk and hovered thirty feet over its jungle hole, the beast rose ten feet in the air and paused as if poising to strike. Terrified, Van Lierde withdrew and later said, “I felt if I got any closer, it would have a struck at me.” But is this simply a carefully crafted scene from an old soldier’s imagination or did Colonel Van Lierde actually meet a monster?


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