The world of cryptozoology covers some vast ground. From lake monsters, to Bigfoot, to other lesser known mystery beasts. Some of these stories take us into some strange territory, indeed, an area of this takes us back to creatures that should have been extinct long ago, but which still seem to lurk out in the wildernesses of the world. Here we take a step back through the eons, to the many reports of small, bipedal dinosaurs, which once ruled the world, and which may still be scampering about in the remote fringes of our world.
One strange case of what appears to be some sort of surviving therapod dinosaurs takes us to the vast moonscape of the Atacama Desert, some 2,000 kilometers north of Santiago, Chile, in South America. Here the parched, hostile landscape is said to have a population of what are often described as 6-foot tall sharp-toothed bipedal dinosaurs, with thick leathery skin, three-toed feet, an upright stance, and razor sharp teeth, often said to have prominent tails and to somewhat resemble reptilian kangaroos. It is most often reported from a stretch of largely deserted highway that that links the cities of Iquique and Arica, where passing motorists will describe having the mysterious creatures run or bound across the road and off into the wilderness, often at dawn or dusk.
What has come to be known as the Arica Monster has been reported since at least 1980, with one of the more notable of these being made by a military officer named Hernan Cuevas, who described seeing a bipedal sauropod that he said was “a huge beast, much like a two-legged dinosaur, with huge thighs,” and which he also mentioned looked like a velociraptor from the movie Jurassic Park. The phenomenon was notably investigated by the TV show Destination Truth, who describes it as a “dinosaur-like bird” and travelled to the region and spoke to several witnesses, among these a family who claimed that their car was circled by a “dog-faced kangaroo-like creature” in 2004, among others. The region is one of the driest places on earth and mostly inhospitable to life, so the Atacama Desert seems like a strange place to run into living dinosaurs, but yet the reports continue to come in from time to time. What is going on here? Who knows?
North America has its fair share of velociraptor-type dinos as well. Perhaps the best known of these come from Colorado, where there have long come reports of bipedal, lizard-like creatures said to be similar to Therapod dinosaurs and measuring around 3.5 ft. (1 meter) tall and between 5 feet (1.5 meters) to 7 feet long (2 meters) long. They are usually described as having very prominent, powerful hind legs and two smaller appendages instead of forelegs. These mysterious creatures are often collectively referred to as “River Dinos,” and also “River Lizards,” due to their apparent habit of lurking in wet environments near water.
One witness named Shannon Ystesund saw something along the Yellow Jacket, Colorado, in 2001, and shared her story with cryptozoologist and researcher Nick Sucik, who has spent years investigating and collecting reports of living dinosaurs in North America, and wrote a whole chapter devoted to the subject in Chad Arment’s 2006 book, Cryptozoology and the Investigation of Lesser-Known Mystery Animals. She claimed that she had been driving with her daughter when something ran out in front of them, which they at first took to be a deer. They braked the car and it soon became apparent that this was certainly no deer. The creature was described as standing around 3 feet tall and having a long, slender neck and skinny, bird-like legs, as well as small arms that seemed to come poking out of its neck rather than its body. There was also a long, tapered tail mentioned, and the total length of the creature was estimated as being around 5 feet. The creature was described as gracefully running on two legs. Although it seemed bird-like in many respects, the creature had no feathers, and the woman described it as looking like a “cross between a bird and a dinosaur.” They were convinced that they had seen a miniature dinosaur of some sort, and immediately went home to excitedly tell their families about it. Ystesund said of the incident:
It was a Jurassic Park flashback. I mean I was—I couldn’t believe it. We were, you know, freaked out. Immediately we thought it was some kind of dinosaur or a huge lizard. So we came home. Looked like the little dinosaurs in Jurassic Park that surrounded everybody in the tall grass fields.
In another case, a man in Pueblo, Colorado told the North American Bio Fortean Review about his own experiences with the River Lizards. He claimed that he had been out riding dirt bikes with a friend when they noticed a strange creature moving through the clearing ahead of them. It was described as being a strange reptilian creature of some kind, around 4 feet long and greenish in color with black markings on its back and orange coloring on its underbelly, and which walked swiftly on its hind legs without dragging its tail. The man explained that the front legs of the creature were significantly shorter than the hind legs and had three or four claws. He also recalled that it had a kind of “lump” or “horn” over each eye, and that it let out a loud, high pitched shriek when it saw them. The man allegedly went back to his house for a camera to take pictures of its tracks, and further claimed that another friend had taken photos of the exact same creature he had seen. These photos were subsequently sent to cryptozoologist Chad Arment, but they are of low quality, blurry, and could be merely cheap dinosaur models for anyone can tell.
Other photos of the River Dinos have cropped up over the years as well. Perhaps the most famous of these is a photo, also sent to Chad Arment, showing an unidentified man holding a rifle in one hand and what appears to be a small, dead bipedal dinosaur in the other. It is unknown exactly when or where the mysterious photo was taken, except that it is “somewhere in Colorado.” This mysterious photo has generated quite a bit of debate, and there are some who believe it to be evidence of living dinosaurs, yet most think that it is likely a hoax created with a particularly realistic looking toy dinosaur. Considering there is very little information on the origins of the photo, and that Arment has been unsuccessful in tracking down the one who originally sent it, we will probably never know for sure.
Besides photos, there has even been an alleged body of one of the creatures found. One resident of Pagosa Springs, Colorado named Myrtle Snow has claimed that she has seen these small dinosaurs on many occasions over the course of her life. She claims the first sighting was when she was a young girl in the 1930s, during which time she saw five baby bipedal dinosaurs, after which a local farmer apparently shot a larger one measuring 7 feet long that same month in the wake of a series of deadly attacks by a mystery predator on his sheep. Allegedly, the dead creature was stored in a barn, where it was viewed by many of the curious local farmers and ranchers. The creature was said to be grayish in color, with a head like a snake, a long, powerful tail, pronounced and muscular hind legs, and short forelegs that resembled “chicken’s feet.” Snow, who claims that she saw the body herself, said it was covered in fine, grey hairs.
The carcass was allegedly put on ice and shipped to the Denver Museum, but further investigation by Sucik turned up no official records of ever receiving such a specimen. Interestingly, the very same museum had at one point received some skeletons purportedly from miniature dinosaurs captured during the 1960s in the southwest, but these turned out to be a hoax, merely the bones of several known animals cleverly arranged to make them seem mysterious. In addition to these tales, Snow then went on in later years to spot one such creature running along the road while she was driving, and says she saw yet another one in a cave, which was greenish in color. She related several of these experiences in a letter to the Rocky Mountain Empire Magazine in 1982.
Such bipedal raptor-type “dinosaurs” have been seen in other states throughout the southwest as well. In April of 1996 a woman in Mesa Verde, California, claimed to have seen such a creature literally in her own yard. She reported that she had been sitting at home when she looked out the front door and saw a large lizard around 3 1/2 feet long and 3 1/2 feet high, which stood on two legs and moved very quickly toward a nearby pond. The strange creature allegedly had a 2-foot long tail and a cone shaped nose. The intrigued woman wasn’t quite sure what she had seen, and when she checked a reference book of reptiles of the area she could find nothing that even remotely resembled it.
Indeed, these reports of bipedal living dinosaurs in America span across many states, in such far-flung places as Ohio, Kentucky, Texas, and Georgia, and some states even have their own, unique variations. Oklahoma has reports of such beasts prowling its grasslands, where they are referred to as “Oklahoma Raptors,” and Texas has its own, larger version called the Mountain Boomer, which are said to lurk mostly in the rugged mountain wilderness of the Big Bend region, near Big Bend National Park. The Mountain Boomers are said to stand between 5 to 7 feet tall and look like a miniature T. rex, with a bipedal gait, long tapered tail, powerful hind legs, and tiny fore legs tipped with sharp claws. Some reports mention large flaps of skin above and below the head, and the creature is said to sometimes emit a low, booming howl which has been described as sounding like a rumbling distant thunder. These creatures are said to be mostly shy and elusive, but one report from the early 1970s claimed that one actually ran a car off of the road. The state of Georgia also apparently has its own brand of these creatures, as can be seen in a sighting by a witness called Y. Phillips, who says:
This happened to me and my grandpa on a hunting trip in July, 2008. I don't see my grandpa very often, so I always take the chance to take trips with him. Grandpa is pretty much an outdoorsman and enjoys hunting, fishing and just being out in nature. Grandpa and I were out in the woods. It was around 3 to 3:30 o'clock on Friday the 25th of July. I was 18 at that time. We were on grandpa's land in Georgia. It's a pretty place with the typical Georgia woodland and a few grassy plains. We were walking on a little rocky road heading for a site where grandpa often sees deer. As normal, there were a lot of sounds going on at night in the woods. We ignored most of them and remained quiet to not scare away anything.
Suddenly, we heard an unusual noise we never heard before on our many hunting trips. Grandpa looked at me and listened. Then he raised his finger in front of his mouth to show me that we shouldn't make any more movements. I heard a lot of movement and more of the noise. I can't really describe the sounds, but I sure can describe what I saw, even when it was pretty dark. We just kept listening to the sounds as suddenly something came walking slowly out of the bushes and onto the road maybe 150 yards in front of us. My eyes got really big, and at that moment I wasn't even scared, just amazed to see this creature. We didn't move. As crazy as it sounds, it looked just like a raptor from the popular Jurassic Park movies. I just froze because I thought things like that lived many thousands of years ago. It had a long, stiff tail, walked on two feet and had short arms. It looked lizard-like and had a huge claw on both of his feet and smaller claws on his arms.
Since the creature appeared to us that it could run fast, we decided to just not move at all. It raised its head in the air and it seemed like it was smelling the air. I estimate its height around 5 feet at the shoulders. After sniffing the air, it made these sounds again and turned around and ran off in the bushes. Grandpa and I waited until we felt safe again and then quietly made our way back to the truck and drove home. In the truck, we talked to each other about what we had seen and decided to not tell it to grandma because she would think we were crazy. I never believed in stuff like ghosts and creatures and paranormal stuff, and I still don't believe in ghosts. But since that encounter, I believe in creatures that science doesn't know about. That's my story, as odd as it sounds. I know what I saw.
What are we to make of such cases? The first reaction would be that they are hoaxes and frauds. After all, although our mainstream idea of what such creatures might look like come from outdated materials and films like "Jurassic Park," the reality is that these dinosaurs probably looked much different, including being covered in feathers. This discrepancy seems to point to such sightings as being almost surely bogus, but what if they are not? Could there be any sort of explanation for such weird tales, or is it all overactive imaginations, misunderstandings, and trickery? There is no way to really know for sure, and the accounts of these dinosaur cryptids continue to occupy a space out in the very weirdest reaches of cryptozoology.