Cryptozoology, BioForteana, Zoological Oddities, Unusual Natural History

BioFortean Review Book Review

Shadows of Existence: Discoveries and Speculations in Zoology
Matthew A. Bille
Hancock House, 2006
ISBN: 0-88839-612-0

Reviewed by Craig Heinselman, Editor CRYPTO

In 1995 the book Rumors of Existence was published by Hancock House. Within the pages of this book, biological and zoological plethora was presented. Matt Bille, within his “Rumors” book, evaluated new discoveries, supposed extinct and mysteries animals with an even and balanced keel.

While books dealing with mystery animals appear every year. They have a primary focus on one specific animal or “cryptid.” The tendency of these books is to be either on, or about, Bigfoot or Lake Monsters (to use the generalized terms), While the presentation of evidence is through eyewitness reviews, video or picture analysis or behavioral or morphological comparisons.

While this makes for good reading, and baseline bibliographical or historical background, the core of an investigative method is missed.

What Matt Bille has done on the other hand, is review a larger percentage of mystery animals, but with a context that connects to actual discoveries.We are not talking about proof positive of a “Bigfoot” body, or the dead body of “Nessie.” We are looking instead at the presentation of newly discovered species, rediscovered species, and animals unknown to science currently. They intertwine together, demonstrating the complexity of zoological classifications and behavior within the realm of biology, anthropology and associated disciplines.

In Shadows of Existence, Matt Bille has extended the initial concept from his first book, and fleshed it out to a larger degree, a review once more of our mysteries planet, but also a resource and correlation for researchers to continue from. Answers are not provided, supposition is minimized, and the evidentiary items are presented in a fluid and readable manner. Matt has done the foot work, and provided the everyday man the information in a manner that is not condescending or overly simplified manner. A difficult balance of language and information, that in and of itself can be admired as a writer’s specific style.

Matt Bille does touch on the classic mystery animals, such as Bigfoot and “Lake Monsters.” Any at the close of each section therein, offers a tidbit of thought for the reader:

“Is there anything real for these searchers to find? As so often happens in cryptozoology, the answer may still be, “we don’t know.”

“It is, in my opinion, very unlikely there is a breeding population of huge apes living unknown to science on the North American continent. I’m not denigrating the witnesses, many of whom are unquestionably sincere. I just feel it’s more likely the sincere ones are mistaken than it is that sasquatch exits.”

“I genuinely wish to be found wrong in this judgment. I hope sasquatch really is out there somewhere, watching with puzzlement and perhaps even amusement as we humans blunder around looking for him.”

While looking at the main-stream “mystery animals” is one inclusion, it is not the primary focus of the book. This is quickly identifiable, as only a small section is attributed to “The Classic Mystery Animals,” and it is for this reason Matt Bille’s books are more important. His delving into mystery whales, cats, bears, seals and squirrels, to name but a few, demonstrate that the world is not fully established in a zoological manner and that mainstream science still looks and finds animals across the globe.

In few books in the mainstream can one read of unusual sightings by researchers in deep sea submersables like the Deepstar 4000 or Alvin. Prehistoric tree discoveries, like the Wollemia nobilis. Or the chronicling of the mysteries of an as yet described species of beaked whale Mesoplodon Species A.

Yes some of the content is a continuation of Matt Bille’s 1995 book Rumors of Existence. But, after a decade Shadows of Existence fleshes out additional information, new discoveries, new resources and a fresh look at the world of zoology and biology.

We need every so often to be reminded that our world is still full of wonder and discovery. We need to be reminded that mystery animals and cryptozoology do not need to be isolated to classic creatures, but encompass the zoological gamut. And, if for no other reason, Matt Bille’s book harbors a reminder that even if mystery animals do not exist, there are innumerable discoveries to be made that perhaps could not be done if one does not search.

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