For many, the country of Ukraine may seem exotic and mysterious enough as it is. After all, many may not know much about its culture or people outside of the news stories documenting its various internal conflicts anf the current war with Russia. This European country, long plagued by political turmoil and unrest, is the largest country to be contained entirely within Europe and the region has a long, storied history stretching back to the fist human habitation in 32,000 BC. Ukraine is also notable for its rich biodiversity and its diversity of geological features, as well as for its vast natural resources. Yet, for the most part, Ukraine seems to remain somewhat of a specter to the outside world, an enigmatic place that at times seems to be almost impenetrable to outsiders. Indeed, if one looks carefully and delves past the veil of mysteries shrouding this amazing, faraway land, one can find that there are some things in Ukraine that are even stranger than one might have imagined. While the country is now in the news spotlight due to the ongoing war, there is much more to this place than meets the eye, and one very odd corner of Ukraine is some of the strange and bizarre monsters said to prowl the shadows here.
It rurns out that Ukraine has its fair share of a menagerie of weird creatures said to lurk about its wild places. One such creature is a bizarre lake monster long said to inhabit the depths of Lake Somin, near the village of Lukiv in Western Ukraine, and which has purportedly terrorized the locals here for over a century. The Lake Somin monster is reported to be a huge monster around 30 feet in length, with a head like a serpent and a crocodilian body, which is said to emit a groaning or wheezing sound at night that can be heard reverberating through the darkness. The creature is said to lie in wait within the many karst caves that dot the bottom of the lake, venturing out to pull down prey, including domestic animals such as horses, dogs, cats, and sheep, as well as humans, mostly in the hours of dusk and at night.
Reports of this mystery monster can be traced back to at least the 19th century, when in the days before World War I there was a dispatch from a village leader to Warsaw claiming that the locals had refused to pay fishing taxes due to their deep fear of some strange serpent lurking in the lake, which they claimed voraciously devoured fish and had a habit of lurching onto shore to take various domestic animals and human beings as well. The villagers of the area were apparently terrified of the lake and its sinister denizen, and avoided its shores at all costs. Intrigued, authorities began setting up an expedition in order to venture to the lake to find the alleged abomination, but the onset of World War I caused the search to be called off.
Many years later, during World War II, the stories of a crocodile-like beast lurking in the depths that terrorized the lake area persisted, and another expedition was mounted by the German military. After scouring the locale they could find no trace of such a creature within the lake, but this did little to stop the locals’ insistence that such a foul beast indeed resided there. The legends and tales of this monster still make the rounds today. 84-year-old local resident Ivan Kovalchuk has come forward with one such terrifying account, saying:
The monster assaulted Stepan, a groom. He was tending horses near the lake on that day. Actually, Stepan had too much of a drink so he stretched himself out on the grass and fell asleep. A crocodile-like creature crept on to the bank out of the water, moved up to the guy, and sniffed at him. Mushroom pickers came from the wood at the very moment. They saw that thing and started shouting out loud to scare it off. The monster reportedly opened its month and there wasn’t a single tooth inside.
Ukraine has purported strange creatures roaming the land as well. In the remote, rural region of the village of Chemer, villagers have long described a orange-colored to grayish, hairless dog-like creature said to resemble a cross between a dog, fox, and kangaroo, with a long tail, longish neck, front legs that are shorter than the rear, and prominent fangs. The mystery creature is said to hop about in a fashion similar to that of a kangaroo, and to prowl the wilderness feeding on rabbits, goats, and domestic animals such as chickens, cats and dogs, which seem to show a natural, profound aversion to it. More dramatic reports claimed that the monster is reptilian, and not only kills its victims, sucks the blood from the corpses until they are mere husks. Stories of this bloodsucking fiend continued in the area for years and remained mostly a myth until a strange animal was killed by hunters in the remote region in 2007. The animal was examined by vets, who were perplexed by its skinny, hairless, vaguely fox-like appearance. The specimen was allegedly sent to the Zoological Museum of Zaporozhye National University, where a baffled director Alexander Korotya stated:
There is something in common with a fox, and a dog, but I cannot identify what kind of animal it is. For example, its canine teeth are similar to a fox, but smaller in size - like a marten. Yet a marten has a different type of skull. If to compare with an otter's head, then the ears are too small. It has a wide nose and a stretched muzzle. My opinion is that it's most likely a hybrid animal or a mutant.
The generally elusive quality that the corpse had for those looking to determine its origins was reflected in the words of a local vet, Mikhail Ilchenko, deputy head of the district veterinary service in Mikhailovskoe, who said of the bizarre carcass:
The animal doesn't look like a fox or a wolf, or a raccoon. It cannot even be a marten. I have never seen such animal before. But, judging by the fangs, I can definitely say that it is a predator.
Theories on what the mystery animal can be vary from the somewhat plausible to the more far-out. For some, it is merely a fox or dog with a bad case of mange, which is a skin condition that causes an animal to dramatically loose chunks of its hair or even all of it, significantly altering its appearance to seem more mysterious. Another theory points to the creature being some form of mutant fox that has been twisted by the ravages of radiation from the Chernobyl disaster. Other more fringe ideas speculate that the creature is an escaped specimen from some top secret government biological weapons lab, an alien of some sort, or even a wayward specimen of the fabled Chupacabras, or “goat sucker,” a fabled vampiric beast which has long been a staple of cryptozoology, primarily in Puerto Rico or Latin American countries. Since the corpse seems to be no longer available for analysis, we will likely never know for sure what it was or what relation it had, if any, with sightings reports of the dog monster.
The idea of a radioactively mutated fox as the explanation fits in well with the history of Ukraine, as it was here where the worst nuclear plant disaster ever recorded in history occurred in Ivankiv Raion of northern Kiev Oblast, Ukraine, in the city of Pripyat, in what was at the time the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic of the Soviet Union, near the border with Belarus. It was here where on 26 April 1986, a catastrophic nuclear accident occurred at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, which would claim the lives of 31 people, send radioactive material spewing all over the western USSR and Europe, clear the immediate region of most of its inhabitants, affect nearly 7 million people, and cause environmental and health problems that still reverberate through the area today.
With all of the radioactivity within the immediate area of the disaster, it is perhaps no wonder that tales of strange, mutated beasts have become a fixture of local lore ever since. Particularly, the lakes and waterways have become wellsprings of tales of abnormally large, mutated fish that lurch through the depths here. The phenomenon was most famously brought to public attention when Jeremy Wade, star of the popular Animal Planet TV show River Monsters, travelled there to fish its waters in search of the elusive creatures. Wade received special permission to enter the disaster zone and ventured to the Chernobyl area to try his hand at trying to catch one of the monstrous, outsized mutated catfish said to prowl the cooling channels of the Chernobyl reactor, armed with sophisticated radiation monitor devices.
Throughout the episode, Jeremy’s radiation detecting equipment goes off the charts numerous times, warning him of dangerous levels of radiation, but he soldiers on, catching various fish that are most definitely not noticeably deformed in any way, although probably saturated with radiation. The main catch was a relatively large catfish that seemed otherwise in all respects normal looking, but which proved to be in actuality a stunted individual only 50% of what it should have been at its advanced age. Spookily, radiation tests of the fish showed that it was dripping with the stuff, to the point that it was completely inedible. Although it was not in any way evidence of the presence of monster mutant fish in the area, the catch showed just how bad the radiation still was down at the bottom of the channel, and certainly hints that it could be possible that the rumored mutant monsters have come about in the years since the nuclear disaster.
Perhaps even more bizarre than lake monsters, Ukrainian Chupacabras, or mutated monster fish is a rather odd account that was making the rounds on the Internet back in the 1990s. The tale starts with the discovery of an unidentified man slumped over dead within a bleak, dilapidated tower block. The man was allegedly found sprawled out in an elevator, and an examination of the corpse found that there were two, yellowish blue bruised puncture marks to the neck and that it was a rather unearthly shade of pale. When the corpse was brought in to be examined, it was found that the cause of death had been an extreme amount of blood loss, with the body practically sucked dry, yet no sign of bloodstains had been found in the vicinity of the body when it had been found. There were also found no signs of foul play or forced entry. The story allegedly immediately caught on among the local residents of the tower block, who began to speak of some foul vampire killer on the loose, a rumor which authorities were eager to squash.
The rumors of some sort of vampire on the loose continued to swirl, and the panic increased until one month after the first killing residents of the apartment block heard the frantic screams of a girl emanating from the elevator and contacted the police. Horrified authorities would discover the corpse of a 13 year-old girl trapped within an elevator that was stuck between the 4th and 5th floors of the building. Once again, the body of the girl was found drained of blood, and with bruised, yellowed puncture marks on her breast. Eerily, it was the very same elevator that the previous victim had been found in. This second death reinvigorated rumors of a vampire killer, human or otherwise, and panicked residents shunned using the elevator. For their part, the authorities purportedly tried to downplay the incident, claiming that the girl had died of a heroin overdose despite the fact that no syringe had been found in the vicinity and that the victim’s parents denied that she had ever used drugs. Locals were unconvinced, and insisted that some maniac or supernatural creature was on the loose.
In order to try and curb the sinister rumors, quell the growing unrest that the crimes were causing, and put everyone at ease, a detective and police sergeant were allegedly assigned to spend several days regularly riding up and down in the crime scene elevator at all hours. It is said that on one such patrol the elevator suddenly stalled between the 5th and 6th floors and the lights went black, forcing the two men to use their flashlights. Even at this point, the policemen were not particularly alarmed, thinking that the very old elevator had just broken down and would be back in operation before long. They used their two-way radios to inform their colleagues of the development and waited for rescue. Apparently, the two men became alarmed when they heard an odd clicking noise from above them and trained their flashlights upwards to catch a glimpse of a dark square where a roof panel had become dislodged. It was from here that the strange sound was coming, and after a moment of training their flashlights on the hole they supposedly noticed a furry head about the size of a man’s fist peering in at them. The sergeant allegedly drew his weapon but was ordered not to fire yet, as the thing seemed to be cowering from the light.
In order to test out this theory, the detective allegedly turned off his flashlight and whatever it was shifted and moved, revealing itself to be an enormous spider with legs 3 feet long. This supposedly sent the sergeant into a panic and he dropped his flashlight, which went out. Now bathed in darkness, the creature is then said to have descended into the elevator and proceed to attack the sergeant, biting him over and over again until the detective managed get his flashlight back on and to fire off his weapon, scaring the creature away and allegedly shooting one of its legs off. According to the story, the emergency response team arrived to find the sergeant dead from blood loss and the spider’s leg quivering on the floor.
This whole account is a wild tale to be sure, and it is hard to know just how much truth it has to it. According to the stories, the whole incident was supposedly covered-up by the authorities but it managed to leak to a Turkish newspaper, which allegedly first broke the news. This newspaper account apparently mentioned that the spider’s lair was subsequently destroyed and that large eggs had been found. The theory as to its origin was that it was a giant spider mutated by the Chernobyl Nuclear Plant disaster. Since this outlandish tale is all based on a rumored report by a Turkish newspaper that could have very well been a tabloid, and considering that fact that any official source on the matter seems to be lacking, it smacks of a spooky tale generated by the Internet and is probably best taken with a grain of salt. Nevertheless, it is certainly creepy.
As we have seen, Ukraine is a land full of not only natural splendor precariously coexisting with political unrest, but also populated by strange mysteries that may forever remain unsolved. What lies at the heart of these enigmas that weave through this land as surely as its history and culture? What can we make of these mysteries? We may never know. For now, Ukraine remains as enigmatic and intriguing to the outside world as it always has, populated by strange beasts that lurk behind the mainstream news stories on the war. It is a place with many secrets lurking in the shadows, a place with plenty of strange tales that mostly seem to remain hidden from the world at large and perhaps always will.