Zoologist, media consultant, and science writer, Dr Karl Shuker is also one of the best known cryptozoologists in the world. He is the author of such seminal works as Mystery Cats of the World (1989), The Lost Ark: New and Rediscovered Animals of the 20th Century (1993; greatly expanded in 2012 as The Encyclopaedia of New and Rediscovered Animals), Dragons: A Natural History (1995), In Search of Prehistoric Survivors (1995), The Unexplained (1996), From Flying Toads To Snakes With Wings (1997), Mysteries of Planet Earth (1999), The Hidden Powers of Animals (2001), The Beasts That Hide From Man (2003), Extraordinary Animals Revisited (2007), Dr Shuker's Casebook (2008), Karl Shuker's Alien Zoo: From the Pages of Fortean Times (2010), Cats of Magic, Mythology, and Mystery (2012), Mirabilis: A Carnival of Cryptozoology and Unnatural History (2013), Dragons in Zoology, Cryptozoology, and Culture (2013), The Menagerie of Marvels (2014), A Manifestation of Monsters (2015), Here's Nessie! (2016), and what is widely considered to be his cryptozoological magnum opus, Still In Search Of Prehistoric Survivors (2016) - plus, very excitingly, his first two long-awaited, much-requested ShukerNature blog books (2019, 2020).

Dr Karl Shuker's Official Website - http://www.karlshuker.com/index.htm

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Wednesday 22 December 2010


Black Dog
(Andy Paciorek - from his Strange Lands project's website at: http://www.batcow.co.uk/strangelands)

I have been asked many times whether I specifically planned a career in cryptozoology or whether it was just something that happened. Perhaps the truth is neither of these – perhaps it was destiny, pre-ordained, the hand of fate. Read the following and judge for yourself.

Right from a child, my surname had always mystified me. I did know that it was German, even though my father’s family is entirely English in origin as far back as we can trace (which is several generations). So too is my mother’s family. What I didn’t know was what it meant. What was the English translation of ‘Shuker’? Despite perusing numerous books of surname origins as a child and early teenager, I never managed to find any mention of mine – until one day during the mid-1980s, when, while idly thumbing through yet another such volume in a Birmingham bookshop, to my great surprise I found it! But that surprise was nothing compared to what I experienced when I discovered what my name actually meant!

According to that book, ‘Shuker’ derived from ‘Schuck’ (I had previously read that ‘Shuker’ was once spelt ‘Schucker’), which was apparently a Germanic term for ‘monster’! More specifically, it referred to a goblin-like creature of the night, especially one that could acquire the form of a huge black dog – which may help to explain, therefore, the origin of the name ‘Black Shuck’ for a famous example from eastern England of the Black Dog zooform phenomenon. In other words, I had a cryptozoological surname - or, at the very least, one that pertained directly to unexplained creatures!

Having said that, I later discovered an alternative derivation for my surname – this time from ‘Schuker’, an early Germanic name of pre-10th Century origin, which was an occupational term for someone who earned their living by sieving corn by shaking. Nevertheless, the very fact that one translation for ‘Shuker’ involves a direct link to monsters and mystery beasts is nothing if not intriguing, and would remain so even if that were all – i.e. even if there were no other links between such entities and names appertaining to me.

But that is not all. Guess what my two nicknames were at school? One, due to the presence of several stone ornaments of that nature in my front garden, was Gnome – a mythical mini-humanoid entity. The other, due to my surname not rhyming readily with any familiar word, was a seemingly inconsequential nonsense word, at least as far as the young junior-school children who coined it were concerned. However, it would be instantly recognised as something very consequential by any self-respecting cryptozoologist or zoomythologist. For the nickname in question was none other than ‘pooker’, which, with only the slightest change in spelling, becomes ‘pooka’ - a legendary Irish monster, taking the form of a huge black dog or goblin pony that carries off unwary children and drowns them (click here for a separate ShukerNature post retelling this famous Irish legend).

And as if all of this cryptozoological and zoomythological lexilinking were still not intriguing enough, my maternal grandmother’s maiden name was Griffin! In other words, a direct name-link with that famous beast of legend that sports the head and wings of an eagle but the torso, limbs, and tail of a lion.

Even my home town, Wednesbury, is named after a Nordic god - Woden or Odin, thus explaining why you can find here a beautiful gleaming metal statue of Sleipnir, Odin’s unique eight-legged steed.

A cryptozoologist by choice, or by destiny? Somehow, I don’t think that choice ever came into it, do you?

(Andy Paciorek - from his Strange Lands project's website at: http://www.batcow.co.uk/strangelands)

Please note: Andy Paciorek's spectacular, long-awaited book Strange Lands will be available via mail-order in early 2011, and includes a foreword by yours truly!

STOP PRESS: 1 February 2011 - Strange Lands is now in print! It is available to purchase at:



  1. I do recall Sending Karl a message about his name before, but it was more of a cautionary note. Around my neck of the woods, "Shucker" means a con man or spoofer, and I was telling Karl that he should be aware that certain people were going to take it that way.

    As before, no offense is meant by pointing that out.
    Best Wishes, Dale D.

  2. In this section of Pennsylvania here there's a German name that's probably related somehow, Schock. There's quite a few of them (as an even older spelling of the name, Schoch) buried in an old cemetery around here that's supposed to be haunted by phantom dogs or wolves. I've also seen that name spelled in some records as Shock or Shuck. The coincidence of Shucks being buried in a cemetery with phantom dogs is a bit of a large one!

  3. Lol, no offense taken, Dale. Indeed, there are probably some cryptozoology sceptics and cynics out there who might even say dismissively that a surname translating as 'con man' or 'spoofer' is singularly apt for anyone investigating and writing about mystery beasts!

    Thanks, Andrew, for this fascinating info! Yet another bizarre mystery beast-linked coincidence associated with my surname - extraordinary!

  4. I found this thread very late of course, but one of the more pleasant sides of the word "pooka" is in the comedy "HARVEY," where the Elwood character calls Harvey the rabbit one. And of course one of the things that story is famous for is leaving it up to the audience to decide whether Harvey the rabbit is for real or not (which in some ways is another connection between it and cryptozoology).

  5. I saw the film version of Harvey, in which again the giant rabbit is referred to as a pooka, towards the end of the film if I recall correctly (it's been a long long time since I last saw it). A very enjoyable, gentle movie. I also saw the later, sci-fi derivation, Donnie Darko, which is good too, but much darker (pardon the pun) and far less gentle!