The Centre for Fortean Zoology was founded in the UK in 1992 - nearly 20 years ago. Over the past two decades it has expanded to become a truly global organisation. We opened our American office in 2001, our Australian office in 2009, and now - in our 19th year - we are proud to welcome CFZ Canada to the CFZ global family.

Monday, 15 August 2011

PSICAN Crypto Day: Lessons Learned

Saturday August 13, 2011, PSICAN (Paranormal Studies and Investigations Canada) held its second Study Day. The topic was, for the first time ever, Cryptozoology. The planning began in the spring, and the room booked and the media blitzed in July. Since I am the division director, this was my baby. Thankfully, my wonderful skeptic of a husband financed the venture (PSCIAN has no source of funding beyond what the members contribute or the occasional donation). Almost immediately my panic began.

I have a great staff. They contribute to this blog, they do papers, they do research, they take witness testimony and when possible, they go into the field. They are some of the brightest folks I have ever met. I had no doubt they would be able to field questions and “talk Crypto” with little trouble. But presenters they are not, with the exception of Dr. Steve, who is a professor. Steve was tasked with putting together a presentation on Aquatic Cryptids and a second on Known/Discovered Cryptids. He did an amazing job putting together a power point but had to learn how to add audio, which proved to be a bit of a challenge. He succeeded with one, and sent the dialogue for the other—so Dana stepped up to the plate and narrated the presentation. Dana has never done audience work and was really nervous. He pulled it off though, and learned a LOT about being in the spotlight! Elvis came with Bigfoot shoved in his car. He had crafted a life sized bigfoot for folks to be photographed with and discuss. Elvis also did a brief talk on Bipedal Cryptids and fielded some tough questions. I think he probably learned that folks are a lot more educated than he thought! For my part I did a history and general overview of Cryptozoology.

We had an amazing venue, but some challenges with our equipment. The projector and laptop, although they have been friends forever and had just run through the presentations the night before, apparently had a falling out and only minimally worked. Many of our folks are also tech geeks so Matthew Didier walked through the audience with a netbook showing the slides while some people viewed them on their iPhones. Lesson: Take the high tech higher and provide a way for smart phones to see the presentation. Also choose a venue that actually is dark with the lights out.

We only charged minimal admission from the public (PSICAN folks get in free to our Study Days but typically contribute some cash to the kitty for costs) and we must have done ok as my husband said we only lost about $50 on the venture. That’s remarkable really since it featured no para celebrities or podcasting ghost busters. Several attendees were people we had only met online via the PSICAN forum or facebook. A couple had just come because they saw an ad or a flier. A good many PSICAN staff with spouses and friends also attended, even though they don’t do the cryptozoology work. A BFRO member was also in attendance and was incredibly well versed. We did manage to teach him something though—we had live demonstrations of how to do plaster foot casting and he got to be the guinea pig. He had never cast before.

As the “experts” though, I think they Cryptozoologists learned more than anyone else. Certainly we learned about the issues with planning and presenting, but we also learned about each other’s specialties. We learned what each other uses in the field—and where we prefer to do field work. We learned that when we are together as a physical team, the possibilities are endless. We learned that there really are intelligent people “out there” who will respectfully listen to what we have to say and share their own thoughts and feelings.

We learned three very important things that day.
We learned that the witnesses and the general public have a lot to teach us.
We learned Cryptozoology is real science, no matter what the “scientists” say.
We learned that we still have a lot to learn.

Photo credits: PSICAN Investigator Tere Altuna

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