Cryptozoology, BioForteana, Zoological Oddities, Unusual Natural History

BioFortean Review Book Review

Further Cryptozoology
Ronan Coghlan
Xiphos Books, 2007

Reviewed by Craig Heinselman, editor CRYPTO

Further Cryptozoology is Ronan Coghlan’s second supplement to his 2004 Dictionary of Cryptozoology, the first update being 2005’s Cryptosup. While Coghlan’s initial endeavor back in 2004 yielded a potentially useful, if awkward, research reference, the supplemental works have been sadly sub-par both in content and presentation.

Further Cryptozoology continues the previous style from Cryptosup by listing alphabetically additional or supplemental information not covered in the Dictionary of Cryptozoology. However, one must own the original dictionary in order to backtrack through some references, while other references are strictly unusable without inside knowledge. This manner makes the book harder to use as a reference tool. Take, for instance, the following example:

GOLDSBOROUGH GROWLER A mystery creature of Queensland which seems to be known only from the growls it utters. Raids on farm animals have been ascribed to it. [1]”

The example is from page 82, with the [1] being the reference. The [1] connects to page 221 under the heading, Websites, wherein the [1] equals CFZ. For the new reader or researcher unfamiliar, the question arises: What is CFZ? The answer is The Centre for Fortean Zoology, however one must know this in order to follow Coghlan’s reference. Even so, the reference does not link to a specific location or even provide the website itself.

Using the same principle, let us follow with another example. This one is from page 102:

JILIN DRAGON A red object that appeared to be a dragon was seen in the sky by students at Jilin University, China in 2005. A cellphone photograph was taken at the time. [#1]”

In this case the [#1] refers to the periodical Animals and Men (page 220 under Periodicals), but again leaves the rest wide open. Which issue of Animals and Men? What is the citation? While it may seem simple to do an Internet search to find out more, not all readers have this access. As such, a concrete reference would change the adaptation of a book from useless to useful. Even a degree of respect is lost when citations are not given correctly. For example, several books are referenced within Further Cryptozoology, and none has a proper citation. Here is a comparison of two references from Further Cryptozoology to one style of accepted citation:

Bille Shadows of Existence (2006)
Bille, Matthew A., Shadows of Existence, Hancock House, 2006

Newman Strange Indiana Monsters (2007)
Newton, Michael, Strange Indiana Monsters, Schiffer Publishing, 2006

That is the problem, the usage of this book as a reference work is not viable. Reverse citations for fact-checking are not provided and the overall synopsis is what one expects from a private researcher's notes, not a published supplement to a dictionary. It would seem beneficial to re-issue the dictionary every few years with the supplemental information rather than simply put out a separate addendum with poor references and presentation.

One can go even further and look at the basic layout of the book. The presentation shows a lack of pagination and preparation of the book. Page 4, for example, contains but two words: “mystery plants.” This could have simply fit on the introduction page (page 3) with a small formatting tightening. Under the entry for Yowie on page 216, researcher Tony Healy is abbreviated as “T. Healy.” Why abbreviate there, yet in other areas offer the full name of a person (i.e., Tom D’Onofria on page 34 or Alice McKenzie on page 126)? The entire book for the matter could have been consolidated from 224 pages to the 100-page range through formatting and varied layout, potentially reducing the print cost and improving the overall feel.

While this all may seem to be an attack on Coghlan’s work, it is not. Rather it is a critique of methodology and the overall presentation of research, and a warning of what not to do. Encyclopedia and dictionary authors are held to the same expectation level of other authors. That is, the presentation of information is in such a way that the resources used can be fact-checked or used for further research. It heightens the benefit of a book, article or paper. Coghlan’s book could have been improved by simply streamlining the coding, presenting accurate references, and improving the layout, while maintaining the core of the content. These minor things can turn into major detriments when lumped together; they downplay the book's importance and the foundation of the research itself.

Cryptozoology and BioFortean Book Reviews: