Cryptozoology & the Possibility of Real-life Monsters!

bigfoot

If you’ve read any of our previous posts regarding visits to The International Museum of Cryptozoology (most recently David Albaugh’s story on The Minnesota Ice Man seen HERE), then you know that we Terror Daves are fans of this pseudoscience. That’s not to say we believe it all, of course, just that we’re intrigued at the possibility of strange and unusual animals still yet to be discovered. We like to keep an open mind while reminding ourselves that, though many researchers avoid the topic entirely, there are just as many credible and educated believers willing to risk their reputations by supporting it as well. And let’s be honest, who here wouldn’t love to find out that some monsters are real?

1934-lochnessmonster

Recently I attended a lecture on Cryptozoology hosted by my local accredited zoo; an institution that would have recoiled at the mere mention of the word in previous years. I’m guessing their sudden change of heart might have something to do with the fact that its become a billion dollar industry and there’s a reason why cable stations such as The History Channel have gone from presidential biographies in favor of sensationalistic “documentaries” such as “Who is Bigfoot?” while running all day Monsterquest marathons. Even The Discovery Channel’s once scientifically revered “Shark Week” began selling out a couple of years ago with that goofy mockumentary Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives. A lot of people including myself were less than pleased with that decision though, admittingly, I’m not sure I’d be able to come up with a better way for boosting ratings; the primary goal of any TV station including the educational ones.

So far as the zoo’s concerned, however, I’m not bothered in the slightest. I figure if spending money on mythical animals at the gift shop helps support the real ones in the park, then more power to them. Furthermore, this sold out lecture turned out to be a fun experience that also made me realize that there was a lot I didn’t understand concerning what exactly it was and wasn’t. I figured that if we Daves were occasionally going to discuss “cryptids” (hidden animals) then it would probably be a good idea to share the basics of what I learned that night. According to the lecture, there are ten main categories of cryptids, and that’s as good a place to start as any…

  1. An animal that’s already known but not where it should be.

Last July, residents of Milwaukee, Wisconsin were on the lookout for a possible African lion that was reported to be roaming its city streets. Things got even more intense when, after numerous sightings, fuzzy video footage of the beast surfaced and I remember anxiously following a couple of harrowing nights (mostly via my Milwaukee Zoo friends on Facebook) where police barricades were set up in the hopes of catching it. As of this date, it still hasn’t been found, thereby qualifying it as a cryptid. Do I believe in the Milwaukee lion? Having seen the picture, I must admit that I do. Some say it’s a cougar or mountain lion that roamed into the area (which actually does happen on occasion) but color me “Mulder,” that picture looks an awful lot like an African lioness to me. My guess is that it was someone’s exotic pet that decided to go moonlighting. This isn’t too far-fetched when you realize that there are probably more lions, tigers, and bears living secretly among us than there are in the wild; something that likely accounts for many cryptids worldwide. Think I’m kidding? Go watch the 2010 documentary The Elephant in the Living Room and see for yourself!

Is this fuzzy photo proof of an African lion roaming Milwaukee?

Is this fuzzy photo proof of an African lion roaming Milwaukee?

2. An unusual variation of a known animal.

Anacondas are one of the largest snakes living today and known to have reached lengths of over twenty feet. An anaconda the size of the one featured in that crappy Jennifer Lopez movie, on the other hand, would be a cryptid.

Anaconda-5

3. Survival of a recently extinct species.

It’s generally been accepted that the Ivory Billed Woodpecker has been extinct for the past sixty years. Since the 1930’s, however, people have occasionally reported seeing one. A huge furor was made about ten years ago when a kayaker “identified” one still alive and incited a flock (no pun intended) of ornithologists and bird enthusiasts to head over to Arkansas in the hopes of spotting one themselves. While there’s still no proof that any are still living deep in those swamps, the hope is still very much alive that there are.

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4. Surviving species found in the fossil record.

There are some in Africa that believe a long extinct dinosaur known as Mokele Mbembe still lives deep in the Congo River basin. Though sightings of the creature have existed for over two hundred years, it’s still yet to be found. According to our lecturer, the last group of tribal witnesses were asked to sketch what they saw and ended up drawing a near perfect picture of a rhino! That’s not to say that long extinct species can’t, on occasion, resurface. In 1938 a fishing boat discovered the coelacanth; part of a family of lobe-finned fish believed to have been extinct for over sixty-six million years! Gee, maybe that silly Megalodon movie wasn’t so far-fetched after all.

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5. Animals found in the more recent fossil record (lingerlings).

With due respect given to the Milwaukee lion, about twelve to twenty thousand years ago we actually did have large cats roaming North America. They were notable for their large incisors which gave them the moniker, “saber-toothed tiger,” though there were many different species and probably more like lions. During this past century, there’s been reported sightings of saber-toothed cats in South America, offering the possibility that some may have traveled southward and survived the Ice Age.  The most recent was in 1975 and involved one supposedly being shot and killed before having its body examined by an actual zoologist. Some suggested that it was a direct relative of Smilodon (the most famous of the saber-toothed cats) while others believed it nothing more than a “mutant jaguar.” Either of these guesses is as good as the other since nobody seems to know what happened to that body; officially qualifying it as a cryptid.

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6. Animals unknown in the fossil record but related to known species

We’ve all seen pictures of wolves and manta rays but have you ever seen the famed “Andean Wolf” or the striped manta ray? Neither have we but some claim they have thereby making them both cryptids!

Andeanwolf

7. Animals unknown in the fossil record and unrelated to living species

The most famous cryptid of all, Bigfoot/Sasquatch, would fall into this category. Although some theorize that it may be a relative of an extinct giant primate (Gigantopithicus), he’s genuinely considered to be his own thing. What’s interesting about Sasquatch isn’t just the sheer number of sightings that persist year after year (without ever finding definitive proof) but that every culture in the world seems to have their own variation of it.

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8. Mythical animals

The legendary Chupacabra (a.k.a. the “goat sucker”) falls into this category. In Latin American countries its appearance is often said to be alien or reptilian, while described as more canine in the Southwestern United States and mange-ridden coyotes often being mistaken as one. Unlike Bigfoot and The Loch Ness Monster, chupacabras are a newer cryptid; gaining steam in the mid 1990’s during a rash of dead livestock and pets (drained of their blood, hence the nickname) in Puerto Rico. The first time I ever heard of them was during a Season Four episode of The X-Files titled “El Mundo Gira.” It was suggested in a book written by Benjamin Radford,“Tracking the Chupacabra,” that it was actually inspired by the creature Sil from Species.

Chupacabra

9. A supernatural creature that has animal characteristics.

A few years back we featured a guest post on the Mothman Museum in West Virginia (which you can relive HERE). Though some equate them as aliens (which, incidentally, do NOT count as cryptids) there are some who see them as supernatural harbingers of disaster (see the Richard Gere movie).

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10. Known hoaxes

When a pair of taxidermists grafted a set of antlers to a common jackrabbit, the “jackalope” myth was born! The belief that it’s an actual animal species has been spurred on by the very real Shope papilloma virus that causes antler-like tumors on poor, infected bunnies. This does little in dissuading many in the Western United States from having fun with the whole idea and their popularity even inspired Wyoming to consider making it their “State Mythological Creature!”

jackalope

Not all the weird and wonderful get the honor of being called a cryptid. According to our lecturer there are “six ways to get yourself booted from the Cryptid Club.” They include…

  • Being insignificant (most weird bugs don’t count….unless they’re 50’s sci-fi HUGE of course)
  • Lack of controversy
  • Erratics (An alligator found at the airport = not cryptid. A big, albino alligator living in a New York sewer = cryptid)
  • Bizarre humans
  • Angels and Demons (unless they have animal characteristics)
  • Aliens

And there you have it, folks! I hope this basic overview helps you gain a better understanding of cryptozoology while inspiring your own wonderment on the topic. And now my friends, its time for me to return to covering topics more appropriate for the Halloween season like Svengoolie appearances, MASK-FEST, and Flashback Weekend. In the mean time I’m going to book a safari in Milwaukee…

Dave Fuentes~ 

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