This is point of inquiry for Monday, March 3rd, 2014.
Today’s sponsors audible please visit Audible podcast dot com forward slash point for a free audio book. Download. Hello and welcome to Point of Inquiry. A production of the Center for Inquiry. I’m your host, Lindsay Beyerstein. And my guest today is Daniel Loxton, skeptical investigator, monster enthusiast and author. Daniel is the coauthor of Abominable Science The Origins of Yeti Nessy and other famous cryptid. How rigorous debunking of just about any cryptozoological claim you care to entertain. From Sasquatch to Sea Serpents to the Congo dinosaur Daniel and his coauthor Dawn for Pharaoh, drawing a huge variety of sources from glaciology to folklore to fossils to old fashioned shoe leather reporting. He’s also the author and illustrator of the brand new kids’ book, Please Saw Peril, which came out March 1st on Kids Can Press. Daniel, welcome to the program.
Hi, thanks for having me on.
So let’s start with the basics. What is cryptozoology?
Cryptozoology is a kind of Proteau discipline or pseudoscience or enthusiast’s pursuit, depending how you look at it, which is the study of hidden animals.
The legendary creatures like Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster is crypto animals, zoology, krypto, hidden zoology, the study of animals.
This is some sort of high minded book on cryptozoology. It’s not really making fun of the Bigfoot enthusiasts. Why not?
Well, you know, I. I am a longtime proponent and skepticism of a very civil. Their evidence based, fact based, truth seeking kind of approach to skepticism. So I you know, by inclination, by personality, by ideology in this case and also by my training and junior skeptic over it.
Skeptic magazine writing for Kit, my voice just tends to be very mild.
And in this case, it’s a it’s an easy sort of approach to take because cryptozoology is you know, it is kind of inherently plausible. It makes sense on the face of it. There could be a big bite.
You just have to find one. And also, it is, as I argue in the book, mostly harmless, not altogether harmless. It can certainly be problematic in some cases, but I’m not convinced that it is already is more harmful than it is beneficial. I think it may be a wash.
In what sense is cryptozoology beneficial?
Well, you know, like any other kind of archival hobby or any kind of hobby that gets in the door to allow these guys were looking for Bigfoot. They’re just looking for an excuse to go camping for the weekend or, you know, the guys who are sluicing over the Internet and going through all the old library documents, they’re doing the same kind of work that I do.
Skeptic magazine, this kind of detective or table tennis sleuthing practice these, you know, on the face of it are kind of beneficial or at least neutral sorts of activities. But, you know, is going out in the woods to look for Bigfoot. Is that more harmful or more expensive or more dangerous and going fishing? I’m not I’m not convinced it is.
I was like my mom’s neighbors approach. She decided at the age of 60 something that he was really just tired of taking his gun deer hunting because it was mostly for him just an excuse to walk around in the woods. So it’s like I’m just going to walk around in the woods for a few days. I’m not going to tell anybody I’m going hunting anymore. There are people you said that does are algaes, not necessarily part of the paranormal, that, you know, it’s inherently puzzle, but there are people who argue for a more metaphysical kind of view of Bigfoot. Right. That is a mythic creature, it seems. Yes, absolutely true.
You know, by the paranormal is kind of a fuzzy word. You know, it often we kind of use it in the colloquial way we mean to sort of topics you might see on the X Files or as sociologists, we use that for topics which are sort of doubly excluded there. They’re outside of mainstream religion, but also outside of science to the fringe of science. By those by those kinds of definitions, cryptozoology is definitely paranoia. But by the by the definition that the paranormal denotes that which is outside of known reality, out of understood nature, it is above nature in some way or out, you know, peripheral to it.
So there’s a lot that we would have to throw out in Paris. Cryptozoology is is Paire arguably paranormal in the sense that a lot of things that we think we know about science would have to be far, Senator, for the Bigfoot hypothesis to be true. Would you say that’s correct?
Well, I it. Yes, but only in kind of detailed sentences.
I mean, like, there are creatures pretty similar to Bigfoot, which are on the earth right now. And there are creatures which are pretty similar to Bigfoot, more similar to Bigfoot, which have existed on Amazon in the geologic past. So in that sense, it’s not a great stretch to think that you might find Bigfoot.
On the other hand, nobody has.
And, you know, it’s it’s the kind of thing where it is sort of a, you know, what you would think of as a fairly easily testable sort of hypothesis.
You know, if there’s a big fight where, you know. Right. You’ll find where the body is. Bodies, you know, they’re big. They’re so let’s be big. That’s the whole point of them.
And there’s certain things about ecology in the fossil record and various other facts that we know that make it seem unlikely that there are these huge primates roaming around even tomorrow, as big as, you know, undeveloped British Columbia. Yeah.
If, you know, if you’re from B.C., you know that, you know, we’ve got lots of green spaces here, but it’s not as undeveloped as people think. You know, every every corner of the world at this point is really, you know, it’s really open to resource exploitation and it’s open to hunting and fishing and tourism and so on. It’s certainly BSE as there are a lot of areas where Bigfoot is purported to be. You know, it has been reported a good deal less suitable habitat for a Bigfoot like creature than NBC, you know, romping all over the prairies and, you know, in big cities and small islands and this kind of thing.
It’s a bit of a stretch to say that I read the other day that they’re using satellites to watch whales nowadays.
Nobody ever proposed using satellites to track Bigfoot.
Well, there is a fairly high profile attempt to construct a blimp platform for hunting for Bigfoot. I don’t think anything much came of that blimp platform.
Yeah, it’s kind of like floating observation deck pretty good.
Know only float over the forests and used infrared to search for Bigfoot without scaring them off, as you might with a helicopter.
Did this plan came of age in the pre Kickstarter era, the post Kickstarter era? Actually, I think if they were to crowdfund it today, I might have a chance.
It was exactly a Kickstarter type thing. You know, they they tried to round up some kind of funding, but you a lot of a lot of funding there. Build yourself a futuristic observation plane. So I don’t think anything came of them. But okay. So returning to your question about the paranormal, you know, you’ve got the creature which is seen everywhere. It’s supposed to live everywhere, which is never found. Right. And that’s that’s a problem for the the idea of a Bigfoot. And so you you get into this sort of. Fringe within the fringe topic of big, fluttery of people who will suggest that Bigfoot is perhaps an instrument dimensional plane travel or something like that. And at that point, you’re definitely into the sort of proper definition of the paranormal. But you know that physics itself would have to be radically revised in order for that kind of a big plot to exist. But it’s a it’s an interesting topic because on the one hand, a mainstream cryptozoologist hate that kind of stuff. You know, they’re already perceived as being pretty friends, being fringe and not they don’t want to go into live with any more kind of far out stuff, baggage.
But on the other hand, cryptozoology is based on this idea that you should really take seriously what eyewitnesses have to tell you. And, you know, you should kind of take these reports of strange phenomena at face value. Right.
The problem is that a lot of witnesses report paranormal cryptid less than, you know, Bigfoot that teleports or comes out of a UFO or is is invisible or communicates telepathically or is bullet proof or have glowing red eyes.
This kind of thing.
So it’s kind of it’s it’s one of the sort of underreported secrets of cryptozoology that the paranormal is really woven all the way through the topic. Did you know serious cryptozoologist they reached for this? No, for a scientific legitimacy.
They have they believe they’re looking for animals and they believe they can be found. They believe this is a scientific pursuit. But at the heart of it, there there is a very far out thread that runs through the entirety of the topic.
Is there apologies them within mainstream cryptozoology to try and explain away the seemingly supernatural parts of Bigfoot that they find embarrassing?
Mostly they just don’t talk about it and thinking.
Thinking. I mean, Tim Cryptozoology say that I used to comment on occasionally there. They just had a policy that you can bring up any paranormal topics of any kind.
You know, I understand why they would have that.
But it is really because they’re trying to run a respectable Bigfoot site here. Yeah, exactly. You know where it go, Dragomir? Yeah. You’re talking big pan dimensional beings into up and up legitimate Bigfoot area.
Yeah, exactly. So, you know, I understand. But on the other hand, it you know, they’re in a pretty deep way. It shoots cryptozoology in the fight because if you can’t trust eye witnesses, what are we doing here in cryptozoology? Right.
Yeah. What does the research tell us about the ways in which eyewitness testimony can go wrong? And how does that does that reflect on Bigfoot law?
Well, as far as you know, eyewitness testimony is not very reliable. And we’re going to have people out in the woods. The opportunities for people to be deceived are, you know, infinite almost. You know, there there is really never a situation in which, you know, there’s never a situation in the wild where you’re looking at things in an optimal way. There’s always some kind of interference. It always leaves in a way. There’s always shifting later, whether there’s always your own internal conditions and there’s always an opportunity to be misled when you’re looking at things in the world.
Even you have a lot of experience in in observing wildlife in nature, right?
I do. Yeah. I was a I was a shepherd for about 10 years.
So when you first told me that, I thought that you when you first told me that you were a shepherd when I first met you, I wondered if that was like a euphemism for having been in a cult or something.
But it turned out, no, you managed to keep my job.
Yeah. I’ll follow up. Along the Cafero Highway up the D.C. side of the Alaska Panhandle is very good. Did most of my work really out in the sticks.
You know, Israel is a big country out there. We had a lot of bear encounters, a lot of wolf encounters and a lot of less less dramatic wildlife encounters.
When you were out there, did you have, like, a lot of time to sort of reflect and think about things like cryptozoology, what might be out there?
Well, some you know, I I remember I used to carry old dog eared copies of Skeptic magazine and, you know, Stephen Jay Gould Books or Sagan 700 World in My Backpack. You know, it’s the same to our people, you know. Picture something very pastoralist’s and gave a lot of time. You know, people ask me, oh, you must do them a lot of painting while you’re out there.
Well, no, you’re off at A.M. and you’re working till 10:00 p.m..
You know, it’s ranch hands, really. You’re out in the sticks walking with the sheep all day and watching for danger.
But but it is possible to read because you’re you know, you can watch for ten seconds, see that everything’s fine. Look down for 10 seconds. And rather than look up again. And over the course of the 16 hour day, that’s a lot of 10 seconds of reading. But I’ll call a heads up.
We’ll be right back with Daniel Loxton. But first, a few words about a special offer from Audible, the Web’s leading provider of spoken audio entertainment. Go to Audible podcast, dot com forward slash point to get your free audio book. With over one hundred and fifty thousand titles to choose from. If you love dinosaurs and monster hunting, you might like the Dragon Seekers’. How an extraordinary circle of fossils discovered the Dinosaurs and Paved the Way for Darwin by Christopher McGowan. You can listen to Audible’s books anywhere, anytime on any digital device to take advantage of the special Web only offer and start your free trial today. Go to Audible podcast dot com forward slash point. Now back to the show.
Bigfoot has a really modern met, the Bigfoot has a really substantial Canadian connection. Can you tell us about that?
Yeah, it pleases me as the B.C. boy that that the Sasquatch legend is really born here in B.C.. B.C. is something of a bit of a hotspot globally for for cryptics. We’ve got some big wins here. We’ve got Ogopogo Big Lake Monster, which predates the Loch Ness Monster. We have a Sasquatch which was born in the Fraser Valley in southern B.C.. It’s a it’s a it’s an interesting and complex story, the birth of the Sasquatch. You know, the smallest part can be told really quickly that based on First Nations lore of large beings in the mountains, a publicity stunt was withheld in the small town in British Columbia. Harrison heartstrings. And this took off in the paper. In the papers, it became an international media sensation. And from there, it’s all this kind of history, you know, with this one long chain of copycat sightings, including some very high profile ones in America. So the Sasquatch or a local boy, he became a, you know, a cross-border crossborder. He had made a big in the U.S..
In the book, you say that these seminal Sasquatch narrative that the one that started them all, the person who produced it, was never interviewed directly by anyone in the cryptozoological community.
Yeah, Don and I, when we set out to write this book.
One of the things that makes a distinct, abominable science is that it’s you know, it’s a kind of broad, critical conceptual discussion or cryptozoology of the topic which which includes sort of survey of major cryptid case studies. One of the things that we wanted to do to make this more difficult. It’s already something the market was lacking, something literature was lacking. We also wanted to delve into these kind of hidden corners of cryptozoology that have been little discussed in the literature. One of these was the paranormal aspect of the paranormal. Because the psychology another is a connection to creationism and another is this lack of fundamental research at the origins of these cryptid legends. And the case you’re talking about is a good example of that, where the really the case, the the single case that the moment when Bigfoot became a wild primate, a gorilla like animal that lived and walked upright and lived in British Columbia on which anybody could see it was which was it was not an ogre. It wasn’t somebody you could talk to, but just an animal, an undiscovered animal. The moment that happened was there was one particular guy with his one particular sighting. Very famous sighting. But when I started to dig into it, I was just completely astonished to find out that nobody ever met this guy. Nobody in cryptozoology ever spoke to him in person.
Nobody looked him in the eye. Nobody asked him if he could keep a straight face when he was telling the story. It was all just by correspondence and only just and really in a single letter.
And this was this. This was the Sasquatch with the giant breasts.
Yes. That’s that’s what really makes it a one of the things that makes it a really kind of pivotal case is that this rollerskating that he described, this creature and his daughter drew it, which looks exactly like the creature we see 10 years later in the Patterson Kimlin film, the famous film of Bigfoot walking across a sandbar. And does that Bigfoot have giant guys on just two really giant, really, really big longer? You know, it’s a fuel, Larry, between the creatures is really striking. And it is not another detail that had been around in the literature really before Roe. It is the ROE case is something that we know that Patterson was familiar with because he had discussed it in his book and it had actually redrawn the ROE sighting. And the role of the Patterson version of the rotating drawing really looks exactly like very much like a a sketch or storyboard frame for his later films, which is a pretty astonishing coincidence if, in fact, he filmed a real Bigfoot.
Tell us more about that film and its role in the history of Bigfoot.
Well, you know, it is a film everybody’s seen. It is the kind of single, most prominent icon of cryptozoology topic, something which is, you know, threaded through our culture now. But it is something which was cooked up under quite suspicious circumstances. It’s funny.
The the book, Abominable Science has been quite well received. You know, we’ve we’ve got quite positive press.
You know, The Wall Street Journal, Nature, a number of media outlets have been kind to us, Bigfoot people have not been so happy with. And quite, quite an angry nine page letter received that my publisher demanding a retraction based on my discussion of the Patterson film, demanding the whole book people.
And the argument was that that I was recklessly unfair to this case.
But the funny thing is, in the book I heard you that nobody knows if the film depicts a monster man.
You know, there’s been a lot of a lot of kind of ink spilled on both sides of this. But I don’t think the film contains enough information to tell us either way.
And so, you know, when you have this kind of impulse, two decades follows, but really nowhere to go with set until the literature moved in the direction of kind of probably the back story of some film and trying to understand the circumstances under which it was created. Those circumstances are quite suspicious. Basically, these guys went out to film Big Foot and they promptly did something that nobody else has ever been able to do.
You know, it’s the you know, the song is very influential to among Bigfoot believers.
It is the kind of foundation of their belief. There’s the one unshakable rock for most most Bigfoot enthusiasts. The thing that keeps them hunting. And yet, you know, it’s it’s remarkable that in all these decades, it’s never been reproduced. Somebody else has ever had that kind of luck.
No, no, no ranger has ever shot that kind of footage by accident while filming. Elk and Dauterive are still fishermen. Nobody but these guys went out to do it on purpose and they immediately get with it in just a few days.
It’s a little suspicious. It is a little suspicious.
And Patterson himself, when you check his back story.
He was kind of a shady character. He was described to me by one cryptozoologist as someone who really shouldn’t do business with him.
And that seems to be the state of the literature, Paddison right now.
It’s fundamentally unsolved, but there are good reasons, sort of good circumstantial case can be built to suggest that it’s likely to be fraudulent.
What do these big enthusiasts like? Is there a personality type that that emerges in terms of the people that are really dedicated going out there and searching for big put themselves and writing about it and so on?
Well, they turn out to be enormously normal, which is a sort of relief to me because I was a really big encrypted enthusiast and as a young person. And really I still am. You know, I, I remember, you know, for example, like in the fifth grade, I remember consulting a Ouija board to find out what end of life this monster should continue like now.
So I should concentrate my search for the monstrance. You know, I found a Bigfoot footprint myself, my parents from witnesses for a local creature here and had resource and.
And so, you know, it’s kind of a relief to me, too, to hear that cryptozoologist are very normal people. We discussed this in the last chapter of the book and in some detail. And luckily, there has been and, you know, there has been some sociological research done on Cryptozoologist. And and people who just have a sort of a casual interest in Crippen’s. And there. Things I think things merge at one that really took me by surprise because I cryptozoology have a topic that has a reputation as a boys topic. It’s something the guys are interested in more than more than women.
But that’s not true at the kind of entry level for people who are just interested in crypto encrypted, where people who when they asked on a survey just, you know, plucked out of the public. When you ask people in the survey, do you think these features are likely to exist? Women are as likely to say yes as men are there about as likely to have done a little bit of research on the topic. So, you know, the part is the kind of general population level. It’s not a gender specific topics. But when you get further into it, into the subculture, it becomes very, very streamed over to the men.
The most interesting things in the book, I thought, was the fact that the sociological research on how Bigfoot has become an icon of masculinity for a lot of these guys.
And it seems to be, yeah, it’s tied up in kind of hunting culture and redneck culture, and it has a kind of flavor to it. I don’t I don’t really know what makes a subculture gender biased in that way.
I mean, this is something that we discuss often in skepticism and humanism, as you know. And I don’t I don’t know if anybody really knows yet if you know the answer.
I mean, we we it’s it’s multifactorial, presumably.
Let’s switch gears and talk about the aquatic monsters. Sure did. Is it true you just said that? I’ll go pogo. Our own local lake monster predates the Loch Ness Monster.
Yes. Yes, it did. I always please for this again as a beauty.
But if you have because BOGO Pogo has the reputation of an imitation Loch Ness Monster kind of a knockoff. But if anything, it’s the other way around. Owego Pogo goes back at least to the early 20s. And then the origins become a bit hazy.
And it’s a it’s a cryptid. But I haven’t finished my research on. I can’t. You know, I can’t do any of that for your audience. Exactly. But I can say that it definitely predates like us monster and. Resource, which emerged the same year as Loch Ness Monster. Cabarrus saw us, your audience probably doesn’t know. It’s my favorite cryptid. Another B.S. monster, but a little bit a little bit obscure compared to your big books, grandnephews. But Cadbury sauce is the most. The most important contemporary version of the Great Sea Serpent at sea. It’s a very classic kind of horse headed 80 foot long thing with flippers on the front and a kind of a whale like tail. And the main. And this thing emerged the same year as have the lack of a sponsor.
I think probably not coincidentally, I think it may have had a similar inspiration.
So it fascinates me. But the aquatic monsters is that they’re in bodies of water that are pretty almost lake monsters are pretty finite. I mean, you have an interesting discussion in the book about how exhaustively Loch Ness has been search for this thing. And I think it comes closer to proving a negative or nonexistence than pretty much anything else in parapsychological investigation or paranormal. I think you’re right.
I you know, for Nancy fans out there, I’m sorry, but I in my opinion, we can close the door.
And though there are no large monsters in Loch Ness. That’s that’s my opinion. And the reason is the reason that’s my opinion is that, as you say, the lake is finite. It has been exhaustively searched for 80 years. Every kind of search strategy you can imagine for four years, building a huge observation platforms with massive like, you know, five foot telephoto lens is coming off the end of these big movie cameras.
They kept the entire surface of the lake and conservation for years on end. And while this was going on, people are still reporting sightings, but the cameras don’t see the issue. They they have done new sonar dragnets of the entire lake just once or twice. But I know maybe a dozen times that they’ve built mobile or sonar, you know, boats that are capable working a grid through G.P.S. and just let them run for months to the end of all this.
You know, they’ve dredged the bottom of the lake for bones. They’ve paid people just to sit around the lake and look for the thing.
They really tried everything. And, you know, it’s been almost a century now. So I think, unfortunately, we just have to give up on that thing. That’s a fluid on in our imagination.
But that’s really disappointing because of all the Evolva cryptozoological things. Nancy is my favorite. I would just love to believe that Busia saw him somehow with us today.
Oh, yeah. I would love that idea, too. And, you know, nephew, maybe the most romantic encrypted. The idea is beautiful. It appeals to every every part of me.
But unfortunately, I think there are a kind of negative evidence that we have never found it and we should have. There’s also a positive case, which I developed in the book, that people should not have believed that there was a lake, there was a monster in the lake to begin with. But I think it’s understandable as a historical phenomenon that appeared at a certain time and was promoted and grew through through publicity. But I don’t think there’s a good argument to be made that there was any monster in the lake prior to 1933.
You’re also the author of a children’s book about real life aquatic monster like Creatures That Pleases Saurus. Tell us about that project.
Yes, I’d be happy to. Please. You saw Aperol is just hitting stores now. It’s out March 1st. And it is my third paleo fiction story book for young children from kids can press Othello’s and Khilafah group.
It’s like for ages four to seven or thereabouts. That’s the kind of thing you would read to your kid at bedtime. Or, you know, it serves as a an early reader for kids in grade one or two. You know, it work, but it really is meant to be a bedtime story.
You’re not only the author, you’re also the co illustrator. Can you tell me about your process in creating these amazing, intricate images?
Say it’s a do the hits undertaking. Yeah. I come out of art.
I come to skepticism through our not through science.
And, you know, my training as an IED.
I am an illustrator by my kind of primary trade where shepherd to look at it.
And so these dinosaur books are, you know, prehistoric Lifebook. They were a wonderful opportunity to tackle some very Hollywood kind of photo realism to depict these creatures. And so in this case, you know, we did land the animals. We did the creatures of the air, and now we’re plunging down into the sea. And the goal is to produce these pictures that they’re big. You know, it’s a full spread, full color. And the idea is give the impression that I just swam down there with a camera. There there know there are sites that are more successfully able to reach for that standard of perfect realism than I think.
And I’ll tell you, some of those pictures of the Predator. What’s the name of the Predator? Those Even’s. Here, me, I think kids are going to love it.
Yeah, Leaphart, on their life, played on that is a big, scary beast like you’ll see. I’ll have a swim with them.
There you go. And this is all based on real, real science. Where do you get your source material about the lives of these users and their predators?
Well, I you know, I I’m a kid who grew up in love with monsters.
And dinosaurs are a very small step for monsters. I’m always interested in these piercer.
These are animals, dinosaurs and the distant cousins of plesiosaurs and the pterosaurs. On the first book and Khilafah attack, I relied quite a bit on my own research, and it’s pretty good, as good as I can possibly to make it.
But we and I you know, I did run it by some script as well, some paleontologists and, you know, an informal kind of fact checking way. But I still managed to make a mistake in there, which we had to correct in print. Very, very pleased by the support I got from kids can impress. We actually replaced two illustrations after the book had come out. So future printing, they’re more accurate, current printing for, I guess, after that for pterosaur trouble. And now for previous Ruparel, we brought in a period zoologist Aaron Nish. He is the science consultant from from staff land for each one of these. Each one of these books he’s been involved in checking out creature designs.
When I’m first conceiving of the story, he’s a very tight little story. Got to be told in under a thousand words. But since it’s allowed to develop characters and tell his story and then do a little science outreach, all in a thousand words.
But yeah, he is involved in you know, I run past the kind of scenarios, the kinds of actions that I would like to see in the story. Things that my research have suggested to be plausible. He gives me more information about that. So, yeah. And about whether or not they are plausible. And then we go forward from that. And so it’s been a back and forth with a qualified expert every step of the way. So they should be quite robust, actually.
And the book will be on sale on March 1st.
Yeah, it’s officially on March 1st. We’ve pre listed that already over skeptic dot com. And they appreciate anyone who stops to check it out.
Well, thank you so much for coming on the show and talking with us about it. It’s been a real pleasure.
This has been a point of inquiry, you can follow us on Twitter at point of inquiry. Tune in next week.