There aren’t a lot of people who can list monster hunter, rock star, author, narrator, AND hot sauce purveyor on their resume. Lyle Blackburn, however, is someone who can. I was fortunate enough to steal about a half hour of Lyle’s time back in February and bounced several questions off of him covering a variety of topics. He met my battery of inquiries with easy humor and an open manner, never seeming rushed or put off by a fan’s eager questioning.
First, I was curious about Momo, The Missouri Monster. This is one of the cases that “Lyle Blackburn” is nearly synonymous with, and also the first of Lyle’s books that I read cover to cover.
Aaron: What about this case is so compelling to you?
Lyle: I think this one appeals to me for a couple of different reasons. One, there was a lot of media coverage and a lot of craziness that went on from the point of the initial sightings. I also like those vintage cases from the 1970s, where the sort of scary ubiquitous Bigfoot creature is seen near a small town, and then chaos erupts, the authorities form possess and try to find it, and then other neighbors start coming forward saying they’ve seen stuff. Tracks are found. It’s a good case and has a lot to it. In terms of the legacy of Momo, if somebody sees a Bigfoot nowadays in Missouri, they’ll say ‘oh, I saw a Momo.’ It’s become a catch-all term for a regional Bigfoot.
Mr. Blackburn wrote in Momo: The Missouri Monster that one practice he enjoys is collecting artifacts – a rusty old nail, a broken piece of fencing, a rock perhaps – from the locations he visits.
Aaron: Are there any locations you’re hoping to score an artifact from?
Lyle: You know, I can’t think of any specific ones. It’s something that’s kind of spontaneous if I go to investigate something, and if I go to the area where a famous sighting occurred, if I see something I’ll take a souvenir. Of course, most of these are old and there’s not much to find, so it’s almost just like, once you’re there, you want to see if you can abscond with a piece of history.
My first exposure to Lyle’s work came through the films of Small Town Monsters, so questions regarding his involvement in their productions were inevitable.
Aaron: How did you get started working with Small Town Monsters?
Lyle: I originally met Seth Breedlove at the Ohio Bigfoot Conference some years ago, before he had done any of the film work. And he and I talked about our mutual appreciation and love for these, literally, small town monster cases. And of course one of those was the Fouke Monster, the Boggy Creek Monster case, which I had already written books about. And I remember Seth saying he wanted to write a book or something and then later, he decided to pursue it in film form. When it came time to do their third movie, Seth wanted to cover Boggy Creek – obviously, that’s one of the most famous small town monsters so it was gonna be done eventually – and he came to me and said ‘Hey, let’s team up. Since you’ve already done the research, you know the people, you know the place… how can we do this?’ so we just collaborated more in terms of okay, let’s do a Boggy Creek Monster film. Since it was kind of a personal research thing for me he had me narrate the film, and the response to that was great. People loved the approach, they loved the film, but they also loved my narration, so when he proceeded forward he said ‘Hey, would you like to narrate the Mothman film?’
Seth always finds a way to take an approach or a texture to it that makes it individual, instead of just reusing the same format.
Aaron: Do you have a favorite of the projects you’ve worked on with them?
Lyle: The Boggy Creek Monster still stands as my favorite because it reflects a lot of my own personal journey. I’ve screened that a bunch at different Bigfoot conferences and so forth and every time I see that ending I still kind of get tears. It’s an odd thing – I’m not an emotional person like that, but Seth. His script is so perfect, and it reflects so much of not only my journey but the mysteries behind this stuff, I’m just like, man, it gets me every time.
Aaron: There’s still a banner hanging in the Fouke Monster Mart from a pre-screening of the Boggy Creek film – Is it strange to now be a part of the narrative of the Boggy Creek Monster?
Lyle: Absolutely. When I first started researching for the Beast of Boggy Creek book, I looked up to Smokey Crabtree and people that had been in that first film, or who had been there during that time, never realizing I was sort of inserting myself into that history, and introducing something that would reenergize and add new perspectives to the case. In retrospect, thirteen years later I’m like ‘wow – I’m a part of it.’
Lyle’s band Ghoultown has been performing since 1999. They’ve released six full studio albums, as well as live recordings and LPs, and have performed all across the planet. With a distinctive sound that is self-described as a “mix of punk twang, horror rock, and spaghetti-western flair” (from the official Ghoultown website), the band commands a legion of fans and boasts an impressive body of work.
Aaron: How did you get your start in music?
Lyle: It was always something I wanted to do. I was into KISS when I was a kid, just thought rock and roll sounded cool, and found myself having some musical talent. So that was kind of what I did early on. Before I was out of high school I had bands that were on vinyl LPs – which was all there was back then – and then just proceeded from that. Having been in several bands and having been fortunate enough to tour around most of Europe and Canada and the US and everywhere else. It was sort of my career, even though it’s hard to make a living in a rock band, as it goes. This also propelled my writing because I would write for rock magazines and other stuff, in the downtime, when you’re not on tour. The record labels kept most of the money, honestly. (laughs)
But you know, it was just in my blood. So later on when I formed Ghoultown, I decided to do it independently. No labels. I mean we were too weird for labels anyway. But that was a good move because being able to do things independently – and that’s common now, you have big bands that release things on their own – it’s paid off because it’s helped me to create an income that’s allowed me to jump off and do the monster hunting thing.
You can’t be as big if you don’t have a big label behind you, but it doesn’t matter, because it’s straight to the fans. I’m very happy that we’ve always been independent.
Aaron: How do you keep a band going for over twenty years?
Lyle: Well – I don’t know. It amazes me. And half the members are still the original guys, we’ve had very few changes. And some of that’s just been because of necessity, not dudes just coming in and out of the band. The main key to that is that we always put the emphasis on having fun and doing it that way. Remaining friends, never putting attitudes or business ahead.
When we spoke in February, Lyle and Ghoultown were slated to perform at Nosferatufest in Austin, Texas in March. This year the festival observed the 100th anniversary of Nosferatu, the seminal vampire film.
Aaron: Is this the first time you’ve played this event?
Lyle: Yes. We like playing those horror conventions. I’m a huge horror fan, and monster fan, and those are always fun gigs. We were originally approached about this (Nosferatufest) a couple of years ago and then there was a pandemic. So this is finally coming to fruition.
Aaron: Do you think Texas is underappreciated as a hub for paranormal activity, cryptid phenomena, etc?
Lyle: I think it is somewhat underappreciated. Texas, you know, is known for a lot of things, and the monster stuff and paranormal lore kind of gets lost in the mix. And people I think don’t often think of Texas as being a place like that, with these kinds of mysteries, but as we know there is just a range of literally everything. And that’s partly because of the geology and landscape of our state because you can go from one side where it’s literally a desert, down along the Rio Grande where you have giant pterodactyls or some strange birds, all the way over to the east where you have these woods and yeah – this is total Bigfoot country. I don’t think people realize, even in terms of Bigfoot history, that Texas has so many encounters. But they think of Texas more in terms of cowboys, John Wayne, open arid lands, and there’s definitely a stereotype. When I was touring in Europe people would come up and ask, ‘oh, do you ride horses, do you have a ranch?’
Well, I’ve ridden horses, but we’re not all cowboys. It doesn’t look like the western movies.
Aaron: Well yeah, and horses are expensive.
Lyle: (laughs) That’s right, do I look like I can afford horses?
We also joked about the cost of the land which would be required to store said theoretical horses before moving on to the next topic – the monster formerly known as the “Texas Chupacabra”.
Aaron: Recently there was a campaign (sponsored by The Hey Strangeness Podcast and Paranormality Magazine) to rename the ‘Texas Chupacabra’ and the name that won the vote was the Texas Terror Dog. What are your thoughts on the renaming campaign and the name that was chosen?
Lyle: Oh I love that name. That sounds great. I’m all for it. And I agree, it kind of needs a different name because every time somebody asks me about the Chupacabra you have to stop and say ‘okay, what are we talking about here?’ My first exposure was the Latin American, Puerto Rican story of this creature that was not described as a dog. And later on, when the hairless canids and so forth were seen in Texas and around the south they co-opted the name ‘Chupacabra.’ But to me, they’re two different types of creatures – Cryptids. So the Texas style needs a different name.
Aaron: I think I know what you’re going to say, but – do you think you would ever leave Texas?
Lyle: No. Well, I say that, but early in Ghoultown times, we thought, for a minute, about relocating to California or LA or something just to help the band. And we debated because our image was so much connected to texas and we ended up thinking, you know, being from Texas carries a lot of weight and we have this identity. And as I continued to wear the cowboy hat and identify with that kind of image – Blackburn is seen doing monster hunts and stuff – the whole Texas thing became such an integral part of my image that, of course, I would never move out of Texas at this point. It’s where my roots are and where my identity is.
We traded additional pleasantries and I thanked Lyle for his time. Whoever said ‘don’t meet your heroes’ never met Lyle Blackburn, and if you ever get the chance to ask him about monsters, music (or hot sauce), the writer strongly recommends that you do so.