THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF CRYPTOZOOLOGY

Dedicated, with true love, to a beautiful eccentric: Dr. Bernard Heuvelmans, October 10, 1916 - August 22, 2001.

Big Foot, the Loch Ness Monster, sea serpents, the Himalayan yeti (or "abominable snowman"), still-living dinosaurs - are these merely the stuff of folk tales and urban legends, or is it possible that they might, in fact, exist? "Cryptozoology" is the "scientific study of… unknown animals about which only testimonial and circumstantial evidence is available, or material evidence considered insufficient by some!" [1]; it seeks to penetrate the mystery which shrouds these semi-mythic creatures, and to slowly bring those that it deems worthy, first, into the realm of plausibility, and from there into the sanctuary of recognition and acceptance.

The term "cryptozoology" was first coined by Belgian zoologist Bernard Heuvelmans, an exacting, detail-oriented scientist whose imagination and passion were not squashed by his discipline, but preserved by it. In the dedication to his revolutionary, ground-breaking book, soon to be the "living Bible of cryptozoology", he wrote: "To Dr. Serge Frechkop, who first led me into the field of mammalogy, in deep gratitude and in the hope that he will not take amiss this excursion on the frontier of science and fantasy." Besides this first eccentric masterpiece, On the Track of Unknown Animals (1955), Heuvelmans also penned In the Wake of the Se Serpents (1965), as well as innumerable articles, gracing (and practically inventing) a field, which might otherwise have been a magnet only for folklorists and amateurs, with genuine scientific capabilities. (Later, other top-notch scientists, such as University of Chicago biologist Roy Mackal, would join the adventure.)

In his original presentation in On the Track of Unknown Animals, Heuvelmans used scientific history to establish his footing in the midst of the incredible and easily dismissed. In the second chapter, "Cuvier’s Rash Dictum", he quoted 19th-century French scientist Georges Cuvier’s assurance that "there is little hope of discovering new species of large quadrupeds" (due to the fact that, by the mid-1800s, Cuvier felt the world was traveled enough and studied enough to qualify as fully known, but for trivial minutiae). Since that exceedingly confident statement by a hugely influential expert, which was probably meant to include any form of large land animal, the Indian tapir, the pygmy hippopotamus, the mountain gorilla, the giant panda, the white rhinoceros, the okapi, and the Komodo dragon (to name just some) have all been discovered and classified. In many cases, the lightly-regarded testimony and folk traditions of native peoples, as well as the occasional accounts of European explorers and adventurers, which the scientific community deemed inconclusive, had clearly indicated the existence of these creatures long before physical remains or living specimens were able to be produced to confirm their presence before the court of skeptics. By resurrecting this bit of scientific history - this legacy of ignorance, disguised by learning and armed with arrogance, which was embodied by Cuvier - Heuvelmans sought to open up intellectual space for his extraordinary opus, and to prevent it from being immediately ostracized from the minds of fellow scientists (and from Western funding sources, which could generously support expeditions to investigate claims of unknown species if they were not frightened away by the strangeness of the pursuit). Heuvelmans also sought to restore a sense of credibility to the deeply-rooted traditions and testimony of non-European native peoples throughout the world, whose observations and perceptions were frequently brushed aside by the West’s confidence in the superiority of the "scientific mentality" and its own theories, over experience and the intimacy between Man and homeland, as well as by full-fledged racism and, later, strong residues of ethnocentrism, which automatically downgraded the value of non-white testimony. "Childish and superstitious" as these peoples were perceived to be - whether Nepalese Sherpas, African pygmies, or South American Indians - the powerful anecdotal sources which their traditions and accounts offered as reasons for taking the possibility of "unknown" animals seriously, were denied validity and taken out of the equation altogether, leaving Western investigators with diminished justifications for engaging (and being funded) in their "fringe" studies. "Enough!" Heuvelmans seemed to say in ‘Cuvier’s Rash Dictum.’ "Look at how badly off the mark his eminence, Cuvier, was! Do not commit the same sin! Do not pierce us with your laughter, but rather, give us a chance to find the absurd, to redeem the improbable!" In the same way that the famous saying, "Seeing is believing" has, in modern "New Age" times, been turned on its head - "You have to believe it, to see it" - so Heuvelmans fought to attain the minimal level of plausibility necessary to sustain his search, and the search of kindred spirits, in a skeptical world.

Since many "cryptids" (subjects of cryptozoological study) are not really "unknown" at all, but are, instead, well-known creatures long believed extinct, such as dinosaurs, or the giant ape-man Gigantopithecus (who is sometimes cited as the source of the yeti and Big Foot legends), Heuvelmans also found it useful to recite the famous story of the coelacanth: a prehistoric fish believed extinct 65 million years ago, which was suddenly rediscovered in the waters off southern Africa in 1938, and "brought back to life" by noted ichthyologist JLB Smith. The coelacanth - a so-called "living fossil" - provided hope to those who believed that some of the vanished denizens of the earth’s past might still persist in remote and little traveled regions of the world, such as the Amazon Rainforest, or the swamps and jungles of the Congo.

Although early on in his study, Heuvelmans mentioned the case of the elusive tatzelwurm, a legendary creature of the Swiss and Austrian Alps said by some to be a short-legged lizard or salamander two to six-feet long - a genuine mystery imbedded in the heart of Europe (which so terrified its first "modern" observer in 1799 that he subsequently died of a heart attack) - most of the creatures featured in Heuvelmans’ work were located in distant wildernesses better suited for masking their exotic inhabitants from the curious. Among these creatures was the yeti, a mysterious resident of the "roof of the world", the inhospitable and rugged mountain ranges of the Himalayas.

Reported to dwell in the mountains of Nepal, Tibet, northern Burma, Sikkim, Bhutan and Assam (and possibly in wide parts of China if it is, in fact, the same "beast" there referred to as the "Wild Man"), the creature is known by many names in the many different regions which it is said to occupy. Among these names are: metoh kangami ("filthy man of the snow"); bhanjakris ("forest wizards", which also refers to mysterious tribes of human forest-dwellers credited with having extraordinary healing powers); yeh-teh ("the living thing over there"); and the mi-teh ("the man-like living thing that is not a human being"). According to recurrent native testimony, the yeti would appear to be a gigantic creature, between 7 feet and 7 feet 6 inches tall, which is half-man and half-ape, and largely covered with dark, sometimes reddish-brown hair; it has a tall, pointed head, a somewhat human-looking face and a powerful muscular body, capable of uprooting trees and lifting up heavy boulders. The yeti are said to sometimes prey on yaks, and to attack human beings who they encounter in the wilderness, although some others say that they are peaceful beings and will not bother humans if left alone. They are reputed to live in thick mountain forests, but to sometimes roam above the tree line and out onto the snow fields in search of saline moss which grows on the rocks, in order to satisfy their craving for salt. Local inhabitants credit the yeti with making a variety of sounds, including whistles, roars, and a strange, sad "yelp" which is reminiscent of a gull, only far louder and far more intense.

Over time, Western interest in the yeti was fanned by intriguing reports sent back by various European expeditions to the Himalayas, which encountered not only the fascinating native "folklore", but also ran into compelling forms of direct evidence of the "snowman", such as large, anomalous footprints in the snow, and even some visual sightings; some of these expeditions were mountaineering projects which unexpectedly stumbled upon traces of the yeti, while others were expeditions explicitly organized to track down the mysterious creature. After some time of accumulating evidence, it was no longer possible to laugh the idea of the yeti off of the zoological map, even though no indisputable evidence had yet been uncovered. Something was most definitely out there, almost everyone agreed - but what?

A wide range of theories seeking to dislodge the yeti from the realm of the fantastic and to return him to the domain of the ordinary was proposed. There was the idea that the yeti was actually a species of local bear (already known), which was sometimes spotted standing on its hind legs, and which might sometimes threaten humans if food was scarce. Might not the legend of the yeti have grown around misidentifications of this local beast? However, a careful study of the tracks left behind by the yeti (for example those photographed by Eric Shipton in 1951), seemed to eliminate the possibility that it was made by a bear (the foot anatomy of bears and primates is distinct, and there was the additional fact that the footprints were followed for nearly a mile, and included leaps over crevasses, without any sign of the creature coming down on all fours). Another candidate for explaining away the yeti was the Himalayan langur, a rather large monkey, whose feet were nonetheless too small to account for the tremendous size of the yeti prints. Efforts to discount the huge size of the alleged yeti footprints compared to the langurs’ were made, by arguing that the langurs’ prints could have been naturally enlarged by the melting of snow in the mountains (if the tracks had been made at night, in snow which began to melt once the sun came out). This objection did not hold up either, however, as other features of the tracks were not consistent with this hypothesis (for example, the length of the stride). More and more, it began to seem as though traces of an unknown species of animal were, indeed, being encountered.

For a time, hopes soared when it was learned that monks in several local monasteries were in possession of yeti scalps, which they had attained in the distant past and preserved for sacred ceremonial purposes. Could they be convinced to temporarily lend the precious scalps to Western scientists for analysis? At last, one was handed over to Sir Edmund Hillary, "conqueror of Everest", from the monastery at Khumjung, which he was allowed to bring back to the West for a period of six weeks. Bernard Heuvelmans, by now one of the foremost proponents of the yeti, was among the experts allowed to examine it. At first, deceived by the apparently natural form of the scalp, he suggested that it had the appearance of being genuine; but upon consulting his friend and fellow seeker of unknown animals, Ivan Sanderson, he was shown how the quality of the scalp could be made to seem natural by a clever process of stretching and molding. Heuvelmans then successfully compared the hairs in the scalp to the hair of a serow (a goat-like creature) in the museum, to prove that the muchly-lauded yeti scalp was, unfortunately, nothing more than a disappointing fake crafted into a stunning conical shape (reminiscent of a huge ape’s head) from serow hair. The monks, who used the scalp in ceremonies to evoke the power of a creature they sincerely believed in, may or may not have been aware of the inauthenticity of their sacred relic. (Some say they had forged the scalp in order to compete with the rival monastery of Pangboche, which possessed a scalp which was believed, at that time, to be genuine, though it is now known not to be.) Naturally, waves of ridicule crashed over the head of the discredited cryptozoologist at this point - discredited, even though he had bravely rejected evidence of something he very much believed in in order to remain true to the scientific ideal, with which his imagination was conjoined. But whereas the scalp debacle may have tarnished the West’s ability to believe in the yeti, the fact remains that a compelling body of evidence attesting to the existence of the creature was not erased by it. There were numerous sightings by natives and Westerners; there was a massive core of testimony, both imbedded in folklore and outside of it; there were frequent encounters with tracks; and there were years of convincing argumentation and analysis.

Today, many experts surmise that the yeti legend has actually been spawned by a number of different creatures, which could include a bear, a medium-sized mountain ape, and possibly a surviving form of prehistory’s Gigantopithecus, a huge ape-man which once inhabited China and may have been gradually driven by more advanced forms of ape-men and humans into increasingly remote wilderness regions of Asia, such as the Himalayas. Perhaps the intangible has a heartbeat, after all.

In many ways similar to the yeti, North America’s Big Foot (which was not featured in Heuvelman’s book), is reputed to be some sort of large ape-man, possibly a surviving specimen of Gigantopithecus or Paranthropus. He inhabits the forest-clad wilderness of the Pacific Northwest, from northern California into parts of western Canada, generally avoids humans, but may sometimes threaten them or carry off human females, and is said to possess an extensive vocal repertoire, which includes high-pitched whistles, howls and screams. Belief in Big Foot has been generated by Native American legends, various modern-day sightings, and the discovery of large footprints, with a number of hoaxes and tall tales thrown into the mix. Credible or not, he is surely the "poster creature" of cryptozoology, and for better or worse, one of its principal ambassadors.

As a child, like most of us, Bernard Heuvelmans was fascinated by the stories of ancient dinosaurs who once roamed the earth, mighty creatures such as the brontosaurus, tyrannosaurus rex, and triceratops, who shook the ground as they walked and lent a never again equaled magnificence to the animal kingdom; later, he was enthralled by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Lost World, an exciting novel based upon the idea of surviving dinosaurs in South America, which were sought out, in the face of scientific scorn and rejection, by the headstrong Professor Challenger, who would let no assumption quiet his thirst for the truth. Heuvelmans is also sure to have read Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth, and possibly a comparable Russian novel, Plutonia, all featuring the survival of prehistoric creatures presumed extinct. Now it was time for the boy grown into a man, the dreamer become a scientist, to see if he could duplicate the feats of his childhood heroes and sweep aside the illogical disappearance of beings which had once ruled the earth, with the discovery that they had, in fact, remained! (If huge crocodiles, monitors, and lizards had made it to the present day, why not a dinosaur or two?) Of course, the search would have to focus on remote wilderness regions of the earth, which might still harbor such beasts without allowing their presence to become widely known. In the course of his investigations, Heuvelmans came upon two potential "surviving dinosaur traditions" of note: the case of the Kongamato of sub-Saharan Africa (reported in Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Cameroon and Ghana); and the case of the Mokele-Mbembe of the Congo. Naturally enough, both became important protagonists in On the Track of Unknown Animals.

The first creature, the Kongamato, or "overwhelmer of boats", was said to be a large flying animal whose wings lacked feathers, and whose mouth was filled with sharp teeth. It was reported, by natives, to be sometimes aggressive and responsible for attacks on human beings. When showed pictures of ancient flying dinosaurs by curious European investigators, the natives eagerly agreed that the pictures matched the appearance of the Kongamato, which led some excited Europeans to conclude that surviving pterosaurs might still be in existence in parts of Africa. (However, it is possible that the investigators inadvertently elicited the answers they wanted to hear by asking "leading questions.") The "flying dinosaur" idea was fortified by the 1956 sighting, in northern Rhodesia, of two "prehistoric-looking creatures flying overhead" by a well-respected engineer, JPF Brown. On the other hand, Ivan Sanderson had previously had a run-in with the Olitiau, a possible version of the Kongamato from Cameroon, which dived at him while he was crossing a river. He identified it as a very large specimen of the hammerhead bat. Heuvelmans, digesting his friend’s observation, nonetheless considered the hammerhead bat not quite formidable enough to be the reality behind the legend of the Kongamato, which he preferred to view as either a surviving pterodactyl - a flying dinosaur unclaimed by time - or else a monstrous new species of bat which sometimes buzzed humans as a means of giving a territorial warning, which he surmised could startle and frighten the occupants of a canoe into capsizing - hence the name, "overwhelmer of boats." For Heuvelmans, the "flying dragon of Africa" was too strongly supported to be mere vapor; hard as fact, though still not known, it was not malleable enough to be beaten back into something ordinary.

Meanwhile, in the difficult swamps and jungles of the Congo, in the land of the pygmies, there was the Mokele-Mbembe, a fierce, long-necked water creature, with legs and clawed feet, and a powerful tail like a crocodile, which was said to be about the size of an elephant or a hippopotamus. It was reported by natives to be a vegetarian, and yet to kill hippos in defense of its territory, and to sometimes attack humans for the same reason. On the strength of local tradition, reported sightings and other evidence, Dr. Roy Mackal organized cryptozoological expeditions into the Likouala and Lake Tele regions of the Congo in 1980 and 1981, in search of the mysterious creature. The animal proved elusive, revealing only a single inconclusive hint of itself (a large creature dove beneath the water near the investigators’ fleet of canoes), producing a considerable wake. Two years later, in 1983, a biologist colleague of Mackal claimed to have a firsthand encounter with the Mokele-Mbembe, which consisted of about twenty minutes observing its elongated neck and head protruding above the surface of Lake Tele (its body remained hidden beneath the water), before it finally submerged and disappeared from view. Unfortunately, no photographic record was made of this incident. However, in 1992, a Japanese film crew managed to film, from an aircraft, what appeared to be a large creature swimming through the lake below them; the footage was highly suggestive, and encouraging to cryptozoologists, but still far from definitive. For his part, Dr. Bernard Heuvelmans was sufficiently convinced by his studies to consider the Mokele-Mbembe to be, most probably, a surviving relic of "the great reptile empire that flourished in the Jurassic period" [2]: a medium-sized dinosaur. Though many would disagree with his interpretation, the continued existence of a large unknown animal in the depths of the Congo is more widely accepted. This would seem to be one of those times when the unknown is known, and the known remains a mystery. The outline of the circle has been clearly drawn - but what’s inside it?

While on the subject of long-necked creatures of mystery, we naturally enough have no choice but to travel next, far from the rugged interior of Africa which has always been a sanctuary for the fantasies and nightmares of Europeans, to the famed shores of Scotland’s Loch Ness, home to one of the world’s most famous "cryptids": the Loch Ness Monster, or more politely, "Nessie." Bernard Heuvelmans, who devoted an entire book, In the Wake of the Sea Serpents, to the study of unknown creatures of the sea, essentially left Nessie out, on the technicality that he or she (actually they) were lake creatures, which he proposed to study in another book, which he never found time to complete. However, he, as many, considered the creature behind the Loch Ness sightings to be an originally oceanic species, which became trapped in the lake many thousands of years ago when the sea receded leaving numerous salt-water lakes behind it. (Over time, the loch gradually turned to fresh water, and the creatures contained within it adapted to the change.) Today, Loch Ness is over 20 miles in length, at no point more than 1 ˝ miles in width, and extremely deep (it reaches down to a thousand feet). It is utterly murky, filled with peat, and visibility below the surface is therefore seriously obscured.

Legends of the creature stretch far back into the past, including a tale which chronicles a supposed battle in 565 AD between St. Columba and a dragon, which the valiant hero succeeded in driving back into its home, the "River Ness." It was in the 1930s, however, that the modern Loch Ness craze took off, possibly triggered by the creation of a new road and the removal of many trees along the lake, which enhanced the view of motorists and other travelers, exposing the loch’s activity to a greatly increased pool of potential witnesses. Although the descriptions of the "beast" which resulted from the increased sightings were not absolutely consistent, over time, a basic profile of "Nessie" emerged from them: the creatures, some of considerable size, were said to have long necks with small, "horse-like" heads; their bodies were observed to have fins or sometimes flipper-like appendages, and they were said to have a long, thick tail. They sometimes traveled alone, sometimes in groups, and there were rare reports of sighting them on land. While some observers claimed to witness the necks of the creatures emerging from the lake, others saw only the multi-humped backs of large aquatic animals passing by, or witnessed the wake of the "monsters" as they swam past.

Thrilled by the credibility of the anomalous phenomenon (in spite of numerous hoaxes and tall tales), and stimulated by the dimensions of the lake into believing that they had an excellent chance to detect and definitively identify the creature, numerous expeditions, and scientific and amateur projects, were launched to try to unveil Nessie. Observation posts were set up alongside the river. Lookouts with cameras watched from the shore, or drifted about the lake in boats, adding to the number of sightings and occasionally snapping off intriguing photographs, or even shooting film (such as the world-famous Dinsdale footage). Probably the best scientific evidence for the existence of Nessie was procured in the 1970s, when some interesting underwater photographs were taken, through the peat and darkness, seeming to reveal part of a body with a flipper attached to it; the "torso, neck and head of a living creature"; and a strange, "horse-like" head with two horns peering into the underwater camera. This evidence was collected by the highly-respected Academy of Applied Sciences, while the results of some previous underwater photos were corroborated by simultaneous sonar "hits" which seemed to delineate the presence of large creatures, 20 to 30 feet in length, that were in the process of pursuing a school of salmon. Unfortunately, Nessie’s approval was stiff-armed by the unfriendly, but well-meaning, credo: "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." Science, in its overzealousness to protect itself from delusion and "magical thinking", had erected a formidable barrier which the Loch Ness Monster was still not ready to overcome. The photos were declared not clear enough (perhaps human wishes were filling in the fuzziness with features that were mere mental tricks, just as a child may imagine that a coat hanging up in a closet is a monster); while the sonar readings could, conceivably, apply to other large creatures of conventional origin. The unicorn must jump through many hoops before he would be allowed not to be a horse.

Where does the legend of the Loch Ness Monster stand today? For some, the creature is a mere product of the human imagination, triggered by cases of misidentified birds, fishes or boats: a current of legitimate mistakes which is augmented by a potent tributary of hoaxes, that are perpetrated for the sake of attention, notoriety, business, and the sheer joy of pranksterism. Most open-minded students of the loch, however, believe that something very real is responsible for the sightings, they are just not quite sure what. For some, stories of the Loch Ness Monster may actually refer to cases of super-sized eels which occasionally occur in nature, as specimens of known species sometimes assume the dimensions of freaks. For others, the sightings are best explained by the persistence of a prehistoric "serpentine" whale known as the zeuglodon, thought to have vanished 20 million years ago (but not, they say, from Scotland); or by Bernard Heuvelmans’ "merhorse", one of several sea-serpent varieties he attempted to describe in In the Wake of the Sea Serpents; while others see, in Nessie, a full-fledged specimen of marine saurian from the age of the dinosaurs, the world-famous (and cryptozoologically beloved) plesiosaur. Whatever the case, and however high the skeptics set the bar, Nessie is not about to go away, even if we don’t believe in him.

And this, in a nutshell, is an introduction to the wonderful world of cryptozoology. Many more creatures, many more stories, many more searches fill its eyes, and sit in its mind, in front of the inner hearth that keeps life warm and meaningful. There are the Nandi Bear from Africa, the orang pendek (an ape man of Sumatra), the giant ground sloth of Patagonia, countless varieties of sea serpents, the recently extinct (but perhaps still living) thylacine, the moa, and Nessie’s cousin of Lake Morar who goes by the name of Morag, to name but a few. Although the earth is "shrinking", the spirit of the cryptozoologist is only growing, perhaps driven by the expansion of what is known to redouble his efforts in the realm of the unknown.

While cryptozoology is generally oriented towards the discovery of unknown creatures, some cryptozoologists are today moving towards the possibility of restoring vanished species to life through the extraordinary new possibilities offered by cloning: a theme which Michael Crichton exploited, with enormous profit, in Jurassic Park. Successful cloning, of course, depends not only upon the state of the art, itself, but upon the availability of viable genetic material to work with, which is no easy matter when dealing with creatures long extinct, whose only accessible specimens are fossilized, decomposed, or in other ways biologically degraded. One particularly promising species for cloning, however, is the woolly mammoth, a creature presumed extinct, which Heuvelmans theorized might still survive in the vast, unexplored forests (taiga) of Siberia. Regardless of whether or not living mammoths still roam the earth, Siberia has produced numerous examples of frozen mammoth carcasses, which are periodically yielded by the ice of melting glaciers, disinterred by the sun and returned to the world of the present. This phenomenon, in fact, is likely the basis of recurring Siberian folk tales of a gigantic tusked beast which lives underground, like an enormous mole; for the sight of these virtually intact creatures emerging from the earth could hardly avoid spawning fantastic legends. In many cases, the mammoths are disgorged by the earth in near perfect shape (except for the fact that they are dead), providing still edible meat to hungry hordes of wolves and other scavengers, and even to the occasional human traveler who dares to taste them. Might not the well-preserved carcasses of these mammoth specimens, who frequently perished in accidents in the snow (falling into snow-hidden crevasses, or sinking into the frozen mud of snow-covered marshes), provide one possible source of tenable genetic material for the cloning of a race of fallen "monsters"? Those cryptozoologists who favor DNA over search missions in the wilderness certainly hope so.

But even this little offshoot of the world of cryptozoology still leaves one gaping hole in this broad-stroke introduction to a field of immense detail; and that is: WHY? What is the WHY of it all? What is the ultimate motive of this seemingly tangential obsession, this crusade on the fringes of the world’s great struggles, this professionally self-destructive fascination with the improbable, this compulsion to do borderline science, to chase shadows and fantasies in the hope of coming up with something that may be real? What is the motive for this search most likely to be fruitless, this allocation of one’s time and faith, this choice of how to live, this dedication to what most people call a "lost cause", but which we call Cryptozoology?

Upon analysis, perhaps the folly disguises something sacred, an essential and noble attribute of Man. Although the acquisition of knowledge is never-ending, for many whose dreams are not myopic or trivial enough - and this would apply especially to the field of zoology, as opposed to microbiology and genetics which continue to plow furrows of progress within the minuscule - the world seems to be becoming frozen, compressed by limits; there is, it seems, an end to knowledge, and we are nearly there, at a place where only morsels of achievement and discovery are left for men whose hearts are every bit as proud and hungry as those of our first ancestors, who inherited the blank slate of the Universe at the beginning of time. For men so blessed, so cursed, with the longing to discover, cryptozoology offers one of the few remaining terrains where the human spirit may still surge forward in search of truths that are more than mere specks. Even more than this, the search for what is believed to be dead, the search for what others do not believe in, becomes a metaphorical search for something, for anything, that we believe we have lost and wish to recover, that we wish to find, but cannot immediately see or grasp. In the same way that the yeti hides within the dense forests and foreboding peaks and crags of the Himalayas - in the same way that the Loch Ness Monster lurks within the peat-filled depths of Loch Ness - so there are meanings to life, and sacred parts within ourselves, that we sense are there, but have not yet found or learned how to connect to. By not giving up on them, the cryptozoologist becomes a spiritual warrior for us all, undertakes a sacred journey for the entire human race; he preserves the spirit of our inner redemption by means of his indomitable external search and his impractical dedication to an ideal. Although his activity is quite different, it nonetheless mirrors the struggle of the pilgrim on the path to wisdom, and the philosopher on the road to truth; it encompasses the same questing spirit. The heart is the same, and the cryptozoologist, by exercising the muscles of idealism and faith in his own way, helps to keep that heart beating. Seen in this light, cryptozoology is no mere eccentricity or learned waste of time, but rather, an avocation and a passion very much connected to what makes us great; and therefore a preserver of our most precious essence. Perhaps the yeti or the Loch Ness Monster will never be found; but if, in any way, they may serve as accessories to help us find, or to keep alive, beautiful and deep places within ourselves, then they will have proved to be nothing less than angels.

NOTES:

[1] Coleman & Clark, p. 75

[2] Heuvelmans, On the Track of Unknown Animals, p. 572.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Coleman, Loren, and Jerome Clark. Cryptozoology A to Z: The Encyclopedia of Loch Ness Monsters, Sasquatch, Chupacabras, and Other Authentic Mysteries of Nature. New York: Fireside, 1999.

Heuvelmans, Bernard. In the Wake of the Sea Serpents. NY: Hill and Wang, 1968. (Original works published in French were Dans le sillage des monstres marins - Le Kraken et le Poulpe Colossal, 1958, and Le Grand-Serpent-de-Mer, le probleme zoologique et sa solution, 1965.)

Heuvelmans, Bernard. On the Track of Unknown Animals. NY: Kegan Paul International, 1995. (Original work published in French was Sur la piste des betes ignorees, 1955; the first English translation appeared in 1958.)

Ley, Willy. Exotic Zoology. NY: Viking, 1959.

Mackal, Roy. A Living Dinosaur? In Search of Mokele-Mbembe. Leiden, Holland: EJ Brill, 1987.

Mackal, Roy. The Monsters of Loch Ness. Chicago: Swallow Press, 1976.

Sanderson, Ivan. Abominable Snowmen: Legend Come to Life. Philadelphia: Chilton, 1961.

LINKS:

CRYPTOZOOLOGY.NET. An excellent source of information, contacts, and links regarding cryptozoology. http://cryptozoology.net

LOREN COLEMAN'S CRYPTOZOOLOGY SITE:  An excellent cryptozoological site maintained by an expert in the field.  http://www.lorencoleman.com

A PARTING QUOTE: 

"Many a man has been hanged on less evidence than there is for the Loch Ness Monster." - GK Chesterton

AN INTERESTING FACT:  

August 22, the day that St. Columba allegedly drove the "Loch Ness Monster" back into the lake, is the day that Bernard Heuvelmans, the "Father of Cryptozoology", passed away. 

 

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