Jim Cobb interviews Zooform Researcher Neil Arnold

May 10, 2009

Neil Arnold is a researcher and author in the UK. He is one of the leading experts on zooform phenomena, as well as having spent two decades researching big cat sightings in the UK. His recent book, Mystery Animals of the British Isles: Kent, was preceded by his first book, Monsters! The A-Z of Zooform Phenomena. Neil was kind enough to give us a little of his time to share with us his thoughts on zooforms and other findings.

Jim: Neil, thank you for taking the time to speak with us. Let’s dive right in, shall we? What were some influences or possibly events in your life growing up you feel may have led you to becoming a researcher into monster folklore?

Neil: I think many researchers always pick out a few memories which have acted as triggers as to why they are the people they are to me. My father and grandfather were huge influences on me, they always told me about local legends. They were keen fishermen also and we’d spend many hours sitting around eerie lakes, and even the thought of catching big fish was a huge mystery to me. However, the film ‘The Legend of Boggy Creek’ (directed by Charles B. Pierce) and a book by Carey Miller called ‘Monsters & Mysterious Beasts’, played a major role in my writing. The former is a cult docu-drama about a Bigfoot-type beast roaming the river bottoms of Arkansas. It terrifies still today in its atmosphere, whilst the book by Carey Miller featured creatures such as the Yeti.

Jim: The focus of much of your work has been with zooform phenomena. Indeed, your book Monster! The A-Z of Zooform Phenomena is the first book to concentrate on this area. Can you explain how zooforms differ from what might be termed the “traditional” theories regarding cryptids?

Neil: Cryptids are very much creatures which are likely to exist as flesh and blood animals. Crytpozoology is the study of ‘hidden animals’, meaning thought extinct but re-discovered species, new species, and mystery animals such as the Thylacine. I believe Bigfoot/Yeti to be ‘real’ undiscovered species of upright walking ape, and also that sea serpents are almost extinct species so none of these are zooforms. Zooforms are those arcane beasts such as Mothman, phantom hellhounds, sky serpents, winged humanoids, wolfmen, dogmen, Jersey Devil’s etc, which simply are a sum of many parts but more connected to the ‘supernatural’ rather than cryptozoology.

Jim: Would you still consider the study of zooforms to be under the umbrella of cryptozoology?

Neil: I don’t think zooforms should really be part of crytpozoology, but because zooforms often involve apparitions with animal characteristics which are clearly of great mystery, then the only place they can be pigeon-holed is under the wing of cryptozoology. However, cryptozoology is very much a science to me, new species, undiscovered species etc, but zooform phenomena should be in its own field, hence the reason for the book.

Jim: Do you feel UFOs fall into the zooform category or might there be some overlap between zooforms and some other phenomena?

Neil: Zooforms needed a category and researcher Jonathan Downes created the term ‘zooform phenomena’ to attempt to categorise ‘monsters’ which cannot be real yet which are still sighted the world over. I don’t think UFOs have any connection to zooform world, but of course, there are numerous sightings of strange creatures being dumped off by strange craft, but I don’t think there’s a connection. However, I think zooform creatures and UFOs are more related to the human psyche rather than other planets. or the deep woods.

Jim: The reason I asked about your thoughts on UFOs is because of the theory that UFOs might not be mechanical crafts but rather actual beings in the sky. Thus, I wondered whether you felt there might be a connection between UFOs and zooforms.

Neil: I think UFO’s are also a sum of many parts. Hoax, military craft, misinterpretation, and in some cases possibly creatures, there have been numerous reports of those strange rod-like objects and also great sky jellyfish which are all ‘unidentified flying objects’ in a sense. However, a majority of UFO reports concern seemingly mechanical craft.

Jim: In terms of field investigations, how might a researcher’s search for zooforms differ from tracking a flesh and blood creature?

Neil: Researchers often go in search of zooform creatures because many researchers believe such creatures to be real. Mothman, Jersey Devil, Monkey Man (India), Chupacabra (Puerto Rico), etc, have all been hunted for but I don’t believe these will ever be found because they are a sum of cultural fear, hysteria, hoax, ancient belief etc. They are the bogeyman, and the bogeyman has always been here. The Bray Read Beast of Wisconsin, in my opinion, will never be found by expeditions etc, because it is something from some other place which at times slips through the fabric of time and we see it, but it cannot be real.

Jim: If it is “something from some other place,” then wouldn’t it have to be “real?” Can you elaborate on this a bit for us?

Neil: By ‘some other place’, I mean another dimension, or that void which we believe ghosts etc come from. In regards to zooforms I always ask the question, “If no-one is there to see it, does it still appear?”, and I’m of the opinion that such things are tulpa’s, accidental manifestations, which require human interaction to appear. There is no way on this Earth that the forms mentioned in my book are flesh and blood. Of course, there is much on this planet unexplored and little we know about the human mind, and that’s where these things filter from, why? I don’t know. The phantom hellhounds aren’t simply the deceased pet dog of someone, but something far more sinister, but I think they come from us, not the woods. Alot of these creatures/apparitions etc, could well be connected with the lay of the land also, burial sites etc. The American-Indians and the like often spoke of mystical places and great creatures.

Jim: I understand you’ve also spent many years researching the big cat phenomena in the UK. Do you feel these are flesh and blood creatures people are seeing? If so, what are your theories as to how the cats got there?

Neil: Any researcher who claims that ‘big cats’, in the UK, or otherwise, are supernatural, demonic, zooform etc, are talking complete rubbish. In the UK the mystery is easy to understand, that over the centuries many, many large cats have been imported and gradually, over time been released or escaped into the wilds. Hell, even the Roman’s imported thousands of large cats such as the leopard. I think the same can be said in the US although many are convinced that the black cats are black cougars which of course, don’t exist. I think when mankind doesn’t understand something it likes to label it mythical, and these cats have become mythical but we underestimate their power, their intelligence and their stealth as elusive predators. I’ve seen large cats in the UK wilds, they are real. Fact.

Jim: Your book, Mystery Animals of the British Isles: Kent, just came out a couple months back. Any memorable experiences in putting it together?

Neil: The book is completely unique locally, it’s 400 pages thick and 90% concerns my hands on research out in the field. It’s not just a case of regurgitation but new material through my research as a full-time researcher. I’ve had numerous encounters and they make for great stories. I’ve been threatened by Satanists, shot at, almost run over trying to find a carcass of a dead exotic cat, had sever close sightings of large cats (black leopard three times, lynx once, puma once, and once involving a smaller cat I couldn’t identify.) and been contacted by thousands of people who’ve reported great stories. It’s been a blast…

Jim: Shot at? I think we’d all like to hear more on that one!

Neil: I’ve had many strange and scary encounters, and being shot was one of them. I was tracking a lynx on local marshland one night. The cat had already been seen by myself and also filmed, but upon entering a stretch of woodland one night, a light came on, a guy was on the back of a vehicle shining a beam at me and his friend fired a shotgun at me. The shell/bullet hit the ground next to my right foot, and I ran, in complete darkness about half a mile. I was lucky. I’m always out in the field, hence some of the strange people I encounter!

Jim: You’ve made mention in the past of your vast collection of crypto-related movies, books, and other items. Could you share with us a few of your favorites?

Neil: I’ve always collected crypto-documentaries since I was a child, because so many people watch things and then forget all about them or record over them. Nowadays they adopt a more scientific approach but I always used to love the atmosphere of stuff like ‘Man-Beast: Myth or Monster’ by Landsburg, and the old Arthur C. Clarke stuff. I’m planning a book on crypto-related movies, cartoons etc. Books, well, there are a lot of good books out on crypto stuff, but I always recommend anything by Karl Shuker (MYSTERY CATS OF THE WORLD, IN SEARCH OF PREHISTORIC SURVIVORS..), also Richard Freeman’s more recent, DRAGONS: MORE THAN A MYTH ?, Cropper and Healy’s THE YOWIE and OUT OF THE SHADOWS are great books also, so many really, some more for their atmosphere, and others more for their scientific enquiry. Alot of good Bigfoot books about, and the Loch Ness Monster books are a little dated, and it’s always good to read something different like Linda Godfrey’s BEAST OF BRAY ROAD etc. When I wrote my books, I wanted to write them as books which, as a kid, I’d have wanted to find in a shop.

Jim: Could you give us your top five favorite crypto-related movies and/or documentaries?

Neil: Films: The Legend Of Boggy Creek, Creature From Black Lake (swamp monster), Nature of the Beast (boy on British moorland hunts the elusive local big cat), Brotherhood of the Wolf (Beast of LeGevaudan which terrorised France).

Documentaries: Too many too mention, but Meldrum’s Sasquatch: Legend Meets Science, Chupacabra: The Island Terror, Man-Beast: Myth or Monster ? Hunt For Dogman, Strange Harvest (cattle mutilations) and there were some good US series which covered monsters such as Sightings, Monster Quest, Animal X, etc. I have so many on ghosts, UFOs etc, I lost count along time ago but they are all recorded on a huge list.

Jim: Any personal experiences with the unknown?

Neil: Apart from being fortunate enough to have tracked and seen large cats in the UK wilds, I’ve had no ‘paranormal’ experiences. I’m not really into ghosts etc, I guess I don’t have time to be but I’ve spoken to many people who’ve had some truly chilling encounters with a variety of spectres.

Jim: What advice or tips might you give to a new researcher looking to go out in the field and conduct their own investigations?

Neil: Be yourself. I find that within the fields of the paranormal, ufology or even cryptozoology, there is an amount of secrecy and pettiness between researchers, and it’s never changed. I’ve always kept myself to myself, but stood up for what I’ve believed in and any budding researchers out there should keep their head down, don’t get involved in the silly politics, and you’ll find a treasure trove of information.

Jim: That’s interesting. Do you think the politics you mention stem more from a feeling of competition or something else?

Neil: The petty politics are rife in most walks of life. When I was a kid I realised how, in Ufology, pettiness and jealousy was rife, the same with the paranormal and ghosts. And cryptozoology is no different and it’s really sad that a lot of people are so jealous, and eager to get better evidence than the last person, but why? Most of these mysteries will outlive us all, life is short, people need to lighten up, get over it and get on with it.

Jim: Neil, thanks again for taking the time for this interview. I and our readers do appreciate it.

Readers may keep up on Neil’s activities by visiting his blog here:


His books may be purchased through these links:

Monster! The A-Z of Zooform Phenomena

Mystery Animals of the British Isles: Kent


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