THERE ARE CREATURES that lurk out there in the dark, that haunt the isolated forests of the world, that hide in the icy depths of the deepest lakes. They appear unexpectedly and inexplicably, then vanish just as mysteriously, usually leaving witnesses dumbfounded, frightened and, unfortunately in most cases, without a shred of evidence. Yet the eyewitness stories of these creatures persist, haunting the darkness as well as our imaginations. Here, for your consideration (and in no particular order) are the top 10 most mysterious, unexplained creatures of all time. Some are more likely to really exist than others, but we'll leave that judgment up to you.
1. Bigfoot / Sasquatch / Yeti
These hairy apemen are probably the most consistently witnessed unknown creatures in the world. Whether they are called Bigfoot, Sasquatch, Yeti, Skunk Ape or Yowie, they have been seen in isolated woodlands and mountain areas in virtually every corner of the globe. And the descriptions - from the North American northwest to Florida to Australia - are remarkably consistent:
- taller than an average man (seven to eight feet)
- covered with long brown or auburn hair (or white hair in the case of the Yeti)
- a strong, repugnant odor
- large feet, as evidenced by castings of footprints
- an aversion to man
- a piercing, eerie howl
We may find out someday soon. Sightings seem to be on the increase as mankind encroaches deeper and deeper on the wilderness. And technology may aid in the search. The Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization recently announced its intention to place motion-triggered digital webcams in various areas of US forest where the hairy beast has been seen. This 24-hour surveillance with potentially thousands of computer-based witnesses looking on will dramatically increase the chances of obtaining credible evidence.
For the diehard skeptic, nothing less than a captured specimen will do - or at least some other tangible evidence. And one that could qualify has recently emerged: an impression of Bigfoot's butt. No kidding. Researchers in the American northwest have found what appears to be the impression in the ground of where a large hairy primate has sat. Hey, he's got to rest those big feet sometime.
2. Loch Ness Monster (and other Lake monsters)
Despite excellent expeditions with sophisticated electronic equipment, the lake monsters of the world continue to elude scientists. Yet spontaneous sightings by good witnesses, although rare, persist.
The Loch Ness monster, or Nessie, is undoubtedly the most well-known of these aquatic mysteries. But other deep, cold lakes around the world have their own legendary beasts: Chessie in Chesapeake Bay, Storsie in Sweden's Lake Storsjön, Selma in Norway's Lake Seljordsvatnet and "Champ" in New York's Lake Champlain among others.
Descriptions of this creature, too, are amazingly similar:
- a large creature with a long neck
- a horse-like head
- a humped back
Photo and video evidence is rare. And although some of the photos are tantalizing (most notably the famous "flipper" photo taken by the Rines expedition in 1975), most such "proof" is fuzzy or inconclusive at best.
If the creature does exist, many researchers suspect that it could be a kind of plesiosaur - an animal from the age of the dinosaurs that is thought to have become extinct more than 66 million years ago. Could a lineage of these incredible creatures possibly have survived?
Even though some sightings date back to the 1970s, El Chupacabra - "the goat sucker" - is primarily a phenomenon of the 1990s, and its fame has largely been spread by the Internet. The sightings started in earnest in 1995 with reports coming out of Puerto Rico of a strange creature that was killing farmers' livestock - chickens, ducks, turkeys, rabbits and, of course, goats - sometimes hundreds of animals in one evening. The farmers, who were familiar with the killing practices of wild dogs and other predators, claimed that the methods of this unknown beast were different. It didn't try to eat the animals it killed, for example; nor did it drag them away to be devoured elsewhere. Instead, the creature killed by draining its victims of blood, usually through small incisions.
Then came the bizarre eyewitness descriptions:
- about the size of a chimpanzee
- hops about like a kangaroo
- large glowing red eyes
- grayish skin and hairy arms
- long snake-like tongue
- sharp fangs
- quills running along its spine that seem to open and close like a fan
- some believe it may even have wings
What is it? Theories abound, including: an unknown but natural species of predator; misidentified known predators; the result of genetic experimentation; an alien. Most serious researchers consider Chupacabra merely folklore, perpetuated by over-enthusiastic locals immersed in superstition or a penchant for telling tall, exaggerated tales.
Yet you can be sure that we haven't seen or heard the last of Chupacabra.
4. The Jersey Devil
There is a terrifying creature, they say, that haunts the dense pine barrens of New Jersey, and its frightening appearance earned it the name of The Jersey Devil. The legend of the Jersey Devil dates back to about the mid-1700s when it was considered an omen of disaster or war, but multiple sightings did not begin until the early 1900s. Some researchers claim that more than 2,000 witnesses have reported seeing the creature over the centuries. Although rare, sightings continue up to the present day.
Descriptions vary, but these are the most commonly cited attributes:
- about three-and-a-half feet high
- a head like a collie dog and a face like a horse
- a long neck
- wings about two feet long
- back legs like those of a crane
- horse's hooves
- walks on its back legs and holds up two short front legs with paws on them
Unexplained animal deaths and mutilations have been blamed on The Jersey Devil. Dozens of eyewitnesses claim to have been frightened out of their wits by it. What could this creature possibly be? The theories are similar to those cited for Chupacabra, but something scary definitely seems to be out there in the New Jersey woods.
For about 13 months beginning in November, 1966, a series of bizarre sightings took place around the area of Point Pleasant, West Virginia. Aside from a spate of UFO reports and claimed poltergeist activity, several witnesses came forward with descriptions of an astonishing creature that may have been the focal point of all the weird goings-on. As detailed in John Keel's classic book, The Mothman Prophecies, hundreds of witnesses allegedly saw a large, winged humanoid being.
Here is how they described it:
- approximately seven feet tall
- a wingspan over 10 feet wide
- gray, scaly skin
- large, red, glowing and hypnotic eyes
- able to take off straight up in flight, traveling up to 100 miles an hour
- liked to mutilate or eat large dogs
- screeched or squealed like a rodent or electric motor
- caused radio and television interference
- had some mind control powers.
Weird stuff indeed.
6. Elves and Fairies
There aren't many people who take seriously the existence of elves and fairies in today's society. Yet there are people who will swear on the heads of their grandchildren that they have seen them with their own eyes - just as plainly as others have seen ghosts, Bigfoot or the Loch Ness monster.
The stories of elusive little people are as ancient as civilization itself and can be found in virtually every culture on Earth. Most familiar to us are the legends of elves, dwarfs, leprechauns and trolls from Europe and Scandinavia. They have been the subject of dozens of children's fairy tales, books, myths and inebriated tales. William Shakespeare made them central characters in A Midsummer Night's Dream.
- Generally, fairies were described as tiny ephemeral beings with wings who resided in forests.
- Elves, dwarfs and leprechauns were likewise residents of the forest. Unlike fairies, however, they were quite human in appearance - except for their diminutive size. They were often pictured as having their own miniature civilization, hidden away from the human world.
In Stowmarket, England in 1842, a man claimed this encounter with "faries" when walking through a meadow on his journey home: "There might be a dozen of them, the biggest about three feet high, and small ones like dolls. They were moving around hand in hand in a ring; no noise came from them. They seemed light and shadowy, not like solid bodies. I... could see them as plain as I do you. I ran home and called three women to come back with me and see them. But when we got to the place, they were all gone. I was quite sober at the time."
Elves and fairies were considered quite real in past cultures, and were a familiar part of their rich folklore. In today's technological society, perhaps, we've simply replaced them in our imaginations with little gray aliens.
7. The Dover Demon
Dover, Massachusetts was the location of the sighting of a bizarre creature for a few days beginning on April 21, 1977. Although the creature, which became known as "the Dover Demon," was only seen by a few people in this short period of time, it is considered one of the most mysterious creatures of modern times.
The first sighting was made by 17-year-old Bill Bartlett as he and three friends were driving north near the small New England town at around 10:30 at night. Through the darkness, Bartlett claimed to have seen an unusual creature creeping along a low stone wall on the side of the road - something he had never seen before and could not identify. The other boys did not see it, but it was obvious to them that Bartlett was shaken by the experience. When he arrived home, he told his father about his experience and sketched a drawing of the creature.
Just a few hours after Bartlett's sighting, at 12:30 a.m., John Baxter swore that he saw the same creature while walking home from his girlfriend's house. The 15-year-old boy saw it with its arms wrapped around the trunk of a tree, and his description of the thing matched Bartlett's exactly.
The final sighting was reported the next day by another 15-year-old, Abby Brabham, a friend of one of Bill Bartlett's friends, who said it appeared briefly in the car's headlights while she and her friend were driving. Again, the description was consistent. This is the creature they allegedly saw:
- about four feet tall on two legs
- hairless body with rough-textured skin
- long, spindly peach-colored limbs
- a large watermelon-shaped head, nearly as big as its body large glowing orange eyes.
8. The Loveland Lizard
This remarkable creature has earned its place in the annals of the unknown primarily because of the credibility of the involved witnesses: two police officers on two separate occasions.
The scene is the early hours of March 3, 1972. A police officer is cruising on Riverside Ave., which runs for a few blocks along the Little Miami River in Loveland, Ohio. On the side of the road he sees what he at first thinks is a dog lying there. He slows his vehicle on the icy road to avoid hitting the animal should it get up and run in front of him. He nears the animal and stops his patrol car, at which point the creature quickly stands on two legs to a crouching position. Illuminating the creature with his headlights, the officer can now clearly see that it is not a dog at all, but something he cannot explain:
- three to four feet tall
- 50 to 75 pounds
- leathery skin
- possibly wet, matted hair on its body that made it look textured possibly a short tail
- a head and face like a frog or lizard
The officer reported the odd sighting to the police dispatcher, then later returned to the scene of the incident with another officer. All they found was evidence that something had scraped the hillside as it made its way down to the river.
The creature may have been completely forgotten had not a second police officer seen it again two weeks later. The second officer also at first thought the thing lying in the middle of the road was a dog or roadkill. When he got out of his car to haul it to the side of the road, it got up, climbed over the guard rail this time, all the while keeping its eyes on the officer, and disappeared toward the river. His description of the creature pointed out the same frog-like characteristics. A subsequent investigation uncovered only one other possible sighting around the same time; a farmer claimed to have seen some kind of large, lizard-like creature. It thereafter became known as the Loveland Lizard or Loveland Frog.
What was it? Good question. If is was a frog or similar amphibian, it's the largest one ever recorded - and the only one known to get up and walk away on its hind legs.
9. Living Dinosaurs
We were all awestruck by the incredibly realistic digital effects of the Jurassic Park movies, and tantalized by the possibility that cloning of long-extinct dinosaurs might one day be possible.
But what if dinosaurs are still alive? What if some dinosaurs have somehow survived extinction to coexist with us today? Some people believe they actually might have. Living dinosaurs!
For over 200 years, rare but fascinating reports have filtered out of the dense isolated rain forests of Africa and South America that native tribes - some of which live very much as they have for thousands of years - were familiar with large creatures that can only be described as resembling sauropods, like the apatosaurus.
The tribes had names for them, such as jago-nini ("giant diver"), dingonek, ol-umaina, and chipekwe. In 1913, Captain Freiheer von Stein zu Lausnitz, a German explorer, was told by Pygmies of a fearsome creature they called mok'ele-mbembe ("stopper of rivers"). This is the description of mok'ele-mbembe provided by the natives:
- smooth brownish gray skin
- approximately the size of an elephant; at least that of a hippopotamus; possibly about 30 feet long
- a long, flexible neck
- a vegetarian diet, but would kill humans if they came too close
Aside from the testimony of these tribespeople (which some skeptics have written off as making fools of the white man), the evidence for living dinosaurs is scant. Supposedly, a few explorers have found extraordinarily large footprints (as large as a Frisbee), and in 1992, a Japanese expedition is said to have about 15 seconds of film footage taken from an airplane that shows some large shape moving in water, leaving a V-shaped wake. Unfortunately, it could not be identified.
Recent expeditions in search of mok'ele-mbembe have taken place. They explored the Likoula region of the Congo for four weeks with the official mission objective of a "scientific investigation and analysis of reports of a living dinosaur." Unfortunately, again, they returned empty-handed. New expeditions will undoubtedly continue to search for living dinosaurs. The prospect of actually documenting a find is just too tempting.
10. Spring-Heeled Jack
He appeared out of the shadows of 19th century London nights, attacked his victims with dreadful scratches, then bounded away with superhuman ability before he could be apprehended.
The case of Spring-Heeled Jack, as this creature came to be known, is one of the most baffling to come out of Victorian England, and one that has never been solved or fully explained. According to most accounts of the story, the attacks began in 1837 in southwest London. Polly Adams, a pub worker, was one of three women accosted by Spring-Heeled Jack in September of that year. He allegedly tore her blouse off and scratched at her stomach with iron-like fingernails or claws.
His victims painted a bizarre portrait of the ghoul:
- man-like, but with a hideous face
- sharp iron-like fingernails or claws
- tall, thin and powerful
- glowing eyes
- the ability to spit blue flames from his mouth
- wore a dark cloak over a tight-fitting white oilskin suit
- some claimed he wore a helmet of some kind
- the ability to jump incredible heights and distances
Rumors of sightings persisted into the 1850s, '60s and '70s. In these cases, he is said to have frightened people with his appearance, slapped army sentries, and in each case leapt away to the astonishment and frustration of those who tied to catch him. Interestingly, Spring-Heeled Jack never killed or seriously hurt anyone, except 18-year-old Lucy Scales who was reportedly blinded temporarily by the searing blue flames Jack vomited into her face.
Who or what was Spring-Heeled Jack? A clever if diabolical maniac? An alien? A demon? Chances are we will never know, and he will remain one of the most mysterious creatures of modern times.