Half a century ago, Belgian Zoologist Bernard Heuvelmans first codified cryptozoology in his book On the Track of Unknown Animals.

The Centre for Fortean Zoology (CFZ) are still on the track, and have been since 1992. But as if chasing unknown animals wasn't enough, we are involved in education, conservation, and good old-fashioned natural history! We already have three journals, the largest cryptozoological publishing house in the world, CFZtv, and the largest cryptozoological conference in the English-speaking world, but in January 2009 someone suggested that we started a daily online magazine! The CFZ bloggo is a collaborative effort by a coalition of members, friends, and supporters of the CFZ, and covers all the subjects with which we deal, with a smattering of music, high strangeness and surreal humour to make up the mix.

It is edited by CFZ Director Jon Downes, and subbed by the lovely Lizzy Bitakara'mire (formerly Clancy), scourge of improper syntax. The daily newsblog is edited by Corinna Downes, head administratrix of the CFZ, and the indexing is done by Lee Canty and Kathy Imbriani. There is regular news from the CFZ Mystery Cat study group, and regular fortean bird news from 'The Watcher of the Skies'. Regular bloggers include Dr Karl Shuker, Dale Drinnon, Richard Muirhead and Richard Freeman.The CFZ bloggo is updated daily, and there's nothing quite like it anywhere else. Come and join us...

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Monday, January 04, 2010

OLL LEWIS: 5 Questions on… Cryptozoology - LOREN COLEMAN

Today’s guest is Loren Coleman. Loren is an American cryptozoologist and author. Loren also runs a cryptozoological museum in Portland, Maine, which contains a number of exhibits including casts, models and film props, and it is well worth a visit.

So, Loren Coleman, here are your 5 questions on… Cryptozoology.

1) How did you first become interested in cryptozoology?

I first became interested in cryptozoology almost exactly fifty years ago.

On Friday night (March 18th) and then again on Saturday morning (March 19th, 1960) I watched a docu-drama-style movie, Half Human, about the search for Abominable Snowmen in some mountains in Asia. The film was directed by Ishiro Honda and had been released in the US as Half Human in December 1958. It had previously been released in Japan as Jujin Yokiotoko ('Abominable Snowman') in August 1955. In the American version new footage had been added, starring John Carradine as anthropologist Dr. John Rayburn. I, of course, didn't know any of this in 1960.

I went to school on Monday, March 21, 1960, after seeing this movie on television over the weekend, full of questions and curiosity about these creatures. I asked all my teachers what was this business about the Abominable Snowmen. I was given answers like "Don't waste your time on that; they don't exist," "Get back to reading your studies," and "They aren't worth your time."

I decided to do my own research, and read everything I could about the Abominable Snowmen. I soon discovered there was a whole world of cryptozoology out there. I recall discovering books on the Loch Ness Monsters. I remember reading Bernard Heuvelmans's On the Track of Unknown Animals. In 1961 I found and read Ivan T. Sanderson's Abominable Snowmen: Legend Come to Life in the Decatur, Illinois, library. I soon bought my own copy from the money I was earning from my paper route job. Then I systematically bought every publication I could find that was listed in Sanderson's bibliography.

I had begun corresponding with Sanderson and within two years I had 400 other correspondents (remember letters vs emails?) from around the world. I was also doing fieldwork with wildlife biologists in Illinois, going out investigating reports with them of black panther sightings, and interviewing eyewitnesses who had seen Bigfoot, ape-like creatures, mystery cats, and giant snakes.

I decided to attend a university in the midst of an area known for its sightings and folklore about reddish unknown anthropoids (Southern Illinois University) and majored in anthropology, minored in zoology, during my undergraduate years, due directly to my interest in cryptozoology.

As I grew older, except for decisions based on the best interests of my sons, cryptozoology served as the primary key to what future paths I wished to take in my life, just as it had since 1960.

2) Have you ever personally seen a cryptid or secondary evidence of a cryptid, if so can you please describe your encounter?

I have found footprints of ape-like creatures and heard unexplainable screeches (where others had reported similar screams) while investigating unknown anthropoid, mystery kangaroo, and other cryptid sightings.

But the only marginal first hand sighting I had of a cryptid was the brief glimpse of a 'black panther' I saw when I was riding with a group of co-workers returning from a state job we all had been doing in Anna, Illinois, on our way back to Carbondale. I was the only one of the five in the car who was interested in cryptozoology, and I wasn't driving (I didn't own a car), so we did not turn around to investigate. (In the USA, 'black panthers' are indeed cryptids because they are not verified as existing by mainstream zoology. About 40% of all mystery cat sightings are of large melanistic cats in North America.)

I find no need to discuss my sighting very often, as it was fleeting, but certainly gives me a sense of how quick such encounters are for most witnesses.

3) Which cryptids do you think are the most likely to be scientifically discovered and described some day, and why?

As I've mentioned in my book The Field Guide to Bigfoot and Other Mystery Primates (co-authored with Patrick Huyghe), I feel the best bet for discovery is Sumatra's Orang Pendek. I sense the zoological and anthropological discovery and verification of this great ape will occur in the next 25 years, and it will be a ground-breaking find.

Why? Because it appears to be one of the best funded, long-term surveys and quests that has occurred in recent memory. The quietly financed search by the UK's Floral and Fauna International during over two decades of fieldwork there by Debbie Martyr is the key reason. While I was at the University of Southern Maine as a full-time researcher and adjunct faculty, I was delighted to have written a letter regarding the importance of Orang Pendek research in 1985, in support of Debbie's first application to get her initial visa to enter Indonesia. She has done nothing but the most superb research on the ground since then.

4) Which cryptids do you think are the least likely to exist?

This is a difficult question to answer, for at any one time time there are all kinds of 'new' cryptids that turn up, which are quickly explained as normal species, misidentifications, mistakes, outright fakes, and hoaxes that gum up the significant and long-term work we have to do. So, seriously, I would have to say the cryptids that are the least likely to exist are those that aren't unknown or hidden animals in the first place.

5) If you had to pick your favourite cryptozoological book (not including books you may have written yourself) what would you choose?

Hands down, the book that I feel has influenced me the most, which even contains the first example of the use of the word 'cryptozoological' in English, and thus is my favourite is Ivan T. Sanderson's Abominable Snowmen: Legend Come to Life. I was over-joyed to have seen this re-published as a high-quality hard-bound recently, for I think it is a book that should be read by every serious student of cryptozoology and hominology, despite how dated it is and the fact that much has happened since 1961.

Second, of course, is Bernard Heuvelmans's On the Track of Unknown Animals.

I was lucky enough to have personally known both of these gentlemen, and both of these men's books mean much to me.

All the classic cryptozoology works of Bernard Heuvelmans and by folks like Rupert Gould, Odette Tchernine, Willy Ley, Anton Oudemans, Marian T. Place, Roy Mackal, Karl Shuker, Tim Dinsdale, Ralph Izzard and many others, deserve to be in any cryptozoology resource library, as well as the encyclopaedias of George Eberhart, Michael Newton and others. A good historical reading in cryptozoology assists people entering the field who wish to build on the successes of the past.

A year ago I published a list of the top 30 Bigfoot books I would recommend to everyone: http://www.cryptomundo.com/cryptozoo-news/top10-bf-bks/

Happy New Year, and may 2010 be full of great surprises for all of us interested in this field! I look forward to co-operative efforts between the International Cryptozoology Museum, the Centre for Fortean Zoology and other worldwide cryptozoological organisations.


Jean Perkins said...

Jush to let you know that I learned alot from your book The field guide on bigfoot. I have put food out for them with sucess and got to see them and hear them. I try communicating with them when I hear wood knocking then I knock back. I hope this helps.

unoeyeno said...

Hello, when I was a child I clearly remember seeing a half human/half kangaroo creture in Glenlyon Victoria Australia. We lived in the bush and our neighbour was having a new years eve party, while there I was bored so I decided to go fro a walk around his property, it was already dark and just as I got outside of his garden I heard a noise in the bushes and when I turned around I was face-to-face with a creature that had the bottom half of a kangaroo and the top half of an aboriginal. I was scared witless, I ran screaming back to the house past the party guests and cowered under the table. My father came to find me and when I told him what had happened he made me walk there again to prove to me that there was nothing there. I was so scared walking back there that I was shaking and let go of my bladder (i was only 7), I did not see the creature again but there was more movement in the bushes where I had first encounted the creature. That memory has stayed with me ever since (for over 2 decades) as clear as day. I sware that I saw the creature although I have never seen or heard of anything like it since. Have you ever heard of such a creature? I would be realy interested to findout if there is anyone who has seen it before, or anything like it.