Hello again Brothers and Sisters of the Psychotronic Video World! Now, I talk quite a bit about cryptozoological topics – cryptozoology being the study of hidden or mysterious animals such as Bigfoot, Chupacabras, etc. Heck, my last article was largely about some obscure cryptids – the word used to refer to entities studied by cryptozoology. Now, I’ve doing quite a bit of reading, lately (Uh-oh — Ed.) and a couple of these books I think are good fare for the Blood Sprayer audience.
Some of you might be familiar with Lyle Blackburn. He contributes to Rue Morgue magazine, his band Ghoultown has released several albums and their songs appear in the films BUTCHER BOYS, HALLOW’S END, and others. He’s also a cryptozoologist and has produced two exceedingly excellent books, each one focused on a specific local monster; his first book, The Beast of Boggy Creek: The True Story of the Fouke Monster, explores the sightings and folklore of the aggressive hairy hominid in the vicinity of Fouke, Arkansas (inspiration for the film THE LEGEND OF BOGGY CREEK), while his second book, Lizard Man: The True Story of the Bishopville Monster, explores sightings of a reptilian humanoid in South Carolina starting in 1988.
The True Story of the Fouke Monster strives to be precisely that – an exploration of Fouke and the Texarkana swamps around it, a look at the people of Fouke, and an examination of eyewitness reports of the Fouke Monster – a seven foot, red-brown-haired creature with red eyes like silver dollars and, strangely enough, three toes on each foot. Additionally, the book takes a long hard look at the production of the Charles Pierce’s 1972 docudrama film THE LEGEND OF BOGGY CREEK, filmed on location in Fouke and featuring many local inhabitants recounting their own experiences with the beast.
It’s a refreshing book in that Blackburn went to Fouke and spoke with people directly about their experiences with the Fouke Monster, rather than relying on second-hand accounts from earlier books on the subject of Sasquatch. I can tell you from experience, a lot of books on the paranormal, ufoology, cryptozoology just rehash prior books or, in the modern era, Wikipedia. Many don’t cite sources whatsoever, making it harder for serious scholars to trace stories back to their source, so I have to give Blackburn a HELL of a lot of credit for going straight to the source in his investigation of the Fouke Monster.
As an added bonus, the book is lavishly illustrated throughout with beautiful sketches detailing every major encounter Blackburn investigates or otherwise reports upon, as well as photographs of the region, most of them taken by Blackburn himself. The book is worth its cover price on the basis of the artwork alone, and to have that artwork in support of such an extensively-researched account makes it so much the better.
A year later (release date October 31, 2013), Blackburn premiered his second book, Lizard Man: The True Story of the Bishopville Monster. The events Blackburn relates from Bishopville began on a lonely night in 1988 when teenager Christopher Davis stopped to change a blown tire on his way home from work. Hearing a strange sound, Davis looked up to see a seven foot tall, green-brown humanoid with bulging red eyes and three-fingered hands. Leaping into his car, Davis tried to flee, but the creature allegedly not only caught up with the car, but was able to leap on top of it. This kicked off a spate of “Lizard Man” sightings and reports of damaged vehicles from property near Scape Ore Swamp, giving the creature one of its names, the Lizard Man of Scape Ore Swamp.
Everything good I had to say about Blackburn’s first book can be reiterated here. His efforts to get to the root of the stories, rather than simply reiterate what’s already been written, are admirable, and he uncovers accounts that would otherwise be lost to the vagaries of time. Lizard Man is as packed with artwork as The Beast of Boggy Creek, if not more so, including illustrations not just of the major Lizard Man sightings, but of local lore predating white settlers that may indicate Native American legends of lizard men and of similar creatures seen elsewhere in America.
If I had to pick a flaw in Lizard Man, it’s that it feels less tightly focused then its predecessor. In part this is due to the fact that the Lizard Man of Scape Ore Swamp has a shorter history then the Fouke Monster does. That’s unavoidable. But additionally, when Blackburn takes a literary side-trek to look at other amphibious reptilian humanoids such as the Loveland Frogs of Ohio and the Thetis Lake Monster, it feels less like an attempt to tie the Lizard Man into a larger context of reptilian humanoids in America, and more like filler.
Overall, in the context of cryptozoological literature, Lyle Blackburn’s books are among the absolute best I’ve seen in many years of reading these sorts of books. His research is impeccable, the artwork is fantastic, and the prose engaging and a pleasure to read. Blackburn brings Fouke and Bishopville to vivid life with his writing and gives the reader a sense of being there. While I think Blackburn is a bit more of a true believer than I am, he does make the effort to maintain a sense of journalistic objectivity through much of his writing, which I really appreciated. If you have to add just one book apiece on the subjects of Southern-fried Sasquatch and Reptilian Humanoids in the South Carolina swamps, I’d suggest they be Blackburn’s.