Thursday, October 21, 2010

Ireland's Mystery Animals

A couple of years ago, my good mate, Jon Downes (ye olde Director of the Center for Fortean Zoology) launched an ambitious new project - namely to commission, edit and publish a series of books that would chronicle the many and varied strange creatures of the British Isles.

Up until just a few weeks ago, there were three titles in this series on the market from the CFZ - Glen Vaudrey's Mystery Animals of the British Isles: The Western Isles; Neil Arnold's Mystery Animals of the British Isles: Kent; and Mystery Animals of the British Isles: Northumberland and Tyneside by Mike Hallowell.

Well, I'm pleased to say that there is now a brand new edition to the growing Mystery Animals of... series. This one isn't strictly a county-based book, however, as it covers the whole of Ireland and comes to us courtesy of cryptozoologist Gary Cunningham and surely the funniest (in every sense of the word!) man in Forteana, Ronan Coghlan, who my wife, Dana, refers to as a "lovable hoot"!

I read this book in two sittings, late at night and into the early hours, and while sprawled out on the settee, and I can say for certain that this is an absolutely excellent addition to this on-going series of titles.

What Gary and Coggers have done, is to finally, definitively, and once and for all, offer the reader a comprehensive, in-depth, and very well-written study of the many and varied mystery animals of Ireland that cover centuries-past to the present day.

And a fantastic and weird bunch of creatures they are too! We are treated first to an absolutely excellent study of Ireland's lake-monster sightings and reports - and it's a study that leaves me in no doubt (and, in all likelihood, it will leave you in no doubt either) that these strange and elusive beasts - whatever they may ultimately prove to be - are utterly real, albeit frustratingly elusive.

Whether they are some form of unknown and unclassified entities, giant eels, or something else entirely, Gary and the Cogmeister demonstrate that Ireland has been, and arguably still is, saturated with such beasts.

Graphic reports of close encounters (and, in some cases, very close encounters) with such animals abound in the 168-pages of the book, and the authors also provide us with some little-known and brand-new tales of the lake-monster variety. Truly, for this comprehensive data alone, Mystery Animals of the British Isles: Ireland makes for indispensable reading. And, on a similar issue, you'll also find much to ponder on with respect to Ireland's sea-serpents, as well as tales, legends and folklore of a definitive mermaid variety.

Moving on from the creatures of the deep, we get to learn a great deal about a seldom-covered topic: werewolves and other Irish shape-shifters. This is a brief, but very informative, chapter that tells us much about the rich folklore of Ireland and its attendant belief-systems, and is required reading for devotees of all-things of a werewolf nature.

And if ancient tales of Bigfoot and wild men are your personal cup of tea, well, you will be very pleased, since both are profiled in a section of the book that will fascinate all Bigfoot researchers who wish to have an understanding of the state of play outside of the usual "mystery ape" locales of North America, Tibet, and China.

Of course, mysterious and out-of-place large and exotic cats put in a welcome and significant appearance, as does the Irish wildcat. And: did you know that Ireland may once have been home to a colony of "dwarf wolves"? Well, you do now, and there's no excuse for not finding out all about them, courtesy of our fearless authors.

And, there are sections on animals that seem to be far more paranormal and supernatural in nature than they do flesh-and-blood - a topic that many cryptozoologists shy away from, but that our authors, to their credit, astutely realize are an integral part of monster-hunting.

Finally, no book on the mysterious creatures of Ireland would be complete without a comprehensive study of the Dobharchu or "Master Otter" - a Goliath-sized otter rumored to roam the wilds of Ireland. And, I'm pleased to say, the authors do the fascinating story much credit, and reveal thought-provoking cases, as well as theories relative to the identity and origins of this legendary critter.

With Christmas looming, you should treat yourself (and your friends and family too) to a copy of this new title from Gary and his Royal Cogness, and acquaint yourselves with an excellent study of the animal-anomalies of Ireland.

Mystery Animals of the British Isles: Ireland by Gary Cunningham & Ronan Coghlan is published by CFZ Press. To purchase the book, click here if you are in the UK; right here for Canada; and, here's the link for the USA.

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