|Cryptozoology, BioForteana, Zoological Oddities, Unusual Natural History|
BioFortean Review Book Review
Bird from Hell and Other Mega Fauna
Reviewed by Chad Arment (12/3/10)
This is one of those books that could have been very useful to cryptozoological researchers if only the author had taken the time to have the text reviewed for comments prior to publication, and had someone do some basic editing. Let's call it a diamond in the rough (very rough).
The author lives in a small town in north central British Columbia, on the north end of Williston Lake. He is white, but is married to a First Nations woman, and has collected a number of stories of strange creatures from her people in this region. As far as I can tell, he is not involved in organized cryptozoology, per se, though he has apparently read some books on Bigfoot.
The text itself runs 101 pages, including a few photos of local people and places. Trafford is the Canadian version of POD service providers like Lulu, and there are some punctuation errors, etc., throughout the manuscript.
The author has collected stories on six "mega fauna" beasts that he believes still exist: the Devil Bird (a pterosaur), Giants or Stink People (Bigfoot), Hairy Elephant (woolly mammoth), Rubber-Faced Bear (short-faced bear), Wilderness Wolf (dire wolf), and a lake monster he believes to be a plesiosaur.
Now, honestly, I hate to be critical about a book like this. The author clearly just wants to share some of the knowledge he's learned from his First Nations friends. As far as I can tell, this hasn't been marketed to the cryptozoological community, so if nothing else, this should raise awareness of the text even if I don't necessarily agree with everything in it.
First, a few things I didn't like: (1) The author is emotionally invested in the truthfulness of the local stories, setting up unnecessary us vs them scenarios with scientists, or anyone else who might not agree with his (or his interviewees') premises or conclusions. (2) The author has a poor understanding of biological concepts, and makes a number of scientific assertions that are plainly incorrect or muddled. (Noting, for example, that he believes Bigfoot is Gigantopithecus, but also human. It could be one, or the other, but not both.) (3) The author is too certain about the "true identities" of some of these mystery animals without good evidence.
What I did like: The author has, first of all, collected stories from a region of North America where we have very little ethnographic work for cryptozoology, and clearly this is an area which should be given further attention. In fact, the first thing I realized when I read through it was how closely some stories paralleled stories collected by researcher John Warms in Manitoba (a large cave-dwelling flying creature, especially). While most of the stories are rather bare-bones, he does introduce several tidbits of First Nations beliefs about these creatures.
I would like to see a further collection from this author. Particularly, I'd like to see a wider selection of stories with more details noted. (In this book, for example, Wilderness Wolf stories are noted only in a single paragraph.) The usefulness of this book to cryptozoological investigators is almost limited to noting that this region does have stories of interest; I suspect that far more could be offered to help flesh out some of the information about these cryptids, and stimulate further interest in tracking down evidence to prove or disprove their physical existence.
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