Silver State Monsters: Cryptids & Legends of Nevada is the new book from David Weatherly. You’ll know David from his previous books Black Eyed Children and Strange Intruders (among others). As you’ll guess from the title of David’s new book, this one is focused on the subject of Cryptozoology, or the study of unknown animals. And, as you’ll also see, it’s very much a regional study of strange creatures. I particularly like regional-based books on unknown animals, mainly because you’re far more likely to get highly detailed accounts, rather than brief entries in a book that might be focused on a nationwide or worldwide study. And, with that said, let’s take a look at the book. It’s good to see that the foreword comes from Lyle Blackburn, one of the leading figures in the field of Bigfoot-based research.
As Lyle notes of David: “He’s the type of researcher that puts his weathered boots on the ground in order to evaluate the latest in paranormal cases, as well as those which have become staples in our modern culture. And now with Silver State Monsters, David hits the road again, this time to explore a land that’s literally steeped in mystery.” Lyle’s words are important, as they accurately show that David is one of those who regularly hits the road and goes on expeditions in search of the creatures he’s writing about. In other words, David is not an armchair researcher. In fact, an armchair researcher is the very last thing that Cryptozoology needs. There’s no real alternative to getting out into the field, which is exactly what David does. And that approach shines throughout the pages of Silver State Monsters.
I guess that many people view Nevada as a huge desert, known for being home to Las Vegas and Area 51. But, as this book shows, there’s way more going on, all of a beastly and monstrous nature. David begins with an excellent chapter titled “Water Creatures in the Desert.” We’re talking about Nevada’s equivalents of Nessie, Champ and Ogopogo. We learn of an 1868 case from the Aurora, Nevada newspaper, the Esmeralda Union, which describes the sighting, by one Reuben Strathers, of a beast with “a head in shape not unlike that of the crocodile, with forefeet near the neck, with with tail of enormous length, which lay perfectly quiet, and only the body part moving, which apparently was covered with scales, glistening in the morning sun.”
Then, there’s the story of a bizarre monster seen in Lake Tahoe. It tells of something that sounds like it came straight out of the pages of an H.P. Lovecraft novel. The description of the animal was of “an upside-down pink bowl with legs – or tentacles I suppose – coming out of it; too many to count…it made a noise, like it was struggling to breathe, loud wheezing.” Bizarre? Yep! But, as David shows Lake Tahoe has a long history of mysterious beasts in its depths. In fact, David devotes no less than thirteen pages to what has become known as “Tahoe Tessie.” Similarly, we get nine pages on the “Walker Lake Serpent,” which is described as an immense snake-like animal, and known to the local Native Americans. Add to that the mysterious, ominous, crying “Water Babies” of Pyramid Lake and what you have is an excellent section on Nevada’s water-based “things” of the very weird type.
When you think of Nevada, you probably don’t think of Bigfoot. But, you should. Although I was aware of a number of Bigfoot reports from Nevada, I wasn’t aware of the sheer level of such reports of what David refers to as “Sasquatch, Giants & Wildmen.” One such report, from 1973, describes an encounter reported by two couples out at Lake Tahoe – a place we have already addressed in relation to lake-monsters. In this case, the creature was described as “shiny,” “about seven feet tall,” and with a face “like a gorilla’s.” It’s interesting to note that now and again reports surface of more than one type of cryptid seen in the same area, and that one is a perfect example. Then, there’s the very weird matter of the Bigfoot seen on the highly sensitive Nevada Test Site in 1980. It’s a strange tale that blends cryptozoology and conspiracy into one heady mix. As does the saga of “Battle Mountain Bigfoot,” which focuses on what the U.S. Government may know about Bigfoot in Nevada.
Check out the chapter “Giants in the Deserts,” too. This is an excellent section of the book, which details David’s very own road-trip to Nevada’s Lovelock Cave, a place which has – for some researchers – become inextricably connected to Bigfoot lore. David tackles the matter of ancient legends of the Paiutes, and of giant and dangerous creatures said to roam the land centuries ago. And he does so in a very balanced fashion, scrutinizing the various theories that have been put forward to try and understand the truth behind the tales. David says: “While the legends are fascinating, the obvious question is how much truth is there to the whole story…? Were these creatures, these giant cannibals, just a part of the spiritual belief system of the tribe? Were they pure mythology?” A great deal of sensationalized material has been written about this particular saga and it’s to David’s credit that he handles it all in a responsible fashion.
In the final sections of the book we are treated to accounts of what are referred to as “flying anomalies.” Not quite something along the lines of Mothman, but things akin to Native American Thunderbirds. A UFO connection to unknown animals is studied in a genuinely weird case from 1925. Giant snakes are profiled, as is a spiky cat known as the “Cactus Cat.” And everything rounds off with the matter of Nevada’s “Hell Dogs,” which are not unlike the “Phantom Black Dogs” of the U.K. For fans of Cryptozoology, this is a book not to be missed.