Sunday, February 28, 2010



The world has come together to help Haiti back to its feet after the devastating earthquake.  I thought it would be a good idea to give everyone a "thank you" gift for everything they've done so far — and to encourage those who have not donated to do their part.

Everybody who has donated to Haitian relief is eligible to download my Blue Kingdoms story "The Gift of the Dragons" for free.  There are three steps to claiming your free story.

1) Make a donation to Haiti. If you haven't made a donation already, click here to go to the Red Cross site and donate.  As I write this, the radio button for Haiti is the last one on the page (scroll down).

2) Publicize your donation. Make a post on Twitter, Facebook, your blog, or some other social networking site telling what Haitian relief  charity you've donated to.  Your post should also include the message:

Free story for Haiti @

Which leaves you 95 or so characters on Twitter (more on other sites) to tell people where you donated and encourage them to do the same.  If you want, you can even reference this contest page directly:

3) Sign up for my newsletter. The story link will be going out to my mailing list, either in the March Newsletter or a special edition shortly thereafter.  (I promise not to sell your address/info or send things other than the newsletter & related announcements.)  You can use the form elsewhere on the site, or the one right below.

The deadline for getting signed up for your free story is March 17, 2010.  (Shouldn't St. Patricks Day be your lucky day?)  The story will be in the form of a downloadable file suitable for use with a Kindle, computer, or other electronic reading device.  The last day for downloading the story for free will be March 31, 2010.

So, what are you waiting for?  Send in a donation and get signed up to get your free story today!

Thursday, February 11, 2010


History Channel - Original Air Date: 2/10/10

Full disclosure: I have a bit of skin in the game this time, as you'll notice in the following paragraphs.  (Not much, but a bit.)

MQ looks into the legendary Mothman, and though the legend comes from West Virginia, they start in La Crosse, WI (confusing Mothman with Manbat -- but then, MQ often plays a bit fast and loose with their "facts").  They have the usual eyewitness stories, from Wisconsin to West Virginia to Sacramento, and Joe Nichols and others to do a bit of skeptical investigation.  Joe thinks people have misidentified known animals, like the barred owl, which he says is a good match, except for its size.  Plus, the owl has red eye shine (a Mothman trademark). Friend of Uncanny Radio Nick Redfern (author of Three Men Seeking Monsters and contributor to Uncanny Encounters: Roswell) is among the researchers looking for the beast in Wisconsin.  They canoe into the wilds and hike ancient bluffs, searching for evidence, and also investigating animal eye shine.  They use owl calls to try to lure a barred owl in, for comparison to the stories, but all they find is shiny-eyed deer.  The examine some deer carcass photos, but the expert believes them to have been killed by poachers.

The show also looks into the traditional West Virginia story, talking to witnesses and recreating events. They speculate about Mothman as a portent of doom - including recent disasters and even 9/11.  David Weaver is a sketch artist MQ brings in to draw what the witnesses have seen.  He believes the sketches all portray similar creatures.  The scientific team believes the witnesses saw a smaller animal, and fear enlarged it.  They create cutouts at various sizes (with reflector eyes) and then test subjects on size recognition.  The size estimates vary widely, depending on the witness; some people doubled the size of the targets, calling into question what people are seeing and reporting.  Dr. Chad Marsolek talks about how human memory is effected by emotion; people viewing a disturbing image believe their memories to be accurate, when usually they are not.  He also says that a "weapon focus effect" could cause people to focus on the eyes and forget other details.

As with the better, MQ shows, this episode features a combination of legends and scientific investigation.  There's plenty of info for believer, investigator, and skeptic.  Linda Godfrey and I did part of a show on Manbat in Uncanny Radio.  I hope to get that segment back up on the internet one day. In the meantime, if you're looking for a fun gift for Mothman lovers, you can send them Everything the Government Wants You to Know about Mothman -- a blank book (suitable for filling with your own conspiracies) from Walkabout Publishing.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

MONSTERQUEST - Giant Killer Bees

History Channel - Original Air Date: 2/3/10

Another giant animal version of MQ?  (Can the show do anything besides big animals and bigfoot?)  The killer bees are coming!  (And, no John Belushi is not with them.)  But we get the usual scary stories, the usual monster hunters, and the usual recreations & CGI.  The show cleverly blurs the distinction between "giant" bees and "giant swarms of bees" in a little bit of bait-and-switch.  The hunters give some pretty scary live demonstrations of hive swarm attacks - and even their bee-proof suits cannot stop all the stings.  The super aggressive bees pursue the team more than 1/2 mile from the hive, giving one researcher 40 stings through his suit.  So, this can be a real problem, and sadly it is a man-made problem, resulting when African bees were deliberately bred with American honeybees.  Rather than creating a super honey maker, the experiment created a super predator swarm.  The bees have been heading north from South America ever since, eventually reaching the US southwest.  The fear now is that cross-breeding will allow the bees to live even in northern, wintry climes.  There's not a lot of good news in this show (and nary an actual giant bee in sight), and certainly the bees are currently dangerous in the US Southwest.  But whether killer bees will become a reality in Chicago, New York, or Seattle remains to . . . bee seen.

MONSTERQUEST - Giant Pythons in America

History Channel - Original Air Date: 1/27/10

Another hunting for big animals episode where the fear factor is ramped up.  Are giant hybrid pythons 915-20 feet long and 400 pounds) a menace in America?  Expecting the usual scary witness stories (mixed with a little tragedy)?  Yep.  Got that.  Cool pictures of scary snakes?  Got that.  Notes about how the creatures are encroaching on human spaces?  Yep.  "Experts" describing both the danger and saying people are overreacting?  Got that, too.  And, of course, a fairly familiar band of monster hunters.  Check and double check.  And, just for fun, add in a hint of crossbreeding (even discounting a theoretical venomous python).  Yow, that's scary!

Which is to say that this is a pretty typical MQ known creature episode.  We've got some hunting going on, some scary stories, a bit of science.  At least in these sorts of episodes, we get to see the "monster" - though they never turn out as huge as advertised.  They do find a 10' specimen and some babies in the Florida wilds; so the snakes are out there, breeding where they shouldn't.  And there could be non-native venomous typs, too.  So, not a bad show, but nothing special.  (I still like the ideas of Pythons in Washington, DC, most.) 

Monday, February 1, 2010

MONSTERQUEST - Hillbilly Beast

History Channel - Original Air Date: 1/20/10

Another bigfoot show on MQ?  You betcha.  Did you think they were running out of new names for Sasquatch?  Apparently not.  The show features the usual scare stories and eyewitness reports.  Tim Farmer, a Kentucky ranger, thinks people are most likely misidentifying black bears, seldom seen until recently in Kentucky.  He thinks any unknown beast would liekly be seen by the thousands of trail cams set by hunters out in the woods.  And one such mysterious photo does exist (though it looks like the back of a bear to me).  Naturally, MQ sends out a team to hunt for the beast.  They set camera traps and send up a mini helicopter to scout for signs, and try to recreate the mysterious photo.  An acoustics expert theorizes the creatures may use infrasound (below normal human hearing) to communicate or stun prey.  The team uses "call blasting" to try to lure the beast (but has this ever been proven to work?).  The ranger notes that many animals make strange and unlikely sounds in the woods; he himself was scared almost witless by what turned out to be a fox cry.

This time, they do get return calls - including some they can't identify, which will be analyzed later. Investigating, one man thinks something threw a rock in the river near him.  Then they think they hear scared coyotes reacting to an unknown cry.  A tooth specimen proves inconclusive, partly because only photos are sent for examining.  They mysterious photo turns out to be an image of a bird, with false perspective making it appear larger.  (Kudos to MQ for this analysis.)  So, no monsters again, and only mysterious sounds for hints to things remaining unseen.  As usual with MQ, it's hard to tell where self promotion leaves off, and real mystery begins.