Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year! 2016

Wishing everyone a very happy new year with best wishes for an amazing 2016!!!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Pennsylvania Wolf Child

There's a wealth of werewolf folklore in Pennsylvania, much of it obviously influenced by the large number of European settlers that populated the region during the early colonial days.  German and Dutch influence was very heavy and long standing traditions from the old world became firmly planted in the new.  Has a result, early documents and reports often make note of strange encounters and occurrences that relate to magic and strange creatures.  Some believed that a person could be born cursed or destined to become wild.

Here's an interesting piece relating to werewolves and the birth of an unusual child that apparently turned feral.  According to an old folklore journal:

"In the Lingle Valley, between Centre and Mifflin Counties, in the log cabin where Edgar Allan Poe is said to have spent a night on his hunt for a legacy in the Poe Valley, in 1838, a boy child was born who developed long hairs between his fingers and on the sides of his feet.  "He will do no good; he will become a garol," said his great-grandmother.  When he was eight years old he began running away, becoming restless on nights when the wolves were out.  He was usually found near the wolves' hairy beds, but one time he could not be located.  Quietly all of the family uttered a silent prayer at his complete disappearance."

In modern times, science has discovered a genetic mutation, the so called "werewolf syndrome," that explains excessive hair growth on the body.  Such a mutation is extremely rare however with only a 100 cases being documented worldwide.

Of note in the above report is that the family does not report the child growing hair all over the body, only long hair on his fingers and feet.  Additionally, any medical condition would not explain his propensity to keep running away and hiding with wolves.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Hex Signs Vs. Werewolves

Hex signs are a Pennsylvania Dutch tradition.  They have been found on barns and in homes in the region since at least the 1850s.  There is some controversy about them as some scholars insist the signs are purely artistic.  Hex signs did indeed become a popular folk art tourist item in the 1940s and since then, they can be found for sale at craft stores and shops around the state.

However, a lot of interesting bits of information can be found in traditional folklore indicating an older magical, or superstitious tradition connected to the use of the signs.  Many families have record of specific designs being used for defined purposes such as warding off evil.  Author Lee Gandee describes Hex signs as "painted prayers."  Indications are that the designs themselves originated with Alpine Germans.

Here's an interesting record of hex signs being used in an attempt to ward off werewolves in Pennsylvania's logging region.  No date is given on this report, but indications are that it is pre-civil war.  The account was published in an issue of Keystone folklore.

"The wolfish creatures which infested Elk Creek Gap in Centre County, between Throne's Farm in Brush Valley and Millheim, were probably werewolves.  There was twenty-four-hour hauling of lumber through the gap, and at night what seemed to be gigantic dogs or wolves came off Hundsrick Mountain and got on the loaded sledges; they were of such weight that they bogged down the horses, making hauling an almost impossible task.  Others put their front paws on the backs of the sleds, holding them down as if they were made of iron, and making the horses balk after their frantic efforts under the drives' cruel sjamboks or blacksnake whips.  Once they got out of the hollow gap, the runners slid over the icy surfaces, but the horses were always badly spent.  Hechs (or hex) signs were chalked on the gears and six-inch breechings but had little or no effect, and gradually the hauling to sawmills at the Blue Rock and L & T R.R. at Coburn slowed down at sundown.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas!

Wishing everyone a wonderful, joyous Christmas filled with love and blessings!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Befana, Italy's Christmas Witch

While much of the world waits for jolly St. Nick to come down the chimney on Christmas, bearing gifts and filling stockings, in Italy, a very different figure comes around for the holidays--a witch.

Known as "Befana," the witch has long been a part of Italian folklore and tradition.  She is portrayed as an old woman riding a broom.  Like Santa Claus, Befana enters homes through the chimney causing the shawl that she wears to stay covered in soot.  Also like St. Nick, she carries around a bag filled with toys, candy and gifts to distribute to well behaved children.  Misbehaved children receive coal or sticks.

There are some differences between Claus and the witch though.  Befana arrives on the eve of the feast of Epiphany (January 6th), and many believe that her name is actually derived from the Feast itself. 
Befana is also said to sweep the room clean when she visits, a symbolic gesture to clear all the problems of the previous year.

Most of the legends of Befana connect her in some way to the Biblical magi and their trek to find the Christ child.  In some versions, the old witch offers the travelers shelter for the night.  In other versions, they simply show up at her door seeking the child.  Ultimately, the tales all seem to link her somehow to the birth of Jesus with the result being that she ends up caring for all children and the goodness they have within.

A national festival of Befana is held in Urbania each year and hundreds of women dress up as Befana to mingle among the crowds.  Each year, children around Italy write letters to the witch to ask for special gifts and the post office in Urbania even has a mailbox reserved for her.

In Rome, it's believed that Befana will show herself in a window of Piazza Navona on January 6th at midnight, but outside of the brief look she allows in the Piazza window, it's not wise to try to catch a glimpse of Befana without permission.  If you do, she'll give you a good whack with her broomstick as she doesn't like to be seen going about her business.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Goblins of Christmas

We're all familiar with Santa's helpful elves, toiling away at the north pole making toys in preparation for Christmas.

But in Serbia, there's another small creature that makes itself known during the holiday season and this one isn't so helpful or jolly.

They're called Karakondzula, or Karapandza.  Said to be hideous in appearance, they are described as heavy, squat  little creatures.

In Serbian tradition, the Twelve Days of Christmas are known as the "unbaptized days" and were believed to be a time when various demonic and troublesome creatures roamed freely on the earth.  People took precautions to avoid attracting the attention of any of these bothersome spirits.  Night time was believed to be the most risky period, and people avoided going out after dark for fear of what they would encounter. 

Legend says that the Karakondzula would lie in wait, hoping to catch someone unawares, traveling after dark during one of the twelve unbaptized days.  When the opportunity arose, the creature would spring onto the person's back and begin to torment them.  Forcing the poor victim to cart them around to and fro, giving them no rest all through the night.  Only at dawn, when the roosters began to announce the new day, would the little creature leave the victim's back and run away, off to hide until another night.

These little goblins aren't regulated to Serbian folklore either.  Versions of the creatures can be found in tales from Greece, Turkey, Bulgaria and Bosnia. 
Are they merely the stuff of imagination or are they the memories of something that once existed and have long since faded away?

Art from Banished Demons Book Illustrations Aeron Alfrey

Monday, December 21, 2015

Krampus Graphic Novel Reviewed

By now, everyone knows that the Krampus movie hit the big screens in early December, but this month also brought a graphic novel that expands the mythology and backstory of this intriguing figure.  As we hear in the intro:

"It also turns out Christmas' main mascot was hiding something.  Santa Claus had a shadow, a mischievous counterpart who was mostly forgotten over the centuries but has slowly resurfaced..."

Presented by Michael Dougherty, the man behind the Krampus film, the book features a number of writers and artist well known for their work in comics.  Four separate stories are featured which all tie in nicely by the end.  A drunken Santa, a cop searching for her sister's killer and a rich, heartless man clearly inspired by Scrooge all get to confront the devil of Christmas.  Without giving anything away, I'll say the lessons come through to each character quite well and the wrap up is nice.

The creepy tones of the stories utilize a lot of familiar Christmas imagery and all in all the book helps reveal another aspect to the Krampus legend.  Has Dougherty states:

"Bringing Krampus to the big screen was always the main goal, but in order to introduce him to as many people as possible, my cohorts and I knew we needed to build a nest for him in comic books as well.  His mythology and history was too big and too rich to be contained to one movie, and after centuries of waiting in the shadows, it only made sense to give the Christmas Devil his due."

Friday, December 18, 2015

The Jersey Devil in Maryland

Most people are familiar with the legend of the Jersey Devil and the creature's connection to the spooky Pine Barrens of New Jersey, but did the infamous beast make its way to Maryland?  Folklore gathered in the late 1940s suggest that people in the old line state believed this to be the case.

From the book "White Magic: An Introduction to the Folklore of Christian Legend, by Grant C. Loomis, we find these two excerpts concerning the legendary beast:

"Back when I was a boy there was a big story goin' around the country here about this Jersey Devil that had all the young people scared, 'cause some of the old people told about it.  I know us kids would go up in the woods to play until somebody say somethin' about the Jersey Devil and everybody would light out and run home.  They're quite a few people over the country here that got scared by it.  This Jersey Devil would swoop down and scare you.  They said it came out of the Jersey (New Jersey) marshes, got over in Maryland here and was travelin' through these marshes."

"The devil used to fly around here on wings and everybody seen him then.  Everybody says they seen him.  Old man Tom Harris seen it.  I never seen him but they say one mornin' they seen him down Church Creek, there to the bridge, and seen him settin' - said he was settin' on it.  A flyin' devil - he had people all worried up about it.  Some of them wouldn't go outdoors at night.  The way they spoke it out to me was he had wings just like one of them wingbats.  That kind of build on him only he was bigger than that.  I ain't kidding ya'.  Everybody with any age on them remembers that."

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Faceless Entity Encounter

Yesterday, I wrote about some old lore related to the Tall Man and his connection to the Internet creation Slenderman. 
Slenderman shares elements with other weird entities that people have encountered over the years and yesterday's tall man piece showed some of those connections. 
After reading that post, researcher Albert S. Rosales shared an account with me that has other, striking similarities with the creepy Internet figure.  Here, in an encounter from 1981, we find a tall, faceless figure in black:

Location: Pozohondo, Albacete, Spain

Date: January 30, 1981

A mother and her son were cruising at moderate speed on a road outside of town when the driver (the son) noticed what appeared to be a huge shadow standing on the side of the road.  They commented how careless the tall figure in black was for standing so close to the road.

As they approached the figure, they noticed that it was standing totally still.  The driver flashed his lights at the figure, hoping it would move, but it remained there. 

The driver slowed the vehicle and had to perform an abrupt turn in order to avoid hitting the figure.  At this point, they could see that the humanoid was at least 2-meters in height (6.5 feet), beige in color, they could not see any feet or hands.  Its head was deformed and completely lacking any features or "faceless." 

As they drove by the creature, it moved three steps in a strange sliding fashion.  The driver accelerated the vehicle and did not stop until they reached the town.  That same day, a local police officer saw a large orange light descend near the same road. 

Source: Iker Jimenez, Historia de Los Ovni en Espana

Of course, one of the unsettling aspects of Slenderman tales is that the figure has no distinguishable facial features. 
Various paranormal accounts through the ages sometime mention faceless entities and such accounts have been attributed to everything from ghosts to aliens.  Whatever the origin, the idea of a human-like figure without a normal face certainly adds a disturbing element to any supernatural encounter.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Tall Man, Slenderman

While the slenderman is a modern creation born on the Internet, the creepy figure clearly has deep roots in various supernatural legends.  While some consider him a completely modern manifestation, a bit of research points to the figure of slenderman being a reinterpretation of a much older boogey man and/or a conglomeration of various elements from older tales.

One of these elements relates to stories of a figure often called the "tall man."  This figure can be found with some variation in several cultural tales.

Folklorist Ernest Warren Baughman did a comprehensive study of tales from both North America and England and collected a vast amount of information.  In his book, "A Comparative Study of Folktales of England and North America," we find this curious item relating to a "tall man."

"The older people would say they would see men about ten foot tall, in a black suit walking through the lane.  A number of people have told me that.  I never saw it because I was - I never believed in ghosts."

When asked where these incidents were occurring, the gentlemen replied: 

"In Church Lane.  In Quaker Neck. 
But this relates back - you can go into Melitota or Georgetown - everybody in that time has a similar story - They've seen these men or man walking, shoes cracking, like you got a new pair of shoes on you can hear this but - and this thing would disappear - I mean - But I actually never saw it.  I don't know what relationship it had to anything else."

The somewhat broken style of the account is due to the fact that the accounts were transcribed from interviews and were not edited, but rather, printed exactly as they were related.
Baughman's book was published in 1954, so the tales were all collected prior to that.  This particular piece came from the oral folk traditions of Kent County, Maryland.

Certain elements from the above account are certainly slenderman-like.  The tallness of the figure and the fact that it wears a black suit are the most clear connections.

In 2012, a movie titled "The Tall Man," starring Jessica Biel was released and instantly correlations were drawn to slenderman. 
Its clear that the disturbing figure of the slenderman, in his various forms, is going to continue to exert his influence in modern times.

Also see:

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Christmas A Ghostly Gathering Reviewed

Yeah, it's that time of year.  Every loudspeaker in every shop is blaring Christmas music in an attempt to get people in the holiday mood and happy enough to part with more of their hard earned cash.  And unfortunately, many of those tunes amount to endless renditions of Rudolph and Here Comes Santa Claus performed by the latest fabricated teen "sensations."
Now, I don't know about you, but I find that about as appealing as the old fruitcake that grandmothers try to dish out each year.

Fortunately, if you do like Christmas music, there's a new offering this year that harkens back to traditional music and the creepy side of the season.  Yes, that's right, I said the creepy side.

In the flurry of modern consumerism, people often forget that there are many supernatural tales and customs associated with the Christmas season.  From the ghosts of Charles Dickens' classic Christmas Carol to the weird traditions of Krampus, the yule season has many mysterious elements.

Enter Midnight Syndicate.  The Syndicate is Edward Douglas and Gavin Goszka.  Together, they've created numerous albums with defined themes that invoke spooky images, from carnivals, to graveyards and haunted castles, the duo has built music around a range of different environments.

Now, these masters of Halloween and Gothic music, have turned their attention to Christmas with their newest release, "Christmas A Ghostly Gathering."

The album is a perfect mix of original material from the band, blended with their own take on such classics as God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman and Angels We Have Heard On High.  A wide range of instruments is employed from the harp to the organ and even a choir.

Midnight Syndicate is known for music that creates an atmospheric effect, and they've certainly succeeded here. 
This passage from the cd's liner notes helps you imagine the tone set by the music:

"As fierce winter winds cut across the frozen landscape, a welcoming golden glow beckons from the windows of a venerable country mansion. Decorated in the festive trappings of Yule, its stately walls seem to offer a much-needed respite for the weary traveler. But the holiday spirits are restless and eager for company this night, as the haunting strains of melodies old and new call forth from the shadows."

Of the 16 tracks, 5 are original while the remaining are classic pieces with a twist.  I especially enjoyed the original pieces, Night of the Krampus and Christmas at Midnight.  But really, the entire album is spectacular.  I'm a bit biased I suppose, I've long been fans of these guys and own all their CDs, but really, if you want something unique for your Christmas playlist, give this one a shot.

Christmas A Ghostly Gathering, along with the group's previous albums, is available at:

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Keystone Werewolves

Daniel Kerstetter (1818-1898) was a legendary outdoorsman in the 1800s.  He was born in Pennsylvania in the gorge at Blue Rock and became known as one of the most famous hunters in the Seven Mountains.  Renowned for his ability to track and take down panthers, bears and other wild animals that settlers felt threatened by in the wild days of America.

Some of his exploits were chronicled in the book "Penn's Grandest Cavern," and there's an interesting piece of lore involving shapeshifters that came from the hunter.  Kerstetter told Jacob Pontius that he had been instructed by old people in the region on how to deal with were-creatures that roamed the country:

"If too closely pressed by a garol at night, to draw a schlor (dagger) or the sharp end of a cannepee (sword-cane), and prick the monster, preferably between the eyes, or on the ears or any other place where the blood would come quickly.  It would fade back into human shape; were it in the form of wolf, big dog, bear, or oversized fox, it lost its power to pursue or do harm as soon as blood came.  He had heard of many whose lives were spared by this timely counter-attack."

Early Pennsylvania was full of European immigrants and the Seven Mountains region had many German settlers.  The family name Kerstetter is also German in origin, but of course, native American tribes in the region also had legends and lore that would typically get blended in with imported ideas.

The report is especially interesting since it mentions not only werewolves but other shape shifting creatures as well.  Obviously these early settlers talked about not just werewolves but dogmen like beings as well as potential bear or fox shapeshifters. 

In her book, Hunting the American Werewolf, Linda Godfrey devotes a whole chapter titled, "The Pennsylvania Pack"  to shape shifting creatures in the keystone state.  Has she notes, it would be easy to write an entire book on the topic of such encounters in PA.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Realities of Cloning

Think cloning is far flung science fiction?  Think again. 

Recently a Chinese biotech executive stated:

"Clone technology is already around us.  It's just that not everyone knows about it."

"This is going to change our world and our lives."

Companies on the cutting edge of biotech are thriving in China, and they're making rapid advancements in cloning.  Already, products from cloned cattle and pork are on the market, and there's more coming, much more.

Read about it in my new article, "Playing God in China" in the latest issue of Politics, Prophecy & the Supernatural, available from L.A. Marzulli at:

Monday, December 7, 2015

Cryptid Christmas Gifts

It's December and the Christmas countdown has begun!  For those of you who aren't finished with your shopping, here are some choice items for the Cryptozoologist on your list.

Cryptid Culture
There aren't too many regular publications devoted to Cryptozoology, but a new one just debuted this fall.  Cryptid Culture focuses on all areas of the field from interviews to book and movie related news items.  The first issue shows a lot of promise and it's a perfect time to jump on board and show support.
Available at:

Bigfoot Beanie
To help weather the cold temps, try on one of Cliff Barackman's Bigfoot Beanies.  Made of fleece with a Sasquatch logo on the front, these are great hats and come in a couple of different colors.  One size fits all.  Well, human sized heads anyway.
Available from Mysterious Charms:

Crypto Coloring
Next up, the Unbelievable Cryptozoology Coloring Book.  Yep, there's actually a coloring book featuring Bigfoot, Yeti and a range of other cryptid creatures.  Fun for all ages, so release your inner child or pick one up for the young, budding cryptozoologist in your family.
Available at Amazon:

Cryptid Figures
Looking for something more unique?  Look no further than Creatureplica and the work of sculptor Jean St. Jean.  The first set of cryptid figures is on the way and these amazing pieces put anything you knew as a child to shame.  The first set is available for pre-order, but word is they'll be released before Christmas.  So far, there's a Yeti, Sasquatch, Hellhound and Rougarou with more to be announced soon.  Snag these while you can, I have a feeling they'll soon be hard to get.
Available at CreatureReplica:

International Cryptozoology Museum
For an even wider range of gift options, check out Loren Coleman's International Cryptozoology Museum.  Coleman is an icon in the field of Cryptozoology.  He has authored numerous books and created the only museum devoted entirely to the field.  Plans are now in motion to move the museum to a new building with expanded room and donations to the cause are always appreciated.  But if you're after a physical item to wrap up and put under the tree, you have to check out the museum's store with it's wide selection of books, foot casts, toys and other items.  You're sure to find something to suit everyone with an interest in cryptids.
Available online at:

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Eucharistic Miracle Questions

The Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City is investigating an event that some have labeled a miracle.

The incident occurred in late November at the Saint Xavier Church in Kearns, Utah.  During holy communion, a wafer, or "host," as it is known in the church, was returned to the priest overseeing the service.  The priest placed the host in a glass of water near the head of the church.  Usually, these wafers will dissolve within a few minutes.  This one however, did not.

In fact, three days later, the wafer had not only stayed intact, but appeared to be "bleeding."  Rumors of the "bleeding host" began to circulate causing the church to fill with people for the brief time that it was on display.

Catholic officials stepped in and Monsignor Colin F. Bircumshaw, Diocesan Administrator, quickly put together an ad hoc committee of people with various backgrounds to investigate the claims before things got too out of hand.  The church says that the findings of the committee will be presented to the public when the investigation is finished.

While many members of the church view the incident has a miracle, the church itself is refraining from comments until the investigation is complete.

A bleeding host may sound like something paranormal, but people shouldn't get too worked up yet.  There was a similar case in 2011 in Minnesota and analysis of that wafer proved that the so called bleeding was the result of a fungus on the host itself. 

Time will tell if this is another incident that can be explained by science, or if something stranger is going on at Saint Xavier.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Krampus is Here

Imagine being a child and having your elders tell you about a tall, dark creature with horns and a tail, ready to throw you in a sack and carry you off if you misbehaved.  While it sounds outrageous to many, it's a vital part of many Christmas traditions in much of Europe.

Until recent years, few people in the United States were familiar with Krampus, but this devilish figure is quickly becoming a part of pop culture and this year he even stars in his own "holiday" movie.

The origins of Krampus are pre-Christian and the traditions seem to come primarily from Alpine folklore.  Many scholars believe he originated with Germanic pagan traditions so there is some disagreement as to his true roots. 

Writing about the figure in 1958, Author Maurice Bruce states:

"There seems to be little doubt as to his true identity for, in no other form is the full regalia of the Horned God of the Witches so well preserved. The birch—apart from its phallic significance—may have a connection with the initiation rites of certain witch-covens; rites which entailed binding and scourging as a form of mock-death. The chains could have been introduced in a Christian attempt to 'bind the Devil' but again they could be a remnant of pagan initiation rites."

In some areas of Europe, Krampus and Saint Nicholas arrive together and he is sometimes portrayed as being in service to the Saint, a symbolic representation of the taming of wild, unchecked nature and behavior.  The figure of Krampus always appears with chains and, has Bruce states above, many believe this is a representation of the Christian binding of the devil.  Krampus is, after all, very much in the mold of what many believe the devil looks like with cloven feet and red or black skin.

Whatever his true origins, Krampus essentially became an anti-Santa.  In many regions, he arrives on his own on December 5th to punish and cart away any children who behaved poorly over the previous year.  He is usually depicted with a basket or bag slung over his shoulder, his way of carting off naughty children.  In some traditions, he shows up to present a bag of switches to the parents of unruly kids.  A reminder of his existence and a warning to the children to change their ways.

Numerous areas in Europe still have Krampus festivals.  Parades feature young men in Krampus costumes marching through the streets and there is even an annual "Krampus run" featuring people in costumes rushing through the streets.

No doubt, people in years past used portions of the Krampus myth as an iconic boogeyman to try to scare children into acting more proper.

Throughout the years, Krampus has been featured in European festivals, art and even Christmas cards.  Now, in 2015, aside from hitting the big screen, he can be found on t-shirts, posters, cards and endless other products.  Like it or not, this sinister Christmas figure is becoming firmly planted in the modern mind.


Friday, December 4, 2015

The Eurasian Lynx

While a lot of cryptozoology is focused on wild men, sea monsters and various bizarre creatures, a portion of it encompasses out of place animals.  A subset of that is big cat sightings of which there are thousands each year.  These reports are centered on large cats encountered in places where they are believed extinct or indeed, purportedly never existed at all.

In the UK, it's common opinion is that the lynx has long been extinct, yet year after year, there are sightings of the animals around the country.  Many of these accounts have been debunked as hoaxes or misidentifications, but there are a few of the 2,000 or so that are recorded every year that escape easy explanation.

Take this example from the October issue of BBC Wildlife Magazine:

"I'll never forget the early hours of a chilly October day in 2007, when I was driving home via some country lands on the outskirts of Nottingham.  A lynx ran straight out in front of our car and we only narrowly avoided hitting it.  We pulled over briefly in a state of shock to see the animal disappearing through a hedgerow and out of view into the fields. 
We have absolutely no doubt about what we saw.  Predictably some people believed us while most were more skeptical, but we knew we'd seen a lynx.  If predators like this are living successfully in the British countryside, how do they manage to remain so elusive?"
-Louise Crosbye of Lincolnshire

The Eurasian lynx disappeared from the UK roughly 1,300 years ago. However, the Lynx UK Trust believe they could be part of Britain's wildlife once again. They are carefully assessing reintroduction sites that would be suitable for the cats and the native wildlife, but also for local residents and livestock farmers.

Perhaps the animal is already there?

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Chupacabra Road Trip Reviewed

It's always a pleasure to get a new book from my friend Nick Redfern, and he's so prolific that the opportunity comes fairly often. 
I've had several titles from him on my desk but Nick's one of those writers who's work you don't want to put down so I usually wait until I have a block of time without interruption. 

I just polished off Chupacabra Road Trip: In Search of the Elusive Beast, and it was as good as I expected.

Nick has done extensive investigation into the legends of the Chupacabras, both in Puerto Rico and the United States.  Anyone at all familiar with these strange creatures will know that there are two distinct versions, one, the canine "blue dogs" found in Texas and other areas of the US, and the creepier, bipedal versions reported in Puerto Rico.

In 1995, Puerto Rico was overtaken with a mass hysteria due to a strange creature that appeared from the island's rainforests.  The wave of attacks led many people to believe that this was a new phenomena, but during his investigations on the island, Nick learned that this was far from the case.  Documented reports go back much farther and it's clear that something strange has been lurking in the wilds of Puerto Rico for quite a long time.  Here's one description given by a witness that Redfern interviewed:

"He was shocked to see a large creature, around four feet in length and tan in color...the animal walked on all fours, but when hit by the bright beam, it reared up onto its hind legs.  As it did so, the beast let out a menacing growl and a large row of spikes suddenly sprang erect down the length of its neck and back.  Worse still, the white eyes of the animal suddenly turned to a glowing red.  "Devilish" scarcely began to describe the fraught situation."

The book is chock full of such creepy accounts, along with a few harrowing situations that Nick found himself in during the course of his journey.  Quick tip: walking up to Puerto Rican cops and asking for the address of a drug lord is a dicey thing to do.

Along with the weird creature reports, there's an exploration into some of the wild theories that Redfern has been presented with to explain the Chupacabras.  I was particularly interested in the crazy tale involving Dugway Proving ground and mutated Thylacines.

When it comes to exploring the strange, the field is full of armchair researchers who come to their "expert" conclusions while sitting behind a computer.  Fortunately, Redfern isn't part of the keyboard brigade and it helps him stand out from the rest.  This comment in the conclusion of the book really says it all:

"What the Internet does not do and cannot do, however, is to provoke or provide the unique sense of wonder that comes from sitting across from a real living, breathing person who tells you of their face-to-face encounter with something terrifying, deadly and inhuman."

Wise and accurate words indeed.  Hands down, this is one of my favorite Nick Redfern books, and I urge you all to give it a read.

And Nick, next time you're hitting the Chupacabra trail, give me a ring, I'm game!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Ghost Ships of Japan

From the Flying Dutchman to the Mary Celeste, the world's oceans are rife with tales of ghostly ships manned by the phantoms of those who lost their life at sea.

It's unusual for tales of ghost ships to surface in the modern media, but that's exactly what's been occurring for the past two months has several vessels have been discovered on the shores of Japan.

The Japanese Coast Guard discovered the first boat in October, followed by a series of vessels in November.  Several were washed up on the shore while others were adrift off the coast in the Sea of Japan.

At least some of the boats contained partially skeletonized remains.  One boat carried six human skulls, in total, the remains of 20 bodies have been found so far.  Japanese officials have been working to unravel the mystery of the boats but there have been few clues to work with.

Most assume the vessels came from North Korea and the scant evidence seems to support the idea.  One of the boats had Korean lettering on its hull that translated to "Korean People's Army."  In another of the vessels, a small scrap of material looks like it came from a North Korean flag.

Japanese maritime expert Yoshihiko Yamada has stated that the boats bear a "striking resemblance" to vessels used by defectors attempting to escape the repressive regime of North Korea.  Other officials think the boats may be North Korean fishing boats that simply strayed off course.  If that's the case, it's odd that so many of them would surface in the same period.

Whatever the truth behind these modern ghost ships turns out to be, it's a story of the tragic loss of human life, and a reminder of the power, danger and mystery of the open sea.