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Lair of the Beasts: The Origins of a Monster Hunter
Richard Freeman – Creature Seeker
By Nick Redfern
February 18, 2012
I thought, for this weekend’s post, I’d change things up a bit and do something slightly different.
Most times I’m writing here about sightings of strange creatures, or reviewing new books on everything from Bigfoot to lake-monsters, or the Chupacabra to werewolves.
But, what about those people that actually go out into the field, search for these things, investigate them, launch expeditions, and ultimately write and lecture about them? I am, of course, talking about not the monsters, but the monster-hunters themselves.
How did they get involved in the subject? What was their motivation?
Sometimes, the things that got certain cryptozoologists into the monster-hunting arena are almost as fascinating as the things they so diligently seek.
So, on a regular basis – probably about once a month or so – I’ll introduce you to what it was that got some of the world’s most well-known seekers of strange creatures into the weird subject they now inhabit.
And, we’ll start with a certain character named Richard Freeman – a Goth fan, Dr. Who devotee, and the zoological director of Jon Downes’ Devonshire, England-based Center for Fortean Zoology.
Every year, as a child, Richard holidayed with his grandparents in Devon. One summer, when Richard was about nine, his grandfather got talking to a retired trawler man who had worked out of Goodrington harbor.
The old man recounted his life as a fisherman and one particular incident that was firmly and forever stuck in his mind. Some years previously, he and his crew were trawling in the waters off Berry Head, where – very interestingly - the seas of Britain are almost at their absolute deepest.
Indeed, such are the depths of this part of the English Channel that the area is commonly used as a graveyard for old ships. And the drowned wrecks of these vessels have made an artificial reef that has attracted vast amounts of fish. Good catches are, therefore, almost guaranteed and the area has become a popular place for fishermen to drop their nets.
On one particular night, the crew had trouble lifting the nets and began to worry that they had got them entwined about a rotting old ship’s mast. Soon, though, they felt some slack and duly began to haul the nets up. The men thought that their catch was a particularly good one, so heavy were their nets.
As their nets drew closer to the trawlers lights, however, a frightening sight took shape. The crew had not caught hundreds of normal sized fish. Rather, they had snared just one, solitary fish. And it was a truly gigantic one, too.
“It was an eel, a giant eel,” a wide-eyed young Richard was told. “Its mouth was huge, wide enough to have swallowed a man; the teeth were as long as my hand,” said the fisherman. Even now Richard still remembers the words of the ancient mariner and is convinced that this was not simply a tall story designed to entertain gullible tourists.
“While it was still in the water,” said the frightened fisherman, “it was buoyed up but as soon as we tried to pull it on board the nets snapped like cotton and it vanished back down. I was glad it went, I’ve been at sea all my life but I’ve never been as scared as I was that night. I can still see its eyes, huge, glassy.”
From that moment onwards, Richard’s life was forever, and radically, changed. And, as a result of that long-gone encounter with that old fisherman, he has since written a number of excellent books on a whole variety of cryptozoological beasts, and has embarked upon expeditions to the Gambia, Guyana, Mongolia, Thailand, Loch Ness, and numerous other exotic locales in search of beasts both strange and monstrous. And, long may Richard continue to do so!
Nick Redfern is the author of many books, including his latest release, Keep Out.