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Chasing Monsters: Origin Tales From Around the World

By Victor Block
October 23, 2017

In the second century AD, a Greek military writer reported that he had seen huge sea serpents covered with armor-like skin in the sea off the Mediterranean coastline of present-day Algeria. In the 19th century, several sailors aboard a British war ship said they had sighted a similar monster...

Albania desert

In 2003, the internationally recognized zoologist Dr. Karl Shuker published a book titled "The Beasts That Hide from Man" which described a creature that resembled a giant ant-eater living on a small island of Indonesia.  

Indonesia ocean surface and below

Reports over centuries and from around the world have claimed sightings of beasts large and small, living on land or in the sea, walking or flying. Whether they’re based on facts or fiction, evidence or imagination is up to each person to decide. 

Mysterious path in Iceland

If you’re interested in checking out the possibilities, some tour companies travel to places where sightings of cryptids, as the real or imagined beings are called, have taken place...

1. Algeria

Algeria shore

Let’s begin our search with the Con Rit, the name given to the creature which was said to have roamed the waters off Algeria. People who reported sightings claimed that the monster was up to 135 feet long and had numerous fins that propelled it through the water. It was said to be dark brown on top and yellow below, and to be covered with hair around its mouth and nose area.   

Roman ruins in Algeria

Algeria also claims the Mountain Fennec, the name given to what may, or may not, be a strange new fox-like mammal. Its most distinctive feature is unusually large ears which are sensitive enough to hear its favorite foods  – other small mammals and insects – moving underground. While some scientists suggest that this may be nothing more than a known species of fox with enlarged ears, believers insist it fits the definition of a cryptid.

2. Indonesia

Indonesia sunset

The horse-sized beast in Indonesia, called the Veo, was said to be nocturnal, live in the mountains and subsist on a diet of ants and termites. Its skin was covered by scales, and it had a long tongue capable of extracting its prey from narrow spaces.

Indonesia also is said in local folklore to be home to the small, somewhat human-like rather kindly Ebu-gogo, which kidnapped children hoping to learn from them how to cook. On the other hand, the Oranj-Bati, a vicious flying bat-like ogre, carried off children and ate them.

3. New Zealand

New Zealand rock face

Other cryptids also reportedly had a taste for human flesh. In the traditions of New Zealand’s native Maori people, violent Maero monsters devoured their prey after killing them with long, sharp fingernails, while the 12-foot-tall Cherufe lived in volcanoes in Chile which it caused to erupt unless it was placated with a human sacrifice.

4. France

Misty mountain town in France

At least two human-eating cryptids terrorized France in bygone days. In medieval times, the dragon-like Peluda devoured both livestock and people after killing them with poisonous stingers. In the mid-18th century the Beast of Gevaudan terrorized a region of southern France, using its formidable teeth to tear out the throat of its intended meal.

5. Spain

Pyrenees mountains Spain

Descriptions of cryptids over the centuries which have varied widely demonstrate either that they have come in many forms, or that those who reported sightings have a vivid imagination. For example, the Basajaun said by Spain’s Basque people to have roamed around the Pyrenees Mountains, and the “shaggy trout” that reportedly swam in the icy waters of Iceland, were covered with a warming layer of fur.

The Gnome of Girona is the name that was given to remains found in Spain in 1989 consisting of a bluish, hairless body with elongated ears, reddish eyes and a rodent-like snout. While a doctor who examined the corpse said it might be “a monstrous being,” biologists from the Barcelona Zoo said evidence showed it was an elaborate hoax.

6. Bolivia

Bolivia town

Some cryptids defy easy identification as resembling any specific animal, and are said to combine features of several creatures. For example, the Vampire Beast that has been blamed for killing livestock and pets in Bolivia and elsewhere has been described as part bear and part panther, with a long tail and a cat-like face. Even stranger is the German Wolperdinger, a small mammal with wings, antlers, fangs and a tail.

Not surprisingly, more scientifically minded people who question the existence of cryptids come up with what they consider to be logical explanations for stories of their sightings. Some people in Bolivia have reported what is variously described as either a cat-like dog or a dog-like cat, which has been given the name Mitla. Doubters claim the animal may be a known species of wild cat, short-eared dog or type of weasel.

7. Australia

Australia rock formations

The Australian Bunyip of Aboriginal lore, a beast sporting a crocodile-like head, dog face with a duck-like bill, horse tail and flippers, has been attributed to the fact that seals have been known to visit the area of sightings. Theories of reports in New Zealand of an unidentified small amphibious mammal covered by brown fur with white spots and short legs suggest that it may be an otter or beaver.

Another possible explanation for cryptid sightings resulted from the story of the Gunni, a creature resembling an Australian wombat but with stripes on its back and antlers on its head. Gold miners reported seeing the creature in the 1860s and the latest sighting, real or alleged, took place in 1999. However, investigation of those incidents concluded that they were caused by “a fertile imagination or rough liquor.”

8. Thailand

Thailand statues

Some people in Thailand believe that a semi-divine serpent-like creature called Phaya Naga lives in the Mekong River, causes unnatural waves in the water and leaves tracks on land. However, scientists at the country’s leading university who researched these phenomena said the river waves are natural and that the tracks were probably forged by people.

Old mill Germany

The German Elwetritsch and Hawakai both were bird-like creatures. The Icelandic Lagarfijot, a large worm-like beast, reportedly has been sighted as recently as 1998, while the Australian Hoop Snake chases its intended victims by grasping its tail in its jaws and rolling after them like a wheel.

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White snowy forest road

Skeptics who doubt the existence of cryptids, except in other people’s imaginations, also point to instances when there are other explanations for the reported sightings, or when they turned out to be a suspected, or proven, hoax.

Are cryptids real or romanticized, indisputable or imagined?

The decision is yours, and a tour to ground zero, where sightings of these unique beings took place – or didn’t – may help answer that question.   

Even if not, you’re sure to have an enjoyable time doing the research.

Happy Halloween & Stride On!

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