Cryptozoology 101

More information coming soon!

Cryptozoology is essentially the study of unknown or undiscovered animals. Cryptozoologists differ from zoologists (or other professional seekers of animals) because they rely more on local folklore or personal stories to support belief. Those that study this field tend to believe in stranger creatures or creatures existing where they shouldn't compared to more balanced scientists. While cryptozoology is viewed as a pseudoscience those within it may be scientists and they will tend to dig deeper to find the truth.

Animals that are considered cryptids can be broken down into four groups (these are my personal classifications):

  • Out of time
    This category is for animals that are deemed or thought to be extinct. Many animals have survived unnoticed despite our indications that they were no longer alive. The coelacanth is an example of a fish that was thought to be extinct, however one was caught alive in the 1930s despite scientists believing the species died out 65 million years ago. More commonly, animals are disovered years or decades after they were thought to perish and cryptozoologists and scientists alike continue to search for animals such as the ivory billed woodpecker.
  • Out of place
    These are animals that are reported in a location where they are not naturally occuring. Animals such as black panthers in the United States or in the United Kingdom where they have never been recorded by science. Traditionally, these animals are either escaped exotic animals or are misidentification. The eastern cougar is an animal that many hope to see in the wild although sightings east of the Mississippi River are either wandering cougars from the west or are misidentification. There are also a small number of wild cougars existing in southern Florida that are referred to as Florida panthers.
  • Out of this world
    This is a bridge to the paranormal for cryptozoology. Animals in this category tend to break not only the laws of nature but also the laws of physics at times. These include combinations of animals that could not possibly exist in nature such as Mothman or even Owlman (how could humans mutate to look like a moth or owl?). Creatures like the original chupacabra from Puerto Rico (not the mangy coyote or fox that are constantly reported in the U.S.) as well as the Jersey Devil are animals that not only defy nature but have characteristics and ablities that are beyond what normal animals are capable of. These animals, like many other ones that are like dinosaurs or prehistoric creatures to odd beings that fit into this category are generally based on folklore alone and have very little in the way of actual firsthand accounts.
See The Meaning of Cryptozoology for more information.

Are Bigfoot/Chupacabra/Loch Ness Monster Real?

Bigfoot (and its many other names), chupacabra, and the Loch Ness monster are the three most commonly referred to cryptozoological creatures. There have been hundreds of reports of these creatures, but are they real? Technically, there are many theories that attempt to explain Bigfoot (name coined by a journalist in 1958), Sasquatch (derived from the Coastal Salish tribe from Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada and other tribes have their own names), Yeti (Nepal/Himalayan Mountains also known as the Abominable Snowman - although most reports describe a dark creature not white), Yeren (China), Yowie (Australia), not to mention the other regional names here in the United States (Skunk Ape in Florida), Fouke Monster (Fouke, Arkansas), MOMO (Missouri), etc. yet no one has ever discovered conclusive proof of a large, hairy, bi-pedal creature lurking on any continent of the world. But, we'll keep looking just in case!

The Chupacabra is thought to be a hairless four legged creature with long back legs and long sharp teeth. However, the many sightings in the United States of the so-called Chupacabra are actually normal animals (coyote, fox, dogs, even raccoons) with severe mange (a skin disease). The real Chupacabra is from Puerto Rico although modern reports only began in 1995. Researcher Benjamin Radford spent five years investigating the Chupacabra and determined the initial case of Madalyne Tolentino to be nothing more than a left over memory. These facts still do not change the fact that anytime anyone sees a strange creature it is immediately labeled as a Chupacabra.

Sadly, the story of the Loch Ness Monster is not very convincing either. Despite stories of the creature going back hundreds of years modern day stories only started about 80 years ago. The story of the Loch Ness Monster currently drives a lot of tourism to the area. Strangely, rumors have persisted for years and finally some evidence has been found that the Loch Ness Monster story was created by local hotel owners to draw tourists to the area and was hatched in a pub in the 1930s.

Researching/Investigating Basics

Essential Field Kit (and how to use it)

  • Notebook/graph paper/pen/pencil/marker - Pictures are handy, but drawing a general layout of the sighting can help give a visual to what occurred and where. A notebook is a must to keep notes while interviewing or while taking notes in the field. I recommend a spiralbound notebook and keeping initial contact notes (not necessarily the conversation, just bullet points), interview notes on a separate page, as well as field notes and area research notes on different pages so that all of your information is together, but can be separated by context as well.
  • Camera (still/video) - Cameras are a must to document the scene of the sighting. Photograph the area from the view of the client, but also from where the creature was seen toward the client, as well as the surrounding area. While photographs are great they can be confusing unless you keep notes on what you are photographing (another great reason for a notebook). Also when photographing is is very helpful to measure the distance between the witness and objects seen in the picture for research away from the scene. Video cameras are a nice additional tool as well, I recommend only filming short scenes so that it is easier to review especially when walking through a location of a sighting.
  • Audio recorder(s) - Use these to record interviews (with prior permission from the client, don't ask them right before as you may want to ask if they want you to come out so they are prepared). I also recommend using these while researching in the field to dictate notes as sometimes it is difficult to constantly stop and take notes. A lapel microphone will fit into most recorders which will allow you to be hands free.
  • Batteries! - Extra batteries for your camera/camcorder, flashlight(s), handheld GPS, and other electronic devices should always be kept onhand.
  • Binoculars - A basic pair of 7 X 35 binoculars (or better) should be kept for spotting in the field.
  • Field guides - Most people are not able to recognize all types of plants or animal tracks. Field guides are a helpful way to help recognize what you might find during an onsite investigation and no matter what you think you cannot always rely on getting cell phone service.
  • GPS (map/compass) - If you are traveling through the woods in an unknown area it is advisable to carry a handheld GPS device other than your phone. While these can be a bit pricy they can help document locations you may find along trails by creating waypoints and will also help you navigate in areas where cell service may suddenly drop out (which will drain your battery not to mention render your device useless for navigation). I also recommend learning how to navigate using a map and compass as well as utilizing physical maps as much as possible.
  • Ruler/L square - Use these to measure items as well as use as a guide when photographing tracks or other potential evidence. An L square is much nicer for measuring prints in photographs since it gives you two measurements at the same time.
  • Tape measure - A tape measure is necessary to measure distances such as line of sight, stride length, and other measurements beyond a ruler. I recommend carrying a regular 12' as well as a large tape measure such as a 100' tape.
  • Casting materials + water - Regular plaster of Paris is not recommended for casting large tracks. Perfectcast is a material that I use which is 5X stronger than regular plaster and the version linked comes in a plastic container which you can use to mix it with (just be sure to bring water and something to measure and mix it with). When using casting material I recommend following the directions and adjusting your mixture after your initial measurements. When pouring the casting material into a print do not remove small objects such as leaves unless you are using a magnifying glass to search for hair or potential pieces of skin to use for analysis first. I also recommend testing the plaster out a few times to get used to using it in the field before using it on a potential big find. A large print will take a lot of plaster and will take a long time to dry. I also recommend having a larger supply onhand than what you think you need!
  • Magnifying glass - As mentioned above, you may need a magnifying glass to peer at small details such as hair, potential skin or nail fragments, as well as anything else small.
  • Rubber gloves - Never directly touch potential evidence with your hands! I recommend nitrile or latex gloves. Nitrile are thicker and are good for those with latex allergies. These gloves will help you keep from contaminating potential pieces of evidence by touching them directly.
  • Collection bags (plastic temporary/paper) - Only use plastic bags as a temporary storage means. Plastic bags may contaminate living cells and basic paper bags are recommended for longer storage or shipping. I recommend bringing small envelopes to put hair into if found, label, and then place in a paper bag.
  • Tweezers (sanitized) - Don't just take them out of the medicine cabinet! I recommend purchasing a pair of tweezers just for evidence collection. Even after purchasing, and periodically, sanitzing them by using peroxide, or rubbing alcohol, and then wiping with a clean unused cotton cloth.
  • Box/bubble wrap - Bubble wrap is essential if you are carrying out large casts from the woods or bringing them home. Boxes of various sizes are also recommended in case you find items that you may need to store or ship out to be examined. You can break these down for storage and be sure to bring packaging tape.
  • First aid kit - This should be self explanatory!
  • Stool (minimum 3’) - A short ladder or stool might be necessary to reach areas for measuring or looking for potential evidence.
  • Flashlight - I recommend bringing a basic small LED that is not very bright (to conserve night vision) as well as one that can change colors (red for night vision preservation, green for stalking at night as most animals cannot see this color unless it is shined directly at them, blue for map reading in the dark or for tracking blood trails). I would also recommend bringing higher end flashlights as well with at least 200 lumens of power.
  • Daypack - I recommend a daypack just for your took kit as listed above. You might not want to jam all of these items into the pack but at least have the necessities inside so that you can quickly grab and go. Other items I would recommend keeping in a box either in your truck or close by in your garage or home.