Clad in black leather and wearing a cowboy hat emblazoned with a shiny skull, Ken Gerhard looks a bit like a rock-and-roll Indiana Jones. The Texan’s passion is cryptozoology, or the search for rumored animals not yet discovered by mainstream science, called cryptids.
Since childhood, the famed monster hunter has traveled the world searching for mysterious creatures of legend and lore. Along the trek, he’s authored several books and his adventures have appeared on many cable television specials, as well as the popular Coast to Coast AM radio show. The GR1ND caught up with Gerhard at Troy Taylor’s Haunted America conference, where he lectured on the subject of thunderbirds before jetting off for another expedition.
How did you get into cryptozoology?
When I was eight years old I saw a TV special about Bigfoot and I was completely captivated. I thought it was the coolest thing ever. It was fascinating to imagine an eight-foot-tall man-like creature running around the woods of North America. So I went out to the library, read every book I could find on the subject, and immersed myself in it.
My mother was very adventurous and a travel agent, so she took me all over the world, to places like the Amazon jungle, Australia, and Africa. Wherever we went I would investigate the legendary creatures. That was my upbringing. When I was fifteen we vacationed at Loch Ness in Scotland and I attempted my first field research. I had a little 8mm movie camera and I walked around the lake talking to the locals.
I never attempted to make this a career choice. It didn’t seem viable. But later I began going out in the field with Bigfoot researchers in the United States and experienced things I couldn’t explain. It took hold of me and I wrote my first book. Around that time I was discovered by a producer from the Travel channel. He put me on a show and it snowballed from there. I’m one of the luckiest people in the world, I get to travel around and hunt for monsters for a living. It’s pretty unbelievable.
Bigfoot first got you interested in cryptozoology. How likely do you think it is that such a creature exists?
I think Bigfoot will be proven some day. There is so much evidence mounting now. For the most part, it’s circumstantial. There are thousands of eyewitness sightings, tracks that have been cast, the Patterson film, the hair samples — all of that together builds a pretty convincing case that there’s something out there.
The 1967 Patterson film has been considered as both evidence by believers and a hoax by skeptics. What convinces you of its authenticity?
The very first time I ever watched the Patterson film, it struck me as very natural looking. In the hundreds of times I’ve watched it since, my opinion has never changed. The subject displays an inhuman gait that primate biomechanics experts have concluded would be extremely difficult for a human to pull off. In addition, you can actually see its muscles flexing as it moves. Costumes don’t do that … and especially back in 1967 when ape costumes were dreadful.
‘Patty’ also displays pendulous breasts. Why would someone try to fake something like that? There were a number of tracks left behind that were subsequently cast with plaster and they display the diversity of an actual foot, as opposed to a fake, as well as fitting within the paradigm of the Sasquatch foot… different morphologically from a human’s. Finally, I’ve spoken to Bob Gilmlin, who was there with Patterson at the time. He comes off as extremely sincere and credible.
Out of all the legendary creatures out there, which do you think has the most credibility overall?
The most likely one in my mind has kind of been forgotten about over the centuries. That’s the sea serpent. When you think about the oceans and how vast and unexplored they are. The ocean covers 71% of the Earth’s surface, has an average depth of 12,000 feet, with some parts going down 30,000 feet or more. There could be anything down there that we’ve never seen before. There are huge new species being discovered in the ocean all the time.
The description of the sea serpents date back centuries and are very consistent. It’s described as a long thirty foot to sixty foot serpentine animal with a vertical undulating motion. It’s the consistency of the reports and the fact that the ocean provides a lot of area to hide that indicates that they could live in very deep parts of the ocean and we don’t see them that often because they don’t come to the surface.
While you’ve investigated a large variety of cryptids, in your writing you’ve focused quite a bit on exceptionally large birds and other mysterious flying creatures. Is there a reason for this?
When I got into the field I realized that there were excellent Bigfoot and lake monster researchers, but no one was really investigating the Thunderbird reports. This was despite the fact that there were a lot of accounts and corroborating evidence, in terms of anedecdoatal things. Living in South Texas we have a lot of sightings and it was in my back yard, so to speak. And because I’m associated with this particular phenomenon I get the majority of the reports and sightings people have.
Can you share one of the more compelling Thunderbird encounters you’ve come across in your research?
The Illinois’ Lawndale incident where ten year old Marlon Lowe was carried some distance by an enormous bird during July 25th, 1977. There were four adult eyewitnesses to the event. In my large database of Thunderbird accounts, the descriptions are relatively consistent – dark-colored raptors – black, gray or brown with a wingspan from 15′ to 20′ (the best that anyone can estimate). Many of the witnesses are experienced wildlife observers. The areas where the things are seen the most include – Illinois, Pennsylvania, Texas and Alaska. Birds with 18′ wingspans did exist in North America until 10,000 years ago – the Teratornis.
One of those experienced wildlife observers was John James Audubon, who reported witnessing an enormous eagle. What do you know about that?
John James Audubon was a great a naturalist in the early history of this country. He named hundreds of bird species, studied, and painted them. To this day they’re all accepted as real, valid species, except for the Washington’s Eagle. Because they haven’t found one since he painted the it, Ornithologists say he must have made a mistake since they haven’t seen another one. But maybe they went extinct, or maybe they aren’t out there in large numbers. But Audubon was a brilliant naturalist who knew his field.
With the fossil record proving the existence of dinosaurs and other large animals, what’s the reluctance of the scientific community to accept the possibility of modern-day super-sized creatures?
It’s politics. Scientists are brought up in a traditional structure and educated a certain way. Their career is based on reputation and credibility. Say you work for a major university and you start looking for Bigfoot, you could be fired, ostracized, and or ridiculed by peers.
That being said, we’ve come to a point where there are scientists willing to stick their neck out. I work with a guy from England who is a PhD in comparative physiology from the University of Birmingham, his name is Dr. Karl Shuker. He’s been writing books about cryptozoology for years and he’s very brilliant. Dr. Jeff Meldrum is a primate locomotion specialist from Idaho State University. He’s in all the Bigfoot shows, now. The University is actually backing him on his Bigfoot research. Dr. Grover Krantz is another hero of mine is a physical anthropologist from Washington State. There are some pioneers in traditional science that are willing to open their minds and step outside the box to consider the evidence and possibility. The Chinese and Russian governments have actually sponsored Bigfoot research. Both have been funding expeditions for years.
Have you personally had any close encounters with legendary animals?
I have never seen anything with my own eyes, but I believe that I have been within 40 yards of a Bigfoot. In 2003, I was at a place in North Texas called Little Cottonwood Lake investigating Bigfoot sightings. It was very remote and took us forever to get into this little backwoods area. Just after the sun went down we were hiking around the lake and we suddenly heard something grunting at us from deep in the brush. We couldn’t see it because it was heavily obscured. It sounded like a primate, an ape, or howler monkey. We all looked at each other and said, “Holy shit was is that?”
Your hunt has taken you all over the globe, is there anywhere you’d like to explore?
New Zealand is pretty high on my bucket list. It’s obviously a very beautiful country, but there are really interesting creatures there. There are these giant flightless birds called the moas that were thought to have been extict since the 1600’s, but there are still a lot of sightings. There is a Bigfoot type creature called the Moehau Man. There are living fossils like the tuatara which is a weird reptile that has three eyes and hasn’t change in 60 million years. It’s a weird place zooligically speaking and has lots of interesting creatures there.
What can your readers expect next from you?
My next book is called A Menagerie of Mysterious Beasts. It will contain a chapter on Bigfoot, big birds, werewolves, giant spiders, giant frogs, all kind of mysterious creatures.
For more information on Ken Gerhard visit his website www.kengerhard.com. He regularly writes for the popular cryptozoology website www.cryptomundo.com. His books can be purchased online at Amazon, and other sellers.