For more than six decades, Loren Coleman has dedicated his life to Sasquatch. Since beginning his investigatory fieldwork in 1960, he’s written books, given talks, and taught university courses related to the concept of Bigfoot and other cryptids — the accepted term for animals which straddle the borders between the documented, the imagined, and the forged. In 2003, he founded the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine, a federal nonprofit dedicated to educating visitors on the creatures.

Coleman and those like him don’t restrict cryptozoology to the more dramatic examples such as the Sasquatch or Chupacabra; they use the term to encompass the search for any previously undocumented or rumored animals based on regional sightings, folklore, and found evidence. “Because we’re involved in cryptozoology, we’re very forcefully of the opinion that there’s more animals out there, and that there are unknown species being discovered every day,” he told me over the phone from his house in Maine.

Coleman may not be far off in his belief. One example often held up by cryptozoologists as an example of the field’s legitimacy is the coelacanth, a prehistoric fish long thought to be extinct, only to be accidentally rediscovered after a fisherman netted one while trawling off the coast of South Africa in 1938 (it swims agape across the ICM’s official logo). By definition, the coelacanth is a Lazarus taxon — a term for organisms thought to be extinct only to be later found living in the wild, and the closest cryptids have to an official taxonomy. A subtle but key distinction between cryptozoology and zoology, one could then argue, might be the motive behind a creature’s discovery, either through hopeful searching despite improbable odds for the former, or by pure chance and more mundane cataloging for the latter.

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