Sasquatch Coffee

Inside Story: Mullin On Mokele-Mbembe

Posted by: Loren Coleman on June 28th, 2009

2001 Cryptosafari
The 2001 Cryptosafari expedition members included (left to right) Scott Norman, Bill Gibbons, John Kirk, and Robert Mullin.

Robert Mullin, who recently appeared on the Mokele-mbembe MonsterQuest episode, has filed an exclusive inside story. He shares it here at Cryptomundo so readers and viewers get a more extended insight into the conduct of the expedition and the making of the documentary.

Below is Mullin’s report, which, needless to say, expresses his opinions alone, and not necessarily that of other members of the expeditions or the owners, editors, management and/or bloggers at Cryptomundo, Cryptosafari, and/or MonsterQuest. ~ Loren.

Robert Mullin Expeditions & MonsterQuest

“How many dragons have you slain?”
John Kirk, 2001 expedition to Cameroon.

In 2001, I was fortunate enough to be a part of the expedition to Cameroon to look for a creature known as Mokele-mbembe, or He-who-divides-the-waters. (The term has been translated a number of ways, including the slightly preferred One-who-stops-the-flow-of-the-river, but this was the most specifically literal and accurate translation I could get from our guide, Pierre. The imagery is that of a large rock parting the river as it flows around the creature–a clear reference to its size.)

I had known Bill Gibbons through a chat group, and participated with him in some online debates. I more or less invited myself along when I found out through a Fortean Times magazine that he was going to be headed in search of the dinosaur with another team. Bill wrote me back saying that he wasn’t going with that team anymore, that the leader was “a paranormalist nut who would get himself killed if he went anywhere near the Congo.” Bill was starting his own team, and would I like to be the first member? I thought about that for a nanosecond or two, and agreed, and the course of my life was set.

On that first expedition, [were] John Kirk (President of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club) and Scott Norman, a Cryptozoologist and tech guy who, lamentably, passed away in 2008 of a blood clot in the lung. We went with the BBC, ostensibly to shoot a TV special for the Discovery Channel. This did not go so well, as the BBC were not equipped to deal with the special conditions this animal required, and were seemingly accustomed to luxury accommodations on their voyages. No show was ever made, and we went home feeling disgusted, though we did learn from eyewitness testimony that we were on the right track (Bill had already been searching for Mokele-mbembe for years, and was the first to look outside the Congo for reports of its existence).

A couple of smaller expeditions then went, one having a close encounter with the animal, and one finding evidence of its presence through footprints (two adults and a juvenile) and a walled-in cave on the opposite bank. It seemed that we had been much closer on the first expedition than any of us knew; the animal was literally around the corner from our campsite. We had heard some loud splashes, but did not know the area well enough to go around what turned out to be an island, and instead searched the main river, and found nothing. We did gather several useful eyewitness testimonies and a great deal of information, but it was disheartening to learn just how close we had come on that first trip, and how little it would have taken to potentially see and document the animal.

My second expedition was in 2006, with Milt Marcy and Peter Beach. Milt runs an insurance business and funded the expedition, and Pete Beach is a scientist and a teacher. During that second expedition, we learned that the animal had moved on since the last venture, and had in fact been gone for two years (since the footprints were found). Rather than setting up base camp and exploring the surrounding area, our plan was to use a boat to explore the islands, thinking at the time that this was where the Mokele-mbembe liked to reside. All of the people we talked to, however, said that it had left the so-called “Forbidden Zone,” and gone north on the river Dja, and so we went as far up the river as time and finances would allow before being forced to turn around. That expedition was harder on us physically than the previous expedition had been; I lost a lot of weight, Milt got an injury that wouldn’t heal, and I rubbed the bottom of my foot off jumping in and out of the boat with sandals that abraded against the sand in the river. We spent our nights camped on the islands, whose inhabitants ranged from beautiful butterflies to sand fleas to ants that ate through the plastic covering our gear. One night towards the end of our upriver quest, we had to spend on a small jetty consisting solely of sharp rocks and elephant dung. Again, a dry run as far as Mokele-mbembe was concerned. I did learn that the French term for the animal is dragon; a fact I find fascinating on a number of levels.

In 2009, an unexpected opportunity came my way. Bill Gibbons had been interviewed for a MonsterQuest episode for the History Channel. The episode featured giant spiders, and Bill was able to relate one of my favorite stories about a missionary couple in the Congo circa 1938, and their encounter on the road with one of the creatures. He had talked with the people about his work with Mokele-mbembe, and they were interested in doing an episode. They were so interested, in fact, that they claimed that they were going to do this “with or without” him, despite Bill’s cautions about the possible poor timing of the trip. Doing it without the experts seemed to be a bad idea, so we quickly started looking at who was able to go on an expedition in short order. The time of year wouldn’t be right (we would already be well into the dry season when the shooting started, and we knew that the animal was seen most often towards the end of the rainy season), but it would be an opportunity to re-investigate the area, and to have a major television network focus an entire show on this mysterious animal.

I was a little leery of going, as I had worked very hard after moving to Colorado to get the job I have, and didn’t want to lose it (especially in these uncertain economic times). I had also broken my hand on the first of December, and was feeling less than up to an adventure. However, I was convinced that it was an opportunity not to be missed. I told Bill that I would be available after all. Then it was a flurry of last minute shopping, faxing, emails, and calls to make sure all was in order before the trip. I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to do something I have long wanted to do, and had laser surgery on my eyes before I went, allowing me to see Africa for the first time without having to worry about losing my one pair of glasses or messing with contacts. It did require taking along sunglasses to protect my newly minted eyes, but I was glad to do that, as I would have had to wear them most of the time anyway in the intense equatorial light.

On March 2, 2009 , I headed out once more, this time to meet Jared Christie (the producer) and Steve Plummer (the cameraman) in Atlanta. As always, nothing went without a hitch, and instead of meeting in Atlanta, they had to meet me in Zurich, because their first flight had been cancelled. I met Bill in Zurich (after a grand search; he had already gotten to the departure gate for the next flight, and was napping under his hat. I don’t know how many times I passed him by before I recognized him), and then Jared and Steve joined us not too long before the flight to Africa.

We met Pierre Sima, who has been our guide and facilitator on all of our expeditions, at the airport. All of our luggage arrived okay, but we found out that the tents that we had left were no longer available to use. We also found out that the Minister of Science, who was supposed to sign a paper allowing us to do research in the area, was gone, and wouldn’t be back until Friday. We used out first day in Africa to exchange currency, check in with Swiss Air to get our exit tickets set up, and found out that our original plan of flying to the north of the Dja and floating down in a boat was completely toast; apparently arrangements had not been made for that, and so we were once again to take the “off-road adventure” down to the south of the Dja.

Pierre told us then that the Minister had called the governor of Bertoua, and that he was to sign the paper, so we could leave the next day after all. After nearly getting caught in the middle of a raid on the sidewalk market while purchasing some sneakers for Bill, we headed out. We had a flat tire on the way, then stopped by and borrowed a tent from the Anderton mission compound. We had a fairly lengthy discussion with Pierre , where we found out that the latest information we had on the animal was now almost five years old. So, frustrated, we tried to decide what to do next. Bill wanted to go west into the Dja Reserve, but Pierre said that where he wanted to go was too far. I wanted to find out what the last known sighting was, and start there, but unfortunately, that information was on a web page that was inaccessible from where we were (and, as it turns out, may not have been that reliable to begin with). We decided to go the rest of the miserable 500-odd mile distance on the logging roads, and set up camp where we had been in 2001.

The next day, we found out that the governor of Bertoua had decided to participate in some closed festivities that were supposed to last all day, and wouldn’t be available to sign the papers after all. With much trepidation, we decided to press on, hoping that some phone calls could resolve the matter. We traded in our mini-bus for a “safari bus,” which I believe was an old French designed prison vehicle. Imagine the worst possible off-road vehicle you could have—no shocks, no padding, no air conditioning—driving for hundreds of miles over red, dusty earth that has been pounded as hard as iron, spewing up dust that literally gets everywhere.

Arrived in Yokodouma (where “the elephant never falls”—as Bill pointed out, an ironic name for a town known for being founded in the elephant-hunting business) at night. We spent the night at The Elephant (a luxury hotel there; it had running water and electricity). Pierre went to see the Prefect of Yokodouma as soon as breakfast was over the following day. While he was gone, some rain clouds showed up in the distance. Within minutes, they had blown in, and we were in the middle of a torrential downpour. Pierre came back with the document signed, and we decided to head out, despite the good-natured warnings of some of the locals that the roads would be muddy. We went shopping for the last of our supplies, and then within five minutes of leaving town, we came across a huge logging truck in the middle of the road. Trying to pass it, we slid off the road and into a ditch. It took all of us, plus several villagers, to push the bus out of the mud. It wasn’t long before we realized we weren’t going anywhere that day—another delay. Someone with a car was able to get us all packed back to the hotel, where we admitted sheepishly that we had been wrong about trying to press ahead.

The next day, the road to Moloundou was actually better than the others, as their was hardly any dust, and the driver had to take it slow due to the drying mud. Still, a 200km trip took over eight hours. When we got there, we had to bargain with the driver to take us across the Boumba River on the ferry. When he saw that there were youths operating it rather than the usual man (it was “women’s day” in Cameroon, and no one was working), he refused to take us, so we had to get yet another truck (something akin to a dump truck) to pack us and all of our gear across the river and on the 7km trip to Languoue, where the Baka lived. We were told by the governor of Moloundou that it would be safer to camp with them than to camp on the Boumba, as there had been many bandits and other such characters causing problems in the region lately. Pierre volunteered to sleep in a Baka hut with all of our equipment, while the four of us slept in a tent (I think he got the better deal in the long run; one rainy night had my feet sitting in a pool of icy water, and I know that Bill got drenched on his side, as well). I got my first real humiliation on camera as I attempted to set up the tent in the dark. (Thankfully, this frustrating and potentially humorous bit of reality was not included in the final cut of the MonsterQuest episode.)

The first real day of shooting finally began on March 9, six days after we arrived. I had my official interview in the forest, snippets of which were included in the show (though one of my lines seemed a bit out of context–the show quoted me saying “I’d feel safer in Jurassic Park,” which was an addendum to a more lengthy description of the animal, saying that unlike their cow-like depiction in the film Jurassic Park, the probable sauropod Mokele-mbembe was, to all accounts, actually swamp-dwelling, shy, solitary, territorial, and aggressive). A man showed up with a motorized pirogue for us, but it was not the large one we had asked for. When asked why he hadn’t brought that one, he said he “thought we wouldn’t use it.” We assured him that we would, and that was why we had requested it, so please bring it the next day. As it was, we would just have to make do with what we had. Did some recon of the now completely safe and abandoned “Forbidden Zone” (to this day, it makes my blood boil to realize just how close we came to the animal in 2001). Got some filming done, and found some old Mokele-mbembe caves. Forgot to take my journal out of my pocket when bathing in the stream by the village, so it got soaked. Had to make up for lost entries a few days later when it finally dried out.

The following day, we got some eyewitnesses to do their testimonies, and before we showed them any drawings, they drew a couple of Mokele-mbembe on the ground. Perfect sauropod outlines, with specific biological features that no one there should know about unless they are REALLY up on their paleontology news. Also learned about some that we never knew of before, like an inflatable dewlap/air sac on the throat that allowed the creature to make its vocalizations (the eyewitnesses imitated the sound, which sounded exactly like the Regusters expedition recording made back in the eighties—giving that questionable evidence some added credence). We went on a trip up the Boumba, which turned out to be embarrassingly shallow, as we ran aground not too far from the ferry. This did allow for some filming opportunities, though. This was the river on which a couple of men had observed the Mokele-mbembe walking down the river, turning around when it came to the cables on the ferry. Pierre got a little nervous as we drifted towards the confluence of the Boumba and the Dja, which turns into the Ngoko and runs south into the Congo. Filming was a lot easier this day due to having the large pirogue. Did some night shooting, which probably wasn’t the safest thing, but got Steve and Jared visibly excited for the first time. They taught some Baka youths how to play Frisbee before it got dark. Absolutely melting on this trip; I’m afraid the mild Flagstaff summers spoiled me for life. Kidneys were working overtime.

March 11 was our last day of shooting. We took the equipment up the Dja and got some really weird sonar profiles, though in my opinion nothing likely to be the Mokele-mbembe. The guys had some of the Baka do reenactments of the eyewitnesses’ stories. The next day, we did our exit interviews, and started on the long road home. Found out that there was no water in all of Yokodouma, so we were brought buckets of river water to bathe with. Gave the fan in my room to Bill, so I spent the night on top of the sheets, sprawled out and sweating. Finally decided to risk the mosquitoes and open a window so I could sleep.

We all arrived safely at home after some adventures in the Zurich airport (where we got separated from Bill before we could say goodbye, then had to haul our own luggage while being hurried along and nagged about how close our flight time was by the very person who was supposed to be hauling it). Jared and Steve both bought some Swiss chocolate (I’m wishing I had, though I’m not entirely sure it would have made it home anyway–“self-control” and “gourmet chocolate” do not belong in the same sentence), and I got to see the Alps from the plane in a beautiful clear morning light.

I was glad, when the episode aired on the 24th of June (just five days before my birthday) to see that Roy Mackal and Peter Beach featured prominently, and was honored to be counted among the ranks of such wonderful scientists who have searched for the animal, each finding evidence of their own. I was less than impressed with the MonsterQuest “expert,” who seemed to have misunderstood that what he seemed to think was one footprint were in fact separate impressions in the earth, and then claimed that the casts made could not be from a sauropod because they were not big enough (apparently unaware that there were actually several impressions found, including two apparent adults and a juvenile–it never seemed to occur to the man that they could have been from a small sauropod, which is what Mokele-mbembe appears to be). Nevertheless, I was grateful for his inclusion on the show, as his stalwart behind-the-desk claims that the animal probably could not exist were made all the more laughable by the contrast with the eyewitness interviews, who, contrary to his assertation, gave multiple specific biological details about the Mokele-mbembe, and gave no indication of mistaking it for other animals or simply believing it to be a spirit or legendary animal. We had to tell the Baka that we needed only five interviews with people who had seen the animal–many more had seen it or knew it well! Moreover, he said that searchers for Mokele-mbembe have “ignored” the need for a breeding population. Hardly the case, as we have addressed the issue in a number of ways, not the least of which is the fact that there are several species on the endangered species list that have only a few specimens left extant, and this is an extremely isolated part of the world, with nothing of strategic value for high satellite surveillance, and a very dense forest canopy. Add that to the fact that the animal’s favored breeding territory is 55,000 square miles of swampland, it prefers to stay alone and under cover, and doesn’t appear to reproduce in massive numbers, and then compound that with the miles and miles of governmental red tape one must cut through just to get to the target area in the hopes of getting a few days of observation in before the visas expire, and you have some idea of why it’s so difficult to find this animal.

Some have wondered why better equipment hasn’t been taken on some of these trips. The fact is that we go with what we can afford; not every expeditioneer is rich, and often we do what we can at great cost to ourselves and our personal lives. Because we were aware that the animal had moved on long ago, we knew when we set out on this particular expedition that it was really more of an opportunity to make a television episode raising awareness of the animal itself than it was a full-fledged expedition, though we did attempt to do what we could to garner new information at every opportunity. We have talked about new strategies for the future, and would very much like to go again with better equipment, more people, and perhaps most importantly, more time. Going at the right time, when the eyewitness reports are recent, is crucial to finding this animal, and it is my belief that now that we know more about the creature’s habitats and behaviors, it is inevitable that success is just around the bend of the river.

Robert Mullin, 27 June 2009.

From the beginning of the 2009 MonsterQuest expedition, it appears Bill Gibbons, on the left, and Rob Mullins, next to him, may have been getting coded visual messages by the locals, as evidenced by the unidentified individual seen here in the background. Someone like Hoshi Sato is not needed to translate the nonverbal content being conveyed in this now infamous image.

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.


20 Responses to “Inside Story: Mullin On Mokele-Mbembe”

  1. gridbug responds:

    Of all the probable cryptolegends, I think Mokele-Mbembe is one of the most likely to be real. Love following the developments!

    Re: the photo: what’s Congolese for “One-who-stops-the-flow-of-his-bladder” again?

    :D

  2. POt responds:

    Just want to point out that once again, MQ’s goal is to make an episode about the cryptid to score ratings with enthusiasts, not to actually search out the cryptid. Otherwise they would have planned the trip for the correct season and just generally planned….

    Lest an expert have something intelligent to say, they’ll chop it up into something ‘more commercial’ and ad the grimacing purple monster, yada yada ya.

    I am not satisfied by the mere existence of a show about hidden animals. I demand that MQ adhere to its name, “Quest” and honestly seek out these animals to the best of its ability.

    As I have stated in the past, the head honchos cynically regard this community as chumps, eager to tune in for the short shrift. Some would say I am being cynical by not accepting this show as a meager improvement in ‘cryptid awareness.’ Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth after all. I agree, but it seems to me I’m the only one who notices it’s not a gift horse at all, it’s something like a dead raccoon on a beach.

    I say the network and creators are being truly cynical for forgoing the chance to create an intelligent documentary that honestly seeks to find these animals. Can you imagine how exciting that would be? Science, funding and tv cameras? Maybe, just maybe, it would get across to the viewers that this is a real search for real animals in the real world.

    If they believed they would EVER have the exclusive documentation of a new animal, this version of MQ would not exist. As it stands, I believe MQ serves to deter intelligent people away from Cryptozoology and has little or no hope of contributing anything more than a few chills and thrills.

    Whoever is in charge of the vision, the big boss, should be reassigned. Maybe a children’s crypto show. Cryptokids! Spooky, light-hearted Saturday morning fluff.

  3. DWA responds:

    PQt may have said something that needs saying.

    Why don’t they invest an entire season of MQ in the quest for one cryptid? Everybody wins. The public gets to see what it’s like; the hosts have to take it more seriously, which would do them a power of good; the search gets the $$ and the exposure…and maybe we all learn something.

    right. TV gets the ratings too, oh can’t forget that.

  4. Loren Coleman responds:

    DWA says; “Why don’t they invest an entire season of MQ in the quest for one cryptid? Everybody wins.”

    Everyone wins? That is such an unrealistic statement.

    Television programming has little to do with the concerns of most people who might define themselves as truly interested in cryptozoology. A series on cryptids has to be diverse, intriguing, and interesting for those that enjoy watching about felids, canids, apes, lake beasts, and a wide-variety of animals.

    A series based on one cryptid would see an incredible drop-off in viewership after about two shows.

    Furthermore, the amount of resources (fiscal, people, time) to go into one series on, let’s say, just Bigfoot in the Bluff Creek area would also be unrealistic.

    And then what, the complains would be off-the-charts if at the end of the programs a Bigfoot was not firmly proven. And, as is mentioned here often, if a Sasquatch was discovered, we would have all known it before the broadcasting of the series.

    The vocal few are down on MonsterQuest because it is not the “perfect” show than a lot of Thursday-morning producers would have created. But from the people I talk to in the general public around the world, MQ is viewed as a very favorable ambassador for cryptozoology.

    I predict, long after many of us “senior cryptozoologists” are off to the happy hunting grounds, people shall look back with deep affection on the MonsterQuest series, in many ways, with the same love that people have for the old “In Search Of” programs.

    I think the programs have done a wonderful job in introducing people to each other in the field, and made many lasting, working friendships that assist the future of cryptozoology. The role models of various researchers profiled, as well, and the placing of “faces” on the grounded, thoughtful labor of many trying to discover new animals is to be congratulated, if you ask me. :-)

  5. Luke from MN responds:

    Personally, I think MonsterQuest is generally one of the better series on cryptozoology in a long time. Even though they never really capture footage of the more elusive cryptids, the eye witness accounts alone are great to see recreated. If they really wanted to capture incredible footage, they would have to spend more time (perhaps months) and money on expeditions, probably something they can’t afford to do. The people that produce it, also seem to take it pretty seriously, whether or not they believe that the unknown creatures they cover are real or not. And the “last dinosaur” of the Congo is one of the more intriguing creatures.

    The only reason I got into the whole topic was after reading your “Bigfoot!” book, Loren. Since then my book shelves are slowly filling up with anything to do with cryptozoology. I’ve watched a lot of stuff over the years as well. I know friends that say they’ve seen what they describe as “monster” animals in Minnesota, and I also remember Bigfoot reports in Minnesota, St. Louis county, when I was younger.

  6. Fhqwhgads responds:

    Maybe if this were done more like “Survivor”? Instead of dropping random people into exotic locations, cryptozoologists could be dropped into the Congo or for Mokele-Mbembe or into Sumatra for the Orang Pendek. I’m sure there are enough differences in methodology, theories about what the animals might be, past histories, and inflated egos to give the desired social tensions. But these TV expeditions that spend just 48 hours looking drive me crazy. It’s like a safer version of dropping a camera crew onto the Afghanistan/Pakistan border looking for bin Laden — you know it’s going to fail.

  7. Sinnbox responds:

    I’m hoping that MQ can go back during the rainy season, I for one get sick of seeing a BF expedition every other week, but I guess that is safe and cheap.

    IMO if BF is real and can survive in a country with drunk, gun happy locals not ever killing one while foraging through the woods, a dino that lurks underwater most of the day in near uninhabited jungle that has IMO better eye witnesses is surely there.

  8. cryptidsrus responds:

    Good report by Mullins.

    I still watch MQ even though I know in almost every episode they won’t “find” anything. Fine by me.

    At least MQ gets to highlight much needed information and “light” into cryptid creatures dismissed by the Main-Stream-Media.

  9. mfs responds:

    Being an armchair and online cryptid enthusiast I can well appreciate the time an effort field investigators like Mr. Mullin and many others put into searching for these elusive cryptids. Field investigations are never an easy task and getting the “expected” proof rarely happens. I hope that one day while I’m still alive that the expected proof will occur whether on MQ or any other cryptid related program.

  10. DWA responds:

    Loren:

    “DWA says; “Why don’t they invest an entire season of MQ in the quest for one cryptid? Everybody wins.”

    Everyone wins? That is such an unrealistic statement.”

    Unrealistic? Loren, YOU’RE A CRYPTOZOOLOGIST! LOL!

    This is why you have Idea Guys like me here. (And we work for free!)

    PQt and Fhqwhgads – go up and read them again – say precisely why crypto shows like Monster Quest are bad for crypto. First: lose that title. It brands crypto as not serious. Second, and listen to me this time: WHOLE SEASON, ONE AND THAT IS ONE! CRYPTID!!

    Pay attention ferpetesake! The MQ (LOSE THE y%$##$@@$# TITLE!!!) approach guarantees that you will NOT find anything AND be branded not serious. Which ensures you do not find anything, ever. You scattergun people (with embedded snickerers) all over the place. They find nothing; nobody gets any kind of serious clue why they’re looking, what with, and with what level of background knowledge; and you wind up attracting only the fringes, as PQt points out: the scoftics (who come because they love to scoff) and the true believers (who Want To Believe!!!!)

    “Television programming has little to do with the concerns of most people who might define themselves as truly interested in cryptozoology.”

    So you’re saying: TV is not serious. So. Why bother having a crypto show on it, particularly one that only serves to reinforce the attitude that crypto isn’t serious either?

    (MonsterQuest. We Do Lots Of Monsters Because None Of Them Are Real, And We Need You To Keep Snicker…um, Watching!)

    Why not try to make a dent of some kind in The Vast Wasteland? Look at the history of TV. The best things ever to show up on it are the things that dared the most, and challenged the intelligence of the audience. Crypto needs to do both if it is ever to be taken seriously. TV could give the discipline the public backing it needs to start silencing ignorant scientific scoffers. (Who will, you bet, be paying grand attention to where potential future dollars might be coming from.) And what? You’re going to toss that, because you think you need to go with hat in hand to people who are milking you and your audience – sorry, the fringe part of your audience – for its entertainment (read: hahahahahahaha!) and ratings value alone?

    “A series based on one cryptid would see an incredible drop-off in viewership after about two shows.”

    Many of TV’s biggest successes have put quotes like that, framed and attributed, in the offices of their got-rich-quick producers. Who dares, wins, in this business. And with a potential mega-entree into serious science at the doorstep waiting to be taken seriously, crypto needs to dare.

    You could make an entire season of MonsterQuest out of the exploits of the TBRC alone, never mind everybody else who is hunting (like one day a week, but doing cool stuff on that one day!) for the sasquatch (which is a more likely animal I think than mokele-mbembe, with far more very reliable eyewitnesses and a whole lot more ancillary evidence). You wouldn’t be able to get half of it – not one-quarter – into what could be a very gripping season of TV, if it’s done half right. Somebody’s not paying attention to the evidence and the hard science here!

    “Furthermore, the amount of resources (fiscal, people, time) to go into one series on, let’s say, just Bigfoot in the Bluff Creek area would also be unrealistic.”

    Not sure what you mean here. Who said I’d be limiting it to that? Heh heh, limit. THERE’S TOO MUCH MATERIAL about Bluff Creek to get it all in one season! But when did you ever see a TV show cover everything about any topic during its entire run?

    “And then what, the complains would be off-the-charts if at the end of the programs a Bigfoot was not firmly proven. And, as is mentioned here often, if a Sasquatch was discovered, we would have all known it before the broadcasting of the series.”

    See, this reflects current (utterly uninformed, rube-ish) public attitudes. Which is JUST what my idea would be about chainging. They’d GET why they shouldn’t expect that at the end of one season. If not sooner. And they’d be scheduling their year around the second season.

    “The vocal few are down on MonsterQuest because it is not the “perfect” show than a lot of Thursday-morning producers would have created. But from the people I talk to in the general public around the world, MQ is viewed as a very favorable ambassador for cryptozoology.”

    Ditto my last paragraph here (the rube part). Favorable my foot. “Yeah, it’s a funny show!!!” “I love it that there are crazy dreamers out there!!!” “We ALL need to believe in monsters!!!”

    “I think the programs have done a wonderful job in introducing people to each other in the field, and made many lasting, working friendships that assist the future of cryptozoology.”

    And you wanna keep doing that, in spades? Listen to me, boy, I can make you rich rich rich. AND do that stuff up there, many times over.

    And maybe actually discover a cryptid in the bargain, instead of producing another season of snickerfodder.

    This hat-in-hand, I-don’t-care-if-you’re-laughing-I’ll-take-any-attention-I-can-get bit will, well, continue to get that kind of attention.

    (read: hahahahahahaha!)

    The audience you MUST HAVE is “most people who might define themselves as truly interested in cryptozoology.” In other words: not the show’s current audience.

    When somebody else grabs this idea (and go ahead, I might pay to watch this show I’m talking about!) you will kill yourself you didn’t listen to me. And it doesn’t have to be Bigfoot although I think that’s the best bet based on the evidence. Shoot, pick one. (Yeti next; orang pendek after; then maybe Almas.)

    Unrealistic? Sheesh, Loren, next thing you’ll do is try to tell me Bigfoot’s real.

    OK, that was long. I’ll sum up.

    Crypto is a science.

    You need a show that finally recognizes that and stops playing it for laughs. If you think you can’t get that, you’re selling yourselves short. And ain’t that just like cryptos?

  11. courage responds:

    I watched this episode recently, I am an sceptic (not fair to say any more then that). But did anyone else notice the body language of people that were interviewed and even the guides themselves?

    I have had a bit to do with scammers of late and it always relies on %5 truth %95 con.

    I honestly believe that the locals honestly believe they have somethining the rivers, but I believe that some in cameroon may be taking advantage of the niavety of westerners for the western dollar/pound.

    I can’t help but think our author may also be leaning towards this conclusion with the last pic – it translates pretty clearly to me too.

  12. springheeledjack responds:

    I go back and forth o MQ…sometimes it seems like they put together some good expeditions, but then they also do some really goofy stuff (like getting 60 guys to march through an extremely small area of the pine barrens…as in like maybe 1% of the total area…and that’s probably being generous…just to see if they come up with anything…seriously?).

    I disagree up there with Loren’s comments…MQ is a niche show from the get go…I understand they may want to pull in as wide a range of audience as they can–that is common business sense, but you are still looking at the show as a niche market…I would guess (and feel free to throw statistics at me about who watches the thing if you’ve got em), most of your viewers are people who are in the know on cryptozoology, or at least interested in it.

    The strength of the show is that the investigators involved, for the most part, are very methodical in their approach to hunting for cryptids, they do approach it in a scientific way, investigating and looking for physical evidence.

    However, I also feel that a lot of times they drop the ball, come up with some goofy idea…and I don’t know if it’s because of one person’s thinking who’s running the expedition, or the heads of the show coming up with ideas or what. I just get the feel every now and again that things are being played up for ratings at the expense of the show’s premise.

    Okay, and I fully understand that the show actually finding and getting a cryptid or capturing it on film is the holy grail of the show (not to mention the viewers), and I do think some really good stuff has been discovered (the fresh water sharks, the primate thing that stepped on the nails in the BF episode, etc).

    I understand what you are saying, Loren, about the show’s ability to bring crypto-people together to work on expeditions and to broaden the spectrum, increasing awareness, etc…but at the same time the show is about hunting cryptids, and the other stuff should be a healthy by-product of that endeavor, and on many of the shows I feel like it is the other way around.

  13. CryptoInformant 2.0 responds:

    There were some parts of that description – the “inflatable dewlap/air sac on the throat” in particular – that surprised me. Guess that just underscores the point people have been making for years about how little the fossil record really shows you.

    Also, regarding the point that was made about the people putting together these expeditions not being rich – doesn’t it just suck that Bill Gates isn’t interested in cryptozoology?

  14. cliff responds:

    I’ll admit that I did watch the Mokele-Mbembe episode and thought it was ok, but I have lost quite a bit of interest in MQ since it first started. I don’t watch MQ as much as I did in the past, I usually just catch re-runs or just watch MQ if absolutely nothing better is on to watch, but in the past I tuned in to MQ for the premiere of every new episode. They started out seeming objective and straightforward enough about what they were presenting, but over time things have just gotten too “commercial”. All of the shenanigans they have pulled over the last year or so with their “marketing” techniques and PR bull is just annoying, and really borders on bold-faced lies, and that’s what I feel like will eventually cause newcomers brought into the realm of cryptozoology by MQ to drop out and turn into bitter scoftics. We’ve talked alot about those incidents in this blog, one of the most notable to me being the “baby ogopogo” proof that turned out to be a dead fish, but there have been several other incidents as well. And it’s not just that, but the overall format of the show and all of the “filler” material just to fill an entire hour. It seems to me, to really make this show successful, the producers should focus their efforts on worthwhile and exciting content and material, and less on deceitful marketing practices to boost ratings, because if you have the content and material the ratings will come as a result. Looking back it seems like that was their intention early on, but somewhere along the line someone got lazy and sloppy when things started to get tough.

  15. greatstart responds:

    I would like to thank Robert Mullin for taking the time and responding to the questions people had about this episode. I am pretty sure he will read this. Hey Robert, next time those MQ producers call you up make sure that you pressure them for top of the line equipment! Thank you for your efforts!

  16. DWA responds:

    Good comments by SHJ and cliff. And others on here I might not be coming up with.

    I just think that if MQ rethought its drink, it could surprise itself. The reason I say focus on one cryptid is that all of a sudden the science takes center stage. I think that is a HUGE untapped audience, the “I had no idea” segment.

    I got exercised a bit up there. Hope I didn’t hurt any feelings (sorry Loren, ‘unrealistic’ just does something to me), but shoot, bull in a china shop is my way sometimes (and sometimes more often than sometimes). And I don’t like to see something with scientific legitimacy waiting to be recognized selling itself short.

    I think crypto deserves not only better than it’s getting, but better than it thinks it deserves.

  17. cliff responds:

    I’m not opposed to a “one cryptid per season” format, if it is done correctly. I’m also not opposed to doing a “2 cryptid per episode” fomat if the short term expeditions aren’t successful. There is room to play around and change things up a bit.

    I just think the hour long shows about one cryptid, that turn up nothing new or nothing of significant value, isn’t really working that well. If the above mentioned is the case for 2 expeditions, I say strip the 2 one hour episodes filled with redundant interviews and mindless chatter down to 30 minutes each of something at least mildy entertaining and educational about the subject cryptids. Then when you have expeditions that are more succesful, in terms of evidence, you can highlight those and do them justice when editing for tv. I realize that it’s not reasonable to think that we are actually going to see a cryptid captured, but the success of the expedition can be based on what one can conclude from the evidence gathered. If the evidence gathered suggests (to a normal person) that there is some basis to believe that the subject cryptid may indeed exist and reside, or normally passes through, the boundaries of the expedition, then that is a successful expedition and worthy of investing more time and money into continuing the efforts. That could necessitate a show longer than 1 hour, or depending on the evidence, a show even longer than that as the investigators get even closer to the subject cryptid. And you could rotate investigators if needed, when some are required to leave the expedition, you bring in a new set of investigators and refresh supplies and equipment. I think something like that would bring in serious viewers if it is done correctly and is not overly dramatized. I mean, it’s just a thought, but just about anything other than what they are doing now with their current format could have the potential to be an improvement, IMHO.

  18. springheeledjack responds:

    IT was shows like “In Search Of” that not only took a hard look at things like cryptids, but they have stayed popular because they were cutting edge and willing to take on things that tv was new to. The market for TV has changed, I’ll give you that…the TV producers assume everyone has ADHD and can’t stay focused on a topic for more than five minutes…it’s unfortunate, but that is what it appears to me.

    I think MQ needs to tighten up and just do solid hunting/investigating. Alright, and I may be naive, so enlighten me–but I am assuming the investigation teams get some kind of funding from the History Channel…so isn’t it enough to get some good gear and actual time to go into areas and really investigate?

    The thing that ticked me off most about that Destination Truth show was that they would go “investigate” a cryptid for what, like one night? And then make a guesstimation on its existence based on what they found out in one night? Are you kidding me…I still hate that show.

    So is it that these groups investigating things are only getting a shoe-string budget and don’t have time to really follow up on leads or what?

    That kind of information might get me to give MQ a little more slack…that and if I knew who was running the investigations…the people in the groups or the TV producers…

  19. DWA responds:

    And this, from the latest encounter report submitted to the Texas Bigfoot Research Conservancy.

    “After seeing the “Swamp Stalker” episode of MonsterQuest, the witness found our organization online while having his morning coffee and contacted us from there.”

    One should acknowledge that benefits do accrue. Many an encounter report, and trust me I read them, features a person who would not have had the foggiest what to do with their experience if not for An Evening of Television.

    And yes it’s evidence, and yes it counts, and you can thank MQ, as do I. :-)

  20. Robert Mullin responds:

    Many thanks for the follow-up comments. Ironically, responding to Greatstart, we did ask MQ to provide fiber optic cameras for the caves, but that equipment did not make it to the expedition, so we were left poking around with sticks.

    Maybe next time.

    Cryptoinformant 2.0, if you think of a way to make cryptozoology interesting to Bill Gates, give me a call. :) And yes, the behavioral and anatomical details make it clear that the interpretations of the fossil record are far from perfect. Certainly many books will have to be rewritten upon the discovery of this animal.

    Regarding the photo:

    Sigh.



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