“Creatures of the Sleight” (Gnomes and fairies)

PIXIE

My 4-year-old knows the only way he’ll play with Super Mario is through a Wii, and he has figured out that zombies are safely confined to television. So I’m unsure what to make of adults who believe in gnomes, fairies, and elves, but we’ll try to unravel this monster of a problem.

At southererncrossreview.com, Buck Young lays out the history of such creatures. Whether he made it all up or stole it from others who did, I’m unsure. In either case, his claims are accompanied by no evidence or sources.

He writes that, Once Upon a Time, “They tended the forest and took care of it, played in it, danced and sang in it, cared for wounded animals, worked out disputes between species, sat on mushrooms discussing matters of importance and drinking Labrador tea, rode down streams on leaves and bark, parachuted from trees on dandelion seeds.”

If a 25-year-old pines for the 1940s, an era in which he never lived, it’s indicative that there’s something significant missing in his life. He’s supplanting his current, unsatisfying existence with a romanticized version of a time that never was, and thinks his life would be different if only he had been born in the right place and time. Fairy chasers are an even more extreme case. They are seeking an idealized world on a higher plane populated by benevolent creatures who will provide unrivaled companionship.

Not only is reality inadequate, but there are hints of self-loathing. For at some point, this paradise was ruined by malevolent men. Buck blames agriculture, one of Mankind’s most important developments. At first, he writes, farming was a Communist utopia in which everyone received a half acre of land and a goblin government fulfilled every need. Naiads brought fresh water, elves harvested vegetables, and wizards explained how the lunar cycle benefited farmers.

But then humans cleared too much land and became concerned only with the bounty, not the land from which it sprouted. With their homes chopped down and dug out, the diminutive dudes fled. Only trolls stayed behind, tormenting and killing those who tried to cross bridges or low-lying marshes. Young offers pointers on how to avoid these trolls, and since following his advice, I’ve safely journeyed over many a river. 

The problem for Young is how to square the pixies and nymphs running away with their still being here for us to try and fellowship with. He halfway explains that they live on some sort of unspecified alternate plane, and it’s up to true believers to seek them.

If we ever find them, here’s what they will look like, per a youtube video: goo.gl/Evbm1v. This montage includes the Cottingley fairies, more than 30 years after the cousins who were photographed with them revealed how they pulled the ruse. Even by the almost nonexistent standards of fairy hunters, including the Cottingley affair today is bizarre.

In the hoax, Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths copied drawings of dancing girls, added wings, and propped them with hairpins. They fooled many, including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who ironically created a fictional character more fascinating than the Cottingley fairies. Doyle exemplified those who want so much for  something more to be out there in a better world, that they will suspend rational thought. Combine this insatiable desire to believe with pareidolia and a horribly out-of-focus video, and they have all the proof they need.

More faint, blurry, and distant evidence is offered at ufosundisclosed.com: goo.gl/4weFKe. This site’s mission statement rests on the twin fallacies of the ad populum and the appeal to ancient authority: “The fact that these little people have been so believed in over so many millenniums in so many different cultures and lands would suggest that there is a reality behind these tales.

In actuality, these creatures have their beginnings in myths take from either literature or oral storytelling. They were not meant to be taken as real any more than Chewbacca or the Three Little Pigs were. They were either entertainment or life lessons in the form of allegories.

Precisely what creatures the credulous seekers see is based on what culture they are in. No leprechauns are spotted in China, nor are any dragons spied flying over Dublin. No Tengu birdmen are seen in Greece, nor are any cyclops heard rumbling through Japanese forests.

As to why we can’t catch any of these Lilliputian critters, ad hoc rationalizations abound. They don’t want to be caught, they are too fast, too smart, don’t feel humans are ready, they escape to another plane, make themselves invisible, or blend into the forest.

Not that any of this would matter to the skeptic, writes poster Skygazer: “Some people are so blind to the world around them that they would be unable to see a thousand such beings if they sat on their laps.” I hear the same line from cryptozoological circles.

This strawman is used to swerve around the fact that there are no captive or domesticated creatures after thousands of years of sightings. If a leprechaun rode a Chupacabra into Times Square and this duo was subsequently examined by biologists and doctors, and determined to be undiscovered species, this proof would satisfy me. I am a skeptic, not a denier. Although given my druthers, I’d prefer to see science verify zombies and Chewbacca.

“Sasquashed” (Bigfoot hunters)

BIGFOOTCITY

Those who think Bigfoot is a myth could someday be proven wrong, while this could never happen to those who think he’s real. That’s why there will continue to be the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization, the North American Wood Ape Conservancy, and likeminded groups. These organizations are dedicated to the proposition that a sustainable population of eight-foot bipedal apes has clandestinely lived within 50 miles of Seattle for over a century.

There has been nary a capture, roadkill victim, or hunter’s trophy in this time. No hikers or campers have stumbled upon their remains. They are lumbering yet stealthy and so socially conscious that they clean up every drop of excrement they produce.

There are two primary camps among Bigfoot enthusiasts. The first bunch fiercely insists he is real and are hostile to the insinuation they have an imaginary friend. These types hang out at sites like cryptomundo.com. When Skeptical Inquirer deputy editor Benjamin Radford documented 10 scientific reasons Bigfoot is unlikely, believers pounced.

A poster named Bukwasboo expressed his displeasure thusly: “UGGGGGH! Please stop giving this guy the attention he wants. Every one of his tired old skeptical talking points can be resoundingly refuted with logical and informed answers. We’ve heard all this before a million times. UGGGGGH!!!!!!”

At first, I wasn’t too impressed with Bukwasboo’s response. But then I noticed he added a sixth exclamation point and he won me over.

His cohort Opalman added, “I could easily pick this specious, almost emotionally defensive catalog of illogical, unscientific palaver apart nine different ways on each point. But it’s a waste of time. They wouldn’t consider the possible existence of Sasquatch even if they were tripped by one.”

Both claim they could take apart his points, yet conspicuously fail to even attempt it. They respond with no science or evidence, just anger, personal attacks, and lies. They point out they’ve heard the arguments before as if that somehow renders them invalid. Their responses, however, do lend credence to the notion that North America is home to bipedal hominids with subhuman intelligence.

Others on the site point to tales of giant apes existing in many ancient North American cultures, and count this as evidence. By this logic, white Anglo males have magic powers, as demonstrated by Harry Potter, Prince Caspian, and Merlin.

While close-minded on this topic, proponents nevertheless demonstrate mental agility through swift ad hoc reasoning. Why don’t we find their remains? Because they bury their dead. Why is there no roadkill? Because they look before they cross the road. So a species advanced enough to have funerals and traffic safety plans roam about without leaving a trace of its civilization or culture.

Now onto camp two, those who think Bigfoot exists, but withhold definitive statements since no living or dead creature has been found. The BFRO says this about Bigfoot sightings, tracks, and yelps:

“To many, these suggest the presence of an animal, probably a primate, that exists today in very low population densities. If true, this species, having likely evolved alongside humans, became astonishingly adept at avoiding human contact through a process of natural selection.

“To others, these same facts point to a cultural phenomenon kept alive today through a combination of the misidentification of known animals, wishful thinking, and the deliberate fabrication of evidence.”

This is downright reasonable compared to the stances of Opalman and Bukwasboo, but we will see that this optimism if unfounded.

My main beef is with these organizations purporting to do science. The preceding paragraphs reference population densities, species, and natural selection, giving them a veneer of scientific legitimacy. But the tactics and techniques of its “researchers” fail to follow the Scientific Method, and includes a Bigfoot Report Form. Since I saw Shaquille O’Neal at the 1991 Final Four in Indianapolis, I filed a report that I had observed a dark seven-foot bipedal creature in Indiana, and this was added to the evidence file. No one doing legitimate science is going to put stock in unverifiable reports like these.

There have been at least two anthropologists who decided chasing Bigfoot was a résumé booster: The late Grover Krantz and Jeffrey Meldrum, who works with the BFRO. It requires a little accommodation, but Meldrum can probably be credited with applying the Scientific Method at the beginning of his monster quests. He defines the question, develops a hypothesis, makes a prediction, and then tests it. But that’s where the science ends. Since repeated forays into the woods turn up nothing definitive, there’s nothing to analyze, nothing to replicate, nothing to submit for peer review, and no data to share. Of crucial importance, the existence of Bigfoot is unfalsifiable. The BFRO defines itself as, “The only scientific research organization exploring the Bigfoot mystery.” Yet the site is primarily eyewitness accounts, shaky videos, and out-of-focus photos. That probably doesn’t qualify as research, and certainly isn’t science.

Meldrum, who works in the department of biological sciences at Idaho State University, has a large collection of footprints, which fails to impress his colleagues. For instance, anthropologist David Daegling of the University of Florida insists that quality trumps quantity. He said, “Even if you have a million pieces of evidence, if all the evidence is inconclusive, you can’t count it all up to make something conclusive.”

Ascribing to Bigfoot a footprint or hair of unknown origin is the appeal to ignorance. Because we can’t prove what animal it came from or that it’s fake, proponents count this as evidence he’s real. This highlights a major issue with chasing Bigfoot. We’ve never found one, so we don’t know what kind of impression it would leave. This is a micro example of the lack of falsifiability that encompasses the entire field.

While Bigfoot is primarily associated with the Pacific northwest, there are Texans who aren’t about to let something that big be claimed by someone else. Woodape.org focuses its attentions on a southern Sasquatch, mostly residing in Texas, but also in Louisiana, Arkansas, and elsewhere. Woodape attempts a benevolent spin by announcing they are here to save the beasts. While Woodape never expressly states Bigfoot is real, its mission to save it necessitates there be at least one male and one female to rescue. Also, it offers a physical description and habitat for Bigfoot, treating it as real and not speculative. As an aside, if they want the animal to avoid extinction, it is best they ensure that man NOT find it.

Woodape.org also tries the appeal to science: “Much remains to be learned about Earth and the many species that inhabit it.” This is true, and we should continue the search for undiscovered animals and the expansion of zoology. But there are far better ways to do this than scampering after a giant ape. Places like Borneo, Brazil’s southern Atlantic Coast, and Papua New Guinea are teeming with undiscovered creatures, with hundreds being found every year.

OK, not everyone has the time and resources for these journeys. But every U.S. region likely features undiscovered critters. But finding one requires learning the anatomical features, breeding habits, diet, camouflage, habitats, mating calls, and place in the food chain of existing animals. If truly wanting to add to the discovery of new creatures, this is the way to go. By contrast, those desperately seeking Sasquatch praise science while failing to honor its Method and tactics.

For instance, Woodape puts heavy emphasis on eyewitness reports, citing 3,000 sightings of the animal or its tracks. A live creature or complete carcass would be proof. A substantial patch of fur or bones would be strong evidence. Eyewitnesses and reports of shrieks are weak evidence. And these 3,000 pieces of weak evidence do not add up to one strong piece. Until 2014, there had been no reported sightings, sounds, disturbed vegetation, tracks, or other evidence that the ampulex dementor cockroach wasp existed. Then it was found in the Mekong Delta, and this one piece of evidence outweighed the thousands of pieces of evidence that Bigfoot exists.

Woodape.org further claims there are “remarkably consistent physical descriptions of these creatures.” In truth, there is quite a bit of variety in terms of its alleged size, footprints, body covering, gait, sounds, and color. But even 500 precise accounts would still fall into the weak evidence category. Just like the plural of anecdote is not data, the plural of eyewitnesses is not captured specimen. Furthermore, Ben Roesch of the Cryptozoological Review has noted anecdotes are not reproducible, testable, or falsifiable, and are therefore outside the scientific process. There’s also the matter of eyewitness unreliability, which is addressed in depth here.

There is a good chance many of the sightings were of a black bear. An ecological niche model was produced using nine climate variables in areas where Bigfoot reports were most common, and they corresponded to where black bears are most concentrated.

Woodape also finds relevance in the “sincerity and credibility of eyewitnesses, some of whom are law enforcement officers and experienced outdoor workers, such as wildlife and fisheries officials.” No amount of belief makes anything true and the appeal to authority is a logical fallacy. Sincerity and career choice are not proof of Bigfoot and have no place on a site that purports to be executing a scientific study of the subject.

Nor would a serious scientific undertaking put relevance in the 1967 film shot by Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin, especially with this logic: “No one has demonstrated convincing arguments or recreations that begin to cast serious doubt on the validity of the animal shown in the film.” That’s a dubious claim, as there have been arguments made that the movement is humanlike and that there seems to be a zipper on the creature. The larger point, however, is that the onus remains on the person making the claim.

If the animal was real, he would have had to make it to California from Asia or Africa because he has no ancestors here. There has never been a fossil found of a North American primate. This is not just one type of animal, but an entire order. Woodape dismisses this for the same reason it discounts the lack of live captures:  There are so few of them. But this rarity would make it even less likely that an entire species has been maintained for hundreds of years, managing to roam safely from Vancouver to the Bayou. Imagine the sustenance a creature this size would need for such a journey. Then multiply that by the number in the pack. That’s why anthropologist Nina Jablonski insists there are insufficient food resources to support such a large mammal. Woodape’s retort is that Native American tribes once lived in these areas. That’s solid thinking, once they find Sasquatch in a tepee with a bow and arrow.

Bigfoot enthusiasts will point out that a skin of the Giant Panda was not produced until 1869 and a skin attached to a living one was not found until 1927. They are also fond of referencing the lowland gorilla, okapi, and Komodo dragon. This allows them to couch their hide-and-seek game as one of discovery. But to insist or strongly insinuate a beast exists, then seek supporting evidence is not scientific. New species are discovered all the time, using solid predictive science, not wishful thinking and overexcited forest treks prompted by a stranger’s e-mail. Another reason the comparison falls flat is because the other animals were found without cell phone cameras, night vision devices, reality shows, and organizations specifically set up to catch them.

Every animal was a cryptid at one time, so looking for new creatures is legitimate. But anthropologists don’t use report forms, they learn taxonomy and anatomy, publish their findings and welcome tough questions. Except for Meldrum, Bigfoot hunters are not well-versed in anthropology and they do not submit their findings for peer review, though this is somewhat excused by them having no findings. As to their response to tough questions, I’ll let Bukwasboo handle this one: “UGGGGHH!!!!!”

And unlike those undertaking serious scientific pursuits, Bigfoot hunters are unable to point to an example of what they are studying. Most tellingly, scientists continually try to prove themselves wrong, while those pursuing Bigfoot continually try to prove themselves right.

“Bilbo’s buddies” (Cryptozoology)

BB
We will look today at some of the beliefs that are unorthodox even by the usual standards of gullibility. Unicorns are just as likely as Skunk Apes, and thinking mermaids are out there is as unwarranted by the evidence as thinking the same about ghosts. But the beliefs we will examine are less frequent and thus more distinctive. We will also uncover the mindset and motivation involved in embracing these ideas.

Some people adopt these beliefs because men claiming to be a god wrote something on parchment paper in the Bronze Age. While this is common, the folks at Answers in Genesis take it further than most. Their Creation Museum is more than children getting piggyback rides from Stegosauruses and Sleestak cavorting about. It also champions a belief in dragons.

As with its claim that the universe is 6000 years old or that representatives of every animal congregated on Noah’s Ark, the Creation Museum bases this on no science or evidence, but on its interpretation of a specific Bible version. The book of Job references a mammoth fire-breathing leviathan, and they infer this creature was what came to be known as a dragon. Dragons fly as opposed to swim, but this detail must have been lost over the millenniums. Job is full of long, flowery prose and graphic imagery that make it easy to see the book as allegorical. But for those who insist it is literal, something has to fit in spite of the evidence, so dragons it is.

There are no dragon fossils or animals presumed to have been descended from such. Hence, Answers in Genesis puts stock in the fact that dragons appear in other cultures. But 20 fictional dragons doesn’t equal one real giant monster with a heart-shaped tip on its tail. AIG writes, “There is evidence in art found around the world that indicates humans interacted with cryptozoological types after the Flood.” By this logic, Salvador Dali interacted with a perpetually melting watch.

Joining dragons in the Creation Museum’s Middle Earth zoo are unicorns. The only two pieces of “evidence” are that some versions of the Bible contain the word “unicorn” and that the rhinoceros has one horn. These are the types of arguments put forth by a group who insists that an insidious government is conspiring with their heinous henchmen scientists to keep the truth from schoolchildren.

With regard to the unicorn’s existence, it wouldn’t take much for even a committed conservative Christian to see it differently than AIG. Other Bible versions refer to the animal as a wild ox. Also, the reference in the King James Version comes in a series of questions about challenges that would be impossible to overcome. Hence, involving a fictional creature in such a line of questioning would be consistent. Like dragons, AIG points to unicorns in other cultures as proof they were real. But this only establishes their existence in fairy tales, not on Earth.

It’s not just biologically-challenged biblical literalists getting in on the magical creatures fun. Even highly-educated Icelanders are susceptible. Highway work was delayed in 2013 over fears it would disturb elven habitat. The matter was settled when a woman who communicated with elves conducted a telepathic mediation. She reported the bearded miniatures were OK with the highway crew blasting away as long as a large jagged rock that served as their sanctuary was relocated.

Over half of the people surveyed in the nation that ranks 19th in education were open to the possibility that elves are real. This shows how ingrained a religious or mythological idea can be in a culture, and how hard it is to extricate, no matter how much evidence is presented or how much the nation advances in other areas.

A British newspaper reporter wrote that Icelanders suspected that elves were behind bulldozer breakdowns and road worker misfortunes, a classic piece of post hoc reasoning. Another example of this came from a man who identified himself only at Petur, whom the reporter interviewed. As a youth, Petur related, his father told him to pay homage to an elf he felt was in the area. But the petulant youth considered this silly and refused. His punishment for this disobedience came in the form of blistered feet the next day. From then on, he believed. Couple this type of subjective validation with communal reinforcement, and you get belief in elves in the 21st Century in one of the worlds most developed, forward-thinking countries.

Staying with European island nations, we venture to Lancashire, England, where John Hyatt claims to have taken photos of fairies. He says he just asked people to keep an open mind. I’ve never met Hyatt, so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt (about his commitment to open-mindedness, not about fairies existing). But whenever I’ve encountered “keep an open mind” or “just examine the evidence for yourself” exhortations from Truthers, reflexologists, and fairy people, they are OK with it only if my open mind accepts what theirs does.

Hyatt has photos that could be viewed as an out-of-focus Tinkerbell. They could also be viewed as flying insects impacted by reflection, refraction, flashes and flaws. You can judge for yourself here.

He was standing close enough to capture these creatures and remove all doubt. So the doubt remains, enabling believers to replace it with comforting thoughts. In fact, Hyatt inadvertently explained the reason folks believe: “A lot of people who have seen them say they have brought a little bit of magic into their lives and there’s not enough of that around.” So it gives their existence a little more meaning, perhaps offers comfort, a warm feeling, a sense of hope. Some of those interviewed felt the fairies held special powers. This is always an appealing idea, especially when you can infuse these magical beings with whatever benevolent actions you wish.

Also campaigning for fairy awareness is all-about-fairies.com. Despite its restrictive name, the website also informs its readers about leprechauns, mermaids, and pixies. On the FAQ, “Are fairies real?” is met with this persuasive, reasoned, thoroughly documented argument: “Of course.”

Later, it informs us, “Some people see fairies, and some see a white misty shape, other people see colored lights, and some sense their presence.” Everybody is a winner! This allows any action to be interpreted as a fairy. For those who can’t even sense a presence, that’s because, “Fairies must know that you believe in them and their magic before they show themselves.” That’s hardly right, it seems we incredulous folks need the most fairy love.

As to their habitat, “They like to live near meadows or gardens or in a fairyland.” Could you be a little more vague? Continuing, it is written, “They do interact with humans sometimes, but with only good intentions.” This is idealizing our wants, and this personification of total kindness and generosity offers peace and reassurance.

Here are the five pieces of proof for fairies that the website operator offers: 1. I’ve seen ‘em. 2. Others seen ‘em. 3. People in Days of Yore seen ‘em. 4. YouTube videographers seen ‘em. 5. People at fairy festivals seen ‘em.

While most believers prefer the elastic descriptions unencumbered by form or facts, a few try to bridge mythological creatures to real occurrences. For instance, a leprechaun-believing site tries to tie the Lilliputians in green fedoras to a historic event by claiming they hid gold from the invading Danes. Since the Danes couldn’t see them, it seems that guerilla warfare may have been a better response, but maybe leprechauns are pacifist.

The site reports that captured leprechauns offer gold for ransom. One hundred percent of leprechaun hunters have accepted this offer, as there are many gold coins in Ireland, but no captive leprechauns. The website also attributes to leprechauns “the ability to turn into a swirl of dust and be gone.” As such, it’s unclear why they would make the gold coin offer.

I also came across a mostly–abandoned blog run by a guy who runs around trying to capture photos of leprechauns. It mostly contains shaky images with green swirls, One picture shows really tiny humanoid feet in the sand, and, of course, the only creatures capable of making such impressions are leprechauns.

Most proponents of these fields appeal to myth and folklore, but some attempt are more pseudoscientific spin. This is often the case when dealing with belief in mermaids.

On cryptid.com, it is pointed out that a fish/mammal combination wouldn’t work from a zoological or practical standpoint. So it weaves a storyline, sprinkled with terms thieved from evolution and biology, then ties it up with this speculation: “What if not all of our ancestors left the sea and moved to the Savannah? What if some stayed in the ocean, and continued to evolve into mermaids?”

These hypothetical mermaids, we are assured, are not the kind we think of, but are a form of aquatic ape. What follows are a series of guesses which it calls theories. But they are at best hypotheses since they offer no observation or experimentation, and present only cursory predictive behavior, such as this: “It seems likely that a big-brained primate would utilize tools. We’d have to assume that, like chimpanzees, they may use objects like rocks or other undersea items as tools.”

It also seems likely that other big-brained primates are utilizing tools such as a computer and modem to keep ideas fit for the Middle Ages alive today.

“What on Earth?” (Geocentrism and Inner Earth inhabitants)

ALICEHOLERecent posts have dealt with reptilian overlords and other beings from outer space, so today’s entry will be Earthbound. We will examine a pair of distinctive ideas about our planet: Geocentrism, and the assertion that Earth is hollow.

Geocentrists think the sun, planets, and stars revolve around Earth. For many centuries, this was a manifestation of man’s arrogance in thinking he was the center of the universe. The incentive of today’s believers is reconciling the universe with their interpretation of the Bible. To the best of my knowledge, the only adherents are a tiny subset of Catholics and a few ultraorthodox Jews. Their reasoning centers around verses such as Psalms 104:5, which credits God with laying the foundation of an Earth that will never be moved. This idea had enough persons with enough resources that a geocentrism conference was held in 2010. Besides shaky science, the seminar also claimed geocentrism was being silenced by a conspiracy of secularists, scientists, and academic elites.

These folks say Earth remains stationary, while all heavenly bodies rotate around our planet. But even at warp speed, Neptune would be unable to complete a rotation of Earth in 24 hours. And that’s just Neptune, not the stellar bodies millions of light years away. Faced with this established science, some modern day geoncentrists adopt a position they call compromise and which I call idiotic. They claim the sun revolves around Earth, but that the other Solar System planets revolve around the sun. Also, stars other than the sun remain static. Since the Bible is silent on the movement of other planets and of stars other than the sun, they can still cram this idea into their preconceived notion, as long as Earth is motionless.

We’ll look now at some of the dozens of truths denied by geocentrists. While Copernicus and Galileo explained how it works, unquestioned proof of heliocentrism did not arrive until 1725. That year, James Bradley discovered stellar aberration, the perceived yearly change in the positions of stars. Further proof was provided by physicist Leon Foucault, who suspended a weight from a lengthy wire and let it swing. A pen at the bottom of the weight drew a line in a circle of wet sand. After an hour, another line intersected with the first line at an 11-degree angle, consistent with a rotating Earth. Then we have the Coriolis effect, which causes hurricanes to rotate in different directions depending on what hemispheres they are in. Keeping with natural disasters, a major earthquake changes the rotation of Earth, which would be impossible if Earth didn’t have a rotation to change. Geocentrists retort by insisting earthquakes are caused by the change in rotations of other heavenly bodies. Silly ad hoc hypothesis like these are the result of arriving at a conclusions first, then seeking evidence that fits. This case is even more egregious since claimants present no evidence, just assertions.

Whether our planet is spinning is of no concern to advocates of a hollow Earth. Their only focus is on the critters that dwell within. There are two main schools of thought: One a conspiracy theory, the other a belief in New Age blissful harmony. Neither camp allows for the existence of moderate Middle Earth creatures. They are entirely malevolent or benevolent, depending on which idea one subscribes to.

In the conspiracy theory, Earth’s middle is accessed at the poles by Bildebergers, Bohemian Grove members, reptilians, Atlantians, or Buddhist and Hindu monks that have attained a higher level. Theorists offer little reason as to why these beings are there, leaving it to be inferred that the middle serves as a sanctuary and a place to plot world domination. It is sometimes suggested UFOs park there when stopping by for an intergalactic visit, or that Eskimo’s ancestors are the original inhabitants. There is also talk that Nazi leaders made their escape there, a much more interesting location than South America.

There exists no explanation for what is holding us up if our planet is without a mantle, solid inner core, or liquid outer core. And the lack of sunlight for those trapped inside is also never addressed. Also, there are several photos of the poles, none of them showing an entrance.

One advocate gave his life to the cause. Eschewing medical care, Raymond Bernard keeled over from pneumonia while searching for a mystery tunnel to the underworld that a Tibetan lama told him was at Argentina’s southern tip.

The most prominent proponent today is Diane Robbins, who claims to receive telepathic messages from High Priest Adama. Adama resides in Telos, a Golden City beneath Mt. Shasta, close to where Robbins lives. How fortunate that the subterranean telepathic creatures reside precisely where someone who can detect them lives. Another lucky break for Robbins and her minions is that the inner Earth inhabitants speak English.

Robbins also communicates with dolphins and trees, and sells products so others can acquire these skills. These include BioLumina, which Robbins touts as offering “the highest vibrational spirulina you can buy.” Indeed, I checked around and could find no product with more vibrating spirals.

The High Priest describes an area of unimaginable bliss: No violence or even friction; immunity to illness, injury, and death; a pristine paradise of mountains, flowing streams, perpetually producing gardens, and unending ideal weather. This standard utopia is updated for the modern day with hologram libraries and “Real Reality” helmets that eclipse their virtual brethren, allowing one to see what is going on anywhere at any time. These fully enlightened, immortal beings have conquered war, famine, and disease by harnessing powers unknown to us, specifically galactic energies and crystalline technology. Ideas this grandiose appeal to those dissatisfied with their life and who are not just searching for spirituality, but hell-bent on finding it.

Robbins dutifully jots these marvelous messages that will someday bring paradise to Earth, then sells them to others. These mighty secrets haven’t worked yet, Adama says, because an insufficient number of people have put them into practice. Therefore, the key to eternal Earthly bliss, says Diane Robbins, is to buy products from Diane Robbins.

In her FAQ, the only question Robbins gives a comprehensible answer to is, “Do you hold book siginings (sic)?” I’m guessing she meant “signings”; perhaps siginings is a Telosian dialect. One message from Adama was, “We await the great day when we will be able to show ourselves to you.” Robbins previously said she expected to see Telosians in 2012. That either didn’t materialize or they showed themselves only to Robbins. Adama explained what it’s like when these ideas are put into practice.

As relayed by Robbins, the High Priest assures us, “As you think of us, you will feel a heightened sense of being as our energy cascades into you. It is a physical sensation that is unmistakable. Move into it, for it is us making contact with you. You will experience heightened sensitivity and divine bliss. We wait for your call.” It seems these creatures have mastered every technology except the telephone.

“Bleepin’ Lizards” (Our reptilian overlords)

LIZARDIn a world that some people think is flat and others think is inhabited by leprechauns, there are plenty of topics for me to choose from for this blog. But for an uproarious romp through the skeptic landscape, nothing tops the Reptilian Humanoid Theory.

This is the idea that blood-drinking, shape-shifting aliens from the Alpha Draconis star system hunker in bunkers and plot world dominion. They need human blood to shift from Reptilian to humanoid form and can render lowly homo sapiens into a catatonic state by staring at us. Most of the world leaders are Reptilian, or at least related to them. Human fear gives them strength, so they cause war, famine, and disease in a continuing cycle. They also control the media, though this seems almost superfluous for a conspiracy theorist to bother mentioning.

The man most responsible for spreading the idea is former British soccer player David Icke. He argues that Reptilians are referenced in a Babylonian creation myth, where they are dubbed the Anunnaki. Icke has no problem borrowing from other religious stories to create a Reptilian hodgepodge. For instance, he says Anunnaki later bred with humans, with the offspring being mentioned in the Apocrypha. He also suggests Adam was the first Reptilian.

Icke seldom offers evidence, leaving that to his minions. One YouTube video claims to  show a Secret Service agent transforming into reptile form. It references “a series of odd features on his head and face,” without explaining what is out of the ordinary. It also attributes to the agent “very strange behavior and creepy movements,” the speaker’s term for a Secret Service agent looking around observantly. In truth, the agent does look different in the second shot, as it was from a long distance, is out of focus, and in a dark room. The presenter reaches the conclusion that whatever mystery technology kept the agent from reverting to Reptilian form had malfunctioned.

Another believer, writer Zecharia Sitchin, argues the Anunnaki came to Earth for an undiscovered-by-man mineral that allows Reptilians to store huge amounts of information and rapidly travel an inter-dimensional highway.

Reptile men have been featured in many literature works, from H.P. Lovecraft, to the tales of Atlantis, to the Sleestak. The Reptilian theory may have its genesis in these stories. Icke adds a bigoted spin to the idea by asserting the Anunnaki bred with a blond-hair, blue-eyed, extraterrestrial species called the Nordics, producing the superior Aryan race. Some opine Reptilian is thus doublespeak for Jew. This is highly unlikely, since Icke is plenty anti-Semitic without resorting to code.

In his teachings there are three kinds of beings. First, we have the Red Dresses, Icke’s illogical description of our scaly tormenters. Second, we have those those who believe and do exactly what Red Dresses tell them to, the Sheeple. Third, we have those who believe and do exactly what Icke tells them to, the Mad Ones.

The Sheeple include a subset, dubbed the repeaters, who obediently pass Reptilian propaganda onto the masses. The repeaters include all doctors, scientists, teachers, and journalists.

From a skeptic perspective, the points are impossible to disprove. Even if we did something like a DNA test to see if one of the alleged Reptilians was human, our coldblooded overlords are conceded so much power, proponents would say they manipulated the results. Like any good conspiracy theory, any evidence that disproved it would be part of the sinister plan. Counterpoints aren’t worth messing with. For one thing, the burden of proof always lies on the person making the claim. Second, supporters of an idea like this won’t be inconvenienced by evidence, logic, and reason.

I have yet to come across a Reptilian advocate. But I have met Bob Dole, so if they’re right, I have found a Reptilian.

“Monster smash” (Cryptozoology)

imaginaryaniml
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 others 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.

“Zzzzzzermatism” (Zermatism)

WBSNOWMANZermatism is a bizarre mix of horribly misguided archeology, anthropology, biology, linguistics, and other stuff I surely missed. Knowledge of its existence is almost exclusive to those immersed in the skeptic movement, and even then, it’s mainly because it provides the ‘Z’ when completing an alphabet of nonsense.

It draws some parallels to the origin myths of various religions, the key difference being it wasn’t written long enough ago to become gospel. Zermatism originated entirely in the mind of Stanislav Szukalski, an extremely gifted and precocious Pole who won two Gold Medals at Krakow’s Fine Arts Academy, among many other accolades.

Szukalksi was highly creative and could have turned this into an excellent novel, although the best part had already appeared in “The Time Machine.” He authored “I Claim the World!,” a work longer than the Bible, Koran, and Rig Veda combined. The gist of the 39-volume monstrosity is all that people are descended from inhabitants of Noah’s Ark, which landed on Easter Island (thus shortening the kangaroos’ jaunt to Australia).

Furthermore, all languages derive from a single source, the Protong tongue. And all art is a variation of ideas developed by the ancient Easter Islanders. These creatures were almost flawless until being raped repeatedly by Yeti. The resulting descendants are dubbed Yetisynys. And their evil forefathers did not have to travel from the Himalayas to the South Pacific to consummate their cryptozoologic crimes. For these Morlocks, per Szukalksi’s explanation, included varieties in the Amazon, Europe, Japan, Mongolia, North America, and Siberia. They ravaged the Eloi wherever they showed up since, for all of the advanced species’ perfections, they never managed the ability to mass communicate or produce weapons. And how the Yeti developed worldwide when there had only been eight perfect specimens, all on Easter Island, is left unexplained.

The theory incorporates some elements of racism, the most blatant being the assertion that, of all Earth’s languages, the one closest to the ideal Protong is Szukalski’s native Polish.

Similiar to the Reptilian conspiracy theory, Zermatism asserts that Yetisynys can be discerned by their features. These include: Long upper lips; sharply angled, undercut noses; a squat, round physique; and most awesomely, a short ape tail. One need not pore over and memorize these anatomical traits. Szukalksi makes it clear the Sons of Yeti commit all the atrocities, so Nazis, Commies, and serial killers are the ones.

The teaching is similar to the anti-Semitic extremists who think Jews are descendants of Eve and Satan. However, Zermatism offers a reprieve to the cursed offspring, if they study arts, engineering, literature, medicine, and science. Szukalski explains, “To endure their mental hardships, they develop extraordinary patience and perfect imagination. Along with their animal vitality, this makes them capable of miraculous inventions.”

Zermatism was Szukalski’s ego personified, as it was extremely creative, iconoclastic, antagonistic to opposition, and featured mild apophenia. He threw in whatever he wanted, jammed it in to make it fit his preconceived idea, and subjected it to no peer review (though finding other Zermatists to look it over would have been an issue).

The work mixes unvarnished opinion, speculation of the both somewhat reasonable and utterly implausible varieties, and uses one science to prove another. For example, he examines a Greek vase featuring a Pan-like creature attacking a woman, then ties it all to the immaculate creatures of ancient Easter Island: “This is one of many paintings where the woman has the pictographic Tree with her with the Snake wound around it. This, being a Rebus for Polish “drzewo,” refers to her origin, for Protong “Drze Wo” means “Where Water,” hence she was one of the humans who came from the now flooded homeland. The Serpent, as always, represents the Great Flood.”

The volumes abound in this type of elastic thinking and represent perhaps the most extreme shoehorning I’ve come across. All art, culture, history, language, and migration is shaped to fit Szukalski’s narrative.

I could not ascertain any modern Zermatism movement, even among conspiracy theorists, cryptozoologists, or fans of Szukalski’s art. Ironically, the only ones I saw promoting his ideas were those in a countermovement, which was a type of messianic, apocalyptic Judeo-Catholic cult. They argued that the Yetinsynys are the true geniuses and are no longer flawless only due to mixing with the Easter Islanders. As I am a lowly humanoid, I lack the Yetisynys’ vast intelligence and was unable to deduce if this was serious or satirical.

“Seeking spooks and Sasquatch” (Ghost and Bigfoot reality shows)

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If someone struggles through two weeks of incompetence at work, that person will likely have a talk with the boss. If it goes on for another month, that talk is put in writing. Still another month means another meeting with the boss, who is probably the ex-boss by meeting’s end.

And a decade of incompetence and total failure means a million-dollar contract and being brought back for more. “Ghost Hunters” is in its 10th season on Syfy. Ten years so far, with nary one captured spirit. In fact, no ghost hunter in history has captured one. If ghosts exist, their hunters are the planet’s most inefficient workers.

Among the issues with shows like “Ghost Hunters” is that only one solution is considered. Noises can never be the house settling, a board creaking, or the wind blowing. Let’s say the search is on for the ghost of a man whose fiancee, named Leigh, met a premature death. A high-pitched noise that vaguely sounds like, “Icy” has to be the poltergeist announcing, “I miss Leigh.” It can never be a pipe whistling or, for that matter, the apparition declaring, “I kissed a tree.”

These shows attempt to have an air of validity by using electronic equipment and scientific-sounding terms, however poorly-defined. They employ electromagnetic field measurements, Geiger counters, geophones, and night vision devices. But no explanations are offered as to how this equipment would reveal the ghost’s existence. No criteria are given for what constitutes a capture, the alleged point of the show. The practitioners try to appear scientific, but they have no established standards, no stated goals, no checks and balances, no critical peer review, and no definition of proof.

Those who hire ghost hunters think there’s a spirit present, so they already have feelings of dread or fear when in the house. This causes a self-fulfilling confirmation in someone who has decided ahead of time the place is haunted. That fear itself becomes more evidence in the continuing cycle, and the feelings are themselves claimed as proof by the hunters. The hunts are almost always done at night, even though there’s no reason to suspect this would lead to more success. It’s done only to make for a more theatrical production and to heighten the feelings of fright and mystery.

“Ghost Adventures” airs on the Travel Channel, an irony since ghosts never seem to travel. They are always sought out in the home where they lived and died.

Considerably more mobile is Bigfoot, the animal kingdom’s most rapid and stealthy offering. They are so fast and cunning that a sustainable population of 10-foot bipedal apes has lived within 50 miles of Seattle for a century without being caught. Not once have they been successfully hunted, captured, or hit by a vehicle. They keep moving even after death, as no camper or hiker has happened upon their remains.

Undeterred, producers of the History Channel’s “MosterQuest” trudge ahead in pursuit of this giant walking carpet. My idea for a History Channel episode: A story about the days when the History Channel covered history.

Like their ghost-chasing brethren, Bigfoot hunters have spent more than a century in the precise places they expect to find their prey and have yet to bag one. The strongest evidence, of course, would be the capture of a live creature, verified by biologists to be an undiscovered species. Other examples of strong evidence would be a corpse, skeleton, or sizable patch of fur. None of these have materialized. There have been thousands of pieces of weak evidence, in the form of eyewitness claims, shaky videos, and widely varying footprints easily faked with plaster. But 5,000 pieces of unverifiable evidence does not equate to strong evidence any more than 5,000 cups of weak tea dumped in a giant vat would make for a strong drink.

Cryptozoologists point out that Western science only confirmed the existence of the somewhat Bigfoot-like gorilla in the 19th Century. Okapis were found later still, and the coelacanth was thought to be extinct for millions of years. These points are not entirely without merit and, of course, the search for undiscovered animals should be encouraged. But using your desired conclusion as the starting point, then seeking support for that position, isn’t how science is done.

Furthermore, if discovery is the incentive, there are options that will yield more fruit. Entomologists estimate there are 10,000 undiscovered species of ant. But to a cryptozoologist, ants are boring. Also, it requires years of tedious study, learning the characteristics of all known ants, before foraging for their newfound crawling cousins.

So cryptozoologists spend their time looking for Bigfoots (Or Bigfeet, maybe. They’ve never found even one, not sure what they would call two). They also search for an extinction-defying plesiosaur in Scotland or for Frosty’s antithesis on the world’s highest mountain. At a minimum, they hope to land something with a backbone, like Chupacabra.

Since neither the poltergeist nor crypto camps have had success, maybe they should pool their resources and start hunting for Bigfoot’s ghost.