Things that go bump in the night may not always be just your imagination — especially if they happen to eat your pit bull. Such is the case for this collection of 10 mysterious creatures that have reportedly been sighted throughout the United States, in some cases dating back centuries. The field of cryptozoology studies the existence of such “hidden animals,” or cryptids, and while it is dismissed as a pseudoscience by critics, cryptozoologists press on in their search for the following 10 creatures. Many traditional scientists point out that the existence of these creatures cannot be proven, although some admit they can’t be disproven, either.
Don’t think you’re safe from Mothman if you turn off the porch light — this 7-foot-plus winged creature made his first reported appearance in November 1966, swooping through a West Virginia graveyard in broad daylight. Mothman, a bat-like beast that’s bigger than a man, screams like a woman and can ascend into flight straight up “like a helicopter,” might still be swooping around near his original lair, an abandoned TNT plant in Point Pleasant, West Virginia. Mothman’s heyday was 1967, when more than 100 different witnesses spotted the creature during a year of overall strange events in the region. Sightings dropped off dramatically after the collapse of a Point Pleasant bridge across the Ohio River in December 1967 left 46 people dead. Still, the legend lives on. A movie based on the creature, The Mothman Prophecies, was released in 2002 and he’s been sighted as recently as 2011. A woman who was driving near Cincinnati says she spied the massive, winged creature standing in the twilight with “deep red, glowing eyes coming from the center of the black mass … all the way home I felt I was being followed.”
Move over, Nessie, you’ve got competition in Lake Champlain, the large lake on the border between New York State and Vermont. The American version of the Loch Ness monster, Champ, or Champie, was first spotted in the 1880s — with famed promoter P.T. Barnum even offering $50,000 to bring him the beast, dead or alive. Two local fishermen claim to have captured Champ on video in 2006, and they showed the video to ABC News. While the footage is authentic, according to the FBI analyst ABC contacted, the analyst also said it authentically shows nothing. Where’s Agent Mulder when you need him? Hundreds of folks who’ve spotted the dinosaur-like figure through the years would argue that a sea creature indeed lives in the lake, as would those currently making a mint from Champ T-shirts, key chains and other novelties.
European settlers first spied and then named the large, man-like creature lumbering through the woodlands of southeastern Ohio in the 18th and 19th centuries. An 1869 report from Gallia County says a man and his daughter were attacked by a gigantic, wild, hairy beast with burning eyes, although the beast could not have been all that tough if they were able to escape when the daughter threw a rock at it. The 300-to-1,000-pound Grassman might be related to Bigfoot, although Grassman is evidently more social and has reportedly been seen traveling in family-like units. The History Channel notes sightings in 1996 and 2002 while a “Grassman does not exist” blog post at Ohio’s TimesReporter.com brought to light sightings as recently as 2010. Even if the creepy cryptid supposedly lurking about Ohio forests is not Grassman, one woman writes, it is definitely “something else hairy, smelly, loud and frightening.”
7. Michigan Dogman
Part man, part wolf or dog, the Michigan Dogman does not contain himself to the Great Lakes State, as he’s also been spotted by hundreds of eyewitnesses in Wisconsin. A History Channel hunt for this creature featured a strange nest, bipedal footprints and a mysterious hair — which lab work determined was from a bear. The first sighting of Dogman was noted in a 1794 diary entry by a French fur trader, who dubbed the creature “loup garou,” French for werewolf. The Dogman’s popularity was revived in a 1987 April Fool’s Day song recorded by a Michigan DJ. Dogman’s rebirth, so to speak, spurred new sightings as recently as 2011, when a man and his wife got their second glimpse of the creature that was “three times the size of our old 140-pound German shepherd.” They first spied Dogman a few years back behind their house eating out of their dog’s food bowl.
The Chupacabra — meaning “goat sucker” in Spanish — originated as Puerto Rican myth, but has since materialized and traveled through South America in the 1980s, Mexico in the 1990s and is now showing up in Texas. Several hairless, fanged dead things that were thought to be Chupacabra carcasses have been brought to the attention of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. DNA testing allegedly proved one of the carcasses was “some type of coyote” suffering from sarcoptic mange, a disease that leaves them hairless and emaciated. Cryptozoologists still want to know, however, why the dead beasts’ back legs and snout are so much longer than a coyote’s or what to make of the jutted bottom jaw filled with fangs that seem perfect for sucking a goat’s blood.
5. Vampire Beast
Dogs dragged to their deaths in the underbrush, mangled cows and massacred goats were the spoils left by the Vampire Beast during its 10-day, 1954 killing spree in Bladenboro, North Carolina. Also known as the Beast of Bladenboro, the creature disappeared for 50 years, but it was back in 2007, lurking and killing farther north in the state. The most recent slaughter included more than 60 goats, left with their blood drained and their skulls crushed, and at least two pit bulls. Described as a mix between a vampire and a giant cat, the Monster Quest TV show’s search for the beast in 2008 concluded folks have been mixing it up with the common cougar — although no cougars live in the areas where the Vampire Beast was spotted.
4. Flying Humanoids
Flying humanoids are one of the most versatile and well traveled of the cryptid bunch, as they have been spotted all over the world in various forms and with various talents. Some look like humans with bat-like wings while others appear more like monsters, robots or can fly without any wings at all. They can reportedly talk, sing, scream, hiss, flap their wings and rumble like a rocket engine, talents that make them the Broadway stars of the cryptid world. The first recorded sightings of the flying humanoids came in 1877 when one was spotted flying over buildings in Brooklyn, New York, and three more were spotted soaring above Coney Island in 1880. More recently, a police officer in Guadalupe, Mexico, reported a scary encounter with a beast in the dead of night.
3. Skunk Ape
While it’s unclear if the Skunk Ape actually stinks, it is clear a number of them have been spotted in the Southeastern U.S. since the 1940s. It’s also clear something killed six cats and one dog during an October 2003 three-day slaughter spree in Campbell County, Tennessee. The big, powerful humanoid primates possibly number in the hundreds throughout the Southeast — at least according to believers — and are taken seriously enough to be the topic of a local news alert during the most recent rash of sightings. Like Grassman, the Skunk Ape is believed to be related to Bigfoot.
2. Jersey Devil
The Jersey Devil may be a flying, demonic beast, but he’s also a statewide celebrity. Named New Jersey’s Official Demon in the 1930s, the screeching, screaming demon is also the namesake of the state’s NHL team. Several legends explain how the Jersey Devil came to be, with one stemming from a woman who in 1735 was having a painful contraction during the birth of her thirteenth child and uttered, “Let this child be the devil.” Ooops. He’s since supposedly made his home in the state’s coastal woodland region known as the Pine Barrens, emerging through the years to snatch livestock, emit blood-curling screams and otherwise pump terror into the masses. More than 100 independent witnesses caught a glimpse of the Jersey Devil during a single week in 1909 and sightings have continued into the 21st century.
Bigfoot is big enough to make the big time, graduating from cryptozoology to biology. The humanoid has been the topic of myriad news reports, TV shows, magazine articles and several “official” websites stocked with scientific biological evaluations and research compiled from hundreds, if not thousands, of sources that range as far as China and date to the 1800s. While he is frequently associated with the Pacific Northwest, Bigfoot sightings have been reported in all 50 states. Also known as Sasquatch, and in other countries as Yeti and the Abominable Snowman, Bigfoot might even be more-traveled than the flying humanoids noted above. Unlike some of the other entries on this list, Bigfoot is reportedly a gentle soul, despite his 9-foot hairy frame and his penchant for inadvertently making berry-picking families run screaming from the woods.
One More: Hodag
Wisconsin’s Hodag was proven to be a hoax, but that doesn’t make him any less popular. This beastie, which resembles a 7-foot-long lizard adorned with horns and spikes, was first allegedly spotted in 1893 near Rhinelander. The Hodag was soon “captured” by a lumberjack and put on display at a local fair, although this was later found to be a moneymaking hoax for the dying lumber town. It worked. The Hodag eventually traveled around the country, piquing curiosities until it was eventually determined to be a stump covered in ox hide with a child growling for the sound effects. No matter. Rhinelander’s annual Hodag Country Festival is still held every summer.