Friday, August 26, 2011

Magical Mystery Tour

This has not been a good year so far and, in response to the stress, my wife and I have made plans for a number of little trips. This weekend with the boys was one of them and included no strips clubs and very little drinking! And only one seegar! We were good geezers.

Instead it was a mini-tour of some new England oddities, stuff that fascinates me! Here in still, movie and print is some of what we experienced.

In top photo, author and researcher Loren Colen in his museum. In bottom photo, I meet Big Foot, or a reasonable facsimile. Both photos copyright by Joseph A. Citro and used by permission.

This is what I wrote about the museum. It was a pleasure to speak with Loren Coleman who is a hell of a nice guy, besides researching a topic that is a huge interest of mine.

PORTLAND, MAINE – It may take you a little more than a tank of gas to drive from Western Massachusetts to the International Museum of Cryptozoology and back, but if you are interested in topics such as Big Foot, lake monsters and unknown cats, among other creatures of controversy, the expense is well worth it.

The museum has the ultimate interactive feature: its founder Loren Coleman, a world-renowned expert on cryptozoology, is on hand most of the time to personally answer questions from visitors.

“Cryptozoology” is the study of hidden animals and the proponents of the research point out that such creatures as the giant squid, mountain gorilla and okapi were once thought of as mythical. Coleman has used the coelacanth, the living “fossil fish” long though extinct until a live specimen was caught in 1938, as the symbol of his museum.

Coleman is no wide-eyed fanatic with an aluminum foil hat. He has a graduate degree in psychiatric social work and worked in that field for years. He has written numerous books and has regularly appeared on such television shows as “In search of …” and “Monsterquest,” among many others.

Originally, the prolific author and researcher had the museum in his home, but the demand to see it was so great he decided to move it to its present location in 2009. In turn, the response has been great enough that Coleman will be moving it around the corner from its present location at 661 Congress St. to larger quarters.

The museum is an amazingly dense collection of artifacts that range from original plaster castings of Big Foot footprints to photos of lake monsters and unknown sea creatures to items depicting efforts to defraud the public such as the a reproduction of a Big Foot mask used in 2008 to earn a group of grifters money for the sale of a fake Big Foot carcass.

Where else could you see a sample of hair from a yeti?

There is an amazing undated photo of a group of Marines with a large unidentified sea creature that will leave you wondering just what it was. A digital frame displays a slide show of lake monster photos, including the famous photo of “Champ,” the lake monster of Lake Champlain.

Another digital screen runs a loop of the famous 1967 Patterson-Gimlin film of Big Foot striding through a California forest. Coleman dispute the more recent claims that the much-studied film was faked.

The recent report of a motorist in Connecticut killing a mountain lion – an animal long extinct from New England – is an example of a less exotic “cryptid.” Although there have been reports for years of people spotting mountain lions where they shouldn’t be, Coleman noted the official explanation was that this mountain lion shared DNA with big cats from South Dakota. Rather than say that mountain lions had returned to New England, wildlife officials claimed the animal had walked 1,500 miles.

Mountain lion generally have a range of 100 miles. To admit that mountain lions have returned would trigger their classification as an endangered species, Coleman said which could affect issues such as commercial development.

Coleman explained to Reminder Publications the museum attracts 5,000 visitors a year and that most are curious tourists who have heard about the attraction. About 30 percent are “cryptonuts,” while about 10 percent are skeptics who come to challenge Coleman.

That the museum has plenty of examples of attempted hoaxes is acknowledgment that Coleman applies great scrutiny to reports about unknown animals.

Ironically, in the age of digital technology that should make documenting sightings of unknown animals more plentiful, presenting fake photos and videos have become easier, Coleman said.

He also noted that just because a person’s cell phone has a camera doesn’t mean there would be more photos of Big Foot and big cats. Besides the fear and astonishment a sighting can inspire, it still takes time for a person to take a phone out of a pocket or purse.

But if you do get a good shot of the inexplicable, Coleman might be interested.

For more information on International Museum of Cryptozoology, go here.

1 comment:

Joseph A. Citro said...

Nice job Mike. Thank god you posted the PG version.