When children are small, one of the first things they learn are the names of common animals. Cows, sheep, and ducks usually make this list of ordinary farm-bound critters. But there are other more mysterious animals that they don’t learn about, at least, not until they grow up!
Cryptozoology is the study of creatures found only in folklore. Although most people believe they’re simply fictional creatures who live only in books and movies, there are those who dedicate their lives to finding them. When you see the latest creature to capture their attention, you might become a believer too!
Tales of legendary creatures like the chupacabra have been around for years, and although most people consider them purely fiction, there are those who spend their lives studying them, convinced they do actually exist.
The Loch Ness monster supposedly lives somewhere in the depths of Loch Ness in Scotland. However, another creature lives deep in the thick woods, and it may be the most popular of all the myths…
It’s Bigfoot! This supposed super-sized ape-like creature dwells in the deepest parts of the woods in certain mountainous places around the world. Are these creatures actually real? Well, it depends who you ask.
This is perhaps the most famous photo of a Bigfoot. The person who took it claims they ran into this upright-walking ape while venturing through the woods. Others, however, believe it’s simply a human wearing an ape costume.
Those who do believe in Bigfoot claim there’s plenty of evidence supporting their existence, such as enormous footprints in the areas where they supposedly live. However, there is another creature, similar to Bigfoot, that’s even more bizarre…
It’s called the skunk ape, and two of the most famous images captured of it were anonymously sent to Florida’s Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office in 2000. Could the fur-covered beast in this picture be real?
The woman who sent the photos attached a letter claiming they were taken in her backyard. They were dubbed the “Myakka photos,” because they were supposedly taken near the river that bears that name.
Sightings of the skunk ape, which is named after the foul smell that often accompanies it, were more common in the 1960s and 1970s—but that doesn’t mean they ever stopped. There are plenty of believers out there who claim to have found evidence of the creature over the past few decades.
This is a tracker named Ted who lives around the Florida area the skunk ape supposedly spends most of its time. While out in the swampland one afternoon, he came upon this unusual footprint, which he claims could only belong to the skunk ape.
One believer, Dave Shealey, also took several photos and videos of the skunk ape. He even runs a “headquarters” and museum in Florida dedicated to the mysterious creature. He considers himself the “Jane Goodall of skunk apes.”
For the last four decades, Dave has been gathering information and listening to stories, trying to piece together the habits of the skunk ape so hopefully one day he’ll come face-to-face with one.
Although Bigfoot and the skunk ape are similar, cryptozoologists who live in Florida will tell you there is, in fact, a difference. Skunk apes (right) are scrawnier, they have very thin hair, and they spend most of their lives dwelling up in the trees.
Dave spends much of his time roaming the woods searching for any signs he can. He has said on many occasions he’ll see skunk ape tracks leading towards alligator dens deep in the swampland.
Dave claims to have video footage of the elusive creature. Below, we see a dark figure who appears to be covered in hair, much like an ape, moving through a field using particularly human movements…
Suddenly, as if the mysterious figure notices Dave not far away, it begins to sprint across the field. Unfortunately, Dave isn’t close enough for anyone to really make out what the creature looks like…
Within seconds of the supposed skunk ape’s sprint, it runs off into the tall trees and is gone. As much as Dave claims this is legitimate proof of the animal’s existence, skeptics are quick to point out the footage is too grainy to truly be certain of anything.
As with any creature whose existence is unverified, skeptics often credit the sightings to misidentified wildlife. The Myakka photos are said to show an escaped orangutan, with others supposedly depicting black bears.
This is a guide named Cliff who has spent most of his life living around the swampland of Florida, but he’s never seen any evidence of the so-called skunk ape. He finds it hard to believe people have seen the skunk ape in the 700,000 acres of swampland, but hardly anyone sees black bears, of which there are thousands.
All the criticism the skunk ape draws from skeptics hasn’t stopped the search from continuing, as those who truly believe the creature is out there are steadfast in their perceived knowledge.
Skeptics might point to active imaginations or attention seeking fabrications, but the heart pounding fear of coming face to face with an unknown creature isn’t something you invent lightly. Witnesses of one unexplainable being in West Virginia have stuck to their story for nearly 70 years.
One afternoon, three boys, Tommy Hyer, Ed May, and his brother, Freddie, were playing together in the small town of Flatwoods, West Virginia. Their day, however, was about to take an unforgettable turn.
They were having so much fun that they lost track of time. Before long, the sun was setting behind the mountains; the boys knew their parents wouldn’t be happy if they stayed out too late.
The group decided they would take the quickest route home and promptly started walking. As the trio passed a local farm, however, something strange happened. Suddenly, the evening sky flashed red.
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Streaking across the sky, a pulsating red light lit up the clouds, appearing to crash into the ground somewhere beyond the farm. None of the boys were quite sure that they saw, but they knew it wasn’t good.
They sprinted home and explained what had happened by the farm. Mrs. May agreed to go with her boys to investigate the sight; a few other kids and one dog decided to tag along, too.
The posse returned to the woods and started combing through the darkness. At first, it seemed their search was in vain. But then, screams pierced the night. The boys had found something.
Succumbing to the terror of the moment, “one of the boys peed his pants,” said John Gibson, a local teenager who knew the group that went into woods. After some time searching, something caught their attention.
“A National Guard member, [teenager] Gene Lemon, was leading the group,” a local newspaper reported. “He saw what appeared to be a pair of bright eyes in a tree.” They were accompanied by a strange, metallic odor.
He said the eyes belonged to something 10-feet tall, resembling a distorted human. It reportedly had a red body, claws, and a glowing face. Whatever the boys saw, it was clearly something unearthly.
Before long, news of the mysterious “Flatwoods monster” had spread throughout the country. Some of the witnesses even took a trip up to New York City to discuss their sightings on CBS.
As news of the monster spread, however, not everyone was thrilled with the publicity. In fact, the local authorities took issue with one key detail from the search party’s story.
“State police laughed off the reports as hysteria,” a local newspaper explained. “They said the so-called monster had grown from seven to 17 feet in just 24 hours.” But there was another factor at play, too.
Whether they believed in the monster or not, everyone in Flatwoods remained on edge. A strange crash and an unexplained sighting in the woods could be a sign of an even larger danger — one actually grounded in reality.
See, in 1952, the Cold War was kicking into high gear. The United States Air Force was constantly on the lookout for Soviet aircrafts carrying nuclear payloads. Any strange sighting could be a national threat.
It was in that context that their Air Force started investigating potential UFO and alien sightings. They looked into the Flatwoods case and quickly came to an extraterrestrial conclusion of their own.
They believed the bright flash was either a comet streaking across the sky or a meteor falling to earth. The monster itself, however, could have had a more terrestrial explanation.
The monster, they explained, was probably a large owl. The bird’s eyes glow in the darkness and its talons could have been mistaken for outstretched hands. The locals, however, were emphatic about what they saw.
“Those people were the most scared people I’ve ever seen,” newspaper publisher A. Lee Stewart said. “People don’t make up that kind of story that quickly.” And that belief persisted, despite the Air Force’s findings.
The May brothers still call Flatwoods home. While they’ve grown tired of talking to reporters, they still know what they saw that night, when something from space visited West Virginia.
Over 50 years later, skeptics and believers alike flock to the tiny town of Flatwoods, West Virginia. While there’s plenty of tourist kitsch, no one has sighted the monster since that fateful night.
West Virginia Gazette Mail
But, oddly, other monsters have been spotted in the area. Fourteen years after the Flatwoods monster was first spotted, and roughly 125 miles west, another town was famously terrified by an unexplained, flying monster who seemed drawn to tragedies.
It was November 12th, 1966, when a Clendenin, West Virginia, gravedigger caught movement out of the corner of his eye. At first, he ignored it, continuing to lift his shovel. Then the dark mass whooshed by again; it wasn’t a trick of the light.
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He turned to see what could possibly be lurking alongside him in the empty graveyard. Leaping from tree to tree with unsettling speed was a creature that looked somewhat human, but also, not quite.
Cloaked in the shadows, the gravedigger stood rooted in fear of the uncertainty. He was the first, though hardly the last, to witness the strange creature which he described as a “brown human being.”
Only three days later, two young couples were parked in a secluded lover’s lane. All semblance of romance vanished when both couples spotted a huge gray being presenting itself just out of reach of the car’s headlights.
Roger Scarberry and Steve Mallett gave quotes to the Point Pleasant Register, describing the blazing red eyes that had to be at least six inches apart. They noted the creature’s wingspan was around ten feet. It shied away from the light cast by the car’s high beams.
When they attempted to flee, the winged being gave chase, matching the highest speeds of the car’s odometer. To those who’d question their sanity, Roger noted, “If I had seen it while by myself, I wouldn’t have said anything, but there were four of us who saw it.”
The creature was christened with a name that embodied all its mysterious characteristics — hulking gray wings, nighttime appearances, undeniably human features, massive glowing eyes. They called it The Mothman. Soon, sightings were happening all over the place.
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At first, locals joked over the headlines. As the number of documented sightings increased, the public stopped laughing. Reporting in The Gettysburg Times chronicled eight separate witness accounts of Mothman sightings; even two respected volunteer firefighters spotted the creature.
A man named Merle “Newell” Partridge experienced one of the most troubling encounters. At his home in Salem, WV, Merle was kicking back watching TV when the screen started zigzagging with a weird pattern, which was followed by a high-pitched tone.
The Mothman Wiki
His dog Bandit started howling in the direction of the shed. Merle grabbed his gun and stepped onto the porch, but saw nobody around. What he did see were two big red lights, resembling bike reflectors, that he knew were a pair of eyes.
Before Merle could stop him, Bandit bounded towards the woods, headed directly toward those glowing red lights. He never returned. In the weeks that followed, Merle scoured the surrounding wilderness but his beloved dog was gone.
Still, not everyone was convinced. Dr. Robert L. Smith, an associate professor at West Virginia University whose expertise was in wildlife biology felt strongly that all the eyewitnesses were crying monster. All they’d actually spotted was a sandhill crane.
The crane theory checked many boxes. First off, they’re pretty massive, reaching a max height of 5 feet tall. Dr. Smith suggested the red-eyed detail repeated by the witnesses had to be the crane’s distinct red patches surrounding its eyes.
Given that most of the statements described at least a ten-foot wingspan, this ruled out the sandhill crane. Others suggested the bird could be mutated by suspected radioactive remnants from World War II bunkers neighboring a wildlife preserve. Most believed in the Mothman.
There’s always the possibility that the Mothman was a big hoax. People hypothesized a prankster was behind some of the sightings, which generated a slew of false reports. Flashlights pointed into any animal’s eyes would reproduce a redeye effect.
In the year that followed the initial sighting, the Mothman was a hot topic among West Virginians statewide. The number of sightings coincided with a spike in claims of UFO encounters. All this paranormal hype came to a head on December 15, 1967.
Cars zoomed over Silver Bridge, which connected Point Pleasant and Gallipolis, Ohio, for nearly 40 years. Initially, the builders of the bridge accounted for vehicles of the time. These weighed about a third as much as the average car in the mid ’60s.
The strain of bumper-to-bumper wagons was too much on the frigid morning of December 15th. In seconds, an eyebar on the Ohio end of the bridge snapped from the excessive weight. All the people in their cars had no time, no warning before they fell.
Bystanders watched in horror as 75 cars dropped into the Ohio River. Parents attempted to free themselves and their children from the rush of the 40 degree Fahrenheit waters. Despite the first responders arriving quickly, 46 people died that day.
The Silver Bridge collapse devasted the people of Point Pleasant, the same people who’d swapped Mothman theories for the past year. Naturally, these two unfathomable events rocked the town and led to the conclusion that they were potentially intertwined.
Connecting the events caught on quick, spreading into the general consciousness of society beyond West Virginia. The parallels echoed in a popular book called The Mothman Prophecies by John Keel in 1975, which outlined the concept that the creature’s appearance was a form of caution.
John Keel’s book was adapted into a movie of the same name starring Richard Gere in 2002. It hammered home the message that the winged being was a savior sent to warn people of approaching tragedy.
These days, people have fun with the sci-fi legend. In 2019, the Mothman resurfaced in a wave of viral memes. Plus, every year believers from around the country, and a slew of undecided but curious fans flock to Point Pleasant for the Mothman Festival.
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The citizens present during the peak of the Mothman hype don’t think it’s such a laughing matter. A statue was erected in Point Pleasant, and a museum was opened in its honor, a tribute to the herald of the most fatal bridge collapse in US history at the time.
Today, people like Benjamin Radford look to the Mothman legend to help further their own research. He isn’t afraid of playing with fire, literally or metaphorically. In fact, he’s made a career out of tracking down the dangerous creatures urban legend.
As a paranormal investigator and expert on urban legends, he utilizes a scientific approach to determine whether or not there really are things that go bump in the night. Still, he’s far different from your average TV ghost hunter.
Benjamin is game to scope out a haunted house, though he’s not the type of investigator who will claim to find ectoplasm in every corner. He’s actually skeptical that these kinds of spirits exist! Still, he was not as certain about mythical beasts.
Throughout history, nearly every culture asserted the existence of some monster plaguing their people. Benjamin has at least looked into each one, but he decided to chase the beast that was basically right in his own backyard.
He was after the Chupacabra, the most infamous monstrosity of the Caribbean and Central America. Its reputation has become so feared that even people in New England and Europe have claimed to see it. There’s no doubt why it’s so memorable.
Reports disagreed about whether the demon looks more like a wolf or a reptile, but its modus operandi stayed consistent. Chupacabra literally translated to “goat sucker.” Tales of the Chupacabra spread as shepherds found their flocks mysteriously drained of blood overnight.
This legend stayed with Benjamin since the first time he heard it as a child in New Mexico. Could there be some truth behind this fearsome predator? To get the ball rolling, the investigator contacted alleged Chupacabra witnesses.
Most encounters, like a notable 1995 sighting in Puerto Rico, unfortunately didn’t involve any physical evidence. Benjamin knew that relying solely on someone’s memory was a dicey prospect. Fear often distorted the recollections of even the most trustworthy observer.
BBC / Benjamin Radford
He made an interesting connection when digging into that 1995 claim. The onlookers provided an extraterrestrial description that rung a bell in Benjamin’s mind. It was a dead ringer for Sil, the alien antagonist from Species, a horror movie that debuted that same year.
It seemed that, when in panic mode, the human mind filled in gaps with a familiar image. Benjamin therefore doubted that a real Chupacabra would resemble a movie villain. But the thought of a more canine monster intrigued him.
For this version of the Chupacabra, the beast looked like a wolf with enlarged eyes, claws, and teeth. In biological terms, this theory held more water. Could it be that the monster was a rare mutant?
This possibility had Benjamin hopping all over the Americas, visiting purported Chupacabra sights between Texas and Nicaragua. There was definitely proof that something vicious was attacking local livestock, and that was only the tip of the iceberg.
In a handful of cases, unsuspecting townspeople happened upon the remains of a Chupacabra! These bodies looked like no other animal the witnesses had seen before: so hideously deformed and strangely patterned. Benjamin felt his heart race when he heard the news.
When veterinarians examined the specimens, however, the results were less than thrilling. They determined most of them to be coyotes, raccoons, or Mexican hairless dogs. Still, there was a monster involved in each of these findings.
Parasitic mites really did make these ordinary animals look like abominations! They caused mange, a disease that removes hair and forms scaly patches all over the skin. Still, a few believers wouldn’t buy this explanation.
Many had seen herds of goats decimated firsthand, with barely a single drop of blood left in their bodies. Benjamin’s zoological research chalked this up to ordinary coyotes. While hunting, they often punctured blood vessels on the necks of their prey, which quickly bled out.
Though disappointed not to find an actual Chupacabra, Benjamin pieced together how this legend came about. For one thing, the beast bore a striking similarity to the vampire. Besides the supernatural blood drinking, both stories explained misfortunes suffered by isolated societies.
Even in our ultra-connected world, these tales persist due to entertainment and conspiracy culture. However unlikely it may be that creatures like Bigfoot and the Chupacabra actually exist, the ideas behind them are too alluring for many believers to give up.
YouTube / Culter35
Without a shred of proof for the real Chupacabra, Benjamin asserted that the goat sucker was nothing more than a fable. That was par for the course for this professional skeptic. Still, many others won’t back down from their belief of otherworldly phenomena.
The Scottish Highlands are known for lush, green scenery and centuries-old castles, but what really attracts tourists has nothing to do with nature or architecture. Scotland’s greatest mystery lies just beneath the surface of the vast Loch Ness…
Loch Ness is over 700 feet of deep, dark water, and it’s the rumored home of the mythical Loch Ness Monster. A geneticist and self-described monster-hunter, Professor Neil Gemmell was fascinated by the myth and believed he could be the one to get answers.
But before answers could be found, Gemmell had to ask himself some key questions: How did Nessie come to be? What does it look like? What truly lives in Loch Ness’ murky underwater world?
Believe it or not, the existence of a larger-than-average underwater creature in Loch Ness was recorded all the way back in 500AD. A man was swimming when he was apparently “mauled and dragged underwater” by a “water beast.” From then on, the sightings only increased.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, local interest in an underwater beast hit its peak. The tourism in the area was increasing, and in 1934, a vacationing man was looking out at the loch when he saw something odd…so he grabbed his camera.
The ensuing picture, known as the “surgeon’s photograph,” captured a blurry, long-necked creature peeking out of the water. Suddenly, Nessie’s long neck and bumpy back was famous worldwide. This became the definitive Nessie sighting — but it also sparked years of controversy.
The scientific community has always resisted the existence of the Loch Ness Monster due to a lack of evidence, and it wasn’t long after the surgeon’s photo was published that it was exposed as a hoax. Obviously, this was a huge blow to enthusiasts everywhere.
You see, back then, photographic evidence was really the only surefire way to provide evidence that something had happened. All believers had to go on were local tales and childish drawings. Thankfully, times have changed.
Professor Neil Gemmell knew that even some myths should be investigated, so he decided to find out the truth once and for all…and since it’s the twenty-first century, he was able to do a lot better than photographic evidence.
Leading a team from New Zealand’s University of Otago, Neil took water samples from three different depths of the lake. Each sample contained DNA that Neil hoped would shed some light on the murky mystery — DNA that was comprised of seemingly-normal materials.
Neil’s team sent the DNA samples, which reportedly contained skin, scales, feathers, fur, and fecal matter, to labs in Australia, New Zealand, Denmark, and France. Neil’s investigation couldn’t have come at a better time, as Nessie sightings have recently reached a record high.
“Sightings are now at a level that were being recorded in the 1990s,” said Gary Campbell, recorder of the official Loch Ness Monster Sightings Register. “The internet has meant that Loch has never been more watched — and from anywhere in the world.”
With so many people intent on uncovering the loch’s secrets themselves, the Scottish economy rakes in millions a year thanks to Nessie. In 2019 alone, there have already been twelve people claiming to have seen the Loch Ness Monster with their own eyes.
One man, Richard Cobb, saw something large break through the surface of Loch Ness in late July 2019. “I never believed in Nessie, but now I’m not so sure. What I saw was just weird,” he said. “There was something in there for sure.”
In June 2019, a boat skipper logged a large creature on his sonar close to one of Nessie’s “favorite lairs.” It was a 25-foot long object — definitely not your average fish. “It was exceptionally big. I would like to think it was Nessie,” he said.
Hundreds of Nessie sightings have been debunked as otters, swans, and floating debris. Gemmell hopes that the results from his investigation will be undeniable, but he knows how staunchly some people believe in even the most outlandish of theories…
Some people think that Nessie is really just an enormous catfish or eel, while others believe it to be a large Greenland Shark. One of the more eccentric beliefs is that the “monster” is a slightly evolved plesiosaur that somehow avoided extinction.
Fans of the mystery are craving answers. On Facebook, 18,000 people have signed up to “storm” Loch Ness in September 2019. They hope enough people in Loch Ness will get the creature to resurface so they can, as the group put it, “find dat big boi.”
But Gemmell hopes that his findings will answer any questions people have before any “storming” ensues. “We’ve tested each one of the main monster hypotheses and three of them we can probably say aren’t right and one of them might be,” he said mysteriously.
He described his findings as “significant” and “a bit surprising,” and expects to release them in September. “We’re delighted with the amount of interest the project has generated,” he said. “Monster or not, we’re going to understand Loch Ness and the life in it in a new way.”