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Cryptozoology: the mad science of monster hunting

Jack Flanagan Staff Writer

There’s science and then there’s pseudoscience. But what about the grey area in between? Jack Flanagan looks at Cryptozoology, the science of legendary monsters.

In 2000, onetime zookeeper Richard Freeman was tired of people making fun of his passion. He was, and still is, a cryptozoologist: someone who researches the animals science knows nothing about.


Looking like the birthday magician you begged your mum not to hire, he waits in his home for a representative from the little-known Hong Kong film studio “Bang Productions”. He isn’t hopeful.

The legendary Naga of the Mekong River

The legendary Naga of the Mekong River

Then in walks the outrageously beautiful Manami Szymko. Her studio has the commission from Discovery Channel for a piece on cryptozoology. She’s here to convince Freeman to jump on board and help uncover the mysteries of the legendary Naga of the Mekong River in Thailand. The program is to be called “The Mysteries of Asia”. Freeman hardly needs any encouragement.

Sadly, in Thailand the Nagas aren’t forthcoming. Freeman’s enthusiasm, however, is stalwart. Despite unsubstantiated reports of Nagas, an elephant’s tooth mistaken for a snake vertebrae and a video of just rolling waves and clear water, Freeman goes home knowing in his heart that the snake still lies out there, waiting for him.

This was believed to be a photo of Navy officers with the Naga in 1973 – but is in fact just an oarfish

Freeman is one of many. In the UK, the science of cryptozoology is centred around the Centre for Fortean Zoology, or CFZ. They describe themselves as a “mystery animal research group”, and believe that in the remote corners of the world there are animals which are actively avoiding humans. It is a voluntary, not-for-profit organisation.

Cryptozoology straddles the line between the paranormal and empirical sciences, or what’s known as a protoscience. A protoscience is one which chases after ghosts but which, after all, is willing to accept that they may just not exist. That is, if someone can disprove it enough to satisfy a crytozoologist. And, as Freeman proves, that’s not easy.


They spend their time investigating the mysterious animals of the world. Big Foot, the Loch Ness Monster, Yeti: these animals or “megafauna” have inspired native populations and fiction writers for generations. But some people take it to the next level: believing that they really exist, somewhere out there.

Obviously, this is legit

The famous Loch Ness monster, allegedly

Their faith goes on, encouraged by rare sightings and word-of-mouth. In Freeman’s retelling of his adventures of his time in Thailand, the “evidence” he eats up are the reports of villagers. They claim to have fled from a “70 metre serpent”. He wonders whether this is the creature he’s been waiting for. Meanwhile, any suggestion that the very large Mekong catfish might be his Naga has been “mooted”. Why, he doesn’t say.

Uneasy relationship with reality

To date Cryptozoologists have had few successes, or zero if you’re not generous about it. The Komodo Dragon was once thought to be a fictional animal, but that theory was quickly put to bed in 1910 when a host of skins and trophy heads made their way back to the laboratories in England. Plus, as large animals they were both unable to hide, and didn’t see any reason to: for the most part, large animals don’t need to run away from anyone.

No longer a legend: the komodo dragon

Other legends like the Kraken have been received quite easily into the scientific community: very large squid do exist. Meanwhile, cryptozoologists almost scorn the halfway-house between what is real and what is legend. Could a giant species of squid tear down an 18th century ship? No? Then it isn’t the Kraken. The real Kraken apparently still lurks somewhere unobserved, where scientists are afraid to go.

Kraken or giant squid?

The relationship between scientists and crytozoologists is an uneasy one, at best. Publications like Nature and the Journal of Zoology, and even popular publications like The New Scientist, wouldn’t publish a cryptozoological piece unless it was framed in a classically scientific style. That’s something red-blooded cryptozoologists have no interest in doing: words like “evidence” are treated as mildly offensive, unless it can be reintroduced to include grainy photos and local opinion.

Is this research coming from scientists, or the boys that use to watch Doctor Who?

That’s not to say cryptozoologists aren’t skeptical at all. Karl Shuker: cryptozoologist, editor of The Journal of Cryptozoology and poet has released a number of blog posts debunking online mysteries. It would, it’s worth saying, take a lot to believe these images in the first place.

Shuker’s Journal is a peer-reviewed look at cryptozoology around the world. The “peer-review” is presumably the peers of the cryptozoological community and not skeptics. It’s currently on volume two, discussing Spanish lake monsters and unidentified hominids, among other things.

The work of cryptozoologists is very much questionable. Is this research coming from scientists, or the boys that use to watch Doctor Who and are now trying to live their lives in his shadow? The romanticism surrounding the profession is almost as much a part of their job as trying to actually find the animals. Everyone can find entertainment in the stories of monsters, but how much evidence is enough to prove that that’s all they are?




A creature assembling a Mermaid discovered in Antarctica: Google Earth user provides evidence

A Google Earth user spoke about the incredible discovery that he managed to make in Antarctica. Thanks to the rather rapid melting of the ice, he managed to consider a strange creature in one of the images received.

He claims to have found a frozen mermaid in the ice, or a “sea creature resembling a mermaid.” YouTube user Florida Maquis claims that the mermaid is by no means a natural geological formation. 

The man believes that either a mermaid or some obscure sea creature froze in the ice, which very much resembles a popular mythical creature. At the same time, the user is trying to prove that his find has absolutely nothing to do with natural formations of a geological nature. The user is sure that this is some unusual creature from mythical stories. He says:

“I found in Antarctica many different things that seem to be sea creatures. I think that due to the melting of snow and ice, the mermaid became visible, its shape simply cannot be explained by ice crumbs or snow.” The coordinates of the mermaid-like object are 76 ° 52’51.92 “S 145 ° 42’4.27” W.

The video above was posted online with confirmation of the man’s words. It was watched by several thousand people who commented on what they saw. Most users are sure that the video does not contain a mermaid, but, for example, a walrus. Some believe that this may turn out to be a dolphin of a sufficiently large size. Some say it could be a Ningen. The author also found support from some users who have no doubt that the mermaid is depicted in the frames.

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Ningen: A Humanoid Monster Hiding in the Antarctic

Since the early 2000s, there have been rumors of a creature allegedly spotted by Japanese researchers in the Antarctic. Since the appearance of the first messages, interest in this mysterious creature has grown, fueled on the Internet by alleged photos and videos. The creature was named Ningen, a Japanese term meaning “man.”

First observation

It is unclear when the Ningen was first seen, but the most popular version of this appears to come from a 2chan blog post. The blogger claimed to have collaborated with a whale-owned state research institute. He was allegedly told the story of a meeting with a mysterious creature. The crew initially suggested that it was a foreign submarine. However, when an unknown large object approached, the sailors realized that it was a living creature.

This topic gained great popularity, which only increased when an article about Ningen was published in 2007 in the Japanese magazine MU, devoted to paranormal phenomena. The article deserves attention not only because of the growing interest in Ningens in Japan, but also because it contained an image of Google Maps, which, presumably, was this creature.

After the article was published, numerous photos and videos began to appear on the Internet, which allegedly depict the creature. Some photos of Ningen can be traced at least until 2006, which suggests that these images may have preceded the creature’s popularity.

Photo published in MU magazine. Ningen off the coast of Namibia. A source:
Photo published in MU magazine. Ningen off the coast of Namibia. source:Google Earth


Judging by eyewitnesses, the length of the Ningen is estimated at 20-30 meters. It is completely white and has a human shape. Messages diverge depending on whether he has legs, five-fingered hands or even fins, a tail, like a mermaid or tentacle. Eyewitnesses seem to agree that Ningen does not have any distinctive features that could be spoken of, although he has a mouth and eyes. In a article, the creature, in particular, is described as “with a small slit-like mouth and two empty eyes .”


There is no convincing evidence to support the existence of Ningen. However, since in most cases an unidentified creature may be mentioned, this did not stop the rampant speculation on the Internet.

The most popular rumor spreading about the Ningen is that the Japanese government actually took messages about the creature seriously, but hid all the real evidence. But why should the Japanese government do this?

One theory is that Ningen, whatever it may be, is capable of producing a rare chemical compound that has healing properties, or that it is very toxic, and the government intends to investigate this creature.

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Possible photograph of the mythical Antarctic-dwelling cryptid, Ningen. I do not have the source of this image, so I have no idea wether or not it was forged. However, it is most likely a fake. ❗️FOLLOW FOR MORE CRYPTID POSTS!❗️ If you have a cryptid photo or story you would like to share, DM or Email me at [email protected] and your contribution may be posted on here. – – – – – #cryptids #ningen #Antarctica #monster #cryptid #encounter #mothman #bigfoot #sasquatch #chupacabra #chicagomothman #owlman #pointpleasant #bigfootencounter #sighting #monstersighting #creatures #spotted #monsterspotted #cryptidspotted #realcryptids #reallifecryptids #monstercryptid #yeti #lochnessmonster #flatwoodsmonster #nessie #everythingcryptids

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Some went even further with this conspiracy theory , suggesting that numerous low-quality photos and videos are in fact a government disinformation campaign in an attempt to discredit factual evidence of Ningen.

However, the lack of high-quality photographs was also explained by the fact that the observations appear to occur most often at night, which complicates their documentation.

There were also rumors that men in black came to eyewitnessesThis, of course, is not confirmed (because “men in black” would not be true professionals if there was convincing evidence of their visits), and it is unclear whether this implies that the Ningen is of alien origin?


Due to the alleged elusiveness of Ningen, cryptozoologists were not able to directly study the creature. Because of this, all information comes from eyewitnesses and photo and video evidence, often of poor quality, such as the following:

Based on available data, some suggest that Ningen cannot be a living creature at all, as many photos of the creature look more like blocks of ice. Those who think that Ningen is a living creature consider him a giant albino stingray, white whale or beluga whale. Some explanations have gone so far as to suggest that it could be a water sloth or even a mermaid, an alien, or some previously unknown species of aquatic humanoids.

Those who do not believe in the existence of Ningen have been suggested that the stories of this creature are just a modern embodiment of old tales of sea monsters.


Some experts made a connection between the stories of Ningen and Ningyo, a creature from Japanese folklore.

Ningyo is a term meaning “human fish”, although it is often translated as “mermaid”. This fish-like creature is described as having a monkey mouth, small teeth, golden scales and a quiet, flute-like voice.

It is very tasty, and the use of its meat in food significantly increases a person’s life span. However, they say that catching a ningyo brings storms and misfortunes, so if a fisherman ever caught a ningyo, he usually released it back into the sea to avoid possible consequences. Seeing a ningyo ashore is considered an omen of war or some other great calamity.

Perhaps, given that rumors about Ningen originate on a Japanese site and are further popularized by a Japanese magazine, they may turn out to be a modern interpretation of folklore about Ningyo.

Ninge with fish body and human head.
Ninge with fish body and human head. ( CC BY SA) 

So what (or who) is Ningen? Well, that could be pretty much anything. Personally, we are inclined to believe that this is a natural evolution of ancient folklore, adapted to modern times. But, true, this is not as interesting as a giant monster hiding somewhere in the waters of the Antarctic.

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Orang Ikan – Mermaids from Indonesia

Mermaids live in the folklore of most peoples. Indonesians call their mermaids, orang ikan. The orang in translation from the local language is “man”, and Ikan is “fish”.

Where do Orang Ikan live?

They chose for themselves the Kai Islands in the province of Maluku. These islands are famous for their white sandy beaches, amazingly clear water and are a real gem.

In 1943, when the Japanese landed there, the soldiers immediately began reporting that they were observing some strange creatures. Those were seen in coastal waters, looked like a man, especially the face and hands.Their mouth was described as very wide and similar to the mouth of a carp.

They barely reached one and a half meters, their skin was pink, and on their head were some spikes. At the same time, unlike the classic mermaids, they had ordinary human legs, not fish tails.

These creatures swam in shallow water near the beaches. It happened that they were selected on land.

The style of their swimming seemed to the Japanese like a breaststroke. One night, one of the soldiers went swimming and saw a creature in the sand, which he at first mistook for a child.

But when it turned to face him, he saw that his features were not like human ones. Immediately after this, the creature scooted into the water and disappeared. The soldier peered into the water for a while, but the creature never surfaced.

Fishermen said that sometimes these creatures get on their nets, and the Japanese asked if this happens again, to deliver Orang Ikan to them.

Real story

One day, Sergeant Taro Horibu was called to the village, where, as it turned out, a dead fish man was found on the shore. The creature was picked up and brought to the elders’ house, where Horibu was able to examine it.

“It was 160 centimeters tall, had long dark hair with a reddish tinge. His neck was covered with spikes, his face seemed to the Japanese like a monkey face with a wide fish mouth, in which there were a lot of small sharp teeth. Between the fingers and toes the fishman’s membranes were stretched, and the body was dotted with strange growths that looked like algae ”
– Horibu said.

Sergeant Horibu said the creature was not like anything known to him. Unable to photograph or sketch the creature, he limited himself to oral stories, but many considered him a liar or an inventor.

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