Now it’s time for me to be a fan boy. I’ve been a huge fan of Jim Harold and his incredible Paranormal Podcast for years. A long time subscriber, I listen to every single episode, from The Other Side, to Crime Scene, Ancient Mysteries and the newest addition, The Cryptid Report (on which I was a guest recently, talking about my old pal, the Jersey Devil. You can check that out here).
It’s an honor to have Jim on this old blog n’ chain. We talk about a possible grand unified theory of the paranormal, dream guests and pursuing podcasting full time. So read on, Hellions, and do yourself a favor and listen to the free podcast and subscribe to his Plus Club. You can thank me later.
When it comes to bringing the best and brightest of the paranormal world to listeners all around the world, your podcasts are the top of the heap. How has this decade-plus ride been for you as creator, chief, cook and bottle washer (to steal your own phrase)?
It has been nothing but great. Of course, there have been frustrations and times when I wasn’t sure it was all going to work out but all in all it has been the opportunity of a lifetime for me.
Everyone has to start somewhere. Who was your first guest and how did you get them on the show, especially being an unknown quantity at the time?
It was July 29, 2005 and the guest was Loyd Auerbach who is one of the best people in this field. I simply wrote him an email asking. He was kind enough to say sure. My plus members can still listen to that show but my ears bleed when I hear it.
You often talk about the impact In Search Of had on you and your career. I see that with so many people of a certain age (like myself) who have gone on to write and create in the horror/scifi/paranormal fields. What was your favorite episode? Which one scared you the most?
Hmm, that is a tough one. I always loved the stuff about The Bermuda Triangle. That eerie music freaked me out. I loved it! (Hunter’s Note : The soundtrack to In Search Of still creeps me out. Literally the only music that gives me the willies.)
People really appreciate the fact that you’re not a ghost/cryptid/UFO investigator. You’re the even-keeled man behind the mic giving voice to those who have dedicated their lives to the study of the strange and unusual. After hundreds and hundreds of interviews, what’s surprised you the most?
That there is very possibly some tie between these different phenomena…I originally viewed everything as very siloed but now I wonder. Is all of this stuff, or at least some, connected?
Over the past year, you ask a lot of your guests about a grand unified theory of the paranormal, where perhaps everything is all part of the same whole. You have a unique view of the entire landscape. Gun to your head, do you think ghosts, cryptids, UFOs, the whole gamut, are related and if so, what do you think is behind it all? If it’s all originating from some starting point, there has to be an originator.
Ah, I anticipated your question in my last answer! I think that there is SOMETHING connecting everything but I don’t know what. I have no idea. I think it is kind of like Plato’s Allegory of the Cave where we are just all looking at the shadows on the wall, trying to interpret them but failing because we can’t see what is really going on.
Did you ever interview someone outside of your Campfire show that told a story so frightening (maybe even because it was a horrifying potential reality), it gave you chills or maybe made sleep a little more difficult that night?
I recently did a show on the 1949 case of a possessed St. Louis boy who was the inspiration for The Exorcist. To know, and this is well documented, that there are real cases of what appears to be demon possession is very unsettling to me. If demons come out this aggressively and it is documented, how do they infiltrate our daily lives and we don’t even realize it? Road rage, child abuse, war, etc. The list goes on and on. How many ways does evil invade our lives and we just chalk it up to human nature gone wrong? Is there really something sentient trying to lead the world astray? It makes you think about the existence of a literal Devil.
If we could get a substantial government grant to dedicate millions of dollars and resources to the scientific study of one aspect of the paranormal, which should we choose? I have my own answer that I think we’re going to be in agreement with because of the broader implications.
Life after death, hands down. It answers so many other questions. (Hunter’s note : that’s exactly how I feel! We answer that question, what else really matters?)
Who have been some of your favorite guests? Who is the one guest who has since passed that you wish you’d gotten, and one current dream guest that you’re hoping to get?
I wish I would have been able to interview Budd Hopkins on UFOs, that is one who comes to mind. John Keel is another. Loren Coleman would be a great guest and I’d very much like to interview James Randi. I know that seems counter intuitive but we need to understand the hardcore skeptic to learn how to have communication with other skeptics who might be capable of having an open mind.
A few years ago, you took the leap to full time podcasting, as well as writing. How terrifying was that and how has it been? By the way, the day you announced it, you became my hero. You have the career I dreamed of as a kid.
Thank you. I didn’t dream of podcasting, per se, because it didn’t exist in its current form but I always wanted to be a content creator in both broadcasting and written form. Audio, visual and the written word. Sometimes I would take stories and rewrite them from the neighborhood newspaper with a manual typewriter (remember those?), I would go around the house with a flashlight pretending I was a game show host, so broadcasting seems to have been bred in me as well. Another funny story is how I asked for a DJ “radio studio” toy when I was a kid. I didn’t get it but I have done a really good job of reconstructing it in my home studio now! Amazon must love me. Can you say compensating?
I was moderately scared at first when going full time but I had changed jobs many times while working in traditional media and kind of just viewed this as another job in terms of risk. If it wouldn’t have worked out, I would have just found another job. My wife and family were very supportive and I couldn’t have done it without them. It has been nothing but a blessing and I am so grateful to my audience. The feedback tells me they enjoy what I do and I am so glad it resonates with them. We are all just fellow seekers. I hope your readers will check out the shows at jimharold.com and wherever fine podcasts are heard. Thank you for the time to talk with you and your audience today.
I know, Hellions, that’s one strange ass title for a blog post, but that’s exactly what it’s all about.
Thanks goes out to an old friend, Brenda B., for sharing this photo and story with me. Somehow, during my research into the Jersey Devil, I missed this! Back in the 60’s in New Jersey, a cow and a deer carcass somehow made it to the top of a telephone pole. Locals attributed it to their friendly neighborhood monster.
Cryptozoologists say the Jersey Devil has kept a very low profile since the early 1900s, but if you go out and talk to the people who live there, you’ll get a completely different opinion. And here’s another shocker – I can’t believe how many folks have first hand Bigfoot encounters in the Pine Barrens. I’ve spoken to quite a few, some of them still visibly upset, even if it happened years ago.
I wonder if this was the Jersey Devil’s idea of a pinata? Maybe she just wanted to throw a party for her horrid offspring.
And speaking of horrid offspring, Pinnacle has discounted all of my books for the month of February. You can snag an ebook of The Montauk Monster for $1.99, The Jersey Devil for 99 cents or Tortures of the Damned for 99 cents. Time to load up those e-readers on the cheap!
What’s the strangest thing ever found on a telephone pole? For me, we threw a Batman figure that had a parachute attached to our phone line. It stayed there for about 10 years, poor Batsy’s color fading with each year.
We recently interviewed Lyle Blackburn on the Monster Men to discuss his new movie, Boggy Creek Monster, and book, Monstro Bizzaro. If you’re obsessed with cryptids like I am, Lyle is one of the best investigators in the field today. His previous books, The Beast of Boggy Creek and Lizard Man have prominent positions on my bookshelf.
When all was said and done, I realized I still had a few more questions I’d wanted to ask. So, here is the original video interview along with the bonus questions Lyle was kind enough to answer. Now let’s go squatchin!
We’re very much alike in that we grew up fascinated by tales of Bigfoot and other creatures (as well as a fondness for The Creature from the Black Lagoon!). How did you take the leap from being a rocker in Ghoultown to cryptid reporter?
LB : In addition to being a musician, I’ve always worked as a writer. Among other things, I wrote for a rock magazine and then for Rue Morgue (www.rue-morgue.com) as their cryptozoology-meets-horror columnist. I’ve always wanted to write a book, so I decided to take some time off from the band to pursue that. I ended up choosing one of my favorite subjects, The Legend of Boggy Creek. Once I started investigating these sort of cryptid cases and writing the books, I really enjoyed it so I continued. I always thought the job of a professional writer sounded boring, but this brought me to interesting places and I met interesting people as part of the writing process – not to mention it involved my fascination with cryptids. My band Ghoultown still plays and records, but we don’t tour like we used to.
One of the best things you bring to the field of cryptozoology is your straightforward, journalistic approach to researching and educating people about creatures like the Boggy Creek Monster and the Lizard Man of Bishopville. You report the stories and the facts as they are without dramatization for the sake of titillating your readers. What made you decide to go in this direction and do you think the field needs more level headed reporting so it can be taken more seriously by the mainstream media and public?
LB: I think these stories are fascinating unto themselves without trying to sway people toward a certain point of view. I just tell the story, report the facts, and let whatever evidence speak for itself. I like to take the reader along as I investigate and give them credit to make up their own mind.
Who are some of your biggest influences and why?
LB: As far as writing and cryptozoology, I would say John Green and Loren Coleman. Green always had a level-headed approach to Sasquatch research and presented the stories in an engaging way. He also paid attention to details and getting the facts correct as best he could. Coleman, of course, paved the way for the modern cryptozoology researcher and has investigated so many of the seminal cases. Many times as I’m doing research, when I trace an investigation back to its original source, Coleman was there first. I’m honored that he wrote the Foreword for my first book, The Beast of Boggy Creek. It’s like having one of your heroes endorse your efforts. So cool.
Out of all the photographic and video evidence for Bigfoot, which to you is the most compelling evidence that it is real? And with just about everyone having a camera/videocam in their pockets, why aren’t we getting more solid evidence? Could it be we are but because it’s so easy to fake now, the real deal might be hiding in plain sight?
LB: To me, the footprints represent the most compelling evidence. Examples such as the Elkins Creek cast from Georgia stand out, especially when I’ve been able to interview the police officer who originally discovered the track.
As far as all the photos and videos, it’s really hard to discern between what might be real and what is a possible case of pareidolia or just outright fake. All the blurry shots don’t do us any good. We need something much clearer in this day and age, and even that is suspect since modern technology allows for such amazing CGI. Most people do carry a smart phone camera these days, but the lack of a clear photo shouldn’t be used as a basis to completely rule out the possibility of these creatures. Chance encounters typically last only a few moments, making it hard to pull out a phone, open the camera app, aim, and take a photo.
I’m sure you’ve heard the Sierra Bigfoot recordings taken back in the 70s. What are your thoughts on it and other similar recordings? Most of them are downright chilling.
LB: They’re definitely creepy and very compelling. In my opinion the Sierra Sounds are legit. And if it’s not a hoax, then that leaves very few possibilities beyond an undiscovered creature such as Bigfoot. I’ve heard recordings from other places which sound very similar; sent to me by credible individuals. They just don’t sound like any known animal.
Do you have any plans to investigate the Skunk Ape in Florida? I have the Fate Magazine with the famous Skunk Ape picture on the cover and keep waiting for someone to hunker down and do some serious research in that corner of the country.
LB: Earlier this year I visited the Ocala National Forest in Florida where there’s been a good amount of Skunk Ape sightings over the years. This was part of the research for my upcoming book, “Beyond Boggy Creek: In Search of the Southern Sasquatch” in which I document the history of Bigfoot sightings all over the Southern U.S. I dedicate an entire chapter of the book to the Skunk Ape, although there’s so much to this cryptid’s history and so many sightings, that I could write an entire book on it. Perhaps in the future.
Follow Lyle Blackburn at http://www.lyleblackburn.com
In the mood for a good cryptid book? Check these out…
Over the course of writing The Jersey Devil, the elusive cryptid and I have gotten pretty close. He recently told me, over a cup of what he said was mulled wine, but I suspect it was something far more disquieting, that he wanted to get out and travel the country, if not the world. After over 200 years in the Pine Barrens, it’s time to spread his wings, so to speak.
“There’s just one teensy weensy little problem,” he said to me, tapping his cloven hoof on his chin. “I’m afraid there are too many monster hunters out and about nowadays. You see them bumbling about with their night vision cameras. I fear for my safety as much as my anonymity. The last thing I want is to be featured on some reality paranormal show…or shot!” Shivering, he added, “I don’t know which would be worse.”
Point well taken. We sat against the pygmy pines in the dark of night, contemplating his dilemma. As a cloud obscured the moon and the howl of a nearby Sasquatch got our attention (“Oh, that’s just Larry,” JD said), an idea came to me.
“How would you like to live vicariously through my book?” I asked.
Old JD flicked his tail excitedly. “How so?”
Knowing he’s a big fan of Instagram and Twitter (whereas Bigfoot prefers SnapChat & the Loch Ness Monster is partial to Facebook), I told him that I and my Hellions could take the book wherever we go and post pictures on Instagram with the hashtag #JerseyDevil. That way, he could see the world while in the relative comfort of his forest preserve.
“Oooo, I like that. Can you take me to a cemetery first? I’m so tired of the ones around here. It’s so…so…dead out here in the Barrens.”
The next day, I did just that, taking the book to the oldest cemetery in my city.
He wrote me back immediately on Instagram. “Love it! So nice to see new headstones. Where to next?”
Indeed. Where to next?
That’s where you come in. Help old JD out and tote your copy of The Jersey Devil with you when you’re out and about, on vacation, even in the house puttering around. Post your pic on Instagram using #jerserydevil and @huntershea2017 or Twitter using #JerseyDevil and @huntershea1 so the beast and I can collect and enjoy this little travelogue.
We’ll pick people at random every week to receive free books from the Hunter Shea library!
It’s the holiday season. Be kind to cryptids. And have fun doing it. It will be interesting to see where The Jersey Devil ends up. Plus, it’s always a smart idea to keep a monster happy. You wouldn’t want an angry Jersey Devil tapping on your window late at night, would you? Don’t end up the main ingredient in his ‘mulled wine’. Just saying.
My latest novella with Severed Press is now available in ebook (and trade paperback in a few days), LOCH NESS REVENGE. This one is especially near and dear to me because Nessie became one of my first monster obsessions thanks to an episode of In Search Of back in the 70s (you can watch the actual episode here). I remember checking out every book I could find in the libraries in the Bronx, wishing I could fly to Scotland and just live by the Loch, searching for proof of Nessie.
Cut to a few decades later, and I’m hunting her down in a book that blends fact with fiction. So, what’s this latest foray into cryptid terror about?
Deep in the murky waters of Loch Ness, the creature known as Nessie has returned. Twins Natalie and Austin McQueen watched in horror as their parents were devoured by the world’s most infamous lake monster. Two decades later, it’s their turn to hunt the legend. But what lurks in the Loch is not what they expected. Nessie is devouring everything in and around the Loch, and it’s not alone. Hell has come to the Scottish Highlands. In a fierce battle between man and monster, the world may never be the same.
And here’s a little something to whet your appetite (or wet your appetite, when you’re talking lake monsters!) Read the preview of chapter one and if you like what you see, you don’t have to go all the way to Scotland to grab a copy.
Even the Scottish whisky can’t stop the nightmare from coming. And believe me, they have some pretty incredible shit here. The locals drink it like water, but I’m not a local.
I may have been here for five years, but they’ll never accept this American interloper. Fine by me. I realize I’m just a transient, albeit one that’s been here for a handful of years. When the time comes, I’ll be happy to leave the Highlands forever. A girl can only take so much sourdough and tartan.
Hmm, but I will miss the scenery. So pretty out here. Well, when it’s not foggy, overcast, or raining. And the Scottish men, nothing to complain about there, though I wish I could understand them a little better. I have a terrible ear for accents and sometimes I can’t believe we speak the same language. I was barely able to understand what went on in the movie Trainspotting. This is a whole new level.
I’m up and sweating and can’t catch my breath.
Is it technically a nightmare when the thing that wakes you up in the dead of night is a memory?
Not that it matters.
Nightmare…memory…either way, I can never get a full night’s sleep.
I slip my legs out from under the covers, grab the glass of tepid water I keep next to my phone charger, and gulp it down. When it comes, I sweat enough to soak through my clothes.
Years ago, my simple solution was to sleep in the nude.
It didn’t work out. Changing sheets is a hell of a lot harder than slipping on a fresh pair of panties, sleep shorts, and a T-shirt.
The spare clothes are neatly folded on the floor by my feet. I stand, stretch, get down to my birthday suit, pat myself down with a towel, and get dressed.
The radio is still on, some late, late night call-in show hosted by someone with such a thick accent, I can barely understand what the hell he’s talking about. Like I said, I’m Scottish tone deaf.
Snapping the radio off, I collapse back into bed.
The good news is, the nightmare never comes twice.
The bad news is, falling back to sleep is never a guarantee. It’s almost four in the morning.
Early to bed, early to rise.
I went to bed at midnight. Not sure that constitutes early.
I close my eyes, the remnant of the nightmare – memory – still playing like an old filmstrip as the heat from the projector bulb rapidly melts it away.
It was 1995. Shania Twain had exploded on the music scene. I couldn’t stop playing her CD. The fact that it pissed off my twin brother Austin was just a bonus. He was all grunge, all the time, back then.
We were camped right where my RV sits now. Me, Austin, Mom, and Dad.
My father had been downsized by the genetics company where he’d worked for almost twenty years. They gave him a goodbye package that left us flush with cash. No tears were shed. He was a scientist toiling away for a corporate entity. He’d felt he’d sold his soul for long enough.
So he took us out of school and we headed for Europe. He’d missed the chance to live his dream and backpack across the continent when he finished college.
“It’ll be much more fun with you guys. I knew I waited for a reason,” he’d said.
Austin and I didn’t care where he took us. We were just glad to be out of school for the rest of the year.
We alternated between camping out when the weather was agreeable and staying in nice hotels, especially when we were in cities like Florence and Berlin and Barcelona.
By the time we made it to Scotland, spring was fading into summer, and Dad wanted to sleep under the stars in the Great Glen, the glacial fissure that tore Scotland a new one 400 million years ago. The words lush and green are all you need to know to describe the Great Glen. Nature done did it right when she painted this scenery.
Smack in the middle of the glen was a series of lochs, one of them being my current home and setting of my nightmare – Loch Ness.
“We can’t go to Scotland without spending some time at Loch Ness,” my father had said. “Maybe we’ll even see the monster!”
We thought that made this place the coolest stop on our trek across Europe.
Kids are stupid.
It was dark. Austin and I were roasting marshmallows over the remains of our fire. Our parents went down to the water’s edge to clean out the pot we used for cooking chili. I was playing Shania Twain on the boom box, but had to keep it low. When Austin tried to hit the Stop button, I whacked him on the back of his hand with the hot end of my marshmallow stick.
“Jeez, that hurts you asshole!” he shrieked, cradling his hand to his chest.
“You’re such a baby. I can’t believe you came out first. Mom saved the best for last.”
He chucked a marshmallow at my head.
“You’re more like my afterbirth.”
I shrugged it off. We’d been saying the same things to each other for so long, we could recite each other’s lines.
That was as close to ‘twin speak’ as we’ve ever come. We look nothing alike, we act nothing alike, and we sure as hell don’t think alike.
It was then we heard the screams.
Two screams, to be exact.
My mother and my father.
We bolted to our feet, spilling the plastic bag of marshmallows into the fire.
There was a tremendous splash of water.
We ran to them, heedless of what we might encounter. Someone was attacking them. A deaf person could hear their struggle, the pain and terror in their cries.
We got to the shore a moment before we lost them forever.
Their heads were visible, floating atop the churning water. Something big and black and shiny, like the body of an anaconda, was wrapped around their necks. It must have given a sudden, powerful squeeze, because their voices were cut sharply.
“We have to help them!” Austin blurted, going so far as to get in the water up to his ankles.
But I held him back.
I watched my parent’s eyeballs puff up and explode from their sockets seconds before they were dragged down into the Loch’s murky depths.
And just like that, they were gone.
I watch them die every single night.
I can’t un-see their eyes, blowing up to cartoonish proportions before popping like balloons filled with mayonnaise and blood.
It’s why I fucking hate looking at people’s eyes. I can barely stand to look at my own in the mirror. I haven’t worn makeup in years just to save myself the horror.
- The clock says 4:15.
I’m not the least bit tired.
Early to rise it is.
Maybe today’s the day.
If it isn’t, oh well. I’ve got nowhere else to go.
Care to see what adult Natalie and Austin have up their sleeve for Nessie? Go to Amazon and pick it up today.
I have a little something special to share with my Hellions. Here is the cover to my second novel with Severed Press, LOCH NESS REVENGE. Ain’t Nessie just beautiful? I love the art department at Severed. The book will be available on November 3rd.
Until then, wear some tartan, drink some whiskey and have a shortbread cookie or two.