Cryptozoology: The study of "hidden animals," includes Bigfoot, Loch Ness Monsters, Yeti, Myakka Skunk Ape, and hundreds of other cryptids.

 
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The Top Cryptozoology Stories of 2004
By Loren Coleman, author of Bigfoot!

In the 1940s, the Scottish-born zoologist Ivan T. Sanderson began using a word he coined, "cryptozoology," to describe a new subdiscipline of zoology that studied hidden, as yet-to-be-discovered large animals. In the late 1950s, after a decade of correspondence with Sanderson, Belgian zoologist Bernard Heuvelmans began formalizing "cryptozoology." Today, their precise approaches to the passion and patience of the field has grown into a more scientifically-aware cryptozoology.

Once again (see 2000-2003 links below), I review the top stories of the year, which garnered the most media attention, and mention others that should have perhaps received more notice for other cryptids.
  1. The Discovery of Homo floresiensis
    The story is as remarkable as the finding of the first coelacanth, the 65 million year extinct "living fossil" found off Africa in 1938. The biggest story in anthropology for 2004 may become the event of the decade within cryptozoology.  The editor of Nature, Henry Gee, in an editorial entitled "Flores, God and Cryptozoology," wrote: "The discovery that Homo floresiensis survived until so very recently, in geological terms, makes it more likely that stories of other mythical, human-like creatures such as Yetis are founded on grains of truth....Now, cryptozoology, the study of such fabulous creatures, can come in from the cold."


Richard Klyver / Loren Coleman 2004

This is a new interpretation of the Flores woman, Homo floresiensis, by wildlife artist Richard Klyver. It is based on the 2004 Australian and Indonesian discovery viewed in terms of Loren Coleman's cryptozoology research on recent evidence, such as sightings and folklore, of Asia's unknown hominoids.
On October 27, 2004, Nature announced an entirely new species of Homo, concurrently living with modern humans (Homo sapiens), from the Indonesian island of Flores. The team of scientists (Peter Brown, T. Sutikna, Mike Morwood, R. P. Soejono, M. W. Moore, D. R. Hobbs, M. I. Bird, and several other Australians and Indonesians) involved in the discovery and analyses of the Flores people thought they were at first dealing with children, but soon realized this was a group of fully-grown 3 feet (one meter) tall hominids, a new species, who lived as recently as 13,000 years ago. Christened with the new name, Homo floresiensis, the type specimen is a 30 year old female, with the subfossilized remains of six other individuals also being found in the same cave.

Local natives on Flores have one hundred year old legends of a small hairy people, the Ebu Gogo, and clues from these tales will be employed to find new caves to explore for evidence of their former little habitants.  While Sumatra's Orang Pendek has been mentioned in the same context as the media nicknamed "Hobbits" of Flores, the more relevant cryptids are not anthropoids, but the fully manlike ones, such as the Nittaewo, the three feet tall hairy hominids of ancient Ceylon (Sri Lanka) -- mentioned by Pliny in the first century -- who were said to exist to the end of the 18th Century.  It is time to look again at reports of little people, with an eye to the discovery of their subfossil remains and living existence, from Sri Lanka to the South Pacific. As many cryptozoologists have been saying for years about these unknown hairy hominid reports: "We are not alone."  Now we know that is assuredly true.
 
  1. The Bili Ape
    In the forests near the towns of Bondo and Bili, Democratic Republic of Congo, evidence (in the form of fecal droppings, eyewitness sightings, bone discoveries, and a videotape) has mounted of a probable new species or subspecies of giant ape that kills lions. The Bili Ape apparently mixes some traits of gorillas and chimpanzees. The animals have large, black faces, are six feet tall and have pronounced sagittal crests. Anthropologist Colin Groves at Australian National University, and Shelly Williams, a US primatologist affiliated to the Jane Goodall Institute, reported The New Scientist, are doing joint research compiling their findings.
     
  2. Ogopogo Resurfaces
    The year 2004 was a low-key one for monster reports at Loch Ness, but the famed but lesser known water cryptids, Ogopogo in British Columbia and Champ in Lake Champlain were active. For example, the Casorso family saw and took videotape of a 30 feet long black Ogopogo on August 9th, and researcher Arlene Gaal said that at least nine sightings of the creature occurred in 2004.
     
  3. Nicolas Cage Brings Media Attention to Yeti
    The Abominable Snowmen have a way of getting easy media attention. In 2003, Pepsi sponsored a Japanese expedition in search of the Yeti, and Disney announced that 2005 might be the Year of the Yeti because of their new exhibition in Orlando. So it is not surprising to hear that Nicolas Cage, the actor in 2004's successful movie, National Treasure, was telling the trade magazines that "scientists are convinced that somewhere in the Asian mountains of Tibet there is a short red-haired two-legged ape man....I'm fascinated by that kind of thing; fascinated by the as-yet undiscovered, but possible. I like anything that makes you wonder; that isn't totally spelled out for you."
     
  4. Yukon Bigfoot
    In June, a "Bushman" sighting near Teslin, Yukon, a Tlingit village, became the most frequently discussed Bigfoot story of the year. Marion Sheldon and Gus Jules were driving down the side of the highway on an all-terrain vehicle. Suddenly they saw a human-shaped thing "completely covered in hair" that "took just two strides to get across the whole Alaska highway," reported conservation officer Dave Bakica Earlier on May 17, a Bigfoot was seen in south-central British Columbia, near Kamloops. In August, Jennifer Ward saw a Skunk Ape near Lakeland, Florida.
     
  5. Gahanna Lion
    Many mystery cats, usually described as black panthers or unknown maned felids, were sighted around the world, from Australia to North America. But none got as much press time as the Columbus, Ohio suburb's Gahanna Lion, first reported in the spring and seen throughout the summer. A small safari, including a helicopter, never was able to catch up with the elusive monster cat. "I'm convinced it's a 300-pound to 400-pound African lion," Deputy Police Chief Larry Rinehart said at the start of the search, in May. "We're scurrying. It's a heck of a day." Meanwhile, around New Boston, Illinois, reports of a cougar in November and December appeared confirmed, to the surprise of state conservation officials, when a dead one was found in a backyard on December 4th.
     
  6. Elmendorf's "Chupacabras"
    In May, Elmendorf, Texas farmer, Devin McAnally, shot an animal that was eating berries on his property, and he thought it might be the creature that had been bothering his chickens. Photographs of the hairless, gray, weathered carcass circulated on the internet as a possible Chupacabras. People were saying the animal was a monkey, a muntjac deer, or a marsupial species. What are all these dead animals reported in Elmendorf, Beeville, and Pollok, Texas or the live ones videotaped at Glyndon and Joppa, Maryland, or photographed at Asheboro, North Carolina? Examination of the remains and the photographs clearly showed that the animals from Texas and Maryland were probably coyotes, and the one from North Carolina was a fox, all suffering with sarcoptic mange caused by scabies. The Sarcoptes scabiei (variety canis) mites burrow and lay eggs under the skin of the animals, with massive hair loss spreading to the entire body. This was a case of misidentification, it turned out, on a national scale. These animals do not thus belong in cryptozoology, and the mysterious Chupacabras remain phantoms, at best, yet again, for another year.
     
  7. Chinese Lake Monster Expedition
    In September, Chinese scientists launched an expedition to search for their fabled Lake Monsters in northwest China's Xinjiang region, inhabiting Altay Prefecture's Kanasi Lake. The creatures were said to have been devouring livestock (horses, sheep, and cattle).
     
  8. New Courses in Cryptozoology
    Academia was positively impacted in 2004 by cryptozoology courses offered at American colleges and by a Swedish organization. Cryptozoology credit classes were taught by Harrison Demchick at Oberlin College in Ohio, and Scott Marlowe at Florida Keys Community College and the Pangea Institute in Florida. Also, mainstream journal The Scientist reported that GUST [Global Underwater Search Team], founded by Jan-Ove Sundberg of Motala, Sweden, will be starting the world's first school for cryptozoologists next year.
     
  9. Another Good Year for Animal Discoveries
    Many new species, long thought extinct forms, and new subspecies, turned up in 2004, including a shark, a tiger, a peccary, birds, and rodents, demonstrating, once again, there are more new animals out there to be found.  And then there is the story of a new Himalayan primate.

    Late in December, scientists in India found a new species of macaque monkey, in the extreme northeastern area of India's Arunachal Pradesh territory. It is locally known as the Munzala, which means the "deep forest monkey", in the Monpa dialect of the Buddhist tribe of the West Kamang and Tawang areas.  But primatologists only observed it in the wild in the last several months.  The researchers are proposing that the monkey, which they have dubbed the Arunachal macaque, be given the scientific designation of Macaca munzala when the details of its discovery are published in an upcoming issue of the International Journal of Primatology. These monkeys are generally large, heavyset, and dark brown, according to the preliminary research.  This new species lives at one of the highest altitudes of any primate, in the broad-leaved forests of India's sparsely populated northeastern mountains, at elevations more than 11,400 feet (about 3500 meters). Researchers cite this as one possible reason that the monkey was not previously recognized as a new species. Cryptozoologists point out that this species is ethnoknown in the area, which was formerly called "the Hump" during World War II by Flying Tigers and Slick Airways pilots who flew supplies from India to China, and is a biological wellspring. In addition to the new macaque, researchers point out that India's leaf deer, black barking deer, and Chinese goral also inhabit the region.

    Popular Culture Update
    Cryptozoology showed up in a comic book - "Swamp Thing" with a cryptozoologist named "Coleman Wadsworth." And Bigfoot continued to thrill, at the Vancouver (British Columbia) Museum's temporary exhibit "Sasquatch!" - while the long-sought missing Crookston Bigfoot found a permanent home in Portland, Maine's International Cryptozoology Museum. In December, Canberra cryptozoologist, Tim the Yowie Man, won his case against Australia's multi-national corporate behemoth, Cadbury Schweppes, when the courts ruled in his favor. The corporation was attempting to disallow the trademark of "Tim the Yowie Man" because they have candies named "Yowie." The judge found that children would not become confused between Cadbury Schweppes' chocolate products and Tim the Yowie Man.
Passings
Molly Izzard, 84, adventurer and writer, died, February 4, 2004. She was the widow of Ralph Izzard, the newsman, explorer, and author of The Hunt for the Buru (Fresno, CA: Craven Street/Linden Press, 2001) and The Abominable Snowman Adventure (London: Hodder & Stoughton,1955)/Abominable Snowman (NY: Doubleday, 1955).

Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer, 97, the gentle woman who gained international renowned as an amateur ichthyologist, but who more correctly described herself as merely a museum curator, died in 2004. She was the first museum curator at the East London Museum, and was famed for her chance discovery in 1938, in a catch of Captain Hendrick Goosen's at a East London, S.A. fish market, of the coelacanth. The oft-called by the media, "fossil fish" or "missing link," the coelacanth was previously thought to have been extinct for 65 million years. The species, first located in the ocean off South Africa, was given the scientific name Latimeria chalumnae in her honor by famed South African ichthyologist J. L. B. Smith. Courtenay-Latimer also is known to have secured what is possibly the only Dodo egg in the world. She died of pneumonia on Monday, May 17, 2004, in East London, South Africa.

Bobb Schaeffer, 90, a curator and international expert on fossil fish, especially the coelacanth, at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, died of kidney failure, on June 2, 2004 at St. John's Home in Rochester, New York.

Theata Crowe, 66, wife of International Bigfoot Society's founder, Ray Crowe, was known far and wide for her Yeti Spaghetti and Abominable Potato Salad dishes at the potluck dinner meetings of the group's meeting. She was a lifeforce behind the group. Crowe had a quick wit about her. This was especially true when it came to commenting to the media on Bigfooters and their personalities. Once when the story was going around about a Sasquatch searcher who had borrowed a camper from a member of the group and returned it in pretty bad shape, Theata Crowe piped in: "And, he left the thing without any gas!"

Speaking once to a reporter about the lack of monetary incentive lending credibility to Bigfoot sightings, Theata Crowe joked that she had made only $7 from her book, "How to Cook a Bigfoot." On Tuesday, September 21, 2004, at about 10 a.m. Pacific time, Theata Crowe lost her battle with cancer, and moved on to other adventures.

Fred Bradshaw, 57, of Elma, Grays Harbor County, Washington State, passed away on October 21, 2004. He died suddenly of a heart attack while on a hunting trip, with a family member. Fred Bradshaw was a dedicated Sasquatch researcher, who had originally worked as a law enforcement officer for several years while committing his off-work hours to the pursuit of Bigfoot, as an unknown species. As a retired sheriff's officer, Bradshaw spent his time verifying and recording sightings through his organization, Bigfoot Research, a company based near Olympia, Washington. Bradshaw also created a forensic business, Pacific Northwest Special Support Team, for the equal use of law enforcement agencies and Bigfoot hunters.

Bradshaw first encountered Bigfoot as a child while camping with his family near the base of Mount St. Helens in the late 1950s. Throughout the rest of his life, Bradshaw told of having had five encounters with Bigfoot and also finding their traces infrequently.
Best Cryptozoology Books of 2004
Best General Cryptozoology Book:
Cryptozoology: Science & Speculation by Chad Arment (Landisville, PA: Coachwhip Publications, 2004)

Best Book on an Understudied Cryptid:
Thunderbirds: America's Living Legends of Giant Birds by Mark A. Hall (NY: Paraview, 2004)

Best Bigfoot Book:
Meet the Sasquatch by Christopher L. Murphy, with John Green and Thomas Steenburg (Seattle: Hancock House, 2004)

Best Skeptical Book:
Bigfoot Exposed: An Anthropologist Examines America's Enduring Legend by David J. Daegling (Chicago: Rowman & Littlefield, 2004)

Prediction for Potentially Most Significant Cryptozoology Book of 2005:
Encyclopedia Of Cryptozoology: A Global Guide To Hidden Animals And Their Pursuers by Michael Newton (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, 2005)
 
bullet The Top Cryptozoology Stories of 2003
bullet The Top Cryptozoology Stories of 2002
bullet The Top Cryptozoology Stories of 2001
bullet The Top Cryptozoology Stories of 2000
bullet The Top 50 Cryptids Around the World
   

Loren Coleman 2004
   

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