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.  

BIGFOOT HUNTERS' WORLD

This article treats of those who hunt Bigfoot.

Guess what-it's Bigfoot
now read on....

MORE BUNYIPS

I have discovered a bunyip chronology at this site, but it seems impossible to link to it.

Go to: www.janesoceania.com

BUNYIPS

Interested in the Australian bunyip?  Have a look at this site.





now read on....
Perambulating bunyip

ON THIS DAY IN WEIRD


On This Day in Weird, March 31...

1932: Eben McBurney Byers, a wealthy American socialite, athlete, and industrialist. died from multiple cancers caused by drinking more than 1,400 bottles of a radioactive "health potion" called Radithor, consisting of radium dissolved in water. Chalk one up for the Darwin Awards.



Sunday, 30 March 2014

NEW DWARF PLANET

Just a quick news item.  On March 27th a new dwarf planet, which takes 4000 years to orbit the sun, was discovered.  The small planet is currently referred to as VP113.  However, the path of its orbit implies the pull of a substantial celestial body, as yet undiscovered, beyond it.

LOCH NESS MONSTER - A BODY WASHED UP?

The website Muldersworld has produced photographs which may be those of a dead Loch Ness Monster washed up.

Have a look....


Editor's comment: It's not the Loch Ness Monster.  Its a Spanish shark washed up last August on my birthday.

OFF TO COLCHIS

I am pleased to see that Jason Colavito's new book Jason and the Argonauts Through the Ages has now been printed.  Official publication is on July 1st, but it can now be purchased from the publishers at www.mcfarland.com/book-2.php?id=978-0-7864-7972-6.
 

REVIEW BY ANDREW MAY

Dr Andrew May has provided us with a review of this publication on the Patterson-Gimlin film.





now read on....

ON THIS DAY IN WEIRD


On This Day in Weird, March 30...

1963: Mr. and Mrs. Campbell, a newlywed couple, see a Sasquatch eight to nine feet tall while hiking near Angel's Camp, California.


Saturday, 29 March 2014

GIANT SPIDER

The Seneca Indians had a myth about a giant spider called Dijien.  Dijien was the size of a human and therefore alarming.  He was difficult to kill, for his heart was buried underground.  He seems at length to have been slain by Othegwenhda, who stabbed the heart with the branch of a tree.

This kind of story turns up in various places and mythologists call it the Myth of the External Soul.

ALLEGED HORRIFIC REPTOID ENCOUNTER

If this story is true, it certainly gives one food for thought.         
now read on....  

ZACHARY MANN ON CRYPTID TV (PART ONE)

Reality Crypto T.V.
          A friend forwarded me something very interesting the other day. He knows that I have a more than passing interest in Cryptozoology and thought this kind of thing would be right up my alley, as it were. It seems that Gurney Productions, the same reality television production company behind such hit shows as Duck Dynasty, Auction Hunters and Haunted Collectors to name a few, are trying to put together a new kind of reality show. This one (the title is yet to be announced) is to primarily focus on the “next generation of paranormal investigators and Cryptozoologist.” It states that they are looking for young people under the age of 26 who are passionate about these fields to submit their emails, a photo, and a brief bio of themselves and, if the company is interested, they will schedule a phone interview. They seem to be primarily interested in high school or college level kids in a group or club with “unique and outstanding personalities”.  However, they are willing to talk to individuals too. No specifics have been given as to what exactly this show is about, what network it will air on or when production will start. Heck, even a deadline for interested parties hasn’t been set. This is the same friend who suggested that I try and get on the new reality show 10 Million Dollar Bigfoot Bounty airing on Spike TV.
          If all of this sounds weird or gives you pause, it should. I know it did for me, but I realized this was the perfect opportunity for me to stop and compile my thoughts on reality as it relates to Cryptozoology, something I’ve wanted to write about for a while now, because if there is one thing Americans love to do its watch TV and there are so many things to talk about: how do they reflect on the subject as a whole, are they any good/ produce noteworthy results and evidence to analyze, what impact do they have on the field, are they even a good watch and are they here to stay? All interesting questions. So let’s dive in and start where the current trend of reality based Cryptozoology began with the 2007 SyFy show Destination Truth.
       To be fair, you could say that these all owe their existence to shows of yesteryear like In Search Of… or Unsolved Mysteries and while that’s true they weren’t “reality TV” the way modern reality TV is. Destination Truth was the brain child of television producer Neil Mandt. It ran from 2007 through 2012 with a break in 2013 and it was just confirmed by the host via Facebook on March, 27, 2014 that the show would not be returning from hiatus meaning it has been canceled. The basic concept is based very much off the network’s other wildly popular reality based paranormal show Ghost Hunters. In fact I would not be surprised if the pitch for the show went something like “it’s just like Ghost Hunters, but with monsters!” Anyway, Destination Truth, released in the UK as The Monster Hunter, stars Josh Gates. He is your host/narrator as you travel to exotic locations around the world in search of the “truth” behind strange legends and scary monsters. The format was an hour long show with commercials, about 45 minutes without them, and during that time he would introduce you to the mysteries. Usually the episode was broken into two half hour segments, although sometimes (like for a season premiere or finale) they would focus one just one subject. The formal was pretty much always the same: introduce the subject, go to where the witnesses said they saw it, talk to a few eyewitnesses and sometimes experts, then go out and try to find “proof” of the phenomenon. This usually consisted of spending a few hours outside at night stomping around “looking” for the creature or ghost and then going home, analyzing any “evidence” found and making a final statement.
          Now I have mixed feelings about this one. On the one hand I really like it for the fact that the show usually played up the experience of actually going to these places and what the people experience going to another country and seeing another culture. The definite emphases was on the idea that, like any good road trip, the journey was more important than the destination. It also left a lot of humor in the show. I’ve always felt that we as Cryptozoologist can at times to too “serious” and need to lighten up. For the most part the humor was leveled not at any one in particular and certainly not at the people they were talking too, but just about how crazy some of their “adventures” are. One trope was, no matter where they went, they could never get a good working car. In short this felt like what it would be like to gather a group of your best buddies from college and say, “Hey let’s all go out this weekend, go camping, and we’ll look for Bigfoot.”
      I also liked that for the first season and most of the second, the focus was all on Cryptids or legendary animals, in fact only one episode from season one had a segment to do with ghosts and only four segments from the twice as long season two. Also they quite often would look for Cryptids not generally well known to the majority of the audience, the audience being people with only a passing interest in Cryptozoology, and who have probably never read a single Cryptids related book in their lives. It did give the chance to expose them to the general public and get so investigation into these creatures which they probably would not have gotten and investigation into them from “real” monster hunters, probably because of lack of interest or funds. But I’ve always said Cryptozoologist should put just as much time into more obscure creatures too, not just Bigfoot and Nessie. Some really amazing surprises could be made if we did. And if they ever found anything they would try to get real experts, such as curators of zoos and respected zoologists to try and take a look at it and get their opinions. Most of the times they would only come back with stories and nothing more.
          And did they find anything? Well yes and no. No in the sense that had they found undeniable proof of a Cryptid, we all would have heard about it by now. And their ratings would be through the roof! But they did find interesting things from time to time. Like a footprint in the Himalayas that might have belonged to a Yeti. They also found strange footprints in Vietnam and Malaysia too of large seemingly bipedal creatures. They had a strange sighting in Iceland of a large something in one of their lakes and found the unidentifiable remains of something in the caves of Madagascar when looking for the giant bat the Fangalabolo. The two most promising things ever where, a sample of hair in Bhutan that seemed to register as non-human primate, yet unlike any kind known to science (the main problem here is that they had it analyzed by the now notorious Dr. Melba Ketchum, so any results there would be in question) as well as filming through their night vision camera something large and seemingly bipedal moving through the jungles of Vietnam.
  Now for the bad. One thing they did which, while not surprising yet very frustrating, is referring to local creatures by more common names that are not used in the local area. Like when they went to Malaysia and looked for large hairy bipedal creatures, they constantly referred to them as Bigfoot. Yet that name is not used to describe such creatures in that part of the world. They did get better at this over time, but I feel that they could have seriously affected their search. For example in one episode they talked about the legendary Mokele Mbembe, the alleged sauropod-like dinosaur creature from the Congo. When most of the natives they questioned had no idea what they were talking about they used this as “evidence” that the creature was more fabled invention than fact. However, they were not in the Congo, but in Zambia a country with a similar kind of reported creature, but with a completely different unrelated native name. No wonder they didn’t know what they were talking about. They were asking about something in another language.
          Another thing was as time passed, they moved more and more away from Cryptids and into more ghosts and paranormal. In fact, in the last three seasons most of the focus was on these as opposed to Cryptids.  This could also be seen as the first segments tended to be longer and those more often than not were the ones about ghosts. To be fair, they never said it would be a Cryptid only show, but it was decidedly a disappointment. Veteran Cryptozoologist Loren Coleman expressed a similar unhappiness about this on his blog Cryptomundo. I kind of get why this was done, ghosts are probably more marketable than giant bats no one (I generalize here) has ever heard of, but still a disappointment.
          And another difference in the treatment of ghost versus Cryptids that always struck me as weird, was how they finished segments. What I mean is that at the end of each segment Josh would weigh in on their adventure as well as whether he thought the subject was real or not. Now he freely admits, both on the show and in a book he wrote about his travels, that he is skeptical and that is fine and fair. However, a lot of the times he would seemingly write off the possibility that a Cryptid could be real based a lot on the fact that he didn’t find evidence of it in the three hours he spent stomping around the bushes in Africa one night. I hate to break it to you Josh, but men have been searching for most of these things for decades, odds are you weren’t going to find them in one try. Yet on many occasions he would have a strange, yet often explainable, encounter while out ghost hunting and yet seem completely ready to say “yes ghosts, they are the only logical explanation!” Now I’m not totally against paranormal study (I do however firmly believe we should try and find a real world explanation first before jumping into the paranormal) yet I find it strange that they seemed far more lenient with ghosts than Cryptids. Maybe it’s just me.
          All in all it was a fun ride and truth be told I’m sad to see it go for good. That being said, the real importance it had was that it, more so than any other such show before it, is seemingly responsible for the trend in current Cryptid based reality TV, but that is the subject for the next post. So stay tuned. We’ve still got a lot of stuff to talk about and shows to analyze.

Editor's note: To add to the confusion, Zaire has now changed its name to the Democratic Republic of Congo.  When I was young, there were two Congos, the French Congo (the mokele-mbembe one) and the Belgian Congo.  When they gained independence, both were called simply Congo, distinguished by their capitals, Brazzaville and Kinshasa.  Then General Mobutu changed the name of the Congo (Kinshasa) to Zaire.  When he was overthrown, Zaire once more adopted the name of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

BIGFOOT DOCUMENTARY

It is said that this forthcoming documentary features a close encounter with Bigfoot.


now read on.....

ON THIS DAY IN WEIRD



On This Day in Weird, March 29...

1961: Theatrical release of Gorgo, in which a sea monster is captured off the Irish coast and displayed in London—until massive Mama arrives to rescue her offspring from the tacky theme park where it is imprisoned.




2008: Theatrical release of No Burgers for Bigfoot, a mockumentary about a sleazy, low-budget filmmaker whose effort to produce a short feature on Bigfoot takes some unexpected turns.


Friday, 28 March 2014

GHOST WITH GOAT'S HEAD

Here's a fairly eerie tale.  In part of Missouri, there supposedly wanders a ghost with the head of a goat.  The story that lies behind it is that a couple of farmers one night thought a mystery creature was stealing from them.  They blasted its head off.  On inspection, they discovered it was no animal, but a human, an old hermit that had lived nearby.  They buried the headless body in the depths of the night.  Those who speak of the goat-headed ghost surmise that it is the spirit of the headless hermit.

PRENTIES AND GONDERANUPS


Next time you're in Australia, you might care to trail a monster or two.

HEARD OF THE SNINIQ?

I am greatly interested in cryptids in Native American/First Nation lore and so I am going now to British Columbia to look into a creature in the beliefs of the Bella Coola, a nation numbering about 600 members.

The sniniq has been described as something like a sasquatch, but there is a notable difference.  The sniniq has a defense mechanism which appears to be unique.

Should a sniniq wish to attack you, it reverses its eyeballs.  No, don't try this yourself, you might do yourself a damage.  From its eyes it will shoot out beams, which render any adversary unconscious.

This sounds somewhat far-fetched, but it is not impossible, so, if I ever chance upon a sniniq, I will endeavor not to annoy it.
Bella Coola Indians


WANT BIGFOOT INFORMATION?


For information about Bigfoot, you might like to attend the following event on April 3rd.



SANIBEL BIRD FEARS NOTHING

On Sanibel, Florida, there is a bird that keeps jumping in front of cars, causing traffic holdups.  He fears not the chug of the engine, nor, presumably, exhortations to move from frustrated motorists.


now read on.....


ON THIS DAY IN WEIRD


On This Day in Weird, March 28...

1898: Future zoologist and author Maurice Burton born in London, England. His 28 published books include The Elusive Monster: An Analysis of the Evidence from Loch Ness (1961).



1967: A motorist reports four or five humanoid beings with large heads running back and forth across a road near Munroe Falls, Ohio. The driver strikes one with his car, later finding the bumper dented.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

PERHAPS I'LL SEE EWE.

Baaa!
I see a story in circulation about my native land.  The Golden Shears World Championship, which, if you haven't guessed, is an international sheep-shearing competition is to be held in Ireland this year, from May 22nd-26th.  The event will be in Gorey (County Wexford).  The organizers are somewhat short of ewes at present.  They need about 1000 more.

The word ewe is pronounced yoe in Ireland and yow in Scotland, a fact to remember if you're talking to natives of either country.

M.I.T. AND BIGFOOT

Can the Massachussetts Institute of Technology help to solve the mystery of Bigfoot?

The Patterson-Gimlin Film
now read on.....

CRYPTOZOOLOGICAL FLYING SNAKES

While the flying snakes mentioned in the article down below may just be mechanical, here's an article dealing with more animate flying snakes.

FLYING SNAKE

While there is a genus of snake known as the Flying Snake (Chrysopelea), cryptozoologists speaking of such things are rarely referring to this beast, which in fact proceeds by gliding.  Cryptozoologists are in fact far more interested, as a rule, in those volant serpents whose flight cannot be so easily explained.

One has the impression, however, that some of these just might be mechanical devices, operating at a time when such devices should not have been possible.  

Take, for example, one reported from Devon in 1762.  This is described as "twisting", but it also seems to have generated light.  Is it possible that some lone inventor, working in his laboratory in the south-west of England, managed to invent a flying device with an electrical component?  In 1873 at Bonham (Texas) an object that looked like a snake but was the length of a telegraph pole and had yellow stripes was seen by a number of persons, while later in the year something similar was seen over Fort Scott (Kansas).  In 1857 another such "snake" was reported from Missouri.  The description of this one was particularly interesting from the machine angle, for it was said to be breathing fire and to have streaks of light along its side.  This sounds as though it could in reality be a powered vehicle.  Those who hadn't considered the possibility of such a vehicle could well have identified it as a serpent.

Could these supposed cryptids, then, have been not cryptids but machines?  We haven't sufficient evidence concerning them, but it is a possibility worth bearing in mind.

STRANGE ANIMALS

In looking for cryptids, it is sometimes easy to forget how many strange established species there are.  This link shows pictures of some.

now read on......

ON THIS DAY IN WEIRD


On This Day in Weird, March 27...

1309: Pope Clement V excommunicates the entire population of Venice after local leaders pass a law banning church acquisition of landed property. Venice ignores the edict.




1940: Reichsf├╝hrer-SS and bizarro occultist Heinrich Himmler orders construction of Auschwitz concentration camp at Katowice, in occupied Poland.



Wednesday, 26 March 2014

BIZARRE REPORT FROM 2005

Though hardly recent, this report of a really bizarre creature is worth noting.  It was June 13th, 2005, and two witnesses saw this creature in an old cemetery in Huntsville, Utah.  It was some time in the early hours after midnight and they saw a short creature that appeared somewhat hunched.  The face was reptilian, but the body was covered in hair.  At first it seemed to be bipedal, but, after realizing it was observed, it dropped on all fours and made off.

This creature appears to be an isolate.  There is no evidence of a population of such creatures.  We cannot rule out a paranormal origin, saying it comes from another universe or dimension, especially as scientists are coming to accept the possibility of such things' existing.  But could it, on the other hand, have escaped from some genetic laboratory?  The truth is, speculation is really fruitless, as there is no evidence of its origin.

BIGFOOT SIGHTING BY SKEPTIC


This is an interesting sighting from 2013 in New Mexico, as the witness claimed he had hitherto been a complete skeptic where Bigfoot was concerned.

now read on....

THE ACCIDENTAL GRANDFATHER - by BRIAN REGAL

Richard Owen: Cryptozoology's Accidental Grandfather

The standard history of cryptozoology argues that the modern field began with the work of Ivan Sanderson and Bernard Heuvelmans. These two authors rightly deserve credit for beginning the field of cryptozoology: giving it a philosophy and a name. What is often overlooked in histories is that Sanderson and Heuvelmans were able to create the field because a vacuum appeared in the realm of monster studies that they could, consciously or not, step into. Had that vacuum not occurred, cryptozoology would likely never have been created. If mainstream science had continued with its historically hearty embrace of monster studies there would have been no need to create a new field. Cryptozoology took its amateur centered form because professional mainstream science abandoned monster studies and left it without an operative community.
The history of scholarly engagement with both human and animal monsters goes back to antiquity. Monster studies occupied a respected and rational place in intellectual circles. Aristotle, Pliny, Lucretius and others discussed them. Medieval authors copied, recopied and extended the works of the early authors and kept interest in monsters alive.  The Early Modern period saw authors such as Konrad Gesner, Ullisse Aldrovandi, Amboise Pare, Linnaeus and others write extensive and popular texts on the anatomy and biology of monstrous creatures as they attempted to place them in some rational spot in the overall story of biological diversity.

With the creation of the modern world of professional science—those individuals with some type of formal training in a scientific field which they do for an employer such as a university, government office, corporation or other for pay—the world of science began to change. This occurred over a period of decades beginning in the mid-nineteenth century so that, by the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, an increasing number on individuals who fit this description had grown so much that the power and influence of the remaining amateurs went into decline.


In the 21st century, with a few notable exceptions, mainstream science practitioners have been loath to go public with the interest they have in monsters fearing damage to their hard won careers and reputations. When and why did this turnaround occur? The trend wherein mainstream science left the field of monster studies began in the mid-nineteenth century. A major proponent of the anti-monster mindset was the Victorian naturalist Richard Owen. His work explaining sea-monsters (what today would be called debunking) represented the high water mark of mainstream science’s engagement with monstrous creatures.
I argue for Owen being the accidental grandfather of cryptozoology for two reasons. First, he had great influence in his day upon how science, particularly biology and what had been called Natural History, was perceived by the public. Secondly, because his enthusiastic engagement with sea-monsters and sea-serpents led to a general disillusionment with monster studies on the part of mainstream science. This led to the appearance of a vacuum that held for some decades until the 1950s when Sanderson and Heuvelmans began their work.

Richard Owen (1804-1892), originally studied medicine, but soon transferred his enthusiasm to natural history.  He did extensive work cataloging existing collections of biological and fossil organisms which gave him great insight into comparative anatomy.  He rose in position and influence to superintendent of the natural history collection of the British Museum and then spearheaded the effort to make that collection its own museum.  As his political connections grew, he became the tutor to the children of Queen Victoria.  He coined the term Dinosauria to describe the large terrestrial fossil vertebrates then just being unearthed in the English countryside.[1]
Due to his public profile and political connections, Owen was sent materials on sea-monster encounters from civilians and the government.  He kept track of these and collected original letters and newspaper items for study.[2]  His notes help explain how not only Owen but British science in general began the drift away from belief in monsters as a reality. Personally fascinated by the notion of sea-monsters, Owen determined to either prove them real or imaginary once and for all. He was perfectly ready to accept that they existed (there were plenty of monstrous creatures known from the fossil past), but he was stymied by the lack of any physical evidence. He had, for example, studied the Plesiosaurs and Ichthyosaurs brought to light by the fossil huntress Mary Anning (1799-1847). Some of these species grew to enormous proportions, but their remains were impressive, plentiful, and beyond despute whereas modern monsters had only vague reports. As a scientist Owen balked at accepting eyewitness accounts alone or at face value.
The seminal sea-serpent incident of the period came with the much publicized encounter by the British warship HMS Daedalus. On her way to St. Helena in 1848 the Daedalus encountered a large snake-like creature near the Cape of Good Hope.  Word of the sighting became public with the ship’s captain interviewed by The Times. The sighting created a stir as the trustworthiness of a British sea captain was beyond reproach. Owen investigated and immediately had his doubts. He wrote to The Times, who printed his letter, saying despite the quality of the observers, their story did not make sense: they must have seen something else and mistaken it for a monster. Excitement over the Daedalus sighting reached the highest levels of the Royal Family, the Price Consort, his interest piqued, asked Owen what he thought the crew had seen.  The naturalist replied that he thought it likely a misidentification of a large sea lion or seal.  A bit disappointed, the Prince humorously dubbed Owen the “sea-serpent killer.”[3]

The story gained Charles Darwin’s interest as well as he had read the various articles in the press.  Like Owen, Darwin did not believe sea-serpents genuine creatures.  His sea voyaging on the Beagle gave him a certain familiarity with ocean life.  Though he had seen many unusual and fascinating sea creatures, he never saw anything remotely like sea monsters described in the media.  After reading Captain M’Quhae’s report, Darwin wrote to Owen that “I never heard anything so astounding as the log-book of your H.M.S. Diddleus” [sic].[4]



[1] Richard Owen. The Life of Richard Owen (London: John Murray, 1894):334.
[2] Charles Darwin to Richard Owen. February 24, 1849, Darwin Correspondence (letter #1228).



[3] The standard biography of Owen is Nicolaas A. Rupke, Richard Owen: Victorian Naturalist (Yale University Press, 1994).
[4] Richard Owen. “Notebook: Collection of Newspaper Cuttings Relating to the Alleged Appearance of the ‘Sea-Serpent,” OC36, Owen Papers, library, Natural History Museum.  From here known as Owen notebook.

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Others questioned Owen’s analysis of the Daedalus creature.  The physician naturalist Charles Cogswell wrote in the journal Zoologist that “It grows more and more necessary every day to acknowledge the existence [his emphasis] of a vast form of marine animal bearing some resemblance to a serpent.”[1]  Cogswell supported the Captain’s veracity as a man of honor who would not lie or confabulate.  He questioned Owen’s seemingly off the cuff dismissal of the creature as a sea lion.  “Owen,” he said, “would determine its true affinities in a moment,” rather than after careful consideration and investigation.[2]
Sightings continued of odd sea beasts.  In February, 1849, on the heels of the Daedalus affair, Owen was shown the remains of another ‘monster,’ this one acquired by the Duke of Northumberland.  After examining it Owen declared it an example of the rare Ribbon Fish and not an unknown species.  In 1857 the British merchant ship Castilan reported observing a sea-serpent off St. Helens Island in the South Atlantic.  Owen rejected the sighting as a misidentification.  An irate correspondent to the Cape Argus insisted that “the marine monster does exist, in the face of the deliberately recorded opinion of the greatest living zoologist Professor Owen.”[3]  The captain of the Castilan, George Henry Harrington, wanted to meet Owen to convince him of the veracity of the event.  An encounter with a sea monster near Bermuda in 1860 resulted in the supposed capture of the creature, or at least parts of it.  “Three separate spines of this fish were sent over to the Board of Trade, and thence to Professor Owen.”[4]  In an 1877 newspaper article “The Sea-serpent Again” the anonymous author said “there is not the slightest doubt that there are monsters in the sea of various kinds yet unknown to man.”[5]  Owen scribbled in the margins “what proof of their monstrosity?”[6]
Owen biographer Nicolaas Rupke argues that Owen rejected the existence of sea-serpents as part of his wider plan to situate the physical evidence found in museums as centers of scientific authority.  It had become common practice with sea-serpent sightings to hurriedly collect written eyewitness reports of the events preferably before a local magistrate, lawyer or other official government representative.  Owen argued extraordinary events could not be accepted as genuine based upon eyewitness accounts alone. Such claims, however, were thought an acceptable way of proving the veracity of a creature’s existence by many.  Reputable witnesses backed up by the imprimatur of law could not possibly be challenged.  Owen felt this profoundly objectionable.  He generally dismissed such ‘evidence’ in favor of physical remains, little of which was forthcoming.  In 1818 the Gloucester Monster seen off the coast of Massachusetts had been established in the eyes of some naturalists by legal documents rather than physical evidence.  Naturalists in America and England accepted the creature based upon this alone.[7] 



[1] Charles Cogswell, “The Great Sea-Serpent,” Zoologist 6 (1848):2316-2323.
[2] IBID., 2320.
[3] Cape Argus 1:21 (March 14, 1857).
[4] “The Great Sea Snake,” Land and Water (September 21, 1872):191.
[5] ‘The Sea-serpent Again,” Standard (September 18, 1877).
[6] Owen Notebook.
[7] For the New England sea monster see; J. P. O’neill. The Great New England Sea-serpent (Camden, Maine: Down East Books, 1999), and Chandos Michael Brown. “A Natural History of the Gloucester Sea-serpent: Knowledge, Power, and the Culture of Science in antebellum America,” American Quarterly 42:3 (September 1990):402-436.

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Supporters of the existence of sea-serpents took this approach, but Owen wanted physical evidence confirmed by a museum based authority not the rival expertise of jurisprudence.
Another monster sighting, this time by HMS Osbourne  came to Richard Owen who was sent material not long after the sighting occurred in June of 1877.  Increasingly dubious of the notion of sea-serpents as traditional unknown monsters, Owen looked at the material with a skeptical eye.  Admiral Sir George Augustus Elliot (1813-1901), the commander-in-chief of Portsmouth (where the Osbourne was stationed) sent Owen copies of the statements made by the Osbourne’s commander, H. L. Pearson, and several officers about the “unknown monster” they saw.  Studying the letters, Owen wrote in the margins that “the object or phenomena may have been unknown to the observers,” but they “were not necessarily caused by a ‘monster.’”  Owen’s interpretation of the creature was that the crew saw a cetacean.  The descriptions, despite being given by reputable officers were “of no value to this naturalist.”  On another sighting in which witnesses said they saw a sea-monster attacking a whale Owen admitted that “my skepticism on negative grounds received a severe blow after the positive statements ex visu. . .before the Liverpool magistrate by the respectable captain and certain of the crew.”  He was impressed by the veracity of the description, the trustworthiness of the witnesses, and that a court official placed an imprimatur on it, but that was simply not enough.  The details sounded familiar, however.  Owen argued that what had been seen was a rare sighting of a pair of whales engaged in an amorous encounter.  To this end he drew in his notebook several small cartoons—he labeled whale coitus—of a pair of mating whales; their flippers entwined one below the other.[1]  This unusual sight was what the observers saw.  Not a titanic battle between whale and monster, but cetacean procreation.[2]  Taking to his notebook again, Owen asked about skeletal remains from the thousands of dead sea-serpents which must have accumulated over the years.
“And what to me is strangest of all, knowing that 300 or more joints may have formed the long backbone of each of the thousands of deceased individual [sea monsters] not a single vertebra has been sent for my inspection from any shore: nor can I hear of any such specimen having been forwarded to any museum. . .”[3]
By the 1870s Owen had fallen out of favor with the younger generations of naturalists—especially those who had come over to the Darwinist side—but his views on sea-monsters struck a chord and belief in the creatures by the mainstream dried up. Along with Owen’s public rejection of sea-monsters the lack of any credible physical evidence for their existence also put scientists off the subject. With nothing to study biologists, zoologists, and other naturalists reluctantly gave monsters over to historians, folklorists, and tabloid journalists. With the exception of the work done by A.C. Oudemans in 1899 no scientific studies of monsters were done until the latter 20th century (and Oudemans was largely ignored by the mainstream).



[1] In 2005 marine biologist C. G. M. Paxton and his associates reassessed the Hans Egede sighting and concluded that oft referred to event was also a case of misidentifying a whale, possibly involved in some sexual congress.  See C. G. M. Paxton, E. Knatterud and S. L. Hedley. “Cetaceans, Sex and Sea Serpents: an analysis of the Egede accounts of a “most dreadful monster” seen off the coast of Greenland in 1734,” Archives of Natural History 32:1 (2005):1-9.
[2] Owen Notebook.
[3] Ibid.

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The vacuum left by the departure of mainstream science from monster studies remained until the 1940s and 50s when Sanderson and Heuvelmas stepped in and created a new field. This they did in part from frustration over the abandonment of monster studies by the mainstream.  Had biology not left the field cryptozoology would not have come into being. At the least monster studies would have taken on a different form. So, when we think of the origins of cryptozoology, don’t forget its accidental grandfather, Richard Owen.

#
Brian Regal teaches the history of science, technology and medicine at Kean University in New Jersey. His latest book is Searching for Sasquatch: Crackpots, Eggheads, and Cryptozoology now out in paperback.

'Daedalus' Sea-Serpent

ON THIS DAY IN WEIRD


On This Day in Weird, March 26...

1997: Thirty-nine members of the Heaven's Gate cult "return to the mother ship" via mass suicide in Rancho Santa Fe, California.





2005: Famed (or notorious) Nessie photographer Eric Frank Searle dies at his rooming house in Fleetwood, Lancashire.


Tuesday, 25 March 2014

DRAGON MAN

There is no point in my putting up a picture of a dragon man, as he is simply a human being with special powers in the folklore of south-eastern Europe; but these powers are said to be the powers of a dragon.

The dragon man is an individual who realizes bad weather is on the way, dangerous to villagers' crops, and that this is caused by a variety of spirit called an ala.  The dragon man then knows what he must do.  He goes into a deathlike sleep.  Then his soul leaves his body and assumes a form serpentine or lacertine and a battle ensues between him and the ala, whom all hope he will finally defeat.  Lest the ala attack his slumbering body, a man with a scythe can be left nearby with the daunting duty of fending it off.  

When the dragon man awakes, his enemy defeated, he feels very tired.

Sometimes, just to cause a little confusion, the word ala means a benevolent spirit.

MOON MEN - A FACTOID

No, by Moon Men I do not mean lunar beings observed by astronauts who have landed on the moon or by any mechanical device sent to survey it.  In fact, Moon Men is a term used for Bigfoots in Warren and Dekalb Counties in Tennessee.

Anaxagoras, an ancient Greek, assures us there were houses on the Moon.  I don't know how he claimed to have discovered this.  Another personage who felt there were Moon Men was Leonardo Da Vinci.  But I am sure you are asking, What about von Gruithuizen (1774-1852)?  What, indeed?  He claimed to have observed a lunar city.

Incidentally the village of Moone in Ireland has no astronomical connections.

I don't know of any early scientists who claimed they could discern faces on Mars.

IEMISCH SIGHTING?

This is a cryptid of Patagonia and a recent report on the website Patagonia Monsters refers to a possible sighting.  The iemisch is said to bear a resemblance to a large otter and the late Professor Roy Mackal argued that what it was was a large otter indeed with aggressive propensities.  Go to patagoniamonsters.co.uk for further information.

WHO WAS THE BIRD KING?

No, the Bird King was no bird.  He Was Zog I, King of Albania, reigned until 1939.  You see, in Albanian the word zog means 'bird'.

Zog I, King of Albania

TASMANIAN OKAPI?

The okapi (Okapia johnstoni) was long held to be merely a legend, a cryptid.  Its existence was finally established in 1901.  It lives in the Ituri Forest in Central Africa and that is where it might  reasonably expected to be found on the loose.




However, there is a rather startling report of an okapi-like creature in Tasmania.  This was reported in the North Western Advocate and Emu Bay Times on April 18th, 1916.

The report says that an animal which sounds very like an okapi was seen drifting out of the water and landing on Hunter Island, off the Tasmanian coast, in 1911.  Neck and body were pale brown and the ears white.  The haunches were black and white striped.  The witness was named H.J. Mather.

If he did indeed see an okapi, how did it reach Australia?  It can't have swum there all the way from Africa and I cannot believe a population of okapis is to be found dwelling in the sea.  I can only conjecture that it was either:-

     (a) a captured okapi in a shipwreck that swam to shore; or
     (b) a captive okapi that had escaped from its owner and had
          fancied a dip in the sea.

It remains that the likelihood of anyone owning an okapi in the region seems to the present writer very remote.  However, you never know.  Its presence must remain a mystery.

The information above is taken from Weird Australia, a Kindle book by Andrew Nicholson.

BIGFOOT IN GOETHE STATE FOREST?

A female perambulator maintains that Bigfoot is no myth.

now read on....

ON THIS DAY IN WEIRD


On This Day in Weird, March 25...

1863: Chunks of unidentified meat fall from a clear sky onto the home of a Mr. Kiernan in Sacramento, California.

1930: Fortean author John Alva Keel born (as Alva John Kiehle) in Hornell, N.Y. His books include Jadoo (1957), The Fickle Finger of Fate (1966), UFOs: Operation Trojan Horse (1970), Strange Creatures From Time and Space (1970), Our Haunted Planet (1971), The Flying Saucer Subculture (1973), The Mothman Prophecies (1975), The Eighth Tower (1975), The Cosmic Question (1978), and Disneyland of the Gods (1988).



 
1998: God fails to appear on every television worldwide via Channel 18, as predicted by Chen Tao Hon-Ming Chen, leader of Taiwan's Chen Tao cult ("The True Way"). He also misses the predicted date of His return to Earth, via UFO, six days later.