Cryptozoology. Merriam-Webster defines it as “the study of and search for animals and especially legendary animals (such as Sasquatch) usually in order to evaluate the possibility of their existence.” This study has grown widespread in recent years, leading to countless books, movies, TV shows, and documentaries on the subject, including such titles as the Weiser Field Guide to Cryptozoology, Lake Monster Mysteries, Adventures in Cryptozoology, Bigfoot in Maine, and others. And while cryptozoology exists all over the world, the realm of cryptids—as the subjects of this study are called—seems to be particularly active in the United States of America.
Indeed, every state in the union has at least one or two cryptids of its very own, and often even smaller communities can boast local creatures of legend. From alien visitors to unlikely local fauna, these strange critters frequently become something rather like a local mascot. Some have attained fame far beyond their immediate environs, such as the Jersey Devil or the mothman of West Virginia, while others remain largely unknown outside of their own region. Here are a few of the most interesting and incredible creatures from 5 states across the country:
California Cryptid: The Fresno Nightcrawler
The modern internet age has changed the way people learn about—and interact with—cryptozoology and the cryptids that it studies. The so-called Fresno Nightcrawler may be the biggest star to come out of the internet’s fascination with such creatures. Or, at least, the biggest one to trace its origins to the internet age. Originally reported in Fresno, California in 2007, the Nightcrawler basically just looks like a pair of pants walking around.
It has been captured a few times on video, including during that original sighting, and subsequently in places like Yosemite National Park, and even in Poland. While many of these videos may be faked, the Nightcrawler has taken on a life of its own online, where it has become every bit as popular as such famous cryptids as Bigfoot, the mothman, or the Loch Ness Monster.
Indiana Cryptid: Beast of Busco
If ape-like humanoids are the most popular of cryptids, then lake monsters can’t be far behind. And while the best-known lake monster may hail from Loch Ness in Scotland, just about any good-sized body of water in America has a decent chance of hosting a cryptid all its own, from the legendary Champy of New York’s Lake Champlain to lesser known critters like Nebraska’s Alkali Lake Monster.
Among these, the so-called Beast of Busco, nicknamed Oscar after the first person to ever report seeing it, is both one of the most prosaic and the most charming. Essentially just a very big snapping turtle, albeit one the size of a small car, the Beast of Busco took the town – and the nation – by storm in 1949, when reports of its presence put little Churubusco, Indiana on the map and led to a massive hunt for the beast that included attempts at diving, draining the lake, and even bringing in a female turtle to try to draw Oscar out of hiding.
In fact, Churubusco still celebrates Turtle Days every June, which features a parade and turtle races, all in honor of good ol’ Oscar.
Mississippi Cryptid: Pascagoula River Aliens
According to Charles Hickson, one of two men who encountered these cryptids while fishing on the west bank of the Pascagoula River in October of 1973, the so-called “Pascagoula River Aliens” were human-sized with crab-like claws, spiky protrusions where a human’s ears would be, and gray skin so wrinkly that he couldn’t tell if they had eyes. They came from an oval ship that had flashing lights and made a hissing or zipping sound, and the creatures abducted Hickson and his fishing companion, Calvin Parker, Jr.
“They gave a thorough, I mean a thorough, examination to me just like any doctor would,” Parker later claimed, before the creatures – which Hickson assumed were robots of some sort – deposited the two men back on the shore where they had found them. The Pascagoula River aliens have never shown up again since, but the story told by the two men has entered forever into the annals of cryptozoological lore.
Missouri Cryptid: Momo
Ape-like humanoids may be the most common form of cryptid around. While Bigfoot is the most famous, it seems that just about every state has one, from South Dakota’s rather dapper Taku-He to the notorious Florida skunk ape. The Missouri Monster, also known as Momo, is pretty obviously Missouri’s contribution to this canon.
First spotted in 1972, on the outskirts of Louisiana (which is a city in Missouri near St. Louis), Momo matches the descriptions of many of the other ape-like cryptids around the world. Tall with a pumpkin-sized head, Momo is said to be covered in shaggy hair that doesn’t smell all that great. Helping to set him apart from the crowd is the fact that Momo reportedly leaves behind three-toed footprints wherever he goes. While Momo never attained the nationwide fame of some of his peers from other states, he did have a ride named after him at Six Flags St. Louis, which operated between 1973 and 1994.
Ohio Cryptid: Loveland Frogman
Stories of short, frog-like humanoids around the region of Loveland, Ohio go back a long time. In fact, according to local lore, the first person to encounter one of the Loveland frogs was a businessman traveling through the area in 1955. Depending on the version of the story you hear, he may have seen as many as three of the creatures, each one standing three or four feet tall, with one of them possibly waving a wand above its head that shot sparks. These creatures were said to resemble giant, bipedal frogs.
From there, the legend began, and in 1972, it was embellished when a police officer claimed to see a similar creature—a claim that was later supported by a fellow officer who argued that it was possibly just an escaped pet iguana that was really quite large.