Creepy Creatures and Myths #4: Altamaha-ha (‘Altie’)
I Have Nothing New to Say About This Sea Monster Cryptid. Why Is That?
I have written about Altamaha-ha (or "Altie") before for a website I no longer write for. As I return to the topic, I find I have practically nothing new to add, other than to maybe just talk about cryptid in the general sense, and to relate my experiences writing about cryptids.
Before my role at that website dissipated, I was very much interested in expanding my role in writing about mythic creatures, from a skeptical yet semi-open-minded perspective. I could say"Altie is a very odd and unusual sea monster," but aren't they all? Either way, Altie supposedly lingers somewhere in southeastern Georgia, in these United States, and is still awaiting authentication by any discoverers. It will likely stay that way until humans no longer stalk the earth, or until they simply forget about this cryptid.
Altie: Cryptozoology vs. Natural Skeptics (Like Me!)
I have to admit that, after reading up on this particular cryptid, my skeptic bell rings pretty hard. It's hard to find any specific information on this hypothetical critter, such as how many feet in length it would be. It's sensible to think that, were a corpse to be found and analyzed, the skeleton would be long and slender. Of course, no skeletal remains have ever been found, so it's all functionally baseless speculation. It might be said to have an uncommon neck structure, sort of like the Loch Ness Monster (or other water-base cryptids).
Obviously, we don't know the answer to that, either. At best, some will say the just know Altie's out there because nobody has been able to prove it's not fake. However, the most likely possibility is that someone, or some agency, can construct a convincing-looking papier-mâché Altie and take a mysterious photo of it. Actually, that's what happened already with this creature, after the artist known as Zardulu constructed an Altie corpse as an attention-grabbing hoax. It worked! There have been other hoaxes linked to Altie, too.
This brings up another question: If people lie by inventing cryptids and use them for tourism, are they really using it for dubious ends, or could it be regarded as relatively innocent? It seems that, so long as nobody takes this stuff too seriously, it might be treated as harmless fun.
Still, this comes with a caveat: There have been "cryptids" where there was a fair chance of legitimacy. In some cases, people are exaggerating or misidentifying what they've seen. In rare cases, they may indeed discover a new species.
In fact, one of my old articles I actually dared to confirm the existence of a creature. Specifically, it was the Beast of Bodmin Moor, which is most certainly one or more escaped panthers lurking around Cornwall, England. See, that case exemplifies what I mean by "keeping an open mind."
Every Cryptid's Different
It's possible that other "findings" will be made of Altie, or various other cryptids. This has been happening since cryptozoology was a thing, and will no doubt continue. However, there should always be at least a dash of skepticism involved, even if you really want to believe. After all, without that, there's an increased risk of accepting damn near anything as evidence, right?
So, when it comes to any discoveries, it makes sense to be aware of many possible reactions and interpretations out there, and try to cultivate the best understandings for yourself. Whether you want to believe it's the remains of a hoary giant dinosaur, some mystical spirit, or that it involves a top-secret lab or something of alien origin, it all remains a matter of interpretation. It is very much a matter of personal opinion, but you should definitely want actual evidence and some scientific knowledge to shape your opinion.
Why I Doubt Conspiracy Theories Regarding Cryptids
It can be bitingly uncomfortable when people suggest these creatures are just being covered up. Why would anyone bother to hide the reality of cryptids out there, given all the strange and fascinating beasts which are already common knowledge? So I think we should be careful to avoid the spell-like ability that conspiracy theories can have. To me, common sense suggests little reason to cover up "monsters" in the world, be they large or small, or sea creatures or more terrestrial.
The vast majority of cryptids certainly are products — amazing concoctions — of humanity making light of the unknown and the unknowable. We are able to invent mythic beasts, give them names, and a personality, and it can just be an entertaining thing. However, in a world where we know about DNA, chemical signaling, how much of the natural world functions, we don't need as much to dwell on the unnatural, the supernatural, the mysterious.
When we see the unknown, we don't really need belief. We can just say, "There is no answer to that question yet," and possibly seek answers through the best-known means available. Belief in fantastical creatures is a very common phenomenon. Here in America, it sort of unites everyone from stereotypical Hillbillies to Native American tribes. I don't want to pass up the opportunity to show you where they get that from, though.
There is very little evidence for the Altamaha-ha since I wrote that other piece on the mythic beast, so that's partly why my followup piece is admittedly rather empty. However, if you have any new information on "Altie" that you find worth my looking into, go ahead and e-mail me at [email protected]