Thursday, 30 June 2011
You Take the Low Road, I'll Take the High Road...
Few groups are funded, especially in North America, and literally all expenses—from travel to equipment and more---is out of the pocket of the investigator or, if he is lucky, from some group fund that others have either donated to or sold “swag” to maintain. Ironically, those groups who sell swag, t-shirts and coffee mugs and the like, are even more criticized for commercializing the study. It is somehow perceived that if you sell a bumper sticker with your group logo you are somehow less serious about the research. Realistically, funding your study does not automatically mean you are in it for the money. Nobody is going to get rich from the 2-10% payback on CafePress or Zazzle. Profit from the pennies on the dollar a website gets for a Google ad or an amazon.com affiliation will not even pay for a tank of gas and a night in a hotel for an onsite study. Until philanthropists, academics and governments recognize the importance of researching things that are outside of regular science, researchers will continue to keep their day jobs to pay for their research.
Justifiably, however, funding is not going to happen until the charlatans and hoaxers are better dealt with. At some point, groups and individuals are going to have to swallow their egos and contrive a peer review system that can accredit or otherwise recognize honest, responsible researchers. A spirit of information sharing and cooperation that currently does not exist among these sorts of groups will have to develop. Each researcher or group will have to stop racing to be the “one” that “discovers” all the answers or provides the evidence and instead focus on working together and weeding out those folks who are faking evidence and sensationalizing trivia.
Serious researchers who want to be respected and influential should not wait for this to happen. Each of us in this field needs to first and foremost BE responsible researchers. This isn’t as easy as it sounds. Responsible research means spending a lot of time learning about a variety of things. Cryptozoology alone encompasses biology, zoology, mythology, archaeology, history, botany, and dozens of other studies that a responsible researcher must at least understand if not master before being able to successfully research an unknown animal. One need not be a PhD in ANY of these disciplines, but should be able to reach out to further education or dialogue with actual academics for a better understanding or analysis. Instead of allowing ego to isolate, honest researchers need to channel this ego into becoming the best in the field. To get the respect, we have to do the work.
Additionally, researchers who publish need to allow their work to be open to criticism. Any researcher who supresses or removes dissenting or critical replies to their public work are to be suspected of dishonesty. If one’s work or opinion will not stand up to alternate opinion or criticism, it is not thoroughly vetted work. If one’s “feelings” get hurt by someone challenging their findings, then perhaps those feelings are more important to the researcher than the truth in the research. Persons who fit into that mold need to be discarded as serious researchers. That’s not to say we shouldn’t be offended by hurtful postings—certainly there are those out there who seek to attack the researcher rather than the results. We are human, and attacks hurt. In that case, only give as much respect to the dissenting opinion as it is worthy of. Those of us who do televisions appearances are especially vulnerable to those kinds of attacks. Because real researchers tend to be normal looking rather than model pretty, we are often criticized over our age, our fashion sense, our weight, our hair (or lack thereof) and many other external elements. Audiences who feel compelled to criticise those things are not interested in the research. Those audiences want to be entertained, not educated. Our visceral reaction may be to recoil in pain, but we need to remind ourselves that our goal in presenting is to educate, not impress.
Truly, the need to educate needs to always be the goal in publishing findings. Entertainment success is exceedingly fleeting. The tremendous success of Paranormal State, for instance, is over. In just a few years those researchers were discarded like the losers from “America’s Got Talent”. If that was their only goal in this field, their professional lives done. If their goal is/was to continue to study and to educate, then the end of the fame is meaningless. One’s success or failure in this field is only determined by their goal. Likewise, if your view of success only involves DNA evidence of BigFoot you may never be successful. If you put all of your self-esteem in how many electronics you own and they never produce quantitative results that meet the expectations of the debunkers, you set yourself up to fail.
Those of us who have trodden this path for several years and have had our moments of true understanding have a responsibility not only to our audiences but also to new investigators. First and foremost we need to be good examples. We need to limit our publicity and publication to those items that really matter. We need to avoid the temptation to only entertain; we can be entertaining while we educate, but posting on blogs and youtube and such only to elicit laughs or horror is counterproductive to the study and eventually taints the researcher’s ability to be trusted and respective. Additionally, we have a responsibility to call out the hoaxers and pseudoresearchers when they go public with dubious evidence and opinion. We need to ignore press releases that say nothing. We need to challenge evidence that has not been tested in a laboratory or at the very least peer reviewed. We need to respectfully, politely, and preferably privately, suggest that this behaviour is unacceptable. In the unfortunate instances where hoaxers are public, we need to publicly debunk them.
Lacking an accrediting organization, we must keep ourselves and each other in check. One need not earn a living doing paranormal research to be professional. One need not be a university graduate to be educated. One need not dance for a network camera to garner positive exposure and respect in this field. Owning thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment or looking good in a bikini doesn’t make anyone a good investigator. What makes someone successful is the realization of goals they have set for themselves. What makes someone respectable is setting those goals a little higher.
Friday, 24 June 2011
Why Are We Not Capturing More Cryptids?
By Dana-G Currie, CFZ-Canada, PSICAN Cryptozoologist
The biggest question that I keep asking myself when I study Cryptozoology is why so many Cryptids have been witnessed but so few have been captured?
In the case of the Loch Ness Monster plus other possible
In conclusion, may be some of the reasons, we do not capture more Cryptids is because they choose not to be seen, their numbers are minimal and for many their natural environments are remote and have minimal human population. May be in the case of some sightings, a person has actually sighted an animal but it might be an Otter or another known animal and not a yet to be discovered animal?
Wednesday, 22 June 2011
The Lake Utopia Monster
Everyone is familiar with Nessie or the Loch Ness Monster, but few people outside the local area of Lake Utopia or in the field of cryptozoology have heard about the Lake Utopia Monster. While Nessie is often described as looking like a plesiosaur, the Lake Utopia Monster, or what the locals call “Old Ned,” has been described as being serpentine or eel-like, or even cetacean-like in appearance, perhaps greater than 13 metres in length.
Stories about its existence by Natives pre-date the arrival of the Europeans but the first documented account appears in 1867. In 1868, many believed the Lake Utopia Monster had been killed! Harper’s Weekly ran an article that a mysterious sea serpent was killed in Passamaquoddy Bay. It was reported to have a dorsal fin and a flat tail like a shark.
Norma Stewart has documented the sightings of this animal for over 25 years, and the last reported sighting was in 2000. Stewart believes the animal travels back and forth between Lake Utopia and the Atlantic Ocean, appearing every 3-5 years, as if on some kind of breeding or feeding cycle. Because of this movement between the ocean and freshwater, she refers to it as a sea monster, that may even be amphibious and have lungs. The fact that the animal may be migratory helps debunk the skeptic argument that the lake could not sustain an animal (or animals) the size of the Old Ned.
How does the animal migrate between a freshwater lake and the ocean if it is not amphibious and has lungs? St. George is a small town close to Lake Utopia. The Magaguadavic River (river of eels) is connected to Lake Utopia through a deep canal and the river flows through St. George to Passamaquoddy Bay and the sea beyond. While the Magaguadavic River is dammed in St. George, it is said Lake Utopia is also connected to the ocean via a system of underground tunnels so it is theoretically possible for a sea creature to by-pass the dam in St. George and move into the freshwater system via these tunnels.
There is no conclusive evidence for the existence of this creature. Some speculate it is an otter, beaver, logs, a ball of freshwater eels, a large fish or some other known animal. Eels do live in the lake but nothing of that size has ever been captured. Theories abound about what it might be but, tor the time being, the mystery of the Lake Utopia Monster remains just that, a mystery.
Newton, Michael. 2005. Encyclopedia of Cryptozoology: a global guide to hidden animals and their pursuers. McFarland and Company. North Carolina. 537pp.
One monster’s Utopia. (2005, July 23) Chuck Brown – The New Brunswick Reader. Retrieved 11:05, January 24, 2011 from http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~nbpstgeo/stge8n.htm
Tuesday, 21 June 2011
Finding Bigfoot… Isn’t
Alas, this was not even of the marginal calibre of Destination Truth. Finding Bigfoot, first and foremost, doesn’t find bigfoot. They break out the FLIR camera, which retails for a whopping $1500 or more, and photograph horses, bunnies and people, but no bigfoot. Smudges in the mud in Georgia are hailed as “the best track find of (his) entire bigfooting career”.
The website notaghost.com remarks, “It's like a perfect storm in which the worst kind of producers meet the most credulous of believers. It's a match made in crackpot heaven.” This is probably the most succinct review of the show. Matt Moneymaker has in fact been quite open about the butchering, disguised as editing, that the TV folks have done to make this show “more interesting”. He has been the saving grace for this genre of television. His candid criticism of what the show presents versus what was actually filmed is being very well received in the Cryptozoology community, but by participating in the show he negates that. A serious cryptozoologist would abandon the project as soon as the hoaxery is discovered, yet there are rumblings that there will be a second season. How can Moneymaker claim he is incensed at the editing and portrayal and still justify returning for more?
Second, the “experts”, although thankfully not into the “paranormal star” mystique, are less than professional. Lets start with the name Bobo. Is that a name that screams “scientific evidence and logical conclusions”? Maybe the last names will be more trustworthy—nope, the lead is named “Moneymaker”. An unfortunate coincidence, as that is truly his name and he really is a “bigfoot hunter” in real life.
I recently appeared as a guest “expert” on a couple of episodes of “Freak Encounters”. They edited a bit of what I said, but left the information mostly as I presented it. That project was clearly fictional—the premise was to fool others into thinking that “real” crypto monsters were coming to get them. They supported the fiction by introducing the actual history and information on each creature. At no time did they seek to provide “evidence”. Still, it was a pretty terrible show, and was not renewed. Is the viewing audience more interested in recreations of sketchy “facts” and dismissing obvious fictional shows? Do viewers want to be lied to? When fiction fails and pseudo-reality succeeds, what does that tell us about our goals for entertainment?
The biggest frustration is that there is good evidence and information available. There are scientific methods and forensic evidence in cryptozoology that are not yet available in other types of paranormal studies. There are actual degreed scientists working on the bigfoot puzzle as opposed to the starts of this show—Moneymaker is apparently a lawyer, Barrackman is a fourth grade teacher and a jazz musician, James Fay (aka Bobo) is a commercial fisherman, and Ranae Holland, the one team member with actual scientific credentials, works for the NOAA and has a specialty in the relationship between fish and bears. Where are Jeff Meldrum (BS in Zoology), Dr Mark Miller (neuropsychology), Dr Robert Pyle (School of Forestry at Yale), Estiban Sarriento (primatologist), John Bindernagel (wildlife biologist) or Roderick Sprague (anthropologist)? These are degreed scientists active in the field of cryptozoology. Aren’t scientists “sexy” enough for television? Where is the excavation of proposed bigfoot burial sites in Ohio discovered by Dallas Gilbert? Where is the DNA from the hair clumps found by Paul Freeman? At least Monsterquest had a real 911 call and an in depth analysis of the Patterson-Gimli film. Where is the research on thousands of sightings of Canadian Bigfoot? Where, in this new series, is bigfoot?
Monday, 13 June 2011
Saturday, 11 June 2011
Meet the Canadian Bloggers!
Robin is the former PSICAN Crypto Director and a long-time fan of CFZ. She has many published articles online and in print and has authored three books to date, with another to be released early in 2012. Her specialty is Mothman research, but she enjoys researching all of the cryptids worldwide. She sees partnering with CFZ as a privilege and an honour.
Born in Point Pleasant, WV, Robin immigrated to Canada in 2000 and currently lives in Toronto, Ontario. She holds degrees in Accounting and Business Administration, but her work experience is in education, media, and research.
Dana G Currie
Dana is a regular contributor to Cryptozoology after coming from a primarily ghost-research background. He began learning about odd events and creatures at a very young age and continues to be interested in everything from cryptids to alternative history. His work regarding Canadian lake monsters is frequently cited by other researchers and he looks forward to sharing his passion with readers of the new CFZ-Canada blog.
Dana was born in Quebec and has lived for many years near Barrie, Ontario, as a member of the Canadian Armed Forces. He holds a degree in Geography and many certificates in Human Resources, Technical Writing, and Logistics. He particularly admires organizations like CFZ and PSICAN because of their knowledge and professionalism.
Elvis was born and raised in Hamilton, Ontario and currently works at McMaster University. He is witty and very sarcastic so we shant expect political correct blogs from him! When asked to provide something for this bio he wrote: "I have no role models, as I am a cynical bastard, and feel that no one is worthy of my admiration due to natural human fallibility. Instead, I respect the ideology of truth as a ultimate goal and attempt to emulate this to the best of my ability. I also believe in never making money off your friends or family. Unless you are a car salesman, and this is how you eat." Elvis first became interested in Cryptozoology after recieving copies of Owl Magazine as a child and learning about Sasquatch. In 2005 he joined The Shadows Project, then PSICAN, and was tapped to join the Cryptozoology Division.
Dr Stephen D Turnbull
Steve is the newest member of PSICAN’s Crypto team but has already published outstanding material relative to marine cryptids. He often travels for onsite study and has recently returned from Africa where he was able to learn about maneless lions in their natural habitat. He makes frequent trips to the Caribbean for extensive study on sharks, dolphins and other aquatic creatures. Contributing to the CFZ-Canada blog gives him an opportunity to tell others about not only unusual beings, but also his home country.
Steve was born in New Castle, New Brunswick and is currently a professor at the University of New Brunswick in St. John. His PhD is in Biology and he also serves as the Executive Director of the Canadian Shark Conservation Society. He is interested in Cryptozoology because new species are constantly being unearthed and he’s intrigued by what we have yet to discover. He much respects those who approach cryptozoology with an open mind.
Friday, 10 June 2011
ROBIN PYATT BELLAMY: Canadian Cryptology at a Glance
Regular readers of the CFZ are well versed in the foundations for the study of “officially” unexplained animals. Thousands of creatures are being investigated worldwide, and in North America there is a taste of just about every type of conceivable creature. Canada, specifically, has more than Sasquatch and Ogopogo; much more.
Every province of Canada has a Bigfoot-esque witness report. On the west coast (British Columbia) they tend to call him Sasquatch, toward the east he’s likely Bigfoot. He’s called B’gwas by the Haisla, Boqs by the Bella Coola Tribe, Matlose (W.Canada, Nootkas Tribe), Old Yellow Top (Canada, Ontario), Rugaru (Ojibway), Wendigo (Algonquian), Yeahoh ( Algonkian); the list is diverse as the Canadian population. He has many different hair colors, but is generally described as big and hairy with a face very similar to a human.
Similarly, every province of Canada has a water based cryptid. BC has Ogopogo and Caddy, the Prairies have glacial lakes with possible plesiosaurs or giant sturgeon or any number of interesting aquatic creatures. Canada has the third largest supply of fresh water in the world, the vast majority of which is related to glaciers both old and current. Canada’s Great Slave Lake is deeper than Loch Ness or Lake Champlain, or even Crater Lake, Oregon. Canada’s swimming monsters also appear in all three oceans, each of the Great Lakes, and even a few rivers. Many Giant Squid, one species now off the “cryptid” list, washed ashore in Newfoundland in the late 1800’s. Canadian specialists are also frequently called in to identify the “Montauk” looking corpses of beaver and other wildlife that occasionally stimulate the local imaginations
Probably the most reported flying cryptids come from the Philippines, but Mothman and Thunderbirds have visited Canada from time to time. Culturally, Canada is very diverse so it is often difficult to correctly label what the witness reports—what may be an Ahool to one person could be the near exact description of Owlman by a different culture of Canadians. The large number of aboriginal groups with their own versions of things that fly, in face of things that change shape, complicates the study of many of Canada’s land and air creatures.
Canada shares with other countries in a large number of reports regarding “wee folk” and no real decision has yet to be made on whether these are cryptological, other dimensional, ghost related, or mythology. Paranormal Studies and Investigations Canada (PSICAN) treats these reports according to how the witness categorizes them. Most of the reports of small human-like entities come from the Maritime Provinces and are very similar to East Coast USA reports. Even in one general area, witnesses may perceive the wee ones as ghostly and right next door the witness will consider them cryptids.
Over the next few weeks and months we look forward to introducing you to the “monsters” of Canada and some of the folks who research them. If are in Canada and you have an experience you’d like to share please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Your name, email, and address are always kept confidential. Questions and ideas for articles you’d like to see are also most welcome.