Loren Coleman Reviews “Beast Hunter”

Loren Coleman Reviews “Beast Hunter”

Look, Pat Spain is no Josh Gates, and “Beast Hunter” is not “Destination Truth.” Frankly, I find that encouraging.

Gates is an entertainer, a likable actor with a good personality, who has been turned into the host of a program that deals with topics ranging from cryptids to ghosts, from spirit animals to haunts. There is nothing routinely cryptozoological about “Destination Truth,” actually, although I don’t hold that against it or Gates. But one should not fool yourself into thinking that DT is pure cryptozoology.

On the other hand, “Beast Hunter” is exactly that. It is hosted by a biologist and cryptozoologist, Pat Spain, who is an everyman, an ordinary cryptozoologist who has been thrust into the limelight on this program because of his interest in tracking unknown animals. There’s a lot to like about Spain and the approach this program has taken.

For example, if you examine the structure of “Beast Hunter,” at least from the two first programs I was able to watch on the opening night, the unfolding of the episodes follows how investigations actually occur.

Photo Credit: © Icon Films

First, one must obtain a little orientation and education about the cryptids from others who have searched for them and the locals who have lived with the cryptids. Spain’s “Beast Hunter” goes about showing this rather matter-of-factly, but on a human level unlike that ever shown on “MonsterQuest” and “Destination Truth.”

Pat Spain asks David Oren about the footprint of a Mapinguari. Photo Credit: © Icon Films

Spain demonstrates a respect for those elder researchers who have come before him. In the programs I viewed, this was shown through casual interviews with Debbie Martyr and Jeremy Holden (about Orang Pendek) and with David Oren (about Mapinguari). Spain appears to be sincerely attentive to what they are telling him, asking intelligent questions, and letting the senior cryptozoologists share some of their insights. It comes across well. I enjoy those parts of the program.

Spain and Holden explore Sumatra in search of Orang Pendek lore. Photo Credit: © Icon Films

Spain nicely gives the audience a touchstone individual with whom they can identify. He shines a light on little practical items that field cryptozoologists use to assist with their interviews of local people, like his employment of the hair chart to ask the villagers what was the color of the Orang Pendek they observed.

Pat Spain’s humanity is rather apparent in this series. It is great to see a host that is more than robotic or comedic standup artist, and instead rather real.

Photo Credit: © Icon Films

This comes across most vividly and dramatically in the scenes in “Beast Hunter” where Spain’s emotions are viewed brutally and seemingly with little editing, acting, or modification.  When Spain screams with pain as the bullet ants bite his hands, when he is shivering with cold from the boat ride across the water to reach the jungle, and when he is caught up in the tangle of trying to get through the bush, frustrated, upset, and so very on the edge, we feel for Pat Spain, the seeker, the hunter, the guy just like us.

Photo Credit: © Icon Films

When Spain cries as he thrusts his hands in the cold water for pain relief or says, “This is why no one comes out here,” as he is shaking under the chilly dampness of his ordeal, we feel for this person who is out there taking our place, trying to find the Orang Pendek or Mapinguari. There is nothing funny about it.  In these moments of raw reality, Spain conveys so much more than any headset camera bouncing down a path in the jungle, shown in green lighting on other programs.  NatGeo certainly captures the right mood on this one, and they are to be congratulated for the design of this adventure.

Also, there is no teasing that Pat Spain “might” find something by the end of the program. He’s out there, yes, and he’s looking, but there’s no melodramatic illusion that he’s going to come up with answers, explanations, or a surprise cryptid image at the end of the show.

Pat Spain’s great uncle Charles Fort appears to have influenced how Spain goes about his research.

Spain is gathering data, and that’s enough. We are along for his journey, but there is no repeating of segments, no juvenile reminders of what we’ve already seen over and over, and no trickery that something shocking is going to be exposed or found by the end of the hour.

In the first episode, Spain does a superb job of getting to the bottom of the Orang Pendek mystery, and NatGeo’s photography, combined with graphics of this small hominoid, is excellent. In an exclusive, the program has shared with Cryptomundo this first publication of some visuals showing their renderings of Orang Pendek:

All Photos Credit: © Icon Films

The series promises to have other future episodes that will deliver programs as well-done as the first two on Orang Pendek and Mapinguari, including ones on Mokele-Mbembe,

Photo Credit: © Icon Films

Photo Credit: © Icon Films

Sea Serpents,

Photo Credit: © Icon Films

Photo Credit: © Icon Films

and the Mongolian Death Worm.

Photo Credit: © Icon Films

Photo Credit: © Icon Films

This is cryptozoology, pure and simple. Some unknown living things, as Ivan T. Sanderson use to say, are out there, and Pat Spain is sharing with us a little bit about these cryptids. Nothing more, nothing less. There’s no demeaning lecturing, debunking endings, or true believer preaching. The tone is clean, and I appreciate that from “Beast Hunters.”

Bring on more programming like “Beast Hunters,” please.

Photo Credit: © Icon Films

Continue the trek. On Friday, March 11, 2011, National Geographic’s “Beast Hunter” broadcasts Pat Spain’s trek to Africa, in search of more information on Mokele-Mbembe.

All photographs used (except the hair chart) are thanks to the kind permission of National Geographic and Icon Films. Please note the use and copyright as per “Photo Credit: © Icon Films.” My sincere appreciation for assistance from Minjae Ormes of NatGeo and Pat Spain of “Beast Hunter.”

Loren Coleman is the director of the International Cryptozoology Museum, Portland, Maine, having been involved in cryptozoology ~ in the field, via his publications, and through media consultations ~ since March 1960. He is the author of over 35 books. He taught documentary film, anthropology, and other topics at the university-level for over 20 years.

About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013.

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  1. I liked the first two episodes just fine. Spain is likeable and seems open minded. The part I like best is the way the show gives lots of room for eyewitnesses accounts to be re-told and/or re-enacted.
    Not much of the annoying night camera work with the glowing eyes thing, thankfully.

  2. This is indeed a good show for Cryptozoology and it’s enthusiasts! Head and shoulders above sensationalized shows like Destination Truth which is where the problem may be. People of all types are drawn to the melodrama where as more low key and cerebral offerings usually lag in the ratings and eventually get the ax. There is an audience for this type of show and I believe it will do well once they get over a few good cases and if possible, bring new and valid news and something for the public and the world of science to really examine.

    DT came close but would blur it under all the sensationalism. Why the devil after a finding some new evidence did they immediately break camp, pack up and head home? If they could’ve stayed a few more days in the Himalayas for example, who would have known what could happen?

    Beast Hunter: Yes! “You can take that to the bank,” as Baretta would say!

  3. Wonderfully descriptive and informative write-up, Loren… makes me feel like I’ve already seen an extended preview for the series.

    re: Charles Fort and his influence on the younger Spain… undoubtably, the younger relative must’ve spent hours as a youth devouring his protege’s massive volumes. BUT…

    I think Mr. Fort’s methodology — going daily to the New York Public Library and combing through ancient accounts and old newspaper clippings ‘in search of’ information not statistically accumulated or analyzed as such — infinitely beats the methods used by Spain!

    Of course, Spain’s methods, as you point out, capture the innate difficulties of this kind of research far better than even Mr. Fort’s best accounts of the cryptids and events Fortean themselves. It sure acts as a rebuff to clowns like Penn & Teller, who make it seem like most cryptozoologists are “weekend warriors” who park their RV at the outskirts of their local campgrounds and talk about Bigfoot being “somewhere out there” for sure!

  4. While “Beast Hunter”, was decent enough to keep me watching, I was a little disappointed. It didn’t really offer anything new to people who are truly interested in the subject matter and somewhat educated on the cryptids being discussed. It was a bunch of re-hashed information and in some cases, there were little to no real investigations taking place at all. I’d like to see more investigations and a lot less exploration of the local cultures. If I wanted to know about the customs of the local people, I’d watch the Travel channel.

  5. I have been wondering when Loren was going to comment on this show. The one thing bugged me was the scenes following the bullet ant bites. It was really cheesie and didn’t fit the rest of the show. It was edited with dramatic shots like it was a horror movie. Another then that it felt sort of slow…but I am sure I will be tuning in tonight.

  6. Cryptozoology needed to have a show that took a low keyed, dignified approach to the subject. Young Mister Spain has hit upon a great formula. He is an observer letting the subject matter speak for itself instead of inserting himself into the heart of the mystery.

    I am looking forward to him actually uncovering some manner of fresh evidence and seeing how he handles such a thing. That will speak volumes about the man’s intentions as well as his abilities.

    I guess the litmus test I use is whether or not I would turn the show off in embarrassed panic if a neighbor walked in on me watching the show. Destination Truth and Monsterquest were guilty indulgences. Lost Tapes was crypto-porn in my opinion. So far so good on this program.

  7. Great review, Loren… a refreshingly hard-working new show, without all the local-shopping diversions, absurd vehicles, comedy routines, interrupted continuity, one-night stands, abrupt departures and unfulfilled missions of DT.

    I like Gates, but I think DT’s producers, in trying to attract too diverse a group of viewers, have chosen a format so wide and shallow that it satisfies too few, and leaves serious searchers hanging… but I/we can identify with Pat Spain (Charles Fort’s Great Nephew!!) and the rigors of the search.

    Good Show, and Good Luck to Pat Spain.

  8. Yes, great review, Loren. We interviewed Pat @ weirld.com last week and his approach and enthusiasm is, indeed, is refreshing. Can’t wait for tonight’s show! I don’t want to spam the comments board with URLs, but if you are interested in what Pat has to say about Charles Fort, bigfoot, the chupacabra and more, please visit our site and you will find the link to the interview with Pat on the front page. BTW, we are big fans of your work, Loren. How about an interview? ;)

  9. While I do like what I have seen of Beast Hunter so far, I am a little taken back of the view of Josh Gates. For instance, in the episode where they were looking for the tarassque, Josh was in a one man kayak at night and a 20 some foot creature turned up in the water. Yes it turned out to be a harmless whale shark, but how many of you would have paddled over to it to verify BY YOUR LONESOME. Josh has huevos. In the episode where they looked for the yeti, how many of you would have crawled face first into that cave? I loved his line here “the next scene is where you see me get my face ripped off by a cave bear”. We all know that shows must have rating or they get the ax. DT may not be 100% Crypto all the time but it did open up a lot of eyes to crypto study. So I will repeat what I have heard one of my fav posters here say (DWA, U DA MAN), If it draws more positive attention to the crypto field, it can only help. My kids could have cared less about cryptos until they watched DT with me. I am not knocking Pat Spain at all, I actually like his show. I just think folks give Josh Gates a bad rap for doing what he has to do for his show to keep being broadcast. I for one, like his sense of humor. BUT, this is just one old cryptid hunters point of view, and I do not begrudge any one who disagrees with my. Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints. :-)

  10. While it’s obviously not a scientific expedition, I think the value of DT is that it shows, if only for a very short time, what is actually involved in conducting an expedition, the fieldwork as well as the travel headaches involved in even getting to most places. As far as some of the humour involved – hey, it’s entertainment and (almost) nobody wants to watch some ultra-serious scientific types lecture, even while out in the field, for an hour. If you want that, go take a class somewhere. JM2Cs…

  11. I was somewhat amused at Spain’s dismissal of the Mokele-mbembe reports after speaking with a credible eyewitness. His contention that the long-head/neck is nothing more than a crocodile emerging rapidly from the water is laughable. Does he really think that the native people of that area (Dja River in Cameroon), would mistake a crocodile from a long-necked, armoured sauropod that sometimes capsizes canoes?

    Hopefully we can get a little further ahead with this research when I return to Cameroon in November with the French researcher, Michel Ballot!