Loren Coleman

by Michael Szul on 2004-03-14 18:30:48 tags: cryptozoology, loren coleman

Upon many occasions – with a curious mind and a mountain for courage – I’ve found myself on the pathways of the Jersey Devil. What manner of creature might this be, and what visions – should it ever pass before my eyes – would accompany such a strange phenomenon; such a folklore of clay and timeless rumor?

Look towards the world. Bigfoot. Chupacabra. Yeti. Blue Tigers. Phenomenon doesn’t seem to be an exclusive title. Who would seek out such creatures? Who’s curiosity gets the best of them? Loren Coleman is among the few. What would he say?


So what exactly do you do?

Cryptozoology is “the study of hidden or unknown animals.” It covers “unexpected” animals, oftentimes, as the reports of what appears to be a known animal in an unfamiliar habitat or location may, in the end, be found to be a new species or subspecies of interest to science.

As a cryptozoologist, I track down reports, accounts, sightings, and findings of evidence, interview the witnesses, and investigate the data, to determine if there is any credible information which may further our knowledge about a “cryptid” (an unknown or mystery animal). I spend a good deal of my time now, consulting and writing about cryptozoology, but still get into the field as often as possible.

For example, with my sons Malcolm (15) and Caleb (11), I spent two weeks at Loch Ness during the summer of 1999, doing surface searching, interviewing witnesses, and giving a slide lecture at the first international cryptozoology symposium ever held there. I enjoy meeting and talking to people around the world about cryptozoology on the Internet, everyday, too.

How long have you been working in this field?

I’ve been actively involved since March of 1960.

Have you ever been tempted just to give up?

Never.

If one of our readers is interested in becoming a Cryptozoologist, what is the best advice you would give them?

I recommend to young people and already careered individuals, alike, to follow their dreams, their passions, and their interests. Study those field that appeal to you. Since there are no degrees and not too many courses in cryptozoology, yet, we all have to study other fields related to which cryptids interest us. Cryptozoology is about historical, zoological, anthropological, linguistic, and scores of other side branches of research. Folks will be able to contribute if they wish, by just studying in depth an area that fascinates them while always remembering to have fun.

How many books have you written or contributed to in your time, and which would you recommend the most to our readers?

I’ve written 15 books in two fields (cryptozoology/unexplained phenomena and social services, like teen suicide prevention and adoption). Three of my currently available books which would be of interest to folks here are:

Mysterious America: The Revised Edition (NY: Paraview, 2001)

The Field Guide to Bigfoot, Yeti, and Other Mystery Primates Worldwide (NY: Avon, 1999)

Cryptozoology A to Z: The Encyclopedia of Loch Monsters, Sasquatch, Chupacabras, and Other Authentic Mysteries of Nature (NY: Simon and Schuster/Fireside, 1999)

What percentage of anomalies do you think are actually real compared to ones that may be faked or imagined?

I have always worked with the formula that 80% of what I study is misidentifications, mistakes, hoaxes, pranks, jokes, and the mundane. The hardcore 20% is the “unknowns” which get my most attention.

Have you ever come away from an investigation with a firm belief that a creature or phenomena is absolutely real?

“Belief,” per se, is the realm of religion and other faith-based systems. As a cryptozoologist, I accept or deny evidence based on an examination and investigation of the data. If a pattern of credible, good evidence exists, I begin to accept the possible reality of a cryptid. If it does not, I reject it, and move on.

What is the most convincing evidence for a case you’ve investigated?

In 40 years, I have found many pieces of the puzzle, bits of information and data which convince me that certain cryptids are worthy of our investigative efforts. Bigfoot/Sasquatch and the Yeti are some of the most well-known cryptids I hold as credible, but I think other animals, such as the Orang Pendek of Sumatra, the Lake Champlain animals, or some sea serpents are based on truthful sightings and other evidence.

What creature do you think has the best chance of being real?

In Cryptozoology A to Z, The Field Guide to Bigfoot, and Mysterious America, I discuss some 200 cryptids that need our attention. I feel, on land, the Orang Pendek may be the next great ape discovered, and I sense the oceans have many new surprises for us.

Giant squids are real. A Giant Octopus was said to have been found. Do you think it’ll be long before a creature like Loch Ness is finally discovered?

The giant squid is scientifically accepted, having been based on the Kraken legends. The giant octopus is still an unknown, as western Science has not accepted all the evidence yet. Of all of the cryptids, the Loch Ness monsters may be one of the most elusive because when people find it, they may not accept that it is as mundane as what I think it might be – a new species or subspecies of long-necked seal. Also, the LNM is a cryptid that can cross land, a fact often disregarded in its pursuit, so it will remain undiscovered for some time. This will be frustrating to many people, but we have to remember the coelacanth was thought to have been extinct for 65 million years until it was rediscovered in 1938.

I have to ask this since I’m from New Jersey; if the Jersey Devil were a real creature, what are the chances of him being alive today?

In Mysterious America: The Revised Edition, I have a whole chapter on the Jersey Devil. The name is an umbrella term for any strange creatures seen in New Jersey, from “flying lions” to Bigfoot-type cryptids. The early material on the Jersey Devil (that it was a baby born from Satan) is all rural folklore; the 19th century accounts appear to have been based on a real estate hoax (as I explain in the book). The more grounded accounts since the 1960s are more Bigfoot-like, and seem to just be using the “Jersey Devil” name for ease of reporting. We have to be open-minded to all accounts, but the human population density of New Jersey, except in some parts of the Pine Barrens, tells me that if there are any cryptids here, the numbers are very low.

How has technology impacted your field in the past five years?

Everything from laser-triggered cameras on animal pathways to remote webcams, from DNA testing to distance sonar and sonic locating equipment is slowly changing the field. Unfortunately, due to a lack of funding, no matter what the technological advancements, it still takes people and money to get the equipment near the cryptids, for detection. I am hoping with the development of my International Cryptozoology Museum, as part of a broader plan for The Institute of Zoological and Anthropological Discovery, well-funded research efforts will be one of the side benefits.


And now you know to check your backyard… because “here there be monsters” and men who seek them out.