Mixed feeling have I about this story of an 11-year old cryptozoologist. I was a Bigfoot fan at that age too. Still am.
Meet Cal Marks, of Wellsburg, Bigfoot researcher and aspiring cryptozoologist. His mom calls this amiable 11-year-old “Calisquatch,” a play off his name and interests.
“Some kids think I am crazy because I believe in Bigfoot. They are trying to tell me that Bigfoot is not real,” said the Broadway Elementary School fifth-grader. “I tell them, well, with all the sightings, photographs and videos for evidence, how can they all be hoaxes?”
He’s going to attend the Ohio Bigfoot Conference and Ohio Bigfoot Festival which likely has no skeptical speakers in sight. So, I sent him an email with some advice:
Hi, Cal: My name is Sharon and I am a lifelong cryptozoology researcher, too. When I was 11, I read every book I could find on Bigfoot and lake monsters in my school libraries. 31 years later (I’m 44), I’m one of the few female researchers on the topic and I write and talk a lot about it. I’m also in Pennsylvania — Harrisburg.
I’m writing to give you some advice to advance your interest in cryptids and mysteries. After I got a college degree in geology, I eventually studied education specific to science and the public – that is, how science works, how to teach it, and how to talk to people who are not scientists about the importance of it.
I was a Bigfoot believer too and thought a lot like you do – there are so many reports, so many smart people who say they’ve seen or heard something. There must be something to it.
To really understand your subject, to know it inside out, you have to find out what people are saying AGAINST it. I know that sounds weird but if you consider and respond to the problems and disagreements, then you not only see how other people can think differently, but you see that maybe this is more complicated than it appears at first.
So, I would recommend that you take a look at some different researchers – ones that have experience in science and critical thinking about questionable topics. And don’t be afraid to change your mind over and over. I sure did.
My favorite cryptozoology books are:
Abominable Science – Daniel Loxton and Don Prothero
Tracking the Chupacabra – Benjamin Radford
Searching for Sasquatch – Brian Regal
Loch Ness Mystery Solved – Ronald Binns
Lake Monster Mysteries – Joe Nickell and Ben Radford
There are also plenty of blogs, podcasts and online groups to follow but maybe when you are a bit older.
The second bit of advice I’d share is to understand that people can be mistaken in what they say they saw. I write a lot about how we don’t see what our brains think we see, the brain fills in the story. When we are scared or in the dark, we don’t get the details right and make really serious mistakes as eyewitnesses. The unreliability of memory is well known to psychologists.
I can’t emphasize this enough: There must be more than just stories – there must be additional evidence to back up an incredible claim like Bigfoot. I’m sure you know of the many hoaxes that have occurred. Well, we should consider every story doubtful until there is more than just their word to back it up. That’s being careful and scientific. Being skeptical is a way to get you to the BEST answer, even if it’s not the answer you hoped for.
Science is a tough subject area but I think you are already asking some good questions. Don’t be afraid to question yourself and others. I think Bigfoot is a fascinating topic to study. There is so much to learn. Maybe you will pursue a career as a wildlife biologist, zoologist or anthropologist and be able to say that your interest in Bigfoot led you to that. That would be great.
You can see more about how I look at questionable claims in the news at my website http://doubtfulnews.com. I have a lot on cryptids like Bigfoot, chupacabra and Nessie.
Best wishes on your cryptozoological pursuits.
I hope that helps. I didn’t mention that I think the “Finding Bigfoot” show is ridiculously fake and I certainly didn’t want to bombard him with negativity. I still think there is a lot to learn about Bigfoot and I sure am hopeful he will learn EVERYTHING.