Cryptozoology, BioForteana, Zoological Oddities, Unusual Natural History
StrangeArk blog

Search for Enigmatic Animals

Bibliographic Investigation

Bibliographic investigation begins in several places:

  • Fortean books and magazines
  • Books about exotic lands and expeditions
  • Books on local history and folklore
  • Newspapers
  • Scientific journals and books

Fortean or cryptozoological books often name locations where sightings of strange creatures have occurred. Use these as a base for your own research. If a book says that someone saw a giant snake near your town in 1940, there are several things you can do to find more information. First, find a library that has the local newspapers on microfilm. Look through the newspapers from that period. If a giant snake was seen, there should be an article on it. This isn't always the case, as some people don't admit seeing a mystery animal until years later, but it's a good place to start. Chances are, if one person has seen it, so have other people, and it will soon reach the ears of a journalist.

Books by explorers and naturalists will give you glimpses of unique wildlife from around the world, and may mention animal legends. Books by anthropologists will usually cover the myths and legends of various cultures. The scientific journals and periodicals are better for finding cases of unusual phenotypes in known species. They also report on techniques used to survey populations, which can be helpful in your field work.

If you aren't able to locate information in your library, talk to the reference librarians. Explain exactly what you are looking for, no matter how broad or narrow the topic. They are there to help patrons find materials. Don't be embarrased to ask for advice.

Your next step is to visit your local historical society. They may be able to furnish you with articles or books about your topic. They may even be able to give you the addresses of witnesses or people involved in collecting wildlife legends. Some historical societies charge an admission fee or library usage fee. Because most historical societies run on small budgets, they may also have irregular hours. Write or call ahead of time for their hours and fees.

One tip is often handed out to investigators. Because you want to get a photocopy of any relevant article you find, be sure to bring varied amounts of change with you. Although modern photocopiers usually accept most change, all microfilm copiers seem to be different. I took $10 worth of quarters and dimes to one public library only to find that their machine ran only on nickels. Another problem you will run across is broken equipment. Many small libraries don't have the funds to repair their photocopying equipment if it breaks down. There's not much you can do about it, but ask if anyone else has the newspaper on microfilm.

Don't forget to photocopy the bibliography or works cited page when copying an article. Many times this will lead to other articles on your subject. A couple of good bibliographic compilations are given in the back of this booklet. The CD-ROM databases used in many public libraries are another good source for recent articles. They are simple to use, and are good for recent newspaper and general magazine articles.

Take advantage of your library's inter-library loan program. You can get a copy of almost any book or article you need through it. There may be nominal fees involved for articles. I was once charged $8 for an article, so now I make a notation on each request that I'm only willing to pay a couple of dollars for an article.

There's one section of the library that most patrons avoid. No matter which library I visit, very rarely will someone be looking through the government documents. These are books, booklets, pamphlets, maps, and newsletters that are printed with your tax dollars on an amazing array of subjects. You may not have reason to visit it, but you never know what you'll come across while browsing. The documents are grouped by who has issued them. For example, A is the Dept. of Agriculture, C is the Dept. of Commerce (including the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Adm.), D is the military, I is the Dept. of the Interior (including the U.S. Geological Survey and Fish & Wildlife Service), and SI is the Smithsonian. They are not grouped by topic.


Library Classifications

Most libraries follow either of the following two classification systems. Locations of possible interest are noted. Further clarification can be found in Jean Key Gates' Guide to the Use of Books and Libraries (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1974.) and from your reference librarian.


Dewey Decimal System:

000 - Generalities

001.9 - Cryptozoological works

100 - Philosophy

130 - "Ghosts" and related subjects

300 - Social Sciences

390 - Folklore

500 - Sciences

560 - Paleontology

570 - Life Sciences

580 - Zoology

900 - Geography/History

940 - Europe

950 - Asia

960 - Africa

970 - North America

980 - South America


Library of Congress Classification

E 51-59 - North American Indians

E 186-199 - Colonial America

GN - Anthropology

GR - Folklore

QH - Natural History

QL - Zoology


Giant Snakes

Historical Bigfoot