Mysterious America: The Ultimate Guide to the Nation's Weirdest Wonders, Strangest Spots, and Creepiest Creaturesby Loren Coleman
Bestselling author and noted cryptozoologist Loren Coleman set out on the ultimate mission: to uncover the fun and intriguing phenomena that exist right here in the United States. In Mysterious America, a fun and compulsively readable guidebook to America's most popular local legends, he prepares readers for their own adventure -- where to find the unbelievable spectacles on their journey, including:
- Phantom panthers haunting eastern North America
- Bay State ghosts and spirits
- Mad gassers in Illinois
- Champ, the famous Lake Champlain monster
- The Minnesota Iceman
- The Missouri Momo and the infamous Eastern Bigfoot
- And many more!
Coleman's witty insight and astonishing experiences will captivate followers of Charles Fort and just-plain-curious readers alike. For, as Coleman frankly reveals, these strange creatures and unimaginable wonders may lie just beyond your own backyard....
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Read an Excerpt
Chapter One: Reflections of a Traveling American Fortean
Our thoughts often turn to moving, weekend treks, taking vacations, going on holiday, and visiting family and friends in other parts of the country. If your thoughts also have a Fortean bent to them, if you mix your pleasure with furthering your own personal inquiries into the unexplained wonders around you, then some helpful hints toward making your next trip a worthwhile phenomenological adventure might interest you. You can do many things at home before you travel to your destination. A hefty amount of background research, before your journey, can save you hours of wasted time in the field. I always discovered that it was important to find out what the specific locales I was going to, and through, have to offer. All researchers must ask themselves specific questions which apply to their own interests, but in general, I like to know if there are runes, mounds, monster-inhabited lakes, spook lights, Bigfoot sightings, haunted places, ice caves, panther-frequented valleys, and a whole host of more-or-less permanent Fortean wonders in the vicinity of my route or its predetermined end. Finding these fixed unexplained locations by way of the Internet today is, of course, extremely easy, and search engines can help you put your fingertips on wonderful sources. The Fortean literature also provides some references of great assistanceŠif you can put your hands on them. George Eberhart's A Geo-Bibliography of Anomalies and Jim Brandon's Weird America are two of the best books with individual locale listings. Eberhart's expensive book might be available in a few libraries, and Brandon's quality paperback should be almost as difficult to run across in some used-book stores. Both are worth the effort of the search, however. Brandon's Weird America is especially good since it is compact and offers a rather complete rundown on the individual Fortean sites. Since he used his own files as well as the items in the INFO Journal and Fate, Brandon was able to give a rather nice cross-section of what each state has or has had to offer. Weird America is a true Fortean guidebook, and Brandon's 1983 book, The Rebirth of Pan, adds another chapter in his unique analysis of the cryptograms written on the face of America. Amazing America and other books and websites like Roadside America are less helpful in terms of weirdness and Fortean activity. These books are exaggerated collections of the biggest, shortest, oldest, usually man-made attractions along the way. In fact, it serves as a good negative guidebook for it lets you know some things to avoid. You might also be tempted to refer to Space-Time Transients and Unusual Events by Michael A. Persinger, but the book is a teaser; while listing some spots from the author's computer printouts, it really leaves a lot out. And be on your guard, too. The database is slanted towards Fortean phenomena, as seen through the pages of Fate. Because a couple of active writers (myself and Jerry Clark) did many pieces on Illinois mysteries, the book has a map demonstrating the especially active nature of Illinois Forteana, which is probably not really the case. Salvatore Trento's In Search of Lost America, Barry Fell's America B.C., and others are good starting places if you are looking for ancient anomalous sites. Trento's works, all of them, are very good sources for geographical mysteries, and are recommended highly. The National Geographic's Guide to Ancient Treasures is excellent for its detailed highway route and byway travel tips to archaeological wonders. Also, as I discuss elsewhere (Chapter Three), ancient sites labeled "devil" should be at the top of the list of sites you should seek out. On certain other topics, such as where Bigfoot has been seen, John Green's The Apes Among Us gives an easy state-by-state breakdown to follow. The Field Guide to Bigfoot, Yeti, and Other Mystery Primates Worldwide and Cryptozoology A to Z are useful, of course, in this realm. Peter Costello's In Search of Lake Monsters does a fairly complete job of indicating where to find the watery beasts, and the novice will find it of assistance. Mysterious America's Chapter Nine and Appendix VI give specific data on monster-inhabited lakes. Articles with seed catalogue-type presentations can be treasure troves of information on specific locations of particular phenomena. Mark A. Hall's spook light listing (see Appendix II) still ranks as my favorite; it is very detailed concerning what to expect to see and where. Patrick Huyghe's The Field Guide to Extraterrestrials, and his and his co-authors' other books in the series (The Field Guide to UFOs and The Field Guide to Ghosts and Other Apparitions) are likewise extremely helpful for narrowing your focus. Falls of strange items from ice to frogs, for example, appear to be one-shot affairs, but it is always good to understand a locale in terms of its total Fortean history. Falls, strange appearances, and permanent phenomena are natural candidates for lists, and Fortean Times and the INFO Journal articles on these topics pinpoint the sites of the occurrences. The Appendices of this book contain a good collection of Fortean lists. For example, Appendix III, on the appearance of out-of-place crocs and 'gators, is an illustration of a seed catalogue worth having; another is David Fideler's old, enjoyable, but hard-to-find listing of kangaroo sightings in the Anomaly Research Bulletin. Tom Adams' Stigmata has had many articles and maps on the mystery of the cattle mutilations, for those interested in pursuing such stories. You just can't beat a good list. Overall, these books and articles should give you a fairly good idea about where to target some of your efforts on your trip, as should Mysterious America. After going through the literature, you may wish to contact researchers who have done extensive fieldwork in the locale of your interest. The best way to locate such individuals is by taking a deeper dip into the vast underground pool of Fortean organizations, newsletters, and journals. Contact through the Internet is fast today and links can be made via Fortean Times, Fate, The Anomalist, INFO, NEARA, and others. Personally I enjoy finding out about the most recent activity in an area I am heading for. Colleagues and associated researchers can often give me a lead, but another way to discover if anything unusual is hopping is by reading the local area's newspapers before I take my journey. Today, this is much easier with online access. On the road, I also often stop at the regional weeklies to inquire about any local folklore or any local, well-known wonder like the Devil's Tramping Ground, the Lake Champlain Monster, etc. These Fortean fishing trips are lots of fun. Sometimes I am casting out a line for a Bigfoot account, and I reel in a close encounter with a giant snake. It's amazing what a Fortean investigator can come up with; it certainly keeps me on my toes. While getting to and going through an area, I try to pick up books written by local people on the regional folklore. (See the Bibliography for the names of some of these classic books.) Sometimes I come across some intriguing maps which have captured local legends in little pictures with quaint names, like the Cape Anywhere Sea Serpent, the Buried Treasure of Someplace Canyon, or the Headless Horseman of This Valley or That. These legends are often new to me because they are part of the local people's traditions which have not yet been widely publicized in books or on television programs. Undiscovered wonders still do exist. Finding such a Fortean gem can make a trip very worth your time and toil. Another resource for finding out what unexplained happenings and places abound in any given province is simply talking to the local folks. Full-service gas station attendants and the employees of locally-owned sandwich shops are a gold mine of information, if you take the time to get out of your automobile or SUV and chat with them. The people at flea markets, craft shops, and yard sales know a good deal about the countryside, and often are willing to share with you some unique incident or story if you are friendly and unjudgmental. The worst possible source of Fortean knowledge, I have discovered, is located at the so-called "Information Bureaus." These sandtraps of the American vacationer give out little more than some insights into the nearest or newest tourist attraction. If you go to them with anything more than a specific question about a specific location, don't expect much satisfaction. They have been able to tell me where, for example, a well-known haunted house was, but frequently an information bureau has not been able to direct me to an interesting creek close at hand; I had to get that information from a service station operator. I should also warn you about "Mystery Spots." In nearly all cases, these tourist attractions are optical illusions. Unfortunately, some completely worthwhile and top-notch Fortean sites have been labeled a "mystery" something or other. The most famous example of this is the 4000 b.p. megalithic structures at North Salem, New Hampshire, entitled collectively "Mystery Hill," a spot well worth a detour. A word to the wise will save you some time, either way. Well, with all these hints and warnings in mind, it is time to take your trip. Get your laptop, tape recorder, camcorder, digital camera, paper, pen, and money and take a Fortean adventure. With careful planning, a little research, and some friendly questions along the way, your journey anywhere in Mysterious America can be rewarded with some interesting Fortean and cryptozoological discoveries. Enjoy yourself. And help enlighten others after your return.
Copyright © 2001, 2007 by Loren Coleman
Meet the Author
Loren Coleman, M.S.W., has researched the Copycat Effect for more than two decades. Coleman has been an adjunct professor at various universities in New England since 1980 and a senior researcher with the Muskie School for Public Policy. He is currently the primary consultant for the State of Maine's Youth Suicide Prevention Initiative. The author, coauthor, or editor of more than twenty books, including the critically acclaimed work Suicide Clusters, lives in Portland, Maine.
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