Friday, August 31, 2007

Lesley on Memoirs of a Monster Hunter

Even though it's still a full month before the official release date of my next book, Memoirs of a Monster Hunter, copies are now starting to trickle through into the book-stores.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Matt Salusbury on Crypto

Over at his blog, writer Matt Salusbury has a number of interesting posts on cryptozoology, including an intriguing account on reports of giant and monstrous pike in Welsh lakes.

Matt is also a regular attendee at the annual Weird Weekend gig that the CFZ organizes every year. Matt's write-up of the bizarre activities and antics that occurred on the first day of the gig is already posted at his blog. And there's more to follow...

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Karl Shuker Interview Update

I have arranged to interview Karl Shuker early tomorrow, and so the interview should be on-line by Friday - or failing that on Monday of next week.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Great Sea Serpent

Here's another newly-published title that should be on your bookshelves: The Great Sea Serpent by Antoon Cornelis Oudemans.

And here's the blurb from the publisher, Cosimo:

Mysterious and strange are the ocean depths, but pioneering cyptozoologist ANTOON CORNELIS OUDEMANS (1858-1943) attempted to bring some order to the realm with this 1892 survey of the reports of monsters of the sea, the first of its kind. Gathering sightings from around the globe and across the centuries, Oudemans eliminates the obvious hoaxes or honest mistakes and then, from dozens of legitimate sighting, draws conclusions about sea-serpent physiology, geographic distribution, and more. This astonishing book "still influences thoughts and theories about the great unknowns in the oceans," says cryptozoologist Loren Coleman in his new introduction in this edition, part of Cosimo's Loren Coleman Presents series.

Cannock Weirdness: When Will It End?

Well, the high-strangeness (namely sightings of werewolves, Bigfoot-style creatures, and large, mysterious cats) that has descended upon England's Cannock Chase woods in recent months continues at a steady pace.

As does a range of other activity of a weird nature, including yet more UFO reports and spooky activity.

Next week, I'll be updating you on the most recent "creature cases" from the Chase.

In the meantime, here's what else is - and has been - going on in the area.

Story 1.

Story 2.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Monster Guide...

There's a new book out right now titled Monster Spotter's Guide to North America. I haven't seen it yet; but here's what the publisher has to say about it:

Monsters represent the dark side of humanity--the primal, animal impulses that reside in us all. They have preyed upon our imaginations and our fears since the dawn of civilization.
Fascinating and terrifying, monsters are impossible to ignore.
North America is home to a wide array of fearsome beasts including hairy monsters, flying monsters, lake monsters, reptilian humanoids and other unexplained phenomena.

The Monster Spotter's Guide to North America geographically catalogs more than one hundred legendary monsters reported to inhabit the continent. From the mythical Sasquatch of the Pacific Northwest to the vicious Mexican Goatsucker known as El Chupacabra, you'll read about the legends and major sightings of the most widely feared creatures reported to exist--plus a few you might have never heard of.
Within these pages you'll find detailed pen-and-ink drawings, helpful quick-reference boxes for quick identification of key monster traits, a glossary of crytozoology terms, a remedial course in common monster knowledge, useful appendices, case studies and more.
Let this book be your guide and explore the legends for yourself. Anyone can be a monster spotter... when you start looking you never know what you might find.

Aside from being a monster enthusiast, Scott Francis is a founding editor for the literary journal Fresh Boiled Peanuts and coauthor of The Writer's Book of Matches. He has a black belt in tae kwon do and lives his life according to a strict moral code of his own devising. A native of the mountainous regions of North Carolina, he currently lives in Cincinnati with his very patient and understanding wife, three cats, and a sinister black dog of possible supernatural origin.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Karl Shuker's "Extraordinary Animals Revisited"

The CFZ is very pleased to announce the publication of Dr. Karl Shuker's book, Extraordinary Animals Revisited.

I'm interviewing Karl late next week and will be posting a transcript to the blog around next Friday.

In the meantime, here's what the CFZ has to say about the book:

"This delightful book is the long-awaited, greatly-expanded new edition of one of Dr Karl Shuker's much-loved early volumes, Extraordinary Animals Worldwide.

"It is a fascinating celebration of what used to be called romantic natural history, examining a dazzling diversity of animal anomalies, creatures of cryptozoology, and all manner of other thought-provoking zoological revelations and continuing controversies down through the ages of wildlife discovery.

"Handsomely supplemented by a vista of enchanting Victorian engravings to evoke the spirit of the period from which the inspiration for this book is drawn, Extraordinary Animals Revisited offers an enthralling introduction to a veritable menagerie of truly astonishing beasts.

"From singing dogs to serpent kings, pseudo-plesiosaurs to quasi-octopuses, hounds with two noses and birds with four wings, the Sandwell Valleygator and New Mexico's medicine wolf, cobras that crow and snake gods that dance, giant solifugids and rodent colossi, devil-birds and devil-pigs, furry woodpeckers and marsupial hummingbirds, archangel feathers and the scales of the Eden serpent, scorpion-stones and elephant-pearls, tales of the peacock's tail, parachuting palm civets, missing megapodes, blue rhinoceroses, glutinous globsters, anomalous aardvarks, a platypus from Colorado, man-sized spiders from the Congo, de Loys's lost Venezuelan ape, Margate's marine elephant, a flying hedgehog called Tizzie-Wizzie, a mellifluous mollusc called Molly, India's once (and future?) pink-headed duck, the squeaking deathshead, the vanquished bird-god of New Caledonia, and much much more - all waiting to amaze and amuse, a pageant of natural and unnatural history."

Thursday, August 23, 2007


I always think it's un-cool to smile in photographs; however, since last saturday (when the picture was taken) was the first time I had seen good friend and CFZ head-honcho Jon Downes in 12 months, I made an exception.
A fine time was had by all.

If you couldn't get to the Weird Weekend, you missed a real treat.

New Book on Lake Monster "Champ"

Although I haven't seen this new book on "Champ," the legendary monster of Lake Champlain, it looks to be a good one. Here's the publisher's blurb on the book:

Does Champ Exist? was created to preserve the transcript of the (so far) only cryptozoological conference held to discuss the possible existence of an unknown species of animal in the waters of Lake Champlain.

Speakers at the conference included Dr. William H. Eddy, Jr., J. Richard Greenwell, Dr. Roy P. Mackal, Dr. Philip Reines, Joseph Zarzynski, and Dr. George Zug. Several witnesses to Champ phenomena also spoke briefly, including Sandra Mansi, Mary Carty, Elsie Porter, Joan Petro, and Eugene Viens, Jr.

The transcript was created (with cooperation from the speakers) from a series of audio cassettes that Gary Mangiacopra (a conference attendee) used to tape the activities. Audio quality in some spots made clear transcription impossible, but this preserves the bulk of the proceedings.

Also included are limnological notes on Lake Champlain, a chronological listing of Champ sightings, and reprints of several historical Champ-related newspaper accounts.

Who Says There's No Such Thing As Bigfoot?

Taken last Sunday at the annual Weird Weekend conference at Devon, England...

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Rhode Island Science Fiction Club reviews...

The Rhode Island Science Fiction Club gives the thumbs-up to my Three Men Seeking Monsters book.

The Weird Weekend

Last Thursday, I got a call asking if I could fly out to England to attend - and speak at - the annual Weird Weekend conference that CFZ Director Jon Downes and the crew put on every year in the little Devonshire village of Woolfardisworthy.

And so it was that on Friday of last week I headed out of Dallas-Fort Worth Airport for a flight - via Chicago - to London's Heathrow Airport. Then, after a 6-hour journey by hire-car to Jon's, I finally made it.

And, I must say, a fine time was had by all.

The Weird Weekend is, in my view at least, the finest Fortean/cryptozoological-driven conference in the UK. Indeed, this year's event attracted almost 200 people.

Jon's wife, Corinna, has written a highly-entertaining 6-part build-up and review of the conference, which can be found by clicking on the following links:







Friday, August 17, 2007

On the Road...

I'm going back to the UK for a few days and will be back on-line, posting here again, on wednesday.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Cannock Chase: A Fortean Hot Spot

In recent weeks and months, I have posted regular updates on the many and varied reports of Bigfoot, large cats, ghostly black dogs, and even werewolves in the vicinity of Britain's Cannock Chase woods. Now, UFOs are making their presence known in the area.The Chase, it seems, is rapidly becoming a Fortean hot spot, as the Chase Post newspaper reveals:

Mystery lights have been spotted over Chadsmoor - the latest in a long line of UFO sightings around the town.
Ministry of Defence officially declared Cannock Chase as a UFO hotspot.
A Smillie Place resident, who did not wish to be named, said: "It was about three minutes to ten on Saturday night. I looked into the sky and there were these three orange orbs. I've never seen anything like them before."
The resident said that she watched the scene for about a minute and a half, during which time the lights put on a strange display before vanishing.
"One of them, the first in the line, came across the sky and then just stopped dead. The two lights behind it followed a second or two later. When they were all close together, the first light vanished. Just disappeared completely. Like it just shut down into nothing."
And at the same time, in nearby Cemetery Road, resident James Douglas also spotted the mysterious lights.
"They were more or less in a straight line," he said. "It was a couple of minutes to ten. The lights weren't very big - they didn't look all that far away but they didn't look too big, either. They weren't making a sound. The first one just stopped dead. The other two sort of dawdled up to the first one, and as soon as they did, the first light just switched off, kind of thing. Just vanished. Didn't drop or rise or anything. I called my wife, but when she came out on the garden there were just two of them left. I've absolutely no idea what it was."

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Disaster at the Bridge

My comments made yesterday concerning the recent bridge collapses and the subject of cryptozoology, prompted several people to contact me to inquire if I could elaborate on one of the stories I referred to in my post, and that appears in my Man-Monkey book. I can indeed.

Here is a brief extract from the book that outlines part of the story:

...According to Danny, on a particular evening in January 1879, his great-great-grandfather, who had apparently suffered from some form of severe mental affliction, had committed suicide by hurling himself off of Scotland’s Tay Bridge, and right into the harsh depths of Dundee’s Firth of Tay.

Of course, the date of the suicide – January 1879 – immediately jumped out at me as being the exact same time-frame in which the Man-Monkey had been seen prowling around the countryside near the village of Woodseaves.

But there was much more to come: namely that in the immediate days that followed the family’s tragic loss, ominous reports began to quietly circulate within the close-knit confines of the neighbourhood of a shaggy-haired man-beast that was seen roaming the bridge late at night, and that came to be known locally as the ‘Shuggy’.

Danny was far from finished, however, and he drew my attention to a tragic disaster of truly epic proportions that had occurred at the same Tay Bridge in December 1879, eleven months after the unfortunate death of his great-great-grandfather.

It was an appropriately dark and stormy night on December 28, 1879 when, at around 7.15 p.m., and as a veritable storm of truly deluge-style proportions was blowing right down the length of the estuary, the central navigation spans of the Tay Bridge collapsed and plummeted into the Firth of Tay – taking with them a train and six carriages that resulted in no less than seventy-five untimely and tragic deaths.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Collapsing Bridges and Cryptozoology: Trouble Comes in Threes

Last week, over at Cryptomundo, Loren Coleman devoted much space and commentary to the tragic story of the Mississippi collapsing bridge, as well as to the similar, fatal events at Point Pleasant, Virginia in 1967 - that many researchers believe were inextricably linked with the presence of the sinister "Mothman" in the area.

Well, now we have a new, breaking story (this one from China) that links collapsing bridges and cryptozoology - as, again, Loren Coleman notes today.

And they say that bad luck often comes in threes. And maybe it does. My new book, Man-Monkey: In Search of the British Bigfoot (which was published in the same week as the Mississippi tragedy) includes a chapter on the catastrophic collapse of yet another bridge with distinctly cryptozoological links - this one in Scotland.

Is all of this talk and activity of a collapsing bridge-nature in such a closely confined time-frame all some weird coincidence, or is it part of a larger - and infinitely more bizarre - cosmic mind-game?

At this stage, your guess is as good as mine.

"The Creature from the Black Lagoon" re-surfaces...

If you enjoy watching cryptozoological-driven films, you may be interested to know that a new version of Universal's 1954 classic The Creature from the Black Lagoon is being made. Here's the link.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Monster Gigs on the Horizon

Here are a couple of forthcoming conferences on all things cryptozoological and monstrous: one in the UK and the other in the US. The line-ups are strong and varied, and both look very well worth attending.

Bart Nunnelly's "Mysterious Kentucky" Coming Soon

Interested in Bigfoot, werewolves, modern-day pterosaurs and more of a monstrous nature? If the answer is yes (and I'm sure it is!), here's a book to order right now: Mysterious Kentucky by Bart Nunnelly.
I was recently given the opportunity to take a look at much of the data contained within the pages of Mysterious Kentucky, and I can say with certainty that this is an excellent book that does not disappoint. Go and buy!

One of those best read on a dark and stormy night...

Skinwalkers at the Daily Grail

Over at the Daily Grail there's an interesting, and newly-posted, article on Skinwalkers, were-beasts, witchcraft and more.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

The "Weird Weekend": Get Your Tickets While They Last...

This just in from CFZ director, Jon Downes:

"So, another Weird Weekend is nearly upon us, with only a week to go. For those of you who have already bought tickets, and those of you who are still making up your mind, here is the latest running order. It is still mildly provisional as each year there are a few last-minute changes, but it's looking good."

More on the Beast of Dartmoor

The Center for Fortean Zoology on the Beast of Dartmoor.

Hecate Hill: Where the Bigfoot Lurk...

Barely sixty minutes before the witching hour struck on the cold night of Saturday 28 October of last year, my wife, Dana, and I entered the Pocket Sandwich Theatre in Dallas for a date with something monstrous.

We strode into a small, but suitably atmospheric and darkly-lit room where a waitress dressed as a demon genially asked us what we would like to drink. "Do you have any virgin’s blood?" I inquired in a fashion that I considered quite appropriate for the evening of entertainment that was to follow. She, however, gave me a slightly worried smile, said no, and asked if Bud-Light would be okay instead. It would indeed be okay, I replied.

And so it was that we sat back to watch the entertainment: an intriguing and well-presented stage-play on Bigfoot titled Hecate Hill, and one that mixes the best of The Evil Dead, War of the Worlds, and a good, solid, horror story into one heady brew.

Several nights later, I met up with Bill Fountain - the brainchild behind Hecate Hill - to interview him for an article that appeared earlier this year in Fortean Times magazine. Since then, we have become friends and have a project or two in the works.

Up until now, if you wanted to learn more about Hecate Hill, you would have had to travel to blistering hot Dallas (yes, it's around 100 degrees today and my English paleness and black garb prevent me from venturing outdoors during such extremes; the darkness is much more inviting). But that situation is about to change.

I was very pleased to receive the following press release from Bill yesterday:


Bill Fountain’s BIGFOOT play launches film, graphic novel and new production!

Bigfoot is taking over, starting with the stage, moving on to film and comic book and finally conquering the world! This new original play by Dallas playwright/director Bill Fountain is opening this October as a full production directed by the playwright in Plano , Texas . There is also funding in place for the start of the “Hecate Hill” feature length independent film, set to begin production in November, 2007!

“Hecate Hill” is now also available for productions and licensing through November will also see a junior version of the Hecate Hill saga in the form of “Hecate Hill High School,” produced and performed by students, as well as a brand new graphic novel, written and illustrated by playwright Bill Fountain called “Hecate Hill: Dark Arrival.”

What is “Hecate Hill” all about? A group of cycling friends meet up for a reunion in a remote cabin in Southern Oklahoma rumored to be Bigfoot territory. Just as they arrive, there are news reports of a nearby hunter killing a Bigfoot, and suddenly the friends find themselves completely isolated as an electromagnetic pulse shuts down power grids all over the world, and the shrieking creatures attack. Out in the dark woods, the six friends fight to survive the night. But is it really happening? Will anyone survive to find out the truth about Hecate Hill?

The play has had several very successful incarnations over the last year (a radio drama, a late night theatrical production, and a public workshop) before being published by Playscripts. There are already productions being planned for the upcoming year! The play was featured in a great article in Fortean Times and has received media attention in the form of television interviews, radio broadcasts of the drama and the upcoming graphic novel.

More information can be located at or

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Curse of the Demon on TV Tonight

Tonight, at 11.45 p.m Central Time, the Turner Classic Movies channel will be showing one of my all-time favorite films: Curse of the Demon (originally released in the UK in 1957 as Night of the Demon), starring Dana Andrews.

Packed with strange and spooky goings-on in the woods, monstrous demons, glowing balls of light traveling through darkened trees, supernatural big cats, witchcraft, and some memorably sinister characters, Demon has a curiously Fortean element to it.

If your idea of a horror film is just seeing a bunch of bland college kids getting hacked to pieces one-by-one by some character in a mask and amid a mass of modern-day special effects, then this most definitely isn't a film for you.

However, if (like me) you are a devotee of atmospheric, black-and-white horror films from decades-past, then Curse of the Demon is one you will definitely want to catch.

If you've never seen it before, you are in for a treat.

I think this will probably be about my tenth time to watch it. But watch it again, I most definitely will. And the fact that it will be broadcast at the witching hour will only make the experience more fun!

Roll on midnight!

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Peacocks, Crypto and Forteana

Something weird is afoot in the Peacock world. Something very strange and distinctly bizarre: Forteana and peacocks are becoming strange and regular bed-fellows. Yep, you heard it right.

Last November, Britain's Metro reported the following story on a ghostly peacock seen in the county of Sussex - and exclusively on Halloween, no less:

A phantom peacock that only appears on Halloween is being blamed for near-misses on a country road. The peacock has appeared on the A267, south of Five Ashes village in East Sussex, between midnight and 1am on the last two nights.

Two drivers have reported hitting the bird - but afterwards neither were able to find any sign of the bird on their vehicles or the road. Just before midnight on Monday, a woman driving south said that she hit the peacock in the road.

And the next night - Halloween - a lorry driver reported that he thought he had run over the bird. Both drivers contacted Trevor Weeks, rescue coordinator for East Sussex Wildlife Rescue and Ambulance Service. He went out on both occasions, but saw no sign of the peacock.

He and the lorry driver checked the vehicle carefully, but found no signs of blood or feathers.
Mr Weeks said: "This is really odd. I'll be interested to see if we get another call regarding this phantom peacock.' One local spookily commented: 'People around here have talked about the ghostly peacock before. It only seems to come out at Halloween." More prosaically, Mr Weeks warned drivers to be on the look-out for a peacock that could be running loose.

Then, last month a story surfaced concerning a fatal attack on a Peacock that had strolled into the car park of a New York-based Burger King restaurant. The attacker was heard to shout that he was killing a vampire.

Certainly, the peacock has an intriguing history. According to The Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (E. Cobham Brewer, 1894):

The peacock's tail is emblem of an Evil Eye, or an ever-vigilant traitor. The tale is this: Argus was the chief Minister of Osiris, King of Egypt. When the king started on his Indian expedition, he left his queen, Isis, regent, and Argus was to be her chief adviser. Argus, with one hundred spies (called eyes), soon made himself so powerful and formidable that he shut up the queen-regent in a strong castle, and proclaimed himself king. Mercury marched against him, took him prisoner, and cut off his head; whereupon Juno metamorphosed Argus into a peacock, and set his eyes in its tale.

And now we come to the subject matter of this blog: cryptozoology. In my newly-published book Man-Monkey: In Search of the British Bigfoot, I relate the details of an intriguing, late-night, 1986 encounter with a wild, hairy ape-like creature on a stretch of road adjacent to the ancient Chartley Castle in the English county of Staffordshire.

Two decades later, in the summer of 2006, an intricate Crop Circle formation appeared in a field close to the castle and practically opposite the exact piece of road where the beast was seen. My wife, Dana, and I visited the area at the time and took a good number of photos of the impressive formation.

Not only that: strewn around the area was an absolute wealth of...peacock feathers. Within the pages of Man-Monkey you can find photos of Chartley Castle (where the weird ape was seen back in '86), as well as photos of the aforementioned Crop Circle, and one of me holding (on-site) one of the peacock feathers that we collected at the scene.

So, with tales of ghostly peacocks, vampiric peacocks, and even peacocks that seemingly enjoy hanging out in Crop Circles and near monkey-haunted castles, what does all this mean?

Well, one person who has already read Man-Monkey offers an intriguing theory. She suggests that the presence of the peacock feathers at the site of the Chartley Castle Crop Circle is evidence that those people she believes are making the Circles are using the peacock's "Evil Eye" in "black ceremonies." She adds that such ceremonies have been held - undercover of darkness - on a number of occasions within British-based Crop Circles, and that the people responsible are endeavouring to "create negativity" and conjure up bizarre creatures from realms that co-exist with ours.

I have heard tales somewhat similar to this on several occasions; and who knows: maybe she's right.

And with that in mind, if you are ever in a position to see an out-of-place peacock, you may want to scan your local newspapers, TV and radio for additional weird stories. The peacock may not be the only beast wandering around...

Monday, August 6, 2007

Cannock's Phantom Black Dogs in "Fate"

Well, the on-going debate about the large, dog-like "Beast of Dartmoor" is very timely, as I have an article published in the new issue of Fate magazine that focuses on Phantom Black Dogs that have been seen in the vicinity of Britain's Cannock Chase woods.

As the article states in part: "Late one evening in early 1972, a man named Nigel Lea was driving across the Chase when his attention was suddenly drawn to a strange ball of glowing blue light that slammed into the ground some distance ahead of his vehicle, amid a veritable torrent of bright, fiery sparks. Needless to say, Lea quickly slowed his car down. As he approached the approximate area where the light had fallen, he was shocked and horrified to see looming before him, 'the biggest bloody dog I have ever seen in my life.'"

Here's the link to the Fate article.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

The Beast of Dartmoor Solved?

Well, I did say that in my personal opinion, the so-called Beast of Dartmoor was a large dog - despite the fact that some of the photos looked odd, to say the least. And, as this new story demonstrates, the theory that the creature was a domestic dog, after all - albeit one of a very large size - has been firmly embraced by Britain's media. As the story also demonstrates, however, not everyone is in agreement.

What's interesting, however, is the theory that "the beast" was nothing more than a mis-identified Newfoundland dog; since the link between Newfoundland dogs and the phantom black dogs of British folklore also turns up in my interview with Mark North - co-author of the new book Dark Dorset - that I conducted only days before this new development in the Beast of Dartmoor story surfaced.

Friday, August 3, 2007

The "Weird Weekend" - A Reminder

Just a reminder: there's still time to purchase tickets for this year's Weird Weekend gig that runs from 17 to 19 August in the Devon, England village of Woolfardisworthy. Organized by Jon Downes and the CFZ, it's always entertaining and informative, and contains a wealth of lectures on numerous aspects of cryptozoology and Forteana.

Here's the link to the event.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Big Cats on Britain's Cannock Chase...

Regular readers of this blog will know that I take a particular interest in chronicling accounts of weird beasts seen in the direct vicinity of Britain's Cannock Chase woods, which is situated only a few miles from where I grew up
As readers will also know, in recent months there have been sightings of alleged Werewolf and Bigfoot type creatures on the Chase.
And, now, a concerted effort is being made to try and determine once and for all if "Big Cats" also lurk in the depths of those mysterious woods, as the following story from this week's Chase Post newspaper reveals:

Scots Aim To Uncover Cannock Beast's Lair

Big cats on Cannock Chase are big news in Scotland, with the country’s leading researchers into unexplained phenomenon determined to crack the mystery of the Chase Beast...and they believe they might have almost done it.
World-renowned investigators at Big Cats in Britain - the largest and most active big cat investigation group in the United Kingdom believe the Beast’s lair could be on the verge of discovery.
And they got in touch with The Post this week, urging readers to contact them with their sightings so they can narrow their already extensive search.
Martin Rainer, Cannock Chase Coordinator for the organisation, said the information he’s received has convinced him that rumours of the beast are fact.
“I strongly believe these big cats are out there,” said Martin.

“Maybe not in the heart of the Chase, but possibly around the fringes which do not receive as much human traffic as the main Chase.
“There are several theories as to what these cats are,” added Martin, “but we can only go on the facts.
“70-percent of all reported sightings are of a black animal.
“These can only be one of two - a black jaguar or a black leopard.
“ Both are known as a black panther.
“We have had bodies of most of the cats reported except the black one, which is the true British Mystery Cat.
“If ALL these sightings were true then it would mean we have more black leopards in this country than the whole continent of Africa.
“It’s quite plausible for the cats to be here, unwanted pets released, etc, and the Chase would have maybe been an ideal place to release these animals.
“Surviving there would not be a problem - plenty of food, cover, and the climate holds no problems for them at all.
“They can survive on two rabbits a day and there are plenty of deer around also.”

Werewolves on the Radio

In 2006, I wrote the Introduction to Linda Godfrey's excellent Hunting the American Werewolf, a book which I most definitely recommend to anyone and everyone interested in its subject matter. And if you want to find out more about Linda's work, check out her appearance on the Exploring Unexplained Phenomena radio show this coming Saturday morning from 10 AM to 11.30 AM Central Time. A howling good time will be had by all!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

An Interview with Mark North on "Dark Dorset"

Yesterday afternoon, I conducted an interview with Mark North, co-author with Robert J. Newland of the book Dark Dorset: Tales of Mystery, Wonder and Terror, which is published by CFZ Press. The new edition of the book is an excellent study of all-things-weird from the ancient English county of Dorset and covers a whole range of mysteries, including ghosts, UFOs, witchcraft, magic, mythology, restless spirits and much more.

And Dark Dorset contains a wealth of material that will be of deep interest to the student of cryptozoology, too; hence the reason for my interview with Mark (who in the photo that accompanies this article can be seen standing outside of the famous Black Dog pub at Uplyme, Dorset, which takes its name from the spectral black devil dogs of British folklore that are said to haunt much of the Dorset countryside).

NR: "Mark, how did you get interested in Forteana and weird phenomena?"

MN: "One of the main reasons was because of my grandfather. He used to tell me stories of strange things that happened in the local area. Also, my grandfather knew a famous science-fiction author named Eric Frank Russell, and who later became one of the main people on the British Forteana scene. So, I picked up on all this and that got me interested."

NR: "And for people interested in cryptozoology, what can they find in Dark Dorset?"

MN: "There are a lot of stories in there about the phantom black dogs. I've done a lot of investigations into the stories and myths around black dog tales. There are some odd ones; the most recent I can think of was in the 90s. But if you go back to the older tradition of black dogs, I think a lot of it could have been invented. On the Dorset coast, for example, there was a very big smuggling trade going on centuries ago. I think a lot of the stories of these animals were invented to frighten people and keep them away from the smuggling areas. What was also happening around this time is that Dorset had a lot of connections with Newfoundland and they used to do a lot of trading with the fishermen there. It was around this time that the Newfoundland dogs were brought over here, to this country. So, you have a new type of dog being brought over here, which was very large and that no-one had ever seen before, and then you have these tales of large black dogs roaming around, and smugglers inventing these black dog tales. So, I think it could be that part of the story at least is that the Black Dog legends have their origins in these large, working black dogs brought over from Newfoundland."

NR: "What are your views on sightings of so-called Big Cats in Dorset?"

MN: "There are a lot of reports in Dorset; and the thing about the Dorset countryside is that it's quite wild, particularly in the West Dorset area. It would be easy for a large animal to hide there. There's a piece of woodland there called Powerstock Common, which is very dense and where we get reports; it's an old ancient woodland which used to be the hunting ground for King John. It hasn't really changed for hundreds of years; so anything could hide there. And there are definitely some good quality cases of Big Cat sightings in Dorset. I took part in an investigation of a lynx-type species in Portland, Dorset, and found some good evidence: old animal carcasses, cat scats, footprints, and even what looked like a recent kill."

NR: "How about sea-serpents off the coast? Anything like that?"

MN: "Yeah, we get a few. There have been some odd cases from the 1700s, where an unusual creature resembling a mermaid was washed up on the Chesil Beach. I think some of these could be explained, perhaps, as a manatee. There was also a very odd story of another story of a sea-serpent found on Chesil Beach which turned out to be a camel! Where the camel came from, no-one knows! But there was a very interesting and unusual case from 1995 by a chap named Martin Ball, who was walking along the coast and saw a type of large sea-horse creature."

MN: "We also get some old reports - in the past - of wild-man-of-the-woods stories. One of which happened just outside of Dorchester, where there were reports of wild-men haunting the woods. There's a lot of stories of lycanthropy and shape-shifting: witches transforming into hares and things like that. I think some of this can be explained by the fact that back in the 1700s, when many of these stories started, people were very superstitious. Back then, it was a completely different world. And that's what I like about it: it was very innocent in some ways back then; but you've got this superstition there that turns everything around and makes it a completely different world. Almost like a fantasy world. Dorset is a strange place, and you can go into some of the old woods and it's like being in a different world, where anything might happen."

Those wanting to learn more about Mark, his Dark Dorset book and his research can do so by visiting his Dark Dorset website.