Jon de Vos: Two roads diverged …
Fraser, CO Colorado
Young people are always coming up to me and asking, “Jon, what should I do with my life?”
For me, there’s only one answer and I always tell them the same thing, “Cryptozoology,” I reply, “the study, research and pursuit of monstrous creatures called Cryptids, unique in the animal kingdom in that they are not real.”
They usually stare for a moment, “Uh, why would I waste an MBA on something like that?”
“Cryptids’ lack of existence makes them difficult to find. But the search for them comes with big, fat, research grants. If your goal is to find something that isn’t there, then the height of your success can only be measured by the depth of your failure. And big research grants.”
“I’m beginning to see.”
First of all, the field is not very crowded. Suppose you land a six-figure grant to go to Australia to study the Bunyip. From an aggregate of all accounts, the Bunyip is a cow-shaped, feathery, ugly humanoid with supernatural powers. There’s two centuries of made-up stuff about the Bunyip in Australian libraries to plagiarize, uh, I mean, sift through.
It’s a cryptid, remember, and doesn’t exist. So you spend six months on a beach in north Queensland, swilling Foster’s and taunting Great White sharks from 60 feet above the water line. Take three days off to write up some outlandish account of your eyeball-to-whatever encounter with the Bunyip, thus satisfying the grant-giver and making a story suitable for a lucrative sale to tabloid newspapers. And there’s no need to stop there.
First sighted in a West Virginia cemetery, Mothman stands seven feet tall despite no head. Aha, you say, no head, no eyes, no problem. Fatally incorrect. Mothman, or more correctly, Moth Person, has glowing red eyes set deep in his chest and can fly 80 mph, leaving piles of ruined underwear in his wake. Mothman was also sighted around Chernobyl just before the nuclear meltdown in 1986.
Not all cryptids are bloodthirsty throat-rippers. Squonks are small, ugly, wart-covered creatures inhabiting the thick forests of northern Pennsylvania. According to the 1910 classic, Fearsome Creatures of the Lumberwoods, by Bill Cox, squonks are so depressed by their hideous appearance that they spend a lot of time crying and turn into a small pool of tears when frightened. Steely Dan sang about the squonk in their 1974 album, Pretzel Logic. Two years later, Phil Collins of Genesis wrote “Squonk” about a hunter who caught one, but got home with only a bag of water.
Hey, I just report these things, only real columnists get to make them up.
The Boo Hag is like a vampire except scarier. They have no skin of their own, they’re blood-red, warm and slippery. They walk amongst us wearing skins from previous victims. Tip: If you sleep next to a broom, the Boo Hag will become engrossed in counting bristles and spare your hide.
The Tailypo is the size of a huge wolf with yellow eyes and black fur. It flies around the American South at night, dispatching victims with claws and teeth. Despite being a big, ferocious, flying wolf, the Tailypo claims no supernatural powers.
The Brazilian Mapinguari grabs you with its 4-inch claws and stuffs you into its gaping second mouth in the middle of its stomach. It can’t swim, making it easy to escape by diving into crocodile-infested rivers and lakes teeming with venomous snakes.
Cryptozoology! A career path off the beaten path, searching for creatures who have never traveled any path.
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