The Cryptid Zoo: Shapeshifters in Cryptozoology

This werewolf is from the film 'An American Werewolf in Paris.' This screenshot is copyrighted by those who own the copyright to the film.
A shapeshifter is a living being that changes its appearance drastically on a regular basis. Most shapeshifters, like werewolves, are limited to the realm of mythology. Others populate our science fiction. But a few people wonder if such things could really exist.

Chameleons and certain fish can change the color of their skins. Tadpoles and caterpillars turn into something totally different in the course of growing up. Looking at these facts, some people have wondered if there is anything out there in the animal kingdom that experiences more radical changes, a true shapeshifter.

Certain creatures of cryptozoology are already supposed to have shapeshifting powers of one sort or another. In some sightings of the chupacabra, witnesses say that this creature can change its outward appearance. Devotees of reptoids often claim that these beings can assume human shape when they want to.

As you might imagine, mainstream cryptozoologists have little interest in shapeshifters, but fringe cryptozoologists have a great deal of interest in the subject. In fact, some fringe cryptozoologists blame the elusive character of all cryptids on shapeshifting powers. According to such theories, perhaps Bigfoot turns into a deer to escape from scientists who want to track it, and perhaps the Loch Ness monster turns into a cow or a log when it doesn't want people to notice it. It doesn't take much imagination to realize that if shapeshifters did exist, they would be very elusive creatures, nearly impossible to detect and capture.

This wereleopard is from the film 'Half-Caste' This screenshot is copyrighted by those who own the copyright to the film.
But it does take a lot of imagination to believe in shapeshifters. Believers tend to be highly imaginative people who also believe in a wide variety of other odd things. As a result, shapeshifters are often welded into a gigantic mish-mash of beliefs that often includes aliens, the paranormal, and conspiracy theories of all kinds.

Therefore, people who believe in shapeshifters tend to dwell at the junction of where cryptozoology, astrobiology and the paranormal meet. Some researchers of this type try to classify all hairy humanoids as shapeshifters who were glimpsed mid-transformation, especially in the case of reports that lend themselves to such interpretations, such as feline bipeds, or other things that roughly resemble Bigfoot from the neck down but have heads described as deer-like, goat-like, wolf-like or strongly resembling some other non-ape animal.

Mainstream scientists do not discount the possibility that shapeshifting could exist, they just doubt that anything on this planet already has the capability. Shapeshifting doesn't actually break any laws of science unless it is done with mass changes.

The doubt comes in, not over the change itself, but over the idea that shapeshifting could already exist here without it having been discovered yet. Many known animals undergo radical changes, but nothing so fast or extreme as is described for shapeshifters, and almost none of these changes are reversible, let alone regularly reversible. Therefore, most mainstream scientists view shapeshifting as something that could possibly exist on some other planet with creatures that have a very different biology than our own, but not something that could exist here.

For all these reasons, investigations about shapeshifting refer most often either to the field of paranormal studies or to astrobiological speculation, or frequently both, kind of mashed together.

You can find out more about Shapeshifters from the following sources:

Clark, Jerome. Unexplained!. Detroit: Visible Ink Press, 1999. Pages 519-527

Gale, Thomson. Creatures of the Night

Did Presidents and Others Shapeshift?

Greene, Rosalyn. The Magic of Shapeshifting.
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Hall, Jamie. Half Human, Half Animal: Tales of Werewolves and Related Creatures. Bloomington, IN: Authorhouse, 2003.

Hall, Jamie. Portal of Transformation

Icke, David. The Reptilian Agenda e-zine

Is Prince Charles a Shapeshifter?

Redfern, Nick. Three Men Seeking Monsters: Six Weeks in Pursuit of Werewolves, Lake Monsters, Giant Cats, Ghostly Devil Dogs, and Ape-Men. New York: Paraview Pocket Books, 2004. Pages 90-99, 184, 220

Shapeshifters, Shimmers and Transfiguration

Utlah. The WereWeb

Wikipedia, The. The Beast of Bray Road

Wikipedia, The. Shapeshifting

Yaiolani. The Werewolf and Shapeshifter Codex

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