Regina’s paranormalest music fest books a cryptozoologist
Cover | by Stephen Whitworth
The second annual Swamp Fest has a killer lineup of musical acts set to descend on Willow Island and other venues this September. For example: the brilliant Beverly Glenn-Copeland: former Mr. Dressup player, underground musician and trans man. Don’t miss him! That said, for me, a nerd, the essential event is a lecture and film night headlined by cryptozoologist Micah Hanks.
A cryptozoologist is someone interested in the scientific and cultural phenomena of extinct or legendary animals — think Ogopogo, the kraken or the abominable snowman, but also something like the Coelacanth, a prehistoric fish that turned up alive and well off the coast of South Africa in 1938. It’s fun stuff. I spoke with Hanks over the phone in advance of his talk.
How did you get booked for Swamp Fest?
Tim and Amy, two of the coordinators of Swamp Fest, have attended events that I have given lectures at. I primarily work in the areas of history but I also have an interest in what you might call scientific anomalies, and while I’m a sceptic when it comes to those things I’m fascinated with reports of animals as-yet undiscovered by science, unusual aerial phenomena, nocturnal lights and historical anomalies — I do a lot of work with North American archeologists in my spare time. My interest in those sorts of subjects are shared by Swamp Fest’s coordinators, so they said, ‘why don’t we integrate a little of that into the event this year?’ and I’m so happy they did!
Do you have a favourite Canadian unexplained phenomenon?
On the western coast of Canada there are a lot of Native Canadian legends. A lot of traditions describe groups that were larger and hairier, more animalistic you might say, than the people who came over from Asia, and who were driven off into the forest and made to live there. This is a mythological corollary, I think, to modern reports of what people might call Bigfoot or Sasquatch
Personally I hate the term Bigfoot. I think it sounds silly.
What do you think phone cameras have done for (or to) the paranormal?
The fact that everyone has good quality cameras and recording devices that slide into a pocket has shown us one thing: a lot of the claims people have made over the decades are not as easily substantiated as was once thought. It’s easy to make extraordinary claims and people can say that they see all sorts of things, but when you’ve got cellphones that doesn’t explain all the lack of evidence — it sets a new [standard] for it. It says, ‘okay, you say you’ve seen these things. Prove it.’
What I hope is, of the modicum of things that might be legitimate mysteries, that there’s something going on up there in Western Canada and other parts of the Pacific Northwest, Alaska and the Northwestern United States.
There are occasional reports of very large birds. I believe it’s the Steller’s eagle that’s known to exist in that region, but reports describe a bird that’s much larger: something in the neighbourhood of a 14- to 20-foot wingspan. That sounds impossible but we do know through geological history that such animals have existed, so I’m hopeful technologies will allow us to get better data than we’ve had in the past. Are people seeing an animal that to them is larger than life so they blow it out of proportion? Or are people seeing something that’s gone undiscovered?
What else might be out there?
There are reports from an extremely dense part of the Congo where Pygmies describe an animal that sounds like a dinosaur. It has a long neck, akin to a brontosaurus, albeit somewhat smaller. It’s one of the most inaccessible regions of the world. There’s also the so-called Cadborosaurus, a serpent-like aquatic animal that exists off the Pacific coast. That’s something that’s been described in Native legends, too.
This interview has been edited and massively condensed for publication.