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BigfootheadJust out, a new CNN article that features some eyewitnesses from my books and interview questions with me as well. It’s great to see some even-handed reporting on this topic.

Also, getting close: this weekend, Sunday Sept. 3 is the International Cryptozoological Conference in Portland, Maine! Tickets still available at the door. I’ll be speaking around 11 am and will be at my table to sign books and chat the rest of the time. Totally excited to be on this roster of speakers and to take my first trip to Maine! Hope to see some of  you there!

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I like to release book reviews in twos, for some reason. I think it’s because when I finish reading one really good book, it piques my appetite for another great read right away.

This time I’m pairing Ken Gerhard’s A Menagerie of Mysterious Beasts and Barton Nunnelly’s Mysterious Kentucky, the Dark and Bloody Ground. These two gentlemen, and I mean that in the highest sense of that word for they are both truly gentlemen, have each written a book with the word “mysterious” in the title and a wide swath of unexplained beasts and phenomena cavorting through the interior pages. While Gerhard goes global, however, Nunnelly sticks to his home turf of Ol’ Kentuck. Together or one at a time, these books provide a rich harvest of unknown tidbits that will have readers gobbling every word Gerhard and Nunnelly have served up. To quote the immortal request of Charles Dickens’ urchin Oliver Twist, all I can say is, “Please, sir[s], I want some more.”

A Menagerie of Mysterious Beasts; Encounters with Cryptid Creatures by Ken Gerhard

Most people probably wouldn’t consider a quiet cluster of children more frightening than, say, a modern day version of a werewolf – until they look in the children’s eyes and Scan_20170428see only glistening black pools. At that point, for me, the Black-eyed Kids or BEK’s gain a few points on the mysterious creature horror scale. These and other creatures that are not your grandfather’s monsters are discussed alongside more traditional entities in Ken Gerhard’s “A Menagerie of Mysterious Beasts.” Readers will find themselves contemplating the Polish Wilkolak, sort of a vampire/werewolf combo, for instance, or pondering whether a photo of an alleged Chupacabras is truly a depiction of the blood-sucking goat killer or something else that simply appears otherworldly but has a mundane explanation.

Mundane is not a word I’d use to describe any part of this book, however. Whether readers are newbies still wrapping their craniums around the vast array of beasties, or seasoned enthusiasts seeking to hone their knowledge of favorite cryptids or catch up on the latest reports, Gerhard’s ghoulish gathering provides an irresistible gateway to the unknown. It’s a volume I’ll be keeping close at hand.

Mysterious Kentucky, Vol. 2; the Dark and Bloody Ground by Barton M. Nunnelly

20170410_211045This is it…the book I and many other fans of Mysterious Kentucky, Vol. 1 have been pining for Barton Nunnelly to finish and deliver. Well, he has at long last delivered, and how!!

Mysterious Kentucky, Vol. 2 covers more strangeness of each area of the huge state Native Americans considered cursed land, from historic lore to present day happenings. And joy of joys, the section on Kentucky Bigfoots alone comprises 118 pages of pure Sasquatch encounter bliss. It’s a hefty tome, packed chockablock from the first story which concerns, appropriately, Kentucky’s first people, to the last entry, Kentucky’s Chernobyl! The book must be seen and held to convey just how info-dense and well organized it is.

Nunnelly is also a gifted artist, and his illustrations enlighten the research and careful writing that take this book to the level of must-have permanent collection shelf of my personal library. The sense of immersion in the Blue Grass State is so complete, I almost looked around for a few blades of teal-colored grass as I sat and read. And as spooky as Nunnelly has revealed Kentucky to be, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find a few stems materialized on my bookshelf. After reading this book, I can guarantee stranger things have happened.

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This beauty, Ken Gerhard’s Menagerie of Mysterious Beasts, recently arrived in my mailbox and will be my first big read of the new year! Can’t wait to dig into what looks like a thorough compendium of the wild world of weird creatures. Happy 2017 to all!

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This was another of those freewheeling dialogues that I so enjoy. Listen to The Paranormal View podcast recorded Nov. 4, 2016!

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A certain weird hayfield in SE Wisconsin threads its way throughout the pages of my latest book, Monsters Among Us; an Exploration of Otherwordly Bigfoots, Wolfmen, Portals, Phantoms, and Odd Phenomena. Today I spent a few hours threading my own way through the weedy tree lines of that field with its owner, “Roy Smith,” who decided he would like to reveal his actual name and say a bit on camera. I’ll refer to him as Smith here, however, since that is the name used in the book. My video of his introduction may be found below, but first here’s an important postscript on one strange phenomenon in Monsters Among Us.

(All rights reserved on photos and video; may not be posted or printed elsewhere without written permission.)

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On April 29, 2015, one of Smith’s trail cameras caught a black figure silhouetted against the growing green field. At first we thought it was a blackbird or crow, but when we zoomed in (zoom view shown above), it looked more like the head, back and arm of some large animal presumably crouched in the hay. There were two other partial shots of it taken within one second that showed very fast progression across the screen from left to right.

I trudged out to what we judged to be the spot where this happened one dewy morning not long after, wearing a coat with hood, and Smith took photos from where the trail cam had been set up. We ended up concluding, based on comparison to trees in the background and to the original photo, that it was at least as big as me (five foot one) and much larger than a bird would have been from that distance.

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The creature’s shape also seemed to match the stance I took in my photo: crouched over, one arm reaching forward. I wasn’t able to crouch as well, but my lower legs were also hidden by the grass. It would have been heading straight for the treeline area where Smith had been noticing various wildlife carcasses, mostly deer, that displayed oddly munched and crunched areas or were carried off entirely by unknown predators.

Return of the Creature

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Skip ahead one year or so to early May, 2016, and a similar type of creature showed up on another trail cam in the same field, heading in exactly the same direction. It looked black, furry, and seemed to be in a kneeling position. There was an evident shadow around it in the grass.Unfortunately, book production was already well underway so there was no way to add it. But we still set up a comparison shot with Smith trudging out to the field this time.

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The 6-foot 3-inch tall Smith (left, in baseball cap) appeared almost the same height as the creature as he knelt in the hay, but only half as wide! Compare the sizes of Smith and the creature compared to the round-shaped tree at the right. Whatever this black thing is, it’s roughly human-sized or larger. Just one more mystery at this field of bad dreams.

Meet “Roy Smith,” otherwise known as Lee Hampel, a retired math and physics teacher from Illinois, and owner of the mysterious field featured in Monsters Among Us. Hampel had chosen that pseudonym himself, but has since decided to go public. I always feel the witnesses should be the ones to choose in this matter, and honor Hampel’s choice by posting this video taken Oct. 25, 2016 on site in the field.

 

 

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Nothing to do with werewolves, but

Bestselling authors Linda Godfrey (The Poison Widow), Matthew Prigge (Milwaukee Mayhem), and Sherrie Lueder (Until Someone Gets Hurt) share how they uncoverd the truth about some of Wisconsin’s most notorious crimes. They’ll discuss the writing process, how they do their research, and how they find their ideas. Book sales and signing to follow. 6:30-8 pm, the event is FREE.

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Sketch of Camberwell Old Cemetery creature submitted by eyewitness.

I’ve been waiting for many years for a report of a werewolf in London–just to quote the title of Warren Zevon’s famous song in a blog. One finally arrived a couple of weeks ago. And although the actual occurred 20 years ago on October 9, 1996 (the eyewitness says the date is etched in his memory), it’s a very compelling story. It includes a particular feature I’ve never heard before in any encounter, but that makes perfect sense in any encounter with an upright canine–werewolf or not.

The man, who asks that I refer to him as “Gary,” was 26 at the time and was on his way to meet a friend who lived on Underhill Road in southeast London. In order to walk there, Gary had to make a long trek heading southwest past  Camberwell New Cemetery and then down the entire length of Brenchley Gardens and around Camberwell Old Cemetery. He decided to cut through the older cemetery to save 20 minutes of walking time, even though it was already dark and the idea of walking through the cemetery at night was “freakishly scary” to him. He said he normally rode his bicycle to his friend’s house, but their plans for that evening precluded his usual means of transport.

He didn’t have a flashlight and the cemetery had no lighting system, so he could see only a few feet ahead of him as he made his way across the grounds. He was well into the middle of the graveyard when the movement of something very large and dark caught his eye. “I swear I saw what I thought was a dog, a big dog, move very quickly,” he said. He stopped and squinted into the darkness but decided his mind was playing tricks on him and started off again. He did not get very far.

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(Camberwell Old Cemetery used under Creative Commons Lic., website http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/4711520 )

“It was then in a flash my life changed forever,” wrote Gary. “It was so quick that I never had a chance–I thought that somebody had literally run into me and knocked me over…Something had grabbed me by my arm VERY tightly and smashed me to the ground. It was big, it was powerful, and it had extremely bad breath and it smelt cold and awful.

“This thing was now bearing down on me looking directly at my face, dribbling onto me and growling,” said Gary. But it was the creature’s next action that truly frightened him. It began to eagerly sniff his body, up and down, exactly as a dog would do. “I was convinced I was going to die,” said Gary. “I am afraid to say that as brave as I think I might be I was not, at this point, and shamefully I soiled myself.  As I lay there being smelled I was waiting for the bite, but that never happened. Just as quick as it started it was over and the beast was gone and sprinted off in a flash.”

It sprinted away on its hind legs.

The fact that the beast ran off just as the witness felt he was about to be killed conforms with the overwhelming majority of dogman reports I’ve received over the years, but only a small handful of those reports have involved any physical contact. Gary added that he had a theory about the dog’s extremely close examination of his body. He suffers from an illness that happens to be one of the many diseases dogs can smell in humans. “I truly believe it was this that the creature could smell on me,” he said. “I think if I did not suffer from this, I would now be dead. I know some animals can smell sickness and I’m sure they wouldn’t eat anything infected if they could help it.”

Gary isn’t positive that was the case, however. “Maybe it had no intention of eating me at all? Maybe I was in its territory and it was just scaring me to say keep out.”

But there was another weird aspect of the creature that he has never been able to shake off.

THE HAND

Since he and the creature were very close, and face-to-face, he had quite a good look at it despite the low level of light. Its fur was a dark color. The head reminded him of a German shepherd, he said, but its body was more the size and musculature of a Great Dane. He couldn’t see its eyes very well, and they evidenced no eyeshine or glow. (He mentioned that he took “artistic license” when adding the eyes to his sketch because he didn’t see their shape very well.) It did growl in a low tone as it smelled him in what he described as “deep nasal sniffs.” The creature’s breath was like rotten fish but with a weird sweetness to it.

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“Hand of Anthropoid Ape” Dover Publications 1979 “1491 Copyright-free Illustrations of Mammals, Fish, Birds, Insects, etc.”

When I asked Gary how it held him by the arm, he said it was not with a paw. “When it grabbed me (this is the horrible bit and makes my skin crawl) it was a hand that grabbed me–a big hand, humanlike. Its whole hand went around my arm in a viselike grip. I will argue til the day I die that it was a hand that grabbed me. I don’t care who thinks that’s mad. It seemed to me that it had long nails; if they were sharp I can’t confirm, but they were long and clawlike. If you had to grow nails to a similar length, they would protrude 5-6 inches from your hand with a slight inward curvature.”

I asked Gary whether the long claws tore any of his clothing, and he said he was wearing a motorcycle jacket that was open so he only had one small tear on the front of his t-shirt.

The incident was not something that Gary was able to just brush off. He had something like post-traumatic stress disorder that caused him to take six months off work. He’s still terrified of woodlands and the dark. Strangely, the incident also made him afraid of fog although he says there was none in the cemetery that night. Even as he drew the sketch, he said he had to stop every now and then because it was causing him to have flashbacks. He said he has never told anyone but his wife about this incident, and that he only wrote me because she encouraged him to do so to get it off his chest and “lay the demons to rest.” He also has not set foot in the cemetery again.

“Part of me wants to be rational and say it was a strong man in a costume,” he said, “but that’s my mind wanting to say, stop being stupid. But if that’s the case it was the best costume I’ve ever seen, [that must have been] worn by an Olympic athlete due to the speed and strength.” He also felt strongly that the creature possessed a keen intelligence as it interacted with him.

What might the creature have been? I tend to agree with Gary that it was probably not some human in an amazing dog suit. The fact that it had its jaws open as it exhaled puffs of nauseating dog breath in Gary’s face doesn’t sound like anything a person wearing a mask could pull off, and neither does its action of deep-sniffing his body as it held him down.

It did appear to have physical mass, weight, odor, breath, and all the requisite characteristics of a living, breathing animal. Its eyes did not glow as do the eyes of phantom hounds, for which England has long been famous. It seemed to act rather like any guard dog might: First surveillance, then a take-down, an inspection, and an all-clear.

A normal guard dog would probably not have trotted off on its hind legs, however. Nor would it have been able to encircle and grip Gary’s arm with a big hand.

Could it have been an actual werewolf–that is, a human able to change its physical form into that of a wolf, while retaining a few human characteristics such as hands rather than paws? While I’m not one that believes in Hollywood-style werewolves, there have been occasional reports of upright canids that do not seem like they could be natural animals simply walking upright. (My next book will address this aspect!)

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Dog paws may appear “elongated” when held in front as in a begging position (Dover Books 1979)

The hands Gary describes definitely fit that latter category. But I also hear from many witnesses that the creatures they saw had  definite, clawed paws that were simply elongated. When witnesses do report seeing human-like hands, there are often other characteristics such as glowing red eyes or a very humanoid body more normally  associated with tales of shapeshifters or phantom hounds rather than most contemporary sightings. English folk lore is rife with such creatures.

One other possibility is the creature known as the “man-monkey” that has been studied extensively by Nick Redfern in books such as Man Monkey: In Search of the British Bigfoot. While most sightings of this fur-covered, upright and primatelike beast have occurred in Staffordshire rather than London, in a forested area called Cannock Chase. But there have been several encounters with the creature in a German cemetery in Cannock Chase. But although the man-monkey explanation would explain the “hands” Gary witnessed, it doesn’t account for the very canine face that he drew.

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“Fanciful Orangutan,” Dover Books 1979. (This is not a close depiction of an actual orangutan, I think, but reminds me of man-monkey descriptions.)

Redfern notes, however, at least one similarly ambiguous creature encounter that looked like a gorilla from the front, but displayed a long, dog-like muzzle from the side. Redfern asks (p. 59) whether the creature may have been a “shape-shifting Lycanthrope” or a “weird chimera that possessed the unique attributes of several beasts.” In Memoirs of a Monster Hunter, Redfern wonders whether such creatures may be a remnant of England’s legendary Cormons, “emotion-sucking vampires from an unholy realm.” He explains, “These shadowy entities generated imagery of bizarre monsters and beasts in an attempt to generate high levels of stress and emotion in the person that saw them…” (p. 35).

As I pointed out above, however, the creature that toppled and pinned Gary was no mere shadowy entity. And, again, the physical attack he suffered is extremely rare in my experience. In the 24 years I’ve collected reports, there have only been a hiker in Quebec Province with a superficial skin tear, a young man whose loose-fitting, cotton shirt was clawed as he was chased near the shore of Lake Michigan in South Milwaukee, and a few scratched automobiles that showed creature contact. I’ve heard of other attack-type incidents reported elsewhere, but they still are rather few and far between compared to most encounters.

I do have another recently received report from England (northeast), however, that will be the subject of my next blog article once I finish my own sketch of it. This one did not involve an attack, but was as mysterious as the Camberwell Old Cemetery creature in its physical attributes. Whether they are weird natural animals on the loose, werewolves, Cormons, or man-monkeys, the upright hairy beasts of England are definitely not confined to London.

 

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