Resistance Front, the first Kindle All Stars book in aid of charity, did so well that there’s now a second one. The Carnival of Cryptids, below left, will be released at the end of January. All profits from the book will be donated to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The team leader of the Kindle All Stars is Bernard J. Schaffer, bottom right, whose star associate Matt Posner, Dean of School of the Ages, is well know to readers of Kissing the Blarney as an expert on the Cabala and a writer for young adults. I asked Bernard to tell us how his interest in cryptids first developed. — Andre Jute
Blame Leonard Nimoy
by Bernard Schaffer
People react with curious amusement when I tell them the new Kindle All-Stars book is based on cryptozoology. That, or they have no clue what I’m talking about. Cryptozoology, the study of hidden animals, such as Bigfoot, Nessie, Chupacabra, and hundreds of other legendary creatures.
Every region in the world has their own whispered folktales about something that lives in the shadows, the mountains, or the water. Normally, it’s just an excuse to blame for the various plights visited on the local residents. Sometimes it’s simply a way to make petulant children go to bed and be quiet.
But not always.
Several cryptids have been found and documented and reclassified based on genus and species. The platypus, for instance, was initially thought to be a hoax when it was first described by George Shaw in 1799. One can only imagine what early researchers made of the tale of a venomous semi-aquatic egg-laying mammal with the bill of a duck.
The okapi, a type of zebra-giraffe, was not confirmed to exist until 1901.
Most famously, the giant squid, long since thought the stuff of old sailor stories and a bit too much rum, was not photographed until 2004.
With such scientific descriptions and photographs and confirmations, the cryptid takes its rightful place among the classified species of the world. And with that, a little bit of their magic goes away.
Sometimes I wonder if the people searching for Bigfoot with such fervor are aware of the consequences of their actions. What do they think will happen if one is found? Do they think science will hesitate to cut the creatures open and slab their organs in an excited dash to unlock its biological mysteries? Of course not. We’d be childish to think otherwise.
Bigfoot would then be given a proper name. Something like Australopithecus Robustus or Gigantopithecus Canadensis. It would eventually wind up in zoos. Sure, we’d give it a nice faux-habitat and stare at it from behind thick glass and casually observe these majestic, almost human creatures.
I’d be right there next to you. If you capture a Bigfoot and put him on display, I will come to see it just like everyone else. And then, when that creature turns to look out at the crowd with its sad, soulful eyes, we’ll say the same things we do about gorillas and tigers.
Personally, I prefer him out there in the wild, somewhere.
If Bigfoot is real, he clearly has no inclination to get closer to humanity, and who can blame him? I’ve met a few of you and there are times I’d prefer to go live in the woods too.
My father was a police officer in Horsham Township, Pennsylvania, for almost thirty years. Some of my earliest memories are of him coming home on his meal break and telling me it was time for Star Trek. Now all you whippersnappers are going to have a hard time understanding this, but back in the day, aside from having to hand-churn butter and drink our milk fresh from the family cow’s udder, we only had four TV stations.
Our television wasn’t like these flat screen HD things you hang on the wall, sonny. It was a piece of furniture, an enormous wooden structure that took up a whole corner of the room, filled with diodes and glass tubes. We put lamps on top of it and other decorations, because it was just too big to leave unadorned. Whenever someone in town broke their TV, they dropped them off at the local dump and the cops would go and shoot them up.
On my dad’s meal breaks, we sat on the couch with our TV trays and ate, enjoying our time together that, in many ways, we never would again. One afternoon he was home, sitting on the couch in his crisp blue uniform, with me carefully balancing my metal Mr. Spock TV tray, and Star Trek didn’t come on.
Instead, it was In Search Of, starring Leonard Nimoy. My dad complained bitterly and told me to turn it off, but I was absolutely stunned to see that my favorite Vulcan had somehow been transformed into a human being. Nimoy was talking in somber tones about some sort of mysterious creature that he called, “Part-ape, part-man.”
Through Nimoy’s show, I first learned about the wide array of cryptid creatures, from Bigfoot to the Ogopogo to the Swamp Monsters of Louisiana. Scary, thrilling, fascinating, and somehow it was all okay because the firm and steady hand of Mr. Spock was there to guide me.
People ask me, why a book about cryptozoology?
I say it’s to honor the spirit of things we’ll always look for, always be in search of, and that I hope we only occasionally find.
Once more, for bookmarking: The Carnival of Cryptids will be released at the end of January. All profits from the book will be donated to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.