For fans of campfire stories and cryptid legends, a warm summer night is the perfect time to sit beneath the stars and wonder what creeps around the nearby woods—or in the sewer beneath your feet, if you're a city dweller. Hunter Shea clearly dreams about the elusive creatures that lurk in the shadows; he's written over two dozen books about everything from Bigfoot and the Jersey Devil to the Loch Ness Monster. His books have even been displayed at the International Cryptozoology Museum, and his video podcast, Monster Men, is one of the longest-running and most-watched online horror podcasts.
Related: 30 Scary Monster Legends from Across the United States
Cryptozoology, for those who don't know, is the search for and study of mysterious creatures that may or may not exist. Hunter Shea is a master at tapping into the enduring mystery of cryptids, transforming a fringe science subculture into a breeding ground for monster horror. His novels, which contain enough victims to rival most classic slasher films, revel in monsters of all sizes and secrecy, and are the perfect page-turners to fill your summer nights with screams. For lovers of the Dover Demon, the Montauk Monster, the Jersey Devil, and more, here are the best Hunter Shea horror books that feature some carnivorous cryptids!
The Montauk Monster
The beach town of Montauk sits at the far eastern tip of Long Island. It's the perfect place to grab a drink after a long day in the summer sun. That is, until two locals are found torn to shreds on the beach. Could an otherworldly being be behind the slayings? Officer Gray Dalton thinks so, and he's determined to find out. Montauk Monster is based on the real-life case of the Montauk Monster, a strange animal carcass that washed up on one of the county's beaches and was eventually identified as a raccoon. Here, Shea plays on rumors that the creature was an escaped experiment from the Plum Island Animal Disease Center, crafting a terrifying narrative of bio-horror and genetically modified monsters run amok.
Rattus New Yorkus
For natives of New York City, it's not unusual to cross paths with a rat; after all, a 2014 study concluded that the Big Apple plays host to some 2 million rats, or roughly one rat for every four human citizens. It's easy to see, then, why the horror at work in this Shea's Rattus New Yorkus is so skin-crawlingly effective. This city horror narrative sees a new rodenticide backfire in its attempt to eradicate the critters. Normally eager to live and let live, the rats below the city are now more aggressive, more ravenous, and, most dangerous of all, more coordinated.
Alligators, pythons, iguanas: you'd think Florida has enough reptiles already. But as tropical storm after tropical storm batters the Sunshine State, the lizard population rises. The iguanas that appear in the wake of the storms sure seem bigger than usual. What's worse? They're hungry. As the rising lizard population grows ever more ravenous, there's just one thing that will satisfy their hunger: humans.
The Jersey Devil
Most east-coasters are familiar with the Jersey Devil. The cryptid's depictions are as varied as its origins, with some claiming it's a beast from hell sent to terrify the American colonies, while others believe it to be a cursed child transformed into a winged creature with a goat's head. Whatever the origin of the legendary beast, Boompa Willet simply knows that the Jersey Devil is real, and has dreaded his encounter with it for 60 years. Now that it's returned to wreak havoc, he enlists the help of his family to take on the beast and send it back to hell.
Just Add Water
Remember sea-monkeys? They were a type of brine shrimp that came in a packet. Pour the packet's contents into some water, and in no time the little creatures were swimming around. They made for cheap and easy fun. And yet, for some reason, the instant Sea Serpent mix just isn't working for young David and Patrick. So, of course, the siblings pour the feral blend down the sewer, where it mixes with Dad's toxic chemicals. Soon thereafter, the trouble begins: neighborhood pets start vanishing into the sewers.
The Devil's Fingers
Clathrus Archeri, also known as octopus stinkhorn or squidward mushroom, has earned the very appropriate nickname of the Devil's Fingers for its long, pinkish tentacles and noxious scent. Normally found in Australia, the mushroom has spread to North America, and it's now starting to grab hold of human hosts. Autumn Winters, a botanist camping in the woods of Washington state, witnesses the fungus overwhelm her acquaintances after they come in direct contact with it. The question soon becomes: who's next? Shea mixes the fear of a zombie infection with a dark and creepy forest setting in this terrifying tale.
Global warming is on the rise, and ancient creatures are waking up. Prehistoric demon fish are emerging from a darkened slumber deep beneath the waves of the Bermuda Triangle. Ghostly in appearance and in nature, these ravenous fish have risen from a 400 million-year-long entombment to turn the ocean red.
The Dover Demon
An alien from above, or a demon from below? The strange being sighted outside Dover, Massachusettes in 1977 has haunted Sam Brogna and his friends for decades. Now, his son, Nicky, has vanished in search of the very cryptid that plagued his father's memories. Sam and his friends must save Nicky, no matter how many of the demons there really are.
Antarctic Ice Beast
Antarctica is a frightening enough environment on its own, doubly so in the dead of winter. Wintering at the South Pole means having to endure months of darkness. The crew at the US Freedom Base is doing its best to survive. But then a freak storm cuts off contact with the outside world, and the smallest breach in their base brings the crew closer to death. But something else is out there in the dark. An alien creature howls in the night and bangs on the walls. It wants to come in from the cold.
For some, monsters are internal, with chronic pain and autoimmune diseases turning one's own body into their own worst enemy. Kate Woodson just wants to heal, grateful for the new lake house in Maine she can share with her husband. Then they hear something screaming in the woods, threatening to get in. In Creature, Shea highlights a crucial component to combating monsters: whether the demon is trying to break down your door from the outside or tear you apart from within, fighting alongside a loved one is the best chance for survival.
Loch Ness Revenge
The Loch Ness Monster needs no introduction; the classic cryptid of the Scottish Highlands rivals bigfoot in pop culture ubiquity. But twins Natalie and Austin know that the tales of Nessie aren't just rumors. They witnessed the creature devour their own parents. Now grown up, the siblings intend to finally shed light on the Loch and its monster—or die trying.
Tortures Of The Damned
Apocalypse horror books come in multiple varieties: zombie plagues, civilization-destroying disease, eco-horror, or divine rapture. Many of the narratives focus on the surviving humans who struggle to build a new society in the wake of the disaster. But in Hunter Shea's interpretation of the classic nuclear strike narrative, those who survive in bomb shelters are the damned and the hunted. They're surrounded by ravenous wildlife that has been warped by the chemical fallout. Monstrous dogs, cats, rats, and, of course, former humans, are now on the prowl, standing as the demons of this new hellscape that is Earth.
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