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The Complete Guide to Mysterious Beings

John Keel

Doubleday Main Street Books

US Trade Paperback

ISBN 0-385-47904-0

340 pages ; $9.95

Date Reviewed: 11-28-1995

Review by Rick Kleffel © 2001



Non-Fiction, Horror

01-25-02, 01-31-02, 07-25-02, 11-23-02

The monster hunter is a pretty rare species these days, almost as fabled as the creatures he seeks. On TV, we have Agents Mulder and Scully; in reality, we are lucky enough to have John Keel, a real-life analogue for Darren McGavin's character in 'The Night Stalker'. In 'The Complete Guide to Mysterious Beings', John Keel re-writes his own 1970 book, 'Strange Creatures from Time and Space' from the vantage of 20 more years of experience. While it's not as complete or comprehensive as we might like when dealing with more recent events, 'The Complete Guide to Mysterious Beings' is still an enjoyable bigfoot-o-rama which includes all the unusual suspects -- sea monsters, lake monsters, giant snakes, dragons, angels, the Mothman, earth giants, trolls, vampires and werewolves.

Unlike many others who write about monsters, or, as the oh-so-serious like to call it, 'crytozoology', Keel does not take himself tremendously seriously, which makes this book a breeze to read. You -- or even Keel himself -- may not believe verbatim every anecdote he manages to scrape up. But Keel is a good enough writer to know that the fun is in the reading, not the believing.

If you're looking for a serious, sober scientific study of bigfoot, sea serpents and other unverified terrestrial life forms, you can put this book down immediately, because that's not Keel's interest. Most writers who research the so-called 'paranormal' filter out as much of the 'para' as possible in order to make the rest seem more normal. Not John Keel. He embraces and seeks out the reports that other researchers leave out of their books, those with the most absurd and unbelievable stories. Some of them prove to be hoaxes, while others, such as the winged cat of the fourth chapter, remain firmly in the absurd.

On the other hand, if you are looking for a mountain of reports that take a shotgun blast at consensus reality, then John Keel should be just your cup of tea. In a chapter titled 'Creatures from the Black Lagoon', Keel simply presents event after event, from the slightest scrap to the meatiest meal of hairy monster sightings in the United States. Unfortunately, most of this is compiled from the previous version of the book, and the pickings get pretty slim between 1970 and 1990; still, there's enough there to whet the slimmest appetite for the fantastic.

Some books about mysterious creatures would try to determine bigfoot's biology, theorizing about missing links and surviving pockets of Neanderthals. John Keel, in contrast, delves into examples of bigfoot sighted in the vicinity of UFOs. And when he does get to modern UFO theorists, from Whitley Strieber to Budd Hopkins, he lets his acid-dipped prose run wild, quoting Strieber as saying "...the so-called UFOlogists are probably the cruelist, nastiest, and craziest people I have ever encountered."

Keel's sense of humor is the primary reason to read and enjoy 'The Complete Guide to Mysterious Beings'. Like most people who even consider picking up a book with this title, Keel seems to think that something interesting is happening to generate all these reports of monsters, aliens and devils. But he's not dogmatic about it; he presents the absurd and the chilling alongside the verified hoax and the explained mistakes. For some, John Keel will seem to be the ultimate flake, who believes nothing and mocks everything; for others, he'll be a breath of fresh air in a field dominated by self-important windbags.