I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the world is falling apart.
To calm the quiet fury of my anxiety, I started binging Buzzfeed Unsolved: Supernatural. Mostly so that my anxious thoughts would have something to fixate on so I wouldn’t disappear into a long, desperate spiral of aimless dread doom-scrolling through Twitter.
BU:S is lots of fun, which is something I’ve really needed these last few months.
I like seeing Shane (who is definitely a demon) delightfully courting death and dismemberment while Ryan squirms in the corner, apologising to the demons on Shane’s behalf. I like laughing when the tension breaks, I like the way that the two men seem genuinely delighted with their job, and I like seeing the way that they handle their opposing world views.
(for the record, I think Ryan oscillates between Neutral Good and Lawful Neutral. Shane will never be anything other than Chaotic Neutral)
Now, as is often the case when I hyperfixate, I started thinking a lot about the kinds of modern myths that BU:S likes to cover. And by ‘thinking’, I mean falling down a rabbit-hole of research that distracts from the actually important things in my life (finishing edits for my book, working on research, teaching, etc). And by ‘modern myths’, I mostly mean crytpids.
Not that there’s anything wrong with the demons and spirits that make up so much of Shane and Ryan’s content. I just find cryptids way more interesting.
There’s a curious sense of possibility with cryptids that has nothing to do with religion or spirituality (like ghosts and demons) and everything to do with the sheer stupid weirdness of the world. There’s space on this planet for such bullshit animals as the starnosed mole, the aye-aye, the tufted deer, and the god-forsaken platypus. Surely there’s room for a few batsquatches?
Plus, cryptids were a large part of the second season of The Adventure Zone (Amnesty) and nothing delights me more than listening to four grown men play make believe about fighting monsters that turn out to be maybe-aliens. Griffin’s version of Indrid Cold was pretty cool.
According to the Google dictionary, a cryptid is an animal whose existence or survival is disputed or unsubstantiated. Cryptids tend to fall into six categories: humanoid, dragonoid, feline, alien and atmospheric, supernatural, and plants. The first three interest me the most, because the supernatural does not excite me, plants just sit there, and aliens have better things to do than float around this absolute dumpster-fire of a planet.
Cryptids aren’t just weird beasts, vaguely threatening in their potentiality, they’re also a cash cow for the countries and towns they hail from. A good cryptid can bring in huge amounts of revenue – as the BU:S episode about mothman shows, a town leaning into its resident cryptid will almost always come out a winner. The International Cryptozoology Museum estimates that cryptotourism generates about $140million annually in the US, while the Loch Ness monster brings about £41 million a year to Scottish coffers.
That’s right. One cryptid in a black Scottish lake is worth more than the GDP of Tuvalu.
While names like Nessie, Mothman, and Goatman might be generally recognisable for the modern audience, other cryptids are less recognisable. These cryptids have not achieved the pop culture saturation necessary to draw any but the most well-read cryptotourists to their lairs. Despite that, some of those lesser-known cryptids are really delightful.
So here’s a few of my top lesser-known cryptids from around the world, in no particular order.
I should also note: when I say lesser-known, I mean lesser-known to me. These cryptids are not particularly well-known outside of their countries, and are generally not brought up in popular culture.
- Yowie – Woodenbong, Australia
Most Australians know yowies. If not for their cryptid status, then for their namesake chocolates that are a staple of confectionary stands next to the cash registers at Woolies and Coles.
I’ve not seen met many outside of Aus who would recognise the name, though, so I’m chucking yowies into my list. Mostly because, considering the bullshit animals that Australia is known for, the fact that we’ve got our own Bigfoot seems both plausible and overkill.
Apparently, if you want to find a yowie, you need to go to Woodenbong (which is actually pretty close to where I went to high school – who knew?).
There are some stories of Indigenous Australians trying to warn early European settlers about ‘hairy men’ with really big feet. In the 70s, there were two separate sightings by women in the area: one women who saw two yowies in her backyard, and one woman who claimed that a yowie killed her dog.
Sadly, there’s no evidence of the yowie beyond a few sightings and the folklore of the area. But still. It’s an Aussie bigfoot, so it’s got just as much right to be real the echidna.
- Dobhar-chú – Achill Island, Ireland
A giant, carnivorous lake monster in Ireland, also known as King Otter.
o(>ω<)o so cute!
Yes, carnivorous. Apparently, the Dobhar-chú is the size of a crocodile and likes to eat people. Occasionally called ‘blood-thirsty’ and ‘gruesome’, the Dobhar-chú is a very hungry boy and can be very fast when he is chasing the humans he craves. He has been seen all over Ireland, but Achill Island has had comparatively more sightings.
Sightings have been recorded since at least 1684, but the Dobhar-chú is best known for the murder of Grainne Connelly in 1722. According to (oral) legend, Connelly lived close to Glenade Lough in Country Aintrim. She visited the lake one morning and was immediately and violently killed. Connelly’s husband went looking for her when she didn’t return and found her body with the Dobhar-chú sleeping on top of her (post-meal nap?). Understandably, Mr Connelly was not best pleased to see his wife half-eaten, and killed the Dobhar-chú – apparently, the Dobhar-chú let out this awful whistle that summoned its mate, and that mate chased Mr Connelly for several miles before he killed it too.
And what’s that? Scientific evidence of a 50kg wolf-sized prehistoric otter that may have been a precursor to the Dobhar-chú?
Dr Jack Tseng, from the University of Buffalo, US, has studied a prehistoric otter’s skull and confirmed that it was “more of a top predator than living species of otters are. Our findings imply that [it] could crush much harder and larger prey than any living otter can.”
Cool. Cool, cool, cool. Glad those are extinct.
Although you can argue that the Dobhar-chú probably doesn’t exist (anymore), Grainne Connelly definitely did. You can visit her grave in Conwell cemetery close to Kinlough in County Antrim. In the gravestone, there’s a carving of a strange creature being killed by a dagger, and the locals maintain that it’s definitely Dobhar-chú being killed by Connelly’s husband.
- The Mongolian Death Worm – The Gobi Desert
What. A. Great. Name
Three to five feet long and known to locals as Olgoi-Khorkhoi, the Mongolian Death Worm travels underground and makes waves in the sand as it goes. The name might be a bit of a misnomer, since worms cannot survive in the Gobi – it’s possible that the Death Worm is actually a very big, very scary snake or lizard.
It sounds like something from Dune, but it’s definitely an earthbound beast. The Mongolian Death Worm has some excellent (if slightly OP) powers, including yellow acid saliva that it can shoot from a distance, an exoskeleton which sloughs off when it is injured, and electro-shock attacks powerful enough to kill a camel (!!!).
A group of English scientists sponsored by the Centre for Fortean Zoology, and led by Richard Freeman, went on an expedition to find the worm in 2005, but they didn’t find it. Probably a good thing, considering it would have definitely killed them if they’d succeeded; we’d be finding sizzling, acid-burned pieces of the expedition for decades. Their work was documented on Crytoworld’s website (Operation Deathworm 2005)
- Sheepsquatch – come for the great name, stay for the artist’s rendering
- Dingbat – apparently not just an old-fashioned insult. It’s also a bird/mammal that plays pranks on hunters by catching bullets in mid-air and drinking petrol out of their cars
- Ratman of Southend – this cryptid legend has two main variants. The first is that the Ratman was just a regular old man who was killed by some schoolboys and his corpse nibbled by rats. The second is that the mayor of the town was a known adulterer and was eventually cursed for his infidelity in the form of a grotesque child. I like the second version
- Mantis Man – if he’s real, then we should be less concerned about him and more concerned about his definitely much bigger female counterpart.
- Kaiaimunu – come for the dino-inspo, stay for the FRICKIN LONG CROW TALONS
PS – I love writing and I love eating! If you want to help with the latter (and ONLY if you want) you can maybe buy me a coffee? 🙂