“Monster smash” (Cryptozoology)

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Most preschoolers believe in monsters under their bed or in their closet. Those who never outgrow it become cryptozoologists. This field focuses on the search for make believe animals.

There are, of course, many creatures yet to be found by science. But few cryptozoolgists are searching for undiscovered types of beetles. Only a tiny fraction would be excited by the unearthing of a new grub worm. While usually claiming to be interested in promoting science, cryptozoologists show little to no interest in deeply learning biology and then applying this knowledge in pursuit of creatures reasonably assumed to exist.

There are some locations off limits to all but the indigenous, primitive population, such as the Nicobar and Andaman Islands, where undiscovered species could exist. It is a virtual certainty that the Amazon is home to mammals and reptiles yet to be found, along with thousands of bugs. The oceans are likely teeming with hordes of undiscovered species. But most cryptozoologists are only after exciting creatures that resemble dinosaurs, have fangs, or terrorize local populations. Cryptozoologists seldom examine animals, but rather are concerned with trying to establish a creature’s existence. These creatures are usually malevolent, indicating the monsters may be a manifestation of mankind’s fear of the unknown.

The Big Three of cryptozoology are Sasquatch, Yeti, and the Loch Ness Monster.

There have been thousands of Bigfoot sightings, with just about as many descriptions. But a conglomerate report would describe a bipedal hominid eight feet tall, covered in fairly dark fur, and stealthily avoiding all capture, vehicles, and steady cameras, while never leaving behind any fur, excrement, bone, or skin. There have been many footprints, but there is no consistency to them.

His Asian cousin is the Abominable Snowman. Yeti measures slightly lower on the ridiculous scale, owing to his remote place of alleged residence. However, treks to the top of Mount Everest have become relatively common and there is still no capture, footage, or fur. Many sightings are likely the result of blizzard conditions and oxygen deprivation. A likely answer for many of the sightings is that the spotter was eyeing the Tibetan blue bear. When the hide of such an animal was brought down from Everest, Nepalese identified it as belonging to a Yeti. Other alleged Yeti samples have proven to be a goat or yak.

The mythical creature most embraced by locals is the Loch Ness Monster. Unlike most of the other cryptids, Nessie’s habitat is confined, enabling area merchants to promote the Monster and cash in. Blurry photos and videos exist, but the physical evidence is zero.

There are a few reasons why the Monster is highly unlikely. Loch Ness is inadequate in size to support a sustainable population of animals as large as Nessie is purported to be. An ad hoc hypothesis has developed that the animals come and go from a secret tunnel that leads from the loch to the ocean. There exists no evidence for this tunnel, nor is there an explanation of how the animals keep finding their way back, or how Loch Ness animals survive the introduction of seawater.

Another huge obstacle is that these animals would need to regularly surface for air. Yet none has ever been captured on film doing this, despite the thousands of camera-toting tourists on hand for just such an occurrence. Even the era of cell phone camera ubiquity has failed to produce this evidence.

There are some scientific theories that may explain many of the sightings. Loch Ness is long and straight, subjecting its surface to unusual ripples. When the water reverts to its natural level, tree branches and logs can rise to the surface, resembling the Monster. Wind can also give the loch a choppy appearance, with intermittent calm patches looking like humps.

Many other regions have monsters, such as Florida’s Skunk Ape, Champy in Vermont, the New Jersey Devil, the Australian Outback’s bunyip, Central America’s Chupacabra, and the mokele-mbembe in Congo.

There are common threads to these creepy critters. First, they are usually fear-inducing. The Chupacabra, for instance, is said to kill livestock. Occasionally, supposed Chupacabras are captured, but they are always proven to be a dog or member of the Canidae family, usually with mange.

The Chupacabra is a relatively small cryptid, as most are described as huge to gargantuan. The largest is the mokele-mbembe, an alleged sauropod. Despite 200 years of reports, there has never been a carcass, bone, or fossil of this animal as large as an Apatosaurus.

The other common characteristic is the inconsistency with which the monsters are described. This indicates that one factor in the sightings is pareidolia, which is seeing something significant in vague and random images or sounds.

Almost completely vanished today are belief in fairies, pixies, gnomes, and elves. These are usually benevolent, diminutive, and humanlike, so they lack the appeal of their larger, hairier counterparts. However, belief is not completely extinguished. In otherwise enlightened Iceland, road work was delayed in 2013 to ensure elf habitat was undisturbed.

Also moribund is belief in unicorns and dragons. The only proponents I’m aware of are Ken Ham and his ilk. The evidence they put forward for unicorns is that the King James Bible references them and that rhinos have one horn. Ham is partial to dragons because he feels it bolsters his contention that dinosaurs and humans lived together. He points out ancient cultures had dragon tales, a logic that should have him worshipping Odin.

Unlike those is legitimate science, cryptozoologists have no samples of what they say they are studying. Cryptids are a self-perpetuating phenomenon built on shaky sightings, fuzzy photos, and confirmation bias.

Every day that passes without these creatures emerging further strengthens the unlikelihood of their existence. Nevertheless, they will endure. If they are real, they will be found. If they aren’t, the appeal of myth and mystery will sustain them.

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