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Mysterious Giant Creepy Crawlies and Mantis Men

There are more than a few people in this world who find insects, spiders, and bugs of all types to be unsettling at best, and revolting at worst. They seem to prickle at some innate, primeval part of our brain that says “run!”, and they have become a staple of all manner of horror stories. There are reports out there that seem to take things to a new level, though, with witnesses coming across such creeping, skittering denizens from beyond our understanding that are not only mysterious, but also far beyond the sizes of anything we know of.

An incredibly weird report appeared on the site Cryptozoology News in 2013, and was given by a 32-year-old doctor named Marco Gessatti, who was on a flight from Rome to Boston at the time. It was a rather uneventful flight at first, and 30,000 feet over the Atlantic Ocean is probably the last place one would expect to have a run in with some sort of mystery creature, but things got interesting to say the least when Gessatti says that he was overcome by a sudden and inexplicable sense of overwhelming dread and a feeling of nauseousness. He at first thought that this was some kind of abrupt panic attack, but looking around he could see that others sitting nearby seemed to be suffering the same ill effects. This is where things would get intense very quickly.

Gessatti claims that he heard a loud, jolting thud on the window of the plane, which some others around him also clearly heard, and when he looked out into the sky he saw something from a horror film. There, fastened to the outside of the plane was allegedly some sort of immense, beetle-like insect with a metallic green body and large segmented eyes, that was somehow able to maintain its grip on the aircraft. He would say of what happened thus:

It had attached to the window with a claw-like structure on its big black legs. There were hairs and hooks and some sort of adhesive pad that apparently helped the animal stay on the plane. Then it unfastened its legs from the glass and his green, metallic body opened up. Two wings came out, I should say “rolled out”, like a rug. They were translucent and I could see it full of red veins. It looked like tree branches, or a leaf. The thing glided for about 2 seconds then it started flapping its wings, slowly. It was incredibly slow, not like a regular insect where you can’t even see the shape of the wings. His eyes stared at us, looked like a red flashlight.

After a few moments, the bizarre creature was gone. It would turn out that 10 other people had seen it as well, and one even claimed to have taken a photo of it, although it is unclear what happened to it. Gessatti claims to have exchanged e-mail addresses with the passenger who took it, but that it was never sent. He would say:

I exchanged e-mails with one of them that claimed to have taken a picture, but he never replied. I never liked the way e-mail addresses work, you get a letter wrong, and that’s that. Or maybe he doesn’t want to send it to me, I don’t know. I know it’s hard to believe. I know what I saw, you know? I have never seen anything like this. Big, big insect. Out of this world.

An sketch of the alleged bug drawn by the witness

This is certainly one of the most bizarre accounts I’ve seen in while, and leaves myriad questions swirling about it. First of all, how big was it exactly? There is no precise size estimate, save to say that it was supposedly gigantic. Also, what could it possibly be and why was it so high up in the atmosphere? How could it manage to match speeds and course with, and then attach itself to, an airliner going at full speed tens of thousands of feet in the air, and why? What caused that debilitating feeling of panicked dread and nausea amongst some of the passengers? Was this a real insect, an alien, and inter-dimensional creature, or what? The only evidence we are left with is this testimony and a sketch of the creature, and there has been no success in tracking the other witnesses down, it seems. It is all so outlandish that, although the witness is described as being intelligent and reliable, one wonders if any of this really happened or not, although it would seem odd for a doctor to make up such a far-out tale for no reason at all.

Perhaps even creepier are the various reports of giant spiders lurking within the jungles of the African interior. Lurking within the thick, nearly impenetrable jungles of the most remote parts of primarily the Democratic Republic of Congo, but also Cameroon, Uganda and the Central African Republic, are said to be enormous ground dwelling spiders which the natives of the region refer to as J’ba Fofi (pronounced ch-bah foo fee), which literally translates to “giant spider.”

The J’ba Fofi are said to be reminiscent of a tarantula in both form and color, with adults exhibiting a dark brown coloration, but the real difference is in the size, as the Congolese Giant Spiders are said to attain leg spans of anywhere between an unsettling 4 to 6 feet. This shockingly immense size allows them to allegedly prey on a variety of small animals including birds, small jungle antelopes known as duiker, monkeys, and various reptiles, which they trap in an elaborate pattern of webs strung out between trees and devour after pouncing forth from a shallow depression camouflaged by leaves, in a manner very similar to trap door spiders. Reports from missionaries in the region and natives have long suggested that the spiders are even known to kill humans on occasion and that their venom is extremely potent, which is illustrated by old reports from the jungle choked African interior of porters or tribesmen succumbing to giant spider bites in short order.

Although explorers, missionaries, and natives had long told of seeing these massive spiders in the depths of the African jungle, perhaps the report that most thrust the J’ba Fofi into the spotlight was a sighting made by a Reginald and Margurite Lloyd in 1938, and which was chronicled by cryptozoologist George Eberhart. According to the account, the Lloyds were exploring in a remote region of what was then known as the Belgian Congo when they spied a dark shape skitter out from the underbrush and across the road in front of them. At first, the couple thought that it was merely some sort of cat, monkey, or some other common jungle animal, and stopped their truck to avoid hitting it and to let it pass. It was then that it became apparent to the horrified explorers that the creature was in fact a gigantic spider with a purported leg span of at least 4 or 5 feet. Before either of the startled eyewitnesses could get a camera or even really overcome their shock at seeing such a nightmarish site, the spider had already scampered into the thick brush on the other side of the track and was gone. Mrs. Lloyd was reportedly so upset by the incident that she demanded that they return to their home in Rhodesia at once.

Another report of giant spiders comes from Uganda during the 1890s, when an English missionary named Arthur Simes was exploring along the shores of Lake Nyasa. As Simes and company were trekking along, several of his porters allegedly became hopelessly entangled in a network of webbing that hugged the ground and was too strong to break with any means they possessed. It was not long before at least two giant spiders with leg spans of around 4 feet across pounced upon the ensnared men and bit them before Simes was able to drive them off with his pistol. Moments after being bitten, the porters were reported to have become feverish and delirious, their extremities swelled up considerably, and death followed shortly after.

There are also accounts of giant spider sightings from several other expeditions into the region in search of yet another cryptid, the saurian, dinosaur-like Mokele-mbembe. Such expeditions often heard stories from the natives about the J’ba Fofi, or even saw the spiders themselves. In fact, one naturalist and cryptozoologist, William J. Gibbons, was able to glean more detailed information on the J’ba Fofi during one of his many expeditions to the dark Congo in search of the Mokele-mbembe. Through various conversations with local tribes, it soon became apparent that not only did the natives know of them and see the giant spiders on a fairly regular basis, but that they had a good deal of knowledge about their behavior and life cycle. For instance, the eggs of the spider were said to be white or a pale yellow-white and around the size of a peanut, which were laid in clusters wrapped in webs in the underbrush and which were widely avoided by those who came across them. The newly hatched young spiders were said to be a bright yellow color with a purple abdomen, and gradually became a dark brown as they matured. Their preferred method of hunting was said to be laying an ambush for prey by weaving a series of webs between trees on either side of a game trail and lying in wait within a ditch covered with a pile of leaves woven together with webbing and said to be reminiscent of a pygmy hut.

The natives claimed that the venom of the spiders was powerful enough to drop a full grown man in seconds. Interestingly, Gibbons was able to learn that the J’ba Fofi had once been common and had had the unfortunate habit of sometimes building their nests near human settlements, but that they had become rarer over the years, suggesting that their numbers were perhaps dwindling or they were being driven by habitat encroachment further into the depths of the jungle. Gibbons was able to track down accounts of giant spider activity in the steamy jungles of Africa as recently as 2000, when he heard from a chief of the Baka tribe that a J’ba Fofi had built a nest near his village in the wilds of Cameroon.

Gibbons’ information is very intriguing to me not only for its detail, but also because it demonstrates that the tribes of the area saw the J’ba Fofi as a very real flesh and blood creature and a real part of their world. The detailed description of the J’ba Fofi’s life cycle, with mention of the eggs and the changing color as the juveniles attained adulthood, suggest that to the natives the giant spiders were not merely some sacred spirit or revered creature of myth, but rather a regular, albeit dangerous, jungle creature like any other. The description of the spiders is very matter-of-fact, and there seems to be no attempt on the natives’ part to play up the attributes of the spiders or make them seem like anything other than just another of the many denizens of the jungle, with a normal life cycle like any other real organism.

Besides the fact that no such spider on such a vast magnitude has ever been documented by science, there seems to be no reason to assume they would be lying about such things and this has all of the hallmarks of an ethno-known animal, or one that is known by natives or locals but is not typically yet formally recognized by outsiders or science. Bear in mind that a great many new species that were discovered, including ones that at one time were even considered fantastical or absurd, such as the gorilla, okapi, and panda, were at some point ethno-known animals, and native accounts of the creatures which they take as a fact of life but for which we have no strong evidence yet are not always to be brushed off or dismissed so lightly.

Do more legs equal more frightening? If so, what are we to make of the numerous reports of giant centipedes said to prowl the remote corners of the earth? In the uncharted wilds of the Amazon travelers have long come back from the wild frontiers of the rain forests with tales of horrifying centipedes measuring up to 5 feet long slithering through the underbrush. These creatures are said to have venom that can quickly kill a full grown man, and is so powerful as to completely melt and dissolve flesh. Some reports have even made mention of the creatures projecting their potent poison over great distances. While no evidence has ever been found of such large living centipedes in South America, native Amazonian tribes have at times claimed to have killed such intimidating beasts.

Another account of massive cryptid centipede was first mentioned in an article in the August 2009 issue of BBC Wildlife Magazine, in which naturalist Jeremy Holden describes a truly strange and terrifying creature. While exploring in the remote jungles of Sumatra, Holden visited an isolated village in the western part of the country, where the locals told him of a type of centipede which was said to be around 12 inches in length, with a thick body green in color, and a wicked, nearly unbearably painful bite. This mysterious centipede, which they called the Upah, was said to lurk in trees and have the unsettling ability to let out a high pitched shriek or mewl that was described as sounding like that of a cat.

These stories of a shrieking or yowling giant centipede were not taken very seriously by Holden, but he would soon have a firsthand encounter with one. A few weeks after first hearing of these strange creatures, Holden claimed that he had been walking along a jungle trail with some guides when he heard a sudden, booming cat-like scream pierce down from the trees above, which was followed by a strange rattling sound. The guides confirmed that this was indeed the cry of an Upah, but even after scanning the trees with binoculars Holden was unable to locate the elusive centipede itself.

On another occasion, Holden was yet again traversing the thick jungle when he heard an unidentifiable cry from the canopy once again, which sounded remarkably similar to the one he had heard before. However, one of Holden’s companions on this particular excursion was an avid birdwatcher, and identified the noise as coming from a rare species of bird called the Malaysian honeyguide (Indicator archipelagicus), which is well known for its distinctive, cat-like call and for being easier to hear than to see. Does this mean that the local villagers were misidentifying the call of this elusive bird as something else, or is the Upah a genuine ethno-known cryptid giant centipede? No one knows.

Moving over to North America we make another addition to the list of giant centipedes. The Ozark Mountains, in particular the areas of  Gainesville, Bradleyville, Stone County, and Taney County, in Missouri, and Marion County, in Arkansas, have been claimed to be the lair of some kind of mysterious enormous centipede since at least the mid-19th century. Described as being up to 18 inches in length, the Ozark Giant Centipede was frequently reported from the region at the time by frightened locals and visitors alike, who sometimes described the creature’s odd habit of wrapping its massive body around its young.

In one case, in 1860 a specimen measuring 18 inches long was allegedly captured at Jimmie’s Creek in Marion County, Arkansas, and its body preserved in alcohol and displayed at a drugstore, but the specimen was lost during the Civil War. Another case tells of a young boy who was attacked by one of the giant centipedes and bitten, after which the flesh of his leg literally rotted off, crippling him for the rest of his life. Another case still tells of a boy who was out hunting with his brother when he was chased by an immense centipede several feet in length, who seemed intent on attacking the boy until his brother shot it dead.

There are even larger mystery centipedes reported from the Ozarks from time to time. In one report, an unidentified bow hunter told a harrowing tale. The witness claimed that while out hunting at a small, private wood in Sebastian County, Arkansas, he went along a trail towards a rocky ridge to take cover and lie in wait for his quarry. As he approached the ridge, he claimed to have seen movement around 40 feet away from his position, and he soon realized that it was a wounded deer that appeared to be writhing about on the ground. On closer inspection, something about the odd scene didn’t sit right with the hunter, as the deer’s legs and head were not moving, and it seemed to be awkwardly sliding along the ground away from him.

The slightly unnerved hunter decided to move out into the woods to move around to get a better angle to see what was going on, and that was when he received a chilling shock. It seemed at first that the deer was being dragged along by a very large snake, but as the hunter warily moved closer he claimed he noticed that it was something far weirder and more horrific than a snake. It was what appeared to be a massive centipede of some sort. It was described as dark colored, around 10 feet long, with hundreds of skittering legs and armored segments all down its length, and it was determinedly pulling the deer carcass along the forest floor by its hindquarters and tail with sidewinding movements of its thick, powerful body.

The now horrified hunter followed the creature down the ridge, entranced by the hideous sight, until it came to a rock pile which it struggled to drag the deer over. That was when the hunter claimed that the giant centipede let go of the deer carcass and reared up to look in his direction. The startled hunter described being watched by its piercing eyes and mentioned that if he had had a gun he might have fired, but was unsure of whether an arrow would merely antagonize it. Instead of attacking the monstrosity, he slowly backed away and then quickly walked out of the vicinity, never to return to that particular wood to hunt.

Such giant centipedes have been seen in other places throughout the world, including Japan. The Edo Period (1603 to 1867) produced many stories of giant centipedes said to be up to a meter (3.2 feet) in length. These centipedes were reported to be highly poisonous, with venom that could kill a grown man in minutes. On occasion, specimens were said to be exhibited in the various misemono side shows that were popular at the time.

Such stories are not confined to merely anomalous history. From the rural areas of Japan come modern reports of giant centipedes far larger than any currently known to exist. One such report comes from a farmer in Saga Prefecture, who was working on a woodpile one day in 1986 only to be horrified by an enormous centipede the man claimed to be 60cm (around 2 feet) in length, that came skittering out from under some logs. The farmer claims to have killed it with a rake, but later threw out the body in revulsion.

For most people, this is probably already an uncomfortably large size for a centipede, yet even larger ones have been reported. A group of campers in Nagano prefecture claimed to have heard an odd rustling one evening coming from one of their tents. Upon closer inspection, the noise turned out to be from a monstrous centipede claimed to have been around 2 feet in length. The creature was apparently startled and made a quick escape past the terrified campers, out of the tent, and into the forest.

These are certainly not anything that most of us would want to run into scrambling through the brush, but even more bizarre are reports of what actually seems to be some sort of insectoid humanoid in the area of the Musconetcong River, in New Jersey. Sightings began in the early 2000s, when a witness named Joe Perentie was fishing along the river when he suddenly felt some sort of electrical tingling flow through him and his hair stand up on end. When he whipped around to look about, he claims to have seen lurking in some nearby brush a 7-foot-tall entity with dark green skin and a head that looked like that of a praying mantis, which had prominent mandibles that seemed to be in the process of chewing something.

Apparently the two stared at each other for a few moments, and then Joe began to get the distinct feeling that his mind was somehow being probed, that there was someone or something crawling around in his head who was not supposed to be there. He began to back away slowly, and that was when the “Mantis Man” would unfurl a pair of immense wings, after which is was enveloped in a sudden creeping mist and vanished without a trace. In 2006, there was another report of a similar creature, from a witness names Paul Jacks, who had also been fishing along the Musconetcong River. The witness would describe the sighting on the site Phantoms and Monsters thus:

Humanoid. Tall. 6 foot at least –no reference points– but I sense 6’6″ – 7′. Moving away from me back up the bank. (I am chest-high in the river) The first thing I see was the ‘grasshopper’ thigh, but bending forward like a human. Then the whole form. He is looking at me over his shoulder, moving up the bank, astonished, amazed. What, that I am in the water in a strong current, that I can see him? But yes we lock eyes and this creature is astonished– I get the sense that he can’t believe I am in the water, that he can’t believe I have seen him, that I am not perturbed at all– something of all three, I still don’t know– just astonishment and he is actually trying to get away from me and the water!

 

Triangular Head. Huge, slanted black eyes. Just like a Praying Mantis. It’s whole body was gangly, nobby, ((Nobby!) but you could still sense it was powerful, and no– I would not say it was a “Big Bug”– it was definitely humanoid despite the mantis/insect qualities.

Interestingly, the creature in this case also seemed to simply dematerialize into thin air as the horrified witness looked on. Yet another sighting comes from Hackettstown, New Jersey, along the same river. The witness claimed to have encountered the same entity in 2011 as he drove along a place called Newburgh Rd, and he would say of what he saw thus:

As I drove near the bridge over the river, I noticed to my left something (I thought a fisherman) standing in the river just off the south bank. I slowed the car and looked closer. It wasn’t a person and it was transparent-like with a weird shape. It moved slowly towards the bank and into the trees. I drove further so I could see it coming out of the trees. That’s the last I saw of it. It was tall, 8 ft. or so and had long thin arms hanging off of it. The color was a pale brown, but I could see through it! The head was small compared to the body.

There have been other sightings of something weird lurking in the area as well, and it all leaves one to wonder just what in the world it could be. It seems unlikely that there is a real, Bigfoot-sized praying mantis that has been lurking in New Jersey undiscovered, so we are probably dealing with either a hoax or something very odd indeed, perhaps something inter-dimensional in nature or even an alien according to some. Whatever it is, the Mantis Man of New Jersey still gets mentioned in reports on various supernatural forums from time to time.

Are we looking at anything possibly cryptozoological in nature? Are these undiscovered creepy crawlies that have simply eluded us or are they something else? No matter what the origins of the creatures described here may be, such accounts are perhaps enough to cause the skin to crawl for many. They manage to worm their way into some primitive part of our psyche that tells us that these creatures are something to be avoided, especially so if they are as large as anything described here. Whether any of these creatures are real or not, the very idea that some of them skitter and scamper about out in the periphery of our knowledge is perhaps enough to be disturbing, and they are certainly not anything one wants to come across while out in the wilds.