British Isles boast a diversity of mystery beasts: alien big cats and
loch monsters; bat-winged monkey birds and grave-desecrating earth
hounds; mermaids and sea serpents; dragons and flying snakes;
cockatrices and human-headed horse-men; Black Dogs and wulvers; master
otters and horse-eels; and even the (very) odd Skye-inhabiting unicorn.
only a few of these, most notably Nessie, the dragons, and the Alien
Big Cats (ABCs), have ever attracted any sizeable treatment in books.
The rest have been allocated a few paragraphs here and there – until
now, that is.
The CFZ Press, publishing arm of the Centre for
Fortean Zoology, has launched a monumental, multi-volume series entitled
‘Mystery Animals of the British Isles’, in which the cryptids and
zooforms of each major county or region of Great Britain will receive
comprehensive coverage by a writer from that area (and therefore
presumably familiar with its local crypto-fauna). There is also a volume
documenting the monsters and mystery beasts of Ireland. Judging from
the quality of the first three volumes, the series looks set to become
the standard work on British mystery beasts.
CFZ Press founder
Jon Downes has stated that he didn’t intend to impose a uniform style
or format. Instead, he has actively encouraged the authors to approach
their subjects in their own individual manner, and this is clearly
reflected in these first three tomes.
But enough about the
aims and intentions, what about the most important aspect for potential
readers – the content? Well, these initial volumes don’t disappoint,
providing sufficient variety and enough surprises to entertain newcomers
to the field and seasoned cryptozoologists alike.
The Mystery Animals of the British Isles - Northumberland and Tyneside
Mike Hallowell’s guide to the mystery animals of Northumberland and
Tyneside, we are introduced to the ghost birds of Jesmond Dene, the
beast of Bolam Lake, gast adders and mouse shrews, witch hares and
vampire rabbits, a monster lobster and a wandering Willie (titter ye
not!), the dreaded Laidley Worm of Spindleston Hough, Black Dogs and
Hell Hounds, the shony, and much else besides.
so many previously obscure examples of unnatural history, Hallowell has
done himself, and indeed the entire crypto-community, proud, producing a
book that is both unique and thoroughly fascinating.
The Mystery Animals of the British Isles - Kent
to Neil Arnold’s guide to the mystery animals of Kent we are regaled
with an exhaustive selection of ABCs (at over 200 pages, this section
could have stood alone as a book in its own right), as well as
out-of-place wolves and wild boar, bizarre humanoid entities, water
monsters, and some Unnameables straight out of the pages of HP
At almost 400 pages and packed from cover to cover
with memorable facts, eyewitness interviews, timelines and much more,
this hefty book is a glowing testament to the conscientious researches
of Kent’s leading cryptozoological investigator.
The Mystery Animals of the British Isles - The Western Isles
to the Western Isles, aka the Outer Hebrides, with Glen Vaudrey, and we
encounter water horses, færy cows and dogs, mystery whales, monsters of
the marine and freshwater varieties, dangerous mice and diabolical
parasitic worms, dragons, mer-folk, and even, with their species
depicted very attractively on the front cover, a couple of putative
post-extinction great auks. Vaudrey has also provided a very handy
glossary, plus an illustrated spotter’s guide to the varied
crypto-critters that are presented here.
books have eagerly grasped the opportunity to publicise their areas’
lesser-known cryptids and other zoological curios in addition to their
more famous counterparts, and the result is a treasure trove of legend,
lore, and contemporary reports (supplemented throughout each volume by
relevant illustrations and maps), many of which have never before
appeared in the cryptozoological or fortean literature.
book also has a concise bibliography, although a major criticism of the
Hallowell and Arnold volumes is that neither has an index. This is an
inexplicable oversight, especially given how useful it would have been
in substantial books that cover unfamiliar subjects in a good deal of
detail. Here and there, I’ve also spotted a dubious fact or a glaring
typo that more rigorous editing might have caught, but bearing in mind
the scale of this unfolding mega-project, these are surprisingly few and
largely insignificant. Certainly they should not detract from the very
considerable value of these books and also, undoubtedly, their many
successors in this remarkable series. If you’re even remotely interested
in cryptozoology it might be time to invest in an extra bookcase,
because you’re likely to need one!