Ivan T. Sanderson

Sanderson is remembered for his nature writing and his interest in cryptozoology and paranormal events.

Ivan Terence Sanderson was a Scottish-born naturalist, biologist, traveler, collector, and exhibitor of rare animals, radio and television commentator, and writer. He was born on January 30, 1911, in Edinburgh, Scotland. His father, Arthur Buchanan was a whiskey manufacturer and founded the first game reserve in Kenya, East Africa. Ivan became a naturalized citizen of the United States.

Along with Belgian-French biologist Bernard Heuvelmans[1], Sanderson was a founding figure of cryptozoology, a pseudoscience, and subculture. Sanderson authored material on paranormal subjects and wrote fiction under the pen name Terence Roberts. Sanderson attended Eton College and at 17 years old began a yearlong trip around the world, spending the most time in Asia.

Sanderson graduated BA Hons in zoology from Cambridge University’s faculty of Biology, a degree traditionally upgraded to MA (Cantab) in botany and ethnology after six years without further study. He claimed to have seen an “olitiau” (a large cryptid bat) after being attacked by the giant bat-like creature. In the 1920s and 1930s, he visited many tropical areas and gained fame for his animal collecting and his popular writings on nature and travel.

He led the Percy Sladen Expedition to Cameron, West Africa for the British Museum, the Royal Society of London, and other institutions (1932-33). During World War II, Sanderson worked for British Naval Intelligence, in charge of counter-espionage against the Germans in the Caribbean, then for British Security Coordination, finally finishing out the war as a press agent in New York City. Post-service he would make New York his home. Here he became a regular on television shows as a naturalist spreading knowledge about the world’s animals.

He also edited books and wrote widely on animals and his favorite hobby, Forteana[2] (the study of bizarre phenomena, named for Charles Fort.) He illustrated his books with drawings and also the many photos he’d taken on his tours. He became widely known after his book about the Abominable Snowman in 1961. Sanderson purchased a 250-year-old farmhouse, outbuildings, and 25 acres a short way from the ultimate location of the zoo between the communities of Columbia and Hinesburg.

He refurbished and expanded moving 200 of his rarest animals to a barn nearby so he could keep a close watch on them. Then, in the spring of 1954, he established “Ivan Sanderson’s Jungle Zoo” (and Laboratory), a permanent, summer, roadside attraction. Sanderson also developed and deployed winter traveling exhibits of rare and unusual animals for sports shows and department stores.

A fire on February 2, 1955, destroyed his collection of 45 rare animals kept in a barn at his New Jersey home. Ivan Sanderson’s Jungle Zoo was flooded out by the Delaware River during the floods caused by Hurricane Diane on August 19, 1955. Sanderson’s credibility was damaged by his endorsement of the giant penguin hoax[3].

Sanderson founded the Ivan T. Sanderson Foundation in August 1965 on his New Jersey property, which became the Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained (SITU) in 1967. SITU was a non-profit organization that investigated claims of strange phenomena ignored by mainstream science. Sanderson suggested that aircraft and boats went missing at Devil’s Sea[4] because of a wrinkle in spacetime, gravitational or magnetic aberrations, extra-terrestrials, or mysterious underwater people.

In 1968, Sanderson introduced the concept of the “vile vortex”. Vile vortices are supposed to be “anomalic regions” regularly distributed on Earth where disproportionately many strange phenomena occur, such as disappearances, UFO sightings, or poltergeist activity.

Vile Vortex Info

The most famous of the vile vortices is the Bermuda Triangle
which is situated between Bermuda, Florida, and Puerto Rico.

A vile vortex is the Algerian megaliths that are located just south of Timbuktu. These ancient ruins have been the site of multiple disappearances as well.

Also, Easter Islands in the Southeastern Pacific Ocean have been
housing many mysteries that include the megaliths of
Moai statues and the rongorongo writings.

The Hamakulia volcano is found in the Hawaiian Islands.
This underwater volcano has been the site of multiple
disappearances both from the sea as well as from the sky.

The Dragon’s Triangle which was the cursed site where five
Japanese military ships just vanished. Another ship was sent
out to investigate the missing ships and that one went missing too.

The North and South Poles are also on the list.

When the Europeans discovered the Zimbabwe megalith way back in the 19th century, they could not believe that the wild Africans could build something this massive. Till today no one knows for sure who made those and why were they made. The mystery of the Zimbabwe megaliths continues to haunt people.

Ivan was married twice and he died of brain cancer at his home in New Jersey, on February 19, 1973, at the age of 62. His Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained continued his work into the 1980s, collecting data and maintaining the library he had assembled. He was known for films like “The World Is Yours” (1951), “Crawford Mystery Theatre” (1951), and “Bigfoot: America’s Abominable Snowman” (1968). In the 1950s he served as an in-studio host for the showing of the safari documentaries on NBC TV titled “The Big Game Hunt”.

Writings (partial list) – some as Terence Roberts
  • Report on the Status Quo (1955)
  • Abominable Snowmen: Legend Come to Life (1961)
  • Report on the Status Quo (1955)
  • Sea Serpents and Whachamacallits (1964)
  • An Introduction to Ufology (1957)
  • UFO–Friend or Foe (1957)
  • What Pilots a UFO? (1957)
  • Comments from a Scientist (1957)
  • Continents in Space (1958)
  • We’ll Never Catch Them (1958)
  • Man-Made UFO (1958)
  • Now Meet the Nonterrestrial (1959)
  • What Could They Be? (1959)
  • The Abominable Snowman (1959)
  • More About the Abominable Snowman (1959)
  • There is an Abominable Snowman (1960)
  • The Abominable Coalman (1960)
  • Introduction: The Forteans and the Fictioneers (1968)
  • “Things” and more “Things” (1968)
  • Variant: Introduction: The Forteans and the Fictioneers (1978)
  • Alaska’s Sea Monster (1975)
  • The Olitau (1977)
  • A Sasquatch in British Columbia (2022)

  1. Bernard Heuvelmans (October 10, 1916 – August 22, 2001) was a Belgian-French scientist, explorer, researcher, and writer probably best known, along with Scottish-American biologist Ivan T. Sanderson, as a founding figure in the pseudoscience and subculture of cryptozoology. His 1958 book On the Track of Unknown Animals (originally published in French in 1955 as Sur la Piste des Bêtes Ignorées) is often regarded as one of the most influential cryptozoology texts. [Back]
  2. The term Fortean was coined by the novelist Tiffany Thayer and derives from the surname of the writer and researcher Charles Fort (1874-1932). ‘Fortean phenomena’ roughly equates with ‘paranormal phenomena’. A key feature of Fortean phenomena, as defined by Fort, is that they tend to be what has been termed ‘scientific heresies’, things or events that are rejected by mainstream science. Often they have strong folkloric, mythic, or religious dimensions. [Back]
  3. The giant penguin is a creature allegedly seen in Florida during the 1940s and is at least partly documented to have been a hoax. This legend has no scientific merit, despite there having been giant penguins that became extinct millions of years ago. In 1948, several people reported finding large, three-toed animal tracks at Clearwater Beach in Florida. Later, more tracks were found along the shore of Suwannee River, 40 miles from the ocean. Later that year a giant penguin was allegedly sighted at distance. The huge bird was described as 15 feet tall, and having alligator-like feet. During this same period, people in a boat off the Florida gulf coast reported seeing an extremely large penguin-like bird floating on the water. These incidents were reported in several newspapers. Later that year, another huge, penguin-like bird was allegedly seen from an airplane on the banks of the Suwannee River in northern Florida. Cryptozoologist Ivan T. Sanderson declared that the creature was a giant penguin that had somehow been driven away from its natural habitat. On April 11, 1988, St. Petersburg Times reporter Jan Kirby revealed that the penguin hoax had been perpetrated by Tony Signorini and Al Williams, a locally known prankster who died in 1969. Signorini stated they had been inspired by a photograph of fossilized dinosaur tracks, and showed the reporter the huge penguin feet made of iron used in creating the tracks. [Back]
  4. The Devil’s Sea, also known as the Devil’s Triangle, the Dragon’s Triangle, the Formosa Triangle, and the Pacific Bermuda Triangle, is a region of the Pacific, south of Tokyo. The Devil’s Sea is sometimes considered as a paranormal location, where in August of 1945 a Mitsubishi A6M Zero supposedly went missing. A distress radio transmission from Zero F Wing Commander pilot Shiro Kawamoto crossing the Triangle near the end of the war created more questions than answers. The last thing his message said was “…something is happening in the sky…the sky is opening up …”. [Back]

Further Reading


Mysterious Monsters
Richard Grigonis
The Bigfoot Portal

Author: Doyle

I was born in Atlanta, moved to Alpharetta at 4, lived there for 53 years and moved to Decatur in 2016. I've worked at such places as Richway, North Fulton Medical Center, Management Science America (Computer Tech/Project Manager) and Stacy's Compounding Pharmacy (Pharmacy Tech).

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