Ever since the word “crypto” became shorthand for cryptocurrency, NFTs, and Web3 stuff sold in Super Bowl ads or discussed in dinner table conversations, it has overshadowed another community living outside of the blockchain world.
Cryptozoologists have been using the word “crypto” to talk about their field of expertise: legendary creatures like Sasquatch, the Loch Ness monster, Mothman, Chupacabra, and others. Cryptozoology, the study of hidden or unknown animals, originated in the early 1960s by author Ivan T. Sanderson in his book Abominable Snowmen, Legend Come to Life.
Though other crypto-prefix fields of study like cryptography have also been around for decades, to some cryptozoologists, crypto is not only just disrupting the financial space but also their online life.
“I have to constantly spend my precious time doing tweets that @CryptoLoren is not about cryptocoin. It’s about cryptozoology,” says Loren Coleman, a cryptozoologist and founder of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine. Coleman is often called the modern popularizer of the word “cryptozoology,” having written dozens of books about the subject over the past 40 years, such as Creatures of the Outer Edge; Bigfoot!: The True Story of Apes in America; and Cryptozoology A to Z: The Encyclopedia of Loch Monsters, Sasquatch, Chupacabras, and Other Authentic Mysteries of Nature.
Coleman says that his followers also pick up on the misidentified crypto confusion on Twitter and start threads campaigning that crypto means cryptozoology, not cryptocurrency. A few podcasters and bloggers in the cryptozoology space say they are often met with messages and emails about Bitcoin and NFTs and tagged in threads about other cryptocoin. There are dozens of tweets on the platform that echo the sentiment that “the only ‘crypto’ I care about is cryptozoology.”
Mostly though, the cryptozoology community has used the word “cryptid” instead of “crypto” to talk about unknown creatures, which helps steer away some of that confusion. Cryptocurrency conventions are called CryptoCons, while cryptozoology conventions are now called CryptidCons. (Though there is still sometimes confusion in SEO there.)
Despite this confusion, Web3 crypto enthusiasts keep trying to bridge the two communities together. Coleman says he has been pitched about having his museum sponsor a set of NFT cryptids. “We talked about it a couple of times on the phone and I just backed off,” Coleman told The Verge over the phone. “I said, ‘Is there anything that I can get out of this to have as a physical artifact?’ He said no. I said, ‘Well, I don’t think we’re talking in the same world.’”
Coleman has no plans to start accepting Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies for admission at the Cryptozoology Museum. Though he clarifies that there are no hard feelings against the other crypto people. “There seems to be a little battle. I don’t care. I really am not antagonistic against cryptocurrency people. I mean, it’s just a phantom type of currency. Then, when we think about it, money in general is all phantom.”
“We believe that we could capture a Bigfoot, but it’s all a matter of money.”
So are the two worlds continuing to stay separate? Not necessarily. Of course, there already is a series of cryptid NFTs akin to Bored Apes or Cryptokitties, but there are some actual cryptozoologists investing in cryptocoin. Stephen T. Major, the founder and director of operations at Extreme Expeditions Northwest, an outdoor adventure company that specializes in guided Bigfoot “research expeditions,” started his own cryptocurrency called Cryptid Coin to help fund his Bigfoot research and investigations. “We believe that we could capture a Bigfoot, but it’s all a matter of money,” Major told The Verge. The token promises that people who purchase Cryptid Coin might be eligible to join a Bigfoot expedition or take part in one of Major’s film documentaries about Bigfoot.
As for where the spoils of Cryptid Coin would go, Major says it would focus on state-of-the-art technology for capturing Sasquatch. “We’ve got drones. We have motion sensors. We have audio recorders. We have all this stuff that is readily available within our budget. However, we would like to start raising enough funding to get more advanced devices. Military-grade thermals, things like that,” Major explains.
The original plan was to get 5 million cryptid enthusiasts to buy $100 worth of Cryptid Coin each. As of the date of this publishing, there are only 19 holders of the coin.
The similarities between discussions about both Bigfoot and Bitcoin can be strikingly similar. Both believers of Bigfoot and Bitcoin have often used the same argument that, with a certain number of parameters, they can achieve their ultimate goal. If they just have the right amount of money, they could bring in a Bigfoot body. If they just figure out the layers in the payment stack, Bitcoin would work better. Major picked up on these similarities, too. He said that when he talks to people about either subject, he is met with similar reactions. “I get razzed all the time about Bigfoot. ‘They’re not real. They’re a joke.’ And then, on the other hand, it’s the same thing,” he claims. “When I talk to people about either Cryptid Coin or cryptocurrency in general, they think it’s a joke. They say it’s fake money and this and that. They are just as skeptical about it because they just think it’s a flash in the pan.”
A comfort level in dealing with liminal spaces
Sharon Hill, a researcher and writer who runs the blog Pop Goes the Cryptid, which examines how popular culture interacts with modern cryptozoology, is not surprised that people like Major are heavily invested in both cryptos. “Probably the most interesting similarity of these two crypto communities is the significance, or I might even say a comfort level, in dealing with what we would call ‘liminal spaces:’ the gap between the real and the unreal,” Hill tells The Verge. “For example, you have a cryptid report. Is that report indicative of people seeing a real animal or is it a hoax or is it supernatural, magical, or ethereal, if you will? Characteristics of popular cryptids are symbolic, and they manifest complex social concerns, too. So similarly, you’ve got cryptocurrency. Are these NFTs real even though they are intangible? Or are they ephemeral that will vanish when you blink? Maybe both groups have quite an unusual interest and ease about the unknown and the hidden and what could come in the future.”
Obviously not all believers in one thing are believers in the other. Coleman is proof of that; he has no plans for minting Nessie NFTs. The Verge has also reached out to a few cryptocurrency enthusiasts on Twitter who use the word “crypto” in their usernames, asking if they are also interested in cryptozoology, finding Bigfoot, or the study of unknown animals. No one replied to the inquiry.
Despite the lack of interest in Cryptid Coin so far, Major still believes in the promise of cryptocurrency and that the technology is here to stay. He says he has pitched to a lot of investors but with no luck securing additional funding. In the meantime, he continues his expeditions into the wilderness of the Northwest US and Canada producing documentaries about Bigfoot.
“If I can get people that are really into cryptocurrency to get interested in this, I think it would work,” says Major. “We want to make believers out of people — not only Bigfoot being real but cryptocurrency being real as well.”