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The So-Called 'Cookie Monster'

In writing this column, I usually write about UFOs or tales of alien abductions, because these are the subjects that get me the most angry email every week. However, my true love is cryptozoology, that is to say, the study of weird animals not yet known to science. Some of the monsters that cryptozoologists investigate have proven to be real animals, such as the giant squid or the Coelacanth. Other monsters have proven to be nothing but pure fantasy, the products of overactive imaginations and the derangements of lunatics. It is of a monster from the latter category that I write today: the so-called Cookie Monster.

According to eyewitness reports, this supposed monster is between five and eight feel tall, is covered in blue hair, and has large, googly eyes with neither eyebrows or eyelids. According to so-called "reputable sources," this monster has an insatiable appetite for cookies and other sweet confections, despite the fact that it does not have teeth.

Even the description of the monster raises questions. Blue fur would surely be an inefficient camouflage, and I can think of no evolutionary reason for a creature to have such a ridiculous coloring. The fact that the monster is reported not to have any teeth seems equally questionable: how does he consume cookies of a harder variety? Cookies with nuts in them, or ones that have been overcooked, or any of a number of exotic ethnic recipes would be would completely inedible to it! For a creature that survives solely on sweets, such a limitation of his diet would, in all likelihood, curtail any sort of healthy metabolism.

Despite the fact that such a monster is clearly ludicrous, reports of his existence have come in from every corner of the globe. In Germany, there are folk tales of the Krümelmonster, a hairy beast that similarly devours pastries. In Norway he is known as Kakemonsteret; in the Netherlands, he's the Koekiemonster; and even in distant Taiwan, reports have come in from all over the island of the Pingkan Kuaishou. Every country in the world has some folk tale or legend about this monster, and yet so many refuse to believe that it is only that: a legend. But, I suppose, if people still believe in werewolves and vampires, creatures that have not been reliably sighted in centuries and are the stuff only of fantasy, somewhere people can believe in a creature as ridiculous as the Cookie Monster.

Although enthusiasts of the occult are quick to put all their hopes on the testimony of supposedly "reliable" witnesses, even when their tales are either contradictory or completely out of the realm of rational belief, the skeptical mind will clearly see flaws in them. For instance, a four year old girl from New Jersey claims that she saw the monster in a smoking jacket, reading her classics from a leather bound volume! Everything we know about zoology indicates that his can not be so. Another young 'witness' even claims that when she spotted the monster, it displayed rudimentary communications skills, inquiring as to whether or not she had any cookies in broken English. Again, while the paranormal-enthusiast community claims that since we have no proof that these witnesses are lying they must be telling the truth; I prefer to believe that since we have no evidence that they are telling the truth, they must be lying.

I also find it strange that so many of those that sight this strange creature from beyond are children. We all know that a child is rarely a reliable witness, yet those that believe in the occult are ready to whole-heartedly believe anything that these children tell them. Kurt Vonnegut once said "Say what you will about the sweet miracle of unquesting faith. I consider the capacity for it terrifying." I agree in the strongest possible terms, especially when it comes to the unquestioning faith that so many paranormal enthusiasts have for the testimony of witnesses of questionable reliability.

As much as I would like to say otherwise, I must admit that there is some physical evidence for the existence of the Cookie Monster, though it is far from conclusive. In 1981, a hiker in Nevada claimed that he found footprints in the mud of a riverbank shortly after sighting a strange blue creature shuffling through the trees. He made plaster footprints, that, if you believe he is telling the absolute truth, would make convincing evidence for the existence of such a creature: after being examined by scientists from the University of Cambridge, it was determined that whatever made the tracks probably walked on two legs and weighed one or two hundred pounds. However, the fact that there were no other witnesses and a distinct lack of corroborating evidence fails to eliminate the theory that the tracks are not a hoax, or the product of some elaborate trick. As always, I am more prone to believe in the propensity of a human being to be starved for attention than I am to believe such extraordinary claims without extraordinary proof.

Possibly the most impressive piece of evidence has been the so-called Matterson film. Amateur monster-hunter Robert Matterson traveled to Six-Springs state forest in California, where he was convinced he would be able to find the creature. After a few days of hiking through the woods, he and a friend who had been traveling with claim to have spotted a blue-furred, bipedal creature sauntering into some trees from a riverbed, where it had apparently been having a drink of water. With a 16mm camera that he had rented some weeks before, Matterson captured the creature on film for five or six seconds, about a hundred frames in all, before it disappeared into the wilderness.

The film is grainy, shaky, and not very long. As the creature ambles along, it turns to look at the cameramen and, apparently spooked, steps over a log and into the protective cover of the nearby forest. The film has been studied by anthropologists, photographers, biologists, and many other interested parties, both amateur and professional, but they remain well-divided in their conclusions. Some biologists, though they do not support the theory of a Cookie Monster, consider the creature in the film to be genuine, a type of large, as-of-yet undiscovered hominid. Others dismiss such thoughts, believing that the hairy blue creature is nothing more than a man in a rented costume.

Though the original cameraman died some years ago, his partner is still alive and occasionally speaks at Cookie Monster conventions. He has said that originally, he was certain no one could have tricked him, but with age, he has realized that it's possible he was the victim of a hoax or prank. According to him, it would have had to have been quite an elaborately set-up scheme, to trick him and his partner as well as it did. To this I say: the kind of people that would fake something like this have a lot of time on their hands.

In the end, the so-called Cookie Monster can be regarded as nothing more than a legend, a folk tale told to keep naughty children in line. Could their really be a giant blue monster haunting the shadows of our nation, waiting only for us to drop our guard on our pastries? Certainly. Do we have any conclusive proof that this is the case? Absolutely not. Is it even all that likely? No. Not at all.

Be seeing you.

This article first published in The Rectangle, 1 April 2006