Sunday, 29 March 2009

Friday, 20 March 2009



From publisher Jonathan Downes (CFZ Press):

"After months of work, this remarkable book is finally available. It is the bulkiest book we have ever done, and with over 270,000 words the longest apart from 'Monster Hunter' and 'Dragons: More than a Myth?'

Neil is to be congratulated for such an extraordinary piece of writing. A large proportion of the book concerns big cats, but as Neil - despite his detractors - is one of the leading mystery cat researchers in the country, this is hardly surprising. However, what makes it so much better than yer run of the mill 'big cat' books which seem to be largely rehashed press cuttings, and in which the sentence "...err it was black, it had a long tail and looked like my Labrador,"seem to be repeated over and over again ad nauseam, this is the first-hand story of years of dedication and hands-on research.

The non-cat chapters are equally as interesting, covering a whole gamut of subjects from out-of-place animals to what Neil calls the 'nameless anomalies' which would not be out of place in an episode of 'The X-Files' from about ten years ago.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It's only £14.99 which is hardly extortionate in this day and age, and in the unlikely instance that you don't like it, it is so substantial that you can use it as a door stop, throw it at your dog, or wrap it in a pillow-case to make a handy cosh, and tootle on down to your nearest sub-post office. Well done mate."

Paperback: 420 pages; Publisher: Cfz (Mar 2009); Language English; ISBN-10: 1905723369ISBN-13: 978-1905723362; Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 15.6 x 2.2 cm

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

15 Questions with...Richard Freeman

Richard Freeman is a good friend of mine. Not only is he the Zoological Director of the Centre For Fortean Zoology, but he's a real cryptozoologist in every sense of the word. As well as being the author of DRAGONS: MORE THAN A MYTH ?, he has lead teams in search of bipedal ape-men, giant snakes, dragons, monster cat-fish and other strange creatures across the world.

Here is the honest, down to earth interview...prepare for weirdness, Doctor Who, hordes of monsters...and Japanese women!

1) When did you realise your fascination with monsters ? Is there aparticular childhood memory etc, that turned you on to such beasts ?

My fascination with monsters began with Dr Who in the 1970's the earliest memory i have is of a grotesque troll doll, possesed by the autons, jerking into life on the back seat of a car. This started my intrest in monsters. Of course like all kids i loved dinosaurs and dragons.I remember hearing the story of St George and the dragon as a boy and thinking 'this is rubbish, the dragon would kill him!' In adult life i learnt hat St George was actually a swindler, bigot and liar. He was born in Syria, then later lived in Libya. He never set foot in England and would have died of fright if he had seen a dragon. The dragon story was tacked on centuries after his death when the Catholic Church made him a saint.

2) Can you recall your first ever expedition in search of the unknown ?

When i was a student a mate and myself went hunting for a big cat in Keihley, Yorkshire. We laid scent trails with bloody meat in a sack dragged through the wood. Then we hung the sack about six feet off the ground and hid in the bushes. Nothing turned up.

3) You've gone in search of giant snakes, ape-men, monster cat-fish and dragons. What would be your dream expedition ?

There is so much i want to do. I'd really love to do Tasmania, Australia, and New Guinea and do a long, comprehensive search for the thylacine. I'd live to visit lake Tianchi in China where a dragon is supposed to lurk, i would also love to do a series of expeditions to Japan looking for the Japanese wolf, yamamaya, the mystery big cat of Irimoe Island, various lake monsters and tsuchinoko, the weird doso-ventraly flattened snake. I would also like to return to Russia looking for the almasty, Mongolia for the deathworm and Sumatra for the orang-pendek.But it's all down to the green folding stuff. We would love to convince a tv company to back us for a series but all they are intrested in making is drivel, shit like Paris Hilton's British Best Friend or Big Brother or I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here. Last year we came back from Russia with what might be part of the skull of an almasty, a relic hominid. It is currently undergoing tests. Was anyone in the media intrested? No, but if it had been some 3rd rate 'celebrity' off a soap opera or some scum from reality tv, doing something banal then they would have been all over us.

4) What's the closest you've come to encountering a cryptid ?

When we were in Russia we were staking out an abandoned farm house in the countryside a couple of miles from the village of Nutrino. Two of my fellow scientsist Grigory Panchenkio, a biologist, and the archaeologist Anatoly had both seen almastys here. The farm consisted of three rooms with a 'l' shaped veranda running around them.
It was two thirthy in the morning Dave Archer was asleep and Adam Davis and i were standing near the stove. Anatoly was in one of the farms out buildings. The door of the room we were in was about 7 feet tall. It opened out onto the veranda. The door was about three or four inches open.It was a clear night and starlight and moonlinght was streaming into the room. We heard a deep gutteral vocalization. The closest that i can get to it phonetically is 'bub-bub-ub-bub". About 25 seconds later 'something' passed by the door. Whatever that 'something' was, it was tall enough to block out the sartlight up to a hight of seven feet. We grabbed our cameras and rushed outside but what ever it was had gone.

5) Of all the cryptids, which do you think are most likely to bediscovered over the next century ?

The thylacine or tasmanian marsupial wolf. It has been seen by zoologists and a park ranger. It has been filmed on several occasions. Sightings number in their thousands. It's the cryptid most likley to exist.
The almasty,a relic hominid a close relative of man. In the Karbadino Balkaria part of the Cacausus Mountains of Russia their numbers seem to be on the increase. They will approach human habitiation and people do not hunt them. I think a great breakthrough will be made here.
Orang-pendek, the upright ape of Sumatra. There's no doubt it exists. It has been seen close up by at leas two well respected scientists. It will come down from he jungle to semi-cultivated areas in search of food.
The giant anaconda. They give birth to live young, they live most of their lives bouyed up by water. They can reach huge sizes. It's just a matter of finding an undisturbed area with a massive individual.

6) Have you ever been scared whilst on the track... ?

Only when i saw a big moth in Africa. Those things make my blood run cold!

7) If a movie was made about your life. Who would play you ? And whatsong would you have start the film ?

Johnny Depp is who i'd like to play me but i'm always told i look like Bill Bailey! (Rich, when your hair was long you DID look like him, I'm sorry to say!!)
The song would have to be 'Monster' by Automatic.

8) The British tv show Doctor Who was a major influence on your life. Why is this ?

As mentioned befor Dr Who started out my interest in monsters. Every Saturday evening in the 1970s you would be whisked away for half an hour of high adventure. Dr Who was least about space ships and ray guns and more about weird shadows, strange sounds and horrific things lurking in the darkness. Dr Who was always more horror than Science Fiction.Giant maggots crawling out of infected slag heaps, childrens dolls that jerk into life and strangle people, homicidal, cyborg venriloquist's dummies that have the brain of a demented pig, infections that turn their victims into Lovecraftian masses of flesh eating tentacles, giant psychic spiders that possess human hosts, amazing stuff.You wouldn't get this in bland, unimaginative, souless crap like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Star Trek or Star Gate. That's why UK science fiction is better than US science fiction,horror and imagination. They have Star Trek (and it's crappy spin offs), Star Gate and Battlestar Galactica. We have Dr Who, Quatermass, The Prisoner, Saphire and Steel and most recently the wonderful Being Human.

9) What's your favourite Doctor Who episode, and who's your favouriteDoctor ?

The Sea Devils featured a race of super evolved, intelligent marine reptiles. They ruled the Earth at the time of the dinosaurs then went into hibernation to avoid the mass extinction at end of the Cretaceous period. They awake millions of years later to find that man has taken over their world and is destroying it. They look on man quite rightly, as vermin.
Terror of the Autons is the Doctors second battle with the Nestenes. On their home world they look like cyclopsian octopi the size of a house. They can place their conciousness into artificial meteors and send them through space. On Earth the alien minds possesses anything plastic and turn it into a killer. Plastic flowers that spray a suffocating film, plastic chairs that suck in their victims, childrens toys that come to life and shop front dummies that smash out of their windows and attack people on the street.
The best Doctor was the 3rd Doctor, Jon Pertwee. An elegant, finely dressed gentleman scientist who could kick arse like Bruce Lee. I owe my career to Jon Pertwee and my being a goth to his frilly shirts and opera capes! (If any idiot's are reading this - 'goths' aren't the sad kids of today parading the streets in Slipknot t-shirts trying to be weird. 'Goth' was a movement, a state of mind back in the late '70s and '80s, accompanied by a soundtrack of bands such as Bauhaus, Sisters Of Mercy, Fields of the Nephilim, Joy Division, etc - dusty jackets, shoegazing dance routines, and general gorgeous vampyric women!)

10) If dragons are supposedly mythical creatures, why do they feature soheavily in our history and culture ?

The dragon is no myth. It features in every culture on Earth as far back as 25,000 years ago. Forget demons, vampires and werewolves, dragons are more ancient, powerful and widespread than them all.
Dragon sightings are still reported today, especially in Asia. It is likey tha dragon legends are based on encounters with one or more species of titanic reptile totally unknown to science.I have met dragon witnesses too scared to even look in the direction of the area were they saw the monster..

11) You are the author of Dragons: More Than A Myth. Can you tell us more about your next book.

My next book is The Great Yokai Encyclopedia: An A to Z of Japanese Monsters. I'm fascinated with Japanese culture, folklore (and women!) Yokai, broadly ghost and monster in Japan, are the weirdest in the world. We all know kappa, the turtle like creature with a love of cucumbers and liquid in his head that makes him super strong, but there are many others. They include a grave robbing rabbit that feeds on the livers of human corpses, a giant flesh eating sea cucumber tha grows from a pair of girls knickers that fall into the sea, a flaming pig that runs between your legs and makes your genitals vanish and a monster that eats women's hair. Only in Japan! The book should be out later this year.

12) What expeditions are you undertaking next ?

Well it's all down to funding. At the moment funds are very low. I'd like to get back out to Guyana to look for the giant anaconda. Last time we were there it was too dry and we couldn't reach the remote lake where the monster had been seen. I'd like to go back in the rainy season to look for it. Also i'd like to go back to Russia as i feel i came within 12 feet of seeing an almasty.

13) Do you think cryptozoology will always remain a fringe subject ?

No, i think it is becoming more accepted all the time. Most scientists think the thylacine is still around and after the discovery of the Eub Gogo bones in Indonesia the idea of relic hominids is not so hard to swallow. Jon and i have lectured a the Natural History Museum and the Grant Mueum of Zoology. If we weren't taken seriously then we would not be asked.

14) Which cryptozoological legend irritates you the most !?

De'Loys ape. It's a red faced black spider monkey on a stick. You can tell this from the vestigial thumbs, forward pointing nostrils and large external clitoris. Any zoologist worth their salt could tell you that. Also the recent bigfoot costume filled with entrails and an ox tongue. The story was that it had been stuck in a freezer for months. If that were the case the entrails would have been discoloured but they were pink and fresh. You had morons trumpeting that this was the real thing. When a hoax like this happens the public and media, who have very short attention spans for anything not to do will celebrities, think that all cryptozoology has to be based on hoaxes.

15) What advice could you give to any young, budding crypto-researchersout there who one day, may choose to seek their own local monster ?

Never give up, no matter how many knock backs you get, keep at it. Monster hunting is not easy, its a calling, a vocation rather than a job. No one ever got rich through cryptozoolgy.
The best thing a budding cryptozoologist can do is join the CFZ
We support young, new cryptozoologists around the world. Many of the people who go on our expeditions were folk who just started out as ordinary CFZ members.