On Friday, November 30, 2007, I took the train to New York City from Portland, Maine. It is a long ride, but I decided to try it out, catch up on some reading, and see what came my way.
I was surprised by the person I ran into on the train: CBS 60 Minutes correspondent Morley Safer. He was the only guy sitting a few seats in front of me on a sparingly occupied train car. I think he got on someplace in Massachusetts. I’m not sure, and I respect his privacy enough to not really care to talk about his on-and-off points during his train ride.
Morley Safer, for my younger readers at Cryptomundo, is an amazing Canadian who in 1964 joined CBS News as a London-based correspondent. In 1965, he opened the CBS News bureau in Saigon, Vietnam. (I was just getting out of high school, and deciding to go to SIU-Carbondale because of the “little ape” stories in the bottomlands. The Vietnam War and my life would cross later, in the 1970s.)
In 1967, Safer was named the London bureau chief, and then in 1970, he left London to join the CBS News program, 60 Minutes. Safer has been a 60 Minutes correspondent ever since.
Safer was famed for his Vietnam work, so I decided why miss this chance. I went to say hi, and congratulate him on his work. The great reporter that he is, before I knew it, he was asking me what I was doing in New York City. I told him a little about my upcoming talk at the American Museum of Natural History and cryptozoology.
He was intrigued and wanted to know “what other things besides Bigfoot” did I study. I talked of Nessie and those cryptids that roll easily off the tongue. Also I clarified that all are real animals, including giant pandas and okapis, which the cryptozoological method have revealed.
It was one of those momentary but amazing encounters…on a train. The meeting was worth the entire trip down to New York.
Once there, I rushed over to the Central Park Zoo to see the changes that have been made to modernize the facility since last I visited over a decade ago.
That night, I had dinner with Alexander Dake, the publisher of Cosimo Books, who are producing the “Loren Coleman Presents” series of classics. They already have published The Great Sea Serpent by A. C. Oudemans and The Romance of Natural History by Philip Henry Gosse. Soon, a new edition of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Abominable Snowmen: Legend Come to Life will be out, with a new introduction that I have written about Sanderson, the original inventor of the term “cryptozoology.” Alex and I talked of books, languages, trains, and baseball.
The next morning, December 1, 2007, before my talk, I went to the AMNH with my friend, coauthor, and editor Patrick Huyghe, to look at various dioramas I never tire of seeing, especially the ones in The Ackley Hall of African Mammals.
The new exhibition wing on fossil hominids is excellent too, and those reconstructions were breathtaking.
We also toured the Mythic Creatures moderately-sized exhibition hall. We both thought that for what they were trying to highlight, it was well-curated.
The Gigantopithecus model was a wonder, and their overview of the various unknown hairy hominoids – via the world map and text – looked like it was right out of Patrick’s and my The Field Guide to Bigfoot and Other Mystery Primates. Of course, it wasn’t but you know what I mean. It was good and I was comfortable with this part of the show.
Less involved in cryptozoology were the dragons, roc, mermaids, unicorns, and other more mythic animals sprinkled throughout the show.
Luckily, I could swing around a curtain and see cryptozoology revealed in the Kraken = giant squid portion of the exhibition.
It is worth seeing, if you live in New York City and can visit before January 6th.
After Mythic Creatures closes in January, it moves to other museums: the Field Museum in Chicago, the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Gatineau, the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney and the Fernbank Museum of Natural History in Atlanta.
An hour before the program was to begin, I went to the first floor Kaufmann Theater, and found Ellen Silbermann, Senior Manager Public Programs, to see if everything was in order.
Soon, the room began to fill up. A research associate of the AMNH was there first, to ask me about early stories about horses. Then a young man approached me; he wanted an autograph and a photo with me taken by his father. Another father with his daughter, a young woman who looked to be in her teens, also wanted a photo and book signed. Before I knew it, there was a line developing and I hadn’t even given my talk yet.
I know some of the folks were Cryptomundo readers because they introduced themselves as such. Robert Schneck, Fortean author, was there. Alex Dake, his wife Anita, and Patrick filled the front row. The room was full of cryptozoo wonder.
I gave my talk, with some concentration on Bigfoot, Yeti, Homo floresiensis and other hairy hominoids. I had many images, including various drawings of the same creatures to demonstrate how various artists move from an eyewitness sketch to some rather dramatic illustrations.
(BTW, it is true during my talk I did say that maybe the Sumatran rhino will be found to exist in Malaysia. It was great to come back to Maine and learn that a new trailcam photograph had confirmed this.)
The Q&A was lots of fun, with several of the young people in the crowd of over 175 coming to stand in line to ask me questions. Even though there were many more adults than youth in the crowd, the passion in the young people was overflowing in their questions and desire to ask them. The kids had some good inquiries, and a wide range of topics – yes, even Chupacabras, Mapinguary, Thunderbirds, and paranormal Bigfoot – was addressed. Ms. Silbermann had to finally say “no more questions,” and I was moved to a book signing.
I had no idea this formal signing was happening, but it was fine. I found out the bookstore staff were short for the day (no, that’s not a Hobbits joke), so I had to do the signing in the bookstore because they couldn’t do it in the lecture hall.
The shop had a good stock of Cryptozoology A to Z and The Field Guide to Lake Monsters, Sea Serpents, and Other Mystery Denizens of the Deep. I arrived and there was a line to the back wall. The store sold out of the field guide, and put a big dent in their copies of CZAZ.
The woman at the bookstore said this was the biggest crowd she had ever seen for a daytime book signing. Many people brought their old copies of my Tom Slick book, and even someone had a Mothman. Many young men had well-worn copies of CZAZ for me to inscribe.
The youth-filled theme of the day was a central focus of how cryptozoology came across at the AMNH on Saturday.
Indeed, behind the scenes, it appears my original AMNH keynote-type address, patterned after the one I gave at the Bates College’s exhibition Cryptozoology: Out of Time Place Scale, was moved at some point to the “Family and Children’s Programs.” As it turned out, I think my talk got to be heard by some of the best people out there who wanted to listen to a cryptozoology lecture, the passionate cryptozoologically-oriented and the youth. I thank the AMNH for the honor of giving the presentation, and I am happy so many – adults and children – told me they enjoyed it.
I’ll be back! I have just been invited, I confirmed tonight, and I will be returning to New York City to give a Yeti presentation in a little over a month. More on that January 4, 2008, introduction of a classic Abominable Snowman film at the Rubin Art Museum, here.