Cryptozoology in the Medieval and Modern Worlds
Folklore, 117 (August 2006): 190–206
Popular interest in cryptozoology (the study of unconfirmed species, such as bigfoot and chupacabra) has been fuelled by a recent publishing frenzy of encyclopaedias, dictionaries, and guides devoted to the subject, as well as by unprecedented opportunities for enthusiasts to collect data and exchange stories via the Internet. The author situates the emotional commitment many exhibit toward cryptids (the creatures themselves) in a broad historical context. Unconfirmed species served as an implicit ground of conflict and dialogue between untutored masses and educated elite, even prior to the rise of academic science as a unified body of expert consensus. The psychological significance of cryptozoology in the modern world has new facets, however: it now serves to channel guilt over the decimation of species and destruction of the natural habitat; to recapture a sense of mysticism and danger in a world now perceived as fully charted and over-explored; and to articulate resentment of and defiance against a scientific community perceived as monopolising the pool of culturally acceptable beliefs.