Q&A with Linda Godfrey on her new book "American Monsters A History of Monster Lore, Legends, and Sightings in America".
American Monsters can be found here at Amazon.
Are the historical accounts of monsters sightings similar or different to how they are portrayed in the media?
Most TV shows and movies portray these creatures as impossibly muscular and vicious, with eye-popping features designed to increase their on-screen impact. Most eyewitnesses agree, however, that the monsters they see are scary enough without being made to look like King Kong or a cartoon werewolf. But what really seems to frighten people even more than fangs and claws is the awareness that such creatures do exist–either in our world or some other realm made suddenly visible–coupled with the eerie perception that the monsters often seem as interested in us as we are in them!
You had said that you started your research for your previous book Real Wolfmen after doing a newspaper story on the subject. What was it that made start researching ALL American monsters?
Right from the start, people began sending me accounts of their own creature encounters, and they did not limit themselves to unknown canines. I began to realize that there’s a sort of underground menagerie on the loose. I began to collect the stories of these other beasts, as well, and it became evident that they shared strange links such as the tendency to collect in certain locations. Putting all of them in one book seemed the best way to demonstrate the breadth and depth of these sightings.
What does your research tell us about the origins of these monsters?
Many types of monsters, such as giant birds, Bigfoot and upright wolves and great cats are foretold in the sacred histories and lore of indigenous people all over the Americas. Some, such as malicious, tiny humanoids, have their counterparts in European legend and in the artwork of our most ancient civilizations. The fearsome flying god known as Pazuzu to the Sumerians, for instance, bears more than a passing resemblance to the furry, bat-winged creature known as Batsquatch in America’s northern Pacific states. The truth is that where there is recorded human history, monsters also lurk.
Have you ever had a personal experience with an American monster?
I’ve had a truly terrifying encounter with what I believe was a Bigfoot in my own area of southern Wisconsin, and believe that I once saw the upright spine of a gray-furred dogman as it momentarily caught the edge of a spotlight during a late night, Michigan stake-out. There have been other puzzling and even scary moments over my 22 years of investigating these creatures, but the truth about these creatures is as true for me as it is for others who would seek them; sightings are rare, random and usually fleeting.
Are there more monster sightings in certain areas than others?
Monsters definitely seem to gather in certain hotspots. Oregon, Washington State and British Columbia are magnets for Bigfoot and Sasquatch; large birds tend to favor seacoasts and great cliffs, the dogman thrives best in the Midwest; and the chupacabras skulks around the warmer climates of Central America, Mexico and the American southwest. All of them, however, do possess the unsettling habit of showing up in very unexpected places, as well. And lake and sea monsters are apt to surface anywhere there’s water.
Are there particular monster sightings that are more common than others? What is the rarest monster sighting?
Some monsters are certainly reported more often than others. Bigfoot sightings easily outnumber those of dogmen, for example, and the Sasquatch may be the most reported creature in modern times. Goatmen are seen much less frequently than giant primates or canines, however, and upright great cats are even rarer. There seem to be more and more sightings of lizard-like or reptilian humanoids, along with the great flying creatures that resemble ancient pterosaurs and seen more and more in areas such as Pennsylvania and Ohio.
Is it possible that some of these sightings could just be evolved forms of an already known species?
That’s a possibility I’ve always held out for the wolfman or dogman, especially since most people describe them as purely canine except for the weird tendency to walk and run upright and with slightly elongated paws that may facilitate balance. There is also always the chance that any sighting might have some other explanation, such as misidentification or human hoaxers.
Will we have ever have an answer as to whether any of these monsters are real?
I wish that I had the psychic ability to know the answer to that question. Many serious–and seriously frustrated–researchers have come to the conclusion that most if not all of the creatures are either manifestations of some pervasive “trickster” spirit or visitors from an unknown world connected to ours. I certainly hope that we will solve the mysteries of Bigfoot and perhaps even the wolfman, but so far all of these creatures seem far more skilled at eluding humans than we are at capturing evidence of their existence.