Some cities and towns begin celebrating Halloween early, today, on a Saturday night. The theory goes that parents and kids won’t be in conflict with the "night before school" bedtimes during the rest of the weekend. That way, they all get one extra hour of sleep to dream of curious creatures and other wonders. I know I will be.
For kids, college students, adults, moms, and dads attending the Bates College Cryptozoology Symposium, Halloween came early with talk of monsters, art, cryptids, fantastic cabinets of curios, sculptures, creatures, Hobbits, cryptozoology, Sea Serpents, installments, natural history museums, imagination, imagery, Bigfoot, and more. While in the middle of an interview with a Canadian journalist at the end of the day on Saturday, large groups of attendees and speakers went out to dinner. Like the last okapi standing nearly alone in the rainforest, this tired guy, slipped into his cryptocar. I slowly, reflectively, drove back to Portland, not being able to say goodbye to lots of new and old friends, but knowing I would see them another day, perhaps next June or October in Kansas City. Now, I’m back home, exhausted but intellectually stimulated and excited by the weekend. I’m collapsing. But first a few feelings.
Many thanks will be sent around and this symposium will leave much to discuss, but for now, I will check in, between parts of October 29th’s Lewiston Sun-Journal article on my keynote, interwoven with various random thoughts. Scott Taylor wrote the piece, and below are selections from his article entitled "Expert sorts out myths, monsters." It’s a good place to begin to share some of what happened at this never-before-held type of symposium.
Monsters tend to lose their bite as soon as they’re dragged into the light of day. That’s the lament of cryptozoologists, according to author…Loren Coleman.
"Cryptozoology is the study of hidden creatures – of monsters," he said. "But once they’re discovered to be real, we lose them. It stops being cryptozoology and becomes zoology."
The symposium was a success on many levels for Bates. I was told more national media discussed this Bates College symposium than any other speaking event ever held in conjunction with their Museum of Art. It certainly seemed to be heavily covered by the AP after Scott Taylor’s first article on it appeared almost two weeks ago.
The Bates folks were clearly happy and doing a wonderful job – hosting the symposium in a top-notch auditorium, having wonderful food breaks, and providing a good selection of cryptozoology and art books by several speakers for sale. Tee-shirts, free to Bates students, and a mere ten dollars to the public were a personal and pleasant surprise. The shirts had an artistic image of me and the Crookston Bigfoot on the front (by Berg), and a list of all the artists to be in the future exhibition on the back beneath the word "Cryptozoology." It was very cool, and as I told several people with a smile, "I have reached my apex; I’m on a tee-shirt."
And being so close to where I’ve called home for over two decades, for a person so father-oriented, to have my older teenage sons Caleb and Malcolm, and Malcolm’s girlfriend Kate, sitting there in the back, taking it all in, in good humor and concentrated attention, made it ever more significant, personal, and relaxed for me.
Coleman rattled off formerly fantastic monsters that are simply accepted now – from mountain gorillas and giant pandas to prehistoric coelacanth fish pulled from Indonesian waters and the okapi, zebra-like animals that live in the African jungles.
Science doubted those creatures for years, discounting folk legends and eyewitness accounts. It took serious effort and decades to prove that they really existed.
"So when people ask why we haven’t found Bigfoot yet, I say we haven’t been looking for that long," Coleman said.
Hunting for the hidden creatures isn’t cheap, and there’s been a dearth of money dedicated to the effort since the 1950s.
It is always hard to predict how people so allegedly and radically outside the field are going to integrate cryptozoology into their cosmos, but it certainly seems a good mix and match here for art and cryptozoology. From eyewitnesses drawings to paintings, from creating a department of cryptozoology to imagining the lines blurring between science and mythos in an artists’ view of cryptozoology, from fakery to hoaxes, for assumed reality to expressed reality, it gave me much food for thought.
His is a real discipline, he said.
"I don’t like it being called paranormal or supernatural," Coleman said. "I don’t like being lumped together with ghosts or UFOs."
He understands the fascination – especially during Halloween. "It’s a lot more fun to talk about this rather than listen to the same old ghost stories," he said. "I’m glad some people are beginning to figure that out."