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June 12, 2012 10:25 AM   Subscribe

the dingo took the baby

some back story

The Chamberlain trial was the most publicised in Australian history.[7] Given that most of the evidence presented in the case against Lindy Chamberlain was later rejected, the case is now used as an example of how media and bias can adversely affect a trial.[19]

Public and media opinion during the trial was polarised, with "fanciful rumours and sickening jokes" and many cartoons.[20][21] In particular, antagonism was directed towards Lindy Chamberlain for reportedly not behaving as a "stereotypical" grieving mother.[22] Much was made of the facts that the Chamberlains were Seventh-day Adventists (including false allegations that the church was in fact a cult that killed babies as part of bizarre religious ceremonies),[23] that the family took a newborn baby to a remote desert location, and that Lindy Chamberlain showed little emotion during the proceedings.
posted by philip-random (109 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Chamberlain-Creighton said she felt she had been subjected to trial by media over the decades since her baby's disappearance.

"I think there are people in all fields who should be ashamed of the way they behaved over this and individuals at home as well, because nobody sat on the fence," she said.
Good that there's official closure, but in the name of all that is holy, what an awful case from top to bottom. Infant death, trial by media, and blood libel.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:29 AM on June 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


.
posted by jquinby at 10:31 AM on June 12, 2012


I didn't know the full backstory of the "dingo took my baby meme" and thought it was just another Lifetime tearjerker of the week, though oddly not starring Mare Winnningham.

Now I feel bad about all my dingo jokes. It is a terrible, terrible story.
posted by Measured Out my Life in Coffeespoons at 10:32 AM on June 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


I clicked through hoping there'd been some new proof found. But it's just that the case is officially closed. Again.
posted by DU at 10:33 AM on June 12, 2012


With today's news fully 100% of Australian species are now confirmed killers.
posted by 2bucksplus at 10:34 AM on June 12, 2012 [22 favorites]


elaine was right.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 10:35 AM on June 12, 2012 [15 favorites]


And they didn't even have Nancy Grace back then!
posted by symbioid at 10:35 AM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thanks for that, Measured Out my Life in Coffeespoons. I get nauseated by "a dingo ate my baby" jokes, and I didn't have the perspective to realize that most people just don't know.

There are nightmares, and then there are nightmares.
posted by endless_forms at 10:35 AM on June 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


I clicked through hoping there'd been some new proof found. But it's just that the case is officially closed. Again.

The coroner ordered that the death certificate no longer read "unknown," but rather "attacked and taken by a dingo." This is important. Before this order, Ms. Chamberlain had merely been acquitted, but now the death certificate accurately reflects the fact that the cause of death is not, in fact, unknown, but rather it was what Ms. Chamberlain had said it had been all along. This is as close as Ms. Chamberlain can get from being merely acquitted to being found explicitly innocent of all crimes.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:37 AM on June 12, 2012 [19 favorites]


I remember the media running with the theory that as Seventh Day Adventists, having given their baby the name Azaria, meaning "sacrifice in the wilderness" (it doesn't), they surely offered their child to god.

Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton has a website.
posted by likeso at 10:40 AM on June 12, 2012


Such a sad, sad story. I've always wondered about the fate of her other children - not because I'm simply nosy, but because I wish them well. It must be horrifying to lose your newborn sibling, your parents and your family life. One of them was even born while Ms Chamberlain was in prison. I hope they can all get some peace for this.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 10:41 AM on June 12, 2012


My hopes for a reunion tour are dashed, apparently.
posted by Danf at 10:43 AM on June 12, 2012 [7 favorites]


I'm not sure which is more bizarre; that part of the "evidence" against the mother was that she dressed the baby in a black dress, or the fact that the dress itself is now an exhibit in the National Museum of Australia. Creepy!
posted by SweetTeaAndABiscuit at 10:46 AM on June 12, 2012


I get nauseated by "a dingo ate my baby" jokes, and I didn't have the perspective to realize that most people just don't know.

I also thought this was some sort of movie-line reference most of my life - being quoted in things like The Simpsons and Seinfeld probably didn't help matters.
posted by mikepop at 10:48 AM on June 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


The coroner ordered that the death certificate no longer read "unknown," but rather "attacked and taken by a dingo." This is important.

I didn't say it wasn't important. Merely that it isn't quite what the link text, which stated an official position as proved fact, led me to believe.
posted by DU at 10:48 AM on June 12, 2012


So tragic. Such a joke of a trial. So many things rejected in the original trial for the oddest reasons:

An Aboriginal man gave evidence that his wife had tracked the dingo and found places where it had put the baby down, leaving the imprint of the baby's clothing in the soil. This evidence was discounted, because the man spoke on behalf of his wife, but in the first person, according to Aboriginal custom.
posted by dabitch at 10:51 AM on June 12, 2012 [15 favorites]


Merely that it isn't quite what the link text, which stated an official position as proved fact, led me to believe.

It's not just any official position. It is the coroner's finding of fact, which also carries legal consequences. Unless you're arguing the trivial position that nothing can ever be proved ever, I'm not sure what your point is.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:56 AM on June 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


I also thought this was some sort of movie-line reference most of my life

It is a movie line reference. The movie was "Cry In the Dark," starring Meryl Streep and Sam Neill. I remember this because for several years after the movie (1988), my friends and I would blurt out that phrase in a stupid ozzie accent whenever Meryl Streep came up in conversation. Several years later Seinfeld stole our little catchphrase.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 10:57 AM on June 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


I found a story about the family/kids. It sounds like they all had a very rough time. The boys were accused of killing their sister and the daughter was shuffled around to foster families until her mom got out of jail.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 10:59 AM on June 12, 2012


Without a body I don't know how they know anything.
posted by cjorgensen at 11:00 AM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Unless you're arguing the trivial position that nothing can ever be proved ever, I'm not sure what your point is.

You could look at what I posted in my first comment: I clicked through hoping there'd been some new proof found.
posted by DU at 11:00 AM on June 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


And they didn't even have Nancy Grace back then!

The gold ol' days.
posted by Fizz at 11:02 AM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Damnit, I meant good. Freudian slip. When I think of Nancy Grace, gold-digging comes to mind.
posted by Fizz at 11:02 AM on June 12, 2012


"Dingo ate your baby?" and "A dingo took my baby" are, as people have already said, quotes from the movie A Cry in the Dark, rather than from the Chamberlain trial or other media coverage of the Chamberlains themselves.

I'm not sure how many people in the US were aware that the movie was based on a real case.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:05 AM on June 12, 2012


I would bet that most people quoting that line nowadays heard it on Seinfeld and didn't even watch the movie.
posted by muddgirl at 11:14 AM on June 12, 2012 [8 favorites]


I've heard "the dingo ate my baby" jokes but never connected them to anything. I hadn't heard of the trial, or of the movie based on it, until now.

I was expecting a story of the baby disappearing while the mother and baby were alone -- but it happened on a camping trip, with other campers who heard the mother's distress, and saw dingo tracks and blood on the tent? And then the findings of the original inquest, which agreed with the dingo story, were quashed? I know the story must be more complicated than the short summary that the Guardian article gives, but it sounds like a classic witch-hunt.

An Aboriginal man gave evidence that his wife had tracked the dingo and found places where it had put the baby down, leaving the imprint of the baby's clothing in the soil. This evidence was discounted, because the man spoke on behalf of his wife, but in the first person, according to Aboriginal custom.

Why am I not surprised that the system couldn't handle an Aboriginal man's testimony when it didn't follow their precise conventions regarding "normal.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 11:14 AM on June 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


what an awful case from top to bottom. Infant death, trial by media, and blood libel.

Good for the dingo, though.
posted by R. Schlock at 11:16 AM on June 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


This evidence was discounted, because the man spoke on behalf of his wife, but in the first person, according to Aboriginal custom.

Yeah, I don't doubt his testimony was discounted because of racism. But why didn't his wife testify? It seems fairly irregular, unless she had died in the interim or something similar.
posted by hoyland at 11:18 AM on June 12, 2012


Why am I not surprised that the system couldn't handle an Aboriginal man's testimony when it didn't follow their precise conventions regarding "normal.

To be fair, if his wife would not or could not testify by herself, but only through her husband speaking in the first person, then that could pose an understandable hearsay issue. I wish we knew more about that.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:20 AM on June 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


"No longer can Australia be able to say that dingoes are not dangerous and only attack if provoked," she said.

"We live in a beautiful country and it is dangerous and we would ask all Australians to be aware of this and to take appropriate precautions and not wait for somebody else to do it for them."


I feel badly about her loss and all but you're in the wild, in Australia, should you operate under the assumption that anything that moves is going to be dangerous, this includes: kangaroos, dingo, wallaby, tasmanian devils, hyena, anyone with the last name Hogan, insects, etc.

When you're in nature there is no such thing as absolute safety, especially with a baby.
posted by Fizz at 11:21 AM on June 12, 2012


When you're in nature there is no such thing as absolute safety, especially with a baby.

She was responding to the then-common sentiment that a dingo could not have eaten her baby. Evidence at trial showing that dingoes were quite capable of doing the damage done to her baby was quashed.

I don't know the disappearance story itself in enough detail, but apparently the baby was taken from the tent as at least one person saw it. It's not like they'd slung the kid over a tree and went out walking for a few hours.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:28 AM on June 12, 2012


I always took the phrase "a dingo took my baby" to be making fun of Meryl Streep's faux accent rather than the incident itself.
posted by benzenedream at 11:29 AM on June 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


All the "I never heard this was a real case" comments make me feel old.
posted by rtha at 11:32 AM on June 12, 2012 [17 favorites]


When you're in nature there is no such thing as absolute safety, especially with a baby.

I think it's unfair to second-guess the mother's regard for the well-being of her child. As a parent, believe me, I've become aware of just how much can go wrong quickly.

Besides, we tend to become accustomed to our landscapes. When I lived in Japan I was always freaked out by the various stinging critters there, notably poisonous giant centipedes and giant venomous wasps. I always breathed a sigh of relief when deplaning on cool, misty Vancouver Island, with its resident coyotes, black bears, cougars, Grizzly bears, aggressive suburban deer.

We tend to become complacent about our surroundings once we become accustomed to the risk.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:33 AM on June 12, 2012 [10 favorites]


Sticherbeast, KokuRyu,

I'm not a parent, so I guess I won't know unless I'm in a situation like that. It just seems like something that could have been preventable. Leaving a baby unattended in a tent, while in the wilds of Australia. But, I guess it only takes a second for something to turn bad. I feel poorly about everything, everyone is a loser in this case.
posted by Fizz at 11:36 AM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


All the "I never heard this was a real case" comments make me feel old.
I've been skimming the comments and was like "what? Wasn't this from like 1915 or something?" because you know, what with all the racist/sexist/otherwise evil stuff at the trial, I figured it was from long ago. Then I went to the link and it's all "in 1980..." and I went "oh."

I also had never heard of this - wasn't born until the following year, hated Seinfeld - and wow, that's an awful story.
posted by kavasa at 11:36 AM on June 12, 2012


This story reminds me of Martin Tankleff, who was charged with killing his parents. Apparently he first came under suspicion because he wasn't hysterically upset enough about the killings.

How can anyone predict how they would react to something that occurs so rarely? It happens a lot on TV, and those people respond in a stereotyped and predictable manner. I would think that from an evolutionary standpoint, it might useful to have a cool or even cold demeanor in the face of some horrible things.
posted by StickyCarpet at 11:36 AM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was in Australia when that film came out. My friends there said that the recurring scenes of people everywhere talking endlessly about the case were true, true, true. Everyone had an opinion and a theory about what happened. When we went to Ayers Rock it was made very clear to us that no one there found dingo/baby jokes funny at all. I'm glad for Ms Chamberlain.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 11:36 AM on June 12, 2012


Fizz, stuff goes wrong fast even if you're right there. I was trying to get something from a hook on a stairway wall a few months ago and my nephew tried to reach past me to get his own coat and within a blink he was falling ass-over-teakettle down the stairs.
posted by kavasa at 11:38 AM on June 12, 2012


Leaving a baby unattended in a tent

You don't know that she was unattended.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:40 AM on June 12, 2012


kavasa,

Fair enough. I don't have kids. I can't really relate to that kind of fear, worry, constant alert.
posted by Fizz at 11:41 AM on June 12, 2012


Leaving a baby unattended in a tent, while in the wilds of Australia.

My parents used to take my brother and I 'car camping' in the wilds of California - even that close to the camp site there were bear, coyote, and cougar sitings. Yes, they sometimes left me in the tent (where it's shady) to nap while they cooked or washed up. I never got eaten by a cougar.

I think it's tempting in these horrific situations to find some fault with the family, because that makes us feel like it would never happen to us. I am always going to do the safest, rightest thing in any situation. But of course that's not true.
posted by muddgirl at 11:43 AM on June 12, 2012 [17 favorites]


I never got eaten by a cougar.

(camera pulls out to reveal that the entire planet has been eaten by an enormous space cougar)
(Rod Serling appears, credits roll, etc.)
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:45 AM on June 12, 2012 [15 favorites]


The more I read about this case, the more messed up it seems. Talk about a classroom lesson.
posted by Fizz at 11:46 AM on June 12, 2012


Even New England has coyotes in the suburbs. But we all know that coyotes don't take babies.
posted by endless_forms at 11:48 AM on June 12, 2012


endless_forms: "But we all know that coyotes don't take babies."

Are you being ironic? Because a few coyote attacks on babies and children have been reported over the years.
posted by zarq at 11:50 AM on June 12, 2012


But who cut those bangs?
posted by stormpooper at 11:52 AM on June 12, 2012


I never got eaten by a cougar.

Don't go camping in Palo Alto! Or Redwood City, even. (To be fair, neither of those lions ate anyone. That we know of.)
posted by rtha at 11:58 AM on June 12, 2012


Are you being ironic? Because a few coyote attacks on babies and children have been reported over the years.

Yes, pardon my irony, it was probably misplaced. I was trying to make a point about the exoticism I see at play here.
posted by endless_forms at 12:01 PM on June 12, 2012


There have been high profile dingo attacks since then - the one that really changed opinion for a generation of Australians was the death of a young lad on Fraser Island in 2001.

I went to Fraser Island shortly afterwards that year. The park rangers knew full well dingoes were wild, unpredictable and dangerous. Signs in all the campgrounds warned people not to leave food in their tents. Despite this, I saw people leaving food there and, unsurprisingly, dingoes going into their tents.

It's a pattern I saw regularly in outback Oz - and I want to be clear I'm not blaming Chamberlain for what is an unusual, unprecedented and tragic event by any standards: most Aussies - that body of public opinion - live near the coast and have a fleeting acquaintance with the outback. A non-trivial percentage of Aussies don't know the outback at all and others who do venture into the outback treat it like an extension of their backyard.

In Chamberlain's case it's small wonder she got tried by the media - the minority of people with live experience of dingo attacks would not have got much traction.
posted by MuffinMan at 12:06 PM on June 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


Wow. Count me among the people who had never heard of this and never understood where the "dingo ate my baby" meme came from.

My brother's family lives in Lake Arrowhead, CA, and have to be very careful with their dogs and daughter about the coyotes and cougars who have no issue with walking among the homes on the mountain there.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:09 PM on June 12, 2012


I'd heard the joke/meme and assumed it was either something I'd never heard of that could happen or that it was a cover for famine based infanticide a la that old folktale we saw a few days ago with the... uh... Kithki? I think that was the name.
posted by Slackermagee at 12:21 PM on June 12, 2012


Bear attacks on people are fairly well documented. Someone was attacked and eaten by a black bear a few weeks ago in Kamloops BC. There was a baby taken from a stroller by a bear in upstate NY a couple of years ago. I've had several close personal, encounters with bears on Canadian hiking trails in both Eastern and Western Canada.

I would not leave an infant alone in a tent in bear country.
posted by bonehead at 12:40 PM on June 12, 2012


I would not leave an infant alone in a tent in bear country.

In this case, it seems like the parents were literally just outside the tent, near the campfire. It's not like they were out on a hike or anything. If bears will take babies literally out of their stroller, I don't see how a distance of a few dozen feet would make a huge difference.
posted by muddgirl at 12:49 PM on June 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


I would not leave an infant alone in a tent in bear country.

Oh.
Good for you...then?
(Not really sure what this has to do with the topic at hand, but hey, good for you.)
posted by Floydd at 12:50 PM on June 12, 2012 [7 favorites]


I think he was criticising my parents for putting my down to nap while they had dinner, while we were in bear country.
posted by muddgirl at 12:50 PM on June 12, 2012


> When I lived in Japan I was always freaked out by the various stinging critters there, notably poisonous giant centipedes

Arrrgh! What part of Japan? I can never go there.
posted by jfuller at 12:54 PM on June 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


I would not leave an infant alone in a tent in bear country.

Where did you read that the baby was alone?
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:58 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you're going to go into areas with predators who view humans as potential meals, you need to take precautions, that's all.

The Chamberlains actually said as much in the article:

The latest inquest heard new evidence of the prevalence of dingo attacks in Australia, including on both children and adults.

In a television interview following Tuesday's findings, Chamberlain-Creighton said she believed many of those attacks could have been prevented if people had been properly warned about the danger of dingoes. She said if she had known of the potential danger the animals posed, she would have taken further precautions herself on the night and put her children to bed in the family car, rather than in the tent.


Naps in the backseat of the car is standard procedure when camping in bear parks, was even when I was a kid.
posted by bonehead at 12:59 PM on June 12, 2012


Why am I not surprised that the system couldn't handle an Aboriginal man's testimony when it didn't follow their precise conventions regarding "normal.

That Wikipedia sentence is not sourced, and feels tendentious to me. From materials I can find, notably on Chamberlain's own website, it appears that the so-called "blacktrackers" were hired by the family's private investigator, and this search took place well after the incident. The police and prosecutors probably considered this well short of evidentiary, no matter how it was presented.
posted by dhartung at 1:03 PM on June 12, 2012


Bears can break in to cars, if they want to.
posted by muddgirl at 1:03 PM on June 12, 2012


If you're going to go into areas with predators who view humans as potential meals, you need to take precautions, that's all.

At the time, people thought that the idea of a dingo eating a baby was unlikely, if not absurd. It was after Azarea's death, not before, that baby-eating dingoes became a meme. Of course people are more careful about dingo attacks now.

Indeed, if you check Wikipedia on the topic, you see a now-ridiculous 1933 article by a pastorialist on how dingoes were not man-killers.
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:04 PM on June 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Bears can break in to cars, if they want to.

Don't worry, when bears break into your minivan, we'll just sagely tell the victims' families that of course they should have done something else.

NB: Bears will not only break into your car, but they'll also take it for a spin!
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:08 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Bears can break in to cars, if they want to.

So, what, there should be no need for precautions in bear/dingo country because everything is dangerous? I don't see your point here.
posted by bonehead at 1:11 PM on June 12, 2012


Would you let a bear take a catnap in dingo country?
posted by Floydd at 1:11 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Someone was attacked and eaten by a black bear a few weeks ago in Kamloops BC.

That's maybe just a tad histrionic, bonehead. The guy was already dead, but the media can never miss an opportunity to sensationalize something, can they?

Also on the weekend, a black bear in Kamloops, B.C., had to be euthanized after it ate the body of a man who died on a remote logging road. Investigators say the animal pulled the corpse out of the car and ate part of it, before burying the rest. The bear was put down because it had lost its fear of humans, said Terry Lake, the B.C. Environment Minister.


In an odd twist the guy was a convicted murderer who was AWOL from a 1/2 way house.

As a general rule bears are scared of humans, (Not the Grizzly Bear, though) and with sensible precautions can (mostly) be avoided. It's the cougars that you have to be alert for, because they will stalk your precious little snow-flake's azz.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 1:13 PM on June 12, 2012


My point is that your precaution doesn't make any more sense than my parents' or the Chaimberlains precautions did. We can't go back in time and take steps to prevent tragedies that have already occured, and we can't predict future tragedies. We can only do the best we can do in the moment.

I mean, if you are rubbing your baby down with raw meat before you go camping, then fine, maybe you should stop doing that. But if we are criticising someone for leaving a baby in a tent, maybe we need to step back and get perspective on the statistical dangers of a dingo attack vs, say, the risk of getting in a car accident on the way to the camp site.
posted by muddgirl at 1:15 PM on June 12, 2012 [8 favorites]


So, what, there should be no need for precautions in bear/dingo country because everything is dangerous? I don't see your point here.

Bears are known to be man-killers, and they have been known as much for ages. Their behavior is very well understood.

Dingoes, on the other hand, were generally not thought to be man-killers at the time. They are more mysterious, especially to white people. If you were a typical Australian in 1980, even an outdoorsy one, it would not have occurred to you to take any more precautions than the Chamberlains already did. You are applying hindsight that they did not have.

You keep implying that the Chamberlains were somehow at fault for the baby's death, without giving good evidence why this should be so. It comes off as glib victim-blaming. Maybe if people on the site were planning on starting an open-air maternity ward on Fraser Island you'd have a point, but nobody is.
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:18 PM on June 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


I mean, if you are rubbing your baby down with raw meat before you go camping, then fine, maybe you should stop doing that.

Wait, that's wrong now, too?

There go my plans for the weekend.
posted by Floydd at 1:20 PM on June 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


That Wikipedia sentence is not sourced, and feels tendentious to me. From materials I can find, notably on Chamberlain's own website, it appears that the so-called "blacktrackers" were hired by the family's private investigator, and this search took place well after the incident. The police and prosecutors probably considered this well short of evidentiary, no matter how it was presented.

I've been looking for references as well.

At the first inquest, a tracker gave evidence, but [the coroner] had not been aware of Aboriginal tribal taboos, and … caused offence by asking about Aboriginal stories relating to the taking of children by dingoes in the past. [The tracker's] inability to answer such questions led to confusion about his testimony regarding the likelihood of a dingo attacking and killing a baby.*

This paper by a QC says the same tracker was not called as a witness for the criminal trial because he "had weak eyes and wore glasses, and also loved the cup that cheers". I can't find an account of any indigenous trackers testifying at the trial at all.

Several indigenous trackers later gave evidence at the Morley Commission.
posted by zamboni at 1:23 PM on June 12, 2012


Not to put too fine a point on it, but the Chamberlains were not convicted of negligent parenting for leaving their baby in a tent in dingo country. Lindy Chamberlain was convicted of murdering her daughter with a pair of scissors.

If you think the Chamberlains were negligent parents, then, dear god, they have paid the price.
posted by endless_forms at 1:32 PM on June 12, 2012 [20 favorites]


I don't blame the Chamberlains at all. I think the failure here was one of education and then later victim-blaming by those who could not or would not accept the evidence. Most of the responsibility lies with those who denied the danger actually existed, and further endangered other people as a result.

In the case of NA wildlife, there's quite a lot of education done about bear (and cougar) safety. Considering cars to be bear proof is, in fact, common advice (here's Parks Canada, for example). Park staff recommend using cars as bear safes for food in most car-campgrounds.
posted by bonehead at 1:34 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Park staff recommend using cars as bear safes for food in most car-campgrounds.

In the US this is considered a no-no if camping overnight.
ou may store food inside your car (out of sight, with windows completely closed) only during daylight hours. You may not leave food in a pickup truck bed or strapped to the outside of a vehicle at any time. Do not store food in your car after dark: use a food locker.
And of course, if there is a baby napping in the car, you shouldn't have the windows rolled up.
posted by muddgirl at 1:39 PM on June 12, 2012


Would you let a bear take a catnap in dingo country?

SyFy Move Premiere This Saturday:

Gigagrizzly Vs. Dingosaur

The premiere is this Saturday because, since I just came up with the idea now, there's plenty of time for the SyFy channel to film it and do all the special effects
posted by AzraelBrown at 1:53 PM on June 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


Bears can break in to cars, if they want to.

But they really struggle with hotwiring the ignition systems of modern cars.
posted by MuffinMan at 2:07 PM on June 12, 2012


seriously, how many children or babies have been dragged away by wild animals in the North America in the past ten years? Even if you're the most negligent parent on the planet, chances are it's not going to happen, and if it does, then it's more a case of godawful luck than bad parenting.

I've got no science to back it up but I'd bet large on it being far more dangerous to your kids in the long run to be overly protective (ie: fretting about the possible as opposed to the probable) than allowing for the odd unsupervised moment.
posted by philip-random at 2:21 PM on June 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


I was 12 when Azaria Chamberlain went missing, and in my family there was never any doubt of her parents' account of what had happened. We'd camped at that same site only the year before, and had seen just how brazen the local dingoes had become after years of getting used to visitors. But I also remember what a deeply unpopular view this was in dingo-free urban Australia, as the first few seeds of public skepticism grew into rampant weeds of outright disbelief.

I especially remember the books in the local newsagent. This was when 101 Uses for a Dead Cat first appeared. Before long there were knock-offs by opportunistic local cartoonists along similar lines, featuring dingoes and, yep, babies. I don't think any were actually called 101 Uses for a Dead Baby, but they got close. This was one of them.

Seeing that at the age of 13 was an excellent primer in just how crap the adult world could be.
posted by rory at 2:33 PM on June 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


Terrific. My dog looks like a dingo. Looks like the number of total strangers who walk up and shout (in bad Aussie accents) "A dingo ate my baby!!" is going to spike. Someone explain to me why this phrase fascinates people.
posted by Pathos Bill at 2:54 PM on June 12, 2012


Someone explain to me why this phrase fascinates people.

They are actually dingoes in disguise. They are asking, in code, if you would like to eat a baby with them.
posted by Sticherbeast at 3:18 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Another facet of the case rarely mentioned is the fact that the Chamberlains are/were Seventh Day Adventists. In the early eighties back here, the religion was still viewed as vaguely cultish and definitely strange. There were allegations, as outlined above, that Azaria may have been "sacrificed" and equally fruity shit at that the time. I guess you could liken it to hysteria about satan-worshipping in the US.

With today's news fully 100% of Australian species are now confirmed killers.

...

I feel badly about her loss and all but you're in the wild, in Australia, should you operate under the assumption that anything that moves is going to be dangerous, this includes: kangaroos, dingo, wallaby, tasmanian devils, hyena, anyone with the last name Hogan, insects, etc.

I don't mean to sound unbearably precious here, but as an Australian I find this joke mind-numbingly overplayed, tedious, ignorant, and frankly exoticising at best and racist at worst - and I would be ecstatic if people would stop making it.

It's analagous to people assuming that Americans are all gun-mad, big-hatted, morbidly obese, fundamentalist Texans or something. We can do better than these wan national stereotypes.
posted by smoke at 3:19 PM on June 12, 2012 [8 favorites]


I remember this case like yesterday. It was such a travesty of justice.

When people wonder why JonBenet Ramsey's parents immediately lawyered up and became unavailable to help the investigation, it's cases like Lindy Chamberlain's that make you understand a bit better.

At least she is now cleared/vindicated for good.
posted by WilliamMD at 3:24 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I dunno. I'm the last one to believe in conspiracy theories... but I'm just not convinced a dingo took Azaria, based on the evidence presented to the coroner (who must be related to Rob Oakeshott, I watched her reading the verdict live yesterday, and I thought she was never going to shut up).

I don't know what happened to Azaria. There was certainly trial-by-media at the time. But I find it hard to believe that a dingo could extract a no-doubt-screaming-and-wriggling baby from their clothes so neatly, amongst other things that just don't ring true for me.

Deep down inside my heart, I suspect human intervention, and always have. I have also wondered why the hell you'd take a 9 week old baby on a camping trip to the outback. It's an unforgiving place. You don't take chances because the slightest mistake could kill you, as many unprepared tourists - and the occasional local - could testify if they weren't already, um, dead.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 4:00 PM on June 12, 2012


Alpa Chino: I'm just fucking with you, Kangaroo Jack! I'm sorry a dingo ate your baby.

Kirk Lazarus: You know that's a true story? Lady lost her kid. You about to cross some fuckin' lines.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 4:23 PM on June 12, 2012


I'm the last one to believe in conspiracy theories...

Obviously not.

but I'm just not convinced a dingo took Azaria, based on the evidence presented to the coroner (who must be related to Rob Oakeshott, I watched her reading the verdict live yesterday, and I thought she was never going to shut up).

This is a nice collection of the evidence about the dingo getting the baby.

Do you think that the Chamberlains buried Azaria's matinee jacket by a dingo lair, but then left it undiscovered for six years, all as part of some remarkably long con? Do you think that the Chamberlains were able to use strange sorcery to convince a dingo to leave paw prints right by the tent? How on earth did these cunning Chamberlains find a dingo den - one unknown to humans - in time to plant their child's clothes, all while screaming and chasing a dingo?

If you think that this is more plausible than the explanation proven in the real world, then you believe in magic and wonder.

But I find it hard to believe that a dingo could extract a no-doubt-screaming-and-wriggling baby from their clothes so neatly, amongst other things that just don't ring true for me.

And how did you obtain this expertise in both death scene investigation and the behavior of wild dingoes? Why does your expertise run so contrary to the expertise of actual coroners?

Deep down inside my heart, I suspect human intervention, and always have. I have also wondered why the hell you'd take a 9 week old baby on a camping trip to the outback. It's an unforgiving place.

You suspect human intervention, but then you are concerned about...animal dangers? Blame the victims for killing their daughter and pretending a dingo could have done it, but then chide the victims because a dingo could have killed their daughter? All from a court case where much of the prosecution's case depended on the idea that a dingo could not have killed their daughter?

The idea that the Chamberlains killed they daughter is an assault not only on decency, but on basic logic.
posted by Sticherbeast at 4:41 PM on June 12, 2012 [11 favorites]


For anyone under the age of 30, "A dingo ate my baby" became a bad-taste catchphrase in the 80s purely due to the film Evil Angels/A Cry in the Dark. The film was widely advertised with Meryl Streep overacting the line in a broad (and easily imitated) 'stralain accent. It was part of pop culture for a long time afterwards.

The Simpsons still reference it occasionally.
posted by AndrewStephens at 4:50 PM on June 12, 2012


...is an assault not only on decency, but on basic logic.

It's an assault on humanity in some ways. To always have to look for someone to blame because we refuse to accept the universe often dishes out random cruelty seems childlike to me, and not in a good way.
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:52 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Michael, Michael. The dingo's got my baby"
What was said that night (pdf).
posted by Kerasia at 5:15 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


They are more mysterious, especially to white people.

I think there was a general feeling that dingoes are just dogs, and would act like dogs. They're really somewhere in between domesticated dogs and wild wolves in their behaviour. Since 1980, other attacks have happened, and people have become much more aware of the danger (warning signs at camping sites, and so forth). Half-breed dingoes as pets worry me greatly.
posted by Jimbob at 5:27 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also that line is clearly only making fun of Meryl's over the top accent (and hair...) in that movie. "The dango ite mah behbi!!!"

It's iconic in it's awfulness, as well as her hair.

I agree with BrotherCaine's quote: "It's an assault on humanity in some ways. To always have to look for someone to blame because we refuse to accept the universe often dishes out random cruelty seems childlike to me, and not in a good way." Because as a physician I see there still are those few cases where mothers die in childbirth due to bad genetics and that random cruelty. A partner of mine had a mother die of Amniotic Fetal Embolism (look it up, it's our worst nightmare with 70% mortality). All the family wanted was to SUE THE DOC for killing their family member. Sometimes this world is cruel. But there are always those who want things wrapped up in a nice box with a bow. She couldn't have died just from nature, it had to be someone's fault. It is very sad.
posted by WilliamMD at 5:28 PM on June 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


Regarding the trope that all Australian animals are out to get you (especially you foreigners, whom we love having to visit).

Canadian wife and my Australian self bushwalked around different bits of Australia a bit when we were a wooing each other.

Whenever we heard a 'strange noise', we had very different reactions.

Canadian wife tensed up and got ready to move. Australian self ignored it.

When discussing these reactions, we realised it wasn't the source of the noise, but the general environment we lived in.

If you grew up in the Australian bush and heard a strange noise - it was something *leaving*. Just about everything in the bush doesn't want anything to do with you. Bad things happened when you were too quiet and accidentally stepped on something that didn't realise you were coming.

If you grew up in the Canadian woods and heard a strange noise - well, it was coming to eat you.
posted by jjderooy at 5:28 PM on June 12, 2012 [11 favorites]


Of course I meant to say Amniotic Fluid Embolism. How did I guff that up.
posted by WilliamMD at 5:30 PM on June 12, 2012


Sticherbeast... settle, petal.

Nowhere did I say I believe the Chamberlains did it. I did say I suspected human intervention. Unless you personally spell human intervention as "Lindy-and-Michael-Chamberlain", I think you're reading too much into my comment.

I was 12, I think, when this happened. I remember the trial-by-media. I remember the jokes. I remember that it was the main topic of conversation at the time.

Perhaps I'm over-stating my ability to use my experience with the native animals of my own country. But I've lived next door to one, I've seen them when camping, and I've seen that no-one with any sense leaves anything that may possibly be seen as a food source within reach of a dingo (or a goanna, but that's another story).

I have also been a mother of a 9 week old child (two, in fact), and I still find it difficult to believe that Azaria lay quietly while the dingo picked her up and carried her off. She should have been screaming her lungs out, and wriggling like an impaled worm on a fishhook.

The idea that the Chamberlains killed they daughter is an assault not only on decency, but on basic logic.

And you interpreting my comment as being convinced that the Chamberlains are murderers also defies basic logic. I don't know who - or what - did it. But I find the dingo explanation to be a stretch.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 5:34 PM on June 12, 2012


Half-breed dingoes as pets worry me greatly.

Called "wolfdogs" here in Canada, and yeah, they freak the shit out of me. They're wild animals and should not be kept as pets. Our son had a friend whose (relatively guileless and totally hopeless) father took care of a wolfdog for a while in the middle of the city. Our son was not allowed to go over to his house until the animal was gone. So there are obviously times a parent can and ought to identify a real risk.

But not every risk can be mitigated.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:40 PM on June 12, 2012


I clicked through hoping there'd been some new proof found. But it's just that the case is officially closed. Again.


Well, I suppose the crux of that matter was the appalling lack of proof convicting the Chamberlains, coupled with the fact that dingoes do actually take - and kill children. This was a known fact for about - mmm, about forty thousand years.
posted by mattoxic at 5:45 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


But why didn't his wife testify? It seems fairly irregular

tribal law probably
posted by mattoxic at 5:50 PM on June 12, 2012


Okay, just to lighten the mood, here's some dingo pups.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 5:55 PM on June 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Okay, just to lighten the mood, here's some dingo pups.

You can see the lust for blood in their empty, empty eyes.
posted by Jimbob at 6:24 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Meryl Streep's accent in the movie is a bit a weird Australian accent, because Lindy Chamberlain's accent is a bit weird and Meryl nailed it.
posted by goshling at 7:14 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


This whole case has played out during my adult years in Australia. I had a tea towel once with an illustration of a slender young girl standing atop some rocks with a dingo on either side and they are all looking at Ayers Rock in the distance. Behind the girls' back, one dingo says to the other dingo "Do you think we should tell her she's not ours?"
posted by Kerasia at 7:29 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Back in the '80s, I was a major D&D nerd and I read Dragon magazine all the time. There was a running joke of "Kobolds ate my baby!" which I found hilarious. I had no idea it was based on a real case. In fact, I didn't find out about the Lindy Chamberlain case until the late 90s or so.

Now I'm depressed, thinking of all the times juvenile me snickered at the kobolds/dingoes meme. :(
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 7:37 PM on June 12, 2012


To be convicted of cutting up your baby with scissors, and to have rumours about that claiming that you did it as part of a child sacrifice ritual... how horrifying. It just boggles my mind. It's amazing that the Chamberlains got through it. I'm glad I was too young at the time to know much about it.

And the camping grounds at Uluru aren't that wild, even back in the 80s. I've only seen dingoes in zoos (being an urban girl myself) and they do present as dogs. They *appear* very domesticated, especially compared to hyenas or wolves or foxes, because they are very used to humans. People are still too complacent about them now, even though there have been several cases of them taking or attacking children since the Chamberlain case.

Wendy Harmer, a comedian who performed jokes based on the case, apologises: Azaria. What was I thinking?.
posted by harriet vane at 7:41 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I totally learned about this from Seinfeld.
posted by rhizome at 7:48 PM on June 12, 2012


I learned about the Seinfeld episode(s) because of a stupid tweet I made. It was there I leaned I was quoting Seinfeld.

I would have been happier with a Buffy reference.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:05 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Nowhere did I say I believe the Chamberlains did it. I did say I suspected human intervention. Unless you personally spell human intervention as "Lindy-and-Michael-Chamberlain", I think you're reading too much into my comment.

What human intervention, then? Humans in the form of dingoes, who leave dingo pawprints and bury remains by dingo dens?

Perhaps I'm over-stating my ability to use my experience with the native animals of my own country.

You are. The Chamberlains are your countrymen, and they didn't understand dingoes, either.

I have also been a mother of a 9 week old child (two, in fact), and I still find it difficult to believe that Azaria lay quietly while the dingo picked her up and carried her off. She should have been screaming her lungs out, and wriggling like an impaled worm on a fishhook.

The baby was screaming. That's what caused them to see that a dingo was carrying off their baby. Somehow, the fact that the baby was screaming did not cause the dingo to stop existing.

And you interpreting my comment as being convinced that the Chamberlains are murderers also defies basic logic. I don't know who - or what - did it. But I find the dingo explanation to be a stretch.

If not the dingo, as was proven, or the Chamberlains, as was popularly fantasized, then who, or what? And why did this mysterious force take the form of a dingo, leave dingo footprints, and bury the remains by a dingo den?
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:08 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's analagous to people assuming that Americans are all gun-mad, big-hatted, morbidly obese, fundamentalist Texans or something.--smoke

Wow, I see what you mean. We don't wear big hats!
posted by eye of newt at 10:42 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wendy Harmer, a comedian who performed jokes based on the case, apologises: Azaria. What was I thinking?



Oh Wendy - you've dealt yourself into relevance very nicely over this - now go away again.
posted by the noob at 1:52 AM on June 13, 2012


At long bloody last! That poor family.

I was in high school the year Lindy was sent to prison. My close group of friends were divided as to her guilt and I could never get over my disgust with those who believed she was guilty, their reactions really divided the sheep from the goats in my opinion. A bit like in this thread.
posted by Coaticass at 2:00 AM on June 13, 2012


Having personal experience with a standard-issue FemaleChild(tm), I'd suggest that "screaming her lungs out, and wriggling like an impaled worm on a fishhook" is a pretty apt description of the first.. let me see..

Oh yes. 31 months* of their life. Guess there are a LOT of not-dingos in my house.



*I have no data after this time

posted by coriolisdave at 3:29 AM on June 13, 2012


If I learned nothing else from this case, my legal studies class used this as a prime example of the prosecution needing to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. I was never sure if Lindy or the dingo was guilty, but I knew there was too much ambiguous and circumstantial evidence for her to have ever been convicted. My parents were pretty much convinced of her guilt, like much of Australia - something about not showing enough emotion (and when she showed emotion, apparently she was faking it). But I argued with them on the legal points, and that was satisfying enough.

But it also introduced me to trial by media, another valuable lesson and one I wish I hadn't learned so early in life. Azaria disappeared when I was only five years old, but the case was in the papers through my teenage years.
posted by crossoverman at 5:15 AM on June 13, 2012


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