Posted by: Loren Coleman on May 11th, 2007
Did you know that the vast files and library of a great cryptozoological and Fortean organization were raped clean in their final days?
If you read closely through the long list of cryptozoology books being offered for sale by Robert Girard, you will note that some are marked with “S. I. T. U.” in them. A few have “ex S.I.T.U. library, their stamp on title page,” reports Girard.
Of course, these books he lists, no doubt, came legally into the hands of some collectors who have emptied their stock with Girard, but it merely reminded me of the sad ending that did occurr at S.I.T.U.
For those who don’t know, “S. I. T. U” stands for Ivan T. Sanderson’s organization that he founded in the wake of his short-lived Ivan T. Sanderson Foundation.
The mainstream information on this longer-lasting Sanderson group can be found at such sites as Answers.com, under their “The Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained” entry:
An organization founded by naturalist Ivan T. Sanderson in 1965, “… for the acquisition, investigation and dissemination of information on reports of all tangible items in the fields of chemistry, astronomy, geology, biology and anthropology, that are not readily explained.” For a generation it was the leading organization pursuing research on anomalous phenomena of the kind usually associated with Charles Fort. It encouraged fieldwork and on-the-spot investigation by offering advice, helping to raise funds, and arranging contacts for members who planned field trips and expeditions. Fieldwork and research were reviewed by a panel of 20 scientists.
The society disseminated information on findings through a quarterly journal, Pursuit, and through papers and reports. Investigations by society members included such areas as claims of ancient Egyptian television, ringing rocks, entombed toads, and poltergeist manifestations. The society maintained information files of original material, a map collection, and a specialized library. It was disbanded in the 1980s.“The Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained,” Answers.com
What this posting leaves out is the deep interest Sanderson had, first and foremost, in cryptozoology, and wished to pursue through SITU. Sanderson coined the word “cryptozoology,” was trained as a zoologist, was an animal collector as a teen in the jungles of the world, and definitely saw himself as a cryptozoologist. For such a site to concentrate the examples in the paranormal, unfortunately, merely reinforces the folklore that Sanderson was a crackpot, when the true was entirely different.
One fault of Sanderson’s, however, may have been his trusting of others. As he was getting sicker and sicker with cancer, after Mark A. Hall’s year of being a director of SITU, the end times of SITU in Blairstown, New Jersey, were not happy ones. More and more people, unscreened, would end up coming to visit the Sandersons. Many would “look” at the files, and walk away with materials. By the end, the rumors making the rounds were that people “in station wagons were backing up to the concrete bunker” and loading books and files into their vehicles. The “borrowed” files and books never were returned.
Ivan Sanderson’s concrete building that he had built on his land specifically for his decades of materials was legendary. It was filled to overflowing with files and his priceless library. By the time of his death, the collection of SITU was, more or less, gone.
Now the good news….
After Ivan’s death, his wife would gather what was left of his personal papers that had been kept in safer locations, and donated them to the American Philosophical Society Library in Philadephia.
Here’s what they list that is now held within their collection:
Sanderson, Ivan Terence (1911-1973)
Papers, ca. 1920-1973. ca. 17,000 items. (27 lin. ft.).
This collection consists of correspondence, manuscripts, drawings, diaries, notebooks (restricted), and photographs. Sanderson began his travels in the jungles of Asia and Africa before starting his formal schooling at Eton and Cambridge in the late 1920s and early 1930s. His papers reflect his interest in animals, jungles, and natural history in general. Late in his life his interest turned to UFO’s and he was the director of the Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained. Table of contents (3 pp.).
Gift and purchases, through Mrs. Sanderson, 1977, 1983 (B Sa3)American Philosophical Society Library,”Ivan Terence Sanderson”