February 21, 2013

Off Beat: Tales from the crypto

A film about strange sightings, ‘Cryptotrip’ premieres in Portland on Sunday.

By Ray Routhier rrouthier@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

When most of us see a TV news story with some guy claiming he saw Bigfoot or some woman claiming she saw a flying pig, we shout, "Who ARE these people?!"

click image to enlarge

A still from Christopher Maloney’s “Cryptotrip.”

Courtesy photo

"CRYPTOTRIP"

WHEN: 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. Sunday

WHERE: International Cryptozoology Museum, 11 Avon St., Portland

HOW MUCH: $10

INFO: cryptozoologymuseum.com

Christopher Maloney says the same thing. Except much more quietly, and with much more conviction.

Maloney, a corporate video maker from Cincinnati, has long had an interest in cryptozoology, which is basically the study of previously undiscovered or unexplainable species. A lot of it involves investigating claims that may never be substantiated.

Maloney decided to take a cross-country road trip with a film camera to talk to a bunch of folks who made notable sightings over the years. He wanted to see if their stories had changed over time, and he wanted to see how their sightings might have changed them.

"I had read several books and several things online, and the same names kept coming up," said Maloney. "When you have a credible story from a credible person, it stands the test of time better. I wanted to give these people a chance to tell their whole story, and to say how it's changed their lives."

The result of Maloney's road trip is a documentary film, "Cryptotrip," which is having its New England premiere on Sunday at the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland. Maloney will be on hand to talk about the 75-minute film, which includes seven lengthy interviews, and answer questions.

His film is different from the "looking for Bigfoot" genre, because he's not really looking for Bigfoot. He's looking for folks who might have seen Bigfoot -- or the Dover Demon or some other hard-to-explain creature.

So on camera, we see Maloney tracking down Todd Neiss, who was involved in sightings of a Bigfoot-type beast in 1993 in Oregon. Neiss has become a celebrity of sorts, as his story has been recounted on various cable TV shows over the years.

But Maloney wanted to give him a longer forum to talk about the experience, with some distance from it.

"I gave him a chance to tell his whole story," he said. "My approach was the opposite (of many TV shows), where I just wanted people to talk about it like they were telling a story at the dinner table."

Neiss was in the Army at the time of his purported sighting, and has served in Iraq. He is still in the Army today.

He told Maloney that he was on a training mission. Just after a series of explosions, he saw three Bigfoot-type creatures, visibly disturbed, coming out of the woods. One seemed to the alpha, standing in front of the others. They were tall, with very low hanging arms and no necks, Neiss told Maloney.

Maloney said Neiss' story is the same now as it was then. He believes him, because Neiss hasn't benefited in any way from his claims -- in fact, he's changed his life because of them.

"He's led expeditions to find out more about these creatures, and he's started his own organization with the purpose of putting Bigfoot on the endangered species list," said Maloney. "None of these things benefit him directly, and that leads me to believe something did happen to him."

Another subject of the film is William Bartlett, who reported seeing the so-called Dover Demon in Dover, Mass., in 1977. There were at least three sightings of the creature, which looked like a cat or a dog from a distance but sort of like a cartoon alien closer up.

Bartlett is a painter, and at first, he was reluctant to talk to Maloney.

"He had wanted to put it behind him. As he said to me, it was only eight seconds of his life," said Maloney. "But he did it. It was the first time he'd thought about it in depth in about 30 years. At first he was reluctant, but at the end, he was talking very freely. It almost seemed like therapy for him."

That makes sense, given that Bartlett was telling his story, getting it off his chest, to someone who was not interested in sensationalizing his story. Maloney was only interested in trying to understand it.

And maybe if the world was a little more understanding, all the Bigfoots and Loch Ness Monsters would come out of hiding.

Or maybe not.

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

rrouthier@pressherald.com

 

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