Samantha Berger, the protagonist of Sasquatch, Love, and Other Imaginary Things finds her parents completely embarrassing. But her parents aren’t the usual brand of whipping-out-the-baby-photos-to-boyfriends humiliating — they’re Bigfoot hunters who spend most of their weeks trekking through the wilds of Ohio in search of the illusive Sasquatch. To make matters even more blush-inducing for Samantha, now a reality TV show has decided to follow her family around, promising a big cash prize if they actually manage to find Bigfoot. This has the added downside of pitting Samantha against a snotty prep-school boy named Devan, who looks down on her whole eccentric family.
Like Devan, many people roll their eyes at the concept of Bigfoot and other cryptids. Cryptids are creatures that aren’t scientifically proven to exist, but have been discussed heavily in folklore and myth. Most people basically agree that if science can’t prove it, it isn’t real.
In honor of our Summer of the Supernatural and the Berger’s love of Bigfoot, I’ve decided to round up some of my other favorite cryptids — many of whom are creatures who go bump in the night. Check out my list, and then check out our extended excerpt of Sasquatch, Love, and Other Imaginary Things here on Riveted!
The Loch Ness Monster
Outside of Bigfoot, Nessie is probably the most famous cryptid there is. Nessie is a giant sea monster who allegedly lives in Loch Ness in Scotland. She first came to prominence in 1933, with several famous spottings and photographs popping up over the years. Google spent a week taking photos at Loch Ness in 2015, both above and below the water, for their street view feature. No creature was spotted, making most people agree there is no Nessie. But in the immortal words of The X Files’ Fox Mulder — I want to believe.
The Flatwoods Monster
On September 12th, 1952, in Flatwoods, West Virginia brothers Edward and Fred May and their friend Tommy Hyer witness a bright object streak across the sky and crash on land belonging to a local farmer. They went and grabbed Edward and Fred’s mother, Kathleen, who in turn accompanied them, two additional children, and a National Guardsman to the crash site. There they saw a ball of fire, encountered a pungent mist that burned their eyes and noses, and saw a massive, arrow-headed creature with glowing red eyes. Several locals in the area experienced similar or related phenomena — even the sheriff agreed that there was a burnt and metallic odor in the area. Plus, within a few days, several of the people who claimed to see the creature suffered from a series of symptoms including nasal irritation and throat swelling. Scientists say the light was likely a meteor, the creature a barn owl, and that distortions of its size and the sickness afterwards were caused by anxiety and panic. But many believe it was a close encounter of the third-kind, and that the mysteries are too numerous to simply explain away.
The Black Shuck
The Black Shuck is a ghostly black dog said to roam the coasts of England. Often considered an omen of death, the Black Shuck quickly became a large part of English culture and an important icon in English folklore. You’ve actually probably heard of it — a version of The Black Shuck called a Grim is a massive part of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, where Harry believes he’s being stalked by one and Trelawney warns him that it’s death incarnate.
West Virginia is a hotbed for cryptids. In addition to the Flatwoods Monster above, there’s also the Mothman, a creature spotted in Point Pleasant between 1966 and 1967. Multiple groups of unrelated people reported seeing a man-like figure with ten-foot wings and glowing red eyes flying about the area. Biologist Robert Smith from West Virginia University believed the creature was actually a sandhill crane, which is almost the size of a man and generally doesn’t migrate in West Virginia, meaning that none of the residents would have seen one before. But that didn’t stop residents from blaming a 1967 bridge collapse on the creature, and forever cementing it in legend.
The Jersey Devil
New Jersey is home to the Pine Barrens, a sprawling forest that crosses seven counties. And like most massive forests, it comes with its share of mystery — in this case, the Jersey Devil. The Jersey Devil is generally described as a kangaroo-like biped with the head of a goat, bat wings, horns, small arms, clawed hands, and a forked tail. Allegedly, the creature came into being in 1735, when a women named Mother Leeds discovered she was pregnant for the 13th time and cursed the child. Although it was born normal, it quickly turned into the Jersey Devil, devouring the midwife and going up the chimney and out into the woods, where it still survives.
The Wendigo comes from the folklore of the Algonquian peoples of North America. A cannibal monster or evil spirit, wendigos lived in the forests on the Atlantic Coasts and Great Lake regions. They’re generally described as either monsters with human characteristics, or a spirit who has possessed a human form. Wendigos are gluttonous but also dangerously thin — whenever they ate a person, they would grow to the size of the meal, preventing them from ever feeling truly full. Native Americans understood the wendigo as a concept and used it as a metaphor, generally as a critique against human greed.
A jackalope is a jackrabbit with antelope horns that was created in the 1930s by taxidermists who grafted deer antlers onto jackrabbit carcasses and sold them at a hotel in Douglas, Wyoming. They quickly became a massive part of American culture, and the image of a jackalope still appears in many stories, on brands, and even in sports teams. It’s such a common image that, true story, I literally didn’t know it wasn’t a real, scientifically verified creature until the end of high school. Whoops.