Many of us have heard of cryptids; seen the internet posts and forums proclaiming their existence or simply joking about them, there have been highly produced television series and even a few scientific projects to explain the countless, ever-growing amount of sightings of these unproven and often strange myths of creatures, searching for an answer and an explanation that may have been there all along.
Many of these sightings of alleged beings that range from incredibly widespread to shockingly obscure have very real animals and stories behind them, ones inflated by exaggerations or simply outside circumstances that made them look more mythical than they actually are, scarier in the dark or simply coloured by the human imagination.
10 Bigfoot – Bears
Bigfoot, sasquatch, yeti, many different names for one very similar being; a large, hairy primate with, yes, big feet and an allegedly elusive and intelligent nature, certainly one of the most famous – or infamous, depending on who you’re asking – cryptids ever, with possibly the most prominence in pop-culture or simply American culture itself, other than UFO-s.
Many sightings occur every single year, with many proven hoaxes and cases of misidentification but still a sense of true mystery when it comes to this proclaimed relative of ours. So, you may ask, what could be behind it? The answer, a lot of the time, is extremely simple; bears. Or, alternatively, bears with mange.
Mange, alongside other medical conditions that vastly alter an animal’s appearance are often the culprit of cryptid sightings and with a lot of bigfoot evidence turning out to be ones left by bears and multiple cases of sightings in which the caught “bigfoot” was actually a bear that lost parts of its fur and acted strangely due to mange, there hasn’t really been anything in the way of “real” evidence that suggests anything different.
Some people, however, still believe that bigfoot is out there, or, more specifically, that bigfoot-like sightings can be explained by remaining populations of Gigantopithecus, a large ape thought to be extinct that may still remain in select groups in certain parts of the world.
9 Chupacabra – Dog with mange
Another notorious cryptid, the Chupacabra, has been part of mainly Puerto Rican, Mexican, and general Mesoamerican folklore and legends, with a name that means “goat sucker” in Spanish, it’s gained more than a little attention and controversy over its many years of popularity.
The solution with this one, however, is even simpler and more provable than the one with bigfoot, yet it’s largely the same; mange. Yep, mange, dogs with mange, to be specific.
While there have been many stories of farmers losing goats to this creature, most sightings turn out to just be dogs or coyotes with a condition that causes them to look quite a bit like monsters – patchy, partially removed fur, strange appearance, increased activity at night due to skin sensitivity, and weight loss from decreased functionality arising from the condition make these poor animals seem a lot like monsters when you encounter one in the dark.
8 Jackalope – Rabbits, Shope papilloma virus
While not treated as seriously as some other beings of folklore, the jackalope has been around longer than most. A simple concept; a rabbit-like being with antlers is certainly a fairly simple concept to grasp, and one people out in fields may have seen plenty of times.
And really, they may have; as, again, an appearance-altering disease is the culprit.
Known as the Shope papilloma virus, or SPV, it sadly causes leporids, as in, rabbits and hares to grow keratinous, cancerous tumours on their outer body, sometimes resembling horns, small antlers, or even other strange, paranormal-seeming looks.
With the infection generally being more prominent in areas around the head, it’s no surprise that certain people have caught sight of rabbits with this condition and, not understanding the cause of it, attributed it to a different species or perhaps entirely different being entirely, however, the answer is a disappointing no, and jackalopes are sadly another sick animal.
7 Kraken – Giant Squid
Another extraordinarily old legend, the Kraken and other, similar beings, that is, massive squid- or octopus-like creatures that destroy ships and lurk in the depths have been subjects of tales almost as long as sailing has been around, and turns out, while the tales were coloured more than a bit, they were based on something entirely real and almost as incredible.
The Colossal squid is a lot like what the legends describe, a massive sea creature that, while doesn’t typically destroy ships, looks like it might as well be able to, and there have still been accounts of it doing just that, though they’re typically unverified.
These massive animals are estimated to be able to grow as large as 14 metres and weigh 700 kilograms, that’s 46 feet and 1,500 pounds, which makes the attributed tales quite unsurprising in hindsight.
6 Giant Spider – Both real and impossible
This one is a bit strange, admittedly, as the explanations of this one depend entirely on our definition of “giant”, as, in a sense, we already have giant spiders; the Goliath birdeater tarantulas and certain species of Huntsman spider may grow as large as 30 cm-s or 1 foot in legspan! Some would already say that’s absolutely massive!
If we want to go that beyond that, however, things aren’t looking too good – or, to any readers with arachnophobia, things actually look quite lovely, as it’s a simple scientific fact that spiders are limited in size, and our Goliath birdeaters and massive Huntsman spiders may be the largest spiders we ever see.
Spiders lack proper lungs and thus their size is tied largely to the oxygen content in the air, even the largest arachnids in prehistoric times that we’ve found haven’t grown to over a metre in length, and until they develop lungs or the oxygen in the air increases significantly, things are staying that way, so no, giant spiders, other than the very real ones we have on Earth, are not real.
5 Mongolian death worm – Tartar sand boa
The Mongolian death worm has also had its fair share of controversy in recent history. A legendary creature that’s been part of Mongolian folklore for a long time, called “olgoi-khorkhoi”, meaning “large intestine worm” by the locals, it’s described as a gigantic red worm that inhabits the Gobi desert, travels underground, has a fearsome jaw, and the ability to spit venom or even create a powerful electric discharge, and, that upon touching it, you die instantly.
There have been multiple investigations to find this scary creature, with the successful findings of.. A snake! When presented to the locals who have seen the creature, they claimed it was the same one they’re seeing just now, when, in reality, it was nothing but a snake called the Tartar sand boa, Eryx miliaris, a large snake that certainly looks wormlike but is, in fact, just a snake that’s not red and possesses no supernatural abilities.
4 Mothman – Owl
Another American cultural icon, at least to some, the Mothman is perhaps even more ridiculous than the jackalope, yet it has a very strong culture behind it.
Considered by many to not even be a cryptid but rather an alien or supernatural being, as the name implies, it’s typically portrayed as the hybrid of a moth and a man, a large, winged, incest-like humanoid that’s described as an omen that either warns us of bad things to come or causes them himself, with alleged sightings at many horrible events, such as the tragic collapse of the Silver Bridge in Point Pleasant.
The reality, however, is that, aside from the ridiculous concept, some sightings have been very real, though also incredibly easy to explain. Barn owls are reasonably large, winged birds with mysterious appearances and eyes that could explain what people describe as the Mothman’s frightening, glowing eyes in the dark.
These birds love abandoned areas and while the sighting of a barn owl behind tragedies might be an omen by itself, the human mind certainly has a way of attributing neutral things to bad events in search of a reason behind tragedy.
3 Jersey Devil – Sandhill Crane
The Jersey Devil, as its name clearly suggests, is a devilish legendary creature said to inhabit New Jersey, the Pine Barrens of South Jersey specifically. Traditionally described as a bipedal creature with wings and a mammal-like head such as a horse’s or goat’s, often depicted with hooves, a tail, and tales of a horrible scream, the legend has seen many variations since its inception ranging all the way back to the early days of America as we know it today.
While the image is strange and frightening, the explanation again seems to be quite simple, as the Jersey Devil seems to be a tale made up by English settlers and, while the legend has persisted for over 250 years, there hasn’t been a single confirmed sighting and, even aside from the silly concept being a telling sign, we can pretty safely say that this is a hoax and many believe that the creature is based on the Sandhill crane, a large, tall, heavy-bodied bird with no supernatural aspects, though certainly amazing in its own right, with a breeding range that extends into New Jersey.
2 Mermaid – Manatee and Dugong
Mermaids are frequently thought of as beautiful, majestic creatures, half-fish, half-human beings, frequently though not always depicted as women, it’s no wonder they’ve been a popular figure in fantasy and pop-culture in recent decades, also gaining a decent amount of real-life traction due to an Animal Planet documentary that claimed to deal with the concept of real mermaids, but was promptly proven to be completely fake.
While extremely interesting, and certainly beautiful, majestic creatures in many folktales, though often terrifying in the case of sirens, evil creatures that lured sailors out, only to kill them, the reality is neither this dignified nor this terrifying, in fact, it’s rather close to being the opposite of both.
The reality of mermaid sightings is often chalked up to two animals, one more than the other; manatees and dugongs, large-bodied marine mammals, majestic in their own right but not anything close to the prospect of beautiful and perhaps evil fish-tailed women resting on rocks out at sea, these animals are vividly more real and perhaps comparatively disappointing.
1 Nessie – Eels, Greenland shark, and many more
Finishing the list with Nessie, also known as the Loch Ness Monster, potentially the most famous cryptid and mythical creature of all time, it’s easy to imagine that Nessie hasn’t managed to avoid plenty of potential and reasonable animal misidentifications, and yes, it really hasn’t.
Stated to be a long-necked marine animal, generally depicted as being extremely close to an extinct Plesiosaur in appearance, the creature is said to inhabit Loch Ness in Scotland, a large, deep loch that has sparked many people’s fantasies of an ancient creature that was only presumed to be extinct still lurking there, the reality, however, is again attributed to a simple animal; eels. Many experts think that sightings of Nessie may be explained simply by sightings of large eels, and with the way its famous pictures look and many sightings are described, they fit the description of a slender eel very well.
The Loch Ness Monster and its many sightings have also been seemingly correctly attributed time and time again to bird and boat wakes,, and even the idea of a slightly cryptid-like animal, the Greenland shark making its way to the lake. With many hoaxes and simple animal misidentification, Nessie, however amazing, is not looking very real after all.