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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?




Loch Ness monster spotted in a Chinese lake?

The ranger of the national park on the Changbai Plateau in China has published photographs in which, he says, you can see a strange creature living in the local lake Tian Chi. Talks about it are going on since 1962.

A man named Xiao Yu noticed an unusual dark object on the surface of the reservoir during his daily walk. He began filming the “monster” until it disappeared under water a few minutes later.

Lake Tian Chi is 4.9 square kilometers on the border of China and North Korea. Sometimes the North Korean military go fishing here on boats, but on the Chinese side, fishing in the lake and unauthorized visits to the park are strictly prohibited. Xiao Yu noted that he had seen boats on the lake more than once and would never have mistook them for a “monster.”

The caretaker’s message caused a stir in the Chinese media and social networks. The fact is that reports of a strange creature in Tian Chi have appeared regularly since 1962. He was nicknamed “the Chinese Loch Ness monster” and made the subject of conspiracy theories.

Biologists declined to comment on what exactly the park employee could see in the photo, because it is difficult to see something  in the picture in detail. They recalled that there are many plausible explanations for the Scottish Loch Ness monster. It can turn out to be both a large eel and periodically floating logs of Scottish pine.

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Bigfoots attacked tourists in the Ozark National Park, Arkansas

Fort Smith native Ellen (not her real name) tells us a thrilling and frightening encounter with Bigfoot in the Ozark National Park – outside Campbell Cemetery on Tuesday night. According to Ellen, she and her husband Robert decided to find a secluded place to live a couple of days far from civilization and even so that numerous tourists were many miles away.

Therefore, they chose the area of ​​the old abandoned Campbell cemetery, where no one had wandered in for about a hundred years. And now, according to Ellen, she and her husband heard something like an animal growl, permeating the air and coming from somewhere in the thicket. After a few minutes, the growl intensified and seemed to be closer.

“It sounded like some hefty creature had found its lunch,” says Ellen.

However, what slightly frightened Ellen was that their dogs, which always bark at the approach of predators, suddenly shrunk, huddled near the tent and began to whine. Then Ellen and Robert, in order to somehow cheer up the dogs, got out of the tent and also began to growl. But the joke failed.

In response to their voices, the growl from the thicket became really aggressive and began to spread around, from which Ellen and Robert realized that there were at least two creatures. Ellen did not even think about some “Bigfoot” and assumed either large wolves, or even bears, when suddenly hefty sticks and stones flew into the tent.

This infuriated Robert and assuming that some hooligans were hiding in the bushes, Robert gave the command to the dogs to teach the offenders a lesson.

“It was the biggest mistake of our life,” says Ellen and begins to cry.

According to her, when the dogs disappeared into the thickets from there, at first the sounds of a struggle were heard, then one of the dogs uttered such a monstrous cry that Ellen had never heard anything like it in her life. After that, everyone began to howl, whine and scream, and pieces of dogs flew towards the tent.

At first, Ellen and Robert thought that these were big stones again, but when they saw that a dog torn in half had been thrown at them, they came into indescribable horror and, leaving everything, rushed to run. Ellen and Robert went to the police first.

The police found a tent and equipment, but there were no pieces of dogs there, so the couple announced that they were crazy. However, friends told Ellen that something similar happened in the national park last month and we just reported about it.

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What aliens are doing at Loch Ness

What connects aliens to the Scottish lake monster? And why did many eyewitnesses say that a mysterious force prevented them from taking photos or videos of this monster? There are no answers to these questions yet.

Loch Ness, located in Scotland, is primarily famous for its mysterious monster, nicknamed Nessie, which according to various theories is either a huge eel, or a seal, or a prehistoric dinosaur. In turn, some associate the appearance of Nessie with the activities of aliens, and not from scratch.

It is true that strange lights or disc-shaped UFOs are regularly seen over Loch Ness, but there is also an eyewitness story about how aliens landed on the shore of the lake. This happened on August 14, 1971, when the eyewitness Jan Ove Sudberg (now deceased) was 23 years old. Early in the morning, between about 8:30 and 9:30 am, he was on the shores of Loch Ness in the Foyers Bay area.

Suddenly he stumbled upon something amazing and it was not a monster. Sudberg saw a clearing ahead, on which stood an unusual large object, shaped like a huge cigar. It was about 10 meters long, and at the top there was something like a cockpit. Near the object were “pilots” – humanoid creatures.

There were three of them and they were dressed in tight suits, similar to diving. When they entered the object and the object then rose high into the air, then Sudberg realized that he was observing aliens. As the ship gained altitude, it began to slowly fly over the hills towards the nearby Loch More Lake.

The story doesn’t end there. Sudberg was not a Scotsman, he came to Loch Ness as a tourist and flew back to his native Sweden shortly after seeing the aliens. And there a new stage in this strange story began. In Sudberg’s house, unusual phenomena began to occur, a poltergeist, he began to receive mysterious phone calls, and later even Men in Black came to him.

Soon Sudberg contacted the British researcher of anomalous phenomena, Ted Holiday, and told him his story. He also complained to him that he could not photograph UFOs and aliens in the photo, although he had a camera with him. He felt as if some force paralyzed his will and did not allow him to do it.

It is curious that Holiday later repeatedly encountered a similar phenomenon from Nessie’s eyewitnesses. All of them, when they saw the monster in the lake, for some unknown reason, either could not photograph it, or tried, but they did not succeed.

He also found out that much earlier eyewitnesses of Nessie faced this phenomenon. On November 12, 1933, eyewitness Hugh Gray captured a photograph of Nessie, which is considered the first 100% authentic photograph of the Loch Ness Monster.

Gray’s photo shows something serpentine floating in the water. However, few people know that when Gray saw this creature in the lake, he took as many as five pictures before it went under water.

However, only one out of five photographs showed the monster, the rest of the negatives for some reason turned out to be empty.

The conclusion seems to be obvious: the monster in Loch Ness is more than just a large eel, it has some powers to protect it, and in some way it is connected with UFOs and aliens.

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