Crypto-zoology is the search for “hidden” animals whose existence has not yet been accepted by science. Such creatures – called cryptids – can include land-roaming beasts like Bigfoot, sea creatures like the Loch Ness monster, and more. Many of those who search for cryptids are amateur enthusiasts with limited professional training in biology and related fields. For this reason, crypto-zoology is rarely endorsed by academic researchers. Nonetheless, interest in crypto-zoology and its legendary creatures continues.
Bigfoot, Yeti, Abominable Snowman
One of the most sought-after cryptids is the creature called Bigfoot. Bigfoot, also known as Sasquatch, is believed to be a massive, ape-like creature that dwells in forests and mountains throughout the western United States or they could just be a bunch of guys runnign around in Halloween costumes. Yetis (also called “abominable snowmen”) are similar creatures with snow white pelts purported to wander the Himalayan Mountains of Tibet and possibly other ranges. Proponents of crypto-zoology believe that Native American legends substantiate the existence of Bigfoot, and point to sightings in the U.S. since 1924. Though there have been many hoaxes associated with Bigfoot, recent field searches have incorporated anthropology, biology, and high-tech tools.
Texas Bigfoot Research Conservatory: A nonprofit volunteer organization that seeks out information on Bigfoot and Bigfoot-related sightings in the state of Texas. Includes articles, reports, evidence, and Frequently Asked Questions relating to Bigfoot.
Cryptozoology Resource Page: Extremely detailed page with an overview of the study of crypto-zoology and dozens of informational pages about individual cryptids, including Bigfoot and others.
On the Trail of Sasquatch: Press clippings and other information on the history of Bigfoot sightings in the United States. From a website offering information on unexplained phenomena, including those associated with crypto-zoology.
Sasquatch: Cited article offering an overview, history, description, timeline, and more information pertaining to Sasquatch and similar creatures.
Loch Ness Monster and Other Sea Creatures
The Loch Ness monster – also known as “Nessie” – is a legendary sea creature speculated to live in Loch Ness, a lake located near Inverness, Scotland. The giant creature, which somewhat resembles a plesiosaur, has been sighted and written of since the 7th century but became a source of interest for modern crypto-zoologists only in the 1930s. A cluster of sightings took place in 1933, followed by a photograph of a “head and neck” in 1934. The photograph was not conclusively revealed to be a hoax until 1994, and the public’s imagination had already been caught. Because of its underwater nature, and its habitat – Loch Ness is almost 22 square miles and has an average depth of 430 feet – it has been the focus of many searches using the best available technology. In the 1980s, the Loch was methodically swept by a number of cruisers, and in 2008, the latest sonar and underwater cameras were deployed to try and flush the creature out.
The Legend of Nessie: Detailed information about Loch Ness, efforts to search for the Loch Ness monster, evidence, news, and links. Especially good coverage of various efforts to discover the creature, and the people behind them.
The Fake in the Lake: Article taking a more skeptical view, focusing on hoaxes and inconsistencies related to the Loch Ness story.
The Loch Ness Monster: The Smithsonian Institution’s official website relating to the Loch Ness monster, offering a bibliography of further resources that includes both books and periodicals.
Loch Ness Project: In-depth, searchable information on attempts to locate the Loch Ness monster. Includes access to and information on published scientific research that falls within the scope of the lake monster controversy.
Though “Nessie” and Bigfoot are probably the most famous cryptids worldwide, there are many other creatures that crypto-zoologists search for. Hundreds of “cryptids” are believed to exist around the world. Many of these creatures are understood from folklore and sightings that predate modern science. Less-famous cryptids include the chupacabra or “goat-sucker”, an unknown reptile that roams Latin America and drains the blood of livestock; the almas, a hominid “wild man” who roams Mongolia; and the Isshii, a monster in Japan’s Lake Ikeda which is believed to be either “Nessie-like” or a giant eel. This is only a small sampling of cryptids, which exist in hundreds of different types and are distributed all over the Earth.
The Cryptid Zoo: Detailed alphabetical list offering information on purported creatures by their characteristics, as well as cryptids that may be extinct or otherwise anomalous. Includes dozens of individual entries, each focused on historical and crypto-zoological perspectives. Each entry includes a bibliography of further reading.
Top 50 Cryptids From Around the World: Brief overview of selected cryptids along with a bibliography of further resources. Includes information on verified cryptids such as the megamouth shark and okapi.
Illustrated List of Cryptids: Extremely detailed, illustrated articles featuring the histories and evidence in support of a smaller selection of 18 cryptids. Each article is cited and includes bibliographical data.
Possible Cryptids of the World: Detailed information on 14 cryptids along with an extensive list of hundreds of other potential cryptids, their possible species, and their geographical region. From the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club.
Criticisms of Crypto-zoology
The mainstream scientific community rarely accepts crypto-zoology as a legitimate field. Scientists doubt that large animals such as yetis could maintain a breeding population without being exposed and verified by human populations. Destruction and restriction of the creatures’ supposed habitats also make it unlikely they could evade detection. The academic community finds non-credentialed enthusiasts suspect, and such crypto-zoologists have difficulty making their findings known, let alone accepted, by professional scientists. Perhaps worst of all, crypto-zoology suffers credibility problems thanks to the history of hoaxes relating to cryptids, and the traditional association between crypto-zoology and paranormal studies. Though most crypto-zoologists do not consider their work as related to the "paranormal" today, zoologists, biologists and others continue to claim that the field lacks scientific rigor and profesionalism.
Criticisms of Crypto-zoology Addressed: Piece from the student magazine of Victoria University in Wellington, Australia, addressing the typical criticisms of crypto-zoology in the context of a search for information on the moa, extinct flightless birds once endemic to New Zealand.
"On the Nature of Crypto-zoology": Article from the former editor of the Cryptozoology Review dealing with common criticisms.
Crypto-zoology Hoaxes: Illustrated briefs on hoaxes pertaining to crypto-zoology, including hoaxes about Big Foot, the Loch Ness monster, and several other potential cryptids. Includes photos related to the hoaxes.
Defenders of Crypto-zoology
Crypto-zoologists point to “success” stories where creatures once classified as cryptids have been documented in more-or-less similar forms to those expected by the crypto-zoological community. One famous example of this is the okapi, a Congolese rain forest animal that strongly resembles a combination donkey and zebra. This creature was known to natives for hundreds of years before its official discovery in 1901. Another example is the megamouth shark, an extremely rare deepwater shark that has been spotted only a handful of times since its discovery in 1976. Crypto-zoologists pride themselves on investigating animals that the mainstream community has “given up on” and emphasize increasingly sophisticated and meticulous searches in the crypto-zoological community as evidence that it deserves more respect. Likewise, they hold that some environments, such as remote mountains, rain forests, and the deep sea, are poorly understood and may still hold large animal species still unknown to science.
Chasing Discovery: The Lives and Struggles of Crypto-Zoologists: Informational website for a documentary film produced by supporters of crypto-zoology.
Lesser-Known Cryptids Deserving Attention: Discussion of various cryptids and the evidence pertaining to their existence from an enthusiast. Includes links to further information on the Internet.
Ben S. Roesch’s Crypto-Zoology:: Immense amount of crypto-zoology information from a serious devotee of the subject. Offers informational articles about crypto-zoology as a pursuit, famous crypto-zoologists, and cryptids. Essays tackle questions like “Is crypto-zoology a science?” and “Does crypto-zoology require specialization?”
Cutting Edge or Over the Edge: Resource page from the History Department at the University of North Texas. Includes verified resources on a variety of subjects, including crypto-zoology and cryptids.
Anomalies and Alternative Science: Crypto-zoology: Resource page offering further links to subjects relating to crypto-zoology and individuals who search for cryptids.
Though crypto-zoology has sometimes had a difficult path to acceptance, there are crypto-zoologists around the world. Websites and publications devoted to the subject continue to proliferate, and the explorations of crypto-zoologists become more methodical. With time, and more discoveries, crypto-zoology may soon be able to take its place as a full and credible science. Until then, those who are dedicated to it show no sign of giving up.
Written by Michael S. Atwood