Monthly Archives: April 2013

#9 – Emela-Ntouka, The Killer of Elephants

Cryptid-wise, Africa gets all the cool stuff. While over here we make do with loch monsters whose one trick is to pop their head up above the water once in a blue moon, presumably expecting a fucking ticker-tape parade for it like the diva bitches they are, the Congo gets the Emela-Ntouka. But Nessie’s still cool, right? NO ONE CARES, NESSIE. What’s the last cool thing you did? Oh, you surfaced for a bit? Maybe bobbed along in the water in front of some drunk Scottish tourist board employee who definitely didn’t just stick a bath toy in the water before filming it with his shitty camcorder? WHATEVER, Nessie. When’s the last time you killed a fucking elephant? Oh, there are no elephants in Scotland? Whatever, you whiney pussy.

Like. A. Boss.

Like. A. Boss.

Meet the Emela-Ntouka, which is Lingala for “killer of the elephants”. Said to inhabit the swamps and rivers of the Likuoala region of the Congo, the Emela-Ntouka isn’t a carnivore but is nevertheless greatly feared by the native pygmies for its tendency to absolutely and categorically lose its shit when you’re dumb enough to stumble into its territory. Wander into the home of the ‘water elephant’, as it’s also known, and the beast will go full on Christian Bale on your ass – with added gruesome evisceration and minus distracting eye-wart.

Try not noticing *that* next time you're watching The Dark Knight.

Try not noticing that next time you’re watching The Dark Knight.

At least semi-aquatic and supported by an enormous crocodile-like tail and four squat legs, the Emela-Ntouka spends much of its time grazing and chewing its way through the vegetation of the swamp, with the water supporting its enormous bulk. When disturbed it’s been reported to use its enormous ivory face-boner to disembowel everything from water buffalo to hippos and even elephants.

The animal was first described in 1954 by Lucien Blancou, who was at the time the senior game inspector in the Likouala region. He not only described it in detail but also claimed natives had killed one of them in the area sometime around 1934. Sadly the carcass was never examined or photographed; subsequent encounters and attempts to track the beast have yielded enormous three-toed footprints and describe its characteristic snorting bellow.

Described as being anything between the size of a water buffalo and small elephant, the Emela-Ntouka would certainly be the largest animal for decades yet to be described by science. There are a couple of theories for its possible origin, including the thoroughly worrying one that it’s a surviving ceratopsian like the monoclonius:

Bitch, I eat globe-killing meteor strikes for breakfast.

Bitch, I eat globe-killing meteor strikes for breakfast.

More conservative cryptozoologists suggest the Killer of the Elephants could be an as-yet undiscovered type of rhinoceros, one that’s distinctly more aquatic than its scientifically identified cousins. Only one thing’s for certain, mind – go messing about in the swamps of the Congo without paying enough attention, and you’re likely to get the horn in a manner that you’re most uncomfortable with.

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#8 – The Nandi Bear

If you’re a filmmaker or TV producer, here’s a pitch for you. Zombies are all the rage at the moment. The Walking Dead is one of the biggest shows on television. Even Brad Pitt fell in love with Max Brooks’ awesome zombie book World War Z. Admittedly, having seen the trailer for the movie, he seems to have chosen to express that love by making a film that squats from a great height before taking a hot, watery shit directly into Max Brooks’ horrified eyes, but that’s beside the point. Zombies are hot right now, because they are awesome and they eat brains.

How can you improve on a monster that eats brains?

Make it a fucking bear/hyena crossbreed instead.


The Nandi Bear is one of the most enduring cryptids in east African folklore, having been putting the unholy shits up the natives for centuries. Described as lion-sized with sloping shoulders and the distinctive stubby face of  a bear, it’s said to hunt at night and attack humans under moonlight, opting to avoid the delicious bits like the knackers and buttocks and head straight for the brain instead.

It’s particularly unpopular with the Nandi tribe from which it takes its name, among whom it’s seen as a man-like demon prone to snatching children from huts before popping their skulls open to form gooey offal-based Pez dispensers. Oh, all the while howling, screaming and jabbering in the manner of a hyena.

hate hyenas. I cannot express enough just how much I fucking hate them. You’d hate them too if you’d been plagued by a recurring nightmare as a child in which you stumbled around a deserted trainyard with ash and embers coating every surface and falling from the sky pursued by eight-foot tall skinless glistening ones with glowing eyes but I DIGRESS…

I really wish I was joking.

I really wish I was joking.

The Nandi Bear was spotted a lot by Western explorers in the early part of the 19th century, including by workers on the Madadi Railway, who found unknown canine-like tracks and ran into the creature a few times. During those sightings the Nandi Bear admittedly did very little brain-eating and a lot more scurrying off like a big fuzzy pussy:

“It was short and thickset in the body, with high withers, and had a short neck and stumpy nose. It did not turn to look at me, but loped off–running with its forelegs and with both hind legs rising at the same time. As I got alongside it, it was about forty or fifty yards away and I noticed it was very broad across the rump, had very short ears, and had no tail that I could see. As its hind legs came out of the grass I noticed the legs were very shaggy right down to the feet, and that the feet seemed large…”

Because of its size and the fact there are thought to be no bears in modern Africa it’s been a tricky cryptid to explain. Some have tried to pass off Nandi sightings as simple misidentifications of honey badgers or hyenas – an explanation which actually turned out to fit perfectly well for the farmer Cara Buxton in 1919, who lost close to sixty animals to an unknown brain-eating carnivore. The locals eventually tracked and killed the culprit, which turned out to be an unnaturally large common spotted hyena. An unnaturally large common spotted hyena which for no reason at all had suddenly decided to just start eating animal brains and leaving everything else.



The common hyena theory doesn’t explain some of the more characteristic aspects of the Nandi Bear’s appearance, however – chiefly, the stubby bear-like face, the bear-like movement and ability to stand on two legs, and the sheer horror-cunting size of the damn thing. If it’s a prehistoric creature that’s somehow survived its thus-far presumed extinction, however, there are a couple of cool possibilities, the Chalicothere being the first and infinitely more preferable:

Awh, that's better.

Awh, that’s better.

I say ‘preferable’ because as well as looking bizarrely like a wise old horse-man-aardvark that could give you an awesome neck rub, the Chalicothere was also a committed herbivore that definitely didn’t eat brains or tear out my spleen in my darkest nightmares. Unfortunately option number 2 seems more likely. Seeing as it’s a fucking massive bear-faced hyena that fits the description of the Nandi Bear exactly.

...we're going to need more fire.

…we’re going to need more fire.

Meet the giant short-faced hyena.  Thankfully, this terrifying demon has been presumed extinct for about 500,000 years, so there’s no chance it still exists.

Oh, except the Coelocanth was thought to have been extinct for a bit longer, at 65 million years. Until fishermen started catching them in 1938.

You’ll have to excuse me if I avoid east Africa for the rest of my natural fucking life.

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#7 – The Ya-Te Veo

Madagascar hasn’t always been the lovable island full of cuddly lemurs barking “I like to move it move it!” we’re all so familiar with today. When colonial types the world over were rushing all over the globe in the latter half of the 19th century to bring enlightenment and civilisation to its darker corners (usually by shooting locals in their innocent dusky faces before enslaving their children), the crazy little island country served up some of the most bizarre zoological offerings the pith-helmeted white boys had ever seen.

Madagascar is a biodiversity hotspot, with over 90% of its wildlife found nowhere else in the world. To white explorers in the 19th century the majority of the bizarre shit they turned up would have seemed entirely alien, but one story in particular caught the imagination of the wider public the world over; that of the Ya-Te-Veo, which translates into the thoroughly terrifying I-See-You-Tree.



The story of the Ya-Te Veo is the coolest example of cryptobotany going, and it dates back to an account by German explorer Carl Liche of an expedition he supposedly led in 1878.  Hacking his way through the steaming Madagascan jungle with a group of Mkodo tribesmen, his group suddenly stumbled upon a clearing dominated by a single enormous tree. His 1881 article in the South Australian Register described what happened after the tribesmen dragged a woman from their group forward and offered her up to the tree:

The slender delicate palpi, with the fury of starved serpents, quivered a moment over her head, then as if instinct with demoniac intelligence fastened upon her in sudden coils round and round her neck and arms; then while her awful screams and yet more awful laughter rose wildly to be instantly strangled down again into a gurgling moan, the tendrils one after another, like great green serpents, with brutal energy and infernal rapidity, rose, retracted themselves, and wrapped her about in fold after fold, ever tightening with cruel swiftness and savage tenacity of anacondas fastening upon their prey.

Or, in summary, she got squished into pulp by a whole host of quivering plant-cocks.

Wait... what?

Wait… what?

Riche even apparently returned to the site some days later, where he witnessed a gleaming white skull among the roots of the tree, the only remnants of the unfortunate human sacrifice.

Sadly it turns out the story is almost definitely little more than total bollocks, as research since has proved that both Liche himself and the entire Mkodo tribe are more than likely total fabrications. Still, it’s a great example of how hoax stories feed the mass imagination, once you get past the realisation that the whole scam is pretty much an enormously racist example of how the white man at the time saw the less familiar corners of the world.

And just as an example of how myths tend to have some vague basis in reality, the closest example of a real Ya-Te Veo is the Nepenthes Rajah of Borneo, the largest carnivorous plant in the world. It’ll quite happily digest the odd rat or bird in its acid-filled pitchers but doesn’t really have the stomach capacity for devouring nubian damsels in distress.

Worst. Glory Hole. Ever.

Worst. Glory Hole. Ever.

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#6 – The Hoop Snake

Snakes are generally pretty goddamn awesome. Not only are they inherently evil enough to be synonymous with original sin, they can also hurt you in any number of grisly ways. If you don’t fancy dying through the agony of a venomous bite, you could opt instead to have the last thing you hear be your own ribs cracking under the crushing cuddle of a giant boa constrictor. If that doesn’t tickle your pickle then there’s also the possibility of having that venom I mentioned earlier spat directly into your eyes, leaving you to stagger about blind before you wander into traffic or just bumble into a ravine like the stupid sub-Steve Irwin-wannabe sod you are.

Definitely not playing live at this man's funeral: The Lemonheads.

Definitely not playing live at this man’s funeral: The Lemonheads.

And for our platinum club members, there’s one more option, provided you live in one of the choice American habitats of the much-rumoured hoop snake; getting a javelin of poisonous snake rectum forcibly jabbed into your chest by a serpentine cartwheeling bastard doing its best impression of a children’s toy.

If you’re unlucky enough to piss off a hoop snake, it’s best to start running. When it’s in the mood to go a’-skewering, the snake abandons the rubbish wiggly bollocks its cousins opt for and instead grasps its own tail in its mouth. Having successfully done that, it somehow defies all physics and common sense and pops itself up into a vertical hoop before rolling after its prey:

The hoop snake, close relative of the Raping Space Hopper.

The hoop snake, presumably a close relative of the equally terrifying Raping Space Hopper.

Once the hoop snake gets close enough it releases itself and springs forward arse-first, spearing its target with a poisonous barb at the end of its tail. Legend has it that the only way to escape certain death once a hoop snake is after you is to hide behind a tree, at which point the serpent will impale itself in the wood and you can go on your merry way. This is, of course, assuming that everyone who ever encounters a hoop snake is as fucking retarded as Charlize Theron’s character in Prometheus.



The hoop snake is still occasionally reported in sightings to this day, particularly in the St Croix river valley. It features in the apocryphal Pecos Bill stories of the Old West, although that guy also apparently lassoed a tornado, so any stories about him you should probably take with a fairly hefty pinch of crystal meth. The tall cowboy tales can be disregarded as the original source of the hoop snake story because the local folklore predates them; on top of that, the creature has been reportedly sighted in Australia and Japan as well, where even the drunkest and most exaggerated saloon bullshit-mongery is unlikely to have spread prior to the invention of the telephone.

The spiritual home of the hoop snake does seem to be in the States, where tales of its specific brand of roly-poly murder are particularly endemic. Fed up with the widespread nature of the stories, naturalist Raymond Ditmars even put $10,000 in trust at a New York bank as a challenge to any and all snake-hunters before his death in 1942. The money was supposed to go to the first person who could provide evidence of the hoop snake’s existence, but as yet nobody’s come forward to claim it. I can only assume that this is because none of the hoop snake’s victims were smart enough to figure out that they could just sidestep the fucking thing.

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#5 – The Dobhar-Chú

Any writer will tell you that the best way to keep your reader’s attention is to build on the drama that hooked them in the first place. So far I’ve given you a wolf-demon that tore peasants limb from limb, a worm that can kill through electricity and a warning from the deep sea that we’re soon all going to be trampled into giblets by an enormous land-stomping kraken. So how do I build on that? By bringing the fear closer to home. So, dear readers, I present to you the murderous dobhar-chú, scourge of Ireland’s waters:



I’ll just give you all a minute to recover your wits.

Naturally, the legend of the dobhar-chú goes a little further than the adorable little bastards we’ve all seen holding hands by some kelp in that picture that made you go awwwwh for so long that you passed out through joy-induced hypoxia. Also known as the king otter or master otter, the dobhar-chú is a damn sight more murderous, which I find inherently hilarious and enough to justify its inclusion in this blog. I doubt that there were many Irish life insurance claims in 1722, but if there were, there’s a chance that one came over the desk that read “cause of death – torn to shreds by a giant fucking otter”. 

I'm not sure I can approve this one.

I’m not sure I can approve this one.

Grace Connolly was a recently-married young Irish woman, having a lovely time being Irish and doing lovely Irish things. She lived by Glenade Lake in County Leitrim with her husband Terence, who was also having a lovely time being Irish and doing lovely Irish things. One day in September 1722, Grace went down to the shore of the lake to either wash clothes or bathe, and promptly did a thing that was neither particularly lovely or Irish – she got torn to bits by a monster that rose up from the depths of the lake.

Terence came across her body later that day and was distinctly pissed off to find the murdering shit-bastard of an otter responsible casually lounging over his wife’s corpse and having a nap. Now in a thoroughly unlovely mood, Terence killed it, but not before its death cries roused a second bigger and angrier dobhar-chú from the lake; the story goes that Terence and his brother fled on horseback for as far as twenty miles with the second screaming monster in hot pursuit.  When they reached the fort at Cashelgarran their horses gave out and collapsed; placing their exhausted mounts across the entrance, the brothers waited in terrified ambush.  When the vengeful dobhar-chú attacked it did so with such force that it burst through the chest of one of the horses Alien-style, at which point Terence did the sensible thing and stabbed it in the heart.

Imagine this, but replace the door with the splayed ribcage of a horse. Then replace Jack Nicholson with a massive otter.

Imagine this, but replace the door with the splayed ribcage of a horse. Then replace Jack Nicholson with a massive fucking otter. I think Kubrick missed a trick.

The king otter is a popular part of Irish folklore, and just about every description outlines an enormous otter-like creature up to ten feet long with the powerful legs of a more hound-like animal. The story of Grace’s death might seem like little more than folklore but it’s given some credibility by the fact that both her and her husband’s tombstones are still very much intact and visible, complete with carvings of the monster that apparently killed her.

"Here lies Grace Connolly. We're serious, an otter did it."

“Here lies Grace Connolly. We’re serious, an otter did it.”

Nor are the sightings confined to County Leitrim or the 18th century. As recently as May 1968 by Sraheens Lough in County Mayo the king otter has been spotted, often running toward or into stretches of water, described with the familiar characteristics of the enormous otter-like body on four powerful legs. Some sightings even claim it to be white with a crucifix of darker fur across its back, which can presumably mean only one thing – Jesus is back, he’s pissed off, and he’s a fucking otter. 

flying otter

We’re fucked.

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