NYCC 2015: Author Bill Schweigart on the Real ‘Beast of Barcroft’

 

Everyone loves a scary story, especially when there’s a little grain of truth at the bottom of it. Such is the case with Bill Schweigart’s chilling tale of urban horror The Beast of Barcroft. In between greeting his fans at New York Comic Con 2015, Schweigart shared the real mystery that inspired his novel.

Is this your first Comic Con?

This is my first New York Comic Con as a creator.

So you’ve done a few of these in the past as a fan.

Yes, I live in the DC area, so I’ve been to Baltimore Comic Con quite a few times as a major fan.

I heard a rumor that you’re into comic books.

I’m a 35 year-old card-carrying comic book fan with no room in his closet, absolutely.

What are your titles? What do you like?

I’m a big fan of Marvel Zombies, pretty much anything they do, but I’ve been getting into a lot of the Image books: Wicked and Divine, East of West. You name it. Anything from Matt Fraction, Johathan Hickman, Brian Michael Bendis. I have way too many titles and I’m running out of space.

This is the first time you’re here as a professional to promote your own book. What’s the title and what’s it all about?

Its called the Beast of Barcroft. Something is stalking the residents of Arlington, Virginia, and when Ben McElvy survives an attack in his own backyard no one believes him. He seeks the aid of a zoologist with the Smithsonian’s national zoo in DC. Together, they realize that with this creature there’s more than meets the eyes, especially when it begins attacking people. Between the two of them, and the crackpot theories of a wealthy cryptozoologist, they discover the secret of the Beast of Barcroft, but knowing and stopping it are two different things.

Sounds like this could be a great horror movie. Are you a horror guy?

I’m actually not a horror guy. I know that it would help with my credibility, but this was the story the I wanted to write and it sort of came out organically. I lived in a neighborhood a few years ago where we had some crazy wildlife issues going on. There actually was a Beast of Barcroft about forty years ago that killed pets and scared the hell out of the residents of Arlington. When iI heard about that, it sort of conflated with things going on in my life and the story just spilled out of me. I guess I’m a horror writer now.

I’d love to hear more about the real beast.

Forty years ago something actually did attack things in Arlington, and the local press had a field day with it. They ran headlines like “What Is It That Screams So In The Woods?” What they caught was a civet cat, but I promise you that in my book the big bad is a lot scarier than someone’s exotic pet that got loose.

There’s a whole tradition of “out-of-place animals” in cryptozoology. In the UK they report seeing big black cats and other out-of-place animals. It’s interesting that this actually happened in the states.

I think that it may have been someone’s pet that got loose, but it wreaked havoc four decades ago. I was reading a magazine in a coffee shop, and there was a little blurb in there about “the Beast of Barcroft.” I read it and thought, “Wait a minute, I live in Barcroft!” and inspiration took over from there.

Like I said a little earlier, I thought that this might sound like a late-night horror movie.

Could you imagine the book as a movie? 

I’d love to see it. I think it’s great b-movie fun. It is horror, but I think that it’s horror with a heart. I spend as much time developing the characters as I do developing the beast. I think [the book] is pretty funny, and if you like a little humor with your horror then you’ll have a great time.