Category Archives: The Cryptid Crossword

#22 – The Jersey Devil

Births! Wonderful, wonderful births. Here in England, we love a good birth. IT’S THE FUTURE KING! Hooray! Awh, look at his disgusting regal placenta. Better yet, put a crown on the fucking thing – it’ll probably dress like a Nazi and say horrible things about Indians less often than the actual royals.

Of course, not all births are overblown pomp-parades that sparkle and twinkle and give saluting Daily Mail readers the kind of throbbing pride-enthused stonk-on that an appalled nun couldn’t beat down with a length of rubber hosepipe. Some are horrifying paranormal ordeals where our future demon overlords tear their snarling way into this world through a ragged mess of gore and tissue.

What? I stopped talking about this guy ages ago.

What? I stopped talking about this guy ages ago.

Ahem. I’m talking about a birth that legend states took place in the pine barrens of southern New Jersey sometime around 1735. Mother Leeds was pregnant with her 13th child, and by this point presumably had a vagina you could reverse a transit van into without ever getting the panelling wet. She claimed her child would be born a demon and sure enough, the baby came into the world a horrifying monster. With a horselike head, bat wings, a forked tail and cloven hooves, the Jersey Devil was a snarling freak that promptly killed the midwife and escaped up the chimney of the house. Because demons are dicks that are born with a few more life skills than the rest of us.

Of course, an obscure and self-evidently daft bit of colonial folklore wouldn’t be of much interest to cryptozoologists without some possibility of linking it to some weird animal encounters. Because of the entrenched nature of the Devil myth, New Jersey goes mad for such sightings, and the name ‘Jersey Devil’ has become an umbrella term for any and all unexplainable animal encounters throughout the state. Their National Hockey League team is even named in its honour:

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With a logo that looks like a mermaid spanner with a bent cock, apparently.

The Devil has been reported in the area around the Pine Barrens for centuries, but the most significant demonic kerfuffle happened over five days in January 1909. Over a hundred people across southern New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania reported encountering the creature, which often shrieked horribly as it flew overhead harassing the crap out of people. Dogs were attacked and the local fire department in West Collingswood even tried to spray it out of the sky with their hoses, to no avail. The hysteria was very real and widespread, meaning that if the sightings were a hoax, it was one being perpetrated on a grand scale against a lot of people who ended up genuinely shit-your-kecks frightened as a result. All because of a monster that looked like a goth giraffe on a meth binge:

aaaHoaxes did take place, of course. Two guys even profiteered off the whole debacle by charging people to come and look at the ‘devil’ they’d killed, when in fact they’d stuck fake antlers and a few feathers on a taxidermy kangaroo they’d painted green. Less easy to explain were the strange hoofprints in the snow that often appeared after a sighting. In some cases they went on for miles and seemed to not give a fire-and-brimstone fuck about the laws of physics, carrying on without pause under fences, over high walls and up on to the roofs of houses. The hysteria of 1909 was only made worse by reports that bloodhounds in Hammonton became terrified and refused to follow the trail when they were brought in to track the beast. Devilmania was in full swing, and schools and mills closed as frightened residents sought to avoid any possible encounter with the terrifying sky-llama from hell.

More modern sightings lump all kinds of weird animals under the ‘Devil’ moniker. In a more recent one from 1993, a park ranger named John Irwin claimed to have encountered a six-foot biped with a deerlike head and glowing red eyes in the New Jersey forest. Just a few months ago, a picture claiming to be of the Devil perched on a fence created a buzz on the internet, but turned out to be nothing more than a photo of a bald squirrel that had actually been taken miles away in Oklahoma:

Proof that nature can make anything terrifying with a little bit of alopecia.

Now he gathers nuts and looks like a scrotum.

A more traditional Devil sighting occurred in 2004, when a mother and son gathering in their Christmas lights fled into their house when the Devil started harassing them. The tracks it left on their roof were not only unidentifiable to experts, but were generally agreed to be in a position that would have been nigh-on impossible to fake without leaving other telltale signs in the snow.

Despite all sorts of failed efforts to trap, identify and debunk the Jersey Devil myth, it remains one of the most famous and enduring cryptids in American folklore. Cryptid-hunters Loren Coleman and Ivan T. Sanderson have put forward the theory that the 1909 hysteria was in fact an elaborate real estate hoax, designed to freak the crap out of local residents to the point of selling up on the cheap. Sanderson even claimed to have found the fake feet used to make the tracks in the snow. If the two of them were right, then the Jersey Devil is an urban legend sparked by the antics of a real life Scooby-Doo style evil mastermind. And if there’s one sort of prick in the world evil enough to pull off such a plan, of course it’d be a fucking estate agent.

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#21 – Quackers

There are probably very few jobs in the history of humanity more stressful than that of a Soviet Navy submarine officer at the height of the Cold War. Sure, being a binman’s got to be gross and exhausting, but it beats sitting in a pressurised tin can several hundred feet under sea level with a few dozen other stinky stressed-out Russians, your vodka-soddened finger hovering over the big red button that could potentially make you personally responsible for millions of innocent deaths. That’s a terrifying amount of pressure for anyone, regardless of how much you love Gorbachev and furry hats. Any additional stress must have felt like a needlessly spiteful flick in the balls – a flick in the balls delivered after some other bastard had already grabbed hold and knotted the whole package into a throbbing, fleshy pretzel.

Unfortunately, additional stress did come along, in the form of a probable cryptid actively fucking with these nuclear submarines, as if playing ‘tag!’ with a stressed-out world power capable of annihilating half the world was the most hilarious idea ever.

There's a very good reason why this man has never featured on an episode of Punk'd.

There’s a very good reason why this man has never featured on an episode of Punk’d.

It started with the deployment of ballistic submarines to the northern seas. Crews started reporting strange frog-like sounds picked up on their sonar which they soon started referring to as ‘quackers’, as apparently Russians are rubbish at onomatopoeias. These sounds appeared when the subs passed through certain zones and most worryingly of all, they weren’t stationary. They actively followed the submarines around at terrifying speeds, quacking repeatedly and apparently actively attempting to avoid sonar pulses sent out in response. Not that avoiding the pulses mattered – the Reds never managed to detect anything on their active sonar, making it practically impossible that the noises were being made by other submarines. When a vessel left the apparent patrol zones of these phenomena, they’d emit one final ‘quack’ and give up pursuit.

In summary, these weird noises pretty much followed the submarines for a bit, going “ner ner ner-ner ner!” like bullies with ADD, and when they got bored of the chase they’d put out one final “well, fuck you then” and head off home with all their toys. Whatever these signals were, they were made all the more terrifying by the fact that Doppler shift measurements put some of them at speeds of more than 200 knots. That’s a speed several hundred feet underwater, and to this day no known man-made vessel can match it. It”s a positively Roadrunner-esque level of utter dickery, except you need to replace Wile E Coyote with one of the biggest nuclear superpowers the world has ever seen.

And on top of that, a pigeon's miscarried on his head.

Screw this for a game of stick-your-mother-in-a-gulag.

Toward the end of the 1970s the areas apparently patrolled by the mystery noisemakers had expanded drastically from the Barents Sea right through to the North Sea and the North Atlantic. The Soviets were concerned enough to consider them a legitimate national security risk, and the Soviet Academy of Sciences was invited to form a joint commission with the Navy to investigate the source of the threat. This commission worked for over a decade, disbanding only when the quackers slowly faded and then disappeared entirely in the 1980s, never to be heard again.

Although it’s generally taken as fact that the commission never reached any solid conclusions regarding the origin of the sounds, their reports remain classified to this day. The only hard facts anyone seems to have about the Quackers is that they were definitely heard and something was definitely making them. The three main theories are all quite fun and go like this:

  • The were noises made by unknown Allied technology. It’s true that both sides were doing everything they could to figure out where the other’s sub’s were, but a detection technology that made sound in return just doesn’t seem that tactically sensible. Also, the sheer speed of the damn things would’ve been impossible to create in a craft in the late 1960s when they were first detected – hell, it’s not even possible today.
  • They were extraterrestrial in origin, which is a whole other blog and a whole other set of frothing nutcases.
  • They were made by some unknown form of marine life.

Obviously, I’m going to focus on option 3, ’cause that’s the whole bloody point isn’t it?

The sounds were initially dismissed as Orca mating calls, as they sounded rather similar – however, Orcas generally go bow-chicka-wow-wow near the surface, and no Quacker was ever detected at a depth of less than 200m. The recorded speeds of some of the noises also makes the whale idea seem rather unlikely, unless Reagan figured out a way to strap a rocket engine into Shamu’s anus and point the whole terrifying mess at the enemy.

Just you wait, you little fucker.

Just you wait, you little fucker.

Some form of giant squid has also been suggested as a possible candidate, and they’re certainly intelligent enough to emulate some of the Quacker behaviours. With no rigid skeleton, their physiology is also a possible explanation as to why they were never detected on active sonar. However, no known species of cephalopod possesses noise-making apparatus of any kind, meaning any Quacker squid would have to be a brand new and unusual species. One that apparently likes to shout at angry communists.

However, even the cryptid theory fails to account for the way in which Quackers first appeared, peaked and then vanished entirely. Such a drastic and sudden change in behaviour species-wide is entirely unheard of, meaning the whole mess is one enormous mystery.

But just bear this in mind – it was an enormous mystery that the Soviet Union feared enough to consider it a national security threat. Even at the height of all the Cold War paranoia, that’s a major credibility boost for the possible existence of a right bastard of a cryptid – one that apparently lives underwater and understands human psychology enough to try and trigger a global nuclear war. Ariel, you’re a fucking dick love.

"I can hear the flesh melting off their bones!"

“I can hear the flesh melting off their bones!”

#20 – The Beast of Bladenboro

First of all, I apologise for being a bit erratic with the blog updates over the last couple of weeks – there’s a couple of hundred American readers every time I update, so if I can just explain myself to you, I’m writing this blog in England and for the last ten days or so it’s been hot, clear skies and sunny outside. This hasn’t happened here since about 1834, and I’ve been making the most of it. I apologise for my tardiness in updating, but not for spelling ‘apologise’ with an S. That’s just the way it’s supposed to be, you pricks.

Oh, and if you’re the guy in Indonesia who found the blog by googling “Scott and Virgil Thunderbirds Fucking”, I don’t apologise to you either. You need to have a cold bath and calm down and think about what the holy hell your mother would make of what you’re doing with your life.

With that bit of horrifying admin out of the way, let’s get back to the good stuff.

bladenboro

Bladenboro, North Carolina is the sort of sleepy little American town that could give Steven King an erection capable of cracking granite. It has a water tower, an old cotton gin and a small population of around 2000, all of whom I assume are pleasant folk who chew wheat and wear diesel-stained overalls as they go around their wholesome cinnamon-and-apple-pie lives. It’s the perfect setting for one of King’s typical middle-America romps with the paranormal – or at least it would be, if real life hadn’t already beaten him to the punch.

The winter of 1953-1954 saw a very unwelcome visitor come to Bladenboro. It started a few miles away from the town on December 29, 1953, when eyewitnesses saw a creature that was ‘sleek, black and about five feet long’ killing a local dog. The canine murders soon spread into the town itself, with Johnny Vause losing two of his pets on December 31st to an attack that left them ‘crushed and torn to ribbons’, with the top of one dog’s head torn clean off.

Each night for several consecutive nights, one or two more local animals would die in horribly violent attacks. On January 1st, Woodie Storm lost two dogs, and was presumably comforted in his grief by his brothers Boner Tornado and Lob-On Typhoon. The next night on January 2nd the much more sanely named farmer Gary Callaghan also lost one of his barking chums. On the 3rd, two more were killed, and this time local police chief Roy Fores wanted to know what the living piss was going on and decided to have one of the carcasses autopsied. The autopsy found the dog almost entirely drained of blood, with the bottom lip broken open and the jawbone smashed back. On top of that, of all the bodies found so far, one had an ear gnawed off and two were missing their tongues. Rabbits, goats and even cows soon added to the list of mangled animals, often found with heads ‘as flat as a fritter’, which is a genuine quote from a man nicknamed ‘Tater’ whose sobriety I’m sure is entirely beyond question.

I'd get that insurance policy updated if I were you.

I’d get that insurance policy updated if I were you.

It wasn’t long before witnesses came forward claiming to have seen the beast. It was described as generally catlike, but often bushy haired with some bear-like qualities and weighing anything up to 150 pounds. Some claimed to have seen it with one of its young following it around, while others noticed catlike tracks with distinct inch-long claws. On January 5th, Chief Fores himself and others saw the creature attack a dog from 100 feet away; later that afternoon, a local woman named C. E. Kinlaw claimed to have frightened away ‘a big mountain lion’ by screaming after she went out to investigate her own whimpering pets. Her quote after the encounter is a superb slice of hyperbole:

“After we first saw it, and my husband [scared it away], it circled back and came running toward the porch where I was standing. I screamed and it stopped on all fours, turned and ran off. […] You know, the Bible speaks of sights and wonders before the end of time. This could be one of them. The Bible’s coming true, day by day.”

I’ve looked, but thus far I’ve been unable to find the passage in the Bible that claims the Apocalypse starts with a lion chowing down on a few redneck labradoodles. I thought that quote was probably the most darn-tootin’ly Amurrrkan one I’d find when reading about the Beast, and it probably is, but this one from another eyewitness is equally hilarious and all kinds of wrong:

“I got two dogs, Niggy, the little black one, and Peewee, a brown one, that’s bigger. Me and my wife were sitting here in the living room. We heard the dogs get awful restless. My front light was on and Larry Moore […] had his back light on. I glanced out the window and saw this thing. It had me plumb spellbound. It was bout 20 inches high. It had a long tail, about 14 inches. The color of it was dark. It had a face exactly like a cat. Only I ain’t ever seen a cat that big.”

If you missed it, just read that first sentence again.

HIS LITTLE BLACK DOG IS CALLED ‘NIGGY’.

Say what?

Say what?

All of a sudden it seems Bladenboro is a little too small-town America.

Moving on, hysteria over the Beast soon reached fever pitch. It got to the point that anything up to a thousand hunters, trappers and amateurs from as far away as Arizona had descended on the little town to make their name by killing the creature – the panic and the kills themselves ended with the death of a large bobcat at the hands of a steel trap and a bullet to the head.

Sceptics argue that the bobcat simply wasn’t big enough to take down some of the larger animals killed, particularly in the gruesomely powerful way it apparently did. The mountain lion theory also seems outlandish, given that cougars aren’t indigenous to anywhere near the area. Oh, and one dead bobcat doesn’t explain the fact that the Beast apparently resurfaced briefly in 2007, and again started mangling heads faster than some bad acid at an Aphex Twin gig.

beastbladenboro

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#19 – The Queensland Tiger

Mystery cats often create more buzz than other cryptid sightings, because everyone loves cats. Cats that want burgers, ceiling cats, basement cats, box cats, nyan cats, cats that cat, cats cat cats – the fucking Internet can take any picture of a cat and make it so ball-twistingly omnipresent that you can barely search for porn these days without stumbling upon a video that you have no interest in seeing of some cooing Japanese bellend trying to coax his cat into a shoebox with a piece of ham. Then some other bellend will take that video, cut it with another video of another cat playing the ukelele, dub some obscene electronica music over the top of it and impose the words CAN HAZ HAM UKELELELE over every other frame and for no other reason than they hate you, every awful and tedious bore that you’ve ever worked in an office with will send it to you via every medium ever invented with the subject line “LOL CATS!” until you are so fucking surrounded by cats that you choke to death on all the airborne hair and are eaten by cats. This, the Internet has proven, is the evolutionary path that we have chosen for ourselves, and it’s a more terrifying prospect than Skynet.

FUCK YOU.

FUCK YOU.

Owing to hundreds of sightings of creatures like the Beast of Bodmin Moor, mystery cat scares are quite a British phenomenon – no other country in the world has had a police helicopter scrambled over a spaz-panic caused by a giant toy tiger – but local legends about mystery felids aren’t unique to our green and pleasant shores. Australia also has its own furball-hawking cryptid, and it’s a more intriguing prospect than an out-of-place big cat from a recognised species.

The Queensland Tiger has been known to the Aborigines for centuries as an animal the size of a German shepherd with a distinct striped back, prominent teeth in its catlike head and mean claws on its front paws with which it disembowels its victims. Of course, this being Australia, where animals are generally insane Picasso explosions of misplaced body parts (all of which are generally poisonous, pointy, racist or confusing), the Queensland Tiger probably isn’t a tiger at all. Or even a cat. Are you confused yet?

We're going to need a bigger litterbox.

We’re going to need a bigger litterbox.

Just because everything that breeds and lives in Australia is apparently a big fan of dungarees with a front pocket, the tiger is believed to be a still-living descendant of the Thylaceo, marsupial predators that were once the biggest carnivores in Australia. Thylaceo Carnifex was the size of a small lion and was terrifyingly specialised in killing the shit out of things, with the most powerful pound-for-pound bite of any mammal to have ever lived and a tail it could anchor as a tripod to free up the cat-like claws on its front legs. Just because the most powerful bite in mammal history isn’t enough when you could also be shredding stuff with greater haste and ferocity than an executive at Enron in its final days.

Although presumed extinct now, there’s at least one ancient example of Aboriginal cave art depicting a standoff between a Thylaceo and a hunter that would put it in much more modern times than the fossil record suggests. The picture features details like a tufted tail and striped back – details that the artist couldn’t have known from anything other than a real-life encounter with the animal.

A flurry of sightings around the tropical Queensland forests in the 1950s and 60s led to several expeditions being led in search of the elusive beast. No solid evidence has been found to prove its existence. However there’s one possible photo of the animal, taken by a woman named Rilla Martin in 1964. She was driving her car in Ozenkadnook (bless you) when she spotted a strange animal by the side of the road, which she managed to get a snap of just as it turned to move away:

Jesus, iPhones were shit in the sixties.

Jesus, iPhones were shit in the sixties.

Hardly conclusive, but it was enough to cause a bit of a stir at the time. Some have claimed it as a hoax, while others claim it’s more likely to be a Thylacine, more commonly known as the famous Tasmanian tiger – if that were the case, it’d be just as important a crytozoological find, as the last Thylacine is supposed to have died in a zoo in 1936.

What do you mean 'their natural habitat isn't a fucking stable?'

What do you mean ‘their natural habitat isn’t a fucking stable?’ They’ll be fine.

In summary – well done Australia. As if you didn’t have enough terrifying animals in the first place.

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#18 – The Lusca

If we sat down to think about the typical places we’d expect to encounter enormous monsters, most of us would probably picture a hellscape like a steaming, isolated jungle. Or a desert wasteland. Or the blood-covered set of Funhouse with the dessicated corpses of the twins swinging from ropes in the breeze. The point I’m making is that very few of us would blurt out a tropical island paradise like the Caribbean, but that’s exactly where you should expect to encounter the Lusca.

THE HORROR. And mojitos, presumably.

THE HORROR. And mojitos, presumably.

Of course, the most terrifying irritant you can expect to encounter on land in the Caribbean is not a cryptid, but some retard in a floral shirt named Tag who drinks rum out of a coconut and insists on calling you ‘brau’ when he pesters you to go surfing with him. And should you be unfortunate enough to encounter such a man you’ll be more than entitled to hope that the Lusca would just drag him off to the abyss, but unfortunately that hasn’t happened since the 15th century.

The man who would later write Columbus’ biography, Pietro Martire d’Anghiera, described in a book in 1500 the time a few years prior that a ‘monster’ rose from the Bahaman sea and dragged a man off the beach to his death. Although the creature wasn’t described, it’s probably the earliest recorded example of an encounter with the Lusca, nicknamed by the locals as “Him of the Hairy Hands”. Local fishermen have feared the legend of the colossal octopus for hundreds of years, and rather worryingly, short forays onto land to grab at shit they want to eat are a well-documented aspect of octopus behaviour.

Of course, the open ocean around one of the busiest and most popular tourist spots in the world wouldn’t be the most sensible place for a kraken from your nightmares to stash itself away. Any self-respecting monster needs a corner to itself to raise baby monsters and snack on fishermen in peace, and the ‘blue holes’ throughout the limestone plateau surrounding the Bahamas provide just that:

'Neptune's Bumholes' didn't catch on as a name, unfortunately.

‘Neptune’s Bumholes’ didn’t catch on as a name, unfortunately.

Essentially sinkholes in the sea, there are thousands of these caverns, many of them linked by underwater passages snaking their way through the rock. Fishermen have reported their strongest lines being broken by an unknown massive animal that resembles a 50-foot octopus, including even the steel cables on crab traps. Jacques Costeau himself, fascinated by the legend, even took time out of huffing garlicky brie-farts in an enclosed wetsuit to lead an expedition in search of the Lusca. The only relevant photographs captured on that attempt featured ‘an indefinable stretch of brown flesh’, which is the colour you’d expect from an octopus, and not the typical red of giant squid.

Other more excessive accounts have the Lusca pulling down entire boats, belching the undigestible wreckage back to the surface once it’s picked the tasty bits out of the debris. The nickname ‘Him of the Hairy Hands’ even makes sense, as it may be a reference to the fringes of cirri all over the tentacles of certain octopuses. In terms of sheer size, however, at 50 feet the Lusca would dwarf even the largest known giant octopus:

Yeah, go ahead and poke it, I'm sure everything will be fine.

Yeah, go ahead and poke it, I’m sure everything will be fine.

Some have argued that there might be a scientific explanation for the vanished boats in the blue holes – sudden tidal changes can occasionally suck water back through the caverns, causing large rolling whirlpools easily powerful enough to drag down a stray swimmer or small boat. When the currents reverse, a mushroom-cloud like belch of water rises to the surface, which could account for the way the monster appears to fart the unwanted bits back once it’s finished attacking. I should think seeing that happen to a couple of mates a few hundred years ago would fairly rapidly put the freeze-dried shits up anyone watching and give rise to a monster legend, but it doesn’t account for the fact that something big is still snapping lines and stealing crab traps all around the cave system to this day.

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#16 – The Ningen

I’ve made a point of retelling most of the anecdotal evidence in this blog without questioning its credibility. I’ve done so for the simple reason that I’m not out to debunk or criticise, and instead just want to have a laugh with some of the stories – however, even I have to hold my hands up every now and then and go “oh fuck off, this one’s got to be nonsense”.

I lean towards at least wanting to believe a cryptid encounter story when there are real, accountable people behind it. In order to tolerate the ridicule involved with cryptid sightings you have to be either a very committed hoaxer or genuinely believe that you saw something unusual. If you’re willing to put your head above the parapet and take the inevitable ensuing shitstorm of publicity right in the eyes and mouth, then I’ll give you the respect you deserve and listen to your story. Provided, of course, that you rinse your face and use a little mouthwash first.

The stories of the Ningen have no such accountability – reports are vague, with no specific names involved, and all the evidence comes from artists’ interpretations and clearly photoshopped pictures. However, the creature is still somewhat of an internet sensation, presumably because the Ningen has got to be one of the creepiest suggestions for a big unknown sea monster going:

This, kids, is why you should never going diving on LSD.

This, kids, is why you should never go diving while off your tits on LSD.

Admittedly, that’s one of the most extreme and exaggerated examples of a Ningen picture out there, but that doesn’t stop it being it the utterly ridiculous brainchild of a mouthbreathing spoonbanger who presumably attempts to eat trifle with his forehead.

Although all are entirely vague, most accounts of the Ningen date from around 2007 at the earliest. The crews of Japanese whale research vessels (knowing Japan, these are presumably just researching which whales are the most delicious) have apparently had several encounters with the strangely humanoid Ningen in the Antarctic Ocean. Described as ghostly white and 20-30 metres in length, the most striking features are the human-like faces and ‘arms’, which in the most absurd accounts even end in five-fingered hands. Five-fingered hands, of course, being the most efficient form of locomotion to possess in the fucking sea, which is why all humans can outswim sharks and not one of us has ever been eaten by one.

Less extreme anecdotal evidence for the Ningen seems to suggest a giant ray or manta, which would at least explain the human-like face if seen from beneath. Others have explained them away as a combination of iceberg sightings and overexcited human stupidity, which seems to be a distinct possibility for this picture from Google Earth that a Japanese magazine apparently ran while discussing the creature in 2007:

ningen2

I’m so convinced right now.

There are lots of factors that count against the Ningen when weighing up its potential credibility. The fact that it’s such a comparatively modern sensation and the lack of specificity in the anecdotal evidence are just two of them, but it’s also not helped by the pictures people keep making of the damn thing:

Latin name: Giantsideways Bellendus.

Latin name: Giantsideways Bellendus.

There’s a possibility that there’s some truth in the stories, but if there is, the reality of the animal behind them is likely to be far less absurd than any of the accounts it’s inspired. In the meantime, the Ningen looks set to continue inspiring ridiculous phallic photoshop jobs and the occasional less absurd faked Youtube video:

Of course, if they do turn out to be real, I’ve no doubt that fairly soon the Japanese will put a harpoon through one in order to show it to the world. Y’know, for ‘research’.

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#15 – The Nakani & The Valley Of The Headless Men

There are lots of theories as to why we are yet to conclusively prove the existence of even one variety of Bigfoot-like cryptid. The explanations range from their natural fear of man to their wily cunning in deliberately avoiding us right through to their simple lack of numbers. The inaccessibility of their terrain can also hamper efforts.

Ooh, and one more possibility – in the case of the Nakani, one of the reasons they’ve never been killed or captured is their tendency to brutally behead any and every silly fucker stupid enough to come looking for them. After all, it’s hard to drag a corpse back for the scientific community to analyse when you’re a little preoccupied being dead yourself.

Also known as the Nuk-Luk, these hairy neanderthal-like ‘bushmen’ are said to inhabit the Nahanni Valley, an area of one of Canada’s most unpopulated and spectacular national parks. Fed by hot springs and sulfur geysers, the valley is often shrouded in mist and would make an absolutely badass spot for a supervillain’s hideout:

This was a long way to go for a bit of dogging.

This was a long way to go for a spot of dogging.

Of course, most supervillains have death rays, or laser sharks, or weaponised panda armour or something equally ridiculous. The Nakani seem to be remarkably advanced, but only in terms of their Bigfoot cousins – they make do with tools and primitive clothes.

In 1964, a naked Nakani was spotted by John Baptist and several other trappers at the junction of the Liard and South Nahanni rivers. It growled at them and fled into the woods. Two months later near Fort Simpson, a fourteen-year old boy and his father encountered a similar hominid, this time dressed in a deerskin and carrying a stone axe. Both parties described the hairy body, pointed back of the head, flowing beard and facial features remarkably similar to those of a typical Neanderthal.

Oh look, it's Ron Perlman in his pyjamas.

Oh look, it’s Ron Perlman in his pyjamas.

Encounters are still reported to this day and range from glimpses of the creature itself to hearing its odd whistling call, or passing hikers suffering stones thrown at them and their camps by unseen things in the bush. Some claim to have left hunting kills out on their properties overnight, only to find them neatly stripped of their skins the next morning. Given the track record of other areas of the Nahanni Valley, these encounters are tame – after all, you don’t give areas nicknames like The Valley of the Headless Men or The Funeral Range if they seem like the perfect places to build a series of candy factories staffed by puppies.

Although they weren’t the first disappearances in the valley, the legend began in earnest with the deaths of prospectors Willie and Frank McLeod, whose headless corpses were found at the height of the gold rush in 1908. Since then two other headless bodies have turned up in the Nakani’s apparent home turf, with at least a dozen or so other people vanishing completely (less conservative estimates put the figure at nearer 50). Although the established wildlife of the Nahanni Valley means it isn’t the safest place in the world at the best of times, neatly ripping off heads isn’t particularly bearlike behaviour. We can also rule out an insanely committed serial killer due to the 100-year span of the disappearances. At between five and six feet tall, the Nakani isn’t the biggest hominid in cryptid folklore, but it certainly seems to be the most murderous.

RUN! IT'LL KILL US ALL!

RUN! IT’LL KILL US ALL!

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#14 – The Montauk Monster

In these crazy neon robot future-times we live in, you’d think that the ease of accessing information through the Internet would make it all too simple for the cynics and debunkers to merrily poop all over any and all modern cryptid sightings that come to light. To an extent that’s true, but the beauty of conspiracy theorists in general is that they tend to be less than thorough about researching their sources before gleefully spreading rumours faster than your mum can spread her legs.

oh-snap

All sorts of silly photographs of unknown animals make their way on to the web every year, often lifted and reposted without mention of their origin countless times. The stories at the source of the pictures become blurred and exaggerated through repetition in exactly the same way they always have done – the only thing that’s changed is the sheer speed at which cryptid stories now ping around the world.

Of course, most of these photos are little more than photoshop jobs ranging from careful hoaxes to hilarious extremes like putting the face of an ocelot at the end of a whale’s dick. But every now and then the Internet picks up on a genuine story and sends it worldwide, as it did with the case of the globster that washed up on a beach in Montauk, New York in 2008:

OHMYGOD HE'S SO CUTE WHERE CAN I GET ONE?

OHMYGOD HE’S SO CUTE WHERE CAN I GET ONE?

Yeah, enjoy that beauty in all its modern high-def glory.

The Montauk Monster turned out to have a perfectly rational explanation – although the remains disappeared fairly quickly, plenty of zoologists and smart alecs stepped forward to identify them as a partially decomposed raccoon, left bald and missing part of its jaw as a result of spending several days bobbing about in the sea. In fact, the very first article in the local paper put forward this explanation, but not before lightheartedly suggesting that the monster could have been the result of experimentation at the nearby Plum Island animal research facility.

The joke was lost on the internet, which quickly picked up on the suggestion and blindly farted it about so much that in most accounts the experiment theory had entirely replaced the actual explanation by the time most people around the world got a chance to read about the case. Proof, then, of two things; firstly, that the wonderful rumour mill of cryptozoology still functions perfectly well with the introduction of the internet, and secondly that a worrying number of Americans still have a tendency to get depressingly overexcited at the possibility of a dead [ABBREVIATION CENSORED ON THE GROUNDS OF RACIAL SENSITIVITY]

Well that's at least one joke that won't make it in to the live show.

Well that’s at least one joke that won’t make it in to the live show.

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#13 – Thunderbirds & The Lawndale Incident

The legendary Thunderbirds are an intrinsic part of Native American culture. The Lakota, Ojibwa and Kwakwaka’wakw (which are an actual tribe, and not the sound of a duck sneezing) all tell tales of the times their tribes found themselves in strife, only to be rescued by the daring efforts of Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon and John.

If only the first white people they'd met had actually been this helpful.

If only the first white people they’d met had actually been this helpful.

Somebody fetch me a clean pair of trousers, as there’s a good chance I’ve just wit myself.

Obviously the real Thunderbird legends are quite different. The stories tell of immense birds that generated storms as they flew and cast lightning strikes from their talons – some Native Americans revere them as shapeshifters and ancestors, having taken human form to marry into the the tribe in the past. There’s probably a joke in there about having difficulty with your husband’s pecker, but I’ll be damned if I’m doing it.

What the hell would you get this guy for Father's Day?

Happy Father’s Day! It’s a dead rabbit.

Like many legends, however, it’s possible that there’s a grain of truth in all the exaggeration; lightning strikes and the summoning of storms may be flights of fancy, but that’s no reason to assume that the Thunderbird has no basis in reality whatsoever. The possibility of enormous unknown birds is an admittedly remote one, due in no small part to the simple fact that they’d be much more obvious and hard to miss than a submerging lake monster, but that doesn’t mean that sightings of them don’t take place. And in the case of the 1977 Lawndale Incident, they sometimes go a damn sight further than a simple sighting.

In 1977 Marlon Lowe was a carefree ten-year old kid in Illinois, playing happily in open fields near his home in Kickapoo Creek. And yes, that is its real name. I can only assume that there is very little to do in small town Illinois beyond kicking shit about and then naming places after the fun you’ve had. Marlon’s mother had guests round for a cookout – in all, there were seven witnesses to what would happen next, all of them remarkably consistent in their description of the Thunderbird.

Marlon as a child, here being embraced by his mother, dressed up as a character from Bo Selecta.

Marlon and his mother Ruth, here dressed as a Bo Selecta character.

Marlon suddenly ran screaming around the side of the house. He was being pursued by two enormous birds, each easily ten feet across and flying wing to wing. One of the massive creatures dived and grabbed the boy in its talons, carrying him off the ground for several feet. His mother Ruth screamed hysterically and spooked the bird, which promptly dropped the child before the two of them flew off in the direction of the creek.

The witnesses at the cookout were unanimous in their descriptions. The birds were huge and coal-black, with curved beaks and a ruff of white feathers around their white necks. The story was corroborated by a mechanic in town whose entire truck had been left in shadow when the two birds flew overhead before the attack.

The unknown birds seemed to share a lot of characteristics with enormous gliding birds like the Andean condor, particularly the ring of white feathers around the neck. Primarily carrion eaters, however, condors don’t hunt on the wing and aren’t considered to have anywhere near the talon strength required to carry prey or food any distance at all. Not only did these massive birds seem to be unknown to science, they also rather worryingly seemed to have a penchant for tiny ginger children (who as we all know have more than enough natural predators as it is).

There’s another possibility for the identity of the Lawndale Thunderbird. Thought to be fairly recently extinct in the grand scheme of history, the Teratorns cover five known species of giant predatory bird. Teratornis Merriami is the best known, with over a hundred examples recovered from the La Brea tar pits:

Teratornis_merriami

Spanning up to twelve feet across, this massive bird was contemporary with early man and bones found in ancient dump sites seem to indicate they were even hunted and killed. The larger beaks also suggest they were more active predators than condors, and thus may well have fancied pecking the ever-loving fuck out of the occasional baby in return.

Even Teratornis Merriami, however, is a tiny little bitch in comparison to its Teratorn cousin, found in Argentina. Meet this reconstruction of the largest bird that’s ever lived:

Sesame Street ain't got shit on this bad boy.

Sesame Street ain’t got shit on this bad boy.

Argentavis Magnificens was truly the stuff of nightmares. Anything up to two metres tall and seven metres across, this giant soaring bird probably used thermal currents to aid its flight – the sort of thermal currents that follow raging storms around. John Keel claims to have mapped thunderbird sightings and found that they correspond with storms moving across the United States. It’s highly unlikely that anything on the same scale as Argentavis Magnificens is still flapping about up there, but it would seem to explain a lot of Native American legends if something similar came spiraling out of the heart of a thunderstorm and spooked the crap out of their ancestors a few thousand years ago.

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#12 – The Dyatlov Pass Incident

One of the big problems with cryptid sightings is the credibility of the witnesses. The fast buck appeal of selling a hoax photograph or story is obvious; Bigfoot, Nessie and the Abominable Snowman sell countless books and articles every year. Because people want to believe, it doesn’t really matter that the primary source in these encounters is often a web-fingered monotoothed moonshine addict named Urkel whose primary concerns in life are incest and crystal meth. If you’re a little more analytical about it, the cryptid sightings with seemingly credible witnesses tend to be the more believable ones – if there isn’t a good reason to doubt those involved or their motives, it naturally seems a darn sight more likely that they genuinely encountered something extraordinary.

Which brings us to the 1959 Dyatlov Pass incident and the nine hikers who encountered something in the Ural Mountains. Their credibility gains an instant boost for their pure dedication to the story – they didn’t try to profit from it, because they were all far too busy being fucking dead.

On the left of the hug is Yuri Yudin, the jammiest motherfucker in Russian history.

On the left of the hug is Yuri Yudin, the jammiest little shit in Russian history.

I’m not a hiker or a climber. In fact, to me, freezing my tender little balls off up the side of a Russian mountain sounds about as fun and sensible as informing OJ Simpson that it’s over and I’ve met someone else. I spent my university days in an alcoholic coma, but things are apparently a little different in Russia – Igor Dyatlov, for example, decided that the best thing to do with his time at the Ural Polytechnical Institute was to lead a ten-person ski trek across a mountain pass in the Sverdlovsk Oblast. If you’re not sure where that is, rest assured that it’s somewhere between Hell itself and that bit at the back of the freezer that you never want to touch because it’ll rip the skin right off the tips of your fingers.

The ten experienced hikers began their trek through the mountain pass on January 27, 1959. A day later the lucky sod pictured above, Yuri Yudin, decided he was too ill to press on and turned back – he went on to live until April 2013, presumably feeling pretty bloody guilty every time he turned the heating on. His nine friends weren’t so lucky, and their final days had to be pieced together from the diaries and photos discovered at the various sites involved in their deaths, like a rubbish black and white Blair Witch Project.

Like this, but presumably with vodka instead of snot and communism instead of overacting.

Like this, but presumably with vodka instead of snot and communism instead of overacting.

Rescue teams eventually found their final camp off the planned course on the western slope of Mount Kolat Syakhyl, which translates from the local Mansi into “Mountain of the Dead”. Quite why the hell you’d want to go anywhere near a place called the Mountain of the Dead is beyond me, especially considering that Mount Slutty Supermodels In a Cocaine Jacuzzi was apparently just a few kilometres further east.

Investigators found a half-collapsed tent that had been frantically slashed open from the inside. Warm clothes and provisions were left behind – nine sets of tracks fled from the scene; some completely barefoot, one wearing one shoe, others just in socks. Further into the pass, by a large cedar at the edge of the woods, the first bodies were found – Yuri Krivonischenko and Yuri Doroshenko, both wearing nothing but their underwear and huddled around a wholly inadequate makeshift campfire. The branches of the tree were broken, indicating that someone had climbed it to look around. Three more bodies were found between the cedar and the abandoned camp, including that of Dyatlov himself.

The hikers setting up Camp Notgoingtoendwellski.

The hikers setting up Camp Notgoingtoendwellski.

The first five hikers all seemed to have died of exposure, which is understandable when you go bumbling about in -30 celsius temperatures wearing nothing more than your fuzzy Russian undies. The discovery of the final four bodies, however, changed the picture entirely.

On May 4th, 75 metres away from the cedar tree and covered by several metres of snow at the bottom of a ravine, the final four hikers were found. Despite having no obvious external trauma, three of them had serious or fatal injuries; a crushed skull, two massive chest fractures, and just to add a bit of horror, one missing fucking tongue. One doctor compared the injuries to car accidents or those caused by sudden, massive changes in pressure. The injuries made no apparent sense, and neither did the fact that the bodies tested positive for completely unexplainable levels of beta radiation.

The pass was closed to hikers and skiiers for years following the grisly incident, and the pass itself was renamed in Dyatlov’s honour. Conspiracy theories abound about what truly happened – one young witness claims to have seen an unnatural orange hue to the bodies at the hikers’ funerals, while a group hiking further south insisted there were strange lights in the sky the night that Dyatlov’s group frantically abandoned their tent and any hope of survival.

The official government inquiry didn’t do much to solve the mystery either. The final verdict was that an unknown and “compelling natural force” caused the hikers to flee their tent and meet their deaths, which is about as close as we’re ever going to get to a politician turning round and admitting that a RADIOACTIVE MOTHERFUCKING YETI murdered nine innocent people.

FEAR MY PLUTONIUM PENIS.

FEAR MY PLUTONIUM PENIS.

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