The study of such not-yet-confirmed creatures is called cryptozoology, and although it operates at the fringes of science, I'm still captivated by the idea that there may still be monsters lurking in dark places, writes Marshall Ward.
While browsing an antique market recently, I picked up a book called “Monstro Bizarro: An Essential Manual of Mysterious Monsters,” published by Rue Morgue Magazine.
Flipping through its pages, I felt the same sense of wonder I felt as a child when I would spend countless hours reading about legendary creatures like Bigfoot and Nessie.
I don't know how many hours I spent as a kid watching alleged videos of Sasquatch and other elusive beasts rumoured to share our planet.
The study of such not-yet-confirmed creatures is called cryptozoology, and although it operates at the fringes of science, I'm still captivated by the idea that there may still be monsters lurking in dark places.
For me, nothing was more fascinating or eerie than the idea of huge sea monsters lurking in the ocean depths.
In the amazingly illustrated books I collected as a child, with titles like “Creatures from Elsewhere” and “The World of the Unknown: Monsters,” I would gaze at pictures of colossal-sized giant squids attacking ships, plucking men off the deck with its suckers, and wrapping its slithery tentacles around the masts before dragging the whole boat to the bottom of the sea.
Some mariners believed that the idea of long-necked sea serpents arose from sightings of giant squid. It’s been said that if a squid was underwater and raised one of its tentacles above the surface, it could appear to be a snakelike head and neck.
Even the giant squid itself was widely considered a mythical beast — the stuff of tall tales — for centuries, and the first photographs of one in the wild were taken less than 20 years ago.
Like the giant squid, many monsters of myth and legend have a factual basis, like the giant bird called the roc in the story of Sinbad the Sailor. It’s believed to be based on the discovery of the giant eggs of the flightless bird Aepyornis, a giant ostrich that lived on the island of Madagascar, off the coast of Africa, until it became extinct in the 1660s.
The book “Monstro Bizarro” features a fascinating variety of cryptozoological marvels, including the legendary chupacabra, the Boggy Creek Monster, the Bishopville Lizardman, Momo, and Skunka Warak’in.
In one of the most intriguing chapters, author David Weatherly writes about the Goatman, a creature said to stand seven feet tall, with large horns and hair covering its body.
“Like the satyr of Greek lore, the Goatman appears to be some sort of half-man, half-caprinae (goat) hybrid with an insatiable sexual appetite and propensity to attack both women and men.”
Weatherly writes how modern encounters have come from a wide range of U.S. states, including Maryland, Louisiana, Ohio and Texas, and date back more than half a century.
“Numerous stories attempt to explain the origin of the Goatman, including science experiments gone wrong and sheepherders driven to madness. Most cryptozoologists are skeptical of the reports, but some believe the creature may be a deformed sasquatch.”
I love the idea that unknown monsters may lurk beneath the surface of the world's murkiest lakes and darkest forests (and that some of them might be deformed versions of other monsters).
Of course, as an adult, I understand that the vast majority of these beasts, perhaps all, are likely misidentified creatures or the result of overactive imaginations seeing perfectly natural phenomena.
I'd love to find out that Bigfoot and Nessie are real, but I'm not holding my breath.
The tantalizing possibility that they could exist is enough to keep me fascinated, and always has been.