Category Archives: The Cryptid Crossword

The Cryptid Crossword: Edinburgh 2015

Hi everyone! If you’ve been following the blog and you’re up in Edinburgh for the festival, do be an absolute star and come and catch the live version of the show at Bar 50 on Blackfriars Street. I’m going to be there every day at 6pm and hopefully it’ll be amusing:

cryptidcrosswordfront

And if you can’t make that one, I’m also going to be at the Pleasance Courtyard doing my usual standup as part of the AAA showcase at 7.15pm:

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I hope to see some of you there. Much love! x

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The Cryptid Crossword – Live Show

Hi everyone! Apologies that the blog is now on hiatus, but there’s a good reason for that. I’m taking The Cryptid Crossword to Edinburgh this summer, so keep checking the page for updates as to where it’ll be appearing and for preview dates in the UK in the run up to August. If you happen to be so inclined, the first preview is now on sale as part of Dave’s Leicester Comedy Festival on February 6th and tickets can be bought here (make sure to use the 2 for 1 offer to get them for the £4 it should have been priced at in the first place):

The Cryptid Crossword at Dave’s Leicester Comedy Festival

I’ll hopefully see some of you there, and please keep checking the page for updates on where the show will be appearing next!

#30 – The Enfield Horror

I KNOW. I fucking know, alright? I lied to you all and I promised the blog would be back to regular updates, but to be fair I also thought I was getting married and living happily ever after a few months ago and instead we broke up and life went to hot shit on a toasted teacake for a bit. These are the burdens we unfortunately all have to bear – you have to deal with the unimaginable stress of getting yet another update late, and on my selfish end all I’ve endured is the melancholy sensation that my entire life is gurgling in excrement as it swirls around the toilet, feebly flapping its atrophied arms like a harpooned otter.

Like Britney Spears however, I have emerged anew from my chrysalis of whimpering and have now restored some happiness and equilibrium to my life, so fingers crossed I’ll be better to you. No promises about punctuality or consistency though, because promises are clearly nothing more than lies with earnest ambitions that tend to fall apart like ash in your hands before flying away on the winds of grief. LOL!

YOU'VE GOT TO LAUGH!

I’ve also cracked the ‘selfie’ in the last few months.

But enough about me – let’s talk about you, baby. And by ‘you’, I mean The Enfield Horror, a cryptid that boils George Orwell’s deceased piss by bumbling about somewhere in the middle of his “four legs good, two legs bad” theory:

Humpty Dumpty is gonna fuck you up, son.

Humpty Dumpty is gonna fuck you up, son.

The Horror came to the small town of Enfield, Illinois in 1973. The first encounter took place on April 25th when a young boy named Greg Garrett was attacked in his back yard by a monster the likes of which nobody not off their fucking box on acid had ever seen. He described it as grey and slimy with enormous red eyes, but the strangest part of the story was the creature’s three foot-like appendages with which it apparently kicked and stamped at Garrett’s legs, tearing his tennis shoes to shreds. Three generally isn’t the optimum number of legs for any recognised member of the global bestiary, meaning the poor kid essentially got fucked up by some kind of spaztacular biological Robin Reliant.

"Two legs bad, four legs good, three legs generally not that fucking useful in a getaway situation."

“Four legs good, two legs bad, three legs generally not that fucking useful in a getaway situation.”

Having had its fill of shoe leather and children’s tears, The Horror didn’t hang about for long and less than an hour later was harassing Garret’s neighbours, the McDaniel family. Henry McDaniel and his wife returned home around 9.30 at night to find their two children in hysterics, raving about some ‘thing’ trying to get into the house through the air conditioning unit. Then the entire family collectively browned their trousers when something started scratching at the front door – the children because they thought it was a monster, and Henry and his wife presumably because every knock on the door could be social services when you’re the sort of evil shitwizards who abandon your prone-to-hysterics children until 9.30 at night.

Henry assumed they were probably dealing with some sort of stray animal and opened the door, a decision he’d quickly come to regret:

“It had three legs on it, a short body, two little short arms coming out of its breast area and two pink eyes as big as flashlights. It stood four and a half feet tall and was grayish-coloured… it was trying to get into the house!”

Of course, this being America, Henry had a neighbourly welcome in the form of a giant fucking gun and promptly ran off to fetch it once he’d slammed the door in the creature’s face. Reopening the door he fired four times, and was convinced he’d hit the thing – unfazed however, the monster just ‘hissed like a wildcat’ and bounded away, covering 50 feet in three enormous leaps.

IT STILL ISN'T A REAL SPORT, JONATHAN.

IT STILL ISN’T A REAL SPORT JONATHAN.

As is generally the case with these things, the original story sparked a slew of sightings over the following weeks and people eager to glimpse the creature descended in droves on the railroad tracks that seemed to form the hub of the Horror activity. A group of five young men hunting for the beast reported seeing one that fitted McDaniel’s description, and local radio news director Rick Rainbow (give the man an Anchorman spin-off on the strength of the name alone) even managed to record the Horror’s banshee-like scream when he encountered it near an abandoned house. Several times the creature was apparently fired upon, and several times it repeated its trick of kangaroo-bounding the hell out of dodge.

Illinois state troopers called to the McDaniel home after the first encounter discovered long gouges in the siding of the house and dog-like prints in the yard, each of which had six toe pads and featured a third, slightly smaller foot. There’s nothing but speculation to go on with regard to what, if anything, The Horror truly was, and the strange events in Illinois even left professional monster-hunter and all round bearded hero of mine Loren Coleman fairly lost for words:

“I traveled to Enfield, interviewed the witnesses, looked at the siding of the house the Enfield Monster had damaged, heard some strange screeching banshee-like sounds and walked away bewildered.”

Pictured here feeling up a Bigfoot, because reasons.

Pictured here feeling up a Bigfoot while looking like General Zod’s dad, because why the hell not?

Some have linked The Horror’s bizarre appearance to a series of UFO sightings in the area at the time, while others argue it could’ve been a genetic mutation or a simple case of a three-legged stray coupled with public hysteria. A stray what I have no idea, but rest assured if I worked at Battersea Dog’s Home and this gnarled bag of cocks came in, it’d go straight in a sack with some rocks and headfirst into the Thames:

ENFIELD

“Come on Fido, we’re off for a little Tom Daley.”

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#29 – Popobawa

It’s not unusual for cryptozoology to cross over with all sorts of other paranormal pursuits, some far more ridiculous and unbelievable. While there are plenty of proper zoologists who take the search for undiscovered animals very seriously indeed, and rightly so, it’s a field often discredited by paranormal enthusiasts muddying the waters with hoax or poorly researched supernatural ‘evidence’ that bears little relation to scientific pursuit. Unfortunately, as I’m writing a comedy blog and not a research paper, it’s pretty much inevitable that I will be one of those bastards every now and then, because some stories are just too bizarre and hilarious to not include here. I give you exhibit A – the Popobawa, a shape-shifting entity from Tanzania:

Be grateful you can't see the bottom half of this picture.

Just be grateful you can’t see the bottom half of this picture.

So far, so standard right? It’s just another flying monster-bat, right? I’ll just lock the windows and doors, ignore that funny smell and the scraping on the roof and tuck myself up in bed and everything will be fine, right? WRONG, pal. Unless of course your idea of ‘fine’ involves a glass of Chardonnay and a distinctly unpleasant evening spent figuring out the most comfortable way to accommodate an oversized demonic penis in your Bovril-chute.

The Popobawa is a shetani (a Swahili word for ‘evil spirit’), and the name translates literally to ‘bat-wing’. This doesn’t necessarily relate to the actual form of the creature, which can apparently shift and often presents itself as human, but to the shape of the dark shadow it casts when it goes romancing unsuspecting victims at night. By the way, you should take it as a given that for this entry I’m using the John Leslie edition of the Oxford Dictionary, where ‘romancing’ equates to ‘forcibly sodomising’.

ALLEGEDLY. Jesus Christ.

ALLEGEDLY. Jesus Christ.

In terms of legendary creatures, the Popobawa is a curiously recent phenomenon and only dates back around forty years or so. It first emerged on the island of Pemba following its political revolution, and periods of mass panic caused by apparent attacks have come and gone with the election cycle in Zanzibar ever since (presumably because efforts to encourage voter apathy in that part of the world go a little further than Russell Brand belching a thesaurus of ideals into Jeremy Paxman’s rage-contorted scrotum of a face). Sightings have been reported in the daytime but ol’ Pops generally attacks homesteads at night, often going through all the sleeping members of a family one by one before moving on to the next. Said attacks vary in severity from poltergeist-like activity right up to forceful bum-raping if you’re unfortunate enough to be the adult male in the house.

As a general rule of thumb, anal rapists of any sexual persuasion tend to be less than savoury people, but in a truly dick move the Popobawa is said to become enraged and intensify its attacks if its existence is denied. Meaning that the best thing you can do if you find yourself a victim is tell all your friends about it, making the Popobawa a sort of demonic curse that you have to pass on. Which is basically The Ring, ironically the one bodily muscle you won’t have following an attack.

WHERE ARE THE POPPERS WHEN I NEED THEM?

WHERE ARE THE POPPERS WHEN I NEED THEM?

Although obviously not likely to have any biological basis in reality, the Popobawa still has very real and definite effects on the human psyche in Tanzania. Reports of the shetani’s activities periodically spark mass panics that have spread from Pemba throughout the Zanzibar archipelago on to urban centres on the East African coast. During such panics whole families sleep outside around large fires, thought to be the best protection against the monster, as well as placing charms at the bases of fig trees and making animal sacrifices in an attempt to preserve the integrity of their fudge-tunnels. Because nothing says “please don’t bum me!” better than a dead goat.

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#28 – Mothman

First of all, I apologise for the impromptu month-long hiatus I’ve just taken from the blog. My grand intentions of knocking out an update every Monday have dwindled like a fading erection, due in part to my own work schedule and also because my laptop has been so entirely unreliable recently that every time I’ve turned it on I’ve come close to a Hulk-like rage and nearly smashed the fucking thing into dust. Thankfully I’ve now managed to strip it of all the malware crap that was hoofing so much metaphorical sand into my vagina and with any luck, I can rinse myself out and reasonably normal service can resume. Although it would be obvious nonsense of me to say I can definitely stick to a new blog every Monday, as I’m evidently as reliable as a British Gas engineer (who, coincidentally, have recently been attempting to fit an entire rockery in my vagina), I promise I’ll at least try to get a blog out at some point every week, but they might not be as regular as they once were. If you’re desperate to get them as soon as I put them up there’s a Follow button somewhere on the page, why don’t you shitting well click that? Now CAN WE PLEASE JUST GET ON WITH OUR LIVES?

His weakness - giant lightbulbs.

QUICK, SOMEONE GET A GIANT FUCKING CAN OF RAID.

One of the more famous cryptids thanks to the 2002 movie The Mothman Prophecies, the strange occurrences and historical sightings that spawned the Mothman legend began in the Point Pleasant area of West Virginia in the mid-1960s. Motorists reported encountering a seven-foot figure on the roads with enormous wings that would take to the air as they approached. A woman living near the Ohio River reported that her son claimed to have seen an angel when out playing. Another witness claimed to have encountered a giant butterfly. And because apparently digging a grave isn’t a creepy enough exercise in itself, the Mothman also decided to be a total dick and terrify five men working in a cemetery near Clenendin by swooping down from the trees and flying close overhead, before presumably heading off to either defecate on a child’s birthday cake or take a hot piss on the roof of a bus full of nuns.

As is often the case with cryptid sightings, the Mothman is also tied up with all sorts of reports of bizarre supernatural activity and UFO sightings. Over the year or so that the creature was most active radios and television sets cut out or behaved bizarrely, strange lights were seen in the sky and dogs went missing. The seven-foot monster with the glowing red eyes set in its neck was seen most often in an area of West Point known as the “TNT Area”, because hey, if you’re a supernatural demon-bastard, you may as well live somewhere entirely sinister for good measure:

And on his eleventy-first birthday, he grew wings and started acting like a proper wanker.

And on his eleventy-first birthday, he grew wings and became a horrifying omen of death and despair. With hairy feet.

A large tract of land adjacent to a 3,500 acre wildlife park covered in forests and steep hills, the TNT area is littered with concrete igloos used to store ammunition in World War 2 and honeycombed with the sort of subterranean tunnels you’d have to be a suicidal fruitcake to want to go exploring in. In short, it’s a horror-story orgasm, and the perfect place for a monster to make its home.

The Mothman apparently wasn’t content with simply nesting down or making a nuisance of itself, however, and the legend became forever linked with the tragic collapse of the nearby Silver Bridge in November 1967. 31 cars plunged into the icy waters of the river that day and 46 people lost their lives.

Whoops.

And you thought you had it bad because moths ate your cardigan.

Sightings of the creature faded pretty abruptly following the tragedy, leading to speculation that the Mothman was either directly responsible (presumably as preemptive revenge for the invention of the bug-zapper) or simply an omen of death warning of the collapse. On the other side of the argument there are plenty of sceptical explanations for the creature, ranging from a hoax by construction workers who attached red lights to helium balloons at the height of the panic, or a disoriented sandhill crane, a bird which has characteristic red patches around its eyes and an enormous six-foot wingspan:

"Come at me bro!"

“Come at me bro!”

Whatever the explanation, the Mothman is now a tourist attraction, complete with its own park, statue and annual festival featuring hayride tours of the TNT area. And of course the aforementioned movie, which went all-out in order to secure a major Hollywood star. And then failed and hired Richard Gere instead.

This poor little guy is about to honeycomb some subterranean tunnels of his own.

This poor little guy is about to honeycomb some subterranean tunnels of his own.

#27 – Megalodon

SHARKS. Sharks are fucking boss and anyone who’s seen Jaws knows it. They’re the death machines of the sea, tearing into everything and anything, refusing to stop moving because not moving around killing the shit out of things causes a shark to instantly drop dead with a terminal case of being a pussy. If they were people they’d have mullets and wear leather and would punch the femur straight out of a cop’s leg just because they felt like it and goddamn it, they’re motherfucking sharks and sharks can do whatever they want and they’ll kill you if you say otherwise. I read that in a book and it’s a fact and if you don’t agree with facts then you’re Sarah Palin and an idiot.

800px-Carcharodon_carcharias

Coincidentally, this is also what Dick Cheney’s sperm looks like under a microscope.

Thanks to a combination of its sheer size, the movie Jaws and over a hundred recorded unprovoked attacks on humans, the Great White is undoubtedly the most recognisable and feared fish currently living in the world’s oceans. Personally, given the fact that humans kill on average anything from 25 to 100 million sharks every year, I consider us to be the significantly bigger dicks. Seriously significantly. Just for the sake of this comparison, humans are Terry Crews and sharks are Mary Berry. Do you get what I’m saying? I imagine Terry Crews has a cock like an overweight daschund in a Christmas stocking, and Mary Berry is a sweet old lady who bakes cakes and has a vagina. That’s how much sharks are getting screwed in this comparison. No surfer deserves to get eaten, but Toothy McMurderson pictured above could chow through forty babies a day and still add very little weight to the sharky end of the karmic scale. If you don’t believe me, just look at the pictorial evidence I’ve just fabricated to enhance my tortured metaphor.

Mary Berry, pictured here choking on defeat and daschund hair.

On the left is Terry Crews. On the right is Mary Berry, pictured here choking on defeat and daschund hair.

To balance things out, what the sharks really need is a secret weapon – a shark so unbelievably badass that it could eat a whole beach full of fat, sunburnt assholes for every poor shark lifted out of the sea and finned for soup. Such a shark definitely existed at one point, and some eager cryptozoologists are convinced it could still exist today. A close relative of the Great White, Megalodon Carcharias is the largest shark to have ever lived, having reached a conservative estimate of around 15 metres in length and a speculated maximum of 20:

We're going to need a bigger FUCKING ISLAND TO FUCKING LIVE ON AND NEVER LEAVE, EVER.

We’re going to need a bigger ISLAND TO FUCKING LIVE ON AND NEVER LEAVE, EVER.

The grey and red sharks pictured above are the larger and smaller size estimates for Megalodon. The purple one is a whale shark (note the word ‘whale’ in there, for connoisseurs of words used to describe fucking big things) and the harmless little green fella is the modern Great White. The little waving guy is, presumably, a midmorning snack.

Like just about every other cryptid, the ‘evidence’ for the ongoing existence of massive unknown sharks doesn’t amount to much more than anecdotal witness testimony. Just about every sane scientist going is convinced that Megalodon is a murderous nightmare confined to our planet’s ancient history, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t other large sharks out there still waiting to be discovered, sometimes entirely by accident. The filter-feeding megamouth shark was a completely unknown quantity until it was first snagged in a net in 1976, and to this day there have only been 55 confirmed specimens or sightings of it.

Very few people realise that after Rainbow, Zippy ended up skinned for his fur and preserved in formaldehyde.

Very few people realise that after Rainbow, Zippy ended up skinned for his fur and preserved in formaldehyde.

Perhaps the most famous ‘mystery shark’ sighting occurred in 1918 in the waters off Broughton Island, Australia. Ichthyologist David Stead interviewed a group of fishermen following their reported encounter with a massive shark that tore through their crayfishing setup, making off with “pots, mooring lines and all”. Even accounting for some seriously overexcited exaggeration, the shark was vast – one fisherman claimed it was longer than the wharf on which the men stood as they told their story, which was a significantly more than titchy 115 feet long. Furthermore, the beast was a uniform ghostly white, and had ‘boiled’ the water it thrashed through. Stead believed the men to be earnest in their descriptions, and his confidence in them was bolstered by the fact that they refused to return to the sea for days afterwards.

It’s very likely there are still a fair few large marine animals still waiting to be discovered, but for whatever reason, Megalodon is the monster most fervently hoped for by cryptozoologists and shark nutters. It’s featured in countless books and at least one mind-shittingly awful movie, Megashark Vs Giant Octopus, in which it leaps thousands of feet out of the sea in order to bite a fucking passenger jet out of the sky:

Image blurred to protect the identities of the special ed children who wrote the script for this movie.

Image blurred to protect the identities of the special ed children who wrote the script for this movie.

As an often-repeated example of evidence for Megalodon‘s continued existence, there’s controversy over some of the fossil evidence for the shark. Being fish with skeletons made of cartilage, pretty much the only part of a shark’s anatomy sturdy enough to survive the fossilisation process are the teeth. Generally believed to have died out in the Pleistocene around 1.5 million years ago, sceptics have argued that mineral deposits on some Megalodon teeth aren’t consistent with that timeframe, and seem to put them at a much more bed-wettingly recent 10,000 years old. So if you’re the kind of idiot stupid enough to take his scientific cues from terrible movies on the Syfy channel, I suggest you don’t board a Boeing 747 anytime soon.

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#26 – The Lizard Man of Scape Ore Swamp

Every fucker and his dog (particularly his dog actually, given the creature’s apparent tendency to kill them all the time) has heard of Bigfoot in one form or another. Giant man-monsters from the woods are our own bestial natures given physical form – they’re a projection of the human psyche at its most primal, which is why Bigfoot has taken his giant fuzzy hand, captured the public imagination by the balls and refused to let go. We love the idea of some massive evolutionary offshoot primate rampaging around the dark and unfamiliar woods that surround us. But what if the seven-foot monster that lurks in the wild isn’t related to us at all, but has instead evolved from a totally different family tree? That would certainly seem to be the case for the monster from South Carolina’s Scape Ore Swamp, as it sure as sugared shit isn’t a typical Bigfoot:

You want to get some Sudocrem on that.

You want to get some Sudocrem on that.

I mean, just look at that magnificent bastard. The Lizard Man is almost certainly complete and utter bollocks, but that’s part of the joy of cryptozoology – pretty much every animal I’ve looked at is almost entirely hypothetical, and since I’m a comic and not a scientist, I don’t have to make sensible decisions about which ones are the best career choices to write about. I don’t make a living as a zoologist lecturing on the behavioural adaptations of migratory birds – I make one artlessly belming rude jokes into the confused faces of tipsy people. As such, I can talk about this sexy manguana as much as I like, and noone gets to call me a wank-frothed nutjob and revoke my tenure at the university. In your face, academia.

The Lizard Man is said to have first reared his scaly head on June 29th, 1988. 17-year old Christopher Davis had just finished replacing a blown tyre on his car not far outside the village of Bishopville in Lee County. As he was putting the jack back in the boot, he heard a series of thumping noises behind him. As it was 2am and Chris was a kid very much alone in the unwiped arsehole of absolute nowhere, he was brave to turn around in the first place – when he did, he saw something massive sprinting towards him on two legs in a nearby field. It was very much time to make like a banana and shit your pants in terror:

“It was about 25 yards away and I saw red eyes glowing. I ran into the car and as I locked it, the thing grabbed the door handle. I could see him from the neck down – the three big fingers, long black nails and green rough skin. It was strong and angry. I looked in my mirror and saw a blur of green running. I could see his toes and then he jumped on the roof of my car. I thought I heard a grunt and then I could see his fingers through the front windshield, where they curled around on the roof. I sped up and swerved to shake the creature off.”

Probably not the best picture if we're aiming for the "believable intellectual" look.

Probably not the best picture if we’re aiming for the “believable intellectual” look.

Chris managed to pull a Marlon King and bounce the Lizard Man off the roof of his car without injury, but his vehicle wasn’t so lucky. The roof bore a series of long scratches and the wing mirror the monster had first grabbed at was severely twisted. The teenager was apparently shaken up enough to be taken seriously, and pretty soon he wasn’t the only one reporting strange encounters around the Bishopville area. Over the summer of 1988 damage to several cars parked in the vicinity was reported, often with bite marks and long gouges in the bodywork. Two other men claimed to have been chased away from the shore of the swamp by the same seven-foot lizard, and in July a series of large three-toed prints were found in the surrounding marshland. They were considered unclassifiable as any known animal but were never sent to the FBI for analysis and were generally considered to be the work of hoaxers.

Backwater America is probably terrifying enough – we’ve all seen Deliverance – but what’s more surprising than moonshine stills and the occasional unwarranted banjo-accompanied hillbilly bumming is that the Scape Ore Lizard Man isn’t even unique. The more famous Honey Island Swamp Monster, often described as more traditionally Bigfoot-like, is sometimes said to leave the same distinct three-toed tracks as its scaly contemporary. On top of that, Thetis Lake in British Columbia also has its own komando dragon (BOOM! Lizard pun #2):

Which is apparently also a Doctor Who villain from the seventies.

Which is apparently also a Doctor Who villain from the seventies.

The initial hysteria over the Scape Ore monster lasted over the summer of 1988 but eventually fizzled out. In August Kenneth Orr, an airman stationed at the nearby Shaw Air Force base, claimed to have shot at and wounded the creature. Worrying that some boozed-up idiot had done a Dick Cheney and shot an innocent hunter in the face, the police soon figured out that he had no right to be carrying a gun in the first place and called him up on it. In spectacular backpedalling fashion he rather hastily panicked like a moron and admitted he’d made the whole thing up. These days the Scape Ore monster is used as a merchandising gimmick in the Lee County area and is confined to the still-occasional report of something big and weird chewing on cars.

CHAMANLEON. That’s it, I’m out, you’re welcome.

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#25 – Mystery Bears

MUSEUMS! Museums are fucking great, particularly if they’re full of dead stuff in boxes. That’s just a fact, and if you don’t agree, you’re probably a big stupid thickie who fills his big stupid life with open-mouthed gawping at page 3 while beating his chest with his big stupid gammon-hands. You ought to be ashamed of yourself but you’re probably too stupid to read this blog anyway. Go away, you big thick idiot.

NERD BONER ALERT.

NERD BONER ALERT.

Lots of museums have dead stuff in boxes, because behind closed doors they do all sorts of museumy things like research and… science. I’m pretty sure they do lots of science, and if they have a natural history angle, they go looking in to the details of all the weird shit that’s lived and is living on this shiny blue marble of ours. Quite often such collections are amassed over decades, and the amount of stuff on display often pales into insignificance when compared to the mountain of crap that’s packed away in crates behind closed doors, accumulating dust and waiting to be catalogued. When museums have lots of dead things on display, this mountain often includes countless pelts and bones and samples from all over the world. It’s a certain bet that there are dead specimens of anything from dozens to hundreds of unrecognised species just sitting in storage around the globe, and all it takes is the right person looking in the right place to find one:

Satan weasel is watching you.

Satan weasel is watching you.

Meet the olinguito, a charming little bastard that’s just become the first new carnivore from the Western hemisphere to be recognised by science for 35 years. It’s taken ten years to properly identify it as a new species and we wouldn’t have known to look for it at all, had the bits of one not first been found in a box in the storage area of a Chicago museum.

Naturally though, tiny little tree raccoons aren’t quite on the scale of some of the thundering fuck-titans that cryptozoologists cross their fingers and hope to exist every night when they’re knelt by their beds and praying to Bigfoot. We hope for something a bit grander tucked away in our museum broom cupboards and may well have received it years ago in the shape of Macfarlane’s Bear:

Not that Macfarlane's bear, you fucking idiot.

Not that Macfarlane’s Bear, you fucking idiot.

The story dates all the way back to 1864 in Canada’s Northwest Territories, when two Inuit hunters shot and killed an abnormally huge yellow-furred bear. Its skull and skin were obtained by the naturalist Robert Macfarlane, who promptly shipped them off to the Smithsonian Institution. Who then forgot all about it, leaving it in storage for decades. Nice one, science.

Dr C. Hart Merriam stumbled upon the remains in the early part of the following century and was surprised to note that to him at least, the skull and teeth more closely resembled a prehistoric species than any living species of bear. He named it Ursus Inopinatus, the “unexpected bear”, which makes it sound more like an awkward extra dinner guest than a ten-foot death machine that could cleave your face clean off.

Theories about Macfarlane’s Bear suggest several cool ideas, including a mutant grizzly, a grizzly/polar bear hybrid and some sort of surviving satan-teddy that should’ve gone extinct in the Pleistocene era. Grizzlies and polar bears have produced hybrids in captivity (these are often called pizzly bears – I assume behind their backs) and one wild specimen was shot and killed by a hunter on Banks Island in 2006.

As yet, nobody has properly compared the Macfarlane skull with one of a known hybrid, and the exact origin of the giant yellow bear is still far from certain. Tales of enormous piss-coloured bears are still occasionally reported by Inuits in the region, but the one specimen is so far all we’ve got, and it remains an unproven cryptid.

On the other side of the Pacific but equally far north, another mystery bear is said to dwell on the Kamchatka Peninsula, best described as that tagnutty bit stubbornly hanging on to the anal hair of mainland Russia:

"Sergei! We must install bidet!"

“Sergei! We must install bidet!”

The ‘God Bear’ has featured in Russian folk stories for centuries, but it wasn’t until 1920 that some possible evidence of its actual existence came to light. In that year, Swedish zoologist Sten Bergman examined the skin of a giant black-furred variety of the indigenous Kamchatkan brown bear. As a clever little herdie-gerder who’d been studying the peninsula’s wildlife for the best part of two years he knew what the local bears were supposed to look like, and he described the pelt as “far surpassing” in size any bearskin he’d ever seen before. On top of that, the black pelt was shorthaired, while typical Kamchatkan bears have long coats. Writing in a paper in 1936 he also described an enormous pawprint nearly fifteen inches by ten feet across and a report of an equally shit-the-bed massive skull. No specimens or evidence have been collected since that 1936 paper, leading to speculation that the unknown giant may now be extinct.

Of course, this being secretive Russia, large parts of the peninsula have long been off limits for military reasons, and anecdotal accounts of enormous black bear sightings are still said to be reported. Quite why the military need to cordon off a secret titan-bear playground I’ve no idea – being Russia, they’re probably training them to dance on the embers of burning homosexuals or something equally terrifying.

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#24 – The Kappa

As a general rule of thumb, if you are a small child frolicking in the local waterways without adult supervision, there’s a good chance that you’re going to die. Rivers, reservoirs and lakes have all kinds of hidden snags and currents and hypothermia-inducing temperatures that make them thoroughly unsafe places to dick about in, and every year all over the world they claim the lives of hundreds of unprepared swimmers that either weren’t old or smart enough to take those risks into account.

Not the most hilarious start to a humorous blog, I’ll admit. Tell you what – let’s lighten it up a bit with some proper comedy:

Actually, this is far worse than any number of dead kids.

Actually, this picture is far worse than any number of dead kids.

The reason I bring it up (the dead kids, I mean, not Rob Schneider’s nipple – I have no excuse for that) is that when it comes to monsters and cryptids, often the psychology behind the folklore is just as interesting as the potential existence of some weird new animal. It’s a common theory that a lot of the lake monsters and water imps from local legends all over the world are actually a psychological hangover from hundreds of years of concerned parents trying to get their dickhat kids to stop jumping into dangerous rivers. Stories of murk-lurking beasties grabbing at ankles from the riverbed form a sort of ‘don’t do that, you daft cunt’ warning from the days before those rubbish ‘no bombing’ signs by the side of the pool. Back in the halcyon years when children’s entertainment involved going outside rather than sitting on their pimply arses and trying to invent new racial slurs for Mexicans on Xbox Live, the best way to get your little bastards to behave themselves was to scare the living shit out of them – the Kappa is the Japanese method, a much-reported water monster the tales of which have been terrifying children out of the streams and ponds in that part of the world for centuries.

Pokemon were a lot weirder in the 17th century.

Pokemon were a lot weirder in the 17th century.

The Kappa is a truly intrinsic part of the Japanese national identity, and even has its own idiom; “a kappa drowning in a river” is often used as a way of suggesting that even experts make mistakes. They’ve been blamed for all sorts of horrible crap over the years, from the drowning of children through to rape and the eating of livers and – I shit you not – the killing of victims in order to steal their shirikodama, a mythical ball that contains a person’s soul. A mythical ball that contains a person’s soul that is apparently located in your anus.

Or at least, that's what his Craigslist advert claimed.

Or at least, that’s what his Craigslist advert claimed.

At the less sinister end, they’re also said to peek up kimonos and fart loudly whenever people pass, just because hey – if you’re going to be an anus-rummaging turtle rapist, you’ve got to know how to have a good time. They’re seen as trickster spirits, and to this day a lot of Japan’s open stretches of water are signposted with warnings of potential Kappa attack rather than the sane option of “YOU MIGHT FUCKING DROWN HERE” that the rest of the world has opted for.

Obviously, should the Kappa turn out to be a real animal, you can pretty much guarantee that they don’t really fart intentionally, rape women, or speak Japanese like the mythology suggests. It’s even claimed that they’re experts in medicine, and that friendly Kappa taught the early Japanese the art of setting broken bones – presumably as an apology for all the pelvises they shattered in their frantic search for magical arse-balls.

Of course, it’s been the case for pretty much all of humanity’s time on Earth that we’ve applied bullshit magical powers to a lot of the animals we’ve encountered. Gods and monsters often have a factual basis in the animal kingdom, and the Kappa could be no different. They’re said to swim like fish but have distinct arms and legs ending in webbed hands, walking bipedally on land when they venture on to it. They also have a distinct plate on their head and monkey-like faces, sometimes with a beaked mouth and odd manes of hair, and are said to be the size of a small child. In my search for another picture to show you, I found this one, and don’t ask because I haven’t got a fucking clue what’s supposed to be going on here either:

That's one hell of a shirikotama he has there.

That’s one hell of a shirikodama he has there.

I’ve included the Kappa here because they don’t seem to be content with being confined to mythology, and contemporary accounts of real-life encounters with them still happen every now and then. In 1978 two construction workers named Makoto Ito and Toshio Hashimoto were fishing off a stone seawall in Yokosuka when a Kappa popped its head above water and looked around – Ito later described it as “not a fish, an animal or a man. It was about three feet in height and covered in scaly skin like a reptile. It had a face and two yellow eyes that seemed to be focused on us”.

From the sound of it, the two of them were lucky to get away with their tackle intact.

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#23 – Mokele-Mbembe

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – Africa gets all the cool stuff. Well, except maybe all the famine. And the rampant AIDS. And apartheid. And the child soldiers, and the violent civil wars, and the botflies and… still, they have cool monster stories. Swings and roundabouts and all that. I mean sure, my biggest irritant living in England is the fact that none of the idiots that live near me know how to use a communal fucking bin, but I also don’t get awesome cryptids. The best we’ve had in Manchester were the bipedal rats that United Utilities pretended were living in the sewers, in a bizarre attempt to get us to think about maybe not flushing away our tampons:

That was a genuine April Fools from 2011. Because apparently, the best way to get the message across that we should be putting our cotton buds in the bin is the threat of a sentient man-rat that might scamper up the U-bend and bite us on the labia. I don’t know who dreamt up the concept, but I want to shake that bastard’s hand. Anyway, back to Africa and its awesome monsters.

I’ve already written about the Emela-Ntouka, the horny swamp-rhino that guts elephants in the Likouala region of the Congo River basin. As a beastie it’s pretty badass in isolation, but it’s not even the biggest cryptid reported in that area. That honour goes to the Mokele-Mbembe, which translates into ‘one who stops the flow of rivers’:

The Land Before Time 15 was less cutesy, and much more bushmeat-oriented.

The Land Before Time 15 was less cutesy and much more bushmeat-oriented.

Despite how absurd and fantastical they might self-evidently seem to be, stories of surviving dinosaurs have been reported from the jungles of central Africa for hundreds of years. The first printed record of clawed prints in the jungle three feet across dates back to French missionary Abbé Bonaventure’s expedition records from 1776, and the folklore among locals goes even further back than that. A German expedition in the Congo in 1913 reportedly met a band of pygmies that gave Western civilisation its first proper description of the Mokele-Mbembe – a creature the size of a small elephant with a long, flexible neck and a tail like that of an alligator. The pygmies of Likouala to this day are even specific about the creature’s diet, insisting it essentially lives off two particular types of plant. Because hey, when you’ve apparently survived millions of years and the extinction of all your brethren, you’ve earned the right to be a fussy eater.

It’s hard to imagine a bigger and more unbelievable national headline than HOLY SHIT DINOSAURS STILL EXIST, beyond perhaps “Snooki receives string theory research grant”. Rather understandably, the Mokele-Mbembe rumours have spawned dozens of expeditions chasing the story and the resulting dollar, and some of the eyewitness accounts to come out of them are downright awesome-sauce with a side of… erm… wonder-chips?

"YOU WILL WAIT UNTIL I'M DONE WITH THE LOOFAH!"

“YOU WILL WAIT UNTIL I’M DONE WITH THE LOOFAH!”

According to the lore, the Mokele-Mbembe is not content with the inherent badassery of being a living fucking dinosaur. It also apparently hates hippopotamuses hippopotami hippopopopatamuses…. hippos, killing any and all that have the nerve to swagger into its territory. Cryptozoologist Roy Mackal looked into the idea, and found that for no good reason at all, hippos are curiously absent from the Lake Tele and Likuoala regions that spawn the most sauropod sightings. If I saw enough of my friends’ brains smashed in by a giant pissed-off Littlefoot, I imagine I’d want to move on as well.

FEAR US.

Who’s hungry hungry now, bitch?

Mackal also heard a story from Pascal Moteka, a villager who lived near Lake Tele itself. He insisted that at some point in the past his people had dammed a river with wooden stakes to snare one of the beasts, and after they’d killed it with spears had butchered and eaten the carcass. That turned out to be a bad idea, because everyone who’d apparently chowed down on dino-steak died not long afterwards. Perhaps of chronic diarrhoea? Because… wait for it… that’s what I’d call a Bronto-sore-arse.

Oh fuck the lot of you.

Oh, fuck the lot of you.

The Mokele-Mbembe continues to inspire monster hunters to this day, with the most recent failed expedition even being funded through Kickstarter (an infinitely better use for the service than Zach Braff’s latest ego-wank, by the way). Filmed from a small aircraft in 1992, one of the most popular pieces of video ‘evidence’ comes from Lake Tele and seems to show something moving across the surface before submerging:

As always, the video’s hardly conclusive, but its analysis has also yielded conflicting results. A crocodile wouldn’t produce the same protrusions above the water and an elephant wouldn’t submerge the way the object does. Critics have argued that the best visual match is two men paddling a canoe, but that doesn’t account for the speed of the object. As a criticism it also ignores the fact that most indigenous villagers don’t have canoes that also double as submarines. That’d be fucking cool, but I imagine pressurised submersibles are pretty hard to build out of wood and twine. Unless this guy’s behind the whole thing:

IT ALL MAKES SENSE NOW.

IT ALL MAKES SENSE NOW.

Whatever the truth behind the Mokele-Mbembe story, as acclaimed zoologist Karl Shuker notes, ‘if there’s one place in the world where dinosaurs could still exist, it’d be the Likouala region’. Or not, because y’know… it’s fucking dinosaurs we’re talking about. Still, there could easily be something big out there still waiting to be discovered, and the possibilities are pretty awesome.

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