Book Review: Coleman and Hall’s “True Giants”on December 24, 2010 at 12:57 pm
The holidays are a magical time of year. For me, this typically means I’ll find myself terribly busy, yet all the while blessed with a surprising amount of sporadic downtime. The latter of these circumstances has allowed for a number of things that are typically as remote to my daily schedule as the appearance of a tall, hair-covered giant emerging from the mists of a secluded pinnacle before an unsuspecting traveler today. For instance, I’ve had time for a bit of much-needed introspection, while ruminating over strong coffee and a delicious Dunhill tobacco clone, smoke billowing softly from the mouth of my curved stem pipe as it droops lazily off the corner of my lip. An evening that should have amounted to a glass of bourbon and a chat with an old flame (and yes, she’s very beautiful) turning into seven hours of empathic exchange that would redefine, for most, the nature of “knowing” someone. And courtesy of my dear fellow Patrick Huyghe at Anomalist Books, who graciously (and frequently) sends me review copies of his newest features, I’ve also had time to digest one of the most unique books on Cryptozoology I’ve read since Sanderson’s Abominable Snowmen: Legend Come to Life.
Simply put, True Giants: Is Gigantopithecus Still Alive? is a fascinating read. However, as the name implies, the intention here is to be clear and honest in our categorization of the facts and interpretation. Therefore, perhaps it is necessary for me to lay a few of my own inherent observations and biases on the table before delving into the world of gigantic people that are even larger than what we know as “Bigfoot” in the modern annals of folklore and, according to an ever-growing body of researchers, the study of as-yet unknown animals that do actually exist.
My first admission (of several to come) is that Loren Coleman, while only one of many researchers I have studied and known personally for years, is arguably the one author who has had the most profound influence on my own writing and research. What I have always respected about Loren, as long as I have known him, is that while discussing the subject of cryptozoological mysteries from around the world–a subject dismissed and belittled by most in the scientific mainstream–he manages to position himself from a skeptical vantage. He is careful to discern facts and filter them (often brilliantly) through his immense knowledge base, in addition to maintaining a large network of individuals and resources to assist when needed. If anything, Coleman will often be more quick to cry “bunk” as he ever is to assume that information he is presented with might be true and genuine. As a young researcher, this would become a hard lesson for me to learn on a number of occasions, which has led me to an inherently skeptical mindset when approaching the study of various strange phenomena myself. The skills of discernment, discrimination and deduction contained therein, however, have served me far better than any book or lecture I’ve ever attended. For all this, there are many times I have recognized that Loren Coleman’s influence as a writer and researcher has had the greatest, most profound effect on me. Here I present this sentiment publicly, and offer him many thanks for his wisdom.
I do not have prolonged personal associations with the book’s other author, Mark A. Hall, beyond having met and chatted with him once at a conference he and Loren were speaking at in South Carolina many years ago (the event was hosted by a gentleman named Dallas Tanner, and with the credit for the image of the authors together on the back of True Giants belonging to him, I speculate I may have even been present while the photo in question was taken). Hall’s research, on the other hand, has remained with me and provided inspiration for years, extending back long before that initial meeting. I do recall that our first (and only) meeting had also been the first time I recall hearing of what Hall has dubbed the “True Giants.” Speaking with me before his presentation, he was quick to differentiate between conventional reports of “Bigfoot” and what he said were even larger creatures; a distinction also made by researcher John Green during his study of hominids primarily throughout the Northwestern extremities of America.
All this said, it is easier for a person like me to sit down with Coleman and Hall’s new book and accept the information contained therein. Reports of “giants” both intrigue and fascinate me, since my understanding of the authors’ approaches here is grounded on nearly two decades of research on my own part.
For the average reader who is not well-versed in cryptozoology, however, True Giants may require a generous suspension of disbelief, since the nature of reports of giant human-like creatures–sometimes reaching an astounding 25 feet in height–is simply too much for one to accept very easily. This illustrates something unique about Coleman and Hall’s approach, however: the inherent representation here (articulated thusly many times throughout the body of the text), is that the notion of gigantic forms existing in the remotest portions of our world today, presumably the living descendants of a beast called Gigantopithecus, is indeed too much for most to grasp. The authors note in their book, as they each have no doubt done many times before, that in the event someone should claim to see a 12-15 foot tall “giant,” they will become an object of ridicule amongst their peers–or worse, at the hands of the volatile media. But primarily, the reason discussion of giants that would dwarf a typical Sasquatch is so tricky is because the generalized stereotype of “Bigfoot” in our culture has had a tendency to grand-stand over the years, literally overshadowing the truly strange and clandestine reports of larger beings that have surfaced on occasion. If you are inexperienced in matters pertaining to cryptozoology and Bigfoot, you may be well advised to first read Ivan Sanderson’s Abominable Snowmen: Legend Come to Life and Loren Coleman’s Bigfoot: The True Story of Apes in America beforehand.
There are, however, a number of fascinating assertions made in True Giants that, even for a well-seasoned scholar in this field, are both educational and enlivening. For instance, my earliest published article on the nature of what the late Mr. Sanderson would amiably call “Sasquatchery” dealt with whether the creatures may have a language (see “Voices in the Dark: Do Sasquatches Have a Language?” from Fate Magazine, October 2004). Coleman and Hall also discuss the fact that these True Giants may, at times, have learned to speak human languages, in addition to having a native tongue of their own. Additionally, reports the authors deal with often illustrate instances where the creatures are seen wearing simple clothing, or using basic tools (a reference to their potential “technological pursuits such as smithing” is even made). Stereotypical representations of giants throughout history as somewhat less intelligent than humans, as well as their propensity for dwelling in caves and remote regions of the world, all seem to represent consistencies between various folk-beliefs about beings of large stature, as well as realities we may apply to the existence of an actual species existing today.
Sad though it is, altogether this book will likely go unnoticed by the mainstream intelligentsia for now; a few who do stumble onto it will dismiss or ridicule what they find within its pages, and forget about the predictions Coleman and Hall made therein. But one day, should the living descendants of an ancient creature–an ape of terrific stature who walked upright like a man–actually be discovered, there will be no question whatsoever as to who had wisely separated what so many have dismissed as folk traditions, and applied them to the scientific study of strange beings in our midst. In a sense, Coleman and Hall might be considered futurists, just as well as hominologists, folklorists, or a host of other applicable titles; but those who read True Giants while armed with a healthy knowledge of history from the field of cryptozoology will agree on a simpler title: they’re just right. The world may need several years catch up with this detailed examination, depicting creatures so large they have literally managed to hide themselves not only from humanity, but from belief systems that have shunned the very notion of their existence for centuries; in spite of the evidence being heaped onto the proverbial table already in the heartiest of servings.
Coleman and Hall set forth with academic eloquence, and void of flamboyance and sensationalism so characterized within this field, have managed to present a highly unique study, providing a window through which we might observe life on this planet that, despite their tremendous size, we somehow have managed to overlook. As for me, it will remain a subject I’ll enjoy ruminating over in the midst of aromatic tobacco, strong drink, and a certain beautiful lady for many holiday seasons to come.