A Collection of Crypto Creatures


Jonathan Downes. Only Fools and Goatsuckers: The True Story of an Expedition to Hunt for the Chupacabra. CFZ Communications, 2001.

Jonathan Downes and his sidekick Graham Inglis go on a winter holiday to Puerto Rico and Mexico in search of the notorious goat sucker, accompanied by a film crew. They have several hilarious misadventures, meet the odd witness or two, get pissed and smuggle illegal snails around, but never actual meet their fabled quarry. Downes clearly has a literary talent, and really needs a good publisher, and good editor to develop it. Left to himself he is apt to meander around, bring in chunks of stuff from Internet travel and zoology sites and rather lose track of the thread of his narrative.

Downes doesn't think the chupacabra comes from outer space, but isn't clear on what he thinks it actually is. He feels it has some connection with the cultures and current political difficulties of the host countries, but doesn't opt for a psychosocial explanation. Maybe he thinks its just manifestation of the devil. But then perhaps like some other monster hunters such Rupert Gould, he is really chasing his own inner demons.

Philip L Rife. America's Loch Ness Monsters. Writers' Club Press, 2000.
Philip L Rife. Bigfoot Across America. Writers Club Press, 2000.
Philip L Rife. America's Nightmare Monsters. Writers Club Press, 2001.

This trio of books shows different patterns in the dissemination of monster stories, and how these can be seen to gradually seen to drift away from the paws and pelts cryptozoologists.

The collections reproduce reports from a variety of sources, ALNM's are often from old newspaper clippings, many going back into the 19th century, the, extracts from these reproduced give an air of the quaint phraseology and general style. What portion of these are actual reports of 'real' experiences, and what portion are the product of the local liars' club or of press humour and hoaxes is anyone's guess, but they testify to the antiquity of the Lake Monster Traditions in the US, which clearly antedate those of Nessie, and belong in the older tradition of sea serpent.

By contrast, though there are a handful of older stories, the vast bulk of the reports in BAA come from the 1960's onwards, again suggesting the essentially post war origin of the bigfoot legend, and more evidence that it was based on 1940's anthropological speculation about a 'giant phase' of human evolution. Much more than the lake monsters bigfoot has become a child of the age of the Internet, many of the stories being credited to Internet briefings.

Towards the end of BAA there are stories with a ufological bent. ANM presents a range of creatures that paws and pelts cryptozoology just can't accommodate, including not just such cryptozoological extremes as living dinosaurs, chupacabras, thunderbirds, Jersey devils and mothmen, but wolfmen andlizard men, through to such ufological fauna as 'spacemen' and men in black and supernatural figures like the vanishing hitchhiker and spook lights.

These stories seem to straddle the liminal zone between reportage and folklore, and it is hard to say where any one story might belong. Of course, the newspaper clippings, Fate articles, Internet postings and stories from pulp magazines and paperbacks cannot be regarded as cryptozoological 'evidence' They seem to generated by the interaction between local folklore and the mass media, both being influenced by and influencing B move genres. Many in ANM look as though they have escaped from episodes of the X files. If there is a common theme, at least in BAA and ANM it is that of the creature half seen from the car traveling through the wilderness between inhabited areas. Latter day travellers' tales of the beasts and bogies of the open road.

Rob Riggs. In the Big Thicket; on the Trail of the Wild Man:
Exploring Nature's Mysterious Dimension. Paraview Press, 2001.

In the long list of wild ideas I penned in my very first letter to the old Merseyside UFO Bulletin was the suggestion that haunted houses were just small sized flap areas. I guess that's a sentiment that Rob Riggs would agree with, for his presentation of the Big Thickett wilderness area in Texas is essentially of a haunted place where all sorts of weird stuff happens. Not just the wild men of the title, but moving stars, BOLS, phantom Indians and wild cats, power outrages and other sorts of general weirdness including the well known enchantment in which all the sounds of nature are absent.

The BOLS are the main part of the book, and Riggs examines them in terms of the theories of Devereux and Persinger. Though intrigued, he feels that the very different terrains in which ghost-lights are reported makes a simple geophysical explanation improbable.

Where Riggs sticks to reportage he is very effective in conveying the sense of general spookiness of the area, and invoking the idea of a haunted wild place that is so very wild that even the writ of the laws of physics doesn\rquote t hold sway within it. These stories remind us of the sort of stories which got many of us out of the ETH a generation ago.

The problem comes when Riggs feels to need to resort to 'explanations' and here we get loads of the old suspects hauled out: earth energies, consciousness fields, psychic powers of Indians, window areas, half understood bits of physics and the like, and the book bogs down in a swamp of idle speculation.

No comments: