Sunday, August 4, 2019

Why so long between posts?

So it's been quite a gap between my latest post on the Loveland Frogs and my last post about Sharlie. A little over five months. I know I am rather sporadic in my updates to Cryptids State-by-State, but why such a sudden, long hiatus?

The big reason is that I was putting all my creative energy into finishing up a major art project. For the past year (well, two years really, but I didn't get serious until July 2018) I've been writing and illustrating a picture book! 







I began writing The Scarecrow Harvest Festival as a gift for my son, who loves scarecrows and autumn festivals. Autumn is also my favorite season, so it was a perfect opportunity to immerse myself in a creative world of pumpkins, fallen leaves and chilly evenings (something I miss even more on these summer heatwave nights). The last month I've been working extra hard to get everything formatted for printing. I'm currently publishing my book independently through Amazon's KDP services, but I'm actively seeking out publishers to get it professionally distributed. If you'd like your own copy you can get it here! 

Now that this big project is finally complete,  I can devote more of my energy towards my other art projects, particularly this blog.  I'm aiming to post more frequently- I'd like to get it up to at least once a month. And once every state has their very own official unofficial cryptid, I'm going to compile everything into a book with lots of new material. So stay tuned!

Friday, August 2, 2019

Loveland Frog- Ohio


Millions of years ago, in the Carboniferous period, the land that would become Ohio was a hot, muggy swamp home to a variety of giant amphibious beasts such as the giant salamander-croc Stegops, the boomerang-headed Platyrhinops, the sinuous, eel-like Diceratosaurus, and many more. Is it possible some of these creatures survived into the modern day, evolving over the eons into bipedal humanoids lurking in remote waterways like the Creature from the Black Lagoon? Well, no. Probably not. But that would make a pretty great backstory for Ohio’s favorite legendary creatures, the Loveland Frogs.

The story of the Frogs began in the summer of 1955 when a businessman driving through Clermont County saw three batrachian beings huddled together on the side of the road. When he got out of his car and approached the creatures, one of them raised a spark-emitting wand that scared him away.
The Loveland Frogs did not reappear again until 1972 when police officer Ray Shockey saw what he initially thought was a dog lying in the middle of the road. As he stepped closer, the animal stood up on its hind legs- revealing itself to be more amphibious than canine- and quickly hopped over a guardrail. A few weeks later another officer, Mark Matthews, sighted another of the strange creatures resting by the side of the road.

The Frogs disappeared into folklore for several decades until 2016 when two teenagers claimed to have encountered one while they were playing Pokemon Go! near Lake Isabelle. Pictures taken by one of the witnesses show a wide-mouthed creature with eerily glowing eyes half-submerged in the waters of the lake (as a huge Dungeons & Dragons nerd, I can’t help comparing the photo to the Blindheim, a weird frog-like, cave-dwelling, luminous-eyed being from the classic Fiend Folio tome).

 A recent article, however, suggests that the beast in the photo may be nothing more than a lawn decoration with light-up eyes. A hoax, most likely, but one made in the spirit of keeping the legend of the Loveland Frogs alive. 

There is quite a fondness for the Frogs in the Loveland area, so much so that the critter even got its own bluegrass musical called “Hot Damn! It’s the Loveland Frog!”

Ohio is not the only part of the Midwest with its own frog-humanoids, though. In 1951, Indiana steelworker and entrepreneurial advertiser Harrison Bailey had a close encounter with several odd batrachian beasts.  Bailey’s unique brand of advertising involved painting clients’ slogans on a large tractor wheel and rolling it by hand down a length of highway, where the eye-catching oddity would be seen by hundreds of people. While rolling his tire along Illinois Highway 7 one day, Bailey encountered an oval, silver object piloted by two beings wearing green masks. The entities allegedly paralyzed Bailey somehow and asked him where he was going and what he was doing. Once Bailey answered, they released him and allowed him to continue on his way. But when he walked away, he discovered that several hours had passed, though he had no memory of the missing time. Bailey did not talk about the incident for 25 years until he underwent hypnosis therapy to figure out what happened in the forgotten hours after he encountered the craft. Bailey recalled being suddenly swarmed and chased by a pack of foot-long humanoid frogs, accompanied by an entourage of tiny, hard-shelled “bugs”. The creatures herded him towards the craft and the green-masked beings who, in addition to the asking him where he was going, also told him that there were extraterrestrial beings living among humanity and that they wished to establish peaceful communication with Earth.

Could the weird tiny frog-creatures that Bailey encountered be related to the Loveland Frogs? Are there secret populations of intelligent, possibly extraterrestrial, amphibians lurking in hidden places throughout the Midwest? Again, probably not. But I think that bit of folklore, like the idea of Carboniferous amphibians surviving to the present day, would make a pretty fitting addition to the legend of Loveland’s bipedal, wand-wielding amphibious cryptids.



SOURCES

An article from the Cincy Weekend about the Loveland Frogs

An entry from Weird U.S. about the Loveland Frogs



Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Sharlie- Idaho



Along the western edge of Idaho lie the remains of an ancient island chain that crashed into North America millions of years ago, driven by the inexorable glide of tectonic plates.  Over time geological forces squeezed the land, pushing some sections up and dropping others down- a process known as block faulting- to create a range of low mountains through the land that would one day be called Idaho, Oregon, and Washington.

The ice came millions of years later, in the Pleistocene. Great glaciers flowed down from the boreal lands, gouging rounded valleys into the buckled terrain. When the ice eventually retreated, its meltwater filled the valleys. forming deep lakes, often dammed at their southern ends by moraines- huge piles of rock piled up by the grinding of the glaciers. One of these watery bodies is Payette Lake, located in Valley County, Idaho and named after Francois Payette, a French-Canadian trapper who wandered this land in the early 19th century. 

Native Americans- including the historical Shoshone, Nez Perce, and Tukudeka peoples- inhabited the area around Payette Lake for thousands of years, usually living along the shore in the summer and migrating to other lands in the winter.  European-Americans only arrived in the area around 1862 when veins of gold were discovered. This influx of white settlers soon led to the creation of the town of McCall.

Like numerous lakes throughout North America, Payette is said to be home to an aquatic monster. The creature was first sighted in 1920 by a crew of railroad loggers working on the edge of the lake. At first, the men assumed the long, dark shape floating in the water was merely a log. Much to their surprise, however, this “log” began to bob and undulate before swimming away into the deeper part of the lake.

The mystery beast was sighted again in 1944. This time the witnesses got a better look at the creature, describing it as having a saurian head, camel-like humps and “shell-like” skin. This second sighting brought the monster to national attention, even leading to a mention in the August 1944 issue of Time Magazine. Regular sightings continued over the decades, bringing tourists and monster-hunters to the lake.

At first, the beast was dubbed “Slimy Slim”, but local folks soon decided that their resident monster needed a better moniker. In 1954 a national contest was held to rename the creature. The winning name, “Sharlie”, was sent in by  Lesle Hennefer Turry of Springfield, Virginia. The name references a catchphrase of comedian Jack Pearl from a radio and TV show that was popular at the time. The show typically had the same formula each episode.  Pearl’s character, Baron Munchausen (based on the infamous German folk hero and grand liar) would relate an increasingly outlandish story to his straight man, Charlie. When Charlie inevitably expressed incredulity, Munchausen would respond: “Ah, well, vas you dere, Charlie?”- which, due to the Baron's thick German accent, came out as “Sharlie”.

As odd as this origin may seem, the Payette Lake beast is far from the only cryptid to owes part of its mythology to pop culture.

The Mothman of Point Pleasant, for example, was named in reference to the 1966 Adam West Batman TV series which was immensely popular around the time that the creature haunted West Virginia.

Another, more recent example of a cryptid whose folklore was shaped by pop culture is the chupacabra of Puerto Rica. The appearance of the beast was originally inspired by the H.R. Giger designed alien Sil from the 1995 movie Species.

Then there is the appearance of Grey aliens- the most widely reported type of extraterrestrial in the past several decades and currently the definitive pop culture image of an “alien”. Their iconic large heads and oval eyes were first described in 1963 by abductee Barney Hill who, while under hypnosis,  described an encounter he and his wife Betty had had with the beings two years earlier.  It’s thought by some that Barney’s description of the beings may have been inspired by the TV series The Outer Limits- in particular, by the creature from the episode “The Bellero Sheild”, which aired a few nights before Barney first hypnosis session. Prior to this session, the Hills described the creatures as being more humanoid with huge “Jimmy Durante” noses and tight-fitting black caps.

Here I’ve illustrated Sharlie as the classic plesiosaur-type lake monster.  This modern creature is significantly changed from its Mesozoic ancestors, the biggest divergence being its swan- or periscope-like neck. Despite pop cultural depictions, prehistoric plesiosaurs did not have flexible necks that they held up out of the water. Their necks were rigid and held straight out in front like a fishing pole. This kept the relatively small head far away from the body, allowing the animal to sneak up on fish and other aquatic prey without the wake of its large body alerting them to its presence. Sharlie and other hypothetical lake monsters, however, have more supple, flexible necks.

Another major modification is the set of humps that are a distinct feature of many lake monsters and a sharp contrast to the smooth, keel-shaped backs of Mesozoic plesiosaurs. Perhaps the humps are for fat storage? That would be a distinct advantage in a lake or other enclosed freshwater environment where food is not always as abundant and consistent as in the open ocean.

Sharlie reconstructed as a filter-feeder, based on a reconstruction of Mortuneria from F. Robin O'Keefe's paper.

For this reconstruction, I have imagined Sharlie as a filter-feeder. In 2015 paleontologist F. Robin O'Keefe redescribed Morturneria seymourensis, a fossil plesiosaur from Antarctica that had rows of thin, needle-like teeth that it had apparently used to strain food like a baleen whale (Mortuneria was originally discovered and named in 1984 by paleontologists Sankar Chatterjee and Bryan Small who had also speculated that the Antarctic plesiosaur was a filter-feeder. But these adaptations were not fully confirmed until 2015). Mortuneria is believed to have fed by gulping mouthfuls of seafloor sediment and straining the mud through its cage of teeth to catch tiny crustaceans, worms, and other burrowing invertebrates- a feeding method similar to that used by modern day gray whales. I thought this would be an intriguing feeding behavior for Sharlie and other lake plesiosaurs, and could also explain why they are rarely sighted since they would be spending most of their time near the bottom of the lake filtering the sediments.


REFERENCES








Sunday, November 25, 2018

Mo'o- Hawai'i


A note before I proceed with today’s entry.


Throughout this blog, I have been admittedly rather loose with my definition of what a “cryptid” is. Technically this term refers only to natural animals unknown to science- lake monsters, giant mystery primates, out of place big cats, prehistoric relics, etc. However, my blog has included other things such as aliens, supernatural entities and outright hoaxes. It might be more accurate to call it “Beasts of Legend, State-by-State”, but that name isn’t quite as catchy. Though, to be fair, popular cryptozoology itself also tends to include potentially supernatural creatures like the Mothman or likely hoaxes such as the Fresno Nightcrawlers. Regardless of whether cryptids and other unknown beings are real or not, they form a significant part of our modern day collective folklore and exploring that mythology is the main drive behind my blog.


I bring this up because today’s cryptid, the mo’o, also does not precisely fit the stricter definition of a cryptid, being a type of supernatural being rather than a species of unknown animal.  Additionally, mo’o are an important component in the beliefs of many Hawai’ian people, so I have tried to remain respectful while discussing them.  


Anyway...

In Hawai’ian folklore, giant reptilian beings called mo’o (pronounced “moh-oh”, with the apostrophe forming a glottal stop between the two “o”) are believed to haunt the islands. These entities can shapeshift at will and may help or harm mortals depending on their mercurial moods. In their natural shape mo’o are described as jet black lizards, large as a small whale. They are rarely seen in this form, though, since they usually appear as mortal women, beautiful and seductive but also fierce and dangerous. 


Mo’o inhabit rivers, waterfalls and other bodies of water. They are particularly associated with loko i’a (fish ponds)- large, artificial coves create by building up walls of lava rock to form a partially-enclosed bay in which aquatic vegetation is cultivated to attract herbivorous fish. In addition to being a major source of protein, many loko i’a are also sacred sites and are thus protected by the fearsome “lizard goddesses”.


Where, one has to wonder, did the reptilian image of the mo’o come from? The only reptiles found in Hawai’i (other than sea turtles) are four small species of gecko brought by the original Polynesian settlers. Today these tiny lizards have become associated with mo’o in popular culture of the islands, but it’s unlikely that they were the inspiration for the legendary shape-shifters.


Some researchers believe mo’o legends developed from stories of the crocodiles and giant monitor lizards of Southeast Asia, the ancestral homelands of the Polynesian peoples. It’s also possible that these stories were based on Mekosuchus, a genus of small crocodile relatives that lived on New Caledonia and Vanuatu- and possibly other islands of the South Pacific- until they were driven to extinction by the arrival of humans a few thousand years ago. 


Many families of native Hawaiian descent have ancestral guardians or ‘aumakua (the apostrophe at the beginning signals a glottal stop like the pause in the Cockney English pronunciation of bottle as “bo’le). ‘Aumakua often take the forms of animals such as sharks, owls, birds and, for some families, mo’o.


The most well-known of these mo’o ‘aumakua- and one especially important to Hawaiian history- is Kihawahine. She is said to live in the loko i’a of Moku’ula, a sacred site on the island of Maui. In times past the chiefs of Maui ruled from this site with the mo’o acting as intermediary between the mortal and spirit worlds. When King Kamehameha the Great united all the Hawaiian islands under his rule in 1810, he made Moku’ula the seat of his kingdom and married a woman, Keōpūolani, whose ‘aumakua was Kihawahine. This union put him under the reptile goddess’ protection and granted him good fortune as he fought to maintain his kingdom. Today Moku’ula is buried under a baseball field in the town of Lahaina, but plans are underway to restore the ancient site.


Like many supernatural beings, mo’o can be malevolent as well as helpful, and there are numerous stories in Hawai’ian mythology of these creatures antagonizing humans. In one legend the volcano goddess Pele sends her sister Hi’iaka on a mission to rescue Pele’s mortal lover who has been captured by a trio of mo’o.  In addition to these three, Hi’iaka must contend with Kikipua, a mo’o woman who tries to devour the goddess by casting an illusion that makes her long, reptilian tongue look like a wooden bridge.


REFERENCES













Hawaiian Mythology by Martha Beckwith

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Shunka Warak'in, or Ringdocus- Montana


Until just a few thousand years ago there was considerably more megafauna diversity in North America than there is today. Most famous of these large Pleistocene mammals, of course, were the mammoths, mastodons and sabertooth cats. But there were many more, as well. Camels and horses. Giant ground sloths. American cheetahs (actually more closely related to pumas than African cheetahs). Hell pigs. A Shovel-tusked elephant called Amebelodon. Beavers as big as black bears. Muscular, bulky amphicyonids or bear-dogs (which were not canids proper, but may have been related to modern dogs). And dozens more. Sadly the majority of North America’s megafauna were killed off in the late Pleistocene by a combination of changing climate and competition with/hunting by humans. 

But what if a few of these ancient beasts survived? Perhaps a small population of animals somewhere in the open prairies and shrublands of the West?

In 1886 Montana rancher Israel Ammon Hutchins shot an unusual wolf-like beast on his land. He gave the body to taxidermist Joseph Sherwood who mounted it and put it on display in his Idaho general store/museum. The animal, eventually dubbed the “Ringdocus”, was similar to a wolf but with a few striking differences. Its coat was tan with patches of black and faint dark stripes along the flanks and haunches. Its head was also narrower and more pointed than a wolf’s. Hutchins also claimed that the beast had humped shoulders like a hyena, though the stuffed body shows no sign of this feature.

Over time the stuffed Ringdocus became associated with a legendary beast of the Ioway people known as the Shunka Warak’in (according to writer and archaeologist Lance Foster, the final “n” is not pronounced, and serves simply to nasalize the “ee” sounds before it) which translates to “Carries Off Dogs” because of its alleged habit of killing and eating a tribe’s canines.

But what exactly was the Ringdocus/Shunka Warak’in that Hutchins shot? Was it an unusual-looking wolf? An unknown canine breed? Poor taxidermy? Or could it have been a representative of a heretofore thought extinct genus of Pleistocene mammals? Some cryptozoologists have speculated that it could have been a surviving dire wolf or Chasmaporthetes, the American hyena. Others have suggested that it may have been a relative of the Borophagus or “Bone-crushing Dog”- another dog-like mammal group unrelated to true canines.

Possession of the Ringdocus has been contested over the years. When Sherwood’s museum/store closed, its collection- including the mystery beast- was given to the Idaho Museum of Natural History in Pocatello, where most of it remained in storage. in 2007 the creature mount was tracked down by a man named Jack Kirby (unrelated to the famed comic book artist), who claims he is a direct descendant of Israel Hutchins and brought to the Madison Valley History Museum near Ennis, Montana. This was not without some protest from residents of Pocatello, who wanted the Ringdocus to remain in their city.

The obvious solution to figuring out the identity of the Ringdocus/Shunka Warak’in would be to perform a thorough scientific examination of the mount, including a DNA test. However, Kirby is reluctant to “ruin” his family’s 140-year old mystery by having it analyzed.  So, for now, the true nature of the Ringdocus must remain unknown.


On an interesting additional note, in a story for Paranormal Montana archaeologist Lance M. Foster mentions that while researching the sacred bundle system of the Ioway people, he came across papers from anthropologist Alanson Skinner detailing an item from the “Big Ioway War Bundle” that was referred to as a Hyena or “canka iwarawakya” skin (the latter should more accurately be spelled shunka iwarawakiya, according to Foster) which means “carrying off dogs”. Could this be more evidence of the mystery beasts lurking in the Western wilderness? 

In 2009 Foster was interviewed for a student film project about the Ringdocus/ Shunka Warak'in which you can watch in full here.

SOURCES








Cryptozoology A to Z: The Encyclopedia of Loch Monsters, Sasquatch, Chupacabras, and Other Authentic Mysteries of Nature 
by Loren Coleman and Jerome Clark


Sunday, May 6, 2018

Batsquatch- Washington



On the morning of April 19th, 1994, Brian Canfield was driving near Mt. Ranier in Washington state when his truck suddenly died. As he struggled to get it started, a tall, furry monster landed on the road before him. Canfield described the bipedal creature as having blue-tinted fur, a wolf-like face, clawed bird-like feet, muscular arms and, strangest of all, a pair of massive wings folded against its back. Though Canfield was terrified of the apparition, the creature did not appear particularly aggressive. It watched him for a bit before opening its great wings and flying off into the night.
Canfield returned to the site later that day with his mother and a neighbor to search for evidence of the encounter. None, naturally, could be found. When his story reached the media, the creature was given the somewhat tongue-in-cheek name Batsquatch.

Though no further sightings of Batsquatch have come to light, this is not the only known report of a giant, bat-like flyer in the United States. In his 2008 book "Dr. Shuker’s Casebook", the famous cryptozoologist Dr. Karl Shuker described a close encounter with a similar chiropteran monster in Raymondville, Texas. On January 14th, 1976, Armando Grimaldo was in his mother-in-law’s backyard when he heard an odd whistling and flapping sound. He did not have time to ponder the curious noises long for he was suddenly attacked by a large winged beast with dark, leathery skin and a flattened, monkey-like face. The monster clawed at Grimaldo, but he was able to escape and flee into the house. Later reports described other sightings of the beast earlier in January throughout the Rio Grande Valley, though none were as violent as the encounter Grimaldo had.

Giant bat-creatures have been reported from other parts of the world as well. In a 1966 article naturalist Ivan T. Sanderson wrote of a child-size, gray bat called the Ahool that allegedly inhabited the jungles of the Indonesian island of Java. According to Sanderson the creature’s name was derived from its distinctive cry, a booming “AH-OOOoool”.  A similar creature called the Orang Bati is said to living on Seram, another island in the Indonesian archipelago.

Could Batsquatch, the Raymondville Beast, the Ahool and other large leather-winged beasts simply be giant bats? The currently largest known bat is the Flying Fox (Pteropus vampyrus)  which has a wingspan of around 5 feet and a body about the size of a small dog’s. Even accounting for exaggeration in some of these eye-witness reports, these unknown chiropterans would exceed that size by several feet, putting them in the same size category as some of the larger extinct pterosaurs.

If these creatures are indeed real what are they eating and where do they live? The Flying Fox consumes primarily fruit, an abundant resource in its jungle home. The Ahool and Orang Bati could perhaps have similar diets. However, the temperate forests of the Pacific Northwest that the Batsquatch allegedly calls home are not so well supplied. Perhaps the Batsquatch is a carnivore. Maybe a nocturnal equivalent to Washington’s hawks and eagles. Owls are certainly the top night-time land predator in North America and would be significant competition for a Batsquatch. But perhaps the creature is a piscivore like the Bulldog Bat (Noctillio leporinus) of South America. Maybe it spends its nights skimming the rivers and coasts, snapping up large fish swimming near the surface.


One of the stranger aspects of Canfield’s description of the Batsquatch was the apparent presence of both arms AND wings. This would mean it was a six-limbed animal, a condition which is completely unknown among land vertebrates. Perhaps Canfield simply misinterpreted the claws on the beast’s wings as hands? Or maybe his mind added the arms to his memory after the fact. Or perhaps the Batsquatch wasn’t even a natural creature at all. Maybe it was an extradimensional entity similar to the Mothman or the Van Meter Visitor, and its appearance was merely a temporary form it assumed in this dimension. Anything more tangible than creative speculation will require more direct evidence of this strange Washington beast.

SOURCES




Cryptozoologicon: The Biology, Evolution, and Mythology of Hidden Animals, Volume 1 by John Conway, C. M. Kosemen, and Darren Naish

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Another Crpytid Culture issue!


Here's the latest issue of Cryptid Culture magazine. My submission for this issue took a slightly different turn. Instead of a factual article, I wrote a short bit of fiction about my paranormal investigator character, James Lee. 

I originally created Lee for a series of "found letter" packages- in the vein of the Mysterious Package Company and the RPG De Profundis- which I gave my dad as birthday and Christmas presents. Lee started off as a minor character, just something to flesh out the setting. But I gradually grew more intrigued by him and thought it'd be interesting to see more of his adventures. Lee is mainly a cryptozoologist, but also a ghost-hunter and an overall researcher into the unknown. Because of his many experiences, he is actually very skeptical of the supernatural. He knows that most reports of ghosts, aliens, mysterious animals and other things are usually either misidentifications of natural phenomena or outright hoaxes. I drew inspiration for Lee from a variety of sources, including real-life cryptozoologists like Bernard Heuvelmans and Linda Godfrey and fictional investigators like the Ghostbusters, Thomas Karnacki, and even Hellboy.



In this issue's story "Blockhead", Lee comes into contact with an unusual cryptid from Connecticut folklore and discovers it's strange connection to the Mothman and other bizarre otherworldly flying creatures.

I'm currently working on another James Lee adventure featuring the Mongolian Death Worm which should appear in the next issue


The cover of this issue features a painting done by artist Gail Potocki of Pango, a creature from an upcoming practical effects sci-fi movie called Aurora about, as the Kickstarter pages says: "Nazis vs cowboys and a cryptid in the Wild West".

In addition to my story, this issue also features articles about the Tata Duende of Belize, a "making-of" on the indie cryptid horror film "Sightings" (not to be confused with the 1990s TV show), the Pascagoula aliens and more.

You can get a copy of Cryptid Culture here.