My Ten Favourite Cryptids
What the hell is a cryptid? A cryptid is an animal unknown to science, unknown in the sense that their existence has not been proved. The study of cryptids is the science of cryptozoology. As a kid I thought cryptozoology was fascinating … Nessie, Bigfoot, sea monsters, the list is endless. As an older and wider fellow, the subject has lost some of its luster. While I still find cryptozoology fascinating, and there’s no doubt that there are animals out there still to be discovered … I find the average cryptozoologist is a little too undisciplined for my tastes. And the evidence for most cryptids is at best, anecdotal. Not to mention the endless hoaxes, some of them so obvious they couldn’t fool a fourth grader. You’d think. Nonetheless, it’s an still interesting topic from a number of perspectives, not the least of which, is that the skeptics are often even more illogical and emotion driven than the cryptozoologists. What’s that all about?
In any event, just for grins, in no particular order, my ten favourite cryptids. And for even more fun, I’ve rated them on a one to ten scale. One being a cryptid that frankly I don’t think exists, to ten being a cryptid that deserves a lot more investigation because there might actually be a real unknown creature, however prosaic, lurking out there somewhere behind the folklore and the tall tales. The last reason I like cryptozoology though is the most important, it’s lots of fun. Enjoy!
1. Lake Monsters: Champ, Nessie, and Ogopogo would be the big three, but lake monsters have been reported in dozens of lakes around the world. In fact the above image, part of a recent video purportedly taken of Champ, is what inspired this post. Click on the image to see the video. What’s does it look like to you? If you said it looks like a swimming deer or moose, grats, you’re probably as old and wise as I am. While Nessie and such may make fun stories, the idea that some sort of large animal could be living in comparatively small lakes without the odd carcass washing ashore or a good photograph being taken, well, doesn’t float. Doug’s believability rating: Zero
2. Bigfoot: I’ve blogged about Bigfoot before. There’s also Alma and Yeti. In fact like Lake Monsters, it seems that people see wild hairy men in woods all over the planet. Again, the lack of corpses, the lack of photographs taken by wildlife trap cameras, and just plain lack of anything other than anecdotal evidence makes this one hard to swallow. Still, the world is a big place, if such near-humans did exist they might be pretty smart and even bury their own dead, so this one at least is worth investigating. Barely. Doug’s believability rating: Two
3. ABCs: This stands for Alien Big Cat, and no, not that kind of alien. While primarily an English phenomena, ABCs have been sighted all over the world. This is the one that answers the age old question: “Can someone mistake a big house cat for a huge beast?” Apparently the answer at least sometimes is, yes. Moggies gone wild. While some of these in remote areas of the world might actually be yet undiscovered species of wild cat, for the most part, I find this one difficult to believe. Especially the sightings in Britain and such. My believability rating: One
4. Thunder bird: An American cryptid, sometimes enormously large birds have been reported throughout the west. One even purportedly tried to carry away a child in Illinois in 1977! This one is a favourite because there was a small spate of such sightings in my part of Illinois during my halcyon youth, it made a big impression on me. Granted the existence of a large unknown bird in North America defies credulity, and while these sightings can be explained away as hysteria, hoax, or misidentification … it’s not completely impossible that some small relict population of ancient giant birds went extinct in the nineteenth century before it could be observed and identified by naturalists. Believability rating: One
5. Buru: Did Indian settlers wipe out a species of unknown crocodile or giant monitor lizards in a valley in the Himalayas? Possibly, the Buru is another favourite from my childhood. It’s pretty clear they wiped out something in the last few centuries, what it is remains to be discovered. It’s pretty clear that we won’t find any alive, a shame really. The most recent guess, prosaic as it may be, is that the buru was a species of giant lungfish. This one gets a ten, while it may indeed turn out to be a myth, this one is reasonable enough to look into far more carefully. Rating: Ten
6. Lewis and Clark’s Lion Cat: A subset of number three, this historical mystery from Lewis and Clark’s journals has never been identified. In late March, early April of 1805 a large lion like maned cat was seen to be circling their camp at night. It was much larger than a puma, with which the expedition members were very familiar. There have been suggestions that it was an American lion, possibly part of a now extinct relic population? There have also been suggestions they made the whole thing up, since references to the lion sightings do not appear in the final report on their expedition, published in 1814. Believability rating: Zero
7. Tatzelwurm: Does a big worm-like lizard exist in the Alps? Probably not. However, at one point there were a lot of sightings of an unknown lizard-like animal in the Alps and other European mountains. While many of the details are contradictory or ridiculous, it’s not impossible that these sightings were inspired by any number of possible lizards or giant salamanders. The Tatzelwurm is probably a myth, but if a cave full of their skeletons is found, we won’t have to rewrite and textbooks. Believability: Six.
8. Ropen: This one is curious, there are reports of a mysterious flying animal from deep in the New Guinea jungles. An unidentified large species of flying fox, a type of bat? A spiritual animal misidentified as real by credulous western explorers? Some have even claimed it is an extinct pterosaur. This ones claim to fame: Creationists have mounted several expeditions to search for the ropen, hoping to find a living pterosaur to bolster their claims that dinosaurs were only recently wiped out in Noah’s Flood. Pseudoscience meets pseudoreligion, OK then. Doug’s believability rating: Flying Fox: Nine. Living pterosaur: Zero
9. Mokele-mbembe: Another favourite of my youth, or the cryptozoology books of my youth to be more precise. This is a large dinosaur-like animal reported by the pygmies deep in the African jungle. This one is interesting in that there have been literally dozens of expeditions into this incredibly remote and inaccessible part of Africa in search of Mokele-mbembe. None of the recent ones found a damn thing, and even the older expeditions never found more than purported footprints and anecdotal accounts from natives. I’m with the people who think this is a mythical animal that locals reported as real because the silly white people were so damn easy to fool. Doug’s believability rating: One
10. Nandi Bear: Africa’s biggest and baddest cryptid, this one has been reported for a long time and is known by many names. It has a habit of eating the brains of its victims, so this is a cryptid that one might not want to famous for discovering. It is described as a huge black hyena or bear-like creature, it hunts at night. There are currently no bears in Africa, what could this be? Well, a hyena or some form of mad brain-eating hyena is a good bet. This one bears more investigation: Eight
During the course of research for this article, I discovered that there are a number of cases where people suppose that an extinct animal may not be extinct after all. Marsupial tigers, giant ground sloths, woolly mammoths, and a whole host of supposedly extinct beasts have been reported in the odd corners of the globe. So coming someday, my ten favourite possibly non-extinct animals.
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit, is central to illustrating the post, and only one frame of the clip has been reproduced. Credit: YouTube. The film clip is actually a classic example of a hoax in my opinion, I’ve seen hundreds. The creature is just far enough away that no real detail can be discerned, and the film ends just before the creature would have reached shore. It’s inconvenient details like this that add up to misidentification at best, hoax at worst.)