Tag Archives: bigfoot

Review: Monsters of the Northwoods by Paul and Robert Bartholomew, et al.

Bigfoot may be best known for his appearances in the Pacific Northwest, but that hasn’t stopped reports of the creature from cropping up elsewhere around North America. In Monsters of the Northwoods, authors Paul and Robert Bartholomew, William Brann, and Bruce Hallenbeck make the case that Sasquatch may also be hiding out in the more remote corners of New England.

The text focuses on the states of New York and Vermont, first covering a variety of historical accounts, and leading up to a series of modern day creature encounters.

While the concept here is great, and there are a number of enjoyable items to discover, the execution is best described as uneven. For example, there are a few chapters dedicated directly to local monster sightings, but they’re interrupted by another chapter which attempts, rather unconvincingly, to correlate these events with unidentified flying objects. This diversion only serves to break up an otherwise logical geographical progression in the story telling.

Arguments over arrangement aside, the UFO material was simply not a good fit for the text. The authors were forced to fall back on non-Northeastern events just to make these paranormal connections. Here (and elsewhere) they don’t seem to have been able to decide what kind of book to write: one which discusses the macro issue of “Bigfoot the general mystery” or one which addresses, much more specifically, “Bigfoot in the Northeastern US.” As a result, they spend time on both and excel at neither. I would argue that the latter would be better executed by ignoring the philosophical arguments like “is Bigfoot connected with UFOs?” or even “what is Bigfoot?” (the focus of a later chapter). Leave these discussions to studies of the phenomenon as a whole, which can leverage the most compelling cases from anywhere in the world. You’re not going to be able to do justice to such sweeping issues using only material drawn from as narrow a segment of the globe as the Northwoods, and still make everything feel cohesive and well argued.

The sighting reports, while much more in line with the title theme, are also of hit or miss quality. Chapter two dedicates five or so pages to an incident which seems to be immediately debunked at its conclusion. The main character in this bit has, we’re told, “personally interviewed over fifty people claiming to have either seen or heard [the monster].” Why the authors opt to spend several pages investing in the debunked story, rather than relating any of these other, potentially more interesting and open-ended items is unclear.

While certain incidents (particularly ones directly involving the authors?) are covered in satisfying detail, others are glossed over in little more than a sentence or two. In one instance, at the close of the chapter on Vermont sightings, the authors attempt to draw a comparison between Sasquatch and a mystery feline creature, the “catamount”, also said to inhabit the Northeastern US. They seem to be trying for the argument that, just because something is not proven, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not real. Which is not inherently unreasonable: after all, many animals were myth before they were officially described and accepted by science. Yet in this instance, the catamount, like the Sasquatch, has never been accepted by science, seemingly mooting the entire point. They may as well have drawn a comparison with the Loch Ness monster. Ironically, the authors dedicate some three whole pages to a verbatim news article describing this random cryptid; more detail than is given to any Bigfoot-related clippings elsewhere.

Ultimately, despite the uneven quality and a lack of focus, Monsters of the Northwoods was not unenjoyable. For Sasquatch enthusiasts, it’s always exciting to see the mystery reach new territory. It should also hold particular interest for those who have a personal connection to the region, and who may never have thought to be on the lookout for monsters in their neck of the woods. Those who don’t fall into the above categories might be better served by starting elsewhere.

Rating: 3/5

Review: Tom Slick: True Life Encounters in Cryptozoology by Loren Coleman

Tom Slick was a Texas oilman who took an interest in anomalous creatures from a young age. He was fortunate enough to have the wealth necessary to sponsor expeditions around the globe, and today he is most well remembered in cryptozoology circles for his pursuit of the Himalayan Yeti, or Abominable Snowman. Tom Slick: True Life Encounters in Cryptozoology is a biography of Slick’s life, with a specific focus on his contributions to the early days of cryptozoology.

Loren Coleman is the author of numerous books in this field, and is currently the curator of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, ME. His credentials make him a logical candidate to produce this sort of biography, and it’s clear that a lot of time and effort went into researching the private and somewhat enigmatic individual that was Tom Slick. Having died suddenly and unexpectedly in a plane crash, Tom did not leave behind a formal record of his activities, making it necessary to piece together his story from family members, colleagues, and correspondence.

The text begins with a relatively straight biographical introduction to Tom Slick, addressing his parents, family atmosphere, and general upbringing. This serves as background as we progress toward the main event, which will constitute the remainder of the book: Tom’s contributions to cryptozoology. These early chapters, on up through Slick’s involvement in the Himalayan expeditions, are informative and satisfying, and really shed a great light on his character.

After covering the Yeti years, the content starts to get off track and begins to ramble. Chapter 10, supposedly on the Orang Pendek, somehow manages to discuss neither Tom Slick, nor the Orang Pendek in any real quantity. The following chapter (“Other Cryptozoological Side-Trips”) again makes only glancing mention of Slick, instead choosing to address a couple other cryptids at length. It felt as though Coleman couldn’t quite help himself in turning at least a few chapters of this otherwise-biography into another book of creature tales, justified only by making the vaguest of connections with Tom Slick in the process.

A few appendices follow the main body of the text, the first of which is purportedly an exploration of Tom Slick and potential connections the CIA. Why this would be in an appendix rather than a chapter is not immediately clear, as it is at least a full chapter in length. Sadly, the content is a mess of mostly random facts and coincidences, few of which seem to involve Slick at all. The conclusion seems to be that no, Slick probably wasn’t involved much in covert government operations, and if he was, the book fails completely at providing coherent evidence of the claim. In my opinion the entire section should have just been dropped for lack of relevance.

Finally, as a more material complaint, the editing in much of the text was horrible. It was really surprising to see a book by a seasoned author be released with so many blatant typographical errors. Simple words were misspelled, punctuation wandered, and names changed spelling from one sentence to the next. (I also found the parenthetical reference format less than ideal, but it’s better to be distractingly referenced than not referenced at all.)

It’s nice to see a book paying homage to Tom Slick’s personal, and largely private, quest for the unknown. His role in early cryptozoology deserves to be recognized and appreciated, and Loren Coleman’s research does justice to his ambitions. It’s just unfortunate that poor editing and a lack of focus manage to hinder the enjoyability of the final product.

Rating: 3/5

Review: Lizard Man: The True Story of the Bishopville Monster by Lyle Blackburn

In Lizard Man: The True Story of the Bishopville Monster, Lyle Blackburn takes us along on an investigation into a cryptid from the swamps of South Carolina.

Blackburn previously explored the Fouke Monster in his excellent book The Beast of Boggy Creek. The author’s style and approach remain much the same in Lizard Man. Choosing an (arguably somewhat obscure) monster of North American folklore, he personally travels to the site of the original events. There, he tracks down surviving witnesses for interviews, visits significant locations, and basically does whatever legwork can reasonably be done so many years after the fact.

The era of the Lizard Man was a somewhat brief one, becoming an overnight cultural phenomenon, but not providing the depth or longevity of reports one might expect from the more famous members of the cryptozoology club. That’s not to say that the matter was unworthy of investigation, and in my view the result was actually a gem of a story. It’s not a long book, but it’s more or less the size it needed to be to tell the tale of the Lizard Man, at least as far as it can be known today. And, as it turns out, the popular interpretation of the creature that had been presented by armchair researchers and the media was not necessarily accurate, even by monster-hunting standards.

[Warning: Spoilers]

The author does attempt to draw conclusions about the nature of the beast based on the available witness reports. In a later chapter he covers other instances of “lizard men” in cryptozoology and popular culture in an attempt to draw comparisons. Blackburn slow-walks us to a conclusion that is probably more or less obvious to the experienced reader well before he finally gets there: the Lizard Man moniker is a misnomer, and the creature reported by witnesses is not particularly lizard-like at all.

In fact, in what is for me the highlight of the entire effort, the most well regarded Bishopville Monster reports turn out to have almost identical traits to other incidents commonly interpreted as encounters with a Sasquatch. Despite the “lizard” interpretation plastered all over the media and the public imagination of the day, in reality, virtually every credible witness described classic Bigfoot characteristics. This is seemingly significant in that unlike Sasquatch encounters by people already intent on finding the creature, and therefore arguably prone to see one whether it exists or not, the Lizard Man witnesses should have seen a man-lizard, or nothing at all. A fascinating result, and one that more than justifies the effort Blackburn puts into his investigation.

[End Spoilers]

The author’s writing style is easy and personable, and aside from a few minor typographical errors, the book is a pleasure to read. It’s a must for monster hunters, and is almost certainly the most definitive work available today on the Lizard Man of Bishopville.

Rating: 5/5

Review: Man-Monkey by Nick Redfern

Certain parts of the world are famous for their large hairy hominids: there’s North America, of course, and the Himalayas for the Yeti. Even the isolated Australian continent has its own version of Bigfoot, the Yowie. And while Great Britain may not spring to mind as one of the more well known mystery ape haunts, author Nick Redfern suggests that we should not be so quick to dismiss the British Isles. In “Man-Monkey”, the author takes us on a trip to the European continent, as the tagline reads, “In Search of the British Bigfoot.”

On the positive side, much of the material in “Man-Monkey” is sourced from first hand interviews conducted by the author. The research was a side project of his spanning several years, and he was clearly motivated by a deep personal interest. He was able to visit many of the sighting locations in person, and the paperback text includes an insert of some black and white photographs to illustrate various people and places from the stories.

Unfortunately, for me, “Man-Monkey” never really managed to achieve critical mass. Unlike Bigfoot phenomena from other parts of the world, Redfern’s monsters always seem to avoid leaving behind any convincing physical traces. What we’re left with is a handful of the “momentary sighting of something” types of encounters that, while interesting, don’t really go the full mile in terms of overwhelming evidence. Moreover, the author plays it pretty loose with the variety of strange events to be considered, also bringing topics such as black dogs, ghosts, and shape shifters into the fray. Many of the incidents documented here lack an apparent consistency. The failure to maintain focus further dilutes what is already arguably somewhat sparse source material, and the end result is less of a “there’s a hairy humanoid running around in Britain” type of conclusion, and more of a “people in the British Isles sometimes see odd things.” There’s nothing necessarily wrong with this, but it’s all a bit more supernatural and haphazard than you might find in some other literature of the Sasquatch variety. There’s also an ever-present autobiographical element which only really serves to pad out the length, and adds little practical value.

My other gripe is a somewhat questionable editing of the final product. Every paragraph was doubly spaced for no apparent reason. Worse, the author seems to have lost control over his adverbs. This particular foible really became increasingly grating the longer I read. I have never seen the word “duly” inserted so often into a single text. (Though there were others overused as well – that one stuck with me.) I’m sure some readers would probably entirely ignore this, but for me, it detracted from the overall enjoyability.

Technical issues aside, at the end of it, “Man-Monkey” left me feeling fairly unconvinced. It wasn’t a terrible read by any means, but it played more like folklore than rigorous cryptozoology. This might be more of a winner for “locals” (or at least “regionals”) with a personal interest in the places involved.

* For other “regional” treatments of Bigfoot phenomena which I find compare more favorably, I recommend “The Yowie: In Search of Australia’s Bigfoot” by Tony Healy and Paul Cropper and “The Beast of Boggy Creek” by Lyle Blackburn.

Rating: 3/5

Review: The Yowie: In Search of Australia’s Bigfoot by Tony Healy

The Yowie: In Search of Australia’s Bigfoot by Tony Healy and Paul Cropper is an enjoyable and informative read that adds a new dimension to the mystery of giant, undiscovered, upright walking primates.

As the title implies, this book tracks the “Yowie,” an Australian cryptid supposedly resembling the famous North American Sasquatch. Healy and Cropper are researchers who have compiled a large collection of Yowie reports from a combination of first hand interviews and print media. The chapters work through a selection of their archives chronologically, covering creature reports from the early days of Australian settlement up to present day, also touching on sightings of the “littlefoot,” and concluding with a summary of the evidence and resulting theories.

The main text of the book is fun, interesting, and highly readable. Those familiar with the bigfoot phenomenon in other parts of world will be amazed by the close correlation with Yowie reports, which are often apparently completely isolated from North American influence. Many of the most in-depth and fascinating stories are covered, with lots of first-hand accounts, illustrations, and documents being included. I must commend the authors for remaining objective in their writing, and for avoiding any temptation to impress their personal opinions on the reader. In fact, in true scientific fashion, there are several occasions in the text where Cropper and Healy explicitly acknowledge cases whose seeming incongruence “poses a difficulty to investigators,” and yet they don’t shy away from presenting the breadth of the phenomenon… from the textbook cases to the downright unusual. A compendium of your old, rehashed, formulaic stories this isn’t.

Additionally, as an American, I’m only vaguely familiar with the Australian landscape and local customs. The authors do superbly to accommodate readers in my position, including everything from simple maps, to a glossary of abbreviations, and metric/imperial conversions in an attempt to make the text globally accessible. Healy and Cropper use geography to tie many reports together, making the included references invaluable.

My one complaint about this book is that the size is somewhat deceiving. As any Bigfoot reader will know, presenting a catalogue of reports is a perilous pursuit which often bogs down and becomes redundant and unenjoyable. The main text of The Yowie avoids this problem spectacularly, but the reader will come to realize that only 200 of the 320 pages of the book are actually the authored “chapters.” The remainder is simple appendices, the largest of which is a flat catalogue of a couple hundred sightings, most unedited, and many not longer than a couple sentences. Although the appendix does create an effect on the reader by evidencing the sheer number of reports available, it won’t offer most casual readers much entertainment.

Ultimately, I would rate The Yowie a “must read” for all Bigfoot enthusiasts. It opens the door to a new continent for Sasquatch researchers to explore, and although it does not provide any conclusions, it deepens and reinforces the mystery in new and fascinating ways.

Rating: 5/5

Review: Bigfoot Sasquatch: Evidence by Grover S. Krantz

Bigfoot Sasquatch: Evidence by Dr. Grover S. Krantz is an outstanding book on the sasquatch phenomenon that should be on every serious bigfoot hunter’s reading list.

One of the big problems with paranormal topics is that, as far as science is concerned, the issues in question simply aren’t real. Sadly, most books on paranormal phenomena really do little to alter this. In most cases, the author will simply recite strange stories told by everyday people and offer them up as evidence that the world still holds some mysteries. Such books usually make for entertaining reading, and people can choose to believe or not, but ultimately they have little impact because the science just isn’t there. This book is different.

The late Dr. Grover Krantz was in a rare position for an author on the paranormal: he was actually very qualified to study the phenomena at hand. As a professor of anthropology, Dr. Krantz was able to analyze data on the sasquatch with true scientific method. Few authors on the bigfoot phenomena are particularly qualified to use this approach, and fewer still are the academics who would risk their careers on such a controversial topic. As you might expect, Krantz himself faced considerable criticism from his peers for his continued pursuit of the sasquatch.

The book itself addresses historical evidence of the sasquatch from a variety of scientific angles. Dr. Krantz analyzes footprints and footprint casts first hand, and gives very in-depth explanations about the physical characteristics they display. He studies famous video evidence, and recreates the scenarios mathematically to examine both the authenticity of the film, as well as its coherence with other evidence. The theoretical sasquatch anatomy and locomotion are also defined and examined in great scientific detail, drawing from the various evidence collected. The book is peppered with many good photographs, illustrations, and diagrams, all used to support the topics being discussed. The majority of the content lies somewhere between a biology textbook and a CSI case reconstruction file. There is also an appendix which includes a few of Krantz’ prior scientific articles from earlier in his career, which are referenced in the text.

It is important to note that Dr. Krantz only works with evidence he can examine first hand. He does not give credence to hearsay or studies by other individuals, and this lends strongly to the credibility of his conclusions. He does, however, compare his results with those of fellow researchers, often to support his work. He also maintains a very calm, level-headed approach to a topic often plagued with exaggeration and assumption, and does well to distance himself from the “lunatic fringe” which often sullies paranormal studies.

The only caveat to Evidence is that this is some heavy, occasionally dry reading (which is not particularly surprising considering the scientific nature of the content). The usual dramatic reports of sasquatch sightings are replaced with in-depth anatomical and mathematical data. This book will certainly enrich the mind, and in my opinion has the power to create many new believers in the sasquatch phenomena, but it will not make for entertaining campfire tales. Folks with no prior experience in the sasquatch phenomena may want to start out with some lighter reading.

A truly serious and methodical take on an infamously slippery topic, Bigfoot Sasquatch: Evidence can only be considered a vital work on the sasquatch phenomena. I salute the late Dr. Krantz for both his scientific vision and his unwavering dedication to uncovering the truth in the face of adversity.

Rating: 5/5