Authors: Janet & Colin Bord
Stackpole Books, 1981
I just had the pleasure of re-reading this classic book in the field of cryptozoology. Unfortunately, this is not a tome that one will find on Kindle and I actually had to order a used paper copy for some research that I am doing. Do not be confused by the title, this book is about alien animals in the sense of a creature that is strange or out of place, not one that fell out of a spacecraft (although the authors do discuss the relationship between these sightings and UFO’s).
While this book tends to be on the encyclopedic side (how many sighting reports can we fit in one chapter), I still found the text to be engaging and quite informative. I would guess that my last reading of the book was over 15 years ago and, despite the time frame and the age of many of the reports, this is still a book that is relevant to our time. In fact, I feel that this book should be required reading for all persons getting into the investigation of Fortean phenomenon of all kinds. The Bords do not take a hard and fast stance on any of the phenomenon they discuss but allow room for many different theories to surface – such a mind set would be a nice change of pace in today’s “I have my theory and everyone else is wrong” world.
One thing that I absolutely loved about the book was Appendix 1 – A Few Hints for Monster Watchers. The appendix begins with the words “What to do when you see a . . .” and then gives instructions for encounters with water monsters, alien big cats, Phantom Black Dogs, Winged Things and BHM’s (big hairy monsters – e.g. Sasquatch). The instructions not only make a lot of sense, they are geared toward keeping the observer safe. I can think of worse guidelines to follow when faced with an ‘alien animal’. Here’s an example quote from the book:
On sighting a BHM (note from Storm: Big Hairy Monster – e.g. Sasquatch), if it has not seen you, freeze and observe its behaviour, making photographs if possible. If it has seen you, act according to its behaviour. That is, if it approaches aggressively, make your escape. If it approaches timidly, appearing curious, stay where you are and try to establish a friendly relationship (if you have the nerve!) and speak calmly to it, keeping your camera out of sight (it might annoy the BHM). Do not fire guns at it or otherwise attack it, unless absolutely necessary to preserve your life. The same applies to all alien animals.
If you happen to wander across this book in a library reference section and can not check it out, the one chapter of the book that is essential reading is Chapter 6 – Animals That Aren’t: Following Where The Evidence Leads. The Bords have done a spectacular job, in this one chapter, of summing up a host of theories about ‘alien animals’, how they manifest, why they manifest in the places that they do, where they draw energy from and more. They even discuss the seemingly taboo (except to me, of course) subject of these animals being the result of magical conjuration. While I understand that the book was intended as a semi-encyclopedic treatment of some of the world’s weirdness, I think that, with all the information packed into this one chapter, this duo could easily have written another book.
As I mentioned, these two authors were not gun shy about mentioning magic in their book. The link between Aleister Crowley and the Loch Ness Monster is mentioned and the exorcism performed at Loch Ness is referenced. The Bords talk about the efforts of some of Cornwall’s witches to summon the monster known as Morgawr and their apparent success. There is even a photo of a sky clad (sans clothes) trio of witches doing an apparent ceremony. That is something that you are almost guaranteed you will not see in a modern Fortean book! In addition, the authors seem to have had some contact with Doc Shiels, a colorful character from that period who claimed to be a wizard and who also claimed success at monster conjuration both on the Cornwall coast and at Loch Ness.
The one area where I do not agree with the Bords; however, is in the insinuation in Chapter 6 that these creatures are the result of ‘black magic’ rituals. While some of the creature encounters certainly seem to be on the hostile side and could be the result of summoning a disharmonic entity, many of these creatures seem relatively harmless (lake monsters, for example, seldom seem to do anything but disappear when they notice people). As I have noted throughout this blog, some of these beings may simply be slipping through to our world as the result of poor magical practice or due to weakening of the veil from repeated magical practice in a certain area.
Other than this small quibble, though, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and highly recommend it to both novices in the field as well as those with more experience.