What makes monsters real

Peter Stanford reviews Matt Kaplan's new book, an investigation into what's so intriguing about spooky, scary beasties of the night: Medusa's Gaze and Vampire's Bite: the Science of Monsters.

What he has grasped is that, however much the rational and sane majority airily dismiss tales of fire-breathing dragons, strange creatures from outer space or beasts that inhabit the depths, there is still buried in most of us that reflex that can't help, on a dark night, walking along a lonely country lane, wondering, “What if there’s something out there?” And when we do, the collective cultural baggage of these tales of ghosts, ghouls and griffins is usually sufficient to make us put our hands over our eyes to block out what may just be lurking out there. But, then, we still peep.