What whiffles through the tulgey wood? What serpents glide the ocean deep? Is there a monster in your loch? Is the creature leaving unnaturally large offerings in your pussy’s litter tray a phantom cat? According to cryptozoologists, it very well may be!
That or your husband got blind drunk again…
The Study of Hidden Animals
The field of cryptozoology is a fascinating one because it involves the not-so scientific study of large animals that are so elusive, only a couple of rednecks have reported seeing them. Each country in the world has its fair share of folklore and myths, yet some of these legends transcend idle chatter around the dinner table… some become the lifelong pursuits of people whose ambition it is to provide real evidence supporting them.
There are many organisations around the world that are dedicated to the collection of evidence, anecdotes and hundred dollar bills for the study of these elusive creatures (the latter is pure conjecture, but nothing comes for nothing). The Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization, the International Fortean Organization, the International Society for Cryptozoology and (a bit of a mouthful) the Tri-State Bigfoot Study Group Centre for Fortean Zoology are all examples of these kinds of institutions. With thousands of people dedicating thousands of dollars and thousands of hours to the “study” of cryptozoology, it certainly sounds legitimate…
But is it?
Meet the Cryptids
A brief Internet search of “cryptozoology” reveals a truly staggering number of weird, otherworldly animals that are believed to exist, all in hiding. Each culture on the planet seems to have its own spectrum of fabled creatures, ranging from the better-known Bigfoot or Sasquatch of the Pacific Northwest (USA) to the more obscure “Ahool” or giant flying bat of Indonesia. In fact, there are hundreds of “cryptids” (as they are referred to) being studied, chased and doggedly pursued by organizations such as those mentioned above, as well as by the thousands of individuals who have struck out on their own.
What these special interest animals have in common is that they are large and are either rumoured to be in existence or are thought to be extinct, but are actually hiding out at the bottom of a Loch near you. Celebrities of the cryptozoology world include:
- Big Foot: A large, bipedal human in a gorilla suit roaming the Pacific Northwest regions of the United States. The most sightings of this idiot have been reported in Washington State.
October 20th, 1967: The famous frame #352 from the Patterson-Gimlin film claiming to depict Bigfoot looking as though he’s been caught in the act.
- The Loch Ness monster: One of the most famous of all the cryptids and the subject of a handful of really stupid, annoyingly sentimental movies. This giant lake animal – also thought to be a surviving Plesiosaur – is named after the Loch in which it has apparently been sighted. Loch Ness. The logic is Earth-shattering.
The “Surgeon’s Photo” of 21 April 1934 is now known to have been a hoax.
- Chupacabras: A terrifying reptile/canine that has purportedly been sighted in Mexico, Puerto Rico and parts of Texas (USA). In Spanish, Chupacabra literally means “Goat Sucker”.
- Phantom cats: Large alien cats that are thought to have escaped from a zoo, or some other large cat sanctuary. Why they aren’t just called “escaped large cats from a zoo or sanctuary” is beyond me.
Photo Credit: Pacific Standard Magazine
Other lesser known cryptids include:
- Merpeople: reportedly seen in all the world’s oceans. Ariel gets around.
- Man-eating trees *snort*
- The Ayia Napa sea monster of Cyprus.
- The Fear liath hominid of Scotland, although confusing the locals with a hairy, foul-mouthed ape could have been anyone’s honest mistake.
- The Qilin Chimera (part lion, part lizard, part griffin, etc.) of China
… And some species of dinosaurs, which somehow survived the massive extinction event brought about 65 million years ago by the Chixulub impact.
Is Unverified and Unidentified, Unbelievable?
What do you get when you combine large footprints in the snow, a giant steaming pile of poo and an abnormally hairy hulking figure in the woods? Possibly, an unknown specie of animal that has somehow managed to escape our taxonomical system. Or at least that’s what the various cryptozoological organizations are trying to ascertain (we’ll ignore the fact that most of them are now defunct).
Why not though? Are we arrogant enough to believe that we’ve identified and named all of the creatures on this planet? Absolutely not: any scientist will tell you that there are undoubtedly thousands of as yet unidentified invertebrates living in some of the planet’s more inhospitable and unreachable environments.
But cryptozoology isn’t at all interested in bugs and bacteria and for this reason one can’t help but feel the people who pursue this field are actually after the sensational. A new species of deep-sea squishy, cave-dwelling bacterium or forest floor grub isn’t exactly thrilling. It might give an entomologist a braingasm, but not a cryptozoologist and not the general public either. Nope, they are more concerned with “megafauna”, which is such a rad name I’d like to dedicate the following ellipses to its appreciation:
It wouldn’t be impossible to believe that a few individual megafauna or “cryptids” have managed to remain hidden deep in the woods or frozen tundra without notice. Having said this, while one abominable snowman, yeti or Big Foot may manage to hide from our obsession for knowledge, a population large enough to sustain the species over the centuries is very unlikely, or, in less polite terms, bullsh*t.
Additionally, the habitats these creatures are believed to dwell in just don’t provide the bounty necessary to support them. There isn’t much food to be found in the frozen wastelands of the arctic, so how’s something as big as a yeti supposed to make a living? And if it is eating other animals, where are the middens of bones, teeth, hair and skin? Where is the blood and gore, man??
The problem with the entire field of cryptozoology is that its practitioners don’t really follow a scientific method in their attempts to prove the existence of cryptids. They rely almost solely upon the evidence and anecdotes provided by the people who have reportedly seen them. That’s most probably because there is little else substantiating cryptozoology other than anecdotes. Also, I don’t want to stereotype here, but the kinds of people who do come forward claiming to have spotted Big Foot are in all likelihood related to Honey Booboo child.
If a scientific organization were really hell-bent on proving the existence of a cryptid such as the chupacabra, they’d channel disgusting amounts of money into rigging all 71,303 square miles of Washington with cameras – the state with the greatest number of alleged sightings. They’d send teams of investigators armed with night vision goggles, cameras, poo testing chemistry sets and large bunches of bananas into the woods with the instructions to never return until they come back with solid (or liquid) evidence.
Photo Credit: Emire Online
The lack of scientific rigor applied to cryptozoology studies and research is what has branded it a pseudoscience. Science does not trust the human mind. We are not objective creatures. We are too fond of excitement to think rationally when we come across something we cannot immediately explain, such as something that resembles a large hulking figure or anomalous footprints in the snow. In most cases, a few unexplained sightings have accounted for the conception of an entire species of “fake” animal, when in fact it was just your hungover hirsute uncle shuffling his way to the outhouse.
What your uncle is doing hungover at your house is none of our business.
Changing the subject very slightly, one explanation I have heard for those large footprint observations is that the snow on the periphery of a normal human footprint tends to melt first, thus expanding its size. The other explanation is this…
Photo Credit: VH1 + Celebrity
If scientific organizations were really compelled by the evidence put forward for the existence of cryptids, surely they would launch an investigation? I’d like to think so, but unfortunately the modern approach to science has become somewhat of a business. There’s always a bottom line to consider.
Class Dismissed: Your Take-Home Message
Photograph of Bassaricyon neblina “Olinguito” taken in the wild at Tandayapa Bird Lodge, Ecuador.
The discovery of new creatures is taking place all the time, and these Eureka moments are not restricted to tiny, deep-sea dwelling microscopic organisms. Most recently, the olinguito was discovered in South America and this ridiculously adorable critter is yet to find its place in our taxonomical system*. Yet cryptozoologists spend decades trying to prove the existence of fabled animals without any success at all. It makes you wonder if their efforts, time and money would be better spent elsewhere.
Yet, what is a world without superstition and legend? It’s what colours our species and sets us apart from the countless others that share our planet with us. This either makes us incredibly special or incredibly stupid, although I can think of many human beings who are living proof that these two are not mutually exclusive.
* Click on the link Here to read more about the creature making women (and camp men) all over the world go “Aaaaaaaawwwwwwww”