The book that started it all, my fascination with obscure and bizarre creatures.
The Juan De Fuca branch of the Greater Victoria Public library was my home away from home, from the first time I got a card of my own I knew what true power was. I can not recall my specific age when I first started going to the library once a week, but I do remember the first time my mother Ellen took me. I was fascinated by how many books there were to choose from, ranging from guides on knitting, to magician instructions. And the thing that struck a chord with me more than all else, was the fact that I was allowed to borrow any book regardless of my age. This was a place where I was allowed to learn whatever I wanted without restriction.
Looking back on it, I relied heavily on the library (and books in general) as an escape. My parents recently divorced, siblings too old to be bothered with me, and anxiety disorder starting to get into full swing. (That said, I had an incredibly happy childhood. But anxiety/depression don’t care how happy you were) Without knowing it having access to other worlds was keeping me not only grounded, but also helping me understand how important sharing your story is. The notion of writing for a living was still years away, but my interest in telling stories was forming quickly.
The first books I ever borrowed from the library, was a stack of Calvin & Hobbes mixed with Bloom County collections that I devoured much faster than I my mother expected. “Are you already almost done that one?” My mother asked with a smile and a quizzical look on her face during the car ride home. This was only the beginning of what I can only call a thirst for more, each week I would scour the library for copies of both the previously mentioned comic series’ that I had not read yet.
Now I can not exactly remember what first sparked my curiosity about the “occult/conspiracy” section of the little public library in my home town. I was prone to spending hours wandering the aisles of books, pulling books off of shelves to read the back to see what adventure they might have for me. When one day I happened to wander to a corner of the library I had never been before. The first few sections were of little interest to me at the time, spirituality and religion, conspiracies, and other books they seemed to get few requests for. However two small shelves did happen to catch my eye, it was the Paranormal section. And almost immediately the book featured at the top of the page seemed to jump out at me. I had seen monster movies before, and my school friends and siblings alike loved to terrify me with horror stories of gruesome monsters. But now I was in control of the situation, I was going to learn all about them and be able to avoid them. And after reading this book, I was convinced I was going to become a “monster hunter” aka a Cryptozoologist.
“Cryptozoology is a pseudoscience involving the search for animals whose existence has not been proven. The animals cryptozoologists study are often referred to as cryptids, a term coined by John Wall in 1983.”
I read, and re-read this book dozens of times. I told my mother immediately that I was going to be famous for discovering and proving the existence of these terrifying creatures. I am sure her reaction was supportive yet full of disbelief, as I had often had career choices that were a little bit different from other kids. I would spend the new few months reading everything I could about monsters, learning which ones were reported to be near me. How to find them, whether they were dangerous or merely curious. I was a self-proclaimed thirteen year old expect on the topic of North American monsters, and I was ready to talk off anyone’s ear that would listen about it (mainly my father Jim, who always had time for my random stories and hobbies).
Eventually my interest would shift, I discovered authors I would love for the next decade (Jules Verne, Ray Bradbury, and so many more) and some I did not enjoy as much but still took a chance on. Everything from the James Bond series, to classics like Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” (neither of which I enjoyed, yet I learned so much from each). And that is what is important to me, even if I did not enjoy a book I still took something away from it.
Every book has something to off you, if only a laugh.
I sincerely hope that all of you have found your own “North American Field Guide To Monsters”, because while I did not become a Cryptozoologist (yet!) I did realize that I could make a career out of whatever I was passionate about. And I have the little public library in the community of Colwood, a bit outside of the downtown Victoria area in BC to thank for not only for my love of books but also my love of writing.
Overall the monster phase did not last all that long in my life, it has always stuck with me in the back of my mind. Anytime a new monster movie comes out, I am reminded of my roots in that library and just a little part of me still thinks I could prove that the New Jersey Devil really does live in the pine barrens.
-Michel, Potential Future Cryptozoologist