I came across this interesting article about cryptozoology which has some insights into why people chase cryptids both now and in the past:
Cryptozoology in the medieval and modern worlds
Folklore, August, 2006 by Peter Dendle
A few lines from the end of the article:
Just as counter-culture thrives perennially on defining itself against a "mainstream" that often has little more substance than reactionaries insist on giving it, so cryptozoology seems to draw nourishment to some extent from its own spirit of iconoclasm.
Cryptozoology thus fulfils an important role: it represents a quest for magic and wonder in a world many perceive as having lost its mystique.