A dragon in the garage

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 May, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 May, 2004, 12:00am

Over time we all collect a great deal of stuff that piles up in our rooms and most of us only get round to sorting it out and throwing things away when we are forced to.

Englishman David Hart had decided that it was time to clear out his garage.

Many homes in England have a garage where the car is kept. But often, garages are the place where English families keep all their unwanted things. Sometimes, garages in England are so full of rubbish that there is no room for the car.

Mr Hart's garage needed a good clearout. He had been putting off the job for a long time but had eventually decided that he couldn't delay any longer. It was now or never.

Not only did the garage contain things that he had dumped there himself, but there was also a lot of the rubbish left by David's father when he moved to London 20 years ago.

Mr Hart was not prepared for the shock he got when he began to sort through his father's things. In a corner of the garage under a pile of junk, he found a large glass jar containing what appeared to be a dead dragon.

The creature, preserved in liquid, was about two feet tall with folded wings, sharp claws and a long white tail. Its mouth was half open and Mr Hart could see two rows of perfectly formed teeth.

When he had recovered from his great shock, Mr Hart asked a friend to help him find out something about the dragon. The two of them discovered an amazing story.

At the end of the 19th century, there was a lot of rivalry between England and Germany. Secretly, a group of German scientists came up with a plan to trick scientists at London's Natural History Museum and make them look foolish.

The Germans said that they had found the body of a dragon and they needed help from London to authenticate their discovery. But English experts were suspicious when they received the preserved dragon and dismissed it as a hoax. They realised that the Germans were playing a trick on them.

The dragon was put into a cupboard at the Natural History Museum and forgotten. Years later during a clearout, the dragon was thrown away as a piece of rubbish. But a museum porter decided to hang on to it.

That museum porter was Mr Hart's grandfather and that is how the dragon ended up in Mr Hart's garage.

Now scientists are again showing interest in the creature. Experts at Oxford University are planning to perform a biopsy on the dragon to see what it is made of. It could be made of rubber or wax or its origins might be animal.

There is, of course, another possibility. The dragon might be real.