Cryptic Observations: Photographs and Illusionary Animals

"Photographic evidence" is sometimes taken as shorthand for cold, hard proof. Seeing, after all, is believing, and if we have a permanent record of an image that anyone can examine, what more verification can be necessary? Of course, we can't really trust our eyes or memories, something that has been exacerbated by how trivial manipulating photographs have become. But even before Photoshop, photographs fooled people. Beyond crude hoaxes, there remains the fact that such images are not simple slices of reality. Intentionally or unintentionally, photographers determine what information from a scene is captured and what is omitted. This phenomenon is a driving force in cryptozoology, the pseudoscientific study of legendary animals. And while Tetrapod Zoology's Darren Naish generally writes about animals that actually exist (or did millenia ago), today he delves into a famous cryptid photo of the "Ozenkadnook tiger." While the truth about the photo is still hazy, what it says about our standards of evidence--and how it intersects with the story of a real Australian animal's extinction--is worth a closer look.

Rilla Martin's 1964 photo of the 'Ozenkadnook tiger'

Tetrapod ZoologyAugust 18, 2010

"Photos purported to show 'mystery animals' are always great fun. One of the most perplexing and curious of the lot was taken on a box Brownie camera near Goroke, western Victoria, Australia, in 1964. I'm referring, of course, to Rilla Martin's photo of a strange, striped, running mammal."

Really: photos of the Loch Ness monster

Tetrapod ZoologyDecemeber 13, 2007

"Many people have heard that some, or all, of these photos are dubious, or fake. But that's where it ends for the vast majority of people. I would imagine that - as with the famous Patterson footage purporting to show sasquatch - most people see a given Loch Ness monster photo and think 'Oh yeah, that's that famous Loch Ness monster photo. I wonder if anyone's ever worked out whether it's a fake or not'. Well my friends, you now need wonder no more, for here I'm going to do a quick run-down of some of the more famous images, and dish the dirt."

Best lake monster image ever: the Mansi photo

Tetrapod ZoologyJune 3, 2008

"Taken by Sandra Mansi at Lake Champlain (Vermont, USA) in July 1977, the Mansi photo has always been really popular because (unlike so many alleged lake monster photos) it's not too blurry or ambiguous but clearly shows something that looks very much like a large, long-necked grey aquatic animal."

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