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Richard Greenwell (1942-2005)

Posted by: Loren Coleman on November 5th, 2005

An important figure in formalizing the organizational structure and tenets of cryptozoology, Richard Greenwell, 1942-2005, has died.

J. Richard Greenwell, 63, cofounder of the International Society of Cryptozoology (ISC), died Tuesday night, November 1, 2005, shortly before 8 p.m. of cancer. He passed quickly and peacefully while surrounded by family in his home in Tucson, Arizona.

On January 8-9, 1982, Greenwell, at the suggestion of Jerome Clark, along with Dr. George Zug at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D. C. and Dr. Roy Mackal at the University of Chicago, embarked on the creation of the first formal scientific organization for the study of hidden or as yet-undiscovered animals, the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Bernard Heuvelmans (1916-2001) was elected as the first President of the ISC, a post he held for life.

J. Richard Greenwell served as Secretary of the International Society of Cryptozoology from its founding. He was funded in his position to edit the Journal and Newsletter of the ISC, and employed funds from the society to travel to many parts of the world to investigate cryptozoological claims and specimens, including the Ri (a reported mermaid which turned out to be a dugong) in Papua New Guinea with Roy Wagner (former Southern Illinois University and University of Virginia anthropologist), the Onza (a mystery cat which seems to be merely a subspecies of puma) in Mexico, and the Yeren (Wild Men) in China with Frank Poirier (Ohio State University anthropologist).

Originally from Surrey, England, Mr. Greenwell spent six years in South America, after which he was appointed Research Coordinator of the Office of Arid Lands Studies at the University of Arizona, in Tucson.

Before the existance of the ISC, Greenwell searched for the Mokele-Mbembe in the Congo with Roy P. Mackal (University of Chicago biologist) in 1980 and 1981. Greenwell would, before the end of his life, take zoological and cryptozoological trips to over thirty countries, including the U.S.A., China, the Congo, Papua New Guinea, several South American countries, and Mexico.

In 1991, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by Mexico’s University of Guadalajara. A member of numerous scientific societies, including the American Society of Mammalogists, Greenwell was a Fellow of both the Explorers Club (New York) and the Royal Geographical Society (London). He was the author of more than 100 scholarly and popular articles, and, for a few years beginning in 1993, he was a columnist for BBC Wildlife Magazine, Britain’s leading animal conservation publication.

A paid consultant on various television programs, Greenwell had also lectured on cryptozoology at many colleges and universities, scientific institutions, museums, zoos, and aquariums.

His sponsored fieldwork included various explorations in pursuit of Sasquatch, beginning with his first in northern California in August, 1997, when he directed a four-person scientific expedition attempting to obtain evidence of the Sasquatch (Bigfoot). They continued as recently as August 2005, again in northern California, while he was in the final stages of cancer.

Richard Greenwell appeared in The Wildman of China, a 1991 documentary about the Yeren, directed by Ian Duncan, and with writing credits to Michael Dean.

(This obituary was adapted from the biographical sketch of J. Richard Greenwell first published in Cryptozoology A to Z in 1999.)

More on Greenwell’s books, click here.

Added on November 6, 2005.

A personal note: I was upset, sad, and sorry to hear that Richard had passed away. I respected and supported what he did, as the primary initial force behind organizational cryptozoology, whole-heartedly and financially, and his loss is all of our grief.

My deepest thoughts are to his three children, Darwin, Tamara, and Damian, who will feel this loss the most. Family, children, and his close friends are shaken by him leaving us, that’s easy to say. I have talked, since this news began circulating, to many people within cryptozoology who are extremely sad about this too. That world weeps.

My only happiness is in thinking of Richard, someplace, somewhere, right now, chasing cryptids, with vigor and passion.

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.


9 Responses to “Richard Greenwell (1942-2005)”

  1. mrbf2006 responds:

    This is sad news. Dr. Greenwell was a very important figure in the science of cryptozoology and was one of the most visual in terms of all aspects of cryptozoology, not just Bigfoot (my favorite cryptozoological subject). He will be sorely missed.

  2. Loren Coleman responds:

    Yes, indeed it is. Unfortunately, his health had not been good for a few years. Thoughts and prayers to his friends and family.

    Technically, of course, as his doctoral degree was honorary, the media should never have called him “Dr.” Greenwell. But they make that mistake all the time.

  3. MikeBrotherton responds:

    Richard was a great friend and a truly irrepressible spirit. He suffered a relapse in August in the middle of a bigfoot expedition — I wish I’d been able to make the time and join him because I’ll never have the chance again. Damn. I just talked with him a few weeks ago and he was doing better. Damn.

    I want to be more eloquent, and say something more meaningful, because he deserves it, but I can’t manage it right now.

  4. emanluvscriptids responds:

    It is very true that Dr. Greenwell was indeed a big part of Cryptozoology, and i find it very sad that he had to die of this horrible disease.

  5. Loren Coleman responds:

    Try Mike, to write more sometime. It is his deep friends who knew the man, his pain, and his life the most. All the rest was only the tip of the iceberg.

    Despite the efforts of many of us to reach out to help, Richard became more and more sheltered from the world as his illnesses progressed. I look forward to reading anything you wish to share, meaningful or just full of your feelings. Thank you.

  6. MikeBrotherton responds:

    I’ll write something later this week. Richard actually wasn’t all that sheltered the last couple of years…he just became a lot more selective about what he did and who he communicated with.

    His kids emailed me his obituary earlier today. Richard, being Richard, wrote his own.

  7. BMorrison responds:

    Sad news indeed. I was a member of the ISC; I still have all my copies of the ISC Newsletter and Cryptozoology Journal.

    One of my treasured possessions is a letter from Richard in response to one I sent him back in 1984 regarding an alleged sighting of Mokele-Mbembe by Marcelin Agnagna that was reported in the ISC Newsletter. I had written to Richard about my concerns regarding the validity of this sighting. He took the time to write a long letter back to me describing the area around Lake Telle, the lake itself, and the questions he had about the sighting. Needless to say, I was extremely impressed.

    I had heard that he was in poor health the last few years but always hoped that he and the ISC woud make a comeback. Everytime I saw him on TV, in an interview, or on a crypto show, he was very professional and a voice of reason in a field that sometimes badly needs both. He will be missed.

  8. Benjamin Radford responds:

    I’d like to add my condolences regarding Greenwell. I was a member of the ISC for several years, unfortunately near the tail end of things. He brought an even-handedness that I admired to many investigations and questions, and he emphasized the need for fieldwork in cryptozoology. A tip of the fedora to JRG.

  9. Bob Michaels responds:

    The ISC is now defunct. No one else to continue that publication? I was familiar with Mr Greenwell thru the internet and TV. His work will continue.



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