A South Island research trip to look for lake monsters and black panthers has wound up for Australian author Tony Healy, but the hunt continues.
He would still like to hear from people with knowledge of hoaxes about lake monsters in Lake Coleridge in inland Mid Canterbury or Lake Pukaki, near Twizel.
Mr Healy was in the South Island for seven weeks, researching for his next book tentatively called, 'Monster Safaris'.
He spent two weeks based around Methven hunting for proof of Mid Canterbury's elusive high country black panther. He did not find it.
But he still felt Mid Canterbury was worth a couple of chapters.
The book would include sightings of Yetis/Big Foots and lake monsters around the world, he said.
Also in the book were other unexplained South Island sightings like alligators and otters in Central Otago rivers, moose in Fiordland, phantom airships in the deep south and balls of light sightings on the West Coast.
Mr Healy is no stranger to the paranormal or unexplained. His fascination started in 1965 when he was a land survey technical officer for the Australian Government and people reported seeing an American mountain lion in North Queensland. He went looking.
''It's a hobby that got completely out of control.''
Since then he had written three books, Out of the Shadows, Mystery Animals of Australia (1994), The Yowie (2006) and Australian Poltergeist (2015). His co-author was Paul Cropper. They are now working on ''The Yowie Files''.
On the subject of Mid Canterbury's ''black panther'', he had heard of multiple reports from people who had sightings but no-one had photographs or plaster casts of paw prints to show him, he said.
The closest he got to physical proof was hair caught on a barbed wire fence on a property near Mt Somers. Analysis indicated it was from neither dog nor cattle beast but there was no confirmation it was from a cat species.
But a big cat has not been ruled out, either.
Too many people had reported similar sightings for there not to be some truth in the South Island tales, he said. The testimonial evidence and quality of witnesses was really high.
''People who have been on the land all their lives and shot feral cats by the hundreds are saying [they've seen] cats the size of Labrador dogs - 50% bigger than even a huntaway dog.''
''If it was just one or two people over 20 years you could say it's a wild cat or a big black dog but [there are] dozens and dozens who have seen them in close range - the witnesses are totally genuine.''
''People have been so generous with their time.''
Author Tony Healy can be contacted via email firstname.lastname@example.org.
-By Toni Williams
Central Rural Life