Everybody likes the idea of dragons, Big Foot and sea monsters being real – but not many people know that there’s an actual (pseudo)science dedicated to proving the existence of these weird and wonderful creatures. Concerned with the investigation of animals whose existence has not been definitively established, cryptozoology looks for evidence of cryptids; aka creatures that appear in myths, or have been reported (e.g. mermaids, the Loch Ness Monster or Big Foot), extinct beings (e.g. dinosaurs and the above diplocaulus) and animals that appear outside of their indigenous geographic ranges (such as phantom cats, like the recent story of the ‘Essex Lion’).
The animals you are about to see may or may not be (or have ever been) real – but wouldn’t the world be a more interesting place if they were?
The story of the Mothman of Point Pleasant, West Virginia is unusual in its recent origins – reports of its sighting first took place on 15 November 1966. Two couples first reported seeing “a flying man with ten-foot wings”, with eyes that “glowed red” following their car, with similar subsequent reports emerging from different witnesses until the 15 November 1967, which saw the collapse of the Point Pleasant’s Silver Bridge, and the deaths of 46 people. Many maintained that the bridge collapse and the Mothman sightings were connected. The legend became so well-known that it was later turned into a novel, The Mothman Prophecies, by John Keel, and then into a film of the same name in 2002, starring Richard Gere.
Also known as Brosnya, the Brosno dragon is said to be a lake monster resembling a dragon or dinosaur inhabiting Lake Brosno in West Russia, with reports of its existence dating back to the 13th Century. Legends describe a huge roaring creature that emerges from the lake to devour horses and capsize boats, and that in World War II it even surfaced to swallow a German airplane whole. However, sceptics dismiss the Brosno Dragon as nothing more than a giant pike living in the lake, or possibly a mutant beaver (no, you read that right).
Dating back too Native American folklore, accounts have been given of a flying two-legged animal with hooves (known as the Jersey Devil) inhabiting the Pine Barrens of Southern New Jersey. Typically describing a creature resembling a kangaroo in shape, features include a horse-like face, bat-like wings, claws, cloven hooves and a forked tail, and is said to emit a “blood-curdling scream”. Cryptozoologists maintain that the Devil could potentially be a rare, unclassified species which instinctively avoids humans, and there is an organisation in New Jersey called the ‘Devil Hunters’, who actively go on nocturnal hunts to find evidence of the creature.
Trunko is the name given to an animal spotted off the coast of Margate, South Africa on 25th October 1924. Initially seen to be fighting two killer whales in the sea with its large tail, the creature then washed up on the beach thereafter. Described as a “giant polar bear”, Trunko was said to have white fur, an elephantine trunk, a lobster-like tail, and a carcass entirely devoid of blood. Interestingly, though the creature was washed up on the beach for ten days, photographs of it were only released in September 2010. No scientists ever examined the body, so proof of its origins were never found, but some have argued that Trunko was most likely the corpse of a large whale in an advanced state of decay washed up to shore, which might explain the furry appearance, and also the fact that the whales ‘fighting’ it were in fact scavenging its remains.
The Quilin is a mythical hooved Chinese beast known throughout East Asia, recognised as a symbol of good luck and prosperity. Said to appear with the imminent arrival or passing of an illustrious ruler, it is often depicted with a substance resembling fire enveloping its body. Interpretations vary; some describe it as an animal with the head of a dragon and body of a scaled tiger, while others claim it is a type of unicorn, and the Quilin is said to possess the ability to walk on water.