The world of cryptozoology, with its sea monsters, Bigfoot, Chupacabras, and other mysterious creatures of all shapes and sizes roaming the wilds of the world spawning some truly amazing tales, is perhaps for some already fairly strange enough. Yet while some of these alleged mystery beasts may already be pushing the envelope of the weird, on occasion there are cases of strange creatures that go bursting straight through that envelope, erupting into the realms of the truly otherworldly and bizarre, driving out past the boundaries of oddity into the surreal. These are the puzzling creatures which are nearly impossible to categorize, seeming to exist free of the established rules of zoology, biology, or even in some cases reality, and are truly unique entities inhabiting a domain unto themselves, even perhaps challenging our notions of what a cryptid even is. Lurking out beyond the horizons of the strange, perched at the very fringes of cryptozoology, this is the weird world of some of the strangest, most outlandish, and indeed at times most preposterous cryptids around. Let’s take a look.
Across a large swath of West Virginia including Boone, Kanawha, Putnam and Mason counties there is said to be lurking a hulking creature which is really hard to quite classify. Starting from around the mid-1990s there began a string of sightings of what was described as a white, wooly bear-sized beast with a pointed head topped by goat-like horns, a snouted face with long, sharp teeth, and a long hairless tail said to be reminiscent of that of an opossum. Often reported as accompanied by a pungent, sulfurous stench, the creature was at first called simply the “White Thing,” and would later garner the name “Sheepsquatch,” although it bears very little physical resemblance at all to its more famous Sasquatch cryptid cousin other than perhaps its size and hairiness.
The first sightings of this bizarre creature started coming in in 1994. In perhaps the earliest report, a group of women claimed that they had been driving along a treacherous icy road in a location in West Virginia known as the TNT area, which they were cautiously inching along in order not to get into an accident. According to the witnesses, they were then surprised by a large creature which lumbered out of the woods in front of them, described as being around 7 or 8 feet tall, covered with shaggy white hair, and with a pointed snout, ram-like horns, and human-looking legs. The mysterious creature allegedly froze for a moment when the headlights hit it before running off into the dark forest.
Soon after this report others came pouring in, and there were numerous sightings made in 1994. In one account, a former Navy seaman out hunting observed the same creature emerge from the forest to crouch at a creek to drink before continuing on its way. The witness claimed to have watched it for several minutes, and said that it had human-like hands. In another account, a motorist spotted a tall, robust creature on a hillside, that was covered in white fur that appeared to be like rags hanging off of its body. In that very same year there was another rather high profile sighting made in Boone County by two children playing in their yard. The children reported that a beast that looked like a white bear walking on its hind legs was making its way through the underbrush on the periphery of their property when their startled screams had sent it in a mad bolt through the forest, leaving snapped saplings and tree branches in its wake.
Later reports of the Sheepsquatch would take on a more threatening tone. In 1995, a couple was driving along when they spotted a white, bear-like creature hunched over in a roadside ditch. When the couple slowed down to see what it was, the creature had then stood up on its hind legs to reveal that it was no bear, but rather a massive beast with a horned head and, oddly, four eyes. The thing then allegedly dashed at their car in a fury, slashing and banging the side of the vehicle with great force before the terrified couple sped away. They claimed that when they reached their home they discovered that the side of their car displayed wicked scratches that looked like they had been made by claws. In 1999 there was another such frightening encounter, when some campers heard what they at first took to be the sounds of bear grunting, huffing and moving about out in the darkness beyond their camp. Already a little spooked that a bear was in such close proximity and not sounding to be in the best of moods, the campers were truly in for a shock when out of the brush came crashing a hulking white blur which let out a bloodcurdling, unearthly scream. Fleeing for their lives, the campers briefly looked back to see the Sheepsquatch standing at their camp glaring at them. Allegedly, when the campers returned the following day their campsite seemed to have been totally ransacked by a large animal of some kind. In yet another apparent attack by a Sheepsquatch, an account outlined on a 2013 episode of the TV show Monsters and Mysteries in America, two hunters claimed that a giant, furry white beast over 9 feet tall had let out a “ungodly, gut-curling growl” before running towards them in an aggressive manner.
The most recent report of the Sheepsquatch occurred in 2015, when a group of six unnamed campers saw it while camping out in a place called Fulks Run. One of the campers reportedly first saw the creature crouching menacingly atop a hill at around midnight, after which he went to warn the others. It was then that whatever it was stood to its full height of 8 or 9 feet and started running down the hill towards their camp. Apparently a river stood between the campers and the creature, but after trying in vain to find a way around it simply waded right into the rushing water to slosh towards them. By this time, all of the campers had gathered to watch the strange monster coming inexorably through the river towards them, and when it emerged they could see that it looked like a huge, white bipedal dog, dripping water from its soaked fur. The campers reported that there had then been a shriek from out in the forest from something else, and this had apparently frightened the creature, which whimpered and slunk off back into the woods in apparent fear or passiveness. One wonders what could have provoked such a response.
As absurd as the Sheepsquatch may seem, it is not the only truly strange Sasquatch-like beast out there. The swamplands of Lee County, South Carolina, as well as sewers and abandoned tunnels of the area, are purported to be the haunt of a large reptilian humanoid that has become known as the Lizard Man of Ore Swamp, or the Lizard Man of Lee County. It is undoubtedly a baffling apparition, said to be a bipedal reptile of some sort which stands around 7 feet tall, is covered in green scaly skin, with occasional mentions of tufts of hair amongst the prominent scales, has three-fingered clawed hands sometimes described as being webbed and three toes, also with formidable claws, as well as a hideous face with fangs and large glowing orange eyes. There are occasional accounts that make mention of a long tail reminiscent of that of an alligator, and the creature is said to be fairly aggressive.
Perhaps the most well-known report, and the one which launched the Lizard Man into the public consciousness, is that of a local 17-year-old boy named Christopher Davis. In the dark, early morning hours of June 29, 1988, Davis was allegedly driving home from work on a lonely road near the Scape Ore Swamp, just outside of Bishopville, when he got a flat tire. As he was out changing the tire with a spare he kept in the trunk, Davis heard a strange noise like thumping, which clearly stood out amongst the din of the buzzing of insects and other swamp sounds of the night. When he turned to see what had made the odd sound, he was startled to see a bizarre creature with glowing red eyes running at full speed across a nearby field towards him. With the distance between them dwindling rapidly, and sensing that the thing had decidedly aggressive intent, Davis then retreated to the confines of his car in a panic, after which it came at the vehicle and violently grabbed the door handle. The terrified youth could see the enraged creature yanking at his door now clearly from the neck down, and described it as having green scales and three large fingers with curved claws. The monster then apparently jumped onto the roof of the car and attempted to pry the roof off with its bare hands before Davis sped off and somehow managed to jostle it off. When he returned home, Davis claimed that the door handle to his car had been seriously damaged, and that there had been what appeared to be scratches and gouges on the roof of the vehicle, as well as strips of vinyl siding that had apparently been ripped off.
The boy’s father would later take him to the Lee County Sheriff's Office, where he would relate the whole incident to a Sheriff Liston Truesdale. The report was undoubtedly unusual but also intriguing, as apparently there had been a report a few weeks earlier, on July 14, 1988, that something large had badly mauled the car of an older couple named Tom and Mary Wayne, in the nearby rural community of Browntown, although it was not yet known just what sort of animal had done it. Nevertheless, the authorities were skeptical of Davis’ dramatic story at first, but over the next few weeks further sightings of the Lizard Man in the area’s swamp started coming in, many of these from seemingly credible sources, as well as more complaints of damage to cars such as scratches and teeth marks caused by some wild animal, and even missing dogs and cats. Authorities investigating one of these reports were even able to obtain casts of odd, three-toed footprints measuring 14 inches (36 cm) in length that were unable to be linked to any known wildlife. With the growing list of reports coming in, the Sheriff’s Department came to the conclusion that there was probably something indeed running around spooking people and damaging cars, but that it was probably a bear or coyotes rather than a giant human-lizard hybrid.
In the meantime, the stories of the Lizard Man prowling the swamps had provoked a media frenzy, with reporters and curious tourists flocking to the area in the hopes of getting a glimpse of the creature. One radio station even offered up a $1 million reward for the successful capture of the beast, and there were the inevitable armed, trigger happy monster hunters showing up as well. This sharp spike in media interest and tourism would start to fade in light of a bogus sighting made by an airman stationed at Shaw Air Force Base by the name of Kenneth Orr, who claimed that he had actually shot the Lizard Man, and even presented scales and blood from the creature as evidence. Orr would later admit to making up the whole thing in an effort to maintain the tale of the creature and keep tourists coming in. Another incident involved a man dressing up as a lizard and running around trying to spook people at night. In light of these hoaxes, as well as the steadily dropping number of actual credible sightings reports coming in, interest in the Lizard Man began to wane, and before long the tourists and media attention petered out. Even so, reports of the Lizard Man have occasionally come in right up into the 2000s, such as a woman who in 2005 claimed to have seen two large, scaly creatures with glowing eyes outside of her home in Newberry, SC.
Interestingly, the phenomenon of Lizard Men is not confined to South Carolina, and there have been similar bipedal humanoid reptilian creatures spotted all over the United States, including the New Jersey Gator Man, the Ohio Loveland Frogman, and indeed such monsters have been reported from all over the world, in such disparate countries as India, South Africa, Canada, and Japan. There have been the rather far-out theories that these creatures could represent some sort of surviving dinosaur, the result of dinosaurs evolving along the lines of humans into a form similar to ours, or even that they are some sort of lizard-like aliens. The more likely explanation, at least in the case of the Ore Swamp Lizard Man, is that it was an attempt to play up the mystery as a marketing ploy to draw in tourists, perhaps mixed in with a little mass hysteria. Indeed, when the TV show Destination Truth traveled to Lee County to investigate, they were met with a deluge of Lizard Man related merchandise and came up with a decidedly faked footprint, leading them to come away quite skeptical about the whole tale.
Tales of something even more bizarre still than Sheepsquatch and Lizard Men come to us from the wilds of the state of Ohio, where we have stories of an incredibly strange tribe of bulbous headed, freakish looking cannibals that have long been said to stalk rural areas in and around Kirtland and Chardon, Ohio, and have come to be known as the Melonheads. These creatures are said to look more or less human, but with a sickly pallor and enormous, almost comically oversized craniums that sit atop their slight, emaciated bodies. The supposed origins of this odd tale are murky to say the least, and there are many versions of how the Melonheads came to be, but the most popular is perhaps of a group of orphaned children that came to be the subjects of a twisted scientific experiment gone awry. According to this version of the story, a mad scientist by the name of Dr. Crow came into the possession of these abandoned children by unspecified means, and proceeded to take them out to a secluded facility in the woods near Kirtland, Ohio, in order to perform experiments on them. Depending on the version of this particular story, the children’s heads then became deformed and misshapen due to either the effects of the mysterious experiments or the fact that they already had a condition known as hydrocephalus, or a buildup of fluid in the brain. These deformed children went mad from whatever was being done to them, and escaped into the woods, again depending on the version either from sneaking out or with the help of Dr. Crow's wife, who had become sympathetic with their plight. One permutation of this tale is that Dr. Crow’s wife died and in their sorrowful tantrum the children knocked over a lamp to burn the cabin down in a fiery inferno. In this story, the Melonheads are either the descendants of these freakish mutants or are the ghosts of the children eternally wandering the wilderness.
Another version of the Melonheads’ origin is a more straightforward story of a top-secret government project which was doing experiments out in the wilds of Lake County for who knows what nefarious purpose. In this scenario, the subjects underwent some sort of drastic experiments on their brains, which caused them to become ballooned and deformed. These subjects over time craved some sort of contact with the outside world, and are said to have escaped to make their way to civilization. Unfortunately, they soon realized that civilization did not want anything to do with them and their hideous visages, and so the forlorn freaks trudged back out into the wilderness to live forever in seclusion. The government, not wanting to create a widespread panic, did what any sinister government does in a good conspiracy theory and covered it up.
Whatever they are, stories of these bizarre entities with their freakishly large heads prowling the woods of Ohio have persisted for years, and indeed the legend has spread beyond borders to both Michigan and Connecticut, which each have their own versions of the story ranging from that they are inbred cretins to escaped hydrocephalic patients from an insane asylum. In most traditions, these strange entities are said to still live out in the wilderness, often supposedly along remote, rural roads, and have kept their numbers steady over the years through inbreeding, which has made them even more insane and alien looking. No matter what they are or where they reside, the Melonheads are purportedly not at all pleasant to be around. They are supposedly aggressive, feral creatures said to come out at night under the cover of darkness to roam the wilds hunting and getting into mischief, and it is said they are responsible for the mutilated bodies of animals sometimes allegedly found in the deep backwoods. They are also said to terrorize or even kill and eat people who wander into their territory from time to time, with those who have disappeared in Melonhead country sometimes said to have fallen victim to the vile creatures. Surely the bizarre notion of tribes of pale, vicious cannibals with oversized heads lurking in dark forests killing animals and humans seems like it must be pure urban legend and absurdity, and it likely is, yet this has not stopped people from continuing to report sightings of them from time to time, and indeed there are many who swear they are real. Urban legend or something else, the Melonheads are certainly one of the weirder mystery monsters out there.
The United States certainly does not have the monopoly on truly bizarre cryptids, and indeed two such creatures can supposedly be found in Africa. In 2011, the small farming community of Steytlerville, in the province of Karoo, South Africa, was allegedly terrorized by a mysterious creature which was said to be able to change shape at will, and which would spread mass, widespread panic throughout the area. The enigmatic creature which would come to be known as Bawokozi, meaning “brother-in-law,” made its first appearances at two separate funerals and a church service, during which it was supposedly seen peering in through windows of the church. In most accounts, it was typically said to first appear as a well-dressed man, after which it would then transform into some sort of animal or animals, including everything from dogs, cats, and monkeys, to horses, cows, and even odd animals which could not be identified, usually right before startled eyewitnesses’ eyes.
Some of the alleged encounters with the phantom creature have been truly odd to say the least, downright bonkers even. In one account, the monster was described as smoothly transforming from a man in a suit into a pig, and then into a bat, after which it flew off into the night. In another account from Easter weekend in 2011, two men were walking near a tavern late at night when they saw a suspicious looking man in a dark jacket loitering about. When one of the two tried to talk to the man they were ignored, and it was then that they realized that the figure had no head. Shortly after this startling realization, the stranger was then reported to have morphed into a dog that was “very angry and big as a cow.” As the two terrified men ran away, the strange creature then purportedly turned on another group of people and transformed yet again, this time into a monkey, before hissing and scampering away into the night. The encounter was apparently not good for the tavern’s business, as customers became too afraid to venture there at night.
Sightings of the Steytlerville Monster became so upsetting to panicked local residents that they demanded that the Eastern Cape police do something about it, and apparently townsfolk had several heated meetings with authorities to discuss the matter. According to one law enforcement officer, Warrant Officer Zandisile Nelani, there was even a picture of the thing taken, purportedly showing the creature resting under a tree. According to Nelani, the photo was originally taken of the monster in human form, but when the picture was developed it showed some sort of unidentified animal instead. Although the mysterious intruder caused a good amount of unrest in this otherwise quiet, sleepy town, whatever it was reportedly did not harm anyone. It is difficult to really classify what the Steytlerville Monster could possibly have been, and it is hard to imagine a stranger, or indeed more absurd mystery creature.
Tales of another truly strange monster come to us from the jungle choked interior of the vast African Congolese jungles. Here along remote waterways is said to lurk a creature called the Dingonek, which is typically described as being a large amphibious beast anywhere between 3 to 6 metres (9-18 feet) in length, with mottled, scaled skin, a blocky cat-like head sporting two long, curved walrus-like tusks, which has led it to be commonly referred to as the “Jungle Walrus,” and a long finned tail that possesses at its tip a formidable bony stinger which purportedly carries deadly poison and is used in the same manner as that of a scorpion. The Dingonek is said by natives of the region to be extremely territorial and aggressive, likely to viciously attack hippos, crocodiles, humans, or anything else foolish enough to enter its domain with little provocation. Although the local tribes living deep within the isolated jungles have known of this creature for centuries, the Dingotek was long mostly totally unknown to the outside world.
The most well-known, and indeed perhaps the only recorded firsthand account of an encounter with the mysterious Dingonek by outsiders occurred in the early 1900s, at a time when explorers were uncovering a wealth of large new animal species in the impenetrable interior jungles of Africa, such as the bongo and okapi. In a 1910 book of travel essays, the explorer and big game hunter Edgar Beecher Bronson wrote of a harrowing confrontation he claimed to have had with the mysterious beast. Bronson relates that he was marching along the shores of Kenya’s River Maggori when he reportedly came across an enormous beast the likes of which he had never seen before. During their trek, some of the native guides who had scouted ahead came rushing back through the thick jungle in a panic and told Bronson that they had seen a beast which they said looked like “a cross between a sea serpent, a leopard, and a whale,” but the explorer had dismissed the story and told them that he’d believe it when he saw it. Apparently he did not have long to wait, as he soon saw it for himself wallowing in the river. Bronson described this initial sight of the creature thus:
Holy saints, but he was a sight—fourteen or fifteen feet long, head big as that of a lioness but shaped and marked like a leopard, two long white fangs sticking down straight out of his upper jaw, back broad as a hippo, scaled like an armadillo, but colored and marked like a leopard, and a broad fin tail, with slow, lazy swishes of which he was easily holding himself level in the swift current, headed up stream. Gad! but he was a hideous old haunter of a nightmare, was that beast-fish, that made you want an aeroplane to feel safe of him; for while he lay up stream of me, I had been brought down to the river bank precisely where he had taken water, and there all about me in the soft mud and loam were the imprints of feet wide of diameter as a hippo's but clawed like a reptile's, feet you knew could carry him ashore and claws you could be bally well sure no man could ever get loose from once they had nipped him. Blast that blighter's fangs, but they looked long enough to go clean through a man.
Bronson then stood there in bafflement watching the beast for a time as it swam about in the water oblivious to his presence. When the hunter began to fear that it might notice him and attack, he got out his .303 rifle and fired at the creature, hitting it “behind its leopard ear,” which caused it to leap straight up out of the water in a rage. Bronson then claimed that he had run away as fast as he had ever run before into the jungle. When he returned later there was no sign of where the creature had gone, no body, and the perplexed hunter would describe the puzzling scene thus:
Gory wonder, was that fellow; a .303, where placed, should have killed anything, for he was less than ten yards from me when I shot, but though we watched waters and shores over a range of several miles for two days, no sight did we get of him or his tracks.
As weird as an ill-tempered aquatic walrus-like monster with leopard spots and a scorpion tail is, it is perhaps not even the strangest water cryptid out there. That distinction must certainly belong to a creature alleged to lurk in the depths of Lake Leelanau, Michigan, and which is a lake monster that is as obscure as it is downright odd. With Leelanau meaning “the delight of life” in the local Ojibwa language, Lake Leelanau refers to two lakes within close proximity of each other, and which apart from their alleged strange inhabitant are rather unremarkable as far as lakes go, with one lake being only around 120 feet deep and the other around 62 feet at its deepest. One might pass by these two small lakes without giving them much thought at all, if it weren’t for the tales of something prowling these waters which really defies any easy classification.
The story of the creature which would come to be known as the Leelanau Lake Monster, or simply as “Leelanau,” can be traced back to the building of a dam here in the 1800s, which caused the lake's water level to surge up around 12 feet, flooding surrounding land to create a swampy wetland. It is in this marshy quagmire of mud and reeds that the strange beast would rear its head. The most well-known report of the monster of Lake Leelanau occurred in 1910, when a young fisherman by the name of William Gauthier was out on his rowboat fishing along these wetlands. He was not having much luck that day, and found himself pushing out farther and further into areas where he had never fished or even been to before, finally deciding to stop in a promising spot and tie his boat to a submerged tree jutting from the water. As he wrapped the rope around what he had thought was just a tree, there then allegedly popped up two enormous eyes on stalks, which rose to eye level and glared intently at the terrified youth. It then became apparent that the tree was not really a tree at all, but rather some sort of monstrous, slug-like creature with knobby protrusions over its body and brown coloring that allowed it to blend in with the myriad flooded and toppled cedar trees and tree stumps littering the area. After staring at the boy for a moment, the bizarre creature then is said to have dove under the rowboat, its length reported as being far larger than the boat itself, before disappearing into the marsh while leaving a wake of swaying reeds in its wake. Needless to say, William’s day of fishing was brought to a close, and he rowed as fast as he could out of there.
The experience reportedly so badly upset Gauthier that he refused to ever go back to the lake to fish, and would for years show visible fear when recounting the frightening incident. Although this is the most prominent and detailed report of the Lake Leelanau monster, there were numerous other accounts of people on the lake witnessing a large, gnarled looking beast which they had first taken to be a sunken tree before being startled as it suddenly moved or swam off. It is an interesting cryptid account in that whatever this creature was does by no means fit the usual description of lake monsters, and is obviously much different than a large fish, eel, or extinct, prehistoric dinosaur or plesiosaur-type animal. If the Lake Leelanau monster ever really did exist, then it seems to be something quite new and bizarre; a massive, perhaps even an invertebrate life form, that has evolved to camouflage itself as a fallen tree in order to lie in wait for prey. Some of the theories put forward for the sightings are that it was perhaps a very large alligator snapping turtle, some sort of huge, unclassified slug, or simply people seeing things. It is unlikely we will ever know for sure, as there have been no new reports since the early 1900s.
These truly baffling creatures seem to be at home on land and in the water, but they are also reported from the air. Since the 1970s, Cornwall, England, seems to have become the haunt of a strange, flying humanoid entity which has come to be known as the Owlman. The creature is supposedly around the size of a man, with an owl-like body covered in grey feathers and with sweeping wings, a round face dominated by two saucer shaped glowing red eyes and pointed or tufted ears, and with feet like pincers topped with wicked looking black claws. The first reported sighting of the Owlman allegedly happened on April 17, 1976, when two girls by the names of June Melling, 12, and her sister Vicky, 9, were out walking along the wooded South West Coast Path, near St. Mawnan’s graveyard. As they were strolling along, it is reported that they noticed a large, humanoid owl-like creature with glowing red eyes hovering in the air over the church tower, after which it shot straight up into the air. The terrified girls ran back home to tell their father, Don Melling, and it was the father who approached paranormal researcher Tony Shiels with the account. The girls would independently give identical descriptions of the mysterious beast and draw similar pictures of it.
Another rather high-profile sighting of the Owlman occurred just a few months later, on July 3, 1976. In this sighting, 14-year-old Sally Chapman was camping out with a friend near the same church where the previous sighting had happened. Allegedly, the girls were frightened by a silvery grey, man-sized owl with large glowing red eyes and two-toed pincer-like taloned feet looming outside of their tent, which then hissed aggressively at them before flying up at high speed into the black night sky. The creature would be seen on subsequent nights as well, again in the vicinity of the church. Indeed, the church would prove to be a popular stomping ground for the Owlman, and it would be sighted from time to time in the area over the years all the way up into later times, including a sighting in 1983 in which a couple saw a terrifying winged creature described as being 5 feet tall, with glowing eyes and high ankles ending in large black feet with only two visible toes, as well as a sighting from 1995 of a creature that was described as a man-bird with pointed ears, glowing eyes, and clawed wings. Indeed, sightings of the Owlman have continued sporadically right up to the present day.
Theories for what the Owlman could be be include that it is indeed just a large owl that spooked some people, some sort of specter or alien, or even something related to the more well-known Mothman. There are also some indications that point to the possibility that the whole phenomenon was totally fabricated. Tony Shiels, from whom the first popular account originated, has been accused of being rather sensationalist and is a known hoaxer, making it possible that he created the whole story or at least exaggerated certain parts. However, this would imply that all other reports independent of the 1976 Melling case are also lies or hysteria. There has also been the criticism that many of the earlier Owlman reports were made by very young witnesses, who may have been inclined to tell tall tales or were overly imaginative with misidentifications of more mundane things, such as owls or other known wildlife. Again, this still would not account for other sightings made by sane, sober adults who swear by what they saw. Whatever the case may be, flying birdmen with two-toed clawed feet and glowing eyes certainly seem to deserve a spot among the pantheon of truly weird cryptids of the world.
In the often already strange world of cryptozoology, some mystery creatures seem to truly stand out from the rest, to the point where they almost seem to need their own classification. What do we make of these tales? Are these alleged mystery monsters the product of myth, tall tales, overactive imaginations, or downright trickery? Are they the result of misidentification, hallucination, or exaggeration? What of if they somehow really are out there? How would they fit into our world and how can we possibly find a place for them in our current accepted knowledge of biology and the natural world? Are these creatures even biological entities at all? Whether this is all myth, real animals, or something far stranger, one thing that seems to be evident is that scattered among the more “mainstream” cryptids such as Bigfoot or the Loch Ness monster are others that go beyond merely strange curiosities to reach new heights of the weird.