PSICAN - Paranormal Studies and Inquiry Canada

Cryptozoology


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Written by Jerry D Coleman

Over analyzing and speculating on cases, even going so far as to assume the sex life of Bigfoot or the unknown origins of Nessie at Loch Ness as well as referring to obscure related bits as puzzle pieces of evidence is as counter productive as an arm chair Cryptozoologist can dreadfully hope to become. On the surface it may appear constructive to many but the simple truth of the matter is it’s a cheap, inexpensive, non-threatening, lazy way to promote another personal theory, entertain ones self or stir a debate rather than perform or initiate sound productive framework to get to the truth. Do not confuse analyzing evidence, documentation conformation and in-depth investigative research with the above mentioned arm chair antics. Hours upon hours are wasted stating personal opinions via typed postings to internet sites and creating controversy over the same worn out arguments. Arguments that will find no conclusion, change few minds and only continue the cycle of nonsensical chatter. Field research is a necessary tool, a tool that may be demanding, seemingly not very rewarding and more work than entertaining but it is always productive. Productive because experience if nothing else will be gained, facts or lack of will be obtained and honest actual research performed.

As uncomfortable as it may be for some to see these two words together, "Cryptozoology and Paranormal" the fact is many times these paths do cross, not to say by reality rather by interpretation. The mainstream of society sees little difference in the two; education, explanation and future progress in both fields will certainly change this entirely but for now, the realization of it is apparent. Too often layman, if you will, label sightings, encounters and events inappropriately depending on who the teller of the story is, leaving the listener walking away not knowing if they just heard a ghost story, cryptid sighting or supernatural encounter. The teller may not believe in, or understand Cryptozoology, hence transforming the event into a supernatural occurrence and/or vice versa. This fact needs to be addressed by the researcher and acknowledged; simply tagging someone ignorant of the facts or discounting a sighting because the witness or past researcher labeled it incorrectly may be misplaced or lost data and will not get us up the field and closer to the goal of truth.

This condensed version of wanting to become an active field researching Cryptozoologist offers four fundamental steps, with the fourth being no less important than the first.

STEP ONE

First is commitment and devotion, sounds easy doesn't it, but far from ease is this first step, these two attributes if present will carry you far no matter what interest in life you follow. Wilbur and Orville Wright had these qualities. Orville Wright once wrote, “We were lucky enough to grow up in an environment where there was always much encouragement to children to pursue intellectual interests; to investigate whatever aroused curiosity.” Both Wright brothers never received a high school diploma, Orville left high school to start a printing business and Wilbur stayed home to care for their ill mother. However, these two brothers had commitment and devotion and in a tiny little bike shop they built and flew the first airplane!

Placing commitment and devotion at the top of this four step outline requires commitment and devotion that must exist; if these are missing within ones self none of the following steps are relevant.
 

STEP TWO

The second step is to self-education yourself with any topic's you find of interest associated to Cryptozoology. Read Cryptozoological material, watch Cryptozoological related television shows and search out Cryptozoological websites. Next, seek out seminars, courses and material, other than the obvious zoological studies, such as witness interviewing, photography, evidence collection methods and writing techniques. Another course of direction and one I find most valuable is the hands on approach; became a zoo or animal shelter volunteer, camp out and hike as often as you can, study scouting and tracking, then test and improve your skills. Furthermore, when you go on a weekend excursion or take a vacation, research the area you’re traveling to with a crypto-twist, others may research restaurants, golf courses and hotel accommodations but add to that list, past and present strange or cryptid sightings, area zoos and local legends. Researching such topic’s these days is a breeze via the internet and toll free numbers. I cannot count the number of times I have called 800 numbers to tourist information centers and chatted with the desk clerk awhile thus receiving valuable information to the areas local legends or latest strange area sighting.

Cryptozoological education may come in many forms from a reliable book to field experience to simple conversation. I recall, many years ago sitting and chatting with an old Indian about his hunting and trapping experiences. He talked all afternoon and late into the evening about tracking animals, being aware of their habits and recognizing unusual sounds; many things were learned that day and stuck with me throughout the years.
 

STEP THREE

One must get into the right mindset and maintain it. You are an investigator and researcher, speculation and assumptions must be erased from your vocabulary and performance, save for theoretic evaluation but even then be extremely cautious what you say and how you say it. Be prepared to defend and explain your theory yet never close-minded to new evidence or fresh ideas.

Your theory (or ego) should not and cannot take precedence over a case, be it your investigation or another’s. It is one thing to consider yourself thoroughly prepared and knowledgeable of a case or cases yet quite another to be stubbornly single-minded or overly open-minded. Let the debaters, debate, let the hardcore skeptics debunk and the armchair crypto-theorist rant while you whistle your way through the woods, enjoying nature and obtaining evidence.

STEP FOUR

Most important is going into the field on a case, the following and fourth step to
becoming a successful, respected Cryptozoology documenter is an investigation protocol, which includes, investigation supplies, construction of the case, case analysis, reporting your case and filing the case.

INVESTIGATION PROTOCOL

Conscientiously ignore any assumptions, leave your opinions separate from the case, meaning clearly state them as your opinions never as event fact. Do not lead the witness, do not second guess the witness and never assume the more logical answer to be the correct answer. If an eyewitness states something like; “The thing seemed to fly, no maybe just leaped, yes I think it was a leap.” Take note of this witness confusion, record it and take it into consideration when researching other like cases.

Four simply rules to follow when in the field;

1. Document everything
2. Examine everything you can
3. Support your evidence
4. Record all testimony
 

1.) Document everything: right down to the exact time of day and the weather. Many investigators seem to make the error of simply getting a witnesses name, which many do not wish used anyway; an incomplete location, a basically useless date and a partial description of the event or sighting.

Witness information should include but is not limited to; full name, age, sex, occupation, religious belief and education. For in-depth correctness and possible added insight, gather the eyewitness’s state of mind and alertness, past experiences of the same or similar type, family history and even their theory of the event.

Location is relevant but seldom a clue of conclusion. Many times the location actually hampers the investigation, assumptions crop up due to the simple placement of an event, e.g. a Phantom Panther in a cemetery is at times automatically thought of as a spirit or ghost when in truth it may have been a real live animal, don‘t fall into this trap.

Time may be one of the most useful pieces of documentation gathered. Do not stop at the obvious, yes, of course record the complete date, but the time of day may reveal a secret, as would the length of the actual sighting time. The time of day may expose a pattern or even a reason, i.e. creature’s movements, shadows cast and even the true ability to see clearly may hold explanations. The length of a sighting many times transforms into Extended Time Claims or E.T.C. Syndrome, much as is found in accident victims where so much happened in such a short time the witness whole-heartily beliefs minutes elapsed rather than seconds, this of course, in my opinion, adds truth to their statement.

Describing the event must be complete, a hairy thing standing by the fence then vanishing tells little and ignores a lot. What was it doing, where was it looking, were any noises heard, any odors smelled, did it run, walk, leap, retreat or fly away? Exactly what did it look like and ask for a sketch or sketch the varmint yourself as the eyewitness describes it.

2.) Examine everything: leaving no stone unturned. Take in the complete appearance of the location, even taking a couple of photographs. Make sure to use a scale system when photographing something, like measuring a weed the creature stood by or place an associate in the frame, etc.

Check out the entire area for signs of activity or even the lack of activity. Take note of structures, foliage, waterways and vehicles, whatever is found at or by the scene, record it all.

3.) Support your Evidence: this is a biggy. Look for area disturbance, same or like history, search the perimeter and when possible double document. Obtain police reports; if any personal injury or property damage was done a police report must exist and is public record that is assuming the police were called of course. If no report was filed with the local police still go visit the station to get an officers name and statement, even if that statement consists of the all too often remarks, “no comment” or “it wasn't reported”, this will confirm your attempt.

When scanning an area do not simply look for beastly tracks, this means little. Debunkers use the lack of tracks found as an assumption nothing walked where the witness stated it did. I have gone to large shopping malls and not seen one human foot print but have noticed at least 2000 human beings shopping side by side. Look deeper, look for bent foliage, gnawed grass, hair, feathers, anything out of the ordinary.

History of an entire location may reveal a lot, now we are not just talking about local folklore, although this too needs investigated but again dig deeper. Go to the library and/or web to find information of the locations past, sometimes this simple search may add a lot to the understanding or support of the event.

Search the perimeter, visit the neighbors, most are all too willing to tell their story. Some locals may reveal such information most investigators choose to ignore. I have gathered information such as a pet panther living in the neighborhood while tracking a large dark puma sighting or a petting zoo where wallaby's had escaped, which have explained a leaping animal in the woods.

A recent case I was called to in southeast Kentucky of a phantom attacker terrorizing an elderly couple had claims of a large winged figure standing on top of an old shed making strange bird-like sounds. Even a neighbor and daughter of the couple had seen the shed-figure on at least one late night occasion. When I personally inspected the rear of the shed I found markings of paint scrapped off the shed at about 7 feet high and an odd indentation in the ground 4 feet from the base of the shed. Looking further behind the structure, laying in some weeds was a 2 by 10 board that matched the marks exactly when propped up against the rear wall. Climbing atop the shed, a Hershey’s candy bar wrapper was found neatly tucked in the rain gutter. Then I scanned the area below and could see a path through the tall weeds that led to another house, following the path revealed a rather large teenage boy, which admitted to the prank even showing me his cape and broken duck call that made a unique, piercing sound. When asked why the teen did it, he stated, “I was bored.” The moral of this story, “Check out the complete perimeter.”

Double document, take notes and photographs, tape record if allowed and know how to retrieve a good plaster cast when possible. Speak to all of the witnesses, individually if feasible and search for other witnesses. Then re-interview the witnesses months or even years later. Many times this type of updating may reveal a hoax or add important testimony that escaped the witness at the time of the incident. Other advantages to the re-interview may give the researcher added information or verification of the event. Unlike lightning, these odd encounters do seem to strike the same individuals twice.

Supporting evidence takes many forms as does non-supporting evidence. As simple and obvious as this statement is on the surface it finds many experts and witnesses perplexed as to what supporting evidence truly is, but first lets look at what non-supporting evidence is thus actually answering two questions with this one line of thought.

Non-supporting evidence encompasses all assumptions. Evidence is not items brought forward with thoughts that it must fit. It is not a method of elimination thus arriving at a conclusion. No, in the world of the unexplained negatives cannot add to positives. Example; seeing an unknown creature that does not look like a dog, cat, rabbit or squirrel does not add up to a Cryptid, yet this is how many witnesses sum it up. Be very careful before leaping from the known to the extreme unknown.

Another error often noticed are non-supporting pieces of said to be evidence tagged “exhibit A” that are no more related to the event as my left sock. These exhibits usual include but are not limited to such things as folklore, dreams, legends and even commercial products claimed as evidence. Yes you read right, commercial products; these old photos or sketches brought fore as evidence to support sightings or strange encounters with an unknown history and no knowledge of its origin or maker are absurd, science is not guesses -- theory it is, and should be clearly stated as such.

4.) Record all Testimony: never count on your memory, write it down, better yet tape record it at the time or at the very least as you are leaving the scene. Do not rule out anyone’s testimony at anytime, even if it does not seem to fit, and do not add or subtract from a testimony, ever! Do not coach or lead the witness, let the witness speak and describe events in their terms, at their pace, your job is only to record and clarify. Besides gathering basic information, the testimony when studied may hold secrets to a pattern, flap, or reveal a hoax.

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(used with permission--please do not reproduce this document without Mr. Coleman's consent)