Pickled dragon mystery
A pickled “dragon” that looks as if it might once have flown around Harry
Potter’s Hogwarts has been found in a garage in Oxfordshire, England.
The baby dragon, in a sealed jar, was discovered with a metal tin containing
paperwork in old-fashioned German of the 1890s.
Allistair Mitchell, who was asked to investigate the dragon by a friend, David
Hart, who discovered it in his garage, speculates that German scientists may
have attempted to use the dragon to hoax their English counterparts at the
end of the 19th century, when rivalry between the countries was intense.
“At the time, scientists were the equivalent of today’s pop stars. It would have
been a great propaganda coup for the Germans if it had come off,” Mr
“I’ve shown the photos to someone from Oxford University and he thought it
was amazing. Obviously he could not say if it was real and wanted to do a
The documents suggest that the Natural History Museum turned the dragon
away, possibly because they suspected it was a trick, and sent it to be
destroyed. But it appears a porter intercepted the jar and took it home. The
papers suggest the porter may have been Frederick Hart – David Hart’s
Mr Mitchell said: “The dragon is flawless, from the tiny teeth to the umbilical
cord. It could be made from indiarubber, because Germany was the world’s
leading manufacturer of it at the time, or it could be made of wax. It has to
be fake. No one has ever proved scientifically that dragons exist. But
everyone who sees it immediately asks, ‘Is it real?”‘
Some scientists believe that dragons, though the product of imagination,
were inspired by the extraordinary creatures that once roamed the Earth.
As J.K.Rowling’s alter ego Hermione Granger once suggested, legends have a
basis in fact.