Everyone loves a good mystery. (If you disagree, let me clarify
that mysteries which end with the lead character drawing everybody
into a room, announcing his/her outrageous accusation based on
a series of completely implausible conclusions, and the guilty
party admitting his/her guilt by breaking down, running away,
and/or becoming violent are not really "good" mysteries.)
Anything which sparks one's curiosity may be a mystery, and there
is a lot to be curious about within nature. Take the vampire
octopus, a brilliantly red cephalopod which has developed sharp
spikes on its tentacles in place of suckers. Yikes! That is
certainly curious, leaning toward downright disturbing. So it
should come as no surprise when people are fascinated by reports
of Sasquatch, lake monsters, Mokele-Mbembe, and other creatures
as yet unverified by the scientific establishment. Their existence
may never be proven, but there will always be speculation and
interest. In time, they may become myths or legends themselves.
In my own personal vocabulary, there is a semantic difference
between myth and legend. Myths are normally the result of stories
handed down from generation to generation within a culture to
explain the way things are. Mythological monsters are not myths
in themselves, but rather parts of a greater whole. Legends,
on the other hand, are usually based in fact (e.g., "Wayne
Newton: the man, the legend") and get exaggerated or changed
over time. Most myths are relatively localized. Many towns have
their own stories, such as an old haunted mine shaft or the Boo
Radley house at the end of the street, which give the place
The ultimate value of these creatures of modern legend are as
tourist attractions. For that reason alone, people will wish
to perpetuate the belief in their existence.
One profit area still largely unexploited is that of the film
industry, which in recent years has been dominated by aliens.
So far, creatures like the Loch Ness "monster" and
the Sasquatch have had no real opportunity to enter the horror
arena. Personally, I am tempted to say there just is not anything
frightening about the creatures, especially since they have not
been proven real. They are only borderline nightmares. There
is a great potential for terror, but for some reason no one seems
willing to explore the possibilities. If hundreds of hikers disappeared
every summer in the Pacific Northwest, presumably fodder to giant
primates, or tourists reported spouses snatched by some unidentifiable
menace of nature and dragged into Loch Ness, screaming and gurgling
as they went under, then there might be a universal terror of
these creatures. Just the possibility of such an episode certainly
seemed to do wonders for ruining the reputations of sharks. Jaws
is a fun movie, but if you are truly convinced you will be eaten
by sharks the next time you swim in the ocean, you just don't
swim in the ocean; it is an avoidable menace. Most of the creatures
of legend which seem to get people riled up, however, are terrestrial
or landlocked aquatic/amphibious forms. They will get you if
they want to. Perhaps if more people were confident that these
undiscovered animals were pure fiction, we would feel comfortable
demonizing them and turning them into the stuff of nightmares.
It may well be that unconsciously people do not want to fear
something which may turn out to be real. Notice that there are
very few mainstream movies about familiar animals on a purely
malevolent rampage. In the movies which do exist, the offending
animals are generally diseased, exposed to some sort of radiation,
or part of an evil plot by the Russians; because the justification
for their behavior is usually easily dismissed as improbable,
the fear inspired by the film is often short-lived or based purely
on suspense. Take the case of the Sasquatch: many people believe
at least in the possibility of their existence, but for obvious
reasons know nothing about their intelligence or natural behavior.
Will it make anyone happy to see a film which leads them to believe
that there is a terrible, diabolic race of fiends hiding in the
woods? That is why the only film anyone is familiar with about
Bigfoot is "Harry and the Hendersons." Yes, watching
this movie may be a truly frightening experience, but it has nothing
to do with the filmmakers' intentions.
There is certainly great raw material for the creation of monsters
out of our modern myths, but maybe the film execs just do not
feel they will sell at the box office. Still, I can see the movie
promo for the Sasquatch film even now:
"In the sleepy little town of Harmony, the townspeople are about to be contacted by the original inhabitants," says the man with the gravelly voice.
We see a barn with a hole ripped out of the side where two men are looking at the half-eaten carcass of a horse. "What d'ya think could've done it, Sal? A bear?" "To rip through your barn like that? It'd hafta be one crazy mother--"
Switch scene. A little boy picks up a dog collar from the ground and then, facing the dark, impenetrable woods behind his house, calls out, "Scruffy? Scruffy?"
Gravel Man says, "They've been biding their time, and now they're coming to reclaim their territory."
A look of terror on the boy's face. Switch to woman in a kitchen drying dishes. Suddenly she hears a child's panicked scream. "Bobby?!" She runs outside to an empty yard, staggers around crying his name hysterically.
"There will be no compromises, no negotiations."
Switch to more dark woods with the vague impression of a large, hairy bulk crashing through the bushes. Continue with scenes, mostly at night, of men running to get their guns as something huge crashes through the window behind them. Men with guns meeting in a town hall at night to organize a defense. Men with guns out in the woods, at night, yelling in fear, "It's a trap!" Women without guns trying to get their cars started in a panic, at night, in the woods. Women without guns grabbing their children and running through a house, at night, slamming doors behind them. Women with guns trying to figure out how the damn things work.
Promo ends with a shot of the woods at night, a full moon hanging overhead, with some unearthly scream emanating from the trees. Black screen with white print which reads, "The Reckoning," or some other completely innane title. Then, for shock factor, just so the people going to see "The Smurfs' Christmas" know that this really will be a scary movie, a quick shot, with some horribly loud, sudden noise to accompany it, of a snarling Sasquatch face jumping practically out of the screen at the audience. "Coming May 18."
And that is only if the producers decide to do a relatively tasteful
film. With an adequate budget and the special effects and quality
computer animation available to Hollywood filmmakers today, there
should not be anything to prevent the creation of an effective
Sasquatch, especially since there is no physical specimen with
which filmgoers can compare the movie version. I think they should
go for it.
What it really comes down to is that the hillfolk of Alabama are
more frightening to most people than giant hominoids roaming the
backwoods of British Columbia. Anybody ever seen
How about "Abducted?" I think this guy was in Montana,
but he definitely qualifies as backwoods. Likewise, the Scots
are more frightening to the English than any amphibious beastie
roaming the lochs. If the existence of any modern myth is proven,
the novelty will wear off as soon as it is placed in a zoo, and
the residents of the area will have to find another way to lure