All those strange animals that only come out beside lonely roads at 3am in the morning

Vale John Keel

I've just found out the very sad news that legendary Fortean researcher John A. Keel has died. Along with Jacques Vallee, one of the very first to think 'outside the box' when it came to paranormal phenomena, Keel was a primary influence on most researchers in recent decades. His book The Mothman Prophecies remains one of the most well-known cryptozoology (and paranormal) works, and other books such as Operation Trojan Horse were instrumental in looking past the 'nuts and bolts' UFO hypothesis. His trickster personality led to a controversial reputation, but there can be no denying his influence.

John Keel was 79.

Last Chance to Save the Cryptozoology Museum

From our good friend Loren Coleman, Cryptozoologist extraordinaire:

April 24: Emergency bulletin ~ Hey, this is Maine. Keep more than the hope alive. The bank is empty. The museum’s out of oil, there’s no heat or hot water. Your PayPal donation today is greatly needed. No communication, no blogs and no internet is next, not to mention foreclosure. This is no joke. Please, seriously do…
DONATE

Let's put it like this: If you have ever watched Loren on one of the Monster Quest shows, then you owe the man at least a buck for keeping you entertained ;-)

Thank you.

Abominable Attenborough Controversy

When Sir David Attenborough remarked last week on the possibility that the 'Yeti' exists, it was pretty obvious what a favourite thread on skeptical blogs would be this week. Here's what Sir David is reported to have said:

Speaking on Friday Night With Jonathan Ross, the revered wildlife expert said: 'I'm baffled by the Abominable Snowman - very convincing footprints have been found at 19,000ft.

'No-one does that for a joke. I think it's unanswered.'

Now, to me, it sounds as if Sir David is casually mentioning a mystery that intrigues him. He's not saying the Yeti is for real - in fact, he explicitly says "it's unanswered". However, to Evan Bernstein at the SGU blog, the famed naturalist had become "a new and reputable ally in trying to convince the world that he/she/it has jumped out of folklore, and into reality". Indeed, it would seem that Sir David's loose lips could sink ships:

Attenborough is allowed to explore his fantasies and speculations just like the rest of us, but skeptics are very aware of the law of unintended consequences. The Bigfoot believers of the world will cling on to Attenbororough’s words and wield them high up in the air for everyone to see. If the history of incidents of famous people having lent their credibility to pseudoscience is any indicator, then the damage has been done.

That's right Sir David, you've done some serious damage this time! Er, what?

At SkepticBlog, Dr Steven Novella used the news as an opportunity to ram home the point that even legendary scientists can be fooled (I do believe, reading from the Book of Randi 2:21):

Attenborough, now 82, is famous for his nature and animal documentaries. Unfortunately, being a nature documentary host does not necessarily prepare one with the skeptical tools necessary to deal with the fringe.

Nature may be complex, but it does not actively try to fool you. Attenborough’s observation may seem perfectly reasonable to an elderly gentleman, but should strike a skeptic, magician, or hoaxer as hopelessly naive. People do strange things for their own reasons. For example, if you’re going to go through the effort of hoaxing a Yeti footprint in the snow, 19,000 feet is exactly where you would do it.

...I doubt David Attenborough’s reputation will be much affected by this episode, beyond a single news cycle. He has a legacy of outstanding nature documentaries that I’m sure mean as much to many people as they have to me.

I should hope his reputation will survive - decades of educating the world about nature and science, versus a casual comment about something he finds interesting? I vote for the former.

Meanwhile, turning our gaze to the Yeti's American cousin, Anomaly Magazine have a new online article worth checking out: "The Patterson-Gimlin Film: An Analysis, by Noah David Henson. The author is a professional illustrator and student of physical anthropology, and uses his knowledge of primatology to dissect the (in)famous footage of an alleged Bigfoot:

My conclusion, after analysing the film footage countless times, employing a degree of expertise in human and primate anatomy, and examining critically the analyses of forensics expert J. Glickman of NASI, among others, is that the 1967 Patterson-Gimlin film does not and cannot depict a human being in a costume. It is a real, as-yet uncatalogued animal, most likely a primate of either pongid (ape-like) or hominid (human-like) taxonomic classification, that resides, or once resided, somewhere in the millions of square miles of human-uninhabited forests of the Pacific Northwestern United States and Canada.

The article includes online video footage which is referenced by Henson during his article, to point out the intriguing aspects. Still looks like a guy in a suit to me, but good to see this type of analysis being done...and I guess he's more qualified than me on this particular topic. One to mull over.

Rejecting the 'Minnesota Iceman'

A few weeks back I posted about a James Randi newsletter in which he references (in the wake of the Georgia Bigfoot hoax) the controversial Minnesota Iceman case of the late 1960s and the involvement of his 'former' friend, famed cryptozoologist Ivan T. Sanderson. In the post (and in a later comment), I pointed out that - although there were certainly many elements of the case suggestive of a hoax - Randi seemed to have skipped some of the more intriguing parts of Sanderson's investigation, as related by Loren Coleman in his book Mysterious America.

However, in a new post at Cryptomundo.com, Loren has made clear that the Georgia Bigfoot hoax has made him reassess the level of evidence required for him to take cryptozoological investigations seriously, and as such he has decided to reject the Minnesota Iceman case. Loren's announcement is quite eloquent, using the parable (and of course, the title!) of Eugene O’Neill’s 1939 play The Iceman Cometh to illustrate his point:

If you examine most good analyses of The Iceman Cometh, you will find there is agreement that the play finds universality through the theme that all human beings have a tendency to entertain unachieved or foolish hopes – or, as Hickey and others in the play call them, “pipe dreams.”

...I am guilty of having hope that the Minnesota Iceman would be a key to understanding unknown hominoids around the world, and I have written about those thoughts. I had hopes, fleeting ones, yes, but hopes, nevertheless, that, against all my instincts regarding the unholy three Biscardi-type personalities, an actual body would be revealed during the summer of 2008 too. But that hope lasted for about ten minutes. As I reach nearly three decades of holding out hopes that the Minnesota Iceman might have been real, I must completely reject it now, as a bringer of false promises to enlightenment.

If an alleged cryptid body is sitting in front of you but has not actually even been touched, it cannot, it should not be held aloof as a form of scientific evidence within cryptozoology. We call for others to be open-minded and set their standards with cryptids to a level of fairness without rejection off-handedly. We must set our standards higher than they have been in the past, and only through such an exercise will something of value come out of the horrible Georgia experience.

...The Minnesota Iceman leaves us with nothing but false hopes, deceptive leads, and, yes, pipe dreams.

Check out the whole post, it's an excellent article from Loren which examines a lot of issues we wrestle with daily here on TDG.

Randi Throws 'Friend' Under Bus?

James 'The Amazing' Randi comments on the recent Bigfoot scam in his latest newsletter, with some rather slippery knife work on cryptozoologist Ivan T. Sanderson in discussing the Minnesota Iceman:

...I recalled that in October of 1969, when I was a resident of New Jersey, an exhibit at the Monmouth Mall in Eatontown had attracted my attention. It was what appeared to be a hairy human-shaped figure about six feet tall. I say “appeared to be” because the thing was frozen inside a huge cloudy block of ice, visitors viewed it from an overhead scaffolding, and it was poorly lit – perhaps for good reason. All I could have really said about it was that it looked like an old fur coat with legs…

My friend Ivan T. Sanderson, a naturalist who was very interested in Bigfoot matters, having coined the word, “cryptozoology,” lived in New Jersey, north-west of my home, and I contacted him immediately. He arrived the next day, and took a great interest in this exhibit, despite what I found to be very shaky evidence and no validation at all. Much to my dismay, I now discovered that a few years before this, he’d already chosen to accept and endorse the validity of this farce, and had also supported a true “critter” nut, Dr. Bernard Heuvelmans, formerly of the Royal Academy of Sciences in his native Belgium. Up until that point, I’d respected Ivan’s opinions, but we parted company on this. And to think that I’d spent a couple of days at his home in Warren County, where he’d taught me how to handle and fire a .45 automatic…

Pardon me, but did Randi just suggest that Ivan T. Sanderson may have been of unsound mind, or at least unfit to possess a firearm? Okay, Randi didn't exactly say "damn I'm lucky he didn't put a cap in my ass"...but it read that way to me.

Furthermore, Randi's glibness on this story - as always - covers up the more interesting facets of the case (you'll find nine pages on the Minnesota Iceman in Loren Coleman's Mysterious America). The reason that Sanderson (and Heuvelmans) showed "great interest" in the Iceman was because they had studied it up close in 1967. Coleman also cites the opinion of another close-up witness, herpatologist Terry Cullen, as relayed by Mark A. Hall: "Some of the reasons for Cullen's avid interest in the Iceman exhibit were that he could see: plant matter in the teeth, shed skin of ekto-parasites (lice) on the skin, and unique detention showing in the mouth where a lip was curled back."

Bigfoot's House of Cards

And it all comes crashing down. The only question remaining is whether Biscardi was truly hoaxed by the Georgian 'Bigfoot trackers', or whether he has simply hung the other two out to dry, in order to save his own skin...

Bogus Bigfoot Update

Interesting little aside in this ABC News story about the Biscardi Bigfoot:

Biscardi said he plans to keep the body at an undisclosed location while scientists, including two Russian hominid specialists, study the creature. Biscardi said the entire process will be filmed and then released as a documentary.

That exploding sound you can hear is my bullsh*t detector, unable to cope with it all any longer. Nothing to see here, move along...

What the Beep?!

A quick excursion into high strangeness territory: Ufology pundit Regan Lee has a new UFO Digest article posted titled, "Beeping Creatures", which touches on many of the same areas as my Darklore Volume 1 article "Her Sweet Murmur" (which you can download as a free sample PDF). Our good friend Emps, from Cabinet of Wonders, also noted these sounds in his Darklore article "The Unbelievable Strangeness of Bigfoot" (only available by buying the book). Although I disagree with Regan somewhat in terms of the 'mind control' aspect, it's certainly an area which deserves more serious research. There are other aspects as well - the smells, the fogs etc. - "recurrent regularities" which offer an avenue of scientific investigation into these strange phenomena.

The Mormon Bigfoot

Things have been far too normal around here lately, so today I give you weirdness on a supreme scale: "The Mormon Bigfoot Genesis Theory". Is the giant Sasquatch monster really Cain, the murderous second son of Adam and Eve?

But if you think I'm just throwing out crackpot stories for the sake of it, check out Loren Coleman's recent posting on Mormon involvement in Bigfoot research. I quite like the idea of a 'Bigfoot Mormon Mafia' Loren...just as long as they don't come knocking on my door.

Japanese Water Horse Sighting

Over at Cryptomundo, Loren Coleman has posted an all-too-cool YouTube video of the Japanese promotion of the movie Water Horse. Through the use of a waterscreen, witnesses were able to watch the cryptobeast arise from the water (god help anyone that was bent in the vicinity). Now, if J.J. Abrams could just have done this for the Cloverfield monster...