An encounter with the Dorset Ooser at Dorchester Museum led Robert Newland deep into the mysterious world of folklore and legend.
It was this that drew Robert into years of research which have now produced two books and the Dark Dorset website.
One of the books, Dark Dorset: Tales of Mystery, Wonder and Terror, has been written with his childhood friend and neighbour at Weymouth, Mark North, and the other, Calendar Customs, is Robert's work alone.
"I suppose it all began with the Ooser," said Robert. "I thought, what's all that about? I acquired some books and discovered it was a fertility symbol which was carried during May Day and midwinter customs."
Now, Robert is one who firmly believes that the old traditions should be kept alive wherever possible to preserve our precious English heritage.
Mark is a friend of Jon Downes, the director of the Centre for Fortean Zoology, based at Woolsery in North Devon, and which has published the books.
As Jon says: "Mark and Robert have trekked across their native county of Dorset, not only collecting folk tales but attempting in many cases to investigate the truth behind these otherwise amorphous legends." Dark Dorset certainly shows the county in an eerie light, teeming with demons and monsters, witches and murderers, and strange phenomena including UFOs, crop circles and spectral black dogs and big cats.
In these profusely illustrated books of almost encyclopedic range, Robert and Mark have done Dorset a great service by preserving these strange tales, as well as the details of the county's quaint and alluring customs, for future generations.
? Dark Dorset: Tales of Mystery, Wonder and Terror, and Dark Dorset: Calendar Customs, are published by CFZ Press at £12.50 each. Visit www.darkdorset.co.uk
Source: Geoff Ward's Mysterious West, Western Daily Press 30th May 2008