27.12.15

FROM A TO ZIZ

George M Eberhart. Mysterious Creatures: A Guide to Cryptozoology Vol 1, A-M. CFZ Press, 2013; Vol. 2, N-Z CFZ Press, 2015.

Nick Redfern. The Bigfoot Book: The Encyclopedia of Sasquatch, Yeti and Cryptid Primates. Visible Ink, 2016 (sic i.e. 2015)

Producing an encyclopedia on any Fortean topic, where there is no consensus as to even the reality of the subject matter is often a fraught topic, and for any there are the questions of what level of readership you are aiming at. These two books have very different approaches.

George Eberhart’s two volume study is a reprint of a very expensive hardback original published back in 2001 by ABC-CLIO. It has now been made available in an affordable, soft back form by Jonathan Downes’ Centre for Fortean Zoology. There can be doubt that this is the most authoritative reference book on the subject, compiled by a reference librarian of many years’ experience. After a couple of introductory essays explaining how the book works and basic background to cryptozoology, Eberhart provides a A-Z listing of just about every imaginable, and quite a few unimaginable, crypto-creature known to or speculated upon by zoology and quite few from folklore, from the Abnauaya (a Wildman of West Asia ) to Ziz (a mythical bird from the Middle East)

For each entry, where possible, he provides the etymology of the local or popular name, the given or proposed scientific name, variant names, physical description, behaviour, tracks or suggested tracks, habitat, distribution, a few examples of sightings, present status, proposed explanations and sources. Of course by no means all entries have the full list.

The Ziz, flying above a Behemoth and Leviathan
Volume Two concludes with lists by class of creatures newly discovered between 1900 and 1999 (some of which are sadly now extinct) and a list by continent and country, of various alleged lake monsters.

This is clearly a serious reference book and now it is available at a reasonable price, it should certainly be bought by anyone who is or wants to be, a crypto-zoologist, and if you are lucky to still have a working local reference library, this is the one Fortean book you should try and persuade them to purchase.

Of course this is not a book for reading straight through or for an entertaining night's read. Nick Redfern’s book falls more into that pattern.

Mysterious humanoids of various kinds are one of the largest block of cryptids in Eberhart’s encyclopedia, and they are the topic of Nick Redfern’s book. This is not an authoritative or ‘serious’ reference book like Eberhart’s, and its scope is rather different. Redfern does not approach his subject from the point of view of zoology, but rather from folklore and popular culture. There are a number of entries for bigfoot related films and novels for example, and the stories often have more the feel of the folklorist and the story teller.

One unusual feature which separates this book from its fellows is the space given to tales of ‘hairy humanoids’ from the British Isles. Needless to say such stories cannot be taken as actual encounters with paws and pelts animals, similarly nor can accounts of such creatures being seen in fairly built up areas of the United States (even in one case New York City’s Central Park). I suspect that hard-core “paws and pelts” cryptozoologists will not like this book, it is not scientific, but like all of Nick Redfern’s books, it is a damn good scary read. -- Peter Rogerson.


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