Bigfoot

Bigfoot
B. Ann Slate & Alan Berry | Bantam Books | 1976 | 171 pages

Jane Goodall said the Bigfoot subject was fascinating and wished us all good luck.”

Comparable to a contemporary embedded journalist in a war zone, co-author Alan Berry joins Warren and Lewis Johnson, brothers and seasonal hunters, in their Sierra Nevada cabin to record their recurring encounters with a group of communicative, if ultimately camera-shy, sasquatch.

The resulting accounts, recorded over a period of several stays in the cabin, are the most traditional Bigfoot tales in this purportedly non-fiction compendium of facts regarding the “Bigfoot Mystery.” The creatures skirt the perimeter of the brothers’ camp, vocalize in what seems to be an attempt at communication, bang sticks against nearby trees, and leave behind astonishingly large, quasi-human footprints. Other than a fleeting glimpse of a dark shape entering the woods, however, the beasts remain elusive to actually being sighted by the men in camp.

The scope quickly expands to other obsessions of seventies pop-culture, first with the contributions of two persons “gifted with extrasensory perception (ESP)”. The psychics claimed to find a telepathic link with the Bigfoot group, revealing the interpersonal [inter-bestial?] dynamics of what amounts to an extended family unit of the creatures visiting the Johnsons’ cabin and surrounding area.

Other anecdotes follow, detailing the various close encounters unsuspecting people have experienced with the foul-smelling, rock-throwing, upright-standing hairy beasts who vanish as quickly as they appear, leaving behind only a pattern of gigantic footprints (with a variously documented number of toes). Psychic phenomenon resurfaces later, with a teenager in Southern California claiming a telepathic-hypnotic link (or “mind-grab”) with the creatures, seemingly intent on summoning him away from his fellow campers for unknown purposes. Even more reports of the occurrence of hypnotic suggestion surrounding Bigfoot sightings lead the authors to speculate on the nature of Bigfoot’s ability to telepathically camouflage his appearance, even to the degree of rendering himself invisible.

What’s wrong with Jim? Is he on something?”

Conspiracy theories also begin to swirl around Bigfoot’s appearances. A potentially proto-human skull found near the Johnson cabin suspiciously disappears into the netherworlds of academic bureaucracy, after it is submitted to the anthropology department at UCLA for analysis. A number of sightings in remote forested areas are accompanied by reports of inexplicable underground mechanical noises, suggesting some sort of subterranean conspiracy on a grand scale.

But the ultimate expression of the supernatural fascinations of the era is the alleged link between Bigfoot and Unidentified Flying Objects. Various episodes of strange sightings, from lights in the sky to saucers or cigar-shaped metallic objects, correspond with confrontations with gigantic, hairy creatures. During one such Bigfoot-UFO encounter, a key witness to the events seemingly became possessed, issuing warnings of mankind’s imminent destruction of the planet.

“If they have been seen near UFOs, I would prefer to assume that the occupants of the UFO were just looking at the Sasquatch, or vice versa.”

The confluence of all the individual wacky elements propels this straight-laced, footnoted and annotated reportage into hyper-absurd overdrive. A telepathic, oft-invisible anthropological throwback working in conjunction with visitors from outer space (or another dimension) who may gain benefit by a conspiratorial league of underground facilities—perhaps the only element missing is a sighting in the Bermuda Triangle.

[Full Disclosure: The Loch Ness Monster is also briefly referenced.]

Advertisements

Keeper of the Children

Keeper of the Children
William H. Hallahan | Avon Books | 1979 | 189 pages

Is that kid of yours worth it?”

Searching for his missing daughter, Renni, Eddie Benson discovers a cult of runaway children, lead by an insidious master of mind control. Tran Cao Kheim, a monk who fled Tibet following the Chinese takeover, exerts a powerful mental hold over Renni and the other lost children, directing them to panhandle on the streets of Philadelphia during the day, and return to his warehouse district compound at night.

Discouraged by the (inexplicable) failure of the police to return their children, Benson and a group of other parents take the matter into their own hands, devising a plan to have Kheim deported. Their actions, however, draw attention of the evil monk, who deploys his telekinetic powers to target them. Before he is able to deliver a briefcase of incriminating evidence to the Immigration Department, Kenneth Custis, the father of one of the captive boys, is brutally murdered on his farm—his neck broken by a scarecrow possessed and animated by Kheim’s astral-projected mind.

Kheim is something of a racist throwback to the early twentieth-century stereotypical villain, Fu Manchu, filled with the inscrutable menace of the Orient. Sax Rhomer’s character is even name-checked by Custis in explaining Kheim’s commune, but simply referring to a racist archetype does not provide free meta-text license to create it anew. The only difference is that this villain is gifted with the telekinetic powers so prevalent in seventies supernatural horror.

After nearly being killed by a telekinetically controlled marionette in his home, Benson becomes determined to fight Kheim using the monk’s own methods against him. He enlists the talents of Nullatumbi, a yogi who understands Kheim’s methods (an “oobie with PK”, or for the layperson, an out-of-body experience with psychokinesis). A long training sequence follows, with an appropriate level of hokum involved. Benson does much inner soul-searching, and cosmic wandering, over a two-week period, while mentally focusing on a blank white wall.

Kheim’s Pied Piper-like hold over the children is not fully explored, nor Renni’s seemingly singular ability to occasionally shake off his mental yoke and warn her father away. Since Kheim is capable of exerting control over a large group of children, why not their parents too?

The attacks are the absurdly appealing centerpieces, however, with a giant possessed teddy bear wielding an axe—a sequence the cover image teases, and the text actually delivers—being a highlight. An extended, literal cat fight, with the astral-projected combatants inhabiting feline bodies, serves as the ultimate showdown, with Benson and Kheim aiming at the tenuous psychic thread linking their respective minds back to their own corporeal bodies.

And that final battle is the second cat attack in the story.

The Mind Masters #2 | Shamballah

shamballah

The Mind Masters #2 | Shamballah
John F. Rossman | Signet Books | 1975 | 220 pages

“Braaaaaaam! Braaaaaaam! Braaaaaaam!”

Britt St. Vincent, a former Vietnam veteran whose traumatic wartime experience awakened his latent psychic powers, returns to service for another supernatural escapade in Shamballah. Working undercover for the Mero Institute, a top-secret organization dedicated to researching and exposing supernatural occurrences, St. Vincent travels the globe as a grand prix race driver, while covertly investigating paranormal phenomenon.

“Braap!…Ap!…Ap!…Ap!”

Benefitting from a fortuitous overlap of international racecourses and haunted sites, St. Vincent travels to the Rabenblut Castle in the Black Forest of Germany. His mission: to determine if the ghost of General Heinrich Weissmann, a leading scientist in Hitler’s occult services during World War II, is responsible for numerous inexplicable events surrounding the cursed ruin.

The racing cover also offers many opportunities for the injection of onomatopoeic exclamations into the text.

“Crack! Clumph! Crack!”

Upon arrival in Germany, St. Vincent immediately plunges into danger, when he discovers an exploded body in the lobby at the Black Cross Inn. Shortly afterward, he is seduced in his hotel room–with passages featuring overripe descriptions of the female anatomy–by Gretchen, a voluptuous racing groupie who knocks at his door. Eventually, she introduces him to an orgy and Black Mass at the castle, presided over by Dr. Neumann, the medical examiner working with the police on the murder case. St. Vincent employs some high tech gadgetry after the ghostly spectre of Weissman appears in the castle tower, including a machine that displays the residue of human auras, and a fax hidden in his briefcase (that takes several minutes to print a page of copy).

“…rrrrowwWWWwwwwwrrrrowwwWWWwwwwwrr…”

The initial rush of pure exploitation comes to a grinding halt at about the half-way mark, when in typical Bond fashion, the villain explains all to St. Vincent, the doomed hero. However, the exposition unfolds over the course of an agonizingly boring fifty-plus pages. All the long-winded explanations could have been easily summed up in a single statement, suggesting a much more interesting story than the one actually realized:

***MASSIVE SPOILER ALERT***

I am a mummified, eternal ex-Nazi–sustained by alien pyramid power–in command of an army of psychically controlled women who are powered by the invisible cosmic rays of the universe, channeled through implanted crystals that exert their deadly power upon the sexual release of their host.”

***END OF MASSIVE SPOILER ALERT***

As St. Vincent drolly remarks, “It’s hard to believe, but it’s completely possible.”

“Kawhump!”

The Mind Masters

mind_masters

The Mind Masters
John F. Rossmann | New American Library| 1974 | 236 pages

Grand Prix driver Britt St. Vincent’s secret past overtakes him on the twisty mountain roads below desolate Skull Summit, California, as his Porsche is pursued and taunted by a phantom car. Recognizing his dead girlfriend at the wheel, he experiences a strange sensation of pain and dizziness, and blacks out. Britt awakens in the clandestine Mero Institute, whose director explains how Britt was not the victim of a supernatural visitation, but was intentionally summoned by a long-distance psychic suggestion.

Prior to his racing days, a secret government laboratory recruited Britt for his latent psychokinetic powers. The Harry Diamond Labs developed psychic warfare programs for the Pentagon in response to similar covert Cold War programs being developed by a host of unfriendly nations. Laboratory administrators even suspected that Richard Nixon’s erratic behavior during the Watergate years was a result of external mental directives created by such rival programs. However, when Britt discovered that human test subjects were being killed in laboratory-run experiments, he tried to flee—with disastrous results. Gayle Hillard, his girlfriend and fellow psychic researcher, was killed during their escape attempt by <dramatic pause> limb-enhanced cyborgs. Britt was only allowed to live if he agreed to never again participate in any form of psychic research.

The Mero Institute, a private non-governmental agency attempting to counterbalance the psychic warfare research being done at Diamond Labs, wants Britt to investigate incidents of hauntings around the world. The scientists at Mero believe that establishing a communications link to the spiritual world will assist in advancing their own telekinetic research. Britt and his specially selected team, using races on the Grand Prix circuit as cover, will seek out these ghostly hotspots and attempt to contact amenable spirits.

After 100 pages of dull back-story detail (which could have been reduced simply to “Race-car driver and psychic investigator, GO!!!), Britt and his team finally arrive in Sicily to investigate their first assignment: Castellum Mortis. An ancient Roman ruin perched on the edge of a volcanic crater, the Castle of Death is rumored to be the home of the vengeful spirit of its original owner. While doing some preliminary legwork in Palermo, Britt meets Maria Benudo, a Sicilian girl whose mother owns the local boarding house—and The Mind Master’s most thankless character.

Maria, a former Berkeley student, assists Britt in gaining access to the castle grounds. However, her back-story contains an unnecessarily ugly gang rape at the hands of a sex-slave ring. The violence in Maria’s past shifts to gratuitous sex scenes in the present, with her sheer dresses and easy availability relieving the occasional “stab of tightness…behind [Britt’s] scrotum.” The paranormal scientists posing as Britt’s racing crew also use her as a sounding board for the seemingly endless pseudo-scientific babble on the nature of their equipment.

***SPOILER ALERT *** Naturally, she is killed at the end. ***END SPOILER***

Britt’s research mainly consists of traipsing around the castle at night fiddling with the radio dials on the equipment. Even the haunted bedchamber provides fewer chills than head-scratching questions—an ancient Roman room with furniture intact? The restless spirit, and alleged focus of the paranormal investigation, plays an unusually small role in the conclusion, but a rival psychic agent fills the void, engaging Britt in an ultimate <final dramatic pause> battle-of-the-telekinetic-laser-eyes.

As the first book in a series, perhaps The Mind Masters works out enough of its convoluted long-windedness to benefit future installments. Blathering weird-science explanations and superfluous character history stall the small amount of action provided by Britt’s investigation. Chase a ghost, race a few laps on the Grand Prix circuit, and battle a psychic agent from a foreign government—what more do you really need?