By Kelley Hamill
In the fourth grade, Christopher Maloney checked out a book from his school library on the Loch Ness monster. Since then, his curiosity for elusive creatures — and the cryptology community that studies them — has skyrocketed. With a video camera in tow, Maloney embarked on a year-long journey across the country, in which he focused on the stories of eye-witnesses who allegedly encounter everything from Sasquatch to dinosaurs. Sound kooky? Whether you believe his subjects or not, at its heart Maloney’s Monster Witness documentary airing Saturday, Aug. 22 on the Destination America cable channel is a fun and zany ride into the unknown.
Can you tell us a little about your background?
I grew up in Ohio, pretty much right on the Ohio River. I started college there at Ohio University, in the journalism school. At the time I mostly had an interest in just documentaries, so I was studying journalism, hoping to use that as a launching point for doing documentary films. I was getting kind of restless because I wasn’t able to study film there very much so I left and went to New York Film Academy and studied there. That was almost 10 years ago and I’ve been working on short films and documentaries ever since.
How did you come up with the idea for Monster Witness?
I’ve always had this interest in cryptozoology, Big Foot and things like that, and a few years ago a lot of Big Foot shows came on the air. It seemed like the rest of the country was kind of catching up because everyone was tuning into these shows. So it was kind of a combination of my interest in it and seeing that there were a lot of other people interested in it too.
Did you believe in all these creatures before you started?
Before, it was just kind of fun to believe in everything. But now that I’ve talked to so many people, I think that there are things that we just can’t explain here — even in the United States where there are still a lot of areas in which wild things could live. I think there a lot of species that haven’t been documented yet.
Scariest or strangest moment of your trip?
I talked to a man there who has poured thousands of dollars into converting his camper into a Big Foot research center and he goes out camping at lease once a week. He took me out into the swamp where he had (allegedly) seen them and it was pretty eerie because it’s so dark and quiet. I think when you go to a place where something weird or unusual has happened, there’s still a sense there that pervades it. The other strange moment was visiting the spot where some famous footage of a Big Foot walking was shot. We actually went to that exact spot in northern California and it looks basically the same. But just knowing that such a creature had been filmed right there, and was possibly in the trees looking at us, was eerie.
Who was the most interesting character that you met?
Dwayne, he lives in Montana. He’s in his 90s and is a WWII veteran. He saw, what he said was, a pterodactyl when he was in the service in New Guinea. Just to give you an example of where his mind was at, he didn’t remember that I was coming. So I flew there, to Montana, and he remembered that I was coming but he got the dates mixed up, and then he was very discombobulated. It took him a little while to get situated. However, when it came to what he had seen, he remembered every detail and he said there was not a doubt in his mind that what he saw was a dinosaur. It changed his whole perception on time and reality and how different times (can possibly) exist at the same time.
What did you learn from the process?
It seemed like a lot of these people knew each other some how. It’s a community—this one guy that I talked to, he swears he saw three Big Foot creatures and now he goes around the country giving talks about it. But he kept the story under his hat for a long time because he was in the military. So he said that all his life he had this clear distinction between what was real and what was make believe, and then when he saw these things that didn’t fit into that distinction, he felt like his mind was being violated because he was forced to think in a different way. That’s what happened to everybody who saw these things. Because they had been through such traumatic changes of mind, they somehow found each other. It’s like a huge support group. They all consider each other as part of the same family almost. And that was something I didn’t expect.
Learn more at monsterwitness.com and follow the director on Twitter:@MaloneysMovies