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.]

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The Bog

The Bog
Michael Talbot | Jove Books | 1986 | 314 pages

Archeologist David Macauley packs up his wife and children and relocates to the isolated village of Fenchurch St. Jude in the west of England, following the discovery of a well-preserved body in the bog. Dating from the era of the Roman occupation, the naturally mummified remains of a young woman promise a wealth of historical information, but the forensic evidence suggests a ritual sacrifice, and a cause of death from the savage bites of an unknown animal.

The villagers are a standoffish and unhealthful lot, suspicious of the new arrivals. Renting the only available cottage from the enigmatic Marquis de L’Isle, the local gentry whose own rambling great house stands on the bog’s edge, David and his family feel even more estranged from the local community following the report of a shocking murder in a nearby village. When David discovers the mauled corpse of a missing tavern owner in a bone-riddled feeding ground, he realizes the villagers are also harboring a dark secret that reaches back in history to the mummified body in the bog.

David struggles to save his family against parallel circumstances to those experienced by the victims buried in the bog. However, the prologue and occasional short chapter dedicated to these characters from antiquity are plainly redundant, adding nothing to the context of their torments already provided by the present-day narrative.

What starts as a seemingly simple monster rumble in the boglands of rural England transforms into an unexpected tale of sorcery, necromancy, demonology, and the occult, as the nature of Fenchurch St. Jude’s secret emerges. The first half of the book is filled with a fetid menace, with the sights and smells of the bog providing an unwholesome atmosphere, rich with potential danger. Once David squares off against his rival, the tone shifts more towards mano-a-mano (or, more precisely, mano-a-magician) action.

The accumulated creepiness dissipates in a swirl of magical rubies and fireballs, as a newfound emphasis on wizardry threatens to engulf all in a vortex of campiness. The spirit of an ancient Sumerian sorcerer, who inhabits the body of a small child, essentially begins a plan of attack against the rival sorcerer by instructing David to synchronize their watches.

Although the magical content arguably takes The Bog into different territory altogether, enough horror elements remain to make an effective genre read. The nature of the persistent rotten odor infusing the family cottage delivers a nasty surprise. But couldn’t someone place a “Protect” spell on the family pet?

The Demon Samurai

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The Demon Samurai
Clay Grant | Belmont Tower Books | 1978 | 158 pages

Michael Kirk is something of a heel. An American B-movie producer who has come to Japan to shoot his latest horror film, Monster Valley, Kirk spurns the true feelings of his production assistant, Mari Yanagawa, while making amorous passes towards other women at Yokoya Studios—“passes” that could better be described as sexual harassment:

“You’re new around here, aren’t you?” he asked…placing  a finger on her left breast and tracing a circle around the outline of the nipple on her sweater.”

Unfortunately for Kirk, Mari inadvertently awakens the spirit of an evil samurai trapped in a wood carving that she discovers in an antique shop while searching for movie props. Something in the nature of Mari’s relationship with Kirk triggers the memory of the trapped spirit, whose previous earthly incarnation was responsible for the violation and death of a young girl. The spirit follows Mari back to Kirk, who he views as a foreign devil that must be destroyed.

Kirk, seeing a psychiatrist in Tokyo to combat his nervous exhaustion, undergoes an experimental treatment involving the injection of an LSD-derivative drug. The psychedelic dose transports his mind to a stylized landscape reminiscent of an ancient Japanese scroll, where he glimpses the threatening figure of the samurai. Meanwhile at the studio, a screen test of Monster Valley unleashes the spirit-samurai, who physically erupts into the corporeal world from the spools of film.

Quickly growing to an immense size, the newly created monster (samurai? lizard? hybrid?) destroys much of the movie studio and rampages across the city, leaving the Tokyo police and American military powerless to stop it. Taking Mari captive, the creature’s motivations are unclear, until a second demon bursts forth, leading to a battle of the giant monsters in the streets below the Tokyo Tower.

The entire last half of the book describes the monstrous carnage, running much like one of the low-budget monster rumbles Yokoya Studios could have produced. The demon spirit’s early possession and control of various figures in the movie studio could have provided some sinister chills, but once the action reaches gigantic proportions, all subtlety is lost as the story veers into cartoon territory. The reveal of Kirk’s connection to the monsters comes as absolutely no surprise, due to his complete disappearance from the narrative around the time of their arrival.

Kirk’s literal exorcism of his personal demons creates a city-wide swath of destruction, finally allowing him to pledge his love for Mari. Perhaps, a few more bottles of scotch ordered from hotel room service could have instead helped him reach his inner sensitive male—and save hundreds of casualties. Or better yet, Mari could have just taken Kirk’s own advice to heart:

“Mari, baby…I’m not worth it. Believe me.”

Forbidden Tales of Dark Mansion (Issue #10)

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Forbidden Tales of Dark Mansion, Issue #10
DC Comics | March-April 1973

DC horror anthology with a sultry, mysterious host (although not set in a mansion, dark or otherwise), warning readers of terrible fates for those visitors unable to distinguish between love and hate.

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The Monster
Illicit lovers Myra and Carl pay the ultimate price by failing to abide by the basic criminal rule, “Never return to the scene of the crime.” A year after killing Myra’s husband and sinking his body in the swamp surrounding the couple’s summer cabin, they return with Myra’s young daughter, only to become victims of a murky bog man who stalks their every move.

A jittery Myra also seemingly fails to learn the second basic rule, “Don’t endlessly babble about your crimes just because a swamp monster is after you.”

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They Walk by Night
Two hobos break into a department store to escape the winter cold, but discover they are not alone among the merchandise displays. Aside from the question, “Why vampires?”, a familiar entry in the “Mannequins Coming to Life” category, featuring a slight wrinkle regarding the motivation of the narrator.

At least [SPOILER] Spud the dog makes it out alive [END SPOILER].

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Clearance Sale
Didn’t mannequins come to life in the previous story? A throwaway and completely redundant “Mannequins Coming to Life” story—with mannequins coming to life.

Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster

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Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster
Japan | 1971 | 86 minutes
Starring Akira Yamauchi, Toshie Kimura, Hiroyuki Kawase
Directed by Yoshimitsu Banno

Rising up from the sludge of a polluted sea, Hedorah feeds on the toxic pollution of the modern world. Transforming from monstrous tadpole to land-crawling giant octopus-thing to poison-emitting flying skate, the “Smog Monster” interrupts group-exercise classes, groovy nightclub performances, and environmental protests alike, leaving only burned-out skeletons in its wake. Godzilla’s arrival mirrors the Western hero riding off into the sunset; mankind’s rubber-suited savior steps out from the blazing sunrise to confront the evil of our own doing.

Godzilla emotes like a champion in this outing, laying down the challenge to Hedorah like a boxer with a taunting wave of his arm (“Bring it!”), while later holding a pensive claw-to-the-chin while considering the state of his opponent. Our hero even gives a knowing nod to the humans —fumbling with their electric shock apparatus in an attempt to desiccate Hedorah—before charging up their equipment with the fiery blast of his roar. And roar he does; the appealing screech-and-scrape of Godzilla’s classic vocalization almost loses its charm due to repeated looping.

But ultimately a sticky problem remains; does a giant radioactive lizard make the best environmental spokesmonster?

 

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