Cryptozoology has often been considered...by cryptozoologist's anyway, a fringe subject of zoology, as it should be as it's an investigation into creatures allegedly extinct that may still roam today, as well as beasts awaiting discovery, and so much more. Of course, much of cryptozoology is considered just a little too arcane for science because not only does it seek cryptids, but it also hunts for what we call 'monsters', in every sense of the word. Cryptozoology has never simply been based on expeditions in search of new insect species or thought-to-be extinct birds, but as a science it believes in the existence of large unknown mammals and sea-dwelling leviathans, all the while science shrugs off such suggestions claiming often that no new large mammals await discovery, which of course is complete rubbish when you consider some of the amazing animals that have been discovered and rediscovered over the last few centuries from the mountain gorilla, to the panda, the okapi and thousands of smaller creatures from land and sea.
However, whilst cryptozoology attempts to uncover, and literally take a peep at creatures from tribal myth, folktales and eye-witness testimony, it also on rare occasion flutters into the murky realms of zooform, because whilst cryptozoologists clearly want to be hunting something they believe to be very real, it's quite obvious in fact that a number of beasts being pursued are not what they seem, hence science and it's dismissal of the cryptozoological category.
Science may see giant steps in discovering a new species of snake in Argentina, it possibly also cringes at mention of supernatural Bigfoot, sky serpents and phantom cats. Science may also scoff at the lack of evidence churned up by cryptozoologists who explore the jungles and back yards of the world seeking eye-witness reports, mysterious footprints and blurry film footage. And yet cryptozoology, despite being a specialist subject is far from the Nessie advertisement or Yeti promotion, because what it does is enlighten its audience to the possibility that some of these folktales of strange beasts may indeed have a flicker of truth.
Cryptozoology is such a diverse subject, and it does often leak into other fringe subjects and not for its own good. This is why we need the term 'zooform phenomena', because like it or not, there is a menagerie of monsters out there which simply defy not only science but also the crypto-gang, but in turn, does this mean that there are cryptozoologists out there who perceive campfire stories of Goatmen, phantom dogs and Jersey Devil's the same way science scoffs at cryptozoology and its aim ? Of course.
Cryptozoology is a serious subject, but it also spans the unknown and skinny-dips into a world of hazy lore and moonlit mutter, so for every story of coelocanth, okapi, Thylacine and Ivory-Billed Woodpecker, there is Mothman, Batsquatch, the Bray Road Beast and the kelpie. Where do we draw the line ?
Well, my book 'Monster!' certainly drew the line, but is there any truth in zooform phenomena despite the countless encounters with seemingly very real, yet quite surreal creatures ?
Bigfoot has become a classic symbol of cryptozoology, as possibly a large, undiscovered, upright walking primate just beyond the reach of man that seems to have been here many, many years before us always beyond the shade of the trees, and yet science scoffs at the possibility of such a creature despite the fact that reports have come from all over the world suggesting several species of bipedal man-beast, and evidence such as casts are reasonably common. And yet, there is Bigfoot also, slipping into the zooform void as a paranormal, red-eyed haunter of dark lanes, at times leaping from UFOs, other moments vanishing into thin air. And then there are the sea serpents, great, long-necked water forms that inhabit a cold abyss that no man has ever searched, and yet science still scoffs at such creatures despite the amazing variety of water life still rearing its often ugly head. But yet again, there are the serpents which have been spoken of for thousands of years, but these are the same beasts which could be dragons, and other mythical, leathery skinned critters, and because they fail to show on our beaches and in our fishing nets, they are ridiculed, despite the vast, unfathomable depths they revel in.
These are the classic cryptozoology creatures, and yet they seem so far away from mainstream science despite thousands of sightings, but what about the zooform creatures that also have staying power ? Countless witnesses have spotted large, bipedal wolf-like creatures on the roads of Wisconsin. Many people, during the '60s observed the winged humanoid of West Virginia, but clearly such monsters are exactly that, 'monsters', bizarre and often terrifying apparitions from some other realm, often connected to the human psyche which at times slip into the almost flesh and blood realm of cryptozoology's classic cryptids. Does zooform give cryptozoology a bad name ?
Despite thorough and commendable research into the forests of the Mothman, Jersey Devil, and numerous other mysterious monsters, I'm pretty confident to state that such things are not real in the flesh and blood sense of the world and in turn should be kept away from cryptozoology. I know that there are many researchers out there who have journeyed through the wilds looking for traces of the chupabaras, the Puerto Rican bloodsucker, and there have been mini-expeditions to unravel the truth behind the Jersey Devil of New Jersey's vast Pine barrens, but the facts are, they will never be uncovered, because they are a sum of many parts, so should such half-hinted monsters be classified as cryptozoology ? No.
The Jersey Devil has been one of the longest serving zooform monsters, once giant cat, the next screeching dragon, and then a Bigfoot-like creature, but always local fear. Zooform creatures are often cultural manifestations, nothing more, despite the sightings, and it is the sightings of such beasts that confuse the most because put simply, how can people see such things if they are not real ? Well, are such zooform spectres ghosts ? No. And yet phantom dogs and the likes could easily slip into the ghostly realm, but to pass them off as simply supernatural would be foolish, but it would also be foolish for cryptozoology and even science to neglect such zooform's, but this is too late, because the zooform's, which are an accumulation of local dread, urban legend, folktale, misidentification and at times hoax are very much restricted in their own pigeon-hole despite the variety of complex manifestations within.
Cryptozoologists want to be searching for real, undiscovered beasts, and in most cases I think they are, even if on most occasions they fail to turn up any evidence more than local belief and a few eye-witness sightings, but in this game eye-witness sightings are crucial, because although it's fair to say that misinterpretation and misidentification occur, thousands of people cannot be wrong. So, where does that leave us ? A planet plagued by hordes of marauding, red-eyed phantoms which refuse to show their faces regularly, clearly do not live in the woods or the sea, and yet confuse and terrify witnesses from Russia to the UK, and from Asia to the U.S.A., what's going on with these zooforms ? Well, just like the mystery of ghosts and UFOs it's unlikely that we'll ever truly find out because the answer to these strange beings and weird apparitions lies within us, and not the land we tread upon.
It seems that in the case of the more brief zooform critters, their appearance could well depend on the person which encounters them. We do not intentionally manifest such 'tulpas' or beasts, but for some reason out there somewhere, there's always a lonely motorist or dog-walker bumping into a lizard-man or being buzzed by a hairy, winged humanoid. Is this a personal encounter ? Usually yes, but as we know, such monsters have been observed by huge crowds of people, or been seen over the course of a few months, even years by many townsfolk, but is such a presence simply down to escalating hysteria ? Probably.
We only have to look back to the mythology of creatures such as harpies, the griffin, the manticore etc, to see that such beasts still exist today but they are more 'modernised'. Such monsters of the mind have somehow grown with society, and become part of the social structure in the same way UFOs over the last few hundred years have altered shape, and in turn, those beings which allegedly manipulate such machines have changed to. Look in any classic 1950s UFO-related book and you'll find bizarre hairy humanoids resembling dwarf-like beings, or silver-suited, blonde haired Venusians, as well as witnesses being harassed by sinister Men In Black figures, but why have we grown out of such figures ? During the 1990s the abduction hysteria took the UFO phenomenon to new heights as victims were being plagued by eerie lights at night and seeing slender, big-headed, bug-eyed 'greys', but were such figures any different from the 'old hag' of world folklore, a creeping night terror said to freeze its victim before straddling the chest of the person in a state of slumber, acting like some evil succubus or incubus, preying on the energy of life, exactly the same way as the original vampires of tradition.
Are all these things the same ? When a lonely motorist driving along a stretch of dark road stops to pick up a phantom hitchhiker, does he ever think to ask the ghost, usually female, if she indeed is the local spectre ? No. Never. And that could be because of several reasons. Do we indeed slip into the ethereal void of the spirit instead of the apparition slipping into our void ? Do they have a power to render us thoughtless, speechless etc ? Would that ghost still appear if no-one was there to see it ? Probably not, so once again we go back to the individual who has encountered such a spectre. Do we simply see things which reflect our own inner fears ? Are we even, most of the time, aware of what our real fears are ?
Zooform creatures come from some desolate place as a psychedelic mish-mash, they are like a nightmare, or a cauldron of nightmares stirred into one confusing presence, and they appear when we least expect, possibly when the waking mind is concentrated on the markings of the road, or the over-hanging trees of a countryside walk. For these beasts are not forms which we can raise intentionally, they aren't demons as such, but they have become what we call demons because we can not understand them in any other way.
I strongly believe, and hope that the Sasquatch, lake monsters, sea serpents and mystery cats out there are flesh and blood, although there is a slight inkling that at times some of these encounters are with the unreal, especially when we delve back deep into our history. Such spectres have embedded themselves into our tapestries and scrolls as enigmas. UFOs were once fireballs in the sky, but now they take on a whole new meaning, of hope, of fear, of political upheaval, when the reality is they may have no reason at all.
The world of zooform phenomena should not be confused with cryptozoology or even melted into, despite the fine line being such a hazy one. When one dragon legend becomes an undiscovered species of large lizard, another can be some hellish, surreal leather-winged tribal myth concerning a beast that swallows the Sun. Are the Thunderbirds of Amerindian lore merely bad omens of myth, or really giant, undiscovered birds, bigger than condor's that soar through the zentith beating great black wings ? We'll never find out.
The fact that these creatures rarely turn up should not provoke disapproving sighs from the scientific community. But, cryptozoologists can be the same in their obstinacy, because they feel, that even through their work to uncover the hidden animals of the world, that there's no place for Mothmen, or usually they attempt to explain such beings as 'cryptozoological', which is pretty bizarre when you consider nowadays that for something to be of a crypto-nature is often scoffed at by the zoological world. It's all swings and round-a-bouts, a world of strange theory, dismissed legend and ignorance and this is why a line must be drawn between cryptozoology and zooform phenomena. Black Dogs, Mothmen, Jersey Devil's, kelpies, Batsquatch, and 90% of the entries in my book DO NOT await discovery. Some, despite existing in the annals of folklore for centuries are nothing more than the modern day harpies, i.e. Jersey Devil, whose origins have been born from tales of dark sorcery, or the Goatsucker, which is nothing more than a modern day cultural fear spawned from earlier tales of of the manticore or mardkhora, the original nightmare monsters.
We are creating the, whether by hoax, by hysteria, by fear or by unintentional conjuration, mankind has alot to answer for and such spectres must be kept, or studied in their own void and not put out there to muddy cryptozoology which is an alternative study of animals that are either awaiting discovery, are extinct or thought extinct and rediscovered. Zooform phenomena is not a study of strange animals, but a complex investigation into a series of bizarre encounters, and beliefs of 'monsters', which only exist in conjunction with the nightmares of the mind.
Zooform creatures are not ghosts, and yet the study will always lean into the supernatural realm. Zooform creatures are not of cryptozoology because cryptozoology is a study of animals as mentioned. Zooform creatures are not related to ufology. Zooform creatures are a sum of many parts, they are the monster in the closet, the bogeyman, and as a race we have a craving for the unknown which we often store in the back of our mundane lives. We don't invite the unknown because it scares us too much, but when it does come knocking we never understand it, because the bogeyman never shows his true face, and neither does the basic demon. Such figures, spectres, beasts and apparitions maybe are unable to spend that long here, or ever show their true face, but we believe in them so strongly a individuals which is why they continue to exist, because we have a need for monsters.