Here you will find a field-guide to the werewolves, lake monsters, vampires, swamp people, and space brains that populate these 50 states. Because here there be monsters—and over there, too. In fact, there be monsters in just about every state, except for Delaware and Kansas (maybe). Some states have an embarrassment of monsters to choose from (and in the case of Florida… well!), but, with a couple exceptions, I tried to confine this guide to just one monster per state. My credentials: enormous amounts of time spent as a kid in the library, ingesting every book about UFOs, the paranormal, cryptozoology, haunted houses and every other piece of “X-Files” plot fodder I could lay hands on. So read on to see what your home state has to offer the world in terms of things that go bump in the night. IF YOU DARE!
Monster: A gigantic wild boar
The gist: Weighs upwards of 1,000 pounds, is wild boar.
Story: Tales of gigantic wild boars remain a big thing in those parts of the South where wild pigs still roam free. Georgia had the maybe-made-up tale of Hogzilla (no relation to Truckzilla), which weighed in at just over 1,000 lbs. Not to be outdone, an 11-year-old boy in Alabama is reported to have killed a 1,051-lb. beasty with a pistol. So to sum up, there are two terrifying things at play here: 1. a half-ton pig may (or may not!) have been shot in Alabama in 2007, and 2. in Alabama, 11 year olds carry pistols. Oh, and the pig itself may have started out as a farm pig before being sold to a game preserve.
Photo by jprime84.
The gist: It's a wereotter. As in, a person who transforms into an otter.
Story: While stories of the Waheela—giant wolves that might be descendants of a species of prehistoric "bear-dogs"—persist in the mythos of Alaska, those of us who were bored to within an inch of our life by the Liam Neeson-movie The Grey might let out a slow, steady yawn. I mean, sure, you can enjoy legend of prehistoric wolf creatures if you wish. Orrrrrrrrr you can have a person who shapeshifts into an otter. A supernatural otter! Are you afraid yet? If you're a sailor in distress you maybe should be. Depending on its mood, a Kushtaka might aid a sailor—or drown him. The creature can mimic human voices while in otter form and thus, for good or ill, can lull the drowning by imitating the voices of their loved ones. If a Kushtaka decides to save you it will transform you into one of its own so that you can now, a supernatural otter yourself, swim to safety. Now, can your prehistoric bear-dog do that?
Photo courtesy of Coconino National Forest Service.
Monster: Mogollon Monster
The gist: A seven-foot-tall Bigfoot-like creature with bad B.O.
Story: Okay, so this and the next monster are both Bigfootish, and I apologize in advance for the lack of thrills there. I find the sasquatch as deathly dull as you do. But it seems that when sending a contestant to the America Monster Pageant, many states default to the safe line of "Well, we have a sasquatch here. That's cool, right?" which is kind of like someone saying, "The Beatles are my favorite band. Have you ever heard of them?" Congenial but dull. Anyway, Arizona's particular Bigfoot, just like a bunch of other Bigfeet, is said to smell pretty terrible. Also, reports of an "eerie silence" often precede encounters. As with many regional Bigfoot franchises and affiliates, there is a group dedicated to finding the Mogollon Monster—good luck to them!
Monster: The Fouke Monster
The gist: Being a 7-foot-tall sasquatch who smells really, really, really bad.
Story: For those who haven't seen the classic Legend of Boggy Creek (that's the trailer above), let's fill you in on some background: The Fouke Monster is a purported hominid cryptid living near the Texas-Arkansas-Oklahoma border (Texarkana) who has red eyes and smells really, really bad. So bad it's been lumped in with other Forteana stink monsters under the umbrella of the Skunk Ape. Though sightings (and smellings) had been reported before, the Fouke Monster fever pitch really hit its height in 1971 when the ape overstepped its bounds and reached through a screen door to attack Elizabeth Ford. Ford's husband, Bobby, and his brother, Don were returning from a hunting trip and were able to chase it away—but it later came back to attack Bobby.
The creature itself was never found, but it did leave behind some footprints, which, it will not surprise you to learn, were big. Like any other big & tall-store-shopping bigfoot. The story sort of ends there, although according to the beast's Wikipedia entry, a few odd sightings followed. Claims of a hoax and a middling series of movies followed.
Still from Journey to the Seventh Planet.
Monster: The Space Brain
The gist: Large bluish creatures that resemble human brains, surrounded by hazy aura or mist.
Story: Two young men, getting into a car one night in Palos Verdes, California, were understandably startled to turn on their headlights and see two brains glowing in the middle of the road. At least one of the brains had a large eye in the middle of its… brain-head-thing. They quickly sped away from their strange sighting, one man, John Hodges, dropping the other, Peter Rodriguez, off at his house before Hodges returned to his own home. The only trick: two hours had gone missing from the night. When Hodges underwent hypnosis years later, his story of what happened that night became significantly more exciting when it was revealed that he returned home to find the brains waiting for him.
That's the exciting part. But alas, the story didn't end there. It then turned out that Hodges had experienced another blackout—a blackout within a blackout, if you're keeping score at home—and awoke in the control room of an alien craft where he encountered boring old slit-mouthed grey aliens who explained that the brains weren't awesome autonomous beings, but rather organic translation devices. Hodges was shown b-roll footage of nuclear explosions and warned that humanity was wielding too much power, and that a time would draw near for something something zzzzzzzzzz. Anyway, he was returned to his car (or maybe, Hodges says, he was in the car all along and just holographically projected onto the ship) to deliver this warning to virtually no one at all, except the doctor who agreed to give him the hypnosis therapy.
Blue lights were again noted in the area sometime in 2011, leading at least one online UFOlogist to question if the lights might signal the return of the space brains. (Probably not.)
Illustration of the Slide-Rock Bolter by Wm. T. Cox.
Monster: The Slide-Rock Bolter
The gist: A tourist-eating land whale.
Story: In the steepest mountains it waits—the fearsome Slide-Rock Bolter, whose entire reason for being seems to be to eat tourists. It greatly resembles a whale, with adaptations to its tail to enable grasping to rocks. When it spots its prey, it unhooks its tail from its mountain-peak perch, slides belly-down down the mountain side and eats the tourists whole. In shades of Yosemite Sam, some of the tall tales say that people have tried to catch the creature by rigging up a scarecrow with dynamite. Though largely the stuff of campfire jokes, modern analogues do exist.
Photo of Velvet Street by 2112guy. (Via.)
Monster: Melon Heads
The gist: A diminutive human with a gigantic head, bulbous eyes, long limbs and a small torso.
Story: In the backroads of Connecticut lives some sort of monstrous regional embodiment of a Sawney Bean tale. Giant melon-headed cannibals stalk the backroads of southwest Connecticut, terrorizing those who trespass onto their property. Depending on who you ask, they're either escaped insane-asylum patients, "descendants of a family cast out in colonial times for witchcraft" or members of an incestuous backwoods clan or they're people with hydrocephalus, an actual medical condition causing an abnormally large head. Details on what they'd actually do if they caught you are scarce—despite their purported cannibalistic past, the Melon Heads are skittish and afraid of people.
I got nothin'. Delaware dwellers, any non-Bigfoot monsters to report?
Skunk ape photo by David Barkasy and Loren Coleman. (Via.)
Monster: They don't need made-up ones, because, Florida.
The gist: …
Story: In a state like Florida, where alligators can be in your backyard, feral colonies of monkeys have become an invasive species, and giant snakes are, like, a thing and not an urban legend, it seems like there's virtually no need for cryptids. I asked a Florida resident for his own take, and his booooooooooring answer (sorry, Grant!) was that the Skunk Ape was basically Florida's "thing," but let's face it: smelly, feral homonids are only fun in theory, but not really what we would call "interesting" (c.f. Arizona, Arkansas). If reports of cryptids and paranormal or otherworldly beings were put into journalism terms, bigfoot sightings would be the "good weather" stories, the kind of fluffy (furry!) things that newspapers report on to fill space. (By contrast, California's space brains would be hyper-inflated, heavily-thesaurused Matt Taibbi takedown pieces that all your obnoxiously liberal friends post to Facebook to show how awesome they are at liking Matt Taibbi pieces.) Plus, I wrote about the Fouke Monster above, who is a type of skunk ape and who has the awesome distinction of having his own movie, unlike a certain skunk ape in America's weirdest state.
Anyway, if you need a real answer or something that's not an ACTUAL ALLIGATOR IN SOMEBODY'S BACK YARD, WAITING TO MURDER THEIR FAMILY I guess go catch up on the Gulf Breeze UFO photos, which rank somewhere around "Jonah Lehrer before and then slightly after you realized he was full of shit."
Google map of the Altamaha River.
The gist: A 20-foot-long serpent that lives at the mouth of the Altamaha River.
Story: Local legend reports a 20-foot-long water serpent that dwarfs the size of alligators in the region. It lives where the Altahama River dumps into the Atlantic Ocean, and thus a host of very real sea creatures have been suggested as explanations for the beast. Also, it should be noted, THERE ARE ALREADY ALLIGATORS IN THE RIVER, pretty much diminishing the need for something to fill the predator niche of monster, because alligators are already horrific man-eating monsters and animated prehistoric fossils, so why make anything else up.
Picture of 1946 menehune bank by Laudowicz. (Via.)
The gist: Mischievous six-inch to two-foot-tall people who roam the forests at night.
Story: Most monsters we hear of don't consist on a diet of bananas and fish. I mean, the Menehune, who were a part of the mythology of early Hawaiian settlers (of the Polynesian variety, not the conquering U.S. forces who deposed an autonomous country), don't even have the audacity to go after livestock. They just pull some occasionally mean-spirited pranks on people. They're also really good at construction projects. Sightings have persisted far enough to the present day to have landed the Menehune on at least one episode of "Coast to Coast AM", but many believe that the stories of the Menehune were actually a way to explain away the construction feats of earlier indigenous cultures, which sounds a lot like Marxism to me.
Photo of ordinary, un-monstrous alligator by Suzanne Kempke.
Monster: Bear Lake Monster
The gist: An alligator with flaming red eyes.
Story: I won't waste too much of your time here. Tall tales reported something alligator-ish inhabiting the waters of Bear Lake on the Utah / Idaho border. According to reports, it could swim faster than a horse could gallop, and was impervious to bullets. The tales were collected by Joseph Rich in the 19th century, then possibly disavowed entirely as a legend. And of course that means that people still report seeing the creature.
Photo of ordinary, un-monstrous anteater by Tambako the Jaguar.
Monster: Tuttle Bottoms Monster
The gist: It's a hairy, man-sized ant-eater-looking creature.
Story: So we've already established that most ape-like creature stories are roughly the same: namely, they're mostly about how awful the monster smells and that it's like a giant hairy Bigfooty thing that leaves big weird footprints. End of story. But sometimes you get a real out-of-left-field creature account that starts out sounding like it's about another Bigfoot, then abruptly shifts to something way weirder. How weird? Long-snouted ant-eaterish ape-man weird. The reports ofthe Tuttle Bottoms Monster began cropping up in southern Illinois the early 60s. The monster was something large and hairy with a long snout. Some people said it looked like a giant anteater. Others said a deformed bear. In some cases, it was claimed to be bipedal, leading some to hypothesize that it might be a primate—which is all right as "escaped anteater" just isn't a sexy story.
Monster: The Green Clawed Beast
The gist: Neither witness got a good look, but all of the illustrations basically look like the Gill-man from Creature from the Black Lagoon.
Story: In 1955, two friends were swimming in the Ohio River when one was pulled under the surface. As one woman looked on, she saw her friend, Darwin Johnson, struggle to pull herself back to the surface, kicking and thrashing, as something tugged her underwater. Somehow she managed to free herself of whatever had grabbed her (described as green with a hairy claw hand) but some damage was done. In addition to multiple cuts and bruises, her leg bore the mark of a green handprint, which could not be washed off for days.
Both women were later visited by a supposed Man in Black, who told them to disavow any knowledge of the incident, which is basically Men in Black SOP for whatever shadowy organization they work for. Comparisons have been drawn between Johnson's encounter and other watery creature encounters, including those with the Loveland Frog, which we'll get to in Ohio. The involvement of Men in Black and Johnson's own testimony that she thought it was a "little green man" from outer space led some to believe the horrible creature was from the skies, but most cryptozoology sites claim the beast's origins as Earthly.
Photo of ordinary, un-monstrous snapping turtle by Scott Ableman.
Monster: The Monster Turtle of Big Blue
The gist: A gigantic snapping turtle.
Story: File this one under “mildly hideous.” The Big Blue lake, a former quarry that sits within Lester Milligan Park in Mason City, Iowa, is stocked with the typical Midwestern aquatic fare—some largemouth bass, some northern pike, some snapping turtles, nothing fancy. But on the bottom of the lake (34 feet deep) lurks a gigantic snapping turtle. The turtle's been said to be the size of the hood of a Volkswagen, one of the oddest and yet more specific measurements you'll hear for a monster. As you might expect, most of the reported encounters involve the snapper going after swimmers. It's almost as quaint and boring as driving through Iowa!
I couldn't find much of anything (Kansans, tell me if I overlooked any good creatures!), but in 2004 I was driving back from Austin to Lincoln, Nebraska, and while barrelling up the interstate somewhere in Kansas, I saw a mountain lion. It turns out they're massive.
Still from The Hobbit.
Monster: The Hopkinsville Goblins
The gist: Short, green, large-eared, bulging eyes on the side of their head.
Story: In 1955, the Sutton family—living in a remote farmhouse between Kelly and Hopkinsville in southwest Kentucky—were entertaining a guest from out of state when their home was invaded by creatures from another world! The guest, Billy Ray Taylor, had stepped outside to fetch water from a pump when he saw lights in the sky. Shortly after, the house was besieged by small, green, glowing creatures (the family counted 10 to 15) with spindly legs and clawed hands. The outer-space goblins approached the house multiple times, floating and obstinately refusing to get in the path of the multiple rounds of bullets fired at them. The few bullets that found their mark gave off a metallic ring, as if the bullets were hitting a metal bucket. The incident remains one of the most infamous supposed encounters with extraterrestrials. (Or maybe it was owls.)
Still of a poor little "True Blood" shapeshifter.
The gist: Nocturnal were-creatures, most often taking a wolfish shape.
Story: If you have seen any movies at all, you know that Louisiana hides many paranormal secrets. And in those swamps, somewhere, is a strange creature. A person who can transforms into an animal. Usually it's a wolfish canine, but sometimes it's not, taking instead the shape of horses, cows, chickens, or even, yes, otters (Alaska, holler!). Lots of versions of the legends exist, but one holds that the creatures are under a curse lasting 101 days—a curse that might have originated in a pact with the devil. Other versions of the legend hold that to end the spell, the rougarou must spill blood and transfer the curse to another. Also, the story itself might be a really fucked-up version of a Catholic guilt trip.
Monster: The Maine Mystery Beast
The gist: It's probably just a dog.
Story: Maybe Stephen King hoarded all the good monsters of Maine for himself. In 2006, news sources were abuzz with tales of a mystery beast found dead in Maine, a black-furred creature that seemed to confirm the local legend of the Maine Mystery Beast. And there were pictures to prove it! [Warning: Pictures depressing! It's a dog!—ed.] Also we're not talking Fate Magazine and Fortean Times here, we're talking MSNBC and Fox News, the real pros of completely making shit up. Some people claim it was a mutant. Others a strange hybrid. Author Loren Coleman, a cryptozoologist, had an uncrpyto explanation: It was probably just a stray akita or chow dog. (Second place for Maine Monster goes to: The Specter Moose, a giant albino moose that attacked hunters. I challenge you to write a more Maine sentence.)
Monster: The Goatman
The gist: Being a goat and, wait for it, a man.
Story: Straight out of a comic book, but not, the legend of the Goatman is centered in Prince George's County, adjacent to Washington, D.C. Along Fletcherstown Road, the horrible axe-wielding half-goat, half-man-monster is said to try to attack cars with the axe, which seems, as monster activities go, kind of futile. Noted DC-area monsterologist Mark Opsasnick relayed to the Washington Post another startling piece of the tale. Apparently, the Goatman wasn't born that way (unlike the Jersey Devil). Rather, he was a mad-scientist from the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center whose hideous experiments with goats led to some mutation or other. And then using his scientific acumen, he decided to attack cars with his axe. Or maybe he was just a lonely old hermit.
1977 drawing of the Dover Demon. (Via.)
Monster: The Dover Demon
The gist: A large, bulbous head with orange eyes and no mouth or nose. Long limbs with long fingers. Fleshy, sandpaper-textured skin.
Story: In 1977, three teenagers reported seeing a bizarre creature. What they first thought to be a dog or a cat turned out to be something much weirder—a hairless, peach-colored creature with a watermelon shaped head, lidless eyes "like orange marbles" and disproportionately long appendages for its four-foot frame. In the days after, several other, unrelated witnesses came forward with similar accounts of a creature clinging to rocks. Premier cryptozoologist (there aren't that many contenders, really) Loren Coleman was one of the first investigators on the scene and is credited with naming the creature "the Dover Demon." Other observers have pointed out the similarity between the beast and Cree tribe legend of the water-loving Mannegishi.
Monster: The Michigan Dogman
The gist: A man's body with a dog's head.
Story: The discovery story here is very similar to the one for the Dover Demon: guys see creature, mistake it for familiar domestic animal, are very, very wrong. In this case, the year was 1887 and the guys were two lumberjacks. Chasing what they thought was a dog, they cornered it and began to poke at it with a stick. At this point, the animal raised itself up on two feet and revealed itself as some sort of man-dog thing. The lumberjacks ran away terrified, which is funny because the beast never showed any aggression, just defensive maneuvering. Sightings like this seem to come once per decade, and often involve people beating the dogman with something nearby. Like oars. Occasionally, the beast then turns into something ferocious, which stares down its attackers. Here we raise our glass to the misunderstood Michigan Dogman—why can't the lumberjacks just leave him alone?
Monster: The Wendigo
The gist: A spirit that's more than fifteen-feet tall with glowing eyes, long yellow fangs, long tongue (like, beyond Gene Simmons) and yellowish skin.
Story: Some monsters can be explained away as animals that have been misidentified or are new to us. Other monsters? Well, they're cruel supernatural beings that were once human before being transformed into horrifying and extremely tall monsters. Usually, what caused these humans to turn into beasts was resorting to cannibalism, and once their hideous transformation is complete, their quest for human flesh becomes insatiable. In the snowy climes of northern Minnesota and into central Canada, such a creature has been spotted by hunters, trappers, lumberjacks, and whatever other people hang out in the woods. The legend of the wendigo has its roots in several Native American traditions; in northern Minnesota, a wendigo sighting was often a sign of a death on the horizon. Oh, and in 1907, a wendigo hunter named Jack Fiddler, a Cree shaman, claimed to have killed at least fourteen of the creatures, one of which slayings led to his arrest for murder. His defense? The woman he'd murdered was mid-transformation into a wendigo. The story has a sad ending, though: Before going to court, he committed suicide. Sadder for the woman, though: she was still dead.
Monster: Pascagoula Aliens
The gist: Five-foot-tall wrinkly creatures with carrot-like protrusions around the ear and nose area. And pinchers for hands. And fused legs.
Story: Sometimes, alien abduction stories get so boring! For something so rife with the opportunity to be completely full of shit and get away with it, too many people skew towards a narrative of creatures with large almond eyes, grey skin, giant heads and the gift of telepathy. That, or tales of flat-out evil reptilian humanoids on a quest to harvest humans. So it's great when someone reports a bizarre encounter so out of left field as to completely make us reconsider the size and shape of possible creatures in the sky. Such is the case with the Pascagoula Aliens. In 1972, two coworkers were fishing off the banks of the Pascagoula River when they heard a whizzing, whirring sound and saw the bright lights of an egg-shaped craft hovering very near them. A door opened and one of the creatures appeared—among the many things that made its appearance startling were the "thin, conical objects sticking out, like carrots from a snowman's head." The men were dragged aboard the craft, where the bizarre creatures (who are now believed by one of the men to have been robotic in nature) performed weird experiments on them before releasing them. So. There's that.
The gist: Um, large flying serpents (not to be confused with him).
Story: In the book Unexplained!, Mari Sandoz, a Plains historian, is quoted with this story: "Back in the hard times of 1857-58 there were stories of a flying serpent that hovered over a Missouri River steamboat slowing for a landing. In the late dusk it was like a great undulating serpent, in and out of the lowering clouds, breathing fire, it seemed, with lighted streaks along the sides." Ozark folklore tells of The Gowrow in Marvel Cave, a fearsome beast living just outside Branson, a "huge dragon-like monster with tusks." (Note: Arkansas has strong claims to the Gowrow too.) The dragons in these accounts don't seem to do much, which is a shame because this documentary led me to believe that the only possible outcome of such meetings was a man vs. dragon war.
Monster: Flathead Lake Monster.
The gist: Measuring between 20 to 40 feet, eel-like.
Story: At a maximum depth of 370 feet, Flathead Lake is certainly a good place for a monster to hide. The presence of such a deep body of water, especially sitting in a forested corner of Montana, is sure to stir up a few weird stories here and there. First reported in 1889, the Flathead Lake Monster is said to be long and limbless, somewhere between a serpent and an eel in appearance, both of which are things that you don't want to be 20 to 40 feet long and swimming in a commonly used body of water. The monster doesn't do much, as far as monsters go, but sightings have continued as recently as this year. The body count is, however, disappointingly low. Not even any good livestock missing.
Fun fact: Asia also has phantom kangaroos.
Monster: The Phantom Kangaroo
The gist: It's a kangaroo.
Story: Sometimes it's not what you see but where you see it. Nebraska's chief cryptid, the Alkali Lake Monster, is also very publicly a hoax—sorry to all you beaver-gator-hybrid enthusiasts out there. But in 1958, in Grand Island (which is not an island, which you can trust me on because I've been there), Charles Wetzel saw something pursuing his dogs near his cabin by the Platte River. He gave chase, because apparently he really liked his dogs, when he realized that what he thought was a deer wasn't a deer at all, but rather a kangaroo, which bounced off into a nearby field, disappearing entirely. Wetzel's beast was only one of many phantom kangaroo stories to crop up worldwide over the years. It wouldn't be Nebraska's only "fish out of water" animal story—I mean, we once had a 75-pound paddlefish caught in the lake by my hometown. (Although not a super-distinguished monster story in and of itself due to fairly standard alien abduction content, the Herbert Schirmer Abduction Story is also worth a glance, if UFOs are your thing.)
Monster: Tahoe Tessie
The gist: A boring lake monster
Story: Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. It's a monster in a lake. Which are pretty much all the same, and always sound like plesiosaurs, and don't do much other than maybe surface and scare people. According to Weird US, Jacque Cousteau plumbed the depths of Tahoe and said that "the world isn't ready for what's down there." (Except it's likely that Cousteau never went there, eliminating the only interesting part of the story.) This is a great disappointment for a state that harbors Area 51, which was probably just used for R&D of high grade weapons and planes anyway.
Barney's first two drawings of the alien abductors. For the second one, he had some help.
The gist: The first abduction story.
Story: Betty and Barney Hill were a married couple who, in 1961, came out with an extraordinary story. After years of stories circulating of extraterrestrials visiting Earth via flying saucers and other crafts, here came the Hills as the first to claim that the aliens had taken them away. The event began innocuously. Driving home to their home in Portsmouth one night, the Hills saw a strange object in the sky. At first it seemed like a bright star, but then it began to hover directly over their car. The couple was transfixed and frightened. They experienced a period of missing time. Under hypnosis, they relayed a story that's now become familiar but wasn't then—of experiments and examinations, including rectal probing and tissue samples. The couple's descriptions of their abductors varied, though Barney's won out ultimately in the scheme of things: bulbous heads, black eyes, grey skin. Betty's initial description described the creatures as short, black-haired and having "Jimmy Durante noses" (here is what a "Jimmy Durante nose" looks like). Personally, I blame everyone going with Barney's version on the patriarchy.
Jersey Devil was a pretty decent Playstation game, back in the day.
Monster: The Jersey Devil
The gist: Head of a horse, wings of a bat, forked tail, hoofed goat feet.
Story: Don't even act surprised. You knew it was heading here. One of our country's oldest monsters: who started life as a 13th child born to someone named Mother Leeds in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey. In 1735, this accursed child sprang forth—at first normal in appearance, but later sprouting hoofed feet, bat wings, a horse's head and a forked tail. One early tale purports that Joseph Bonaparte, the Frank Stallone to his brother Napoleon's Sylvester, had his own run-in with this devil, after losing the Spanish throne and relocating to Jersey (tough Elba, amirite?). (Related.) Over the centuries, the creature has been said to attack—or maybe just torment, or maybe just, like, annoy or something—many unsuspecting visitors to the Pine Barrens. While many discount the beast as a creature of local folklore, that hasn't stopped an intrepid group of underfunded devil researchers from launching 41 hunts for the creature, though sadly it seems 2009 was the last time they set out to find what would be the ultimate taxidermy trophy.
That is one effete monster.
Monster: Spring-heeled Jack
The gist: Stories, mostly originating in England, say that he looked like something in between Satan and Batman and that he could jump really, really high.
Story: Tales of Spring-Heeled Jack originated in England. They told of a man—maybe a man—who would prowl the streets and attack people before leaping and bounding off. He had bat-like wings and, sometimes, red eyes. While those first reports came out of 1830s London, others sightings followed through the years. And a 100-or-so years later, Jack started paying visits to the Americas—first to Silver City, New Mexico in 1938, then to Cape Cod shortly after. This version of Jack reportedly spit fire. Some people suspect a connection between Spring-heeled Jack and Jack the Ripper. But c'mon, this is New Mexico. It was probably just a human-shaped pogo-stick probe for the Roswell Aliens.
This critter got a lot of pageviews.
Monster: Montauk Monster
The gist: Some weird hairless beaked creature (that was probably a dead raccoon).
Story: In UFO circles, Montauk, New York, is the seat of wicked experiments at the outer frontiers of science, due to the sinister presence of the Brookhaven National Laboratory. Time travel. Psychic research. Teleportation. And in 2008, a strange creature washed ashore there. Surely, this horrible thing was an experiment gone bad, or a creature pulled from another dimension. Or…. it was a decomposing raccoon. But if you close your eyes and count to ten, maybe your wishes for space raccoons will come true.
Surprisingly, Cameron Village doesn't use this in their ads.
Monster: North Carolina Sewer Monster
The gist: …?
Story: So like, "sewer monster" sounds like a good lead up to a poop joke, right? Well, it may have been in the past, but we're talking about the future now! The future is now, in fact, where "North Carolina Sewer Monster" means … some weird, gross, slimy thing pulsating on camera in a private sewer system in Raleigh. The Internet was abuzz. Was this our new slime mold overlord? ALIENS? Worms? (It was probably worms. Or some other sadly terrestial thing.)
The gist: A modern-day pterosaur.
Story: You know what the coolest part of Jurassic Park was? When Laura Dern was a total badass who outwitted some velociraptors. I mean, there were other cool parts to the movie too, like dinosaurs walking the earth. We also saw some pterodactyls flying, just for the hell of it, I guess, because pterosaurs weren't real dinosaurs (not all flying reptiles are dinosaurs). But I digress. The point here is that we don't need some sketchy science to believe in modern-day-things-mistaken-for-dinosaurs. We've got many a Great Plains state with thunderbird sightings—modern-day pterosaurs! Which are still not dinosaurs! And they've been spotted in North Dakota as recently as 2009. There's not a whole lot of legend needed here, because it's a pterodactyl relative that's totally (not) alive.
Its pal, the Coleman Frog
Monster: The Loveland Frog
The gist: Three-foot tall-frogish humanoids.
Story: I love any account that concludes with a sentence like "Investigators began to speculate on a connection with the 1955 sighting of reptilian creatures, and the possibility of a secret race of lizard men inhabiting Ohio's rivers." Secret race of lizard men inhabiting Ohio's rivers? Time to call David Icke! The story of the Loveland Frog starts, maybe, with that 1955 sighting, which occurred when a travelling businessman passing through Loveland late at night saw three frog-faced creatures under a bridge. One of the frogs was holding a rod that seemed to shoot sparks. The Loveland Frog blipped back on the paranormal radar in 1972 when a police officer reportedly encountered a three- to four-foot creature on the road. He shone his headlights to get a better look, and the frog-faced, leathery-skinned lizard thing stared back before scurrying off. Another report claims that only two weeks later, yet another police officer saw the creature and did what we would all do: tried to shoot it. As the story got handed down the line, the second officer attempted to put a kibosh on it by claiming that it was probably just someone's pet lizard. Which is exactly what you would expect someone who'd been paid off by the Reptilian conspiracy to say.
Monster: Oklahoma Octopus
The gist: A freshwater octopus.
Story: Octopodes are basically the greatest creatures on Earth. They solve puzzles, have ~feelings~, have self-awareness and play around with the best of them. I mean seriously, for something that lives two years, they make the most of it. (And are thus also proof that if there is a God, the octopus is a sad joke taken too far.) Unfortunately, when legends arise about freshwater octopodes, they tend to get ugly. They go from playful to man-eating, and are used as a convenient way to explain random drownings. But in the biggest BS flag of all time, these supposedly horse-sized octopodes crop up in man-made lakes.
Nice try at defaming the octopus, Oklahoma, but no dice.
His cousin, the enormo squid.
Monster: Colossal Claude
The gist: A furry, long-necked sea creature with a camel-like face.
Story: Where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean, Colossal Claude lives. He's said to be a long sea serpent, with a little mammal thrown in for good measure. He doesn't seem to do much of anything beyond exist, but the idea of a 40-foot-mammalian eel with a camel's head is too great to not mention.
There are actually actual photos of this dude but it feels mean, even though he's dead, so Google it.
Monster: The Green Man
The gist: A roaming man without a face, puffing cigarette smoke out the side of his cheeks
Story: There's always the story of the living ghost, the person doomed to a lifetime of solitary existence because of some disfigurement. The Green Man, who walks county roads outside Pittsburgh, is said to be a former lineman who was in an electrical accident that melted his face. Or maybe he was a worker disfigured by chemicals, with his face turning green as a result. Now he walks those roads, alone at night, a faint cloud of smoke following him. Nothing supernatural, just chain-smoking. It's like a campfire story light.
But the truth behind the story is more tragic. He was a real man, Raymond Robinson. At the age of 8, he was horribly disfigured in an electrical accident, losing his eyes. His nighttime strolls were his chance to get out without feeling like he was scaring people. But as time went on, his existence became the stuff of stories, then urban legend. And a lonely man became a monster to some, and an object of ridicule to others. The stories of the Green Man hiding? That was Raymond reacting after encounters with the hecklers and gawkers who cruised the route of his nightly walk. He just wanted his nightly stroll, his peace of mind. Instead he became, at best, a local curiosity (people would ply him with beer and cigarettes in order to get a picture taken with him) and, at worst, a creature to be feared.
Monster: Mercy Brown
The gist: The corpse of a young girl killed by TB that never decomposes… so, a vampire, more or less.
Story: The Brown family of Exeter, Rhode Island, were dropping off one by one from tuberculosis. George Brown had watched his wife and two daughters die from consumption, and the disease was rapidly taking his son as well. As young Edwin Brown grew ill, the townspeople convinced Brown that there was only one logical cause for his misfortune: one of the other dead family members was a vampire who was turning Edwin into a vampire as well. So they dug up all three of the deceased. Mother Mary Brown and daughter Mary Olive Brown showed the normal rot associated with corpses, which makes sense, because they had died some time before. But Mercy, only two months dead, showed no signs of decomposition (at the end of winter, in the Northeast), and there was still blood in her heart. Instead of the traditional stake through the heart, the villagers ripped the heart from the chest cavity, burned it, and fed the ashes to Edwin. Who totally still died of TB anyway. We'll call this round of Man vs. Vampire a tie.
Monster: The Lizard Man of Scape Ore Swamp
The gist: A giant lizard man with green scaly skin.
Story: In 1988, teenager Christopher Davis reported a fantastic sight in Lee County, South Carolina. After repairing a flat tire, Davis heard a loud thump and turned around. Two red eyes caught his gaze, and a creature ran right toward him. He jumped in his car, which the creature attacked as Davis attempted to drive away. Police later found a 14-inch-long, three-toed footprint at Scape Ore Swamp, and reports of a giant lizard man stalking the area began to circulate. Though some claimed hoax, subsequent sightings have occured, along with reports of livestock mutilation. And until his unfortunate death in 2009, Davis stuck to his story.
Photo by Quinn Dombrowski.
The gist: Being a Bigfoot.
Story: I know, I know. I've already called Bigfoot creatures boring here a number of times. It's getting almost as old as hearing about Bigfeet. But the Taku-he is not boring—he doesn't just stomp around the woods, smelling terrible, instead he emerges every now and again to rip the genitals off a calf. Most active during the 70s, the Taku-He is said to stalk the Pine Ridge Reservation of the Oglala Sioux. Most often linked to livestock mutilation, the Taku-He has been tied to a number of other mysterious events. One woman reported that it was an evil spirit who led teens to suicide, and others have reported seeing it wearing a stove-pipe hat and a longcoat, peering into windows. A press release in 2006 claimed a body of a Bigfoot had been collected, though it was categorically denied.
1894 illustrations by M.V. Ingram. (Via.)
Monster: The Bell Witch
The gist: An incorporeal malevolent spirit most active in the 19th century.
Story: The Bell Family of Tennessee had a problem, namely that an evil spirit seemed intent on tormenting them. It began when family patriarch John Bell shot at a half-rabbit, half-dog animal in his corn field. Shortly after, all hell broke loose. First the family began to hear faint murmurs of an old woman's voice coming from the walls of their cabin home. Over the next few years the disturbances continued and escalated in severity. Walls rattled, the voice grew louder, and the family's young daughter attacked. It's claimed that the witch-y spirit eventually killed the family patriarch by poisoning him, in 1821. Apparently, mysterious manifestations still happen on the Bell property, and the Bell Witch also has the distinction of being the only entity on our list to have its own Mercyful Fate song.
Monster: Black-Eyed Kids
The gist: Creepy children with odd mannerisms and completely black eyes.
Story: It seems like the chupacabra would get the obvious nod as the Texas monster. And don't get me wrong—I am firmly pro-chupa. 1) Its name means "goatsucker," and 2) it lives up to its name . But I'm going here with the Black Eyed Kids instead, because technically the chupacabra belongs to Mexico and Puerto Rico, neither of which are yet states, and for reasons you’ll see clearly later when you can’t sleep and you keep hoping nothing knocks at your door. Like the chupacabra, the Black-Eyed Kids aren't endemic to Texas. Stories circle the world about such things, but the encounter we're concerned with today happened in an Abilene, Texas, parking lot in 1998.
A journalist, Brian Bethel, had this chilling meeting. As he was preparing to get out of his car to place a utility bill in a drop box, he heard a tapping at his window. Two kids were standing outside the car. When he saw them, he experienced a vague sense of dread and panic but didn't know why. The kids had a simple request: They wanted to see the movie playing next door but had forgotten their money. But they didn't want money from him. Instead, they wanted him to give them a ride to their house. "You have to let us in," the first of the boys kept saying, as his friend looked nervously on. The movie they wanted to see was already an hour in. Just as he was about to open the door to them, it finally registered: the kids had no pupils, no irises. Their eyes were just inky blackness (like the "X-Files" pic above). Anybody who's read a vampire story in her life, ever, or even seen Dracula half drunk, knows better than to heed the cajoling words: "WE CAN'T COME IN UNLESS YOU TELL US IT'S OKAY. LET… US… IN!" Since you're reading me recap his story, we all know that Bethel did the all-American thing: He drove away, really, really fast, and lived to tell his tale and did not get ripped apart and slaughtered by alien vampire children in a parking lot in Abilene.
Monster: Pretty much anything at Skinwalker Ranch
The gist: Where to start?
Story: If you were ever a "Coast to Coast AM" listener (which I was for a long time), you surely came across tale of the Skinwalker Ranch (not to be confused with the Skywalker Ranch), a 480-acre property located in northern Utah that is pretty much a hotbed of paranormal and interstellar activity. Depending on the night you listened, "Coast to Coast" might have had a story about UFO incidents that had occurred at the ranch. Or one about shapeshifters (also known as skinwalkers). Or a malevolent poltergeist. Or maybe about the 10 billion cows slaughtered by our trans-dimensional overlords. Or super-powered wolves impervious to bullets. Or glowing birds. Basically, Skinwalker Ranch has all your monster needs covered. It's even been scoffed at by noted skeptic James Randi, which is really a mark of mattering. This account, if you really want to get into it, is by far the best I've come across.
Photo of Champ the Mascot by Fancy-cats-are-happy-cats. (Via.)
The gist: Long, serpent-like body. Or maybe it's just the neck of a plesiosaur.
Story: Vermont is a pleasant, liberal state of pleasant, liberal people who love gay marriage and single-payer healthcare and elect kindly socialist grandfathers to the Senate. It's also home to the relatively pleasant, presumably liberal lake creature, Champ, which is named after its home lake, Lake Champlain. The first not-made-up-to-sound-historic recording of Champ's appearance came in 1883; a serpent was sighted in the lake, its length estimated at 25 to 30 feet. Hundreds of sightings have followed, making America's analogue to the Loch Ness Monster.
(Author's note: It doesn't seem right to NOT include Champ, because he's basically our premier American lake monster, but if you want to get into the really weird monsters of Vermont, check out the Pigman first. Oh, and this thing called "The Awful" that H.P. Lovecraft apparently looooooooved. Unrelated, if Bigfoot stories are the weather stories of cryptozoology, lake monsters are the scores of the high-school sports game.)
On right, photo of the Bunnyman Bridge. (Via.)
Monster: The Bunny Man
The gist: A man in a bunny suit wielding an axe.
Story: Suburban DC is already a really weird place, basically because it is near Washington, DC. and because Washington, D.C. is terrible. But in 1970, things got really weird. Now, for some people, a monster is, by definition, an inhuman beast, removed from our bloodline. For others, the greatest monster is something closer to a Ted Bundy. But sometimes, the two paths come together to form an absolutely terrifying amalgam of the very human and the very not-human. Like, for example, somebody dressing up in a rabbit costume and chasing people with an axe. Which is the basic premise of The Bunny Man legend. No supernatural powers or freakish appearance. Plenty of axe. Now, this sounds like a campfire tale of a hook-handed man attacking young teenagers. But one DC-area researcher contends that The Bunny Man is absolutely real, and that the story has its origins in two incidents that happened in 1970 in Burke, Virginia. So be warned!
Photo by docentjoyce.
Monster: The Batsquatch
The gist: Do I really have to spell it out for you?
Story: Sure, Mount Everest may have the Abominable Snowman, but Mt. Saint Helens has the Batsquatch. Only one of these mountain creatures has wings, so it's obvious which one would win in a fight. First reported in 1980, the Batsquatch is said to have purple skin, piercing red eyes, a head resembling a cross between and an ape, and, duh, wings. According to unknown-creatures.com, a peer-reviewed online science journal, "some believe that it is actually a flying primate but researchers claim that it is more closely joined to the fruit bat of northern America." And as typically happens with such beasts, it's said to go after local livestock. At least one source believes that the creature comes not from Earth, but from another dimension opened up by the eruption of the volcano. Only one person, Butch Whittaker, has come forward with a full sighting. In 1994, while preparing to climb the mountain, he saw a strange, horrid, winged beast in the air. There are claims he has photos, but they don't appear to be available online. Someone should start a Kickstarter to get him a scanner.
Photo of Mothman statue in Point Pleasant. (Via.)
Monster: The Mothman
The gist: A large man with wings and red eyes.
Story: The tale of West Virginia's UFO-ish Flatwoods Monster has already been wonderfully covered for this site. But there are those that believe it and West Virginia's other otherworldly legend, the also very famous Mothman, may be one and the same. Just outside Point Pleasant, in 1966, two couples parked on a Lover's Lane reported seeing a monstrous sight—and then a seven-foot-tall flying man with ten-foot wings! As they raced away in their car, they ran straight into another one of the creatures (or maybe the same one)! They gunned the car, with the creature in hot pursuit. By the time they reached Point Pleasant, it was off their trail. Reports of other encounters followed. And, if you've followed Richard Gere's acting career, you know that things just got weirder. A reporter sent to investigate the sightings for his book on UFOS began to receive messages from the creature (or creatures). These communications culminated in the maybe-foretelling of the collapse of the Silver Bridge on the Ohio / WV border, an accident that killed 67 people. Or maybe there was never a mothman at all, but instead just a heron or sandhill crane.
A still from The Beast Of Bray Road.
Monster: The Beast of Bray Road
The gist: Well… it's either a giant bear, a giant wolf or a sasquatch. Just to spice things up, we'll say it's all three.
Story: According to PrairieGhosts.com many werewolf sightings have been reported in Wisconsin over the decades. Many of these sightings happened on Bray Road, a stretch of road outside Elkhorn, in southeastern Wisconsin.
In 1999, a woman reported this singular account. One night, as Doristine Gipson was driving home from work, she felt her right front tire lift up as if she'd hit something. When she got out to investigate, she saw nothing. But then, about 50 feet away from her, she saw a hairy, bipedal beast with the bulk of Turbo from American Gladiators (my words, not hers) standing, which then came charging toward her. Doristine went public with her encounter—and other locals came forward with their own stories. The descriptions were of a grey-furred, human-ish, plus-sized beast with pointy ears. And so Wisconsin had a werewolf on its hands. Or maybe it was a bear. Or a sasquatch. It was either five feet, or eight feet, and sometimes bipedal, sometimes not. Regardless, it stole livestock. And Satanism was (maybe) involved.
Photo courtesy of the Chicago Field Museum.
Monster: The San Pedro Mountains Mummy
The gist: It's like a human, but much, much, much smaller.
Story: It's not really a monster, because it's dead and not coming back to life. But in 1932, two prospectors made an incredible find: the mummified remains of a seemingly full-grown adult human who just happened to be slightly more than a foot tall. The mummy was found sitting up, with his legs crossed. Some immediately cried hoax, but others were reminded of the the Nimergar—a Shoshone legend of hostile miniature humans. Still others thought the mummy might be a specimen of another brand of hostile miniature humans, known colloquially as "children." We'll never know the true answers, as the mummy, nicknamed "Pedro," disappeared in the 1950s.
Do you want to know more about monsters? We know everything about monsters. Previously: Monsters I Have Been: A Lifetime In Five Halloween Disguises
John Wenz is not a Bigfoot.