My favorite fringe topic has always been cryptozoology, which is the intersection of animals and mysterious weirdness. As I’ve written about the subject of “pop cryptids”, fabulous monsters are now mainstream. They have become ubiquitous online and in American culture, not so much as possibly real zoological organisms to be scientifically recognized (because none have been) but as symbols, icons, and genii locorum (spirits of a place). It’s my opinion that these current depictions of cryptids are where the fascinating content lies, and that there is little value in considering cryptozoology as a zoological endeavor. The reasoning is complex but that leaves so much left to explore for these cultural concepts. For this post, I’m sharing some pop cryptid related items I found this week.

For more on Pop Cryptids, head to Pop Goes the Cryptid or see other posts here.

Cryptozoologists, represent!

Did you ever notice something in common between featured speakers of cryptid conferences?

What is with the beards?! Yep. Every one of these are guys with beards. (Hats may be an indicator of which of them are less “academic” and more field-oriented.) You may recognize a few of these usual suspects.

It’s all too easy to apply these generalized characteristics to those interested in particular fringe topics. (Maybe it’s just me, because I’m not a beard-fan.) And, I will admit, it’s not totally fair. That is, the audience is more diverse. The photo above was from the 2023 Florida Bigfoot event in which a YouTube video of the vendor room showed, Ok, many more beards, but also many women and some kids. Regardless of the audience, the narrow demographic appearing on the stage representing the leadership in this community is glaring. The invited speakers are not scientists (except for usually one who flashes that label for cred – last year J. Meldrum and this year R. Holland). The story, not the science, is the star. To me, that says something important.

The 2024 event just took place last weekend and not much has changed. The generalization holds.

Additional photos show that the appeal of the idea of Sasquatch, and all the cute and kitschy stuff related to it, is embraced by the younger generation because it’s fun. Not so much because they really think it’s a legit undiscovered animal.

From the NPR affiliate in Florida:

I don’t think it’s healthy to be obsessed with an unproven creature. But, that’s a word that’s maybe overused these days. Maybe not.

And cryptid proponents love to tout how youngsters are getting into the cryptozoology act and often give them a platform. However, I’ve seen many such teens grow out of belief in forest monsters as real life dawns on them. Some stay hooked all their lives. Since we have 50+ years of actively looking for Bigfoot and not finding it, this seems like a highly questionable obsession.

The Encryptids

This week saw the Electronic Frontier Foundation launch their membership drive featuring The Encryptids – “the rarely-seen enigmas who inspire campfire lore. But this time, they’re spilling secrets about how they survive this ever-digital world.”

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that cryptid creatures can be creatively used for cryptocurrency and encryption. This promotional material is charming.

Note the appealing “cute” factor – a key to reaching a wide audience. It also appears EFF will be loose with the cryptid label by featuring not just Bigfoot, but a Jackalope and maybe a ghost. I do like it, though. Why not? It’s a good cause.

For your listening pleasure

Besides the Jackalope, a famous manufactured animal of renown is the Hodag, the official mascot of Rhinelander, Wisconsin. I want to recommend the Urban Legends podcast episode on the Hodag written and hosted by Luke Mordue.

Check it out here. And have a listen to the other Modern Myths episodes.

Passing of Richard Ellis

Finally, I was sorry to hear of the passing of Richard Ellis, 86, an author and artist who greatly informed me about marine life. His Monsters and the Sea is one of my top cryptozoology books.

I recommend his NYT obituary and this tribute by Darren Naish on Tet Zoo.

It is a sign of a life well-lived when you leave behind your lauded words, images, and ideas to continue on.

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