From the Crypt

A visit to www.cryptokeeper.com would probably raise the average surfer's eyebrows. The Web site has sections about the existence of Bigfoot, the Himalayan Yeti and El Chupacabra. Freelance wildlife journalist Chester Moore, who runs the site, calls these creatures "hidden species." But from the way Moore tells it, cryptozoology (the study of hidden species) isn't just about the latest Loch Ness Monster sighting.

Moore, the organizer of this weekend's second annual Southern Crypto Conference, wants to "put a sane face on cryptozoology." After all, when folks catch wind of the event, they're likely to dismiss it as a crackpot fest for lonely guys who watch the Sci-Fi Channel too much.

"Unfortunately," he says, "a lot of people get involved in this, or look at it from the outside, and think they're all a bunch of people wanting to fly around in a UFO and chill with Bigfoot and JFK's ghost -- some crap like that." (This from the man who sent the Houston Press a cast of an alleged Bigfoot track.)

Lately, Moore's been consumed with researching a less out-there subject: the existence of the red wolf, a species that's supposedly been extinct since 1980. According to Moore, it pops up every now and again. "They are supposed to be extinct in East Texas," he notes. "But I have come up with photographic evidence that I believe shows the contrary."

With the aid of some very expensive surveillance equipment, including night-vision gear and recording devices, Moore believes he's gathered enough evidence to wow his cryptozoologist brethren at this year's conference. "I set up motion-sensing cameras and I've captured photos," he says. "I've captured tracks. I did all this stuff to show at the conference. It's all about spending time in the field."

Moore isn't the only cryptozoologist around; last year he was surprised when 150 people showed up for his daylong conference. "People came back and said it was a life-changing event for them," he says. "They didn't realize there was that many other people interested in hidden animals, you know?"

For this year's festivities, Moore has assembled a group of speakers who will discuss the field's latest speculations, findings and sightings. Conroe police forensics expert Jim Chilcutt will be on hand to discuss "dermal ridge" footprints, which are said to be the mark of big-footed creatures. Smokey Crabtree, author of the 1974 book Smokey and The Fouke Monster, will take part in a book signing. And British author Nick Redfern will also be on hand to discuss his discoveries, which include sea serpent and big cat sightings.

The event also features the first ever Crypto Awards, which will be given in two categories: Crypto Steward of the Year and Young Cryptozoologist of the Year.

For Moore, the event is a chance to talk shop without being dismissed as a nut. Hey, the man has passion; you can't knock him for that.

The second annual Southern Crypto Conference takes place from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, June 28, at the Lone Star Convention and Expo Center, 9055 Airport Road (FM 1484). For information, call 409-882-0945 or visit www.cryptokeeper.com. $5.

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Craig D. Lindsey
Contact: Craig D. Lindsey