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.

Monday, 31 March 2014

CRYPTID TV PART 2 - ZACHARY MANN

  October 2007 was a big month for Cryptozoology for two reasons. First it was the 40thanniversary of the controversial famous Patterson film shoot on October 20th 1967. This film has and still does generate debate, intrigue and curiosity for most people who watch it. And on Halloween night 2007 the History Channel made its debut of one of, if not the defining Cryptozoology related program of this generation of television, MonsterQuest. This is without a doubt the show that has had the longest lasting impact on the realm of Crypto related television. For starters it was the longest running of the modern Crypto era of TV, spanning three years and 68 episodes. It was certainly one of, if not the most, popular shows on the entire network at the time and it opened up the subject of Cryptozoology to a lot of people who probably had never heard of it before or only had a passing interest in it.
          Like all television this show followed a basic formula; introduce topic or Cryptid of the episode, talk about the legends and some sightings, talk with experts in the respective fields to get their opinions, try and analyze any existing evidence like photos or footprints and then set out their own expeditions to try and bring back any proof of their own and if they find anything have it analyzed.
          Now this show has received some really high praises from certain people including Entertainment Weekly. And for pretty good reasons as it certainly is the most well put together of these kind of shows, the mood music which is important to any TV show is well suited for the atmosphere they are trying to create and  overall it is a solid TV show. Now like  Destination Truth we ask did it really find anything and like Destination Truth the answer is yes and no. No in the sense that it never found conclusive evidence of any Cryptids and yes in that it did in some regards help solve some true mysteries.
   Probably the best example is the final episode of the series, which focused on the subject of the alleged half man half wolves sometimes reported form the Midwest of America. Now this is significant in that it helped solve the mystery not around the creature, but one of the most unusual and controversial films of the Cryptid world in the past few decades, the Gable film. For those of you who don’t remember or have never heard of this film let me tell you about it.
          In 2009 a video began to circulate on the internet. The story was that it was an old 8 mm film bought at an estate sale with the simple words Gable Case written on the can. The film which appeared to be shot in the 70’s was mostly typical home movie stuff, a guy driving classic (well current by 1970 standards), children playing, a dog running around, but then at the end it takes a very sudden turn. That’s when the camera man sees something out in the woods, something that looks like its half man and half beast. Then the creature charges at the camera man. The last shot is what appears to be the creature attacking the camera and then it cuts to black. Now this film caused a huge amount of debate online. Was it real? If not how was it faked?  The way it was shot, the camera used and the vehicles in it all seemed authentic 70s. If it was a costume then what kind was used? So many questions and everyone wanted answers. Well we would get them in this final episode.
          On camera the radio DJ who first promoted the film, Steve Cook, came clean stating the whole thing was a hoax supplied to him by local man Mike Agrusa. Agrusa faked the film using a vintage camera, a number of classic cars and snowmobiles in his private collection and a ghillie suit with himself as the monster. His family helped him stage the whole thing. He even made a second film allegedly depicting the aftermath of the first one. Now as a general rule I’m not a fan of hoaxes. Usually the reason someone makes one is for money or fame or to try and make others in the Cryptozoological looks foolish. For example the infamous Ozark Howler was started as an online hoax by a college student who thought Cryptozoology was full of idiots and he made a bet he could trick them into believing in an obviously fake creature. And it fooled some, however thanks to investigator Chad Arment we know just where it originated.
          However, I must admit I have a somewhat fondness for this film. The man who hoaxed it didn’t do it for money, fame or with malicious intent. It was just a fun thing he did with his family that got taken completely out of control by others on the Internet. And I’ll give him this, at least he put a lot of effort into it. As someone who has made amateur films with my college friends for fun, I can tell you how hard it is to make a cheap film look really good. All in all it was a fun family film that got way too far out of control. This was the last episode of MonsterQuest and I must say if you’re going to go out way to go out with a bang.
          Now with that said there were a couple of things that where a bit problematic about the show. One was that it very rarely gave any time to a more skeptical view or opinions outside of bringing on the “token skeptic” to talk for a few minutes about what they thought was a more logical explanation. Now I get why they did this, most people don’t want to sit and hear sixty minutes of “this thing isn’t real” they want to watch people walk around the woods at night and hunt for monsters. Yet I think these could have been  stronger programs if all the viewpoints had been explored more.
  Second as the show went on the subjects just kept getting less and less interesting and by the third and especially by the fourth and final season a lot of the episodes felt like the producers where saying, “Okay the network ordered so many episodes, but we only have so many topics, so let’s do some episodes about stray dogs, killer bees and about ten episodes on Bigfoot, but we will call them by different names like Snow Beast and Hillbilly Beast -  no one will notice.” Well I noticed. And it’s strange that when the show   was canceled producer Doug Hajick said it was not because of lack of subjects, but the network just wanted to go a different way with its programing. Which is fair, but it really seemed like you where stretching it at the end. And it’s a shame because there were still a lot of really cool and interesting Cryptids whom I would have loved to see get a lot of time invested in them. But there is no use crying over spilt milk or in this case wasted potential.
          All in all MonsterQuest was a fun show that brought Cryptozoology to the public eye the way it really had never been before. And years from now I see it standing up as one of the truly great programs in the vein of IN Search of… and Unsolved Mysteries. However, as anyone in TV knows, when one network finds success others will want some of that success (i.e. money) for themselves. What began afterwards was a series of attempts to cash in and catch up. And it would eventually lead to faking evidence and networks which used to be about truth and science quite literally selling out in order to make a quick buck. But that is for next time as we delve into the dark underbelly of Cryptid TV.  

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