Thursday, November 12, 2009

Nerd Word of the Week: Cryptid

Loch Ness Monster, Seasnake, Seamonster, Seesc...Image via Wikipedia
Cryptid (n.) - A creature that is rumored to exist but no one has managed to prove is real. Bigfoot, chupacabras, the Moth Man, and the Jersey Devil are among the more famous examples of cryptids. Cryptozoology is the "scientific" study of cryptids, though (much like ufology) the field is often dominated by fringe scientists and conspiracy theorists who seem ill-acquainted with the actual scientific method. (There's also a subfield called cryptobotany, which seems mostly obsessed with finding giant man-eating plants. Little Shop of Horrors apparently was inspired by true events.)

Cryptids, to no one's surprise, make excellent fodder for speculative fiction A Lee Martinez's novel Monster is a recent example, though the trend is hardly limited to books. The animated series The Secret Saturdays chronicles the adventures of a family of cryptid hunters, depicted in a Jack Kirby pulp-hero style. Moreover, giant cryptids seem to have a rolling contract with Syfy, as the channel has become infamous for cheeseball original cryptid-kaiju movies like Megashark vs. Giant Octopus and Dinocroc vs. Supergator.

I bring it up because: A mere 76 years ago today, the first known photographs of the world's most famous cryptid, the Loch Ness Monster, were taken. On Nov. 12, 1933 Scotsman Hugh Gray snapped the first purported pics of Nessie, though to most eyes it looks like a blurry image of a dog swimming with a stick in its mouth. 1933 was when the Nessie phenomenon gained media attention, with multiple sighting reports published in papers that year. It was only a year later that the world-famous but since-discredited Surgeon's Photo of the Loch Ness Monster was taken, proving that hoaxsters trying to horn in on the cryptid action are a time-honored tradition, even if cryptozoology itself isn't.