Strange Beasts: Cryptozoology
Cryptozoology is a relatively new word. It does not exist in my old Webster's New World Dictionary of the American Language, Second College Edition, dating from 1980.
One current online source lists the definition, paraphrased as:
the study of evidence attempting to prove the existence of , or the search for, creatures whose reported existence is questionable.
Depending upon your point of view, this is either a fascinating scientific study with tantalizing clues, or a boring and very unscientific waste of time. The entire concept borders on science fiction, and certainly crosses the line into popular Hollywood "monsters."
But, where there are monsters, there are people, and where there are people, there is imagination and memory. Before we dismiss any of these creatures out of hand, it pays to examine a few basic facts.
No matter how odd the beast, there have been tales of sightings around the world, across cultures, and over huge spans of time.
From the earliest recorded writings to the present day, there are accounts of strange beasts, including such things as dragons, sea monsters, human-like furred creatures and many more.
The thing to remember is this: in the days before global mass communication, it is virtually impossible that any one culture would have heard from any other culture on the other side of the world to compare notes and "contaminate" their own pool of stories.
The lack of instantaneous news flashing around the world is only one reason such comparisons and copy-cat legends are unlikely. The most common other reason is war. For most of human history, any civilization advanced enough to go exploring usually treated native peoples they discovered as a sub-human species to be conquered and destroyed.
They did not compare notes.
Given that uncomfortable fact, it then stands to reason that the similarity in so many of these various cultures' stories worldwide had to have at least some basis in fact. There must, indeed, have been some giant ape-type animal loping through the North American woods or the Australian Outback (to offer a single example).
The Loch Ness Monster
Nearly everyone has heard of this sea creature, dubbed "Nessie" by her fans. There has also been a sighting of a similar animal in Lake Champlain here in the United States. That one is dubbed, "Champ."
Both are described as very long animals, up to 30 feet in length, and raising heads out of the water as high as 3 feet as they swim along. Unfortunately, both lakes are so deep, so large, so dark and murky and so cold that going hunting for these beings is rendered nearly impossible.
"How convenient!" The skeptics point out. Many attempts have been made to prove these are nothing more than hoaxes, and the opponents have designed all kinds of elaborate creations attempting to mimic the supposed fraud.
Unfortunately for the believers, there have been fake photos from time to time. Still, there have been other photos taken since, and with more modern equipment. Many of these have been analyzed by experts in photographic manipulation, and very few were found to be fakes.
That said, the earliest recorded sightings reach back in time to something like 560-something CE, which was well before the invention of the camera or such technology as "PhotoShop™."
Nessie? You Decide
That Ape-Suit Guy...
The argument goes on about this ape-like creature, and the most famous "movie" of it walking along in the woods certainly appears to be a hoax--it truly looks like a guy in an ape-suit. (See photo at right.) However, this ape-man has been spotted at all elevations around the world. It goes by as many names as there are cultures who have claimed to see it.
In Australia, it is the Yowie; in Tibet, the Yeti; here in North America, it is known as Big Foot; Sasquatch in Canada; Yeren in China, and a whole host of other names, the majority of which sound like Native American words.
It could be argued that this is a but a large bear, and tales were invented by these "Indian" mothers to keep youngsters from wandering off alone into the woods. Who knows? The people who gave us these names are no longer with us for interview purposes.
The largest argument against these creatures continues to be the lack of any physical evidence in the form of nesting sites, bones, or other leavings that could identify a group of individuals. Any species obviously must have a group large enough to insure survival and procreation.
Unless you accept the theory of alien races from the stars being involved in early human history, there is no explanation for how so many different cultures around the world share the same legends.
Here's an interesting puzzle. Dragons appear in folklore all around the world, from the Arthurian Legends in which brave knights slew dragons to rescue young ladies, (oh, sorry, that would have been "fair damsels" in those days), through to the abundant appearance of such creatures in Chinese culture. The European dragons usually appear much more realistic, looking like "scary-beasts," while the Chinese dragons look much more stylized and 'artsy.'
In any case, as with the other strange creatures, we must look to evidence and possibilities. Could someone mistake a very large bat for a dragon? Hmmmm...perhaps, if they'd had a pint too many of the grog at the local pub, but it is doubtful. The very largest bats have a wingspan of just about 7 feet--but they are the so-called "Flying Foxes," and are limited in habitat range to the tropical regions of Southeast Asia and Australia.
Here's another interesting proposition, one for which there is abundant fossil evidence. Could it be that some remnant of the dinosaur era overlapped with humans? There were huge winged reptilians, known as Pterodactyls, with terrifying beaks full of sharp teeth and equally deadly claws with wingspans ranging from a few inches to over forty feet!
I can readily see how these ferocious ancestors to birds could look like what we now call dragons.
Interview With an Eyewitness
Everyone Must Decide For Themselves
At least for the time being, this is the way it is. There is so far no physical scientific evidence or proof for the existence of any of these creatures; only tantalizing glimpses in remote areas.
To what do we attribute this massive body of stories of fantastic creatures? Mass hallucinations? Unlikely, for that phenomenon normally takes place in a large group setting with the affected persons all present at the same time. No, these stories; legends; folklore; whatever name you wish to apply, go back too far in time over too many continents to qualify as hallucinations.
Hoaxes, to be sure, have occurred numerous times. The motives vary, but it is the pranksters themselves who usually have the last laugh that they have succeeded in fooling another group of "suckers." But what of the images that have been certified as un-manipulated; the descriptions and videos that cannot be replicated by people trying to determine if a hoax was the cause?
Personally, I keep an open mind on the matter, for I feel there is yet much about our planet that we have yet to discover. But, I will at this point add my two-cents-worth on the second video of the Pterodactyl. To my eye, it just seems too jerky; too cut-up, and I am not totally convinced that it is not a remote-control gizmo. My ex-husband was heavily into radio-controlled planes, including R/C gliders (sailplanes) that used no motors. One of these was modeled to look exactly like a seagull, except that it only soared; the wings were fixed and did not flap. It was so realistic in appearance and size that real seagulls would follow the silly thing!
The court is in recess, and the final decision has yet to be rendered.
Do you think any of these strange creatures really exist?
Additional Information and Research Links
- The Legend of Nessie the Ultimate Loch Ness Monster Site
Official Loch Ness Monster Site, with up-to-date information and photographs of new and past sightings. (Heavily text-based site--a lot of reading.)
- Big Foot Names
This creature has hundreds of names--this is a list of only some of them.
© 2012 Liz Elias