Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The Beasts That Hide from Man by Karl P.N. Shuker

Dr. Karl P. N. Shuker is a zoologist and an expert in cryptozoology, animal mythology, and wildlife anomalies. That's what the cover bio states and after reading this book I may not be convinced that bioelectric sandworms inhabit Mongolia's deserts, but I am inclined to believe that Dr. Shuker is one of the most impressive cryptozoological authorities that I have read.

Many cryptozoological books focus on anecdotal stories of fanciful and bizarre scope. The story is usually presented in sensationalistic tones which emphasize drama, mystery, and fantastic theory instead of actual facts. For example, although many cryptozoologists believe in a hairy, flesh & blood hominid called "Bigfoot" that lives a secret life mostly in the American Northwest forests, some go a step further and suggest Bigfoot evades detection because he is actually an invisible, paradimensional alien with psychic powers. Whooboy. Theories like that make me a little embarrassed to associate myself with the hairy beastie. "The Beasts That Hide From Man" doesn't delve into that type of narrative. Anecdotal stories are presented here as ofttimes uncorroborated but intriguing tales that serve as case studies which he then analyzes. Once the evidence for the animal has been presented, Dr. Shuker opines whether he feels the animal is a fanciful tale, an extinct animal, or a creature that bears further investigation.

The book often reads like a biology textbook and not an entertaining yarn of mysterious tales, so don't expect light reading. Theories abound, but none involve hidden civilizations under the Atlantic. It is the most academic cryptozoological book I have read since Grover Krantz' Big Footprints: A Scientific Inquiry Into The Reality of Sasquatch.

I recommend this book. If your exposure to cryptozoology has only been from the X-files, you may be surprised to learn that most cryptozoological animals don't glow in the dark and phase through walls. Many are most likely old and forgotten animals once thought to be extinct but perhaps still hanging on in the few nooks and crannies Man hasn't developed for commerce yet. "The Beasts That Hide From Man" is full of these types of hidden, or cryptozoological, animals. Of note are the sections on crypto-bats, man eating plants, the probable origins of "dragons", and canine enigmas. Enjoy