Skip to main content

People in Strange Sciences Series: Ivan T Sanderson

Pterosaur Type Fossil: Pterodactylus micronyx. Could this be Sanderson's Kongamato?

Image Source Location:

Image Source Location:


Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, Ivan Terence Sanderson (1911-1973) had an interest in what people often call "strange sciences," cryptozoology and paranormal topics. Sanderson also is well known for his nature writings and was a legitimate scientist.

At age 17, Ivan Sanderson went on a trip around the world which lasted at least a year. He spent a large portion of time in Asia during this cross-global journey. He earned a B.A. in zoology from Cambridge University and also went on at Cambridge to earn his M.A. degrees in ethnology and in botany.

  • Zoology: classification of animals and related details
  • Ethnology: study of culture and ethnic groups
  • Botany: study of plants
  • (very generalized explanations of zoology, ethnology and botany above)

Sanderson was able to go on several expeditions while in his youth and visited many tropical areas in the 1920s and 30's and earned a good name for himself for his animal collecting and naturalist knowledge. He also wrote travel articles and nature pieces which became very popular.

WWII Years

During WWII, Sanderson was involved with the British Naval Intelligence. He was in charge of counter-espionage against the Germans in the Caribbean. Immediately following these tasks for the British Naval Intelligence departments, he workd for British Security Coordination for a while. Near the end of that global war, he had become a press agent in New York City. It was after gaining some experience as a press agent in NYC that Sanderson next became a naturalized U.S. citizen. He maintained his apartment at "The Whitby" - apartment #516 on 325 W 45th Street in New York N.Y., from the end of WWII until his death in 1973.

Books About Amazing Animals and Creatures

Television and a Zoo - Educating People

Before the 1950s, Sanderson appeared as a naturalist and showed off animals on American radio and television shows. By 1951, he appeared on The World is Yours with Patty Painter (Patricia Stinnette), the world's first TV series regularly-scheduled in color. Due to his many appearances on T.V., Sanderson borrowed or rented animals from zoos in New York so he could show the animals to live audiences and via TV.

By 1952, Sanderson required a fulltime assistant, and so gained the help from Edgar Schoenenberger - a 21 year old fellow Sanderson met and got along with in 1951 at a meeting of the National Speleological Society. In 1952, Eddie (Edgar) suggested to Sanderson that they should purchase some of their animals and house them appropriately - later they could gain some additional income by displaying these animals in a zoo.

On board with this idea, Sanderson purchased a 250 year old farmhouse with 25 acres of land in 1953, located between the communities of Columbia and Hainesburg. Sanderson, assisted by friend/partner Eddie, managed to house at least 200 quite rare animals and, in 1954, established another property (along the Delaware River on King Cole Curve on Route 46 - within the town limits of Manunka chunk, White Township, Warren Country, New Jersey) which became known as a zoo, "Ivan Sanderson's Jungle Zoo." It was a zoo as well as laboratory.

Sanderson and Eddie also managed to develop and manage traveling winter exhibitions to display unusual and rare animals for sports venues and department stores. Success of these ventures was remarkable but not as long-lived as one might like because the zoo was flooded by the Delaware River in 1955. Shortly thereafter, the rare animal collection kept at Sanderson's New Jersey home was ripped through with and devastated by fire.

Despite some setbacks, Sanderson remained popular on television shows and on radio and was invited to many paranormal-themed radio discussions on John Nebel's paranormal radio program. He also was one of the first researchers ever to bring live animal specimens with him when doing live television shows. Many discussions with Sanderson moved away from known animals and into cryptozoology topics.

Ivan T. Anderson - Flatwoods Monster Case

An Early Fortean

An early follower of Charles Fort, he followed the radio show and television interviews with some writings, too. The word "Cryptozoology" is attributed to Sanderson as a word he coined in the early 1940s and he intended that the word be employed with special attention to evidence involving possible lake monsters, sea serpents, giant penguins, Yeti, Mokele-mbembe and Sasquatch.

In 1965, on his New Jersey property, Sanderson founded the Ivan T. Sanderson Foundation. This Foundation became "SITU" The Society for the Investigation of The Unexplained (SITU) by 1967, and was a non-profit organization meant to investigate strange phenomena that is usually ignored by mainstream science.

Explanations on Ivan Sanderson's Vile Vortices

Later Years

In 1973, Sanderson died of cancer at his New Jersey home. Here's an online verson of one of Ivan T. Sanderson's writings:
The material is "Abominable Snowmen, Legend Come to Life" by Ivan T. Sanderson.

Another claim to fame, besides particular television appearances, is that Ivan T. Sanderson is considered one of the few witnesses of an unbelievable animal called the "Kongamato" - a large pterodactyl-like (pterosaur) flying creature. He is considered one of the few credible witnesses of this creature. He encountered the creature quite by accident and also had another witness nearby as he was out with a friend, enjoying the outdoors.

Scroll to Continue

Sanderson had just shot a fruit bat and it had dropped into the water. He went to retrieve the bat but was warned sharply by his friend/partner to he did. And excerpt of Sanderson's account in his own words:

"Then I let out a shout also and instantly bobbed down under the water, because, coming straight at me only a few feet above the water was a black thing the size of an eagle. I had only a glimpse of its face, yet that was quite sufficient, for its lower jaw hung open and bore a semicircle of pointed white teeth set about their own width apart from each other. When I emerged, it was gone. ... And just before it became too dark to see, it came again, hurtling back down the river, its teeth chattering, the air "shss-shssing" as it was cleft by the great, black, dracula-like wings."


mythbuster (author) from Utopia, Oz, You Decide on April 11, 2010:

I didn't know much about Mr. Sanderson 'til a few months ago, either, TheGlassSpider - until I attempted a hub challenge last month just to start learning how to put out good content on demand...and I am so glad I choose to research on Sanderson because what I thought about him before was very different than what I ended up finding in my research. I thought he was more an 'unstable nut' with his notions on the flying creature...turned out he actually had a big zoo and everything - along with a B.A. in Zoology, etc. And this is why I try to get careful with words, on occasion. I'd intended to write a silly hub on this silly Sanderson dude - turns out - he was a pretty neat and accomplished fellow.

The spiders in MY house are not poisonous, my friend... I'm not going to LET THEM BE haha.

TheGlassSpider from On The Web on April 11, 2010:

Wow, Mythbuster, I'm impressed! What an interesting character is Mr. Sanderson - I didn't know anything about him. Thank you for your hard work and excellent research on this Hub. I'll have to read the others in this series.

Also, thank you for your kind comments, as well as your tip for being reasonable in the forums...I'll have to put it to good use!

Most spiders ARE venomous, but usually not enough to hurt you! ;-)


mythbuster (author) from Utopia, Oz, You Decide on April 09, 2010:

Maita, thanks for your encouraging comments. I will definitely go back to your profile page and find your twitter and facebook details and hook up with you at these other places.

prettydarkhorse from US on April 09, 2010:

interesting a Scot man and cryptozoologist, never heard of it, at least your hubs have focused and you do great research on them as well, good job, I have a twitter account now and a facebook at my profile page SIR, Maita

mythbuster (author) from Utopia, Oz, You Decide on March 26, 2010:

By 'something like that in the dark' Enelle, I guess you're referring to the Kongamato, eh? Yeah, I'd not want to encounter a creature like that, either. These 'flying dino' sightings are some of the sightings that are most shoved to the I hope that, someday, more physical proof turns up to substantiate eyewitness claims.

Enelle Lamb from Canada's 'California' on March 26, 2010:

Wow - I wouldn't want to meet something like that in the dark!

Related Articles