Newkirk Museum Obtains Cryptozoologist Roy P. Mackal’s Loch Ness, Mokele-Mbembe Expedition Files
Furthering our mission to preserve and protect items of historical significance relating to the unexplained, the Traveling Museum of the Paranormal & Occult is thrilled to announce that we’ve recently obtained the files of biologist Roy P. Mackal’s expeditions in search of both the Loch Ness Monster and the “living dinosaur” referred to as the Mokele-mbembe.
The hundreds of files, which include rare photographs, personal correspondence with leading cryptozoologists, hand-drawn maps and charts, original artwork, news clippings, scarce publications, expedition documents, and countless other documents, represent much of the life’s work of Mackal, a University of Chicago biologist and globe-trotting monster hunter.
Dr. Mackal was hugely influential to the early development of cryptozoology as we now know it, mounting early and much-hyped expeditions in search of the Loch Ness Monster in the 60s, founding the National Museum of Natural History’s International Society for Cryptozoology in 1982, and authoring a number of books about his theories and adventures which garnered him national attention and plenty of primetime television appearances.
In the 80s, Mackal launched two highly publicized expeditions into the Congo in search of the Mobele-mbembe, a dinosaur-like creature that numerous indigenous tribes had reported encounters with, including frightening tales of a giant beast which “stopped the flows of rivers”. Neither adventure was successful in its goal of capturing a photograph of the monster, but Mackal’s book about the expedition titled A Living Dinosaur? went on to become a cryptozoology classic and an invaluable recording of the oral history of the Mokele-mbembe.
Mackal passed away in 2013, and despite his notable contributions not just to cryptozoology but to DNA-based research, virology, and even rocketry (Mackal was a talented inventor and held numerous patents), his death received little to no attention. One of his few obituaries was written by our friend Loren Coleman, which laments Mackal’s treatment by his university peers.
“One of the major contributions Mackal made was as an academic in cryptozoology. As an early leader in the field and a professor, he often had to endure ridicule and unprofessional treatment at the hands of his fellow academics, merely for being interested in cryptozoology.”
Much to the dismay of cryptozoologists, Dr. Mackal hadn’t just been regularly insulted by his fellow scientists, in death, he’d been totally ignored by them. Outside of a small number of dedicated monster sleuths, it would seem as if Roy P. Mackal’s legacy would be forgotten.
Earlier this year, the Newkirk’s purchase of several pieces of Mackal’s original Loch Ness Monster art led to a conversation with the former owner, who claimed they remembered seeing a box of files belonging to the late cryptozoologist in their storage shed. After expressing interest, the owner returned with some exciting news: there were actually two boxes – big ones – and they contained hundreds of folders full of material that very few people had ever seen.
“When we finally had the boxes in our hands, we were stunned by the contents,” said museum founder Greg Newkirk. “Each box was a highly curated collection of research from each of Mackal’s monster-hunting expeditions, including a few that were planned but never actualized. Folder after folder revealed intimate letters with colleagues about research budgets, promising locations, and the frustrations of dealing with television producers hoping to document his travels. One folder includes nothing but the resumes of promising monster-hunters.”
Other folders hold original photo negatives from Mackal’s adventures, far-off snapshots of sea-monsters, and hopeful radar blips pinging off large masses in the murky waters of Loch Ness. Detailed, handwritten charts and graphs accompany notes pontificating on the existence of a whale long-believed extinct. Letters from scientific organizations offer advice and words of cautious excitement about Dr. Mackal’s work.
There are newspaper clippings depicting Roy P. Mackal as a real-life Indiana Jones, rare journals from the Loch Ness Investigation Bureau, and plenty of television contracts with fascinating insight into just how popular cryptozoology was in the 80s. One file even proposes a big-budget special aiming to follow Mackal’s dinosaur hunt on live television, straight from the Congo, and one of the rarest discoveries includes actual samples of merchandise prematurely produced for an expedition that never occurred.
“It’s going to take us quite a long time to go through these files,” Newkirk says, “but starting next week we’ll be sharing high resolution scans of key pieces exclusively with museum members, who made this acquisition possible by supporting our mission to protect items like these. First up is a look at a folder titled “POTENTIAL”, offering an insightful, intimate, and hilarious look at what a professional monster hunter looks for when it comes time to put a mystery expedition together.”
The importance of these files to the history of cryptozoology can’t be overstated, and the Traveling Museum of the Paranormal & Occult thrilled to have the opportunity to catalogue, preserve, and most importantly, share these pieces with curious museum visitors and cryptozoology researchers in the future.
Do you own an item of supernatural significance? Know someone who does? We’re always acquiring new artifacts for the Traveling Museum of the Paranormal & Occult, and we’d love to hear from you. For more about our acquisitions process, click here.