There's something in the woods. Or, so they claim. And who might "they" be? Well, we'll tell you: Cryptozoologists. Say what? Yep, it's a bit of a mouthful. So, let's simplify it: monster-hunters, those folk that run around the world in pursuit of the Yeti of the Himalayas, Bigfoot of the United States, and a wealth of lake-monsters, sea-serpents and all manner of other weird beasts. Fancy that for an entertaining and alternative job? There's no reason why not. And, to do so, you don't even need to leave this fine nation. Welcome to the world of monster-hunting in the UK.
"The monster was the best friend I ever had"
Legendary horror-film actor, Boris Karloff
Hunting the UK's horrors
If you want to become a full-time seeker of unusual animals, well, the road ahead may not be an easy one. Let's face it, there's the major issue of ridicule to deal with. If you're down the pub with your mates on a Friday night and they ask if you're going to watch the match tomorrow, it's probably not going to go down well when you reply: "Sorry, I can't. I'm on a Bigfoot hunt." After a sudden and brief drop of jaws and momentary silence, there will, no doubt, be a wave of hysterical laughter. But don't be put off: you're on a monster mission!
So, you have a new goal in life: to prove to the sceptics, the scientific and zoological communities and -- of course -- your mates, that you're not wasting your time. What's it to be? Lake-monsters? Ape-men? Big cats? The good thing is that, in the UK, there's a surprisingly large number of beasts to choose from.
England's West Country proudly flies the flag of the legendary and fearsome Beast of Exmoor, a huge, fanged black cat that prowls the old landscape in search of a tasty sheep, rabbit or unwary hiker. Loch Ness, Scotland is the reputed home of Nessie, a large, long-necked creature that, some maintain, might be a surviving relic from the days of the dinosaurs.
Cornwall folklore tells of the terrible, glowing-eyed Owlman, a fiendish winged beast that lurks in the trees. Wales' Lake Bala is the domain of Teggie, a monstrous fish that easily rivals Nessie. And, if you're lucky, take a trek up Ben Macdui in Scotland's Cairngorm Mountains and you might stumble on the "Big Grey Man" - which, some monster-hunters suggest, is nothing less than a British Bigfoot. There's plenty for you to choose from in your new job!
Armed to the teeth
So, you have selected the monster that is likely to obsess you just about as much as, in fictional format, Moby Dick did for Captain Ahab. But, how are you going to find the beast? And if you do locate it, what then? Well, to avoid those rolling eyes and shaking heads that you will inevitably encounter, you're going to need to try and secure some evidence for the existence of the monster. Proof is everything. And that requires employing a large amount of science, technology and careful planning. In other words, let's head to the shops and spend some pounds.
Like normal, regular animals, such as foxes, badgers and hedgehogs, the UK's big cats, lake monsters and other weirdies are very often seen at night. You know what that means, right? It's time to invest in some high-quality night-vision equipment. Don't worry though: check out the right shops and you can get some surprisingly cheap deals on such essential equipment.
Get yourself a good camera, a reliable camcorder, the very latest in audio-recording equipment and a map, pad and biros and you're on your way. It's best, too, to invest in a sturdy, all-terrain vehicle. The very last thing you want is to incur the wrath of your other half when you ruin the wheels, axles and suspension after bouncing across Dartmoor half the night in the family car in search of a big cat.
So, you've got your vehicle, you're loaded up with all the latest techno-gadgets and just about everything you'll need to find a monster, and it's time to hit the road. Now, the real adventure begins.
Hoaxing and mistaken identity
One of the things that you'll have to develop on a monster hunt is patience. Unless you're really lucky Nessie is not going to rear up from the depths of murky Loch Ness and parade and perform for your camera like some trained seal at the local zoo. And the same goes for the Big Grey Man and Teggie, too. With that in mind, be prepared: potentially, you might be on the hunt for years, never mind just weeks or months. And get ready for cases of hoaxing and mistaken identity.
If the local press gets wind of the fact that you're pulling into town to uncover the truth about the legendary monster that haunts the area, be aware that there is always some joker who wants to run around in a gorilla suit after dark, put together a photo-shopped image of a long neck rising our of a large lake, or spin some tall tale to get into the newspapers.
And then there's the matter of knowing your animals. Before you can say for sure there's something unnatural swimming, running or flying around, you need to rule out the completely natural things. On countless occasions, alleged big-cat prints have been shown to actually be the tracks of large dogs. Bugger. Suggestions have been made that Nessie might be nothing stranger than a giant sturgeon, and that Teggie could be a particularly vicious, huge pike.
While you might be the one person who really does solve the mystery, the monster may actually not be what many assume, or hope, it to be. Then again, maybe unknown animals really are out there. If so, someone, one day, will surely find them. And it could even be you!
A world of menacing creatures
Although there can be no doubt at all that the world's most famous, alleged real-life monsters are Nessie, the Abominable Snowman and Bigfoot, they are far from being alone. Rather, our planet is reportedly filled to the brim with bizarre beasts.
There's the Chupacabras: a vampire-like animal that strikes fear into the hearts of the people of Puerto Rico. Megalania was a gigantic monitor-lizard that zoologists say became extinct thousands of years ago. But, according to cryptozoologists, it's reputed to still lurk in the wild and forested areas of Australia. And Mongolian folklore tells of the dreaded Death Worm, a fearsome beast that can electrocute its prey.