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Lair of the Beasts: Northern Monsters
Creatures in Print
By Nick Redfern
September 24, 2011
Several years ago the British-based Center for Fortean Zoology – one of the very few groups in the world dedicated to investigating strange creatures on a full-time basis – embarked upon an ambitious project. The idea was to publish a series of books on unusual and unknown animals reported throughout the length and breadth of Britain, on a county-by-county basis. And, given that the nation has a lot of counties that means a lot of books!
Fortunately, the CFZ has proved to be fully up for the challenge and the group has now published a number of titles under the banner of The Mystery Animals of the British Isles, including books that cover the counties of Kent, the Western Isles, Northumberland and Tyneside. And, I’m pleased to announce, the CFZ has just released the latest in this on-going series. Written by Glen Vaudrey, it covers the Northern Isles, which can be found north of mainland Scotland.
It was Glen who wrote the mighty tome on the aforementioned Western Isles, and he applies the same excellent research and writing skills – which includes a high degree of atmosphere, intrigue, historical data and wit – to his new book. And it’s a title that demonstrates the Northern Isles are just about as monstrous a locale as anywhere else!
So, if ancient folklore, tales, myths, and a very large number of real-life encounters with beasts both incredible and amazing are your thing, what can you expect to find within the packed pages of Mystery Animals of the British Isles: The Northern Isles? Well, let me enlighten you.
Glen provides the reader with excellent background data – geographical, historical and more – on the Northern Isles, which really helps set the scene and allows the reader to develop a deep appreciation for the area, its people and its culture. And then, it’s time to dig into the heart of those strange, mysterious and captivating tales of the unknown animal variety.
As you might imagine with a book that focuses on monster traditions connected to a collection of islands, many of the reports that Glen has uncovered and published are focused upon water-based beasts: sea-serpents and such. Yep, the creatures of Loch Ness are not the only long-necked water-monsters that call the British Isles home!
I found the sections of the book dealing with sightings of these Nessie-like animals – whether out at sea or washed up on the shores of the islands – to be particularly entertaining and informative, primarily because, without Glen’s work, much of the data on such issues would otherwise be incredibly difficult to find. Thus, Glen has done us an excellent service in bringing to light numerous cases – extending back a very considerable time – that, I’m sure, most readers will have no prior knowledge of.
And, it’s worth noting that Glen’s data on this specific issue makes it abundantly clear that the deep waters of the Northern Isles hold many secrets of the unknown animal variety.
Another area that Glen discusses – and which I was very pleased to see addressed, as it’s a particular interest of mine – is that of ghostly black dog sightings. All across the British Isles, and for centuries, reports have surfaced of huge, spectral, black hounds with blazing red eyes that terrorize and taunt people late at night on lonely stretches of road. Indeed, it was one of these cases that prompted Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to pen his classic Sherlock Holmes novel, The Hound of the Baskervilles.
But, we get to hear very little about the diabolical black dogs of the Northern Isles – until now, that is. Glen has, to his credit, uncovered a number of chilling tales of these enigmatic creatures, including one that haunted an old bridge in the village of Quholm in the 1800s, and another unsettling case of a ghostly hound from relatively recent times.
But, that’s only the tip of the monstrous iceberg. Mermaids and Mermen, shape-shifting, deadly water-horses said to entice people to death by drowning, killer sheep (yes, you did read the correct, and a very weird and grisly story it is, too!), and much more abound in the 200-pages that comprise this particular title.
In addition, the book is packed (and I do mean packed) with numerous illustrations – both photographs and drawings – of the creatures themselves and of the infamous islands they call home. Collectively, the imagery serves to further emphasize the near-magical, history-filled and mystery-packed nature of the Northern Isles.
You don’t have to be from the British Isles to appreciate and enjoy Glen’s book. Indeed, regardless of where you live, if strange creatures, fantastic stories from history and folklore, odd and engaging legends of terrible beasts, and notable characters from times-past, are your thing, then you should most definitely get hold of a copy of Glen’s new book: Mystery Animals of the British Isles: The Northern Isles, published by CFZ Press.
Nick Redfern is the author of many books, including his latest, The Real Men in Black.