When I first approached Gerhard it was for a much different show than the one that will air tonight. Back in 2007, John Horrigan appeared to debate the merits of the Roswell Crash with Matt Moniz. The show, which falls outside of what I’m normally drawn to in the world of the paranormal, is still one of my favorites because of the format. Side were drawn, topics about the event were chosen, and Horrigan and Moniz went round by round, battling it out over whether the incident had happened and whether details of the case added to its credibility. After each round, the audience voted over who had made the better argument. I don’t remember who won (feel free to listen to the podcast and decide for yourself who makes the better case), I just remember enjoying listening to these two well educated and articulate men go blow for blow on the case.
The idea I had was to do the same thing with some of the better known cryptids that were out there. It was a bit of a gimmick, but I also thought it was an interesting way for us to feature some knowledgeable guests and have them on in a new way for the audience. My first battle was to get an authority on pukwudgies to debate someone on another well known beast. Eric and Lon Strickler of Beyond the Edge Radio were quick to give me Ken Gerhard’s name, so I contacted him about the idea of putting the Jersey Devil against our little guy.
It was a no go, and looking back, I’m left wondering whether this kind of show can exist. Gerhard made the point that the two creatures really shared nothing in common other than the fact they were unexplained and mostly from the Northeast. He went on to talk about how he was unclear what the focus would be; who was the truer monster, who was more real; who was cooler or easier to investigate, who would win in a fight?
We like to do this with the paranormal, the same way we like to do this with all aspects of our life. Who would win in a fight between Batman and Captain America? Who was the best quarterback to ever play the game? What’s the greatest album of all time. We start comparing apples to oranges and think our side is always right.
I’m now convinced this can’t be done in the paranormal world, although that probably won’t stop people from trying. We can compare and contrast cases like Amityville and the Enfield Haunting and hash out what was different and what was the same, but I’m not sure we can come to any conclusion about it. There is knowledge to be found in placing them side by side, but I’m not sure we can ever place one above the other. One may be more credible, or one might have more details that can be explained, but that’s pretty much where the debate stops.
There is so much about the supernatural and paranormal world that defies compete categorization. The Jersey Devil might have a backstory like one cryptid and the actions of another and the physical description of yet another. Where can we place it? Of course, landmark cases or beasts create the standard for other comparisons. When John Tenney was recently on the show he described an elf that sounded much like a pukwudgie to some listeners. We use the details we have heard of one to establish understanding for another, which also explains how a rise in fame with the pukwudgie has made some alien witnesses start to rethink what exactly was in the room with them that night.
Tonight, instead of trying to move one monster ahead of another, we’ll hear about the Devil and some of the other cases Gerhard has looked into. Some details will be strikingly similar to others we’ve heard about while others will be new and thought provoking. Resist the urge to say one beast is better than the other, knowing there is no true yardstick for this kind of thing. We will always, as people interested in the unexplained, be drawn to the moments that connect to us, even if we don’t understand the reasons. The spooky heart wants what the spooky heart wants, and our continued search for what appeals to us always helps to move the discussion forward.
Still, a pack of pukwudgies could still take the Jersey Devil.