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Room 101


A Room 101 Interview with Rupert Matthews

Rupert Matthews is the author of a wide range of books on the paranormal and unexplained, as well as books on more conventional history. After finding a number of these books on the shelves of my local Works bookstore, I thought it would be a good idea to track him down and ask the 20-year publishing veteran a few questions. What followed was a wide ranging conversation on everything from the British Governments controversial decision to close down their UFO desk to the British Bigfoot, Alien Big Cats and poltergeists.

Richard Thomas: First things first, thank you so much for giving us the time to answer these questions. I've read several of your paranormal books and so I really appreciate it and I'm sure our readers will enjoy your answers as well. Looking back on it now, I think my own interest in these topics first grew out of my interest in sci-fi. How did you first become interested in the paranormal and have you had any experiences yourself?

Rupert Matthews: My grandma was very interested in ghosts and the supernatural. When I was younger she used to tell me all about boggarts (we would call them poltergeists these days), white ladies, black hounds and ghosts of all kinds. I guess that is what started me off originally

Richard Thomas: In addition to books on the paranormal and the unexplained, I understand you also write history and travel books. Which came first and how did you begin your writing career?

Rupert Matthews: It was the history that came first so far as books were concerned. I always loved history and when I left school wanted to earn a living doing history somehow. I got a job at a small publishing company as an office boy, then worked my way up to staff writer at a larger company. I took the plunge and went freelance about 20 years ago now.

Back then I was doing history books, but they took me away from home to do research quite a lot. Because the archives and libraries where I was researching all close around 5pm or 6pm I often had evenings to myself with nothing much to do. I started using the time to visit any haunted hotels, pubs or open spaces in the area. Over the years I built up a large amount of photos of haunted places, interviews with witnesses and so forth. It then occurred to me that I ought to try to get it published, and one of my publishing contacts was kind enough to take the book on. It sold rather well and since then I have been doing almost as much on the paranormal and unexplained as on history. Great fun.

Richard Thomas: One of your books is called Bigfoot: True-life Encounters with Legendary Ape-Men. There seems to be two basic schools of thought on Bigfoot: the first, of course, being the conventional view that Bigfoot could be some kind of ‘missing link' as the title of your book suggests. The second theory is that it might be something much stranger, perhaps even inter-dimensional, for lack of a better term. What's your opinion on both of these theories?

Rupert Matthews: Interesting stuff. If you look at the eyewitness accounts of people who claim to have seen Bigfoot there seem to be two distinct classes - though they do blur a bit. Most sightings, certainly in the forested Pacific Northwest of America, read very much like an encounter with a flesh and blood animal. The way the Bigfoot reacts is very ape-like, the way the witness reacts is very human-like. Obviously a few of these reports are fakes and others will be mistaken identity, but overall they seem to be rather mundane meetings - though the unrecognised status of the Bigfoot makes them fascinating.

The Ruby Creek case is one such, as is the Patterson movie. A typically inconsequential sighting - of which there are hundreds on record - was that of 26 June 1972. Thomas Smith was fishing from a raft in a small lake in Oregon when he saw a Bigfoot emerge from some trees and come down to the lake where it began to drink. The bigfoot then spotted Smith, turned round and walked back into the cover of the trees.

Then there are very different reports where we seem to be entering the world of the paranormal, not that of cryptozoology. On 11 May 1977 Mr & Mrs Sites were at their remote farm in New Jersey when the sensed something hostile was in the area. Mr Sites went outside to find in the farmyard a tall, hairy bigfoot with glowing red eyes. The farm dog attacked it, but was kicked violently aside and then fled. The bigfoot approached Sites with its arms raised above its head. Sites shot it four times with his.410 gauge shotgun at close range. The Bigfoot ignored the shots, then stopped before turning around and walking off. The glowing red eyes, ability to be invulnerable to being shot and the general behaviour of this bigfoot is not consistent with it being a real flesh and blood animal, but does match the behaviour of paranormal creatures across the globe.

I don't want to get all esoteric on this, but there is a strong case to be made for paranomal creatures taking on the form that the witness expects them to take. In England they often appear as Black Dogs, because that is what our culture has historically expected. In the US they take the form of bigfoot. In parts of South America they take the form of chupacabra and so forth.

Richard Thomas: Another Bigfoot author I've interviewed is Nick Redfern, who wrote a recent book called The British Bigfoot. What's your opinion on UK Bigfoot sightings?

Rupert Matthews: To be entirely honest I have not found the time to look into them in any great detail. From the little I have read I would put them into the paranormal category, not the flesh and blood category. I asked for the book for Christmas, but my wife bought me a pair of slippers instead.

Richard Thomas: While on the topic of British cryptozoology, my sister actually had an Alien Big Cat sighting here in Wales a few years ago. On your YouTube channel, you briefly talked about something called the "Surrey Puma." Have you ever looked into the UK ABC phenomenon at all?

Rupert Matthews: I have yes. Here we seem to be on firmer ground than with British Bigfoot. The evidence of sightings, tracks and the like seems pretty compelling to me. Again, there will have been fakes and misidentifications, but on the whole I do accept that there are big cats roaming about out there. I recall the time when farmer Ted Noble actually caught one on his land near Inverness back in 1980. He and other locals had been reporting seeing a cougar for some months, but of course nobody took the reports seriously. Then Mr Noble got lucky and actually caught the thing. Nobody could argue with him after that. where the big cats come from is, of course, another matter.

Richard Thomas: Another of your books that I've read is Poltergeists. Explain what you think differentiates poltergeist cases from more traditional hauntings and what do you think are some of the best cases you've researched that best demonstrate this?

Rupert Matthews: Put simply, poltergeists are a distinct category of paranormal manifestation. They are characterised by objects being moved, objects vanishing, objects appearing and by loud noises of various kinds. A typical ghost haunting features none of these things. Conversely a typical ghost will manifest itself in the form of a human figure - poltergeists don't do that and only in very rare cases does anyone claim to have seen one. Moreover, poltergeists will sometimes communicate with the humans - usually by means of knocking or rapping - and if they do they claim to be a ghost, a witch, a demon or something equally bizarre. But they are none of those things. I don't know what they are, but they are pretty terrifying things to encounter.

The Battersea case of 1935 is a text book example of a poltergeist visitation (I don't like the word haunting as that would imply a ghost was to blame). Pretty much everything that a poltergeist might get up to was present in that case, and was carefully recorded by the unfortunate family involved. Another well documented case was the Appleby Poltergeist of 1887. Mr Fowler, who owned the affected house, kept a detailed diary of the strange events that makes compelling reading. I also know of a case here in Surrey a couple of years ago that was very convincing, though the range of phenomena was much more limited. Having spoken to the people involved I have no doubt about what happened.

Richard Thomas: You've also written some UFO books, UFOs A History of Alien Activity from Sightings to Abductions to Global Threat being the most recent. I purchased the book becuase I was intrigued by the "Global Threat" part of the title. In your view, how serious is the threat posed by UFOs and what's your opinion on David Jacobs' theories as outlined his book: The Threat?

Rupert Matthews: I guess "not very" would sum it up. The evidence for UFOs and for the humanoid creatures linked to them is pretty compelling. However, most of the evidence that suggests some sort of global threat is a lot less convincing. It rests on dubious testimony or simply does not mesh with the mass of evidence about UFOs available elsewhere. I have an open mind on the subject, but have yet to be convinced.

Richard Thomas: Recently, the British Ministry of Defense decided to close down their UFO desk, a strange decision perhaps given the large increase in UFO sightings we've had in the UK in recent years. What do you think were the real motives behind this action and are there any parallels to be drawn with the US Air Force's closing down of Project Bluebook back in 1969?

Rupert Matthews: I spoke to a fairly senior RAF officer about this. His view was that UFOs were not the business of the RAF. He said that the RAF was there to fly missions over Afghanistan, keep an eye on Russian spy planes and such like. He was prepared to accept that there MIGHT be an objective reality to the UFO phenomenon, but seemed to think it was a job for the intelligence services. Until we know what UFOs are and why they are here, he did not think the RAF should be involved. The RAF has more than enough to keep itself busy. Whether that is the real reason I have no idea, but that was his view.

Richard Thomas: What's your take on the many rumours of an ultra covert British UFO group and recovered alien technology? And how much do you think the British Government know about UFOs compared to their American counterparts?

Rupert Matthews: I know that the US and UK intelligence services share a lot of information, but not everything. I would expect them to share the broad outlines about what they know about UFOs, but would maybe keep juicy details to themselves. As for alien technology, that presupposes that UFOs are alien spacecraft and that one or more has crashed and been recovered. I'm not entirely convinced by either of these suggestions. I know the alien spacecraft theory is the most popular among UFO researchers, but while it may well turn out to be the case, I think it is a case of "not proven" for now.

Richard Thomas: On your YouTube channel, I saw something about strange accounts of humanoid entities being seen in Surrey. What exactly are the details of these encounters?

Rupert Matthews: I think you mean the UFO that landed near Ash Green. Two humanoids about 4 feet tall emerged from the UFO and persuaded the witness, a Mr Burtoo, to accompany them on board the craft. After a while, the two beings told Mr Burtoo to return outside saying that he was "too old" (he was 78). Once Mr Burtoo was outside, the craft took off and flew away. Clearly the humanoids were up to something, but Mr Burtoo was not suitable so they left. There is a lot more to this incident than that, but those are the main outlines.

Richard Thomas: Before he passed away last year, Mac Tonnies completed the manuscript for his new book, The Cryptoterrestrials. As someone who has researched both UFOs and cryptozoology, what's your opinion on Tonnies' "cryptoterrestrial hypothesis" that we share this planet with another intelligent race of humanoids indigenous to Earth?

Rupert Matthews: An interesting idea, but I am not convinced. The evidence could point in other directions just as easily. Mind you, he might be right.

Richard Thomas: We've covered a lot of ground in this interview: UFOs, ghosts, Bigfoot. Do you think it's possible that all of these mysteries might be connected in some way and maybe even have a single explanation? If so, how ?

Rupert Matthews: When I was talking about Bigfoot I mentioned that some of the sightings seem to be of paranormal entities, not real animals. There is no doubt that many sightings that would at first appear to be of entirely different things (bigfoot, aliens, ghosts, giant dogs) do in fact share some similar traits. A typical paranormal entity would be large, dark in colour, have glowing red eyes and behave in a violent or highly threatening way - but without actually inflicting any real damage. I do not mean that ALL bigfoot or alien sightings fit this pattern, but quite a lot do. This might be the case that a paranormal entity will assume the shape or form of a pre-existing real thing - thus a paranormal entity in North America would assume the guise of a bigfoot. Alternatively, however, it may be that these sightings are not objectively real, and so be more akin to hallucinations than to genuinely paranormal events - though you then have other problems cropping that mean this theory is not entirely convincing either. The evidence could fit a number of scenarios.

Richard Thomas: Where can people contact you and have you got any new books coming out soon we can look forward to?

Rupert Matthews: I am on Facebook and on Twitter. I regularly post up writings and views about the paranormal as well as mentioning new books. I would advise your readers to get in touch with me via one of these social networks. From time to time I do book signings, book launches or give talks at meetings. Those events are advertised via Facebook and Twitter if they are open to the public.

Richard Thomas: Thanks again Rupert, maybe we could do this again sometime.

Richard Thomas, BoA UK Correspondent and Columnist