abbemar_1307043390_minnie.0

Cryptozoology and Myth, Part 2: Lake Monster Tropes

lmtThis is the second in a series of posts examining cryptids (“hidden” animals said to exist based on local testimony), namely lake monsters, in terms of the folklore, tradition, and native tales of these creatures.

The first part is here: Cryptozoology and Myth, Part 1: The Illusion of Facticity in Unknown Animal Reports

What can we make of folklore tales that cryptozoologists use to support claims that an unknown animal has been historically reported and remains to be identified?


 

 

As I noted in part one, Michel Meurger’s 1988 Lake Monster Traditions (LMT) supports the view that reliance on folklore and traditional stories as evidence of cryptids is problematic for many reasons. Chapter 1 of the book is called “The Enquiry” as Meurger and Claude Gagnon undertake field work to the lakes of Quebec in 1981. Many locations are mentioned but the main reports focus on ten lakes that have known lake creature lore.

The creatures reports can be categorized into six general types:

  • big fish
  • horse-head
  • living log
  • boat-like
  • seal-like
  • serpent-like

At the end of the chapter, there is a handy table that shows either that many different kinds of monsters may live in the same lake, or that we can’t accurately pin down a solid description of several of the famous lake denizens. The latter is far more probable. Decades of attempts have been made to find biological evidence for the source of mystery animal reports in lakes around the world. No cryptid has been discovered.

IMG_5927

Read More »

sea-serpent-attacks-ship

Cryptozoology and Myth, Part 1: The Illusion of Facticity in Unknown Animal Reports

What can we make of folklore tales that cryptozoologists use to support claims that an unknown animal has been historically reported and remains to be identified?

Cryptid researchers say that modern reports of Bigfoot-Sasquatch, lake monster, sea serpents, giant flying animals, and elusive land creatures are supported by the stories of native people, legends or myths and sagas. Are these stories evidence? Can we reach back in time to use old tales to reinforce and help explain modern sightings of cryptids?

lmtI’m not well-versed in folkloric studies just with a few pop culture college electives to my credit and casual observation for many years. But I heard from respected others that a modern interpretation and application of ancient cultural tales to the cryptozoology field was problematic. I wondered exactly why. The frequently cited source for understanding this aspect of cryptozoology is Michel Meurger’s Lake Monster Traditions: A Cross Cultural Analysis which I obtained.

There is much to digest in this book, translated from French. I do note that the translation does make it difficult sometimes to decode the meaning but it’s not incomprehensible.

I intend to write a series of posts exploring the author’s treatment of this material and his recommendations of how we should consider it for cryptozoological research.

The preface and introduction alone gave a jolt to my thinking. A review of what it contained was perhaps worth sharing for those who have not been introduced to these ideas. It’s obvious that the work still applies to today’s modern TV and internet-based cryptozoologists.

abbemar_1307043390_minnie.0

Read More »

Is the snowflake to blame for the avalanche? (Book review)

Jon Ronson is someone with whom you could sit down and just start up a conversation like you have known him for years. In fact that happened to me a few years back when Jon sat down beside me at a conference, I introduced myself and we started chatting. I feel I could always just start chatting to Jon. This is why his books are so enjoyable to read and how he gets people with interesting stories to talk to him.

shameI was very eager to read his newest book, So You’ve been Publicly Shamed, because I was sure he would tease out some amazing insights into this phenomena of the 2010s – the age of perpetual outrage.

The last time people were subjected to such public backlash, Jon writes, was almost 180 years ago. Stocks meant you were on display in the public square. You could not hide. The media does this very efficiently now but social media, namely Twitter and Internet search engines, are the most destructive of the current shaming tools.

Jon writes that public shaming is like mirrors in the funhouse – the image is so distorted that it makes the individual look monstrous. The small indiscretion gets blown far out of proportion; we overreact to the distorted story. I had a shaming attempt imposed on me one time years ago when a then-notable female skeptic with whom I was only casually acquainted decided that I should be “ashamed” of following a satire account on Twitter, one she felt was personally degrading to her and her friends. She announced this out of the blue in public to her followers. Who the hell did she think she was?

Read More »

Believe nothing you hear, and only one half that you see – Book review

bhBroadcast Hysteria: Orson Welles’s War of the Worlds and the Art of Fake News

by A. Brad Schwartz, 2015

“Believe nothing you hear, and only one half that you see.” – Poe

This quote is the frontispiece to this book. Hits me right in my skeptical soul. I run Doubtful News, a site that deals daily with questionable claims in news media. I don’t like fake news. But the story of War of the Worlds, Orson Welles’s historic radio drama that was said to cause a National panic, was NOT fake news, nor was it a panic.

It was perceived as fake news; it was always intended to be a drama, nothing more. What surprisingly spiraled from it is at the core of this book. The story of the National panic over a Martian invasion was what turned out to be fake. The US ended up with a giant storm about censorship and media trust in a time of uncertainty and change.

Read More »

SFR 332: Duggar Family Values

idoubtit:

An excellent show from an excellent podcast. I encourage people to listen to the last few minutes especially, as Bobby and Jason give their insightful thoughts on the Radford/Stollznow statement.

Originally posted on Strange Frequencies Radio:

–TLC pulls “19 Kids and Counting” after a sexual molestation scandal is revealed which implicates reality show star, and anti-LGBT campaigner, Josh Duggar.
–Has the time come to stop referring to ourselves and others as black, white, etc? An article seen on Addicting Info prompts a discussion about the social construct of race, and why, despite the objection of many, we think it can still be useful.
–Shootout between rival biker gangs in Waco disproves the idea of more guns leading to polite society. But it also prompted us to think about the era of the Wild West, and finding out it wasn’t as “wild” as we once thought.
SFR_Eye–Recommendations: Bobby does his best to insert Star Wars into every discussion by recommending…Star Wars.  Meanwhile, Jason thinks many will find value in the HBO documentary “Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall,” which he feels is an…

View original 171 more words

Should I have been a sociologist?

It was not with conscious intent. It evolved organically. I want to know how and why a group functions the way it does (or doesn’t). First, I studied paranormal investigators, or what I called ARIGs – amateur research and investigation groups. One particular aspect I focused on was how these activities appeared to enhance their lives.  I’ve always been interested in why people believe weird things. I think I understand a bit about why religious, paranormal, and superstitious beliefs play such a dominant role in human society. Of course, there is much left to learn.

Regarding the skeptical community, I started noticing pathologies and problems, groupthink and misplaced focus. Why did this happen and what happens next?

In a Fortean group, I asked about sharing questionable “news” sites – does accuracy matter?

Oops.Read More »

Photo from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/satyros-/2058232092

Doubt and About: I dream of animals (Spring 2015)

Doubt and About is personal contemplation about stuff going on in my sphere. 

I’ve been dreaming about flying rays, monitor lizards and leeches. These days, I have a surplus of tiny spiders on the back deck that enjoy crawling on me and using me as a launching pad for their silk ballooning. I should have been a zoologist, obviously. Meanwhile, my job is to keep writing up rational responses to crazy news stories on Doubtful News.

Photo from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/satyros-/2058232092
Photo from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/satyros-/2058232092

Does anyone not know that I do DN? It’s not unusual to come across skeptics who have never heard of DN. How does that happen? I do all I can to promote it. I’m pretty passionate. This stuff means a lot to me and has for 20 years. Well, this relates to a worsening problem I’ve noticed in the past few years – lack of support and cooperation among skeptical advocates. There are many good groups and bands of individuals that get together to do projects. But it seems like asking for a blog post, Facebook share, a retweet or even a mention of your latest project or important post is met with the sound of crickets. Why is that? Shouldn’t we be helping each other to spread the word about positive stuff?

Read More »