People who meet Bog Slaughter aren’t sure if they should take him seriously.
Slaughter says he likes to keep people guessing.
This 68-year-old neighborhood resident and Woodrow graduate has been sculpting “fairy fossils” since he retired as a paleontology professor from Southern Methodist University 13 years ago.
Slaughter studies legendary creatures, such as leprechauns and mermaids, and then brings these creatures to life by creating imaginative “fossil histories”.
He has sculpted about 35 pieces, and his work has sold at prices ranging from $150 to $7,800. He recently published a book to accompany his sculptures entitled “Fossil Remains of Mythical Creatures”.
A former president of the Texas Academy of Science, Slaughter says mythical creatures have a lot in common with the extinct animals paleontologists research.
Extinct animals come to life through fossil records, but no story. Mythical creatures have no basis in biology, he says, but cultures have created a voice for them – an oral history – which makes them real for people.
“Myth is fascinating,” Slaughter says. “It’s what religion and morality are based on. People should know more about it.”
Myths cause people to conjure up pictures of fairies and gnomes, Slaughter says. He simply takes the imaging one step further, creating seemingly scientific proof of our fantasies – giving us werewolf bones and alien skeletons.
“I don’t know if it’s art or not,” Slaughter says. “I like people to make up their own minds. I never was very artistic, but I’ve always been clever.”
Slaughter’s life story is as fanciful as his art.
He didn’t attend college, working as a home builder before deciding to pursue paleontology.
He had little more than a life-long love for animals and an interest in ancient beings to start his career rolling.
He began reading avidly, crashing college lectures, digging up fossils at sites around Dallas and writing what he calls “popular articles” about his work for magazines. His work caught the attention of local academics, who took him under their wing.
Slaughter eventually earned the status of full professor at SMU and has authored three books and more than one hundred articles and scholarly papers. He is best known for discoveries concerning the origins of small placentals and marsupials and the effect of climate on evolution.
He has traveled the world as a serious paleontologist, working in the United States, Europe, the Middle East and Latin America. His expeditions have been sponsored by the National Geographic Society, the Smithsonian Institute, the National Science Foundation, and SMU’s Institute for the Study of Earth and Man.
None of the fossils used in Slaughter’s art come from his expeditions. He likes to keep it a secret, but he molds his “fairy fossils” from pulverized bone.
But the stories that have inspired Slaughter do come from his and his friends’ travels.
Paleontologists do more than dig up fossils while on expeditions, Slaughter says. They also learn about different cultures and countries and are exposed to myths from around the world.
This exposure has inspired Slaughter to create remains for such beasts as Onis, trouble-making demons from Japanese legend, and Duendes, small humanoids from Aztec legend who supposedly stand two-feet tall and emerge from hiding to dance during rainstorms. Slaughter will tell you he “found” proof of Duendes in Mexico.
Slaughter plans to do less sculpting and more writing in the future, he says. Whether with his “fairy fossils” or with words, he has been creating legends since he was a child.
“Sometimes if I was down, I’d write a little myth,” Slaughter says. “It would have fairies or angels, but if you’d read between the lines, you’d see my soul in there.”