Top 10 Cryptids
Cryptozoology, which is defined as “the study of unknown animals,” includes a vast menagerie of creatures which are said to exist, but cannot be proven. Some of these creatures – known as cryptids – are well known to the general public and some are not. Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, and Chupacabra are undoubtedly the most famous examples, but they are not the only beasts which lurk in the shadows of our reality.
Below is a list of cryptids which I feel are the most popular and recognizable.
Class: hairy hominoid
Description: large bipedal, man-like ape, 7-9 feet tall, covered in hair
Bigfoot is certainly the most widely recognized member of cryptozoology’s menagerie. Sightings of this legendary ape-man date back at least a century, having been reported in more than a dozen countries around the world. Although the term “Bigfoot” wasn’t coined until 1958, reported sightings of similar “wildmen” often turned up in early newspapers and legends of “hairy men” were told by Native Americans.
Sightings of Bigfoot are most prominent in the Pacific Northwest region of North America – consisting of the United States and British Columbia – but also occur with frequency in nearly all U.S. states, Canada, Asia, Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Russia, and South America.
Theories as to what the creature may be include an unknown primate, a relic population of “extinct” hominidae, a surviving Neanderthal, and even a paranormal being.
Bigfoot is also known by indigenous names such as Almas (Russia), Hibagon (Japan), Mapinguary (Brazil), Sasquatch (Canada), Yeren (China), Yeti (Himalayan regions of India, Nepal, and Tibet), and Yowie (Australia) just to name a few.
2) LOCH NESS MONSTER
Location: Loch Ness, Scotland
Class: lake monster
Description: aquatic animal, snake-like head, humped back, 10-30 feet long, gray in color
The Loch Ness Monster is the undisputed king of lake monsters. Sightings of this creature can be traced back to the 6th century when an Irish monk first reported an encounter with a strange aquatic beast on the shores of Loch Ness. In the 1930s, the monster gained worldwide fame when more than 20 separate sightings were reported in the span of six months. Numerous sightings have been reported since, and still occur today, although extensive scientific testing has yet to dredge up any creature that fits the description.
Theories as to what the creature may be range from relic dinosaurs, giant eels, otters, and seals to logs, waves, seismic gas, and even optical illusion.
Loch Ness is not the only freshwater body of water with a history of strange sightings. Other locations around the globe also have a history of aquatic monster reports. Some of the more prominent creatures include: Champ (Lake Champlain – spans New York, Vermont, and Quebec), Ogopogo (Lake Okanagan, British Columbia), Tessie (Lake Tahoe, California), Morag (Loch Morar, Scotland), Bownessie (Lake Windermere, England), and the Lagarfljot River Worm ( Jökulsá í Fljótsdal River, Iceland).
3) YETI – a.k.a. Abominable Snowman
Location: Himalayan regions of India, Nepal, and Tibet
Class: hairy hominoid
Description: large bipedal, man-like ape, 7-9 feet tall, covered in hair
Although the Yeti can be included under the general heading of “Bigfoot,” its reputation and worldwide fame make it deserving of its own separate entry in the list of cryptids. In fact, sightings of the Yeti were the first to achieve a sensational level in the newspapers of the 20th century. The saga started in 1899 when a British explorer discovered a large set of footprints in Tibet that his guides attributed to a large, ape-like creature. In 1921, another British explorer found a set of tracks crossing the Lhakpa Pass at 21,000 feet. His Sherpa guides told him they belonged to the “Metoh-Kangmi” or “man-bear-snowman.” A news reporter subsequently mistranslated the name as “Abominable Snowman” and the creature’s legend was launched. Track finds and eyewitness sightings continued in the following decades, many instances documented by various news services to make the Yeti famous long before the term “Bigfoot” was coined.
While many explorers believed the Yeti tracks could be attributed to bears or grey wolves, the natives of the area have always stood by their belief in the Yeti. If real, some theorize that it could be feral humans or a type of primate which has retreated to the remote snowbound peaks.
Alleged proof of the Yeti includes a hand and scalp which was housed in a Pangboche monastery. (See my previous post on the Pangboche Yeti Finger)
Location: Latin America, Southern United States
Class: unknown predator
Description (Latin): bipedal creature, 3-4 feet tall, grayish skin, bulbous eyes, fangs, spikes (or quills)
Description (U.S.): dog-like quadrupedal animal, 2-3 feet tall, grayish skin with patchy hair, long tail, pronounced backbone
The Chupacabra is a relatively new edition to the cryptid menagerie, but one that has risen quickly to international fame. Starting in March of 1995 several areas of Puerto Rico began to experience a rash of unexplained livestock deaths which were later attributed to sightings of a mysterious bipedal animal described as being three to four feet tall with large, bulbous eyes, grayish skin, and a row of spikes down the length of its spine. Dubbed El Chupacabra – meaning “the goatsucker” in Spanish – the creature is known for its attacks on goats as well as other domesticated animals including sheep, rams, pigs, cows, horses, chickens, turkey and dogs.
By the end of 1995, the Chupacabra was being blamed for an astounding 1000+ killings in Puerto Rico. Many of these incidents were accompanied by sightings. A rash of media attention resulted in a rapid dissemination of the stories across Hispanic speaking regions. Reports of blood-drained livestock began to come in from Mexico, Brazil, and even parts of the United States.
In the decade to follow, sightings of an unusual four-legged, dog-like creature were reported in the southern parts of the United States, primarily Texas. This creature was labeled a “Chupacabra” by the media, although its description varies significantly from that of the Latin version.
Sightings of both the Latin and U.S. variety continue, and in the case of the dog-like Chupacabra (also known as Blue Dogs), video, photos, and even carcasses have been offered as proof.
Theories as to what the creature may be include an unknown predator, mongoose, extraterrestrial being, scientific-experiment-gone-awry, and a mangy coyote. In the case of the Blue Dogs, it has been proven that some of the carcasses are those of coyotes or hybrid wolves suffering from a skin diseased called sarcoptic mange. However, in other cases no mange was found. The mystery remains.
Location: Point Pleasant, West Virginia, United States
Class: flying humanoid
Description: humanoid creature, 7-8 feet tall, large glowing red eyes, huge wings
Mothman is the most famous example of what cryptozoologists and paranormal researchers refer to as a “flying humanoid.” Mothman was first seen by two couples in 1966 as they were driving around north of Point Pleasant, West Virginia in a location the locals call the “TNT area.” (The area was once the site of a munitions plant during World War II). As the four witnesses were driving, they noticed something resembling a tall, man-like creature with huge wings and glowing red eyes. They promptly reported their sighting to the police, who felt they had genuinely seen something strange. In the days to follow, more people reported sightings of a similar creature whom the media dubbed “Mothman.” Sighting continued up until December 15, 1967 when a terrible tragedy occurred. On that evening, the Silver Bridge, which spanned between West Virginia and Ohio, collapsed during rush hour, sending 46 people to their icy death in the Ohio River. Since no sightings of the Mothman occurred immediately after the event, many believed that that the two were connected. Perhaps the Mothman was an omen of disaster.
The events became more widely known when author John Keel penned the paranormal classic, The Mothman Prophecies. By that point, many researchers began to not only connect the Mothman to the bridge collapse, but to a host of other strange events that occurred in the vicinity, including UFO sightings and visits by mysterious Men-In-Black. The entire phenomenon would become even more famous as a result of the 2002 movie, The Mothman Prophecies, which was loosely based on Keel’s book.
Scant sightings of the Mothman have continued, although no one has been able to capture proof of the entity on film or otherwise. Skeptics theorize that sightings of the Mothman can be attributed to either pranks, low-flying planes, or out-of-place birds such as barred owls or sandhill cranes. The glowing red eyes are said to be the result of car headlights shining through the woods or reflecting off of other surfaces. Whatever the case, people did report experiences that they could not easily explain, and the mystery it spawned still lingers in the air around Point Pleasant.
6) LIZARD MAN
Location: Bishopville, South Carolina, United States
Class: reptilian humanoid
Description: bipedal humanoid creature, 7-8 feet tall, greenish skin, three-toed feet
The Lizard Man is an alleged scaly humanoid creature sighted by witnesses near Bishopville, South Carolina. It was primarily seen around Scape Ore Swamp in Lee County during the late 1980s and early 1990s. A serious of strange incidents in which cars were apparently “mauled” by an unknown animal have also occurred in the proximity, some of which occurred as recently as 2008.
The most famous encounter with the creature was reported by a teenager, Christopher Davis. He told police that the animal tried to attack him as he was changing a flat tire near Scape Ore Swamp at around 2:30am on June 29, 1988. He described it as a large, humanoid-like entity with “glowing red eyes.” He said it was “green, wetlike, about seven feet tall and had three fingers. Or in simpler terms, “a red-eyed devil.” Other witness descriptions varied. Some said it had brown-ish skin, while others said it had hair, and in some cases, thought it resembled an ape. Only a few noted the creature as having a tail. The locals had already dubbed the creature “Lizard Man” before the sightings were ever made public, so it was the name more than anything else that influenced the media’s perception. A wild media frenzy ensued during the summer of 1988 in which the case received major coverage on shows such as the CBS Evening News, NBC’s Today show, PM Magazine, and CNN, just to name a few.
Though there have been other sightings of scaly humanoid creatures around the United States, the Bishopville Lizard Man is the most well-known and fascinating example. Theories as to what the creature might be range from a bear, a farmer in disguise, a sasquatch with matted or algae-covered fur, and even a member of an ancient race of reptilians (reptoids) that live in caverns under the earth’s surface. No matter what is true, the Lizard Man’s alleged attack on Chris Davis remains as one of the most hair-raising encounters with a cryptid ever recorded.
Refer to my book Lizard Man: The True Story of the Bishopville Monster for more info.
Location: Congo River Basin, Africa
Class: living dinosaur
Description: 20-30 foot long creature resembling a Brontosaurus dinosaur
Mokele-mbembe, whose name means “One Who Stops the Flow of Rivers,” is described as a 20-30 foot animal resembling a Sauropod dinosaur (a.k.a. Brontosaurus/Apatosaurus). The creature, according to local natives, hangs out in the rivers, swamplands and lakes of the Congo, usually with its body submerged while extending its long neck upward to graze on low-hanging plants.
Sightings by westerners date back to 1932 when the notable cryptozoologist Ivan T. Sanderson claimed to see an enormous creature in the Mainyu River. Over the years, evidence besides anecdotal tales has been noted, including curious three-toed footprints and suspected cave dugouts. Many expeditions by outsiders have been launched in hopes of finding this living dinosaur, including a Japanese crew that captured what they believe is a Mokele-mbembe on video in 1987.
Skeptics point out that it would be extremely unlikely for a creature such as this to have escaped the mass dinosaur extinction, not to mention that there is no definitive physical evidence. Yet when a series of animal and dinosaur pictures is shown to eyewitnesses, they always identify the Sauropod while exclaiming: “Mokele-mbembe.” Some skeptics feel that these are actually large hippopotamus being mistaken for dinosaurs, but nonetheless, the natives are sticking to their belief that Mokele-mbembe is something far more monstrous.
8 ) THYLACINE / TASMANIAN TIGER
Location: Tasmania / Australia
Class: extinct species
Description: dog-like marsupial quadruped, large jaws, tan skin, black stripes
The thylacine – commonly known as the “Tasmanian tiger” due to the dark stripes which run across its back – is an extremely rare or altogether extinct species of carnivorous marsupial once native to Australia, Tasmania, and New Guinea. It is generally believed to have gone extinct in the early 1900s when it was eradicated by farmers and other opportunists who responded to a government-wide bounty placed on the animal’s head. The thylacine was believed to be killing off numerous sheep, although later studies indicated that dogs were the most likely culprit. Regardless, the last known specimen died in Hobart Zoo on September 7, 1936, thus rendering the entire species extinct. Or did it?
Since 1936 there have been hundreds of unconfirmed eyewitness reports which suggest that perhaps the species somehow survived. In 1973, Gary and Liz Doyle shot ten seconds of film showing an alleged thylacine running across a road in Australia. In 1982, Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service researcher, Hans Naarding, observed what he believed to be a thylacine for three minutes while in northwestern Tasmania. Additional sightings by Parks and Wildlife officials, Aboriginal trackers, missionaries, and various locals have maintained the possibility of the tiger’s existence, thereby placing it within the realm of modern day cryptozoology.
9) BEAST OF EXMOOR
Location: Devon and Somerset, United Kingdom
Class: phantom cat / out of place species
Description: large feline, gray or black fur
The creature known as the Beast of Exmoor is said to be an extremely large, predatory cat that roams the hilly moorlands of west Somerset and north Devon in southwest England. Since there are no native species fitting this description, the mysterious nature of this beast places it firmly within the grasp of cryptozoological research.
Mysterious livestock killings in the area had been occurring since the 1960s, but it wasn’t until the late 1970s when a report of a mysterious black feline provided a potential explanation for the deaths. Later in 1983, a farmer claimed to have lost one hundred sheep in the span of three months, which were inevitably attributed to the corresponding sightings of the beast. In response to the situation, the Ministry of Agriculture ordered the Royal Marines to send snipers into the Exmoor hills. Some of the soldiers claimed to have seen a large black cat, and even got off a few shots, but none were able to bring down the phantom feline. Since then there have been numerous sightings. In 2012, a woman was driving near the moors when she got a glimpse of the beast. ”I had passed the Swimbridge junction when I passed a field of sheep. On a hillock, 15m from the roadway I sighted a wild cat, brown black with pointed black-tipped ears in the ‘strike’ position,” she told police.
Though there are sightings of other “alien big cats” (ABCs) in Britain, the Beast of Exmoor is the most famous example. Explanations for these out-of-place felines generally fall into two categories: misidentified domestic cats and escaped exotic pets. Many blame the Dangerous Wild Animals Act of 1976, which resulted in many exotics to being released into the countryside. However, even if it’s simply an escaped puma or jaguar, it has remained elusive.
10) JERSEY DEVIL
Location: Pine Barren forest, New Jersey, United States
Class: unknown predator
Description: strange creature with a kangaroo body, goat’s head, bat wings, cloven hooves, clawed hands, and forked tail
The Jersey Devil is a cryptid said to inhabit the heavily forested Pine Barrens of New Jersey. The creature is described as having a kangaroo-shaped body with a goat-like head, and bat wings. It has clawed hands, hooves, and even a forked tail to make it a truly unique and almost mythical creature. The most famous image is a sketch which appeared in a 1909 edition of the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin. (See image above.)
Unlike most cryptids, the Jersey Devil comes complete with an “origin” story to account for its existence. While there are a few variations of the story, the most popular is centered around a woman called Mother Leeds. Leeds – reputed to be a witch – apparently had 12 children. Upon finding out she was pregnant with number 13, she felt sure this one was the Devil’s child. On a stormy night in 1735, Leeds gave birth. The child came out normal, but quickly changed into a hideous creature with hooves, a goat’s head, bat wings and a forked tail. It proceeded to kill the midwife before flying up the chimney. After circling the local villages, it flew off into the piney forest.
The creature wasn’t seen again until the 1800s when several people – including Joseph Bonapatee, youngest brother of Emperor Napoleon – reported sightings of a strange creature with hooves and wings in and around the Pine Barrens. Later in 1909, an outbreak of sightings resulted in hundreds of reports thus generating the famous Philadelphia Evening Bulletin sketch. The creature has since been reported by a host of individuals lending credence to the legend, and the possibility that at least some animal may be responsible for the encounters.
Skeptics attribute the sightings to mass hysteria, mistaken identity, hallucinations, and outright folklore aimed at entertaining young children with tales of monsters. Given the creature’s puzzling and outlandish biological makeup, plus the origin story based on witchcraft and stormy nights, this creature does fall well within the realms of folklore and legend. However, that has not prevented its ongoing legacy as one of the most famous cryptids in the cryptozoology menagerie.
- Lyle Blackburn is the author of The Beast of Boggy Creek and Lizard Man, both available from Anomalist Books. For more information, visit: www.lyleblackburn.com