After four decades of dogged research into unclassified zoological enigmas — best selling author, documentarian, lecturer and field investigator – Loren Coleman is arguably the face of modern cryptozoology and is, without a doubt, one of the preeminent figures in the annals of paranormal investigations.
First intrigued by accounts of the Himalayan Yeti in the early 1960’s, Coleman quickly found himself disillusioned by modern science’s dismissal of these fascinating creatures and wasted no time establishing relationships with some of the most esteemed crypto-investigators of the 20th century. Some of these notables include the legendary author and adventurer Ivan T. Sanderson, former Loch Ness Investigation Bureau (LNIB) Director Dr. Roy P. Mackal, “Mothman Prophecies” author John A. Keel and the father or cryptozoology himself, Bernard Heuvelmans.
During his earliest field investigations, Coleman was one of the few serious researchers to have actually bore witness to the now nearly mythical “Minnesota Iceman” carcass and he was also one of the first investigators on the scene following the notorious “Dover Demon” encounters of 1977.
Highly esteemed by his peers for his impeccable research techniques and rigorous pursuit of evidence regarding the existence of “unknown animals,” Coleman has traveled across the globe and penned over three hundred articles, as well as numerous books, on subjects such as the Mothman, Sasquatch, the Yeti and the legendary Loch Ness Monster. He has even co-authored (with Jerome Clark) an encyclopedia entitled Crypto-zoology: A to Z, which covers virtually the entire spectrum of anomalous animals.
Often appearing on national radio and television programs, Coleman – who has an undergraduate degree in anthropology-zoology from Southern Illinois University and a graduate degree in psychiatric social work – has carved a niche for himself as one of the leading voices in the American cryptozoological movement.
Listed as a lifetime member of the International Society of Cryptozoology (ISC), Coleman is the author of the Fortean Times cryptozoology column called: “On the Trail,” a bi-monthly feature in Fate magazine known as: “Mysterious World,” and in 2003 completed what many feel to be the definitive work on the North American primates – Bigfoot! : The True Story of Apes in America. He is also a co-founder of the cryptomundo website. Click to see more of Loren Coleman’s published works.
INTERVIEW: LOREN COLEMAN
When did you decide to become involved with cryptozoological research? What was the first cryptid that ever intrigued you?
In 1960, I was reading the books of Charles Fort, which gave me an “open-mind” and “question authority” attitude. When I saw a Japanese movie about the Yeti, entitled “Half Human,” I went to school and asked my teachers what they knew about the Abominable Snowmen.
The answers I got were very unsatisfactory (e.g. “don’t waste your time”), so I began reading and researching all I could on Yeti, Bigfoot, Sasquatch, lake monsters, and more. It has become a lifelong pursuit, passion, and part of my life.
Who are some of the individuals that most influenced your decision to pursue these investigations of unknown animals?
Mostly Ivan T. Sanderson, whom I began corresponding with in 1961. I soon was a correspondent of Bernard Heuvelmans too, and then later with John A. Keel. By 1962, I had 400 correspondents from around the world. I enjoyed the books of Roy Chapman Andrews and Raymond Ditmars, too. But I always saw Ivan T. Sanderson as my mentor.
What are some of the most interesting cases you’ve ever been involved with?
I have enjoyed traveling all over North America, investigating Sasquatch, Skunk Apes, Phantom Panthers, Mystery Kangaroos, Lake Monsters, and many other kinds of cryptids. I will never truly find anything more interesting that the cryptids that first inspired me, the Abominable Snowmen. But as far as weirdest cast, of course, that honor goes to the Dover Demon.
Is it true that you coined the name “Dover Demon”? Can you tell us about the investigation and your opinion regarding what really happened?
The short story (no pun intended) is that over a two day period in April 1977, four people saw a small, 4 foot tall orange sharkskin creature (somewhat like Golem in Lord of the Rings) in three separate sightings, in Dover, Massachusetts, a rural location near Boston. The case goes down as unexplainable. I don’t know the answer to “what really happened” as all the eyewitnesses checked out, and were found to be credible by law enforcement and other people in Dover. For those that want the long answer, please see my chapter on the case in Mysterious America: The Revised Edition (NY: Paraview, 2001).
Can you tell us a little about your involvement with the now legendary “Minnesota Iceman” case?
I saw the Iceman frozen in a block of ice, in 1969, at the Illinois State Fair. I interviewed Frank Hansen, took photographs, and compared these to those from Mark A. Hall, Ivan T. Sanderson, and Bernard Heuvelmans. I’ve investigated the case since then, and find there was something to it. The real body of a hairy hominoid was switched with a Hollywood created double, and the case has definitely gone cold.
For my fullest, up-to-date version of my thoughts, the history, and what may be going on, see my chapter on the Minnesota Iceman in Bigfoot! The True Story of Apes in America (NY: Paraview Pocket – Simon and Schuster, 2003).
More recently you have been involved with investigating the spectacular Myakka “Skunk Ape” Photographs. Can you tell us what you think about the images? Have there been any recent developments in the case?
The Myakka case, also discussed in Bigfoot!, may be a hoax or a prank. Some people have said the photograph can be compared to a stuffed Bigfoot model. We still don’t have any info from Florida police sources or anyone else as to who took the pictures.
Until we know that piece of data, I must assume this case has got to go on the back burner, as a low priority. We have followed all the leads we had to their ends. We’re stuck on this one, until more info is developed. Sometimes that’s how it goes in the investigations.
You served as the publicity spokesperson for the motion picture “The Mothman Prophecies”. In your opinion, is the Mothman a genuine crytozoological phenomenon or does it cross the line into the realm of the paranormal?
The basis of the 1966 Mothman reports, where the eyewitnesses actually called it a “Big Bird,” I feel is related to reports of Thunderbirds and Big Owls for the Appalachian Mountains. There is over a hundred years of reports of these cryptids for that area.
However, the commixture of so many elements – MIBs, UFOs, cattle mutilations, strange biped reports, attempted abductions, and strange deaths – mostly through the writings of John A. Keel – have made the “Mothman case” into something beyond normalcy. I remain interested mostly in the cryptozoological parts of the story – and of course the human factor too.
What are your personal opinions regarding the existence of the so-called “big three” monster mysteries: Lake Monsters, Sea Serpents and Hairy Hominids? Which group intrigues you most?
The way I look at it is the “Big Three Plus One” in cryptozoology, thanks to the media, consists of Abominable Snowman (Yeti), Bigfoot, Nessie + Sea Serpents. The Yeti will always capture my attention, with other hairy hominoids (which includes hominids and anthropoids), with the Lake Monsters (including Nessie) right behind, and Sea Serpents too.
But as I note in Cryptozoology A to Z (NY: Simon and Schuster, 1999), there are about 200 active cryptid cases happening around the world in any one year. I remain extremely interested in all of them, with especial attention to the Mystery Felids and the other-of-the-way extraordinary cases (whatever they might be).
What inspired you to write your first book on the subject of unknown phenomenon? How many books have you written?
I was writing articles for Fate, and coauthor at the time, Jerry Clark and I decided to experiment with some Jungian analysis of the Fortean data. We both contributed to The Unidentifed (NY: Warner, 1975) and Creatures of the Outer Edge (NY: Warner, 1978). Today, we both reject those youthful thoughts about psychological processes, but love the data in those books.
When I wrote my first edition of Mysterious America in 1983 for the esteemed London publisher Faber and Faber, they had decided to publish in America. My book was actually the second book that Boston’s Faber and Faber published (the first was on Ronald Reagan). Mysterious America was very much my book, very down to earth, me on the road investigating, and cryptozoological and Fortean in tone. I had been writing for Fortean Times for a few years, and some of the chapters were developed out of my “On the Trail” column.
I also have published some books in the social sciences, such as the current book, The Copycat Effect (NY: Paraview Pocket – Simon and Schuster, 2004), which I see is an extension of my interest in human mysteries and the media. Altogether, with the new editions (where the works are revised rather completely), I’ve had 27 books published.
How has the critical/fan response been to your published works?
I have lots of readers, students, and fans that contact me all the time, sometimes 500 emails of a personal nature in a week.
How did you become first become involved with television documentaries? How has this notoriety affected your career/life?
The television media first interviewed me in 1969. Then slowly became more and more involved with programs as an interviewee, and/or a behind the scenes consultant. Sometimes notoriety can be a good thing, but in academia (I taught at New England universities for over 20 years), your peers misunderstand you can be a serious scholar and still be interested in, for example, Bigfoot.
I have felt some promotions or further job opportunities were disallowed because of my interest in cryptozoology. This is the same kind of limitations that have been experienced by others, such as Roy Mackal and Grover Krantz.
I am generally disconnected with formal institutions at the present time so I will not be limited by external politics or guidelines for what I must or must not do.
How many expeditions have you mounted in pursuit of various cryptids? Where have you traveled?
I have been involved in treks, excursions, trips, investigative journeys, and expeditions for 45 years. I have traveled to every state but Alaska, most southern Canadian provinces, Scotland (expedition to Loch Ness in 1999), and the Caribbean and Mexico. I could not list all the places I’ve been here. But I go places investigating all the time.
Let me just mention a few of the places from 2004….Skamania County, Washington (Bigfoot), Black Forest, Pennsylvania (Thunderbirds), Lake Memphremagog, Vermont (Lake Monster – Memphre), all over New England (Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, New Hampshire) and New York (Black Panthers, Bigfoot, Lake Monsters, Sea Serpents, etc.), and other places around the country. I suppose I should write my memoirs but who has the time?
What is the best piece of evidence that your research has turned up regarding any of the zoological anomalies you have pursued?
The combination of hair samples, fecal material, foot tracks, eyewitness accounts, native traditions, in combination with the Patterson-Gimlin footage strongly suggests we need to keep Bigfoot/Sasquatch on our radar.
Do you feel that the Patterson/Gimlin footage is authentic? How do you feel about the so-called “Ray Wallace Hoax”?
Yes, I sense the Patterson-Gimlin footage shows an actual unknown hairy hominoid. The Ray Wallace fiasco involves a prankster well known to our field who died, and then his children (who were not alive at the time) saying this jokester “invented” Bigfoot in 1958.
Unfortunately, the apple does not fall far from the tree, and I feel the family has merely helped Ray Wallace pull off his last best joke. But the Wallace fake feet, while they match some footprints that have been found in limited areas; they do not match the Jerry Crew 1958 foot cast that began the whole thing.
What are your future plans? Expeditions… writing… television?
Yes, all of the above, as many as I can go on, as many as I can write, and as many as I can do. I have recently been interviewed to be on Animal X, Mystery Hunters, and Deep Sea Detectives.
I plan to have one trek to Florida this year, to look into some recent Skunk Ape reports, and perhaps a trip to the Pacific Northwest (Bigfoot) and Bermuda (Giant Octopus), but anything could happen. Documentary film crews arrive often, and books ideas are being discussed. But most of it is in the planning stages or confidential, and what will be will be. I am very excited about life, and live it to the fullest.
After all these years what drives you on your continued pursuit of these elusive animals?
Passion and patience. The mystery of today’s cryptozoology is the zoology of tomorrow.
For more information on the work of
Loren Coleman please visit
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