TOP CRYPTOZOOLOGICAL STORIES
OF THE YEAR 2000
by Loren Coleman
Year 2000 started out with a bang, cryptozoologically speaking. On
January 2nd, news services reported that in the rural Malaysian village
of Kampung Chennah, durian farmer Liong Chong Shen, 50, smelling a
strong odor and hearing a grunt, turned to see two mystery ape-like
animals covered in long, shiny, black and brown hair. The mawas
(as they are locally called) stared at the startled farmer, and walked
back into the nearby rainforest. However, as more details surfaced, the
sighting had actually occurred a week earlier, thus taking place in
So what were the top twelve cryptozoology stories of 2000? Here is my
list of an even dozen important cryptozoological news events, given in
chronological order. Two of the items, the new coelacanth discovery and
the Skookum body cast, may be discussed for years to come.
1. "EXTINCT" CROCODILES FOUND
During a February-March 2000 expedition conducted by the British-based
Fauna and Flora International, a species of crocodile previously
believed to be extinct in the wild was found in the remote western
jungles of Cambodia.
Field team leader Jennifer Daltry said the researchers sighted three
Siamese crocodiles (Crocodylus siamensis) living in rivers and
marshes within the Cardamom mountain range near Cambodia's border with
Daltry remarked, "We also found large numbers of frogs, moths and
sub-species of birds which are almost certainly new. More than a third
of the invertebrates we found were new to science. We are going to find
many more new species."
Daltry also reported they heard of new sightings of the khting vor,
an elusive forest cow with spiral horns, first described in 1994. (See
number 12 below.)
"This is a region of global importance for wildlife," said Daltry. The
locals did not kill Siamese crocodile, now extinct across its former
range in Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and Laos, because they believed
that, if they did, they too would die. Daltry noted, "The King of
Cambodia is very excited about the discovery and keen for us to protect
the crocodiles that are left." The Cambodian government, which
supported the expedition, has declared its intention to protect the new
reptilian discovery with the assistance of the Fauna and Flora
International. (Fauna and Flora International is also the organization
funding the search for the Orang Pendek, the mystery primate reported
Another crocodilian discovery made news in Africa, again in February
2000. Wolfgang Böhme, of the Zoologisches Forschungsinstitut
und Museum Alexander Koenig in Bonn, Germany, and his team, were
studying reptiles in Southern Mauritania, in the extreme western
Sahara, when they heard rumors of crocodiles on a nearby plateau. They
sped to the site where they found a 20 meter-wide pond. Next to this
was a Nile crocodile -- sunning itself. Eventually, at this underground
pond, they located four Nile crocodiles (Crocodylus niloticus),
each only 2 meters long (instead of six meters for their Nile
relatives). It is a relict population, dating from the time when Sahara
was a fertile savannah, about 10,000 years ago, as shown by Tassili
2. WISCONSIN BIGFOOT SIGHTED
Around 5:15 a.m on March 28, 2000, James Hughes was delivering the
little local newspaper, Black River Shopper, along County
Highway H, near Granton, Wisconsin, when he noticed a figure standing
in the ditch and carrying a goat. At first he took it to be a large
man, but then he saw it was about eight feet tall and had an ape-like
"He was all covered with hair, a real dark gray color, with some spots
that looked a honey color. It was walking on two legs, and it was
mighty, mighty, big," Hughes said. In its left hand it held what he at
first took to be a goat, but later he wasn't sure, it might have been a
little sheep. When the beast turned to look at him, Hughes said he
floored the gas pedal and sped away, very scared.
"I didn't call it in (to the Sheriff's Department) until the next day,
because people would think I'm crazy. And I don't drink, I don't use
dope, and I was wide awake," Hughes said.
Hughes finally did file a report with the Clark County Sheriff's
Department, and a deputy was dispatched to the scene but could not find
any large footprints or other evidence.
The Sheriff's Department said Hughes gave a very detailed description,
but without tracks or other evidence suggesting a creature was in the
area, the hunt ceased.
Nevertheless, the report circled the globe and became one of the first
widely reported Bigfoot sightings of 2000.
3. SEA SERPENT SIGHTED OFF NEWFOUNDLAND
Cape Bonavista, Newfoundland, Canada, was the location of a classic Sea
Serpent sighting during the first week of April 2000.
While on a morning drive along the cape, Bob Crewe came upon a creature
like nothing he had ever seen before. "I saw its body in the water
measuring about 30 feet across, just lying there and moving slightly,"
said Crewe, who had stopped his truck on a cliff overlooking the ocean,
in an area not far from an attraction known as The Dungeon and an old
rock formation known locally as the Viking.
"It looked something like a rock in the water, but I knew there was no
rock there. I blew the horn and it stuck its head out of the water. It
had a long neck about four or five feet."
Crewe said that from what he could see of the creature amid ripples in
the water, it looked something like a huge snake which had some kind of
"snout" on its head.
"I wish I had a camera aboard," said Crewe. "It took off towards the
lighthouse (at the tip of the cape) with its head still out of the
water, tilted slightly forward. It seemed like it was using its body to
push itself along and it was going very fast."
Some have suggested he saw a giant squid. Crewe, however, says what he
saw was nothing as simple as that.
"It wasn't a giant squid. I know that for sure," he said. "I wasn't
close enough to see scaly skin or eyes or any detail like that. All I
know is that was a strange creature, and it's a big ocean that could
contain a lot of strange things we've never seen."
4. SEARCH FOR THE TSUCHINOKO CONDUCTED
In 2000, Yoshii, Okayama, Japan was in the news again, as people were
flocking to the region to hunt for the tsuchinoko, a chirping
reptile-like cryptid bearing at least some resemblance to a snake or a
long, thick lizard. A 20 million yen reward from the Yoshii Municipal
Government was the source of all the excitement.
Tsuchinoko fever hit Yoshii on May 21 after a farmer cutting grass
swore he saw a snake-like creature with a face resembling the cartoon
cat Doraemon slither across his field. The farmer slashed the creature
with his weed whipper, but it fled into a nearby stream and escaped.
Four days later, 72-year-old Hideko Takashima was talking with a couple
of friends in Yoshii when she found what she thought was one of the
creatures lying dead next to the stream a tsuchinoko reportedly had
dived into to escape from the farmer. She picked it up and buried it.
Yoshii Municipal Government officials heard the rumors of a tsuchinoko
and headed out to look over the local woman's find. They exhumed the
body and forwarded it to Kawasaki University of Medical Welfare to be
examined. Kuniyasu Sato, the professor who analyzed the reptile, said
that the animal may indeed have been the tsuchinoko, but
"scientifically speaking, it was a kind of snake."
Meanwhile, Mitsuko Arima, an 82-year-old from Yoshii, says she saw a
tsuchinoko swimming along a river on the morning of June 15.
"I was surprised. I just pointed at it and asked 'Who are you? Who are
you?' It didn't answer me, but just stared. It had a round face and
didn't take its eyes off me. I can still see the eyes now. They were
big and round and it looked like they were floating on the water,"
Arima says. "I've lived over 80 years, but I'd never seen anything like
that in my life."
No one collected the reward in 2000.
5. SUMMER OF SASQUATCH BECAME A MEDIA STORM
For some reason, perhaps from being bored by the US Presidential
Campaign of 2000, the American press rediscovered Bigfoot and devoted a
summer of media attention to a dozen Sasquatch sightings.
One of the foremost incidents occurred on June 27, when Gene Sampson
found giant footprints behind his home on the Hoh Indian Reservation,
near Port Angeles, Washington. Hearing strange "bam, bam" noises,
Sampson searched and found two sets of footprints, which he measured at
14 inches and 17-1/2 inches in length, and 7 and 8 inches in width.
Cliff Crook, a local Bigfooter, made casts of the prints. While Idaho
professor Jeff Meldrum wondered as to the worth of the tracks, Grover
Krantz, Bigfoot researcher and retired Washington State University
anthropology professor, said he sensed the footprints on the Hoh
reservation indicated one male and one female Sasquatch.
But the sightings at the Hoh Reservation were only one of many that had
received even-handed publicity since May 7, 2000, when near Troutdale,
Oregon, along the Sandy River, campers found a set of Bigfoot tracks in
the wilderness there. Other news items told of the June 16th,
Darrington, Snohomish County, Washington find of giant bare footprints
along the Mountain Loop Highway, and the June 24th discovery of large
Sasquatch footprints in Olympic National Park.
Then on July 1, the true media storm began when a psychologist reported
seeing Bigfoot while hiking, with his family, near the Oregon Caves
National Monument, Selma, Oregon.
"It was very tall, it was very hairy," Johnson said. "It was nothing
else but a Sasquatch. I swear to God. I lived a lot of years in Alaska.
I've been chased by a grizzly bear. This was no bear."
When Grants Pass psychologist Matthew Johnson says he heard grunts,
smelled something musky, and then saw Bigfoot, the press listened.
Media attention to Johnson's sighting was the big event of the summer,
if one was to judge by how much press, radio, and television coverage
the sighting received. Johnson was interviewed widely, appeared on
several morning and news programs, and was videotaped by international
and national teams of filmmakers. His sighting was taken very
seriously, although some within the Bigfoot study ranks were upset that
a Ph. D. would be treated so nobly by the press when dozens of truck
drivers', farmers', and hunters' reports are ignored every week by the
The incident did catch the attention of some Bigfoot researchers in
Northern California who spent parts of the summer retracing the Johnson
family's steps along the monument's Big Tree Trail. Johnson said the
first group of searchers, accompanied by a monument ranger, soon after
the July 1st incident, found some partial prints in the area.
Based on the number of sightings recorded in the Pacific Northwest,
their well-documented nature, and the fact the local and national media
were more willing to take Bigfoot sightings seriously than in the
proceeding two decades, this was clearly the "Summer of Sasquatch."
6. GIANT ARKANSAS SNAKE ENCOUNTERED
Reports of a giant snake that had been eating animals in Little River
County, Arkansas, near the village of Foreman, caused local officials
to take notice in July 2000. An animal rescue group, the Arkansas
Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Association, was summoned from
Pulaski County to try to catch the snake, reportedly 30-foot-long.
While Arkansas Game and Fish Commission officials remained skeptical,
residents of Foreman and nearby communities reported that something
definitely was eating small animals in the area. One resident reported
that a pet goose named "Miss Daisy" died after being bitten by a snake
under her right wing. Bullfrogs have vanished in a pond; fish in two
more. Cranes and herons that once perched on the edge of Terry and
Wedia Landsell's pond have relocated. Wedia Landsell said some of her
cats have disappeared, too.
"When you get asked at the Taco Bell about it, you know something is
up," said Jim Williamson, editor of the weekly Little River News.
Although Game and Fish officials have suggested that what residents
have seen is an oversized cottonmouth, Wedia Landsell said this is no
normal snake. "I've seen a lot of snakes, but nothing this big,"
Landsell said, who has seen "it early in the morning or late in the
New information on Little River County's "giant snake" was disclosed
with the broadcast of the documentary, "United Snakes of America," on
National Geographic Explorer, 21 January 2001. According to that
program, in October 2000, a ten-and-a-half-foot-long dead Burmese
python was found along a road near Foreman, Arkansas. Local authorities
feel there was a direct link to this animal and reports of the giant
snake seen by residents.
7. SKOOKUM SASQUATCH BODY CAST TAKEN
The Native American word skookum is another name for Sasquatch
or Bigfoot, and settlers in the West employed it to name geographical
sites. There are over two hundred Skookum place names found in Oregon,
Washington State, British Columbia, Idaho, and Alaska. During
September, 2000, Richard Noll and twelve other individuals on an
expedition looking for evidence of Bigfoot made a remarkable find, as
chance would have it, near Skookum Meadow in the Gifford Pinchot
National Forest in southern Washington state. In a mud trap they
created, they obtained a half-body print of a Sasquatch.
To attract one of the creatures, the team set out food, spread
pheromones and played tape recordings thought to be the calls of other
Bigfoot. After placing locally grown apples in a muddy spot one
evening, the investigators returned the next morning to find an
impression which, they conclude, shows the left forearm, hip, thigh and
heel of a large primate. They believe the impression was made as the
creature sat down and reached over to pick up the bait. The imprint of
a hairy buttocks in the mud is the strongest hint yet that Bigfoot is
roaming the American Pacific Northwest, according to the Bigfoot Field
Researchers Organization (BFRO), which sponsored the expedition.
Anthropologist Jeff Meldrum of Idaho State University, in a story
published in New Scientist (23 December 2000) noted that the
imprint seems to have been made by a large, hair-covered hominid more
than 2.5 meters tall. Meldrum found markings that look like human
dermal patterns (such as those found on human feet) on the heel print.
"All we're trying to say at this stage is that there's evidence that
justifies objective consideration," Meldrum said.
Some critics have commented the imprint is nothing more than an elk
body imprint. The study of the cast is on-going.
8. YOWIE FILMED
Australian businessman, amateur cameraman, and bushwalker Steve Piper
captured on videotape a mystery animal he thinks was the Yowie (an
apelike unknown primate) while in the Brindabella ranges, south of
Canberra, in September 2000. Piper was filming what he thought was a
big kangaroo in a gully, when he realized it was far too large to be a
"I zoomed in and couldn't believe my eyes: this massive creature was
trampling through the undergrowth, it looked like it had a limp," Piper
In September, the bewildered Piper delivered the footage to hominid
researcher Tim the Yowie Man who investigates possible Yowie sightings.
On October 1st, several Australian researchers (Tony Healy, Tim the
Yowie Man, Neil Frost and Paul Cropper) and visiting US Bigfoot News
editor Danny Perez all viewed the video and visited the site of the
filming. The video shows a large, bulky, dark, bipedal hairy figure
limping slowly through bush in a roadside gully for several seconds.
Reports are that the film is inconclusive, and early news that it was
the best film since the 1967 Bluff Creek, California, footage of a
Bigfoot seem overstated. The video is reportedly short, shaky, and
9. AMERICAN MYSTERY CATS REPORTED
Large mystery felines and giant black panthers appeared to be popping
up all across the United States in October 2000.
A rash of reported sightings of a catlike creature in Windham County,
Vermont, prompted a part-time employee with the state Fish and Wildlife
Department to begin interviewing people who say they had seen the
Meanwhile, the giant black cat of Waupaca County, Wisconsin was the
talk of the area. One of the cats passed in front of a car just below a
Northport, Wisconsin hill on State 54. Len Wohlrabe, 76, of Readfield,
said, "At first I thought it was somebody's black Labrador, but then I
got a good look at it as it ran off. It was a big cat, I have no doubt
Wohlrabe's description was similar to others given by people who
reported seeing the cat. They all said it had a large head, long body
and long tail and was definitely feline. Wohlrabe estimated the weight
at 200 pounds.
Also, during October, half-dozen witnesses said Peoria, Illinois's
historic Springdale Cemetery was being haunted, not by ghosts but by a
cougar that was stalking deer among the headstones by moonlight.
Described as "very muscular, very large" and a "large brown cat," the
mystery feline was spotted in the cemetery, on a nearby residential
street, and at the back gate of the Peoria Journal-Star
newspaper. One local said he saw it jump a deer.
A cougar killed by a train in southwest Illinois in July, after
testing, was found to be wild; the feline's origins remained a mystery
at year's end.
10. THIRD POPULATION OF COELACANTHS DISCOVERED
The 1938-1952 rediscovery by zoology of the supposedly 65 million year
extinct coelacanth (Latimeria chalumnae) in the Comoros islands
off East Africa has been hailed as a success story in Cryptozoology.
Native peoples had known about the fish (gombessa), thus
demonstrating the tenet that local traditions can be used as a source
of information by cryptozoologists and that as-yet-to-be discovered
animals remain as surprises for modern scientists. Then, with great
fanfare, in 1998, a new coelacanth species was discovered off Sulawesi,
Indonesia by Mark Erdmann, Arnaz Mehta, Om Lameh Sonathan, and their
But who could imagine that a third population would shift the
coelacanth focus back to Africa in 2000?
In October 2000 South African diver, Pieter Venter, while searching at
104 meters (320 feet) below the surface at Sodwana, a bay renowned for
its reefs off South Africa, came upon three coelacanths. On November
27, he again observed three coelacanths (possibly the same three or
three different ones) at a depth of 115 meters (350 feet), in an area
800 meters (half a mile) from the shore. He was able to capture all
three on videotape.
Dr. Phil Heemstra of the JLB Smith Institute of Ichthyology positively
identified the species as a coelacanth. The discovery of three (or
possibly six) specimens in the same location was flashed worldwide as
evidence for the existence of a distinct, native population off
Sodwana. The group of divers who made the discovery are Pieter Venter,
Peter Smith, Dennis Harding, Peter Timm, Erna Smith, Etienne le Roux,
Christo Serfontein and Martin Bench. Unfortunately, the discovery was
marred by tragedy as one of Venter's team died after surfacing without
proper decompression. Dennis Harding, a 34-year-old diver from Gauteng,
died after filming the fish. (Rehan Bouwer, a 46-year-old diver from
Gauteng who died in the sea off Sodwana in June 1998, had also been
searching for the world's oldest and elusive fish.)
While the media and some coelacanth chroniclers spoke of this as the
"third" population discovered, South African coelacanth expert Robin
Stobbs has pointed out that the Sodwana coelacanth discovery is
actually the fourth established and verified population group.
The third was the one based on the capture of two specimens from
deep-set nets near Toliara, Madagascar, in 1995 and 1996/7.
Meanwhile, cryptozoologist Michel Raynal noted that the new Sodwana
discoveries should stimulate searchers in 2001, based on past evidence,
to look for relict coelacanth populations in the Gulf of Mexico and in
11. THAI "HAIRY MAMMOTHS" REPORTEDLY PHOTOGRAPHED
On December 6, 2000 came one of the more incredible media stories of
the year. Australian news sources stated that Thai scientists were
going into Thailand's northern jungles to investigate sightings of
large hairy elephants resembling the long-extinct woolly mammoth. The
search was triggered by the release of aerial photographs of the
mysterious beasts taken by Princess Rangsrinopadorn Yukol, who has a
keen interest in forest and wildlife conservation. The blurry images
sparked excitement among those who believe the animals may be a new
elephant species, or even long-lost descendents of the Pleistocene
"I'm not absolutely convinced that the pachyderms are the same species
as the mammoths, but I think the possibility is high," elephant
specialist and veterinarian Prasit Molichart told The Nation
newspaper. "This is a great discovery."
But other elephant experts dismissed the idea of a new species of
pachyderm. "It's just not possible. There's no way that it's a new
species," said Richard Lair from the Elephant Conversation Center in
the northern town of Lampang. He noted that the supposed "mammoths" may
be really just young elephants that have not completely shed their baby
"When they're born, elephants almost always have a lot of hair. Some
elephants keep the hair longer than others, and from what I saw in the
photos, it looks like that was the case here," he said.
12. LOST WORLD TAKES ONE BACK -- OR DOES IT?
In the 1990s, a vast area dubbed the "Lost World" of Indochina revealed
for the first time many never-before seen species, well-known to the
native peoples but completely new to scientists. But in mid-December
2000, French zoologists said one of the new discoveries never existed
in the first place.
Pseudonovibos spiralis, supposedly a rare
species of wild steer native to the mist-shrouded highlands of Cambodia
and Vietnam is the animal in question. The ruminant was first
"identified" by two German zoologists who found a pair of lyre-shaped,
twisted horns with markings unlike those of any other animal. The
horns, spotted in markets in Ho Chi Minh City and Da Lat, appeared to
be that of a medium-sized member of the bovid family. Two sets of
similar horns were collected in Cambodia, near the border with Vietnam.
Locals called the creature linh duong, Vietnamese for mountain
goat, or khting vor in Khmer, which means "wild cow with horns
like lianas". They told how the shadowy animal still survived in the
mountainous central districts of Vietnam and in north-eastern Cambodia.
Similar types of horns found in the region in the 1920s were believed
at the time to be those of an immature female kouprey, a kind of ox.
But on the basis of the new material, the Germans concluded that the
horns were quite different and belonged to a completely "new and
previously unknown bovid". They named the animal Pseudonovibos
spiralis after its spindle-shaped horns.
The new animal, "the last large mammal discovered in the 20th century,"
was one of the prizes coming out of the "Lost World." Since no
photographs existed, artists sketched their imagined reconstruction of
a medium-sized buffalo with twisted horns.
But the linh duong never existed, say naturalist Arnoult Seveau
of the Zoological Society of Paris, Herbert Thomas, a palaeontologist
and bovid specialist at the College de France, and biochemist Alexandre
Hassanin of the Paris-VI University. After a study of horns collected
in Cambodia in 1999, and some comparable ones from Indochina of the
1920s, the team said the artifacts are a hoax manufactured from the
horns of vulgar cattle.
"Pseudonovibos spiralis is simply a forgery," the trio stated in
a December press release.
But the story is not over, according to Professor Robert Timm of the
University of Kansas, who has written on the taxonomy of P. spiralis.
He told cryptozoologist Matt Bille, "There is NO doubt in my mind that P.
spiralis is a real animal, a valid taxon. The specimens we have
here are very clear."
Copyright 2001 Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman's newest book is Mysterious
America: The Revised Edition.
also the author of several other books, including The Field Guide
to Bigfoot, Yeti, and Other Mystery Primates Worldwide (with
Patrick Huyghe) and Cryptozoology A to Z (with Jerome Clark).