Monday, October 19, 2015

“From Mothman to the Camazotz”: A Review of Encounters with Flying Humanoids,

 by Ken Gerhard (Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn, 2013). ISBN: 978-0-7387-3720-1

The field of cryptozoology, which many consider a pseudoscience, involving the search for and study of “hidden animals” such as Bigfoot, is one that is equal parts fascinating and controversial. In the age of Reality Television (which we all know often has little to do with “reality”), there is a vast array of shows in which cryptozoologists and their teams go out into the woods and other undeveloped geographical areas in search of creatures from the Mothman to the Owlman to the Chupacabra.
For those who follow this field, names like John Keel, Loren Coleman, and Stan Gordon dominate, although there is a younger, very hip group of cryptozoologists out there, doing field research, and gathering reports and doing interviews with witnesses of a plethora of sightings, all over the world.
Having witnessed a few unexplainable entities, and having a number of good friends in the fields of cryptozoology and, more generally, paranormal research, I have stayed fairly well informed about developments in this realm, and I have done considerable research on many of the cases and reviewed numerous books on the subject, for both my own personal interest and for my fictional works in the paranormal/horror genre.
At the most recent Mothman Festival in Point Pleasant, WV this past September, I attended a lecture given by, and got to briefly speak with, Ken Gerhard, who has appeared on such shows as Monster Quest, Ultimate Encounters, and William Shatner’s Weird or What? He is also one of the principle investigator’s on the current H2 show Missing in Alaska.
Gerhard was lecturing on “Encounters with Flying Humanoids,” the subject of his latest book, and this review. Some of what he spoke about was familiar to me, but there was plenty that wasn’t, and I was excited to read the book.
Encounters with Flying Humanoids (with Foreword by Dr. Karl P.N. Shuker) is well organized and written in a well-paced narrative style. After a general introduction to the Flying Humanoid phenomena, there is a survey chapter of humanity’s fascination with flight. This was an unexpected surprise and goes a long way in grounding the fantastical stories and creatures that follow in history, sociology, and science.
There is a sizable portion of the paranormal investigative community that supports the direct link between sightings of various creatures such as Mothman and Bigfoot with the sighting of UFOs, theorizing that they are inter-dimensional beings (a theory to which I subscribe) and chapter two does an excellent job of pulling in this aspect of the phenomenon. The famous Flatwoods Monster of West Virginia, sighted in 1952, is a highlight of the chapter.
Readers will notice that Gerhard uses a journalistic approach, mixing media accounts, field research, and transcripts of interviews from law enforcement to build the profile of each creature, as each is available and applicable. Like Rosemary Ellen Guiley, Gerhard’s use of this multi-dimensional approach adds credence and high standards to a field where they are often absent.
Chapter three, “The Manbirds,” contains some of the most fascinating examples of Flying Humanoids, including the Owlman of England and the Tengu of Japan.
In the next chapter, Gerhard looks at Chimeras and Gargoyles before moving on to what is probably the keynote chapter in the book: the legend of the Mothman. Readers of my book reviews and fiction know that this has long been a fascination of mine, and even having made over a dozen trips to Point Pleasant, watching many documentaries, attending lectures by witnesses, and reading a dozen books, I found new information in Gerhard’s research and he does an excellent job of providing the context of the Mothman legacy, which very much involves the town of Point Pleasant and its history. This is reason enough to buy the book.
I have to point out one error in the chapter, in honor of my friend Bob Landrum, who ran a terrific little shop named The Point for many years before his death several years ago. Bob was the one my wife and I first talked to when we had an encounter with the paranormal coming back from the TNT area one afternoon. In the book, his last name is mispelled as Lander.
The remainder of the book covers numerous flying humanoids in Mexico, recent reports from around the world, and Conclusions. Gerhard lays out the possible explanations, drawing on science in his analysis, although he is not afraid to push toward the more supernatural, inter-dimensional explanations as well. His own theories on what this phenomena might be are equal parts grounded and provocative, which is the closest we can hope for in this elusive field of cryptozoology.
The book ends with an Appendix titled “Winged Beings in Mythology and Folklore” that serves as a rounding-out of the field guide aspect of the book for the interested reader looking for larger context.
I’ve watched a few episodes of Gerhard’s show Missing in Alaska, which also demonstrates his open-mindedness and scientific approach to paranormal phenomena, and intend to watch more.
The field of crytozoology could use more serious investigators like Ken Gerhard to bolster credibility and help to crack the mystery.
Of course, in all probability, we may never know the “truth” of these things, which makes the chase at times even sweeter. I bet Gerhard would agree.

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