Cryptid-a-Go-Go

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Cryptids fascinate me. Having had a few supernatural experiences myself – even been on ghost hunting expeditions once or twice – the hook for High Weirdness has been set firmly in my cheek. I thought I’d spend some time talking about a few of my favorites, and I hope you’ll find one or two that you find compelling as well.

Perhaps the most famous cryptid in Wisconsin is the Beast of Bray Road. (T and I just watched a recent documentary about the critter, as pictured above, so it’s fresh in my mind.) This is a large, humanoid creature with a wolf-like head and hind legs. Some say it’s a werewolf, some claim it’s demonic, but no one’s had a good chat with it to discover the truth. I am passingly familiar with the area; for a while I was part of a monthly writers’ beer-and-bitch group that met in a tavern in downtown Elkhorn, the vicinity of most of the sightings of the Beast. I never got near Bray Road, mostly because of inconvenience, but I was always curious. With these sorts of things, it’s best to be prepared: don’t go looking for trouble unless you’re ready for it, and I never was on those trips. Still, I’m curious…

Another favorite of mine is Sasquatch. Bigfoot, the Yeti, the Abominable Snowman, the Skunk Ape – it has many names and similar creatures appear in places all over the world. Heck, there have been sightings in nearly all 50 states of the US and most Canadian provinces, not to mention Nepal, Tibet, China, the jungles of Southeast Asia, and a few scattered, remote woodlands of northern Europe and Asia. Is this a case of wishful thinking, or is it another branch of the pre-human family tree? Since the Sasquatch seems pretty damned cunning and wants NOT to be found, we may never know. T and I have debated this topic a number of times: she feels nothing that large could avoid capture (or at least definitive proof from satellite imagery) for so long with so many people dedicated to finding it. I say that something with a human level of intelligence and a familiarity with the local terrain could stay hidden indefinitely if it really wanted to, particularly if it was primarily nocturnal.

The Loch Ness Monster is a classic cryptid, and despite the most solid evidence being debunked as hoaxes (even one or two thanks to deathbed confessions) people still believe in it. And why not? The Coelacanth, missing from the fossil record for over 60 MILLION YEARS and long thought to be extinct, turns up in an east African fish market in the 1930s, and living specimens have been filmed in this century. Why did it disappear from the fossil record? It’s a heavily armored, primitive-looking fish, and would have left fossil remains behind. The answer, perhaps, is that it prefers to live in very deep water. Most of the places where fossils were found previously are on land that was once covered by oceans in the ancient, pre-mammalian dominance past. As the continents we know today rose, moved, and took the shape we’re familiar with, Coelacanths stayed in deeper water. The millions of years of relative continental stability our world has enjoyed up to now meant that their remains from those many centuries are at the bottom of the ocean – a place notoriously difficult to dig through.

A living Coelacanth, with human diver for scale

So could Nessie exist? The skeptic in me says ‘probably not,’ but the romantic in me still holds out a little bit of hope. To paraphrase G’Kar from the TV series Babylon-5, I’m both encouraged and terrified that such things may exist.

The fact is, wherever there are humans, there are legends of a local monster. We love being scared, as long as the scares can be chased away by turning on the lights. Being scared of something unknown is a healthy, normal, danger response, and in most cases there is significant danger of bodily harm from such creatures. I don’t think I’d want to go camping in a remote forest rumored to harbor Sasquatches, but I might take a drive down Bray Road some dark night…

2 thoughts on “Cryptid-a-Go-Go

  1. Walworth county can be a weirdness vortex. Back 30 years or so ago when I was working with police a lot, and some of the Beast sightings were not long in the past, the Sheriff’s department got a call about a kangaroo seen in that area. The deputies thought the caller had probably been drinking, but were startled to encounter an actual loose kangaroo. The creature was rounded up and eventually traced back to a ‘private zoo’ south of the border in Illinois. Not long after that, there was a rash of ‘giant bird’ sightings, which turned out to be escapees from a new emu farming operation–.

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