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Thursday, September 24, 2009


One of the things that seriously concerns me about contemporary cryptozoology is the way that certain high profile pundits sensationalise things out of all proportion. The ridiculous bloody Montauk Monster is one example. Anyone could see that it was a small carnivore bloated by decomposition, and whilst I blush to say that I thought it was a skunk when it was obviously a raccoon, it was by no stretch of the imagination a monster.

This latest case involving a dead sloth and an unbelievable story is more of the same.

If cryptozoology is ever to be taken seriously its high profile practitioners must refrain from this third form tabloid sensationalism. I have been accused in the past of bringing the subject into disrepute by behaving stupidly at conventions whilst in my cups, by calling our annual convention `The Weird Weekend` and allowing children to attend rather than just sitting back on our laurels and proclaiming our annual gathering to be "an International Symposium of Cryptozoological Science" or some nonsense like that.

However, to my mind, stooping to the levels of the tabloid press in giving ridiculous appelations to the decomposing corpses of known species does cryptozoology far more harm than me having a few drinks and making tasteless jokes, or a few small children giggling during someone's talk.


Andrew D. Gable said...

It's distressing how the mundane-but-slightly-weird is championed while the genuinely unexplained is, for the most part, completely discounted and ridiculed.

I was recently having thoughts along a similar line - how certain accounts and whatnot are propagated by people and passed off as something much more than what they really are or were.

Dr Dan Holdsworth said...

What annoys me in this vein is the way that the blanket term "Unidentified Flying Object" has slowly become synonymous with "Flying and/or interstellar craft crewed by non-terrestrial intelligent life". Quite obviously, a UFO is something that isn't on the ground which the observer cannot identify.

Now, should I glance out of my window without my glasses on, that pretty much means anything from a starling to a 747; I'm shortsighted and astigmatic. This quite obviously doesn't make said errant starling into a Spielberg-esque spacecraft, as any fool can see.

The vast majority of the time an unidentified flying object (or the new and thus far little-abused term: Unidentified Aerial Phenomena) is something known but not properly identified. The latest culprits here are chinese lanterns, which are paper hot air balloons powered by a candle; released at night a number of these will drift with the wind being blown along at more or less the same rate; cue tabloid gushings about huge formations of alien spacecraft and the like.

Also present in smaller numbers are military craft of various sorts, plus model aircraft of a bewildering variety; there is even a man in the Baildon Moor Model Aircraft Club who won a bet by making a bog-standard lavatory door fly.

All this is symptomatic of a worrying anti-intellectual trend of recent years. These days people seem to think that pretences of stupidity and ineptitude are somehow the done thing; that it is actually good to be an idiot. The press panders to this with all this fatuous gibbering over what are in actuality non-stories; CNN at no point seem to have tried to identify their sadly deceased sloth and seem to have swallowed the rather tall tale the teenagers told whole.

Bigfoot73 said...

If I might raise another example of this pheomenon : the Argentinian pterodactyl.Consensus opinion is now settled on it being a chip in a car window. AT some stretch of the imagination (well, mine anyway) it could possibly have been some sort of radio-controlled helicopter thingy with the rotor blades frozen by the exposure speed.
How on earth did it ever get to be a pterodactyl? The story only got legs to it because some pictures editor somewhere tagged it as such and every last Fortean website's search engine picked up on it!Ludicrous!

Dr Dan Holdsworth said...

Hey, you want another one: ghostly orbs. The myth is that if you take a flash photo (usually with a compact camera) in a place that is traditionally associated with ghostly goings-on, then if you see little bright glowing things on the photo, or if you see a mist that was not apparent to the naked eye, then you have a supernatural phenomenon going on.

Needless to say, this is complete and utter bunkum.

I've seen "ghostly" orbs down a light microscope under both light field and dark field illuminations; all that is going on is that a small bright object, when seen out of focus, looks like a small round thing with moderately well defined edges. The greater the numerical aperture of the lens, the smaller the depth of field and the more likely this rather mundane phenomenon is.

Night vision devices take the phenomenon to a whole new level, since virtually all consumer-level NV devices are either an infra red sensitive Charged Couple Device (CCD) or a 1970s-era photomultiplier tube. Both these technologies are light sensitive, but not so sensitive that an additional IR illumination is not needed. The IR illumination is usually provided by a near-infra red emitting diode, which usually has to be placed close to the lens of the NV device. This gives you a sensitive camera with a very poor depth of field shining a very intense light forward from right next to the lens; you could not hope to have a better means of illuminating whatever bits of dust and whatnot are floating about in front of the lens.

The phenomenon is explainable, easy to avoid (separate the camera and the illumination source widely like cave photographers do) and it quite simply is not paranormal in the slightest, tiniest way, so why do people carry on parroting this garbage?