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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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Thunderbirds, mothmen and other unknown flying things are some of the most puzzling of cryptids. They appear in the sky or a nearby meadow, amaze lucky witnesses, and then fly away without any hint as to their intent. Sometimes they seem to portend doom, as in the famous case of Point Pleasant, W. VA’s Mothman, which many think was a harbinger of the tragic Silver Bridge collapse.

 

In other cases, such as the northwestern Wisconsin daylight sighting by John Bolduan that begins my “American Monsters” book, witnesses are left feeling perplexed yet privileged to have witnessed such a spectacle. Bolduan watched in awe as the tall, silvery-feathered bird took to the air and displayed a 22-foot wingspan.

 

There’s another example of that flighty ambiguity in my next book due out this fall, titled “Monsters Among Us, an Exploration of Otherworldly Bigfoots, Wolfmen, Portals, Phantoms and Odd Phenomena.” In this incident, a central Wisconsin woman witnessed a gigantic, large bird standing on a bridge near Black River Falls. She was told by a Native American elder that she had seen a Thunderbird.

 

Why am I bringing these examples up now? I’ve often wished that I had some way to help  interpret these incidents, but had never found much contemporary material aside from well-known Thunderbird lore. I was thrilled recently, then, to stumble across a gleam of illumination in my summer reading pile, in a book about one man’s solo canoe adventure down the Mississippi River. The beautifully written work, Nick Lichter’s The Road of Souls, Reflections on the Mississippi, also describes many of the places long considered sacred or otherwise important by our indigenous people.

 

One of these places is Rock Island, Illinois (specifically, the area known as Rock Island Arsenal across the river from Bettendorf, Iowa). Lichter cites the translated autobiography Life of Black Hawk to explain that this island was once considered a hunting, fishing and horticultural paradise by Blackhawk’s people, the Sac or Sauk. I’ll quote just the last half of Chief Blackhawk’s own statement from  Lichter’s book:

 

“In my early life, I spent many happy days on this island. A good spirit had care of it, who lived in a cave in the rocks immediately under the place where the fort now stands, and has often been seen by our people. He was white, with large wings like a swan’s, but ten times larger. We were particular not to make much noise in that part of the island which he inhabited, for fear of disturbing him. But the noise of the fort has driven him away, and no doubt a bad spirit has taken his place!”

 

Lichter adds, “The swan’s cave was long ago dynamited out of existence.”

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(Image shared from http://cdn26.us1.fansshare.com/photo/mississippiriver/shannon-mississippi-river-watershed-wikimedia-commons-delta-333095664.jpg)

Might the big birds seen up and down the Mississippi since Chief Blackhawk’s day be embodiments of that wandering spirit bird? Blackhawk doesn’t directly call the spirit bird a swan; he merely says it is white, has wings like a swan and is ten times its size. That’s very reminiscent of what Bolduan described. And Webb Lake, where it appeared, is only about five or six miles from the Mississippi in Burnett County, Wisconsin. Moreover, the other encounter I mentioned on the bridge in central Wisconsin was near Black River Falls, a tributary of the Mississippi.

 

This is just my own fanciful thought, but maybe that great, spirit bird is still winging over the Mississippi, setting down now and again as it searches for another place of peace– another earthly paradise to watch over. I believe it’s as good an explanation of these huge creatures as any.

My final thought is a question inspired by Blackhawk’s words when he suggested a “bad spirit” might have taken the great bird’s place… I can’t help but wonder what shape that bad spirit might have taken…

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New cover by Nathan D. Godfrey

New cover by Nathan D. Godfrey

Werewolf doodle; individual drawings will vary

Werewolf doodle; individual drawings will vary

“The original account of the 1992 bombshell news story that revealed reports of werewolf-like creatures in southeast Wisconsin –The small town of Elkhorn, Wisconsin made national headlines in the early 1990s with reports of a strange, hairy, wolf-headed creature that walked upright and seemed unafraid of man as it stalked the cornfields just outside of town. Journalist Linda Godfrey dubbed the canid sensation “The Beast of Bray Road” after the location of the first reported sightings. Two decades and hundreds of nationwide sightings of similar creatures later, no one has ever proven whether the beast is a flesh-and-blood canine or will-o-the-wisp, demon dog, or a magical werewolf. But the author provides plenty to chew on, with sightings of related creatures, Native American connections, historic lore and a keen-eyed look at possible explanations.”

So many people have asked me for a new print edition of the Beast of Bray Road ever since the former publisher popped a silver bullet in it, that I finally decided it was time for the creature’s return. I’m so glad and excited to announce that the Beast is now indeed back! In concert with Dystel & Goderich Literary Management and Amazon, here is the link! The interior includes the entire contents of the first book–photos, art and all. The cover, however, is brand-spankin’ new, and was created by my son, Nate, an artist who has contributed his work to some of my books and also History Channel’s Monsterquest for the American Werewolf episode.

To celebrate, I have a special FREE offer for those who would like my autograph with the book; until December 25, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to me and I’ll send a hand-autographed sticker decorated with an originally drawn “werewolf doodle” that can be applied to your book’s inside front page. One sticker per envelope, and please specify if you wish it inscribed to anyone or would like a special (tasteful only) phrase included. Mail to me at Linda Godfrey, PO Box 702, Elkhorn WI 53121. Offer starts immediately! (You can also mail the whole book with return postage and suitable envelope.)

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http://www.whatitmeanstobeamerican.org/places/wisconsin-monster-capital-of-america/#.VMJ0aTpONX4.twitter

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LouisProudCoverMost people who explore unknown phenomena also often spend just as much time looking for mundane explanations of the cryptids, UFOs and the other curious things they study. This is a mandatory exercise in any honest investigation; sometimes the raft of eerie lights in the night sky is really a flotilla of Chinese lanterns, or the big shaggy thing behind the tree turns out to be a common black bear. If so, it’s good to know.

Sometimes, however, “natural” solutions may involve things that require their own explanations — various types of energy fields, for instance. It’s easy for non-scientists like myself to bandy about terms like electromagnetic fields or microwave radiation without necessarily having a firm grasp on what these things actually are. Such ignorance can be not only embarrassing but detrimental to whatever theory a researcher may be trying to work out.

That’s why I was so delighted to discover the excellent resource, Strange Electromagnetic Dimensions; The Science of the Unexplainable by Louis Proud. Proud puts the whole panorama of electrically-related energies into unique, relatable perspective with easy-to-understand discussions of what they are and eye-opening accounts of how they affect the world around us, our bodies, and even our sensory (and perhaps extrasensory) perceptions. Who knew that electromagnetic fields can produce stress responses that lower our immune systems, or that people can actually become allergic to electricity?

Wikimedia Commons fair use

In addition, Proud includes many case studies that imply possible connections between electrical sources and phenomena such as poltergeist activity, psychokinesis, and people who attract lightning or whose presence “breaks” streetlights and other electric devices. In this light, he even touches upon the idea of the human brain as ultimate quantum computer. That’s heady (pun intended–sorry) stuff.

Readers don’t need to be paranormal investigators in order to find Proud’s book truly sobering. Anyone who lives and works in electrified buildings–almost everyone in the industrialized world–may want to think about just how many artificially generated EM fields surround modern humans every minute of the day and night. I admit that I have now stopped carrying my cell phone around with me as much as I used to, and that I am much better about taking breaks from my computer. The lights, TV, oven, microwave, furnace fans, bedside clocks and the jillion other electric devices that bathe us 24/7 are much harder to deal with. Maybe the electric-power-eschewing Amish people really do have it right!

Wisconsin Amish children playing non-electric game at non-electrified school - photo by Linda Godfrey all rights reserved.

Wisconsin Amish children playing non-electric game at non-electrified school – photo by Linda Godfrey all rights reserved.

As for links between these fields and UFOs, cryptids and the like, Proud leaves researchers to assemble their own connections, but provides plenty of basic circuitry for the task. I’ll be reading it a second time with my own batteries, switches and ground wires ready. Highly recommended!

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2014-12-09 GJpaperback 006It’s been some time coming, but due to popular demand there’s now a print edition of my fantasy novel God Johnson; the Unforgiven Diary as well as the original e-book. It’s ready for order on Amazon.com right now and will also be available from other vendors as soon as all the magical processes by which that happens have fallen into place.

And yep, I’m still working hard on the sequel!

I should add that it has little to do with my non-fiction roster, and there are NO WEREWOLVES involved. Sphinxes, yes, and a few other creatures (see disclaimer below).

Not that I’m neglecting the non-fiction. My next book for Tarcher is underway, and I’m currently looking into some fascinating reports included a red-eyed wolfman seen in Germany and a New Hampshire dogman. Happy holidays to all!

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This Mania.com review of American Monsters by Chuck Francisco will forever live in my heart for comparing my work to an “X-Files Survival Guide,” complete with a reference to Fox Mulder and his ever handy monstersskwerlz 002flashlight. And I love Francisco’s observation that “October brings about a collective lowering of our cultural inhibitions.” (Thus allowing even usually inhibited folks to pick up a book about monsters.) I don’t usually post my reviews here, but this one was so stylish and fun that I couldn’t resist. Here’s hoping we’ll gather a few more readers into our fold of those who, like Mulder and Scully, follow the unknown all year round.

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