Cryptozoology lovers are no doubt enjoying all the latest TV shows delving into the mysteries of monsters from all parts of the United States. Bigfoot, Swamp Beast, Saber Wolves and all the rest are fair game to these intrepid investigators. But is any of it real?
Like many of you I’ve been enjoying the latest rash of TV programs about the cryptids we love to think about. We have Destination America channel’s Mountain Monsters, Swamp Monsters, Alaska Monsters and the very popular Cryptid: Swamp Beast over on History Channel. (Comic cover right; can’t read artist’s name but it’s there.)
I’d like to share with you my thoughts about these shows and my perceived problems with them, then get into whether they help or hurt the cause for serious investigation into these creatures.
Hunting Cryptid Formula
With the three shows on Destination America, Mountain, Swamp and Alaska Monsters we clearly see a formula. They tell us a little about the creature they’re hunting, they go interview some witnesses and look at some “evidence.”
For me, that’s the first problem. We never see the evidence long enough to be able to analyze it. We just get quick glimpses of what instantly looks like some computer generated image (CGI) but I for one would like more time to analyze these things.
Then there is the “footprint” evidence they occasionally find. To a one, they are all flat images that look like someone took a stamp and squeezed it against the dirt. When real trackers find prints, there is rarely a uniformity about the impression. Why? Because animals are alive and moving. Even Bigfoot prints show unevenness, dug in toes or heels. But the images from these programs all show what I believe are impressed, that is manmade, footprints.
As far as finding hair and scat samples – they love pointing them out but NO ONE puts any into a Ziploc bag for laboratory analysis by some scientists later on. That’s an egregious error if done by people who are seriously on the trail of a cryptid creature. And that’s why I doubt they are serious.
So the hunt continues and they hear all sorts of things and get glimpses of even more ephemeral things in the woods and bayous.
The worst example (in my opinion) of this “seeing things” occurred in a recent episode of Alaska Monsters. They were hunting the Otterman/Kushtaka and the youngest member of the group was seen ahead of them, then disappeared. But then he turns up right behind them saying he was behind them all the time. The implication is that the image of him they saw was actually the “shape shifting” Kushtaka. Um hmmm. We all saw the guy walking in front of the investigators – it could have been anyone in the crew in the dark considering the shot was somewhat unfocused.
In all three shows the “creature calls” are awful. They just sound “canned” like they came out of an amateur studio technician’s repertoire. I’m sure I even heard a supposed “Yeti” roar on that TV show, Russian Yeti: The Killer Lives that was also played on Mountain Monsters in one of their shows. The sounds were exactly alike!
It’s so bad that I don’t believe a single creature call that we “hear” in any of these programs.
Camera Men in Peril
Don’t you love all the shots of the investigators running from harm’s way, sometimes even getting in a car/ATV/whatever and we see them race away into the darkness? So what happened to the camera man left behind to film the getaway? Are we to seriously believe that if anything was really trying to kill the investigators, they’d leave their crew behind? Would anyone be that heartless? I doubt it.
All these shows seem to delight in making a newfangled trap to catch the cryptid of the week. Maybe it’s a redneck thing, but I look at them and think what a waste of a tree. They all make a lot of assumptions about cryptids they never see when deciding what’s big enough or clever enough to hold them. I look at them all and think “Rube Goldberg.” (Artwork left by HeavyMetalArtwork on Deviant.)
I think across the board, the producers have found some very interesting and fun characters to host these shows. I mean some of them are really “out there,” wouldn’t you say? But they’re also endearing in their own weird ways and that’s one of the things I like about these shows.
I also think they’d love to actually find these things the same way that we’d love them to find the creatures. So I give them A for effort.
I would also love to see them all lose those horrible, dirty beards – ewwww!!! But that’s just me.
What about the Hog?
You may be thinking that on the show Mountain Monsters they were delighted with themselves because they actually trapped a large hog. Yes, but it wasn’t a monster sized hog or a cryptid.
Here’s the thing about these wild boar/hogs. They are overrunning many parts of the southern US at this point. I think by this time in Texas they must be a plague. Hunters are shooting them as quickly as they can because these porkers are literally ruining the landscape.
So to catch a wild boar in one of the Rube Goldberg style traps, isn’t that exciting to me. It’s not a cryptid.
(not) Finding Bigfoot
The Animal Planet program Finding Bigfoot sort of follows this same formula, but for me the saving grace is they have a skeptical scientist on board to lend balance to the investigation, Ranae Holland.
The other three investigators on the show, Bobo Fay, Matt Moneymaker, and Cliff Barackman at least try to approach the search somewhat scientifically. I know they get into some weird things like having disco lights at night in the forest, playing guitars, hog calling, but for the most part, their approach is fairly sound.
Speaking of sounds, I think the main problem with their investigation is that they make toooo many sounds! They make too much noise, do too much calling and wood knocking – surely that’s going to scare away a wild animal. But I guess it makes for good TV.
At least they cast any footprints they find and they scientifically gather any hair or scat evidence they think they find – and they get it tested.
I hope they do one day bring home the definitive proof that Bigfoot exists to the point where the scientific community agrees and classifies the beastie as a new member on our roster of known animals.
One annoying thing about this show (and to be fair, many other programs, especially the ghost hunting ones) is that when they hear a call in the distance or a knock, we can’t hear it. Do you mean to tell me that audio technology in this day and age isn’t able to capture the sound so the TV viewing audience can hear it too? It drives me crazy!
Help or Harm?
These shows help bring a variety of cryptid creatures to our attention that we otherwise may never have heard about. That’s very true in my own experience. In fact, I’ve really enjoyed researching some creatures I never heard about before and sharing my findings here in CryptoVille.
But my goal, my drive, is to find the evidence that these creatures actually do or don’t exist. If they do exist, then I want to see us find evidence that will convince the scientific community at large. Anything less is unacceptable.
From reading reviews and comments about these shows around the web, I can tell you that these shows do a lot of harm. People that would scoff at us for trying to prove the existence of these creatures to begin with, find our efforts even more laughable based on the “findings” of these TV programs.
These shows seem to erode any credibility the cryptozoological community has. It’s a shame, but there isn’t anything we can do about.
Except – bring home the definitive evidence one and for all.
Gold Standard: River Monsters
I don’t particularly like fish and I definitely have never felt the need to fish. Yet this man has me watching his show. How did that happen?
Jeremy Wade is the reason this program is so excellent (with kudos to his excellent team of cameramen & crew). Take him away and Animal Planet would make it into just another silly show.
It helps that he’s a trained biologist and a serious investigator. He’s logical, rational, and very intelligent. His shows begin with a problem or mystery and he sets about solving it. And he always does.
My favorite episode was the one where he searched for the Loch Ness monster; a two hour episode. It was masterful. As a lover of cryptozoology with an entire website dedicated to the topic, I can say I am utterly convinced he solved the mystery of the Loch Ness monster. It was a fascinating journey of discovery.
If you get a chance to watch it, do. Be sure to watch the two hour version, as Animal Planet put together a one hour abridged version (do they think we have short attention spans?!!!).
He doesn’t build silly traps to catch his prey, he doesn’t rely on gimmicks like creature “calls,” and he always takes very good care of his crew. What he does do is educate us as the shows progress. We learn about fish biology, ecology, climatology, and even some sociology on occasion.
Quite a few times he’s started a show telling us about historical accounts of some creature of legend and folklore and then he goes and actually finds the fishy beast behind the tale. It’s incredible. I wish we could get him to look for Bigfoot!
So if you’re thinking of starting your own show about finding cryptids, this is the show to emulate.
Thumbs Up or Down
For now, these other cryptid shows are doing well which means lots of people are watching. I’m guilty of it myself, mainly because I like to hear about new creatures and also watching these guys go through their antics is often very amusing, not to mention mind boggling!
So what do you think about these cryptid shows? Do they do more harm than good?