Richard Greenwell (1942-2005)

An important figure in formalizing the organizational structure and tenets of cryptozoology, Richard Greenwell, 1942-2005, has died.

J. Richard Greenwell, 63, cofounder of the International Society of Cryptozoology (ISC), died Tuesday night, November 1, 2005, shortly before 8 p.m. of cancer. He passed quickly and peacefully while surrounded by family in his home in Tucson, Arizona.

On January 8-9, 1982, Greenwell, at the suggestion of Jerome Clark, along with Dr. George Zug at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D. C. and Dr. Roy Mackal at the University of Chicago, embarked on the creation of the first formal scientific organization for the study of hidden or as yet-undiscovered animals, the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Bernard Heuvelmans (1916-2001) was elected as the first President of the ISC, a post he held for life.

J. Richard Greenwell served as Secretary of the International Society of Cryptozoology from its founding. He was funded in his position to edit the Journal and Newsletter of the ISC, and employed funds from the society to travel to many parts of the world to investigate cryptozoological claims and specimens, including the Ri (a reported mermaid which turned out to be a dugong) in Papua New Guinea with Roy Wagner (former Southern Illinois University and University of Virginia anthropologist), the Onza (a mystery cat which seems to be merely a subspecies of puma) in Mexico, and the Yeren (Wild Men) in China with Frank Poirier (Ohio State University anthropologist).

Originally from Surrey, England, Mr. Greenwell spent six years in South America, after which he was appointed Research Coordinator of the Office of Arid Lands Studies at the University of Arizona, in Tucson.

Before the existance of the ISC, Greenwell searched for the Mokele-Mbembe in the Congo with Roy P. Mackal (University of Chicago biologist) in 1980 and 1981. Greenwell would, before the end of his life, take zoological and cryptozoological trips to over thirty countries, including the U.S.A., China, the Congo, Papua New Guinea, several South American countries, and Mexico.

In 1991, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by Mexico’s University of Guadalajara. A member of numerous scientific societies, including the American Society of Mammalogists, Greenwell was a Fellow of both the Explorers Club (New York) and the Royal Geographical Society (London). He was the author of more than 100 scholarly and popular articles, and, for a few years beginning in 1993, he was a columnist for BBC Wildlife Magazine, Britain’s leading animal conservation publication.

A paid consultant on various television programs, Greenwell had also lectured on cryptozoology at many colleges and universities, scientific institutions, museums, zoos, and aquariums.

His sponsored fieldwork included various explorations in pursuit of Sasquatch, beginning with his first in northern California in August, 1997, when he directed a four-person scientific expedition attempting to obtain evidence of the Sasquatch (Bigfoot). They continued as recently as August 2005, again in northern California, while he was in the final stages of cancer.

Richard Greenwell appeared in The Wildman of China, a 1991 documentary about the Yeren, directed by Ian Duncan, and with writing credits to Michael Dean.

(This obituary was adapted from the biographical sketch of J. Richard Greenwell first published in Cryptozoology A to Z in 1999.)

More on Greenwell’s books, click here.

Added on November 6, 2005.

A personal note: I was upset, sad, and sorry to hear that Richard had passed away. I respected and supported what he did, as the primary initial force behind organizational cryptozoology, whole-heartedly and financially, and his loss is all of our grief.

My deepest thoughts are to his three children, Darwin, Tamara, and Damian, who will feel this loss the most. Family, children, and his close friends are shaken by him leaving us, that’s easy to say. I have talked, since this news began circulating, to many people within cryptozoology who are extremely sad about this too. That world weeps.

My only happiness is in thinking of Richard, someplace, somewhere, right now, chasing cryptids, with vigor and passion.