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Friday, January 16, 2009
Above: An obvious hoax on the cryptozoological community.
Since the dawn of man, humans have been fascinated by things we cannot explain, especially in the biological world. Civilizations thousands and thousands of miles apart share similar myths of dragons, sea monsters, unicorns, and other creatures science can neither confirm or deny. While most people are familiar with legends of Bigfoot, the Yeti, mermaids, or the Loch Ness Monster, there exists an actual branch of science devoted to the study of these mysterious beings, a branch known as cryptozoology. Cryptozoology is a controversial field, due to the many hoaxes and tall tales common in this area of study, but several very real scientific breakthroughs have been made by cryptozoologists. Cryptids (any undocumented species yet to be discovered by science) run the gamut from the fantastic to the very mundane, but their study and pursuit is fascinating. Many people devote their lives to chasing these biological phantoms, and while most meet only disappointment, occasionally a new species is found, lending credence to this embattled science.
Below: Probably the first ever cryptozoolocical specimen ever filmed, by Roger Patterson and Robert Gimlin in 1967. Although dubious in origin, science has failed to debunk it to this day, and its authenticity remains hotly debated.
Left: This picture, shot by a soldier in the Middle East, surfaced recently, causing a minor stir on the internet. Some cried "cryptid", but the general concensus is that these are two Iraqi Camel Spiders (or "wind scorpions") linked together, probably only about 6 inches each (not an ALIEN FACEHUGGER). Still a super creepy picture, though.
For a more whimsical take on cryptozoology, check out Peter Dickinson's 1979 book ''The Flight of Dragons' (with awesome illustrations by Wayne Anderson). An animated film of the same name was released in 1982, but ditches the quasi-scientific study in favor of high adventure. Both are great.
In 2008, this ugly little bastard washed ashore in the Hamptons. An instant cryptid celebrity, "The Montauk Monster" has yet to be sufficiently explained by modern biology, although some claim it's nothing but a hoax. Some people also say Monty is just a drowned raccoon (see below), but that explanation holds very little water.
Oftentimes, cryptozoological discoveries are based on, or supported by, regional myth and legend. In 1976, a mysterious "megamouth shark" (left) was caught in the anchor of a Naval ship off the coast of Hawaii. Stories had been told of giant sharks with glowing mouths throughout the Pacific Islands, and megamouth, in turn, is the only shark species with bioluminescent photophores around its mouth to lure in prey. The megamouth remains an elusive creature, with only 42 specimens captured and 3 filmed since its discovery.
In 1938, a huge fish called a coelacanth was caught by a trawler off the coast of South Africa. The captain of the ship, believing he had something rare on his hands, phoned a local museum. Turns out the coelacanth species was considered extinct since the Cretaceous period, 65 million years ago. The interesting part is that indigenous people living in coastal areas nearby had been using coelacanth fins as a sort of sandpaper for time out of mind, unaware of the cryptozoological treasure in their midst.
If the coelecanth and the megamouth shark are the stars of the crypto-ichthyologic world, the star of the crypto-mollusk kingdom has to be the giant squid, Architeuthis. Rumors and legends of the giant squid are the stuff of naval folklore, and tales of their battles with whales are well documented throughout the world of fiction. Beaks and other remains have been found, also, but the first actual Architeuthis specimen wasn't photographed in its natural habitat until 2004, by the National Science Museum of Japan and the Ogasawara Whale Watching Association.
The same team made national headlines in 2006 when they shot the first ever video footage of this magnificent beast. See the video below for news coverage of this ground-breaking event.
Other good examples of local legend leading to cryptozoological breakthroughs are the Wooly Cheetah, the Pizzly (a Polar Bear/Grizzly hybrid), and the White Orca. Hell, the Western world didn't even know about the common gorilla until about 1906.
Other cryptid specimens are not so credible. The chupacabra (Spanish for "goat-sucker") is a common myth in the Latin world. Rumored to suck blood and be somewhere between an alien and a wolf, a quick YouTube search will produce dozens of fake videos, some better than others, but all of them pretty silly.
Below: One of my favorite artists' renderings of the chupacabra.
One of the most compelling cryptozoological mysteries of all time is the case of Moore's Beach Monster, discovered by one Charles Moore just north of Santa Cruz, CA (where the Natural Bridges State Park now stands) in 1925. Found beached and dead, this beast was anywhere between 30 and 50 feet in length, according to conflicting eyewitness accounts, with a sort of duck-like head and serpentine body. Scientific experts likened it to a prehistoric plesiosaur, although it has never been officially classified. To read more accounts of the creatures' appearance, click here.
Below: Pictures of the great fish. Or mammal. Or whatever.
Here's another awesome but as of yet completely unsubstantiated cryptid, the Mongolian Death Worm. Reportedly dwelling in the deep Gobi desert, locals have described the worm as 2-5 feet in length, bright red, and able to spew deadly sulphuric acid and/or electrocute people. Get this: the local name for the creature is "allghoi krorkhoy", which means "blood filled intestine worm". Death metal band name, anyone?
Right: The Mongolian Death Worm reminds me of a movie I saw once...
Probably the most well-documented and least-studied cryptids are mysterious, fast-moving creatures known only as "Rods". Initially showing up in quick flashes on video cameras, Rods, since their discovery, have been filmed hundreds of times all across the world (see examples), most notoriously in a giant pit in Mexico called the Cave Of Swallows (tee hee). They seem to be equally comfortable in the air or in the water, and move at such high speeds that a specimen has never been caught.
Rods appear as a straight, white "stick" with oscillating wings at either side of their body. I first saw a documentary on these things about 7 or 8 years ago. fascinated, I've been following their story ever since, although very little has been discovered about these little weirdos. the amazing part is that modern science can film something without actually being able to capture it. Stay tuned...
Below: A 'Hard Copy' style report on Rods.
For Wikipedia's "complete" list of cryptids (Rods are not included), click here.
And finally, perhaps the greatest cryptozoological mystery of all time, as of yet completely untouched by science - MANTLERS. The hunt continues...
Posted by Shelby Cobras at 9:58 AM