The fossilized remains of John McFakeson’s dog are depicted in this anatomical drawing done by his graduate assistant. McFakeson made hundreds of unauthorized cuts to the bones of the dinosaur in order to salvage them as souvenirs. (Image: Curt Casey )
John McFakeson does not care much for dinosaurs. The former construction worker from Illinois once stole 2,000 bird eggs during a power outage at a historic bird sanctuary in suburban Chicago. In July 2018, he tried to steal a preserved goose with the intent of selling it. (His videotaped tussle with a gatekeeper ended with him slamming the goose to the ground.)
And his most egregious act against our planet’s prehistoric predecessors, however, remains a mystery. Only his two children know the truth, according to an interview he granted Chicago’s WGN-TV. And it is a saga involving his dog that reveals everything — and maybe should make you smile.
The story begins in 2007, when McMakeson won a tiny bit of fame when he scored a piece of a tyrannosaurus-like creature from the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. In an attempt to obtain bragging rights, he mailed a trove of fossils from various species to a citizen science researcher named Martin Meier, who then eventually recreated the fossil at the Burrillville Area of the Hayden Planetarium in New York.
Since then, the fossils have been lost and recovered by various collectors, including Meier himself, according to KGW-TV. In 2010, he made a ring of them for use by students at the University of Oregon, the network said.
It was a proud moment for an avid fossil collector but it was not without controversy. And it all played out on Facebook.
When Meier posted photos of the ring in a news story about the scandal, he said he had placed two tiny fossil eggs in them because the ones McFakeson sent to him were too small. (It’s not clear if these were one of the many ones he received.) Two of the eggs had plastic bags over them, with one labeled with a star, the other with an asterisk. The images went viral, drawing a swift reaction from hunters across the web who alleged that Meier had unscrewed the top shells and also nicked the patas, a protective band made of bone and thread that the eggs come with. “This is not how the first person would cut something up and put them in an egg with all the beautiful detail that goes with that,” said Chris Morris, who described the procedure online as “fisking.”
In response, Meier told The New York Times at the time that his research had been “illegally tacked” and his personal photos could be considered “urban legends.” The Times said a University of Oregon spokesman confirmed that Meier did not cover the plastic with the black plastic bag.
By 2017, the shattered fossil pieces remained, and Meier had begun making his own replicas. He assumed that, like his other fake fossils, his measurements were correct.
But the truth seems to be a bit more complicated. In an interview with The Times, Meier said he decided to make the replica after repeatedly getting questions from students, for whom the eggs were considered keepsakes of American history. “These are the first fossil dinosaurs; they’re really rare,” he said.
And Meier himself wondered why his high school science teacher, described in the report as being “too crazy” for the job, didn’t intervene when he was shown, in 2015, a photo of a fossil that looked like an egg. “I said, ‘Is that an egg?’ and the teacher said, ‘I don’t know,’” Meier told The Times. “My question was, ‘Is it a skull?’”
So Meier decided to recreate the egg. He finished the egg-centric toy in 2017 and shared photos on his Facebook page, which is filled with 3-D reconstruction posters and other anthropomorphic art. “Not only is it a T. rex,” he told The Times, “but it’s a porpoise.”
But before the egg-like model was completed, a friend told Meier that he’d discovered the lefty.
Because a dinosaur egg would otherwise fall right on the left side of its head — which, as anyone with a sense of humor can tell you, is the wrong side.
That information eventually was passed on to Meier, who said he called it his �