At the beginning of the 21st Century monsters still roam the remote, and sometimes not so remote, corners of our planet. It is our job to search for them. The Centre for Fortean Zoology [CFZ] is - we believe - the largest professional, scientific and full-time organisation in the world dedicated to cryptozoology - the study of unknown animals. Since 1992 the CFZ has carried out an unparalleled programme of research and investigation all over the world. Since 2009 we have been running the increasingly popular CFZ Blog Network, and although there has been an American branch of the CFZ for over ten years now, it is only now that it has a dedicated blog.

Friday, 28 February 2014

ZACHARY MANN ON CRYPTID CONFUSIONS


A different lizard man!

 In the back woods and swamps of the good old USA a strange kind of creature is said to lurk. Reported all across the USA, but mostly in the South they are never found far away from water. Hiding, stalking, waiting for the right moment to strike. They are the Reptiloids, creatures reported to be a bizarre cross between man and reptile.
I have to admit that human-like Reptiloids have always been a touchy subject for me when it comes to Cryptozoology. They definitely rank among the creatures I have had the most doubts about existing (along with flying humanoids and chimera beasts like the original 1995 Chupacabra). Yet I realized that my assertion was more on a personal level than any research put into it. So I decided to take the time necessary to try and get to the bottom of it. What exactly did the eyewitnesses have to say about what they saw? What were other researchers saying about it? I wanted to try and find out.
Without a doubt the most famous of all Reptiloids is the Bishopville Lizard Man. Just put Lizard Man into any of the major internet search engines and it will always be in the top five results shown. And it all started on a morning in July 1988.
          On July 14, deputies received a call about damage, possibly by vandals, to a car owned by the Waye family. During the course of the investigation little evidence was turning up and the officers began to hear whispers about some people seeing strange sights in the woods and swamps just outside town. These were vague and no one seemed to want to come forward with more details so, while more than a little strange, the officers were willing to let it go. Then Sheriff Liston Truesdale was talking with a friend he knew by the name of J.J. and the topic about the damaged vehicle and the strange things people where rumored to be seeing came up. Then J.J. simply responded to Truesdale’s inquires with, “What you mean that Lizard Man?”
          There it was. A simple name yet one that conjures up such powerful imagery in a person’s mind. Just say it and your mind instantly creates a vivid image of a huge hulking cross between a man and a reptile. Where J.J. got the name from and why he decided to call it that is unclear, but there it was. At first only the local police investigating the incident knew of the name Lizard Man, but that was all about to change, as soon a new eyewitness would come forward and with his testimony thrust the little town of Bishopville and indeed the whole country into a Lizard Man Frenzy.
In the early morning hours of June 29, 1988 17-year old Christopher Davis was coming home from work when he pulled over to the side of the road just past the Scape Ore Swamp Bridge in order to change a flat tire. Just after finishing up he noticed in the bright moonlight something about 30 yards away from him coming out of the woods directly for him! Not surprisingly Chris decided to leave at once. As Chris tried to drive away, the creature attempted to first wrench open the door and then even climbed on top of the car.
Eventually he was able to lose is attacker and made it home. When he got there he told his father what had happened. He was so shaken up that he soon started to cry. His father took him into talk to the police a couple weeks later. There he told them his story and even drew a sketch of what he said he saw. He described it as approximately 7 feet tall, with red glowing eyes, greenish-brown skin that seemed to be wet or slimy, and three fingered claw-like hands. Sheriff Truesdale was inclined to believe the young man based on his sincerity and the fact that he really wasn’t trying to get any attention out of this. But that was just what they were all about to get.
Just after the incident, Emory Bedengaugh, a writer for The Item, a local newspaper, had heard of the attack on Chris and began to inquire about it. It was during an interview with Deputy Chester Lightly that he told Emory, “They call it Lizard Man.” Note that prior to this statement that no one had connected the colorful name J.J. had given to the Chris Davis account, yet that was the name Emory used in his report. Soon every newspaper around was relaying the story of young Chris Davis as well as the name Lizard Man.
Soon everyone was buzzing with talks of a strange half man and half reptile. Reporters from small towns to national news outlets, including Good Morning America, CNN, and Fox News were swarming over Bishopville asking for interviews. They quickly flooded the media with drawings of huge half men and half lizards spamming this model all over the place. And soon even radio station WCOS-FM was offering a one million dollar reward for anyone who could capture the beast alive. Before long the reporters began to confuse the popular image of a lizard man (one they created, mind you) with the original eyewitnesses whose accounts bear little or no resemblance to the popular image being touted.
Looking over at my pile of Cryptozoology related books on my reading list, I am happy to see so much well researched efforts by many different authors about this amazing subject. And even though I already read it, I just finished re-reading Lyle Blackburn’s amazing second book, Lizard Man: The True Story of the Bishopville Monster. This is one of (if not my favorite) Cryptozoology related books to come out in 2013. Now I read some other people’s reviews online and was a little surprised at some of the controversy I found, created by some, over it.

  No, they were not saying it was bad, the controversy seemed to come from the apparent conclusion of the book. In it and spoiler alert for those haven’t read it (though I don’t know how you could spoil a cryptozoology book it’s not like a movie or anything) is that the creature behind the sightings are not creatures looking like the “classic idea” of the Reptiloids, namely the image of a large half man half lizard, similar to the Spider-Man comic book villain. His conclusion was that the creatures actually had a more like a typical Bigfoot appearance. This idea is strongly backed up by how a couple of eyewitnesses described a mysterious creature they saw one night.
In the fall of 1991 Brian and Michelle Elmore where driving on a road between the communities of Browntown and Cedar Creek at 12:30 am when they nearly collided with a huge animal as it ran across the road in front of them. They didn’t report their encounter to the police until May of the next year. Brian described the creature as being covered in brownish hair and looking like a gorilla only larger. Michelle was even more specific in her description even going as far as to say it looked just like a Sasquatch. This doesn’t prove that what the young couple saw that night was a Sasquatch or that Sasquatches exist, but what it does prove is that what they reported seeing was not reptile like at all.
So a pretty clear cut example of a classic Sasquatch encounter, yet a lot of people have tried to link this with what Chris Davis claimed to have seen, despite the two looking nothing like each other. I think this is mainly due to the fact that they took place around the same area.
 Now this is an overlapping problem I’ve come to notice more and more in Cryptozoology: lumping unrelated sightings and creatures into the same kind of category. I think this may be done so as to make it easier for people to accept. I mean it is one thing to ask them to assume that a strange unknown animal is on the loose, but to ask them to consider that multiple strange unknown creatures are on the loose is even harder for some people. This is the same attitude the late Dr. Grover Krantz implied when other researchers tried to claim that instead of one “universal Sasquatch” there might be several unknown primate phenomena going on.
I can sympathize with him, but I must respectfully disagree. To try and lump unrelated things together, just to make it “more convenient” is wrong. It gives off the idea of lazy research and conclusions based on said lazy research. It’s the exact thing Cryptozoology should be staying away from. So back to the original question, does such a thing as a half man half lizard exist? I don’t know. What I can be sure of is that Cryptozoology and the questions it brings up about science, and even our psychologies at times, are far too complicated and important to just lump into one easy to swallow answer, be it a skeptical one or a more “believer” one.

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