Meet Zack and Mack: A two-headed turtle with a penchant for writing books for humans

It’s not very often you meet a two-headed turtle.

And, how many two-headed turtles, well, any turtle really, can boast a blog and being a published author. Well, this 9-year-old Red-eared slider, who just happens to be two-headed turtle named Zack and Mack, has done all of it.

“Zack and Mack are a real, live, two-headed turtle that has an innate understanding of the human condition,” notes the Facebook page dedicated to the delightful duo.

So, naturally we had to talk with this particular turtle. Their human, Jeffrey Reid, helped facilitate a rather fascinating conversation with them from Oroville, California. They’ve “written” the e-books The Smile Thief and The Smile Ambassadors, as well as the soon-to-be-released, The Smile People.

Red-eared sliders are one of the most popular pet turtles in the world, a reality fed in part by the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles craze after it was revealed that the fictitious turtles were in Red-eared sliders. The aquatic species can typically live from 20 to 30 years. Thelma and Louise, a two-headed Red-eared slider that resided at the San Antonio Zoo and became famous around the world lived just a year.

Though two-headed turtles are rare, they are not unheard of. The tough part is whether to describe the critter as one animal with two heads, or two animals that just happen to share a body.

Reid figures he is caring for two distinct personalities. After all, Zack is generally more forward; Mack more reserved.

You’ll see, it’s tough to get a word in when you’re dealing with a rather witty single-bodied, two-headed turtle.


Mack: We finally have some time to sit down and talk a bit with a human regarding our life and livelihood.

Zack: Let’s get serious here. Okay, Mack and I were hatched and delivered to a human. The human is our mother and father.

Mack: Yeah, we were really tiny…about the size of an American quarter. Our human put us in a little plastic box with just a wee bit of water so we could drink but not drown.

Zack: It was that way for about a year and then our human began raising the water level slowly so that we could learn to swim.

Mack: It was difficult at first because with Zack and I, our weight is difference. There was a balance issue too. But now we swim okay.

Zack: We are nine years old in case you wanted to know.

Mack: Our birthday is coming up soon, you may send presents to Zack and Mack Post Office Box…

Zack: Quit it Mack…The human is not going to send up a birthday present.

Mack: But I want a ball like that turtle in that little movie…

Zack: Do you want a dog too!

Mack: Okay.


Zack: Getting back to the subject at hand. Mack and I are best buddies and never fight.

Mack: Except that time you bit my neck.

Zack: I apologized. I was going after a meal worm.

Mack: It hurt.

Zack: Fine, it hurt. Big baby. Anyway, Dawn Human, we write books. Actually our human writes the books for us. We tell him what to write.

Mack: We tried, but our human got mad because we would walk all over the keyboard and knock the jar with pencils over.

Zack: That and we can’t spell worth beans.

Mack: But we can tell stories.

Zack: Yes we can. As you must know Dawn Human, we turtles have a great oral tradition. We tell our stories and they get passed down through generations of turtles.

Mack: You ever see a bunch of turtles on a log? They are listening to stories.

Zack: So we decided to pass along our stories to you humans. We have written two books.

Mack: The Smile Ambassadors and The Smile Thief.


Zack: We have a third book coming out next year called The Smile People.

Mack: It all begins when we get lost…

Zack: Don’t give it away. Let the Humans buy our books. That’s how we get fed, silly.

Mack: Oh yeah. Buy our books; The Smile Ambassadors: a novel for all humans and The Smile Thief: a story for all turtles. It’s all true!

Zack: Well…most of it anyway. We changed some of the names to protect the guilty.

Mack: And the American State Department isn’t commenting. Strange, isn’t it. They had a bunch of emails about us.

Zack: Well, all that was classified Mack. They can’t reveal the classified stuff.

Mack: Well, all I know its like everything was wiped clean from the record. I’m beginning to wonder about these humans. What we did for them and everything…

Zack: That’s all water under the bridge now. Oh. We are a Red Eared Slider and were born the end of August 2006. We were tiny guys but now we are…

Mack: …The size of a house and we like eating native villagers…BWAHAHAHA!

Zack: You’re being goofy now Mack.

Mack: Hey, they don’t know, they can’t see us.

Zack: But we are going to send a picture.

Mack: Can we send the one with villagers hanging out of our mouths?

Zack: No, Mack, We are going to send a nice happy picture.

M: Okay, okay. Hey can we go now. I want to bask.

Z: Yeah, we can go. We are done here. Save me some light will yah?


Reid, Zack and Mack’s Human, picks up where they left off.

“The boys,” as he calls, them took off to spend some time in their travelling tank.

He describes their books this way. They could be viewed as a children’s story, but really, he says they are for anyone and should be best enjoyed in sequence.

“Zack and Mack are a special creature and not just any run of the mill two-headed turtle,” Reid says. “They have had an interesting history as their stories will reveal. Is it true? They seem to think so.”

(This interview has been edited and condensed.)

Photos Zack and Mack/Facebook

About the author

Recovering newspaper reporter.


  1. Zack: Humans tend to get everything confused.

    Mack: Yeah, we were quoted out of context.

    Zack: Our human has a name? We didn’t know that. We thought he was just called Human.

    Mack: Humans taste bad.

    Zack: Not like worms…worms are tasty.

    Mack; When life gives you nothing but worms, eat them, they are tasty.

    Zack: What were you saying?

    Mack: I dunno.

    Zack: Are we done here?

    Mack: Let’s go bask on the log and we’ll tell each other stories…Like about the time we were with the Smile People and…

    Zack: Don’t give away our new story.

    Mack: Huh? Oh, yeah, right. Mum’s the word. Nothing more from my lips.

    Zack: You don’t have lips. Well, neither do I. We have beaks.

    Mack: Like a chicken? Then where’s our feathers?

    Zack: I guess we lost them in the evolutionary process.

    Mack: The what?

    Zack: Evolutionary process.

    Mack: Evolution, smevolution. All I know is that the earth was destroyed five or six times and after each time we had to crawl out from the muck and mire and start all over again.

    Zack: When was the last time?

    Mack: The last time what?

    Zack: The last time we crawled out of the muck and mire, silly.

    Mack: About Sixty-six million years ago or there-abouts.

    Zack: And before that?

    Mack: Us testudines have been around for 200 or more million years. We had some wicked brothers and sisters back then.

    Zack: Really?

    Mack: Yeah…one of our ancestors was as big as a Volkswagen Beetle and weighed around a ton. I bet that scared the villagers!

    Zack: Were there villagers back then?

    Mack: Sure, why not?

    Zack: Did the humans crawl out of the muck and mire like we did?

    Mack: Huh? Hey Zack, if us turtles are said to hold up the world, then what holds up the turtle?

    Zack: That’s easy…It’s turtles all the way down.

    Mack: Huh?

    Zack: Let’s go bask.

    Mack: I’m right with you.

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