I recently had the privilege of interviewing Mr. Lyle Blackburn of Fouke Monster and Ghoultown fame!
Lyle Blackburn is a frequent contributor and cryptozoology advisor to Rue Morgue magazine, one of the leading horror media publications in print today. Lyle’s Monstro Bizarro blog is featured on Rue Morgue’s website and his “Monstro Bizarro Presents” news column appears monthly in the print magazine. He has also contributed to websites such as Cryptomundo.com, and has been a featured speaker at paranormal conferences and horror conventions around the country.
Growing up in Texas, Lyle has always been fascinated with legends, lore and sighting reports of real-life “monsters.” He has studied the phenomenon in legend, fact and film, and is the author of The Beast of Boggy Creek: The True Story of the Fouke Monster.
Lyle is also the founder and frontman for the Texas-based rock band, Ghoultown. Since 1998, Ghoultown has released eight albums, toured extensively in both the U.S. and Europe, and has appeared on several horror movie soundtracks. Most recently, Lyle and his band collaborated with legendary television horror hostess, Elvira – Mistress of the Dark, to create her new theme song, which was also turned into an extended music video. The video was featured on Elvira’s Movie Macabre television show, which is syndicated throughout the U.S. on local stations.
Your book The Beast of Boggy Creek: The True Story of The Fouke Monster has been selling consistently well and receiving great reviews. It even has a Video Promo. How long did you spend putting it together?
From the time I started researching and writing, it took one year. Of course I had prior knowledge and experiences that went into the book, but as far as from the time I drove up to Fouke with the intention of book research to the date I finished and got a publishing deal, it was almost one year exactly. During that year I went to Arkansas many times to conduct interviews, visit the Texarkana libraries, and even go into the swamps and woods myself so I could investigate some of the sighting locations.
Word is there’s a follow up in the works. Can you tell us anything about it yet?
One of these days I plan to write a follow-up to Boggy Creek, but it’ll be awhile before I start. Since releasing the book, I’ve already investigated several new Fouke Monster sightings, found out about some more old ones, and also dug up some more interesting facts that will make for a great book. But it still needs time to develop more before starting that. There’s still stuff coming in so I don’t wanna jump the gun. In other words, I don’t wanna throw out some sequel just because the first book was popular. It needs to be worthwhile for myself and the reader. In the meantime, I have a list of other cryptid books I plan to write, not to mention I just finished a new book that will be out this fall.
When did you start hunting monsters? Was it something you always wanted to do?
I was always interested in strange creatures like bigfoot, yeti, and lake monsters, but never really considered going out to look for them until much later in life. After seeing The Legend of Boggy Creek as a kid, I did look over my shoulder when we hunted or went camping in Arkansas, but my interest was mostly confined to reading other people’s accounts in books. Then after years of playing in bands, which pretty much confined me to the jungles of nightclubs and music venues, I decided to cut that off and start getting back to my love of the outdoors and monsters. I started with bigfoot research, which led to the book, which has now led to most of my time being spent researching cryptids both in a scholarly way and in the field.
The Legend of Boggy Creek was a major inspiration for my novel Progeny as well. You’ve amassed a comprehensive list of Bigfoot flicks. What are some of your favorites?
My favorite, of course, is The Legend of Boggy Creek. For me it not only satisfies my craving for scary bigfoot tales, but also reminds me so much of my childhood going through small towns like Fouke on the way to bow hunt with my dad. There was always something creepy about old towns, as if they held monstrous secrets that outsiders could never know. Such is the basis for many other horror films, I suppose.
Some of my other favorite classic bigfoot films are Creature From Black Lake, Sasquatch: The Legend of Bigfoot, and Snow Beast. As far as new films, I like Savage and one that was never widely released called Paper Dolls. But the best of the new crop, and my favorite besides Boggy Creek, is Bobcat Goldthwait’s Willow Creek. It’s not released yet, but I had a chance to see a special screening of it last month. It’s simply amazing. Something that people probably won’t expect from Bobcat, but certainly one of the best bigfoot films – if not one of the best horror films – I’ve seen in awhile.
I’ve a had a few. The most notable was when myself and a friend were canoeing in an Arkansas bayou late one night. We heard six evenly spaced howls that sent chills up our spines. We’ve heard all kinds of animals in the woods over the years, but this was something altogether different. It was a large animal that sounded very unique. Luckily we got one of the howls recorded. Back at home I listened to numerous sound clips of animals common to the area, but couldn’t find any matches. To this day, I’m not sure what we heard.
In previous interviews you’ve stated that you are more inclined to the theory that sasquatch and its variants are flesh and blood creatures, rather than interdimensional travelers with supernatural powers. Does this extend to other strange topics, such as UFOs and ghosts? In other words, have you pretty well ruled out validity of paranormal phenomena?
Not necessarily. I think it depends on how we define paranormal. By definition, unidentified flying objects undoubtedly exist. People do see strange lights and crafts in the sky. The question is, are they driven by an extraterrestrial force? Nobody can conclusively prove that one way or the other, so it certainly falls into the category of paranormal until we have more concrete evidence to go on. Ghosts too. I think that people are seeing, hearing, and experiencing things that can’t be easily explained. The question is, are these the immaterial forms of a dead people? Again, nobody can say at this point, so that too falls into the category of paranormal.
If you somehow obtained indisputable proof of the existence of one of these creatures, what do you think you would do with it?
I would probably consult a few of my closest and most well-respected friends in the bigfoot research community so that we might be able to thoroughly document the evidence before going public. Then I would probably hold a press conference or something so that no one could dispute that we had something before the government or some other major scientific organization moves in. I think it would be an earth-shattering discovery to find something that is so human-like as bigfoot appears to be, so it shouldn’t be something taken lightly or made public in a haphazard way.
Like everything else, Bigfoot and his cousins have found their way to reality television and its ilk. Do you find this to be a positive or negative development for the science of cryptozoology?
It’s both good and bad, I guess. It’s good, in that it makes people feel like they won’t be called crazy if they do report a sighting. But bad, since reality television is not the same as thorough science or research. People may draw conclusions about cryptozoology based on the approach of these shows, or even the cast members, when it may not necessarily represent what truly goes on in the field.
That being said, I personally don’t get all stressed out about these shows. I understand that it’s entertainment television and I choose to enjoy the shows, or not. I’ve even been on some of them. Some of them are fun and some are kinda worthless, but overall I think it’s gotten the public fired up about the subject of mystery monsters, and to me, that’s not a bad thing. So I just don’t spend much energy worrying about things I can’t really control. I just try to write good books and present good lectures. That’s the part I can control, so I focus my energies there.
What other anomalous phenomena interest you?
I’ve always been a fan of ghost stories and sightings. I love creepy stuff, so anything like that is cool. I just got the In Search Of… DVD set, so it’s fun to watch all the different episodes which cover so many weird things. The world is always a better place when there’s a bit of mystery involved.
Onto music. Your band Ghoultown has been together since 98 which is a pretty long run for a band. How do you guys maintain the magic?
I think the secret to our longevity is that we don’t take it too seriously. The music business can really kick you in the ass, so at the end of the day you just have to try and have fun doing what you do. We’re also good friends, so that helps too.
On the Ghoultown website, the band bio concludes with the statement to the effect that you are not a part of any genre, trend or musical scene. Why do you feel it’s important to make this disclaimer–if that’s what it is?
I guess you could call it a statement of independence. But really it’s just something that popped into my head as I was writing up the new bio. It sounded cool, so that was that.
There’s no doubt that Ghoultown is a unique melding of genres. Who are some of your influences and favorites?
Spaghetti westerns and horror movies are the main influence for the band. Most of the bands I listen to have no influence or relation to what I do in Ghoultown, so there’s not very much influence coming in from other music.
Of your own songs, which mean the most to you for whatever reason?
“Return of the Living Dead” is my favorite because I think technically, it’s the best song I’ve written. Some of my other favorites are “Under the Phantom Moon,” Walking Through the Desert With a Crow” and “The Worm.” I hardly ever go back and listen to our music once it’s been recorded and released, but these are songs I listen to and say ‘wow, did I really write that?’
Anybody ever tell you you look like that dude from Monster Magnet?
Yes. The clerks at the big retail guitar store give me discount because they think I’m in Monster Magnet. I just roll with it.