Unbound Worlds: You’ve written 17 books on strange phenomena and sightings – in the years you’ve been investigating, what’s the strangest or most haunting credible report you’ve ever come across?
Linda S. Godfrey: It’s probably the incident in Monsters Among Us where a family and many members of a Baptist church in Illinois saw a woman change almost instantaneously into a fur-covered, hoof-footed, stone-cold roaring werewolf. I did a lot of background checks for this story, and confirmed every detail described by the witnesses who also signed statements avowing that their report was factual and true. If this truly chilling encounter indeed happened, we live in a scarier world than I thought, even though the creature did transform back into a woman after a few seconds. Now that’s haunting.
UW: What factors do you take into account when you’re trying to determine the credibility of a witness?
LSG: I do rely at first contact on a sort of Spidey-sense developed during my ten years as a newspaper reporter. After a while, you just acquire an automatic sniff test. But there are always facts to be checked out, such as locations, details of the scene, how well the story elements jibe, and more. I also pay attention to how well the story itself holds up after several tellings. When possible I like to visit the encounter sites but that’s not always practical. I cannot afford polygraph tests for every witness, either, but the History Channel’s Monsterquest show administered state of the art polygraphs to seven different witnesses and all the results came up as “no deception detected.” Still, I realize none of these methods are foolproof. But I believe only a small percentage of people think it’s cool to hoax researchers. And I don’t think that’s just wishful thinking.
UW: Certain cryptids or phenomena have made their way into our collective consciousness pretty thoroughly – Bigfoot, UFOs, and the like – but others are far less well-known among the general public, like portals and lizard people. Why do you think certain entities catch our attention more than others?
LSG: I think the cryptids that truly intrigue us are the ones that seem most like us. The Bigfoot, for instance, has a human-like face, hands and feet with nails instead of claws, and an erect posture. Many witnesses and researchers even believe it has true language. When a being is so close to human, yet rather frighteningly different in characteristics like its great size and strength, we’re just naturally going to be very curious about it.
UW: Obviously fiction is full of lycanthropes and aliens – are there any cryptids you think are underrepresented in fiction and deserve their day in the sun?
LSG: Once arguably the most popular cryptids, sea and lake monsters seem to be languishing somewhere off in the deep over the past century. Up until the first few decades of the 20th century, almost every lake had its own serpent or plesiosaur-like monster. Their observable numbers have dwindled since those days, coincidental with the advent and proliferation of modern, motorized water craft. Wisconsin’s Geneva Lake had a creature nicknamed Genny that was seen by scores of people and visited by busloads of tourists from Chicago around the turn of the 20th century. It was also home to a Native American cultural figure known as the water panther. But these days, with every square foot of lake water covered by boats, jet-ski craft and the like, no sensible monster would now dare to stick its long, mottled neck above the frothing wakes. Some people think the lake creatures have escaped to bigger, quieter waters via deep underwater caverns unknown to human science, and I wouldn’t blame them. There are still some seen here and there, however. I do always hope for more.
UW: Let’s say someone has made their way through your entire body of work – what would you recommend they read next for further insight into the unknown?
LSG: Well, after expressing my extreme gratitude to that obviously erudite person, I would start by suggesting he or she sample most works by the late Fortean researcher John Keel. Janet and Colin Bord’s Alien Animals provides a solid investigative base, as do any of the numerous cryptid-hunting sagas by investigator Nick Redfern (Three Men Seeking Monsters is still my favorite), and various literally encyclopedic works by Rosemary Guiley and the ultra-prolific Brad Steiger. There’s also In the Big Thicket by Rob Riggs. Skinwalker Ranch by Colm Kelleher and George Knapp is a classic must-read, and then there are The Hoopa Project and Tribal Bigfoot by David Paulides. Ken Gerhard and Barton Nunnelly are other favorite authors of mine, and I could fill many pages here with other suggestions. I guess I can sum up by saying the number of crypto-worthy books available is monstrous and that our imaginary erudite reader will have no problem finding delicious specimens to devour.