Review: “Chasing American Monsters”

There are plenty of books devoted to chronicling the monsters of a particular state, like, for example, my own book, Monsters of Ohio, or the books that inspired me to write it , Joseph A. Citro’s The Vermont Monster Guide (University Press of New England; 2009) and Rosemary Ellen Guiley’s Monsters of West Virginia (2012; Stackpole Books). Author Jason Offutt’s Chasing American Monsters: Over 250 Creatures, Crytpids and Hairy Beasts (Llewellyn Publications; 2019) is a little like 50 such books in one.

Each of the book’s 50 chapters is devoted to the monsters of a particular state, and, after a little bit of state trivia and a lavish illustration of one of the states’ monsters by artist Ty Derk, Offut writes of about a half dozen or so of each state’s most famous monstrous inhabitants. 

Because he’s covering so much ground in a relatively brief 330+ pages, the entries on each monster are generally quite short and often cursory, a few paragraphs each, but the book makes an excellent starting point for anyone curious about any particular state’s monster population. 

These include traditional crytpids, supernatural creatures, aliens, creatures from folklore and lumberjack tales, and monsters of Native American legends, plus lots of lake monsters and lots and lots of Bigfoot-like creatures—in fact, just about every state  seems to have a hairy humanoid of some sort that makes its home there.

Of greatest interest you and I, of course, is the section on Ohio, which features Derk’s interpretation of one of the Loveland Frogs (above), posed dramatically before a guard rail (By the way, you can see all of Derk’s illustrations here; if you don’t pick up a copy of this book, I would at least recommend you scan through Derk’s gallery of drawings, just to see his interesting takes on various crytpids). 

Offut includes six monsters from the Buckeye State: Ohio Grassman, Mill Lake Monster, Orange Eyes, the aforementioned Loveland Frogs, Bessie and Mothman. Of them, I featured each in a chapter of Monsters of Ohio, except for the Mill Lake Monster, which I discussed only briefly in my chapter on Orange Eyes.

In his entry on the Grassman, Offut continues the trend of using the term to refer to Bigfoot in Ohio in general. He mentions the 1869 “A Gorilla in Ohio” story from the Minnesota Weekly Record  (almost certainly a newspaper hoax) and devotes the rest of the entry to discussion of The Minerva Monster, the hairy humanoid seen in Minerva by the Cayton family, which he misspells as “Clayton” throughout, and others in 1978. He also notes that Bigfoot investigators found “grassy nests where they said the creature bedded down, giving the legendary creature the name Grassman.”

As for the Mill Lake Monster, that was a particularly weird monster supposedly seen by three teenagers rising out of the water at Charles Mill Lake in Richland and Ashland Counties. The creature was described as seven-feet-tall, arm-less and with glowing green eyes, and leaving tracks like those of swim fins.

And as for Orange Eyes, Offut’s source for Ohio’s monster of lovers’ lane seems to be W. Haden Blackman’s The Field Guide To North American Monsters (Three Rivers Press; 1998), as it similarly conflates several unrelated monster stories into the Orange Eyes legend. 

Despite my couple of quibbles with Ohio’s delegation though, I thought the book was an awful lot of fun, and would recommend it to anyone interested in the subject of monsters. 

One thought on “Review: “Chasing American Monsters”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s