Often referred to as the Father of Cryptozoology, Bernard Heuvelmans was born on October 10, 1916 in Le Havre, France to a Dutch mother and a Belgian father in exile. His interest in unknown animals was original sparked as a young child after reading several science fiction adventures such as Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, a book which has influenced the lives of many well known cryptozoologists.
At age 23 Bernard Heuvelmans obtained a doctor’s title in zoological sciences from the University Lebre of Brussels, his thesis was dedicated to the classification of the hitherto unclassifiable teeth of the aardvark, Orycteropus afer, a unique African mammal. Over the next few years Heuvelmans spent his time writing about the history of science, publishing many scientific works in the Bulletin of the Royal Museum of Natural History of Belgium, until he was called up for military service and captured by the Germens in World War II. Bernard Heuvelmans escaped the Germans and made a living as a professional jazz singer and then as a science writer.
In 1947 Heuvelmans settled in Le Vesinet, Paris where he made a living as a comedian, jazz musician and a writer. On January 3, 1948 he read a Saturday Evening Post article by biologist Ivan T. Sanderson, entitled There Could Be Dinosaurs, which sympathetically discussed the evidence for relict populations of dinosaurs, this article brought Heuvelmans long standing interest in the unknown to the fore front of his thoughts. He began to gather material about yet to be discovered animals in what he would later refer to as his growing “dossiers” on them. With in five years he had amassed so much information that he felt he was ready to write a large book on the topic.
The book which came from this wealth of information was entitled, Sur la piste des betes ignores, published in 1955, this book was republished in English three years later as On the Track of Unknown Animals, 1958. Considered by some to be the most influential work on cryptozoology in the twentieth century, On the Track of Unknown Animals remains in print almost 5 decades later, with more than one million copies sold in various translations and editions, including one in 1995 which was reprinted with a large updated introduction.
Unlike many books on the subject of cryptozoology today, Heuvelmans book was relatively well received by the scientific community. One critic explained that because Heuvelmans research was based on rigorous dedication to scientific method and his solid background in zoology, his findings were respected throughout the scientific community. During the massive correspondence with fellow scientists which followed the success of his book Heuvelmans coined the term cryptozoology, a term which does not appear in the first printing of On the Track of Unknown Animals because it had not yet been invented. By the 1960’s most in the field began to use the term in honor of Heuvelmans, who was labeled the Father of Cryptozoology.
Heuvelmans’ books influenced the likes of Ivan T. Sanderson, who originally influenced Heuvelmans, Loren Coleman and oil tycoon Tom Slick, who appointed him confidential consultant on his secret board of advisors. Heuvelmans was asked to examine the so called Yeti Skullcap that was brought back by Sir Edumund Hillary’s World Book expedition in 1960. After careful examination Heuvelmans determined that it was a ritual object made from the skin of a serow, a small goat like animal found in the Himalayas.
In 1968, Heuvelmans along side Ivan T. Sanderson examined what was claimed to be the frozen body of an unknown hairy hominoid, which came to be called the Minnesota Iceman. After examining the large block of ice containing the iceman Heuvelmans thought that the creature could be genuine but was not positive. He published a formal description of it, giving it the scientific name of Homo pongoides, which would later become the subject of his book entitled L’homme de Neanderthal est toujours vivant.
Heuvelmans established the Center for Cryptozoology in 1975 near Le Bugue in the south of France, but in the 1990’s he moved its location to LeVesinet, close to Paris. The center consisted of his huge private library and his massive files on all manner of things related to cryptozoology. Throughout the years Heuvelmans has traveled the globe interviewing witnesses and examining evidence of living animals which remain unknown to science.
Sadly his health began to decline in the early 1990’s but the intrepid Heuvelmans continued to gather information in an attempt to complete what would be one of his greatest works of literature, a 20 volume cryptozoology encyclopedia. In February of 1997 he was awarded the Gabriele Peters Prize for Fantastic Science at the Zoological Museum of the University of Hamburg, Germany, however due to health problems and his notorious unwillingness to appear publicly both in person and in documentaries he sent his friend, journalist and cryptozoologist Werner Reichenbach to accept on his behalf.
Bernard Heuvelmans passed away around noon on August 22, 2001; he was buried in Buddhist monk attire during a private funeral at Le Vesinet on August 27. His former wife, colleague and art collaborator, Alika Lindbergh cared for him in his declining years and was in charge of the ceremony, following his last wishes. His death rocked the cryptozoological world, the death of its father would not soon be forgotten, nor would his influence and contributions to cryptozoology, zoology and anthropology.
Quick Info: (where applicable)
Date of Birth: October 10, 1916
Birthplace: Le Havre, France
Current Location: NA
• Sur la piste des betes ignores (1955)
• Dans le sillage des monstres marins: Le Kraken et le Poulpe Colossal (1958)
• On the Track of Unknown Animals (1958)
• On the Track of Unknown Animals (1959) (first US printing)
• Le Grand-Serpent-de-Mer, le probleme zoologique et sa solution (1965)
• On the Track of Unknown Animals (1965) (Abridged, revised)
• In the Wake of the Sea-Serpents (1968)
• L’homme de Neanderthal est toujours vivant (1974)
• Dans le village des monstres marins: Le Kraken et le Poulpe Colossal (1975) (2nd edition)
• Le Grand Serpent-de-Mer, le probleme zoologique et sa solution (1975) (2nd edition)
• Les derniers dragons d’Afrique (1978)
• Les betes humaines d’Afrique (1980)
• On the Track of Unknown Animals (1995)
• The Kraken and the Colossal Octopus: In the Wake of Sea-Monsters (2003)
Schooling and/or Degrees:
• Doctorate in zoology - University Libre of Brussels
• Center for Cryptozoology (founder)
• Centre for Fortean Zoology (president)
• International Society of Cryptozoology (president)
• Cryptozoology Association of Russia (honorary member)