Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Neil Arnold: The Monster Interview

Yesterday, I conducted an interview with Neil Arnold (left), author of the new book Monster! The A-Z of Zooform Phenomena. Published by the Center for Fortean Zoology, the book is a first-class study of an aspect of cryptozoology that many researchers prefer to stay away from as a result of its controversial nature: namely that of the Zooform.

The Zooforms are those cryptozoological puzzles that at first glance appear to be flesh-and-blood animals; but that on closer examination seem to be far stranger indeed.

And to his credit, and in the pages of Monster! Neil has chosen to dig deep into the mystery of the Zooforms - as Jon Downes termed them - and has provided a wealth of data on this particularly fascinating aspect of cryptozoology.

NR: Nick Redfern

NA: Neil Arnold

NR: Neil, tell us about the basic theme of the book.

NA: The book covers forms – not necessarily creatures though – but things like apparitions that seem to take on an animal form, or a semi-animal-form, and that have existed in folklore down the centuries and all across the world. But they have never really been categorized in one complete book before; and they don’t fit into cryptozoology as simple, undiscovered creatures. But they definitely needed to be categorized; and so that’s what I've done with Monster!

NR: What are some of the strangest things you've investigated that you personally believe specifically fall into the Zooform category?

NA: Definitely the British Bigfoot reports that I've uncovered: I have ten or eleven amazing reports from here in [the British county of] Kent alone, which I couldn't believe. One was from a woman I used to work with who had seen one in the woods about one hundred yards from my house - which was very, very strange - and the woman hadn't told anybody about it for thirty years. In these British Bigfoot reports, they are all seeing things with red, glowing eyes, and these reports are hard to categorize. Although people are seeing big hulking things that are covered in hair, I don’t actually think they are the same things that people are seeing in America; because I personally think that the American Bigfoot is actually flesh and blood. But the things in the UK, I don’t think are flesh and blood: these are more like classic Zooforms.

NR: Do you feel that we are on the right path towards understanding the true nature of what Zooforms actually are?

NA: Well, science likes to try and explain things. But the Zooforms are similar to things like the Old Hag attacks. Science likes to say the cause of the Old Hag encounters can be anything from tiredness to stress; but it still doesn't explain why most people who have the experience very specifically see a hag-like figure. So that’s the thing with zooforms: like the Old Hag, they take on specific forms: black-dogs; lake-monsters; the Mothman. And that’s what science can’t explain: why they appear as these specific forms. It seems that this does become a kind of social thing. A lot of these things are cultural fears, so maybe it’s to do with the human psyche as to how they appear in certain places and countries when we see them. I've discussed with people before the idea that if someone’s not there to see it, does it still appear? And it seems very likely to me that these things actually need to be seen.

NR: You mean they need to be seen in the sense that they are a Tulpa that feeds on the energy of the witness?

NA: Yeah, I definitely think a percentage of Zooforms are Tulpas; and they are being manifested by some people, and then other people who see them are unaware of it being done. But then there’s the other thing that if you believe enough in something it actually starts to happen. Certainly things like the Black Dogs of England, the Mothman and the Goat-Sucker fall into this category. With the Goat-Sucker, I think that this is a sum of various parts: cultural fears, and one or two flesh and blood animals that people are connecting with the Goat-Sucker legend. Then people begin to see what they want to see, and they fear what they want to fear. Then they mold the picture in their head, it gets more molded by society and then it begins to appear in the form that it’s known now. I think that Zooforms can become stronger when the belief in them increases, and there are more people to feed them.

NR: How did you get interested in cryptozoology?

NA: It began when I was eight or nine years old; and for two reasons. My grandfather gave me a book on mysterious monsters at that time – and I have dedicated the book to him – and he and my father would talk about folklore and creepy local stories. Then I watched the Legend of Boggy Creek, which I think a lot of researchers tend to cite as the creepiest experience they had when they were a kid. Then, when I was eleven or twelve, I started hearing local reports of big cat sightings. I've had a few experiences here, as I do spend a lot of time in the field. But I like to keep the zooform things separate to the big cat reports.

NR: So, you've had some personal experience of the things you have investigated?

NA: Yeah. As well as the big cats, I have also had a few things which actually almost made me give up my research. That was to do with the Tulpa-type of things. It was mainly during the night: not being asleep; but almost in a dream state. I remember talking to Jon Downes and Richard Freeman about it and I got quite concerned after a while, when I actually started seeing things. This book just started out as a small article and when I got deep into it, I was sitting up all hours of the night and working on it and people were saying: “Oh, maybe you just had a dream.” But I wasn't asleep and I was seeing certain things – almost like blobs - and it was kind of freaky.

NR: What was the defining moment for you that led you to conclude that at least some of these cryptozoological things weren't physical in the sense that we understand the term, at least?

NA: It was really just the sheer volume of reports where people were reporting things that couldn't be easily categorized; and where a lot of them were ghost-like, even though they looked like animals. So I felt it was important to catalog this side of cryptozoology for people – even if something had only ever been seen once, so that there would be as much information for the reader as possible.

NR: What plans do you have for the future?

NA: I want to do a book on the mystery animals of Kent, where I live; and there could be a follow up to Monster! It’s just finding the time to do it.

NR: What do you hope that the publication of the book will achieve?

NA: Well, at first I was just planning on writing an article on Zooforms. But then as I got more information, I thought about a self-publishing idea. But then Jon [Downes] showed a lot of interest; and we thought: well, no-one’s ever done an A to Z book before just on Zooform phenomena, so let’s publish it; and that’s what Jon has done. So, hopefully, people will recognize it as that: a complete guide to Zooforms. And I’m hoping it gets a good worldwide reception as it covers Russia, India, America, England, Puerto Rico; lots of countries. So I’m hoping people will realize there are things out there that don't seem to fit into conventional cryptozoology and they’re everywhere.


Anonymous said...

This is an idea that I have been reflecting on lately myself. That the paranormal vs. flesh-and-blood Bigfoot controversy does not require an either-or answer. It could very well be both. We have paranormal black dogs. Well, we also have have ordinary black dogs. So just because there paranormal "Bigfoots" does not mean there is not an "ordinary" Bigfoot in the American northwest.

Nick Redfern said...

It could indeed be both. The Yeti of the Himalayas seems very much to be a physical animal; yet the UK reports of hairy, man-like creatures seem very different and are often reported near old prehistoric burial mounds and stone circles.

Similar comments have been made about the Big Cat sightings in the UK. An excellent book to read on this is "Mystery Big Cats" by Merrily Harpur.

Neil A said...

Some interesting points but with all due respect I do not think that the 'mystery cats', of the UK anyway, are in any way related to 'zooforms' or tulpa-like manifestations and there's absolutely no evidence to support such a connection.
I personally thought Merrily Harpur's book on 'big cats' was an insult to the genre, and at times hilarious, it's a shame that such connections have to be made all the time. The UK 'big cat' situation just isn't a mystery at all.