The Legend of Higley Flow...: A Retrospective
by Richmond LaFayette Holton
Outskirts Press

"'I’m neither poet nor writer, but I do have plenty to say. I am the only living eyewitness to the Legend of Higley Flow.'"

In the upstate New York countryside, there is a folk legend of a monster living beneath the waters of the Higley Flow State Park. Unlike the camera-shy Sasquatch or the Loch Ness Monster, the mysterious creature living in Higley Flow is known to be predatory, and for over a century many people and even ships have disappeared in the area, never to be seen again. The most recent disappearance is that of a young woman by the name of Cass Landau and her pet pug Ruby. While walking through the park grounds, the two of them go missing, leaving almost no trace aside from Ruby’s dog tag. Local amateur historian, community figure, and Boy Scout troop leader Bernard Tyler Binghamton, known by all those around him as either “Bing” or “Uncle Too-tall,” unwittingly becomes involved in the legend himself.

On the 21st anniversary Jamboree of Bing's service as Scoutmaster to Troop 423, a discovery is made by Maxx, the dog of Bing’s son Bobby. An old-fashioned green bottle is dug up on the beach with a note and a vile smell inside. The note seems to indicate the fate of the Flying Dutchman, a tourist boat that went missing in Bing’s youth. During a canoe trip on the same Jamboree, an Eagle Scout by the name of Mike Danish helps Bing clear a blockage in the river only to be mysteriously pulled under the water. Saved at the last minute, Mike has to face his fears and determine what exactly tried to end his life prematurely. All of the mystery and danger builds upon a story that really began with the European settlement of the area in the late 17th Century when a tribe of friendly Native Americans vanishes and relocates to Alaska, leading to the discovery of a magical, omniscient stone that secretly steers the development of the community.

By utilizing a blend of both traditional cryptozoological folklore and mythology as well as the tropes of modern monster movies and horror novels, this book feels like it could be told just as well around a campfire as it is printed on the page. Even though the story splinters off into past and present, following multiple characters, it branches out and reforms very naturally and doesn’t become overly confusing or cumbersome to keep track of. One of the most effective hooks that this story gets readers with is that we are made aware before anything else that this supernatural creature or force is real, and that there is magic of some kind in this world. This allows a tension to build up as time passes, and legends beget skepticism. When that skepticism is tested by facts and proof, things start moving along speedily.

The characters themselves are full of folksy charm and good-naturedness, from Bing’s history poems about the area to Police Chief Doug Jones, who has to combine pragmatism with improvisation when faced with the reality of the Higley Flow monster. The tall tale-structure and the early focus on the Boy Scout troop might make this appear to be reading for young adults, but there is profanity used by the characters in the book as well as some pretty frightful situations, so parents might want to exercise some caution before giving the go-ahead on having teens and young adults read this book. What this book presents is a fantastic mystery spread out correctly to keep the reader engaged but not just focused on the big, bad monster instead of the characters of the story. It positions itself as a new legend and a piece of modern Americana with an ending that neatly ties itself up and surprises the reader. Fans of ancient mysticism, mysterious creatures, and the kinds of legends that get passed down from generation to generation will find a new classic with this story.

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