The following is an excerpt from How to Survive a Sharknado and Other Unnatural Disasters: Fight Back When Monsters and Mother Nature Attack [Three Rivers Press, $14.99]:
According to legend, the first Basilisk hatched from a serpent egg by a male chicken. While the story is likely apocryphal, the monster itself is quite real. Its serpentine body is approximately fifteen feet long, with four unusable twig-like arms. Despite being called the "serpent king," the basilisk’s head more closely resembles that of the long-extinct dragon. If it attacks you, it will first spit paralyzing venom on you. Once you’re incapacitated, it locks eyes with you. It’s not falling in love -- it’s turning you to stone. If the basilisk is in a hurry, it’s liable to just snap your head off your body with its enormous jaws.
Also known as: Serpent King
First observed: Buffalo Springs, Colorado (2006)
Est. max speed: 30 mph
High-risk groups: Archaeologists, Enemies of the Order of the Sun
Look out for it in: Libya
"People assume being an archaeologist is like Indiana Jones," University of Colorado professor Harry McColl says. “I used to say it’s more rocks, less whips. Until I unearthed the basilisk in Libya, of course."
McColl was on a sponsored dig in 2006 when tribal leaders warned them to leave. "Much blood has been spilled here. Yours will be too if you do not leave this place and all you find behind. No man lives here. Only a great evil," McColl quotes the local emissary as saying. "We thought they were jealous. We’d just uncovered the statue of the basilisk and a five-foot gold-plated scepter topped with the head of a snake and a priceless jewel -- the fabled "Eye of Medusa." An ancient cult -- the Order of the Sun -- used the scepter to control the basilisk." McColl ignored the warnings.
While the find was on display at the Buffalo Springs Museum of Natural History in Colorado, the jewel-encrusted scepter refracted light from a solar eclipse onto the basilisk statue -- waking the monster within. The “statue” was a tomb meant to keep the dangerous animal locked up. The basilisk roared to life. Dozens were killed.
The basilisk escaped into the sewers, but not for long. The stage was set for McColl to step into Harrison Ford’s fedora and save the day. He used the scepter to lure the basilisk inside a nuclear power plant. McColl believed the blue glow seen inside nuclear reactors (Cherenkov radiation, a byproduct of nuclear fission) would be enough to simulate another solar eclipse. Sure enough, the Eye of Medusa refracted light from the cooling tanks onto the basilisk, turning the creature back to stone. It’s enough to make you wonder how many other statues are stone crypts housing living creatures. Et tu, President Lincoln?
Scans of the creature’s body revealed it was pregnant, indicating that another basilisk must have existed at the time of its entombment. McColl and his team of historians are combing through myths, legends, and historical literature for clues to the whereabouts of more basilisks. Since the creature appears in literature throughout Asia and Europe right up until the Middle Ages, they aren’t limiting their search to Libya. In the meantime, do what you can to avoid basilisks by using common sense.
- Cancel any scheduled archaeological digs in Libya. Just to be on the safe side.
- Exercise caution around basilisk statues. While we’re sure it’s a lovely city, avoid Basel, Switzerland, at all costs. The basilisk is the town’s heraldic animal. Thirty-odd statues appear around town -- possibly ready to come to life at any moment, given the right astronomical conditions.
Think you're powerless against a creature as fearsome and indestructible as a basilisk? For the most part, that’s true. Still, knowledge is power. Here’s what works, and what doesn’t"
DO: Avert your eyes. If it doesn’t lock eyes with you, it can’t turn you to stone. Unfortunately, it can still rip you apart between its jaws.
DON'T: Honk your horn or hold up a mirror. Some myths say that the basilisk can be driven away by loud noises. Others say that if the basilisk sees its own reflection, it will turn to stone like a manticore. The Colorado National Guard learned the hard way that neither of these stories holds any truth.
DO: Try to subdue it with the Eye of Medusa. Not only can the jewel wake the basilisk during an eclipse, it can also return it to its stone slumber under the same conditions. For unknown reasons, the basilisk is drawn to it. "Sometimes, we’re drawn to what causes us pain. We don’t always make rational decisions," McColl muses. The scepter is currently on display at the Museum of Libya in Tripoli.
DON’T: Shoot it or try to blow it up. Conventional weapons can’t penetrate the beast’s thick body armor. It survived a fiery inferno inside an exploding building, indicating it is also impervious to high temperatures. It’s either the Eye of Medusa or nothing if you want to stop a basilisk.
From HOW TO SURVIVE A SHARKNADO AND OTHER UNNATURAL DISASTERS by Andrew Shaffer. Copyright © 2014 by Universal Television Networks. Licensed by Syfy Ventures. Reprinted by permission of Three Rivers Press, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House company.