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Exploring American Monsters: Florida

Zombies, cannibals, and freaks. Florida is known for terrifying creatures that stalk the streets and swamps of this Southern state, and that’s just the locals, such as Jonathon “The Impaler” Sharkey of Tampa. Sharkey has run for the highest political office in the United States three times since 2004 to become the first vampire president, according to CBS News. He claims he’s a direct descendent of Vlad the Impaler. He’s also been accused of brainwashing teenage girls, and intimidating a judge. Just another happy, carefree story from the Sunshine State.

Even without the people, Florida is a scary place filled with alligators, hybrid man-eating pythons, escaped kangaroos, and herpes-infected monkeys.

Yes, herpes-infected monkeys.

But that’s nothing compared to Florida’s monsters.

An unidentified Florida woman claimed to take this picture out her back door.

Myakka Skunk Ape

An odd sort of Bigfoot, the skunk ape is said to more resemble an orang-utan than the gorilla-like Bigfoot reported around North America. The skunk ape, named for the foul scent that accompanies it, was seen often in Florida swampland throughout the 1960s and 1970s, and although sightings have declined since then, some of the most interesting encounters have been during the past fifteen years.

In 2000, an unnamed woman sent the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Department photographs of what she thought to be an orang-utan in her back yard. The beast had appeared on three consecutive nights at her house near the Myakka River, eating apples from her back porch. It smelled awful.

In 2013, Floridian Mike Falconer took a 1:55 minute video on his iPhone in the Myakka River State Park he claims to have been the skunk ape. You can find the video of the distant, black, hairy creature on YouTube.

Although Florida wildlife officials deny the existence of the skunk ape, the sightings continue.

Plesiosaurs in Florida? Why not? Come on in, the water’s fine.

Lake Clinch Monster

Lake Clinch in Polk County has a long history of a monster in its depths. In the 1928 book, “A History of Polk County,” M.F. Hetherington documents tales of a huge creature in Lake Clinch. “The Indians many years ago insisted there was an immense serpent in this lake,” Hetherington wrote. “In 1907 residents of Frostproof declared they had seen the monster, and that it must be 30 feet long.”

Although called a serpent, the descriptions of the monster – with a humped back, long neck, and flippers – sounds more like a plesiosaur.

The Polk County newspaper, The Ledger, refers to a passage in the book, “My Pioneer Days in Florida, 1876-1898,” by Emily Bell, that claimed the beast was “green and black and a yellowish mingled colours” that was at least thirty feet long.

Muck Monster

You want a Muck Monster T-shirt? You can get a Muck Monster T-Shirt, and a barbecue apron, as well.

This monster, a large serpent-like creature, has been seen for years in Lake Worth Lagoon, however it gained notoriety when two members of the non-profit “Lagoon Keepers” organization, Greg Reynolds and Dan Serrano, took a boat to fish a large log from the water. The log moved. The two followed it, but every time they closed to within 10 feet of the “log,” it submerged. This caused the two to say this obviously living creature was hiding in the muck. The duo shot video of the monster and sent it to a local television station, and Muck Monster mania was born.

Although there have been serious attempts to investigate the creature, by legitimate scientists and weekend cryptozoologists, the crass commercialism of the area has turned the story of the Muck Monster into Muck Monster specials at local restaurants. The T-shirts and barbecue aprons are legitimate, and go to fund the Lagoon Keepers efforts to keep the waterways clean.

Sauropods on the beach. Best spring break ever.

Sauropods on the beach. Best spring break ever.

Sauropod Dinosaur

Although the sightings had tapered off by 1975, between 1955 and 1961, the St. Johns River was hot with reports of a river monster. The reports weren’t confined to the locals. Visitors, commercial fishermen, authorities, and seemingly everyone saw this creature – a huge, humped beast, with a long tail, long neck, and doglike head. A man from Lake County claimed he saw an elephant-like monster leave the water and eat plants from the banks, leaving crushed vegetation and broken trees in its wake as it moved through the brush.

Like Jules Verne wasn't into Japanese porn.

Like Jules Verne wasn’t into Japanese porn.

St. Augustine Monster

In 1896, beachgoers at St. Augustine found something hideous on the sand – a corpse. The unidentifiable mess of a creature, quickly called the St. Augustine Monster, was an eighteen-by-ten-foot blob that smelled worse than the Skunk Ape. Scientists declared this beast, most probably from the deepest depths of the ocean, to be a giant octopus or squid. You know, like the one Jules Verne used to attack the Nautilus in “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.” This is the first verified occurrence of a “globster,” an “unidentified organic mass” that washes up on seashore.

Although modern analysis of the monster (1995) show it may be the remains of a Sperm whale, no one knows for sure what the St. Augustine Monster was. It may be Cthulhu.

Next up: Georgia.