Unbelievables

As may be seen from previous accounts, it is often hard to remove the paranormal elements from the cryptids in question. If Arment is correct and cryptozoology is a method for investigating the nature of ethnoknown creatures, then surely the testimony of eyewitnesses concerning the paranormal aspects of those creatures must be taken into account. Or so believe such researchers as John Keel. Keel (2002) writes, in a style reminiscent of his hero Charles Fort,

An almost infinite variety of known and unknown creatures thrive on this mudball and appear regularly year after year, century after century. Uncounted millions of people have been terrified by their unexpected appearances in isolated forests, deserted highways, and even in the quiet back streets of heavily populated cities. Whole counties have been seized by 'monster mania,' with every available man joining armed posses to beat the bushes in the search for the unbelievable somethings that have killed herds of cows and slaughtered dogs and horses. (1-2)

Keel notes that creatures and strange events tend to recur in the same areas, year after year. Certain geographic locations seem to have an abundance of monster, UFO, and paranormal sightings. Perhaps, he argues, this is because these locations are a type of window into another world. Eschewing the type of empirical explanation that Arment insists on, Keel argues that:

Mundane theories do not seem to fit the known facts. We have to stretch our minds a bit and extend our imaginations into the paranormal. The sudden appearances and disappearances of these wild, unknown creatures all over the world, even in densely populated areas, suggests that they have some means of transportation or else they are deliberately dumped here and retrieved by some form of transportation. (9)

He suggests that, 'Another world exists outside our space-time continuum and that these myriad objects and creatures have found doors from their world to ours in these "window" sectors. Admittedly, it is a far-fetched idea, yet much of the data supports it' (9). Indeed, Keel suggests that mystery animals constitute at least two distinct types. Group 1:

are genuine animals of land and sea but still unknown to science. They include at least three (probably more) types of Abominable Snow Persons, and at least seven large amphibian mammals and reptiles. Overall, they seem to be a harmless lot. They avoid us and prefer that we leave them alone. (317)

Group 2 is decidedly different: 'They are the phantoms that come crashing out of the bushes late at night' (317). About the denizens of Group 2, he writes:

There are entities on this planet, and around it, that are far beyond all efforts to translate them into understandable cellular creatures. They are not real in the sense that we are animals motivated by sex and emotions. They are part of the energies that were scattered into space billions of years ago. Their intelligence is so vast and so ruthlessly inhuman that there is no way for us to comprehend it or communicate with it as we talk to dolphins . . . (322)

Indeed, encounters with these beings are fairly common; they may happen to anyone:

Someone within two hundred miles of your home, no matter where you live on this earth, has had a direct, often terrifying, personal confrontation with a shape-shifting Unbelievable. Our world has always been occupied by these things. We are just passing through. Belief or disbelief will come to you from another direction.

Next week, next month, or next year you may be driving along a deserted country road late at night and as you round a bend you will suddenly see . . . (327-8)

As the sun begins to rise over the lake, I hear the sound of a speedboat in the distance. Unable to get theirs running again, the command post has called upon one of the rangers to come to our rescue. Unfortunately the boat is pretty small and he will have to make several trips across the lake to get us all back safely. I don't wait for someone to say it is my turn -1 push my way through to the front of the line and climb aboard. In minutes I am back across the lake.

When I open the door of my truck I see that there are two men sleeping inside. The storm had blown their tents away in the night and they sought shelter in my rented vehicle. This is fine with me as long as they get out quickly so that I can get back to Paris for breakfast and a shower. They are in no rush.

One of them is in a terrible mood. He is telling me about how badly he has been mistreated on this trip. He is fed up and ready to get out of Paris and back to his home.

'Hell!' he says, 'anyone can tell those tracks were fakes. Didn't they think we would notice that all the tracks were of the right foot!'

Pandora's box - that is what it is. Once you open the box, all kinds of things escape. Once you open that closet door, you never know what kind of monster is going to jump out. Hairy ape-men are suddenly the least of your worries. All sorts of worse things quickly come tumbling out after them - Wendigo, Skinwalkers, manwolves with fangs bared, flying Goat Suckers and winged demons, dinosaurs of the land and of the sea. It is a monstrous menagerie, a post-modern bestiary, a cantina scene of cryptids. This is what happens when you open the door.

Because the science of cryptozoology looks to folklore and eyewitness accounts for evidence of a thing's existence, its ontology is bound to grow overpopulated quickly. When you count tracks and photographs as the highest form of evidence, then almost anything can be real. If the fossil record marks the limits of what is possible, then dinosaurs can walk the earth, swim in the seas, and sail through the heavens.

Hawk was right - if Bigfoot can live in the north Texas woods, then so can Wendigo, so can Chupacabras, so can Mokele-Mbembe. If cryptozoology is the study of ethnoknown creatures, then cryptozoology has its hands full. Fantasy will always be more heavily populated than reality and Keel's Unbelievables will always haunt the borderlands.

I, for one, prefer overpopulation to scarcity, diversity to monotony. There is enough talk of extinction among the creatures whose existence we all agree on, polar bears going the way of the polar ice. It seems that humanity has a fine record of disposing of creatures just as quickly as we make their acquaintance. It is nice to hear that there may yet be mystery in the world, that there may yet be things that we have not yet classified and put into a box - things that, by refusing to be known, are refusing to be destroyed.

Not that I am willing to say that all of the creatures discussed in this chapter are flesh-and-blood animals. My personal ontology tends to be quite a bit smaller than that. (Besides, I don't know if anyone believes in the existence of all these things - surely even the most devoted cryptozoologist has to pick and choose, perhaps taking Bigfoot and Nessie, and leaving Chupacabras behind.) This does not mean that I am bothered that other people do believe these things. I tend to prefer diversity in this case as well. After all, just because I can't believe in something doesn't mean that I think poorly of those who can. (In some ways, I suppose, I admire them.) It has always seemed to me that the human race needs more things to wonder about, rather than less. It is also rather refreshing to think that the publishers of textbooks and the curators of museums don't have the last word about what is real and what is not. There is nothing like a good, old-fashioned democracy of ideas to keep things interesting. This means that we will have to tolerate a great many weird notions and bizarre beliefs. Of course, for some of us, it is less a matter of tolerance, more a matter of enjoyment. The more the merrier, I say.

And if the world does happen to include a one-legged, tree-climbing, rock-throwing, marsupial Sasquatch that prowls the wilds around Paris, Texas, that will be all right by me.

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