Salisbury author Andy Nunez made a name for himself in the local treasure-hunter/metal detectorist crowd last year, with his “Treasures of the Eastern Shore” paperback. But he’s on a different hunt these days, working on the new “Mysteries of the Eastern Shore.”
Gold doubloons are one thing, but does Nunez really want to find the Selbyville Swamp Monster? It’s an uncommonly fierce creature, by all accounts.
Some may have thought those rumors thoroughly dismissed — someone did step forward and admit he’d been running a hoax, after all. However, Nunez for one isn’t ruling out the possibility that there was something else out there in the Great Burnt Swamp (historically, the Great Cypress Swamp), before the hoaxer came along.
And maybe it’s out there still.
Nunez relayed a hand-me-down account, circa the 1920s, from a couple of coon hunters, out with their dogs in the moonlight.
“They heard something screaming, and this horrible noise started coming toward them,” he said. Rather than fire on whatever it was, they backed away — something large and heavy continued to follow them, snapping through the branches as it came, Nunez recounted.
The hunters never actually saw the Selbyville Swamp Monster, he added. However, that didn’t disprove its existence.
Or, it could have been a bear, he admitted. “Even today, you hear stores about black bears that get lost and wind up swimming over from (Maryland’s) Eastern Shore,” Nunez said.
Black bears aren’t very large, he pointed out — bigger than a German shepherd, but maybe not much bigger.
Perhaps the Selbyville Swamp Monster was never anything more than a black bear sighting and a little exaggeration. “It’s all in what you believe you see,” Nunez pointed out.
And perhaps that’s the case for many of the stories Nunez is studying for his new book. But what fun is it, if everything’s explainable?
He said he’d covered a few sea monster and Bigfoot sightings (one near Georgetown) and numerous ghost stories. “Within a few generations, the people who lived these stories will be gone,” Nunez pointed out. “The area’s folklore will disappear without books like this.”
“Mysteries of the Eastern Shore” is slated to include some historical puzzlers, too, like the shipwreck at Plum Island (north of Rehoboth).
“No one can identify that ship,” Nunez pointed out. “But it’s so large (either a three- or four-master), it would have taken a forest to build it.”
He said the ship also featured technologies that were quite advanced for the period, like a “spring bow” to absorb the shock of crashing waves and iron cross-strapping – “Lloyd’s strapping,” as Nunez called it, so named because shipbuilders had to use if they wanted insurance from Lloyd’s of London.
“Why is there no record that this ship ever existed?” he asked.
Nunez grew up in Somerset County (Md.), in a very rural setting. “There was no running water. We didn’t have a telephone until I was 18,” he said. “That kind of upbringing gives you a close and loving family, but apart from the family there was little to do, other than read or go walking outdoors.”
He said he’d always had an interest in the classic occult writers, like H.G. Wells and H.P. Lovecraft. “I was always interested in that stuff, and about the time I was in the eighth or ninth grade, I started writing stories myself,” Nunez recalled. “They were terrible, but I kept at it.”
He’s now editor for Against the Odds (ATO) magazine, at www.atomagazine.com. ATO covers military history and provides historically accurate war games.
Nunez stands by the magazine’s efforts to attract writing from the best authorities. “We try to go beyond the history you can read about in the textbooks, and get into the back story — the factors that contributed to a victory or defeat,” he noted.
Before ATO, he did treasure writing for the better part of 20 years. Nunez published “Treasures of the Eastern Shore” through Cambridge Books, but expects he’ll put out feelers for “Mysteries of the Eastern Shore” via electronic novel.
“There’s been a real evolution in the publishing industry,” he noted. “Print-on-demand can really help niche writers.”
His first novel is available at Amazon.com on the Internet, but also locally at the TreasureQuest Shoppe in Ocean View, and at the DiscoverSea Museum in Fenwick Island.