Cryptozoology is a pseudoscience and subculture that aims to prove the existence of entities from the folklore record, such as Bigfoot, the chupacabra, or Mokele-mbembe. Cryptozoologists refer to these entities as cryptids, a term coined by the subculture. Because it does not follow the scientific method, cryptozoology is considered a pseudoscience by the academic world: it is neither a branch of zoology nor folkloristics. It was originally founded in the 1950s by zoologists Bernard Heuvelmans and Ivan T. Sanderson.Scholars have noted that the pseudoscience rejected mainstream approaches from an early date, and that adherents often express hostility to mainstream science. Scholars have studied cryptozoologists and their influence (including the pseudoscience’s association with young Earth creationism), noted parallels in cryptozoology and other pseudosciences such as ghost hunting and ufology.
Generally cryptozoologists have a formal science education, and fewer still have a science background directly relevant to cryptozoology. Adherents often misrepresent the academic backgrounds of cryptozoologists. According to writer Daniel Loxton and paleontologist Donald Prothero, “Cryptozoologists have often promoted ‘Professor Roy Mackal, PhD.’ as one of their leading figures and one of the few with a legitimate doctorate in biology. What is rarely mentioned, however, is that he had no training that would qualify him to undertake competent research on exotic animals. This raises the specter of ‘credential mongering’, by which an individual or organization feints a person’s graduate degree as proof of expertise, even though his or her training is not specifically relevant to the field under consideration.” As a field, cryptozoology originates from the works of Bernard Heuvelmans, a Belgian zoologist, and Ivan T. Sanderson, a Scottish zoologist. Notably, Heuvelmans published On the Track of Unknown Animals in 1955, a landmark work among cryptozoologists that was followed by numerous other like works. Similarly, Sanderson published a series of books that assisted in developing hallmarks of cryptozoology, including Abominable Snowmen: Legend Come to Life (1961).
The term cryptozoology dates from 1959 or before – Heuvelmans attributes the coinage of the term cryptozoology (‘the study of hidden animals’) to Sanderson. Patterned after cryptozoology, the term cryptid was coined in 1983 by cryptozoologist J. E. Wall in the summer issue of the International Society of Cryptozoology newsletter. According to Wall “[It has been] suggested that new terms be coined to replace sensational and often misleading terms like ‘monster’. My suggestion is ‘cryptid’, meaning a living thing having the quality of being hidden or unknown … describing those creatures which are (or may be) subjects of cryptozoological investigation.”The Oxford English Dictionary defines the noun cryptid as “an animal whose existence or survival to the present day is disputed or unsubstantiated; any animal of interest to a cryptozoologist”. While used by most cryptozoologists, the term cryptid is not used by academic zoologists. In a textbook aimed at undergraduates, academics Caleb W. Lack and Jacques Rousseau note that the subculture’s focus on what it deems to be “cryptids” is a pseudoscientic extension of older belief in monsters and other similar entities from the folklore record, yet with a “new, more scientific-sounding name: cryptids”. Cryptozoology purports to be the study of previously unidentified animal species. At first glance, this would seem to differ little from zoology. New species are discovered by field and museum zoologists every year. Cryptozoologists cite these discoveries as justification of their search but often minimize or omit the fact that the discoverers do not identify as cryptozoologists and are academically trained zoologists working in an ecological paradigm rather than organizing expeditions to seek out supposed examples of unusual and large creatures.