Author Topic: Loren Coleman under the spotlight  (Read 1351 times)


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Loren Coleman under the spotlight
« on: November 02, 2005, 11:10:36 AM »
As cryptozoologist, Loren Coleman rarely gets to play the straight man at meetings with his fellow scientists.

"I had to put up with people saying, 'Oh, you're the one who believes in little green men,'" said Coleman, a writer and academic who investigates Bigfoot and other folkloric monsters.

 Maybe that's because he's surrounded by artwork featuring depictions of Bigfoot as a hairy lesbian, subterranean reptilian humanoids and cave people wearing Viking helmets.

Coleman was keynote speaker at an exhibition of artwork inspired by his quest for proof of mythological creatures.

The point of the Bates symposium, said the museum's director, Marc Bessire, "is not to legitimize or de-legitimize cryptozoology, but to find where it intersects with (art and popular culture)."

It's a hot topic at the moment. Though the art exhibit is relatively small, popular culture is currently going cryptozoology crazy.

Coleman noted the television networks' fall prime-time lineup is chockablock with shows such as Lost, Invasion and Surface, all of which have cryptozoological themes running through them. He said in recent weeks he has been busy doing hundreds of TV and radio interviews.

The media's renewed interest is partly due to the recent discoveries of the "hobbit" remains on Flores Island in Indonesia and the giant squid photographed by Japanese scientists, Coleman said. But mythological creatures are also a diversion from the Iraq War, corrupt politicians and the deteriorating environment.

Not everyone in the media takes Coleman seriously, however. Coleman told the symposium's audience that he had to turn away a TV reporter because he learned that the reporter worked for a comedy show that planned to ridicule his research.

Cryptozoology has been taking its knocks since the discovery of Neanderthal man in the 19th century.

Many mainstream scientists at the time insisted the remains of Neanderthal were actually those of a sick or deformed human, said Coleman.

But the greatest blow to cryptozoology came when Texas oil millionaire Tom Slick, a major backer of Yeti expeditions in the Himalayas, died in a mysterious plane explosion in 1962. "When that plane exploded," said Coleman, "all of the funding for serious cryptozoological research disappeared."

Like artists, cryptozoologists draw upon local legends and sightings of fantastical creatures by fishers and hunters. Mainstream zoologists typically laugh off these stories as superstition, Coleman said. "Often it's a form of racism that causes scientists to reject these stories," he said.

But such legends -- like those about a prehistoric fish, the coelacanth, or the Indonesian hobbits -- sometimes turn out to be true, Coleman said. And when that happens, these creatures leave the realm of cryptozoology and enter zoology.

But zoology's gain can be art's loss. Artists sometimes take discoveries of once-mythological creatures as a disappointment.

"I'm happy they've found the giant squid," said artist Sean Foley, who is participating in the cryptozoology exhibition at Bates and another at the Kansas City Art Institute. "But now I have to fantasize about something different."

Coleman said he is comfortable with the liberties artists have taken with his field of study, and does not see their work as damaging to cryptozoology. He is more concerned with the influence pop-culture movies can have on eyewitness accounts.

"Whenever I go to investigate a sighting," Coleman said, "one of the first things I ask is, 'What's playing at the local drive-in?'"
The greatest trick the devil ever played was convincing the world that he did not exist. - Charles Baudelaire (French and monstrous poet).