Creatures of the Night: United States Cryptids
From tales told around campfires, ‘true stories’ whispered over beers, to some truly entertaining episodes of Supernatural, X Files, Psych, and even big budget movies, cryptids are becoming an increasingly common staple of Halloween and of horror and supernatural genres in general. From grainy pictures posted on dubious websites to full-service tourist traps, belief, skepticism, and just plain old good fun in these ambiguous creatures stretches from coast to coast across our great nation. Some of these unusual animals have more compelling evidence than others, though none have ever been scientifically confirmed. Speculation of them is so mainstream, you can even earn a degree in Cryptozoology! (For more on this subject, I suggest you check out PBS Monstrum, now airing as Storied on Youtube.)
In honor of the season where things go bump in the night, I decided to take a look at some of the more well-known cryptids across the United States.
Lake Monsters - Most of these creatures look something akin to the Loch Ness Monster, though a couple are said to be more serpent or alligator-like. All seem to have a taste for fishermen and generally scaring the willies out of tourists. Because of their similarities, I’ve listed their names and locations but not individual details:
Alkali Lake Monster, of Walgren Lake in Nebraska; Altamaha-Ha, of the Altamaha River in Georgia; Bessie, of Lake Erie since 1793; Chessie, of Chesapeake Bay; Champ, of Lake Champlain on the New York/Vermont border; Flathead Lake Monster, of Flathead Lake, Montana; Kipsy, of the Hudson River; Paddler, of Lake Pend Oreille, Idaho; Tessie, of Lake Tahoe on the California/Nevada border.
Other Water-Based Creatures -
Caddie: a sea monster who frequents the coasts of Washington and Oregon.
Cassie: Caddie’s Maine cousin, a sea serpent that has been seen in Casco Bay since 1751.
Honey Island Swamp Monster: the Bigfoot of the Bog, a 7 foot tall, grey haired and stinky hominid stomping around the wetlands of Honey Island Swamp, Louisiana.
Loveland Frogmen: spotted in Loveland, Ohio, these 4 foot tall humanoid frogs even have their own musical, Hot Damn! It’s the Loveland Frog!
Forest Dwellers -
Bigfoot: What would this list be without our famous Sasquatch? This large, hairy apeman is usually the first thing that springs to mind when one hears the word “cryptid”. Said to roam the forests of the Pacific Northwest, Bigfoot has become a staple of tales, tv shows, movies, speculation, and even a musical.
Jersey Devil: This winged and hoofed creature is said to resemble The Devil himself (along the lines of Spring-heeled Jack or the doodles of monks in medieval texts), and enjoys jumping out at passing motorists along the New Jersey Pine Barrens.
Mogollon Monster: Bigfoot’s southern cousin, this humanoid cryptid has reportedly been sighted in the Mogollon Rim area of Arizona.
Mothman: the subject of a creepy 2002 Richard Gere horror-mystery, it resembles something like a giant owl-man, with glowing red eyes and a reputation as a bad omen since 1967. It single-handedly made the small town of Point Pleasant, West Virginia famous, and the town has dedicated their tourism to his tale.
Pukwudgie: a mischievous fae-like creature from Massachusetts, it is a 3 foot tall shapechanger that looks and behaves similar to the boggarts and brownies of English folklore. It’s just as tricky as one, too, said to lure the unwary to their deaths.
Skunk Ape: Bigfoot’s Florida cousin. It is shorter and slimmer than Bigfoot, but much more stinky and even harder to catch sight of! It wanders about the Everglades region and has become a popular local legend.
Wampus Cat: Eastern Tennessee boasts this cougar-like creature known for stealing children and leaving behind a horrendous stench. It also has a side gig as an omen - if you hear the Wampus Cat cry, someone will die within three days!
Chupacabra: Descriptions vary on this carnivorous, livestock stealing creature, but it often resembles a haggard-looking, bald and dark-skinned dog-like animal to the point where some claim it is nothing more than a coyote, wolf, or bear with mange. It has been seen from Southern California down into Mexico, and all the way over to Texas. Interestingly, it did not appear in folklore until the 1990’s and no one is sure of its exact origin.
Pope Lick Monster: The Louisville, Kentucky version of a minotaur, this man-bull likes to hide out around railway bridges and lure passersby to their deaths by either tricking them to stop in front of a train or leaping on their car from above.
Shunka Warakin: A monstrous wild canine which stalks the rural lands of Montana, carrying away pets and livestock. It’s been a well-known hazard since the 1880’s, when one was supposedly shot and the corpse displayed as a Madison Valley store trophy for 100 years before mysteriously vanishing.
Giant Birds -
Big Bird: No, this isn’t the friendly yellow resident of our favorite street. This giant avian lives in the Rio Grande Valley and can actually fly, with a 12 foot wingspan and the face of an ape.
Thunderbirds: One of the most famous cryptids gleaned from Native American folklore, this massive black-feathered bird is sometimes described as vulture-like, eagle-like, or crow-like, and has been seen from Alaska and Northern Canada all the way down to Central America and has a habit of snatching children up for their dinner. The most well-known Thunderbird attack occurred in Lawndale, IL in 1977 when one suddenly swooped down on a picnic and tried to carry away 10 year old Martin Lowe. The bird made it all of 30 feet before his mother managed to scare it into dropping her son, in full view of several shocked onlookers.
I hope you enjoyed this list of modern day mythological creatures, and may even be inspired by one to pen a great short story or novel. If any piqued your interest, I encourage you to research them for their individual backgrounds or hunt for even more obscure creatures. You never know what you might find!
Until next time,