PHENOMENAL SNOWMAN! A Conversation with Loren Coleman!

Noted cryptozoologist Loren Coleman poses with an old colleague. Photo © Loren Coleman.

Loren Coleman, a recognized authority on paranormal phenomena worldwide, is the author of such investigative volumes as Curious Encounters (Faber and Faber, 1985), Mysterious America: The Revised Edition (Paraview Press, 2001 ), and Mothman and Other Curious Encounters (Paraview Press, 2002). Throughout the years, he has been a frequent guest on the top-rated late-night radio program Coast to Coast AM. It may surprise Vantage Point Interviews readers to team that it was actually a Toho film, Half Human (1955), which inspired Mr. Coleman to pursue a career in the field of cryptozoology. In 2004, Mr. Coleman answered Brett Homenick’s questions regarding his interest in Half Human.

Brett Homenick: How did you see Half Human for the first time?

Loren Coleman: I watched the 1957 American version on television in Decatur, Illinois, in March 1960. I remember that the specific station that showed such science fiction films broadcast them on Friday night and then again on Saturday morning. I was intrigued by what I saw Friday night, so I watched the whole movie again on Saturday.

I’ve written about my introduction to cryptozoology via this movie in various articles and books of mine, for example, in my Tom Slick books (both 1989 and 2002 editions), and recently in my 2003 book, Bigfoot: The True Story of Apes in America. I love this motion picture.

BH: What are some memorable scenes from the movie that left an impression on you?

LC: I have vivid memories of that first viewing because it had a life-changing effect on me. I remember the mountains, the creatures, the villagers, the scientists (yes, the Japanese ones and the Americans, too, especially John Carradine). The whole plot of the search for the “Snowmen” in the mountains, the disbelief and discovery, the killing and examination of the young Snowman’s body, and the general, almost “based on truth” feeling of the movie got to me.

What was confusing for a bit was the setting. When I started reading about the real Yeti, I soon discovered the film’s location in Japan was wrong (and obviously had to do with the moviemaker). The true legend and sightings of the Yeti took place in the Himalayas of Tibet, Nepal, and other nearby countries, of course.

BH: Have you seen Half Human since then?

LC: Oh. yes, of course. I obtained it during the 1990s when I was able to locate it on video, but of course, I have the 1957 film. I am well aware of the political Ainu difficulties with the original 1955 version that caused most copies of the Japanese film to be banned. I think the Ainu are some of the most remarkable people on Earth, and sense that Half Human actually has preserved some rare (although fictionalized) senses of the disappearing Ainu. I was disheartened to hear about the banning of the 1955 Japanese original, which I have never seen.

I am a collector of Half Human items. I have the original small cards of scenes from the movie. I also obtained X-Plus Company, Ltd.’s 30-cm model of the Snowman and child, which do not sell cheaply in America.

BH: How did you parlay your interest in the movie into a career in cryptozoology?

LC: I was always interested in natural history, so when I saw this film, I became very focused on what realities existed behind the cinema images I had seen. I went to school the next week and asked my teachers something like, “What’s this about the Abominable Snowman?” They said, “It doesn’t exist — don’t waste your time.’’

So I guess I was an early radical, I questioned authority, I asked what was going on, and I started researching it, and found out that there seemed to be something there It seemed to be a case of scientists being afraid that this new primate would upset the well-thought-out established party line. The answers I got were very unsatisfactory from those teachers, so after reading all I could on Yeti, Bigfoot, Sasquatch, lake monsters, and more, I saw that the status quo was not so firm.

Cryptozoology has become a lifelong pursuit, passion, and part of my life. How the media project such images and facts on the public also comes out of those days. Within two years of seeing the film, I was doing fieldwork, investigating cases, sending in my findings to other researchers, and exchanging info with 400 correspondents around the world. In 1969, I wrote my first article, and in 1975, the first of the 27 books I’ve written.

BH: What do you consider some of your greatest accomplishments in the field?

LC: I guess I would have to say the popularization and spreading of information on cryptozoology in general through my articles, books, media appearances and interviews. The world is a vastly unknown place, with lots of surprises, and it holds many new animals for us yet to discover. By assisting in the communication of that point of view, I feel the future of cryptozoology is assured. Many young professors and students come up to me at my lectures now and tell me that my books inspired them to go into anthropology or zoology or documentary filmmaking. It is very satisfying to be told this.

BH: Do you usually enjoy movies about cryptozoology?

LC: I like to mostly read non-fiction books, but thoroughly enjoy fictional and especially well-done science fiction films that retain a sense of the 1950s style about them. Yes, I enjoy films about Bigfoot, Yeti, Nessie, as well as some of the lesser-known creatures of cryptozoology, like Mothman and giant anacondas.

BH: Has Half Human made you more interested in Japanese sci-fi?

LC: I was interested in the films of Ishiro Honda as soon as I identified him as the director of Half Human. Most people remember him for Godzilla, of course, but my own personal favorites of his will always be Half Human and Rodan. I suppose I can even come out of the closet and say, yes, I’ll admit it, I like Mothra.

I am also interested in the fact that Ishiro Honda came out of the tradition of working as a documentary filmmaker at Toho’s documentary branch in 1949, and directed Half Human soon thereafter. I have always wondered if he was trying, stylistically, to make it look like a documentary film.

I found myself years later, while working at the university level from 1989 to 2003, teaching a very popular documentary film course and producing ten films myself. While I always told the class of the great influence Nanook of the North had on me when I was majoring in anthropology in college, I also mentioned that years earlier, it was the documentary-like Half Human that had more greatly influenced my life.

BH: Is there anything else you want to say to the readers?

LC: In September 2004, a new book of mine will be published by Simon and Schuster, The Copycat Effect: How the Media and Popular Culture Trigger the Mayhem in Tomorrow’s Headlines. It takes a frank and hard look at the media and some movies like The Deer HunterThe Matrix, Basketball Diaries, and more. But I would say to the readers there’s another side of the impact of films. Some films that stir wonder and curiosity can positively impact on one’s choices in life, too. I think the readers certainly can see that this is the case for me with Half Human.

For more information about Loren Coleman, visit his official website.

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