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Winged Weirdies, Thylacines, and James Randi

Posted by: Loren Coleman on April 6th, 2010

The newest issue, No. 14 of The Anomalist is out. Entitled “Electricity of the Mind,” it is filled with material to challenge your brain. Some of it specifically deals with cryptozoological topics.

Following, I’ll post three of the blurbs from TA, of some articles of interest to Cryptomundo.  These I shall then follow with my own input. From the several chapters in this nicely bound booklet, the journal has these that you might enjoy reading:

(1) “The Topography of the Damned” by Theo Paijmans.

“Theo Paijmans mines the rich seam of digital newspaper archives to look at anomalies in a new way, by mapping the geographical distribution and dispersion of the account of the anomaly event through time and through various newspapers, tracking the mutations and elaborations that set in as the story spreads.”

I was surprised and delighted to read that this well-researched contribution by Paijmans looks closely at the history, through newspapers and journalistic copycatting, of mostly winged weirdies and flying human stories that pre-date Mothman accounts. Paijmans dug through the surveyed archives he notes, quite expertly, to take us far beyond the citations in Charles Fort and other authors (including me) to discover the deeper truths behind some of these accounts. This is a masterpiece article by Paijmans.

(2) “The Continuing Strange Tale of the Thylacine: A Growth Function for a Small Population” by Chris Payne.

“Are there still Thylacines out there? Chris Payne takes a new mathematical approach to trying to determine whether this is at all likely, and if it is, when we might expect to get a definitive answer to the question.”

Using math models in cryptozoology is nothing new, as Charles Paxton has demonstrated in his exercises in predicting marine and freshwater species discoveries. Here Payne does something similar for Thylacines, and considers, quite logically, the possibilities and final end game on the species probable existence and extinction.

That is the good news. The rest of the article, which is painful to read, every pun intended, is the bad news.

Unfortunately, the editor of this piece, Ian Simmons, failed to catch some gross mistakes that Payne let slip into his article, such as misspelling the name “Bernard Heuvelmans” in the text and references as “Heuvelmanns,” and noting the okapi was first discovered in 1930, instead of the correct year, 1901.

Because this was a previous journal article, was it merely greenlighted to go as is? If so, that’s too bad.

More difficult internal errors that fill this paper are used as introductory remarks, which may have been there to get this published in the math journal in which it originally appeared. The author Payne takes a less-than-cryptozoology-friendly approach in the beginning, mixing up Yetis and Sasquatch, and, seemingly with debunking tongue-in-cheek, acting as if cryptozoologists are searching the “high altitudes” for these “gigantic apelike creatures.” Of course, cryptozoologists are aware that montane valleys, not snowfields, are the places to look.

Furthermore, Payne says silly things like, “Fortunes must have been spent searching for the Loch Ness Monster, which cryptozoologists still look for in spite of all the evidence that ‘sightings’ of it have always been attributed to natural causes such as floating matter or the self-delusion of the observers. No amount of scientific persuasion seems to be enough to convince Nessie fans that a pod of pleisiosauri (sic) could not possibly survive in an enclosed area from the age of dinosaurs,” (The Anomalist #14: 125).

Needless to say, even a mathematician should be able to use a spellchecker, and conduct enough research to learn the fact that Loch Ness does have close land and river access to the ocean. Furthermore, the Scottish lake was only created several thousand years ago, not millions. Most American cryptozoologists, by the way, are aware of several mammalian explanations for the cryptids in Loch Ness that have nothing to do with marine reptiles.

But most of all, people who work with math must know the dangers of using a word like “always”!  Anyone that says that every report of the Loch Ness Monsters are “always” based on the two explanations noted by Payne must not be very well-read in the cryptozoological literature.

So, according to Payne, “Cryptozoologists are romantics.” Perhaps so, but, at least, we usually get our dates of discovery correct, and don’t confuse absolutes, possibilities and probabilities, as this mathematician appears to have done in his opening comments.

(3) “The Real James Randi” by Tim Cridland.

“Tim Cridland is best known for his startling human blockhead act for the Jim Rose Sideshow Circus, but here he takes a long, hard, critical look at the career of leading skeptic James Randi and some of the inconsistencies it seems to contain.”

What is most interesting about this overview of Randi’s life is to now read it in light of the double life that James Randi has indeed lived.  As some readers here may know, James Randi just came out of the closet to reveal he is gay. Considering how harsh he has been on others, one wonders how this all plays out in light of his sometimes extremely personal attacks on those he has critiqued, whom it would seem, he often called to task for not being forthright enough.

Swift, named for Jonathan Swift, is the James Randi Education Foundation’s daily blog, featuring content from James Randi and others. He used that forum on March 21, after seeing the movie Milk the week before, to declare himself to be “gay.”

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For more information about obtaining The Anomalist #14, click here.

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.


11 Responses to “Winged Weirdies, Thylacines, and James Randi”

  1. kittenz responds:

    I don’t think that Randi’s decision to keep his private life private for so long is an indication of a character deficiency and I’m really surprised that you would insinuate that it is. Maybe he just did not want his loved ones and family dragged over the coals.

  2. Loren Coleman responds:

    I did not say that “Randi’s decision to keep his private life private for so long is an indication of a character deficiency.” That is Kittenz’s take on this.

    I said that the TA article written, which I assume Kittenz has not read yet, is intriguing to read in light of his own outing. It contains a good comparable analysis of “the inconsistencies” in Randi’s own renderings of his bio.

    I understand this is an emotional issue, but I was not “insinuating” anything. For Kittenz to leap to some assumptions about Randi’s motives for why he did anything, as Kittenz has done, is not surprising. But, again, that was not what I was commenting about; I was only talking about reading the new TA article in light of Randi’s own new news.

  3. oldphilosopher responds:

    I would suppose one might say that people who live in closets should not throw stones….though it nonetheless seems that those are (or become) the people of the stone-throwingest nature. Might it be a mere disassociative attempt to break down their own door?

    I do applaud Mr. Randi’s contribution to proper skeptical analysis. At some point, however, it clearly (and regrettably) crossed the line to become obsession. Such devolution might be a further suggestion that the true object of his outrage was elsewhere.

  4. coelacanth1938 responds:

    I really don’t care if the man is gay or straight or anything else. As long as he keeps debunking the frauds, that all that counts.

  5. kittenz responds:

    Amen, coelacanth1938. Randi has had the courage to stand up to Big Religion and Famous Frauds and challenge them to put their claims to the test. Who he dates and whether he makes he makes it public is irrelevant.

  6. chunkyg responds:

    I disagree with other posters who claim that Randi’s recent self-outing has no bearing on his alleged credentials as a scientist-skeptic. In fact, it starkly reveals his hypocrisy: accounts of his so-called Challenges show he typically resorts to character assassinations (a la´Philip Klass) and other forms of personal, manipulative attacks. Of course, this is the most trivial form of his hypocrisy because he does not subject his own hypotheses (his “explanations” for anomalous events) to the same scientific scrutiny and demonstrate reproducible results.

  7. red_pill_junkie responds:

    The issue of Randi coming out is not about sexual preferences.

    It’s about the need to live a double life because you embark in things that are taboo to the society you’re part of.

    Since societies change and evolve, some of the taboos disappear, while others remain.

    I can’t help thinking about the scientist that haven’t come out of the closet, you know? the ones who have a genuine deep interest in such taboo subjects like UFOs, Bigfoot or life after death; but that, sadly, struggle to keep this interest hidden and separate from their professional careers, lest they get attacked and publicly ridiculed by… well, Randi and his colleagues :-/

  8. theo responds:

    In regards to Randi, and it is fascinating to see how, from a post devoted to three topics, this one has elicited the stimulus for this thread, all I can say is: read Tim Cridland’s article. It is annotated, so no false claims here, and it opens some unsuspected areas in Randi’s life.

    Of course I am all in favour of separating the wheat from the chaff; in fact I do so myself continuously. If there’s a hoax, name it as such. But if there’s room for doubt; share it too. The truly Fortean perspective.

    I have no particular viewpoints in regards to Randi, other than that to me as a researcher, he is not very important. I simply tend to gather my source materials from other quarters and occupy myself with other wonders. I do not need a Randi to educate me in the finer art of logical reasoning. At the same time, my intellectual horizon has room enough even for a Randi – even if this implies that a Geller might be there, too. He has his predilections; I have mine. As John Keel once wrote: Each Hendershot has his Hochstetter (Disneyland Of The Gods, IllumiNet Press).

    But again, read Tim’s article and then discuss.

    Sincere regards,

    Theo

  9. alcalde responds:

    ChunkyG:

    “I disagree with other posters who claim that Randi’s recent self-outing has no bearing on his alleged credentials as a scientist-skeptic. In fact, it starkly reveals his hypocrisy:”

    There seems to be some curious uses of the word “hypocrisy” around here. James Randi challenged those who made unsubstantiated claims to prove them, and exposed people who were fleecing others out of their money by claiming to do things they couldn’t do (contact their dead love ones, useless health products, etc.) To be hypocritical he would need to have either claimed his magic tricks were really magic or otherwise conned people out of money by providing useless services. Whether he’s done those things or not, sexuality has nothing to do with that, so there’s no logical basis to claim a link between Randi’s sexuality and hypocrisy.

    The rest of your post completely lost me as to how it demonstrated hypocrisy.

    Now to the subject of his sexuality: people are using terms like “closet” and “double life” in regards to Randi. These terms don’t really apply here. It was no surprise to me when Randi announced his orientation. A newspaper article published several months ago openly identified a man helping Randi around at the Amazing Weekend convention (Randi, 82, is battling stomach cancer) as his partner. Others have stated that when Randi appeared to give talks at their events he attended with his partner and had no problems when people assumed that was their relationship. Randi has also stated that he was out to family and friends. He never created a fake relationship and has stated that the only beard he’s ever had was the one on his face (which he’ll sadly lose with the chemotherapy). Randi was never really in the closet as an adult.

    Loren:

    Given that the article is about “inconsistences”, and given what I know about Randi’s not really living in the closet, I’m not sure there’s really any link between the two.

    “Considering how harsh he has been on others, one wonders how this all plays out in light of his sometimes extremely personal attacks on those he has critiqued, whom it would seem, he often called to task for not being forthright enough.”

    I don’t see anyone who Randi tangled with could maintain with a straight face that Randi owed them the professional courtesy of being forthright about what goes on in his bedroom. As for how it’ll play out, I know something about how it played out *before* this announcement. A former cop became a target of Randi’s challenge after he began to lay claim to psychic powers and fleecing people. Now, according to Randi [I obviously don't know the truth of this] someone began to call him claiming to be a minor and trying to proposition him. In the past, Randi had been accused of being involved with some (much younger, though adult) magic apprentices, so there was always scuttlebut about Randi’s orientation, which might have been the prompting for this entrapment, if Randi’s version is correct. Randi claims he went to the police and was encouraged to lead the caller on and make recordings of the phone calls, which he did and gave the recordings to the police. The former cop somehow got ahold of these recordings and released them and accused Randi of being involved with minors. Considering Randi’s never been charged with anything although these tapes came out years ago and the likelihood the former cop got these tapes through legal connections, Randi’s explanation is probably the truer of the two. This was one reason Randi didn’t openly announce his orientation sooner – people were trying to entrap him or smear him because of it for many years previously.

  10. ZamoraTK responds:

    Please note that the article I wrote for Anomalist 14 was written over 3 years ago and was at the printing press when Randi publicly “came out.” The article is not about Randi being gay, and, at one point where I could have mentioned Randi’s sexual orientation and his private life I made great efforts to be discrete. The only that his private life was brought up at all was the fact that it brought up in a court case, and as I wrote in the article “The tape’s contents had nothing to do with the paranormal, but what is noteworthy is the elaborate spin Randi put on the situation.” As shown in the article, Randi made public statement that were the exact opposite of what the trial transcript shows. The article highlights many statements by Randi that seem to be contradicted by the record, this being only one.

    As I commented to some friends when Randi made his public “coming out” announcement, Randi’s sexuality has been well know to his friends, and his enemies, for decades. And Criswell could have predicted that it will be dragged all over like a red herring, just as the contents of the tape have been, by both his detractors and supporters.

    And as Alcalde wrote “To be hypocritical he would need to have either claimed his magic tricks were really magic…” I agree. I suggest that you read the article.

    The only relevance of Randi’s “coming out” would be if it contained deception itself. Randi has convinced people that “Randi was never really in the closet as an adult.” On his blog he said “At no time did I choose to adopt any protective coloration…” and further says in the audio interview that he has never pretended not to be gay, but just never made a statement as to whether he was his orientation was. Now if somewhere there is an article where Randi is going on about how he likes girls it would show that even his coming out is another of James Randi’s Deceptions (one of the alternate titles of the article).

    Another thing that Criswell could have predicted is that people will criticize my article without ever reading it, so please, critique all you want, but read it first.

    Tim Cridland

  11. Dracorex222 responds:

    The second picture down is a “Spring-heeled-Jack”!



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