Oct 11, 2022 I Nick Redfern

A Handful of Strange Creatures You May Not Have Heard Of: But You Should!

Bigfoot, Nessie, the Chupacabra, the Yeti, Ogopogo, and many more: they're strange creatures that we've all heard of. But, what about the lesser known "Cryptids," as they're known in some circles. Let's have a look at those rare ones. The continent of Africa is the reported home of numerous unknown creatures and wild monsters. They range from goliath-sized ape-men to lake-monsters and from dinosaur-like lizards to massive spiders. Africa is also the domain of more than a few large, winged, flying monsters. A wealth of such stories comes from the Bokaonde and Kaonde tribes of Zambia. It’s largely thanks to an early 20th century explorer, Frank H. Melland, that we know of the accounts of these immense and fearsome fliers. Melland’s sources in the tribes told him that the most feared of all the monsters of the skies was the Kongamato. Its name means “over-whelmer [sic] of boats.” As for the appearance of the Kongamato, it looked somewhat like a bird – at first glance. That it utterly lacked feathers, however, and the fact that its red body was leathery-looking, was membranous, and had wings far more befitting those of a bat, suggests it was something else entirely. Moreover, its immense mouth was filled with sharp teeth that could slice a man in two in an instant, which is not something typical of the average bird. Now, to the 1950s.

(Nick Redfern) Monsters everywhere

On January 6, 1954, the Lumberton, North Carolina, Robesonian newspaper published a sensational article titled “Vampire Strikes At Woman; Police Chief Warns Parents.” It began in startling style: “Worried parents kept a close eye on their children today as a strange ‘vampire’ beast continued to roam the countryside.” Indeed, sightings and killings had been going on since December 29 and plunged the good folk of the small town of Bladenboro, North Carolina into states of fear and outrage. Although many eye-witnesses described the animal as looking like a black leopard, there were some who said it was more akin to a sleek-looking bear. Adding to the confusion, the tracks of the creature were said to be dog-like, rather than feline in appearance. It was a creepy conundrum, to be sure. The most terrifying aspect of the story, however, was the claim of both the newspaper and the witnesses that the creature “sucks blood from its victims.” And thus was quickly born a vampire legend. Very quickly. Whatever the truth of the matter, the issue was never resolved to the situation of the people of Bladenboro: by mid-January the killings were finally over. Everyone sighed with relief.

In 2003, the South American country of Chile was hit by a spate of reports of traumatic and terrifying encounters with flying monsters. One particularly fantastic incident occurred on the night of July 23. That was when three boys, Jonathan, Diego, and Carlos were having a sleepover at Diego’s grandfather’s house, which was situated near San Pedro de Atacama. They were woken from their sleep by the sound of scratching against the outside of the door to the yard. Tentatively, the brave trio got out of their beds and tiptoed to the door, carefully and quietly opened it, and peered into the darkness. To their eternal horror, they were confronted by a horrific-looking beast standing at a distance of around fifty feet and staring directly at them. It was humanoid in shape, beaked, and around five feet in height. It had large bat-style wings that extended to a combined length of around eleven feet, and talons instead of toes. And its head was crested. As for its color, it was black and shiny, almost wet-like. It wasn’t a local. It’s interesting – and probably not coincidental – to note that a few days earlier a man by the name of Juan Acuqa contacted police to tell them of his trauma-filled, late night encounter with a pair of strange animals in the Chilean town of Parral. “They were both dog-faced and had wings,” Acuqa told the responding officers. No wonder the witnesses fled!

(Nick Redfern) Looking for the Chupacabra

Although the legendary Chupacabra – that bat-like, vampire-style beast which caused so much mayhem in the 1990s - is most associated with the island of Puerto Rico, there are indications that it, or at least something very much like it, has made its way to Florida. In April 2007, a comment was left at my blog by a source using the alias of “Mack the Knife.” He told a remarkable and strange story of having encountered not just one monster, but a pair of them. According to Mack: “I find the possibility of chupacabras particularly interesting, as it is the crytpid I may have gotten a brief glance at. During the Florida drought of 2001 I lived on a farm with my ex-wife. Many of the trees were in great distress because of the heat and dry conditions. One had nearly fallen over on my house. In an effort to help cool and water them I was out spraying down their trunks during the hottest part of the day. I was using a pressure nozzle with some real power.” It was this particular activity that apparently provoked the two creatures to surface from the depths of their hidden lair, as Mack reveals:

“At one point the stream went into an open cavity and out popped two very unhappy looking creatures the like of which I have never seen before. Rather large, especially given the size of the hole they emerged from, about three feet long, they gave much the appearance of a primate and moved like one. Their shoulder looked strong even bulky. They had flat faces, and I remember they seemed to be squinting against the light. Most curious of all, from their arms to their legs stretched a thick membrane much like a bat. They were startlingly white.” Mack continued:

“It could be said that these were just a large albino bat, in and of itself that would be quite a sighting. However, the largest bat in North America is called The Western Mastiff bat which in the US is only found in southern California, and the body of which is only a foot and a half long. Honestly, as someone who has studied wildlife science, the size of the wings doesn't seem large enough to carry a creature of that size. Is that a chupacabra? I don’t know. But it was something. It was not an opossum, as there was no gray in the fur, no naked tail, and it moved completely differently. The sighting didn't last long. I remember feeling bad for them actually, as though I had disturbed their privacy. I got the impression they were either siblings or a mated pair. They gave off no sense of menace or evil. Strangely, I did feel as though they were sentient somehow, different than just an animal, and their heads were quite large, with the rounded, side mounted ears of a primate. It’s just strange. I looked for them after that, but never saw them again.”

There the story ends. To this day, the mystery of Mack’s creepy critters remains exactly that – a mystery. Also downright mysterious is this: if the Chupacabra has indeed managed to leave the island of Puerto Rico behind it and make its way to mainland USA, how on earth did it achieve such a thing? And how many other countries might it now inhabit as well? They are, without doubt, sobering and worrying questions. 

Midway through November 1963, one of the most chilling and eerie of all monster encounters on record occurred in the dark and shadowy environment of Sandling Park, Hythe, Kent, England. It was an encounter that, in terms of the description of the creature, provokes Mothman-style imagery – even though the latter, famous creature did not hit the headlines in and around Point Pleasant, West Virginia until the mid-1960s onwards. Although Sandling Park was certainly shrouded in overwhelming darkness at the time of the beastly event, it was hardly the sort of place where one would expect to encounter nothing less than a fully-fledged monster. Amazingly, however, and according to a group of terrified witnesses, that is exactly what happened. John Flaxton, aged seventeen on the night that all hell broke loose, was accompanied by three friends, including eighteen-year old Mervyn Hutchinson. As they walked along a lane running by the park – after returning from a local Friday night dance – the group of friends became aware of a bright object moving overhead, which they at first took to be nothing stranger than a star. How very wrong they turned out to be. With hindsight, the beast seemed very like the Mothman of Point Pleasant, West Virginia.

(Nick Redfern) Winged things on the loose and similar to Mothman

The teenagers were amazed, and more than a bit scared, by the object’s presence, as they watched it hover and then drop out of sight behind a group of trees. The boys decided to leave the area with haste, but the light soon loomed into view again. It hovered around ten feet from the ground, and at an approximate distance of two hundred feet, then once again went out of sight. “It was a bright and gold oval,” one of the boys reported. “And when we moved, it moved. When we stopped, it stopped.” That was not necessarily a good sign! Suddenly, the boys heard the snapping of twigs from a nearby thicket, and out from the wooded area shuffled a creature of horrendous appearance. “It was the size of a human,” reported Mervyn Hutchinson. “But it didn’t seem to have any head. There were wings on its back, like bat wings.” The group fled, perhaps understandably not wanting to hang around and see what developed next.

Scandinavian history and folklore is filled with tales of all manner of monsters, rampaging beasts, and deadly creatures of a fantastic nature. Very few, however, were as feared as the lethal lindorm. It was a huge, wriggling, snake-like animal that, like today’s lake monsters such as Nessie, Champ, and Ogopogo, chose to live in deep, massive lakes. There was one big difference between the lindorms and other, similar monsters, however. The lindorm never stopped growing. This, rather ironically, was its very own downfall: as it grew bigger and bigger, it got heavier and heavier, something which eventually ensured it could no longer support its own weight and it would sink to the lake bed, unable to ever again move its massive bulk, and where it would eventually die.

There are stories in Scandinavian legend of lindorms having a particular hatred of Christian churches and chapels, which they would reportedly coil around and crush into rubble with their powerful, flexible bodies. Perhaps this was a result of the fact that the dragon was a beast revered in pagan times, but far less so when Christianity was brought to Europe. There are also tales of huge bulls reared to fight lindorms – and to the death, no less. Fortunately for the bulls, they were well trained and very often successfully killed the snake-like monstrosities with their powerful horns. While the lindorm is, today, a creature relegated to the world of myth, Scandinavia can boast of being home to a multitude of lake monsters and sea serpents. With that in mind, perhaps the lindorm is still with us, but just under another name.

Now, a story of absolute violence and death: from various parts of South America, including Columbia, Ecuador, and Venezuela, come stories of a massive, mighty, and extremely violent Bigfoot known as Mono Grande. One of the most fascinating – but also disturbing and tragic – stories came from one Count Pino Turolla, a noted archaeologist who traveled the world, Indiana Jones-style, in pursuit of all things mysterious and fabulous. Turolla (who died in 1984 at the early age of sixty-two) was born in Yugoslavia and later immigrated to Canada. Of note, he developed what became known as the Turolla Control-Descent Parachute that was used by the U.S. military. It was while traveling across South America in the 1960s that Turolla first heard of the marauding monster. The information came from Turolla’s personal guide, Antonio, who told a shocking story. Some years earlier, Antonio and his two sons traveled to a particular range in Venezuela where they were confronted on the sprawling savannah by a trio of enormous, gorilla-like animals that were around eight feet in height, had long and hanging arms, and tiny heads. Not only that, they were armed with large and crudely fashioned wooden clubs. A violent altercation occurred, something which resulted in one of Antonio’s sons being bludgeoned to death by the merciless monsters. And one more creature to focus on:

It all began on Valentine’s Day, 2002, when a Lancashire, England newspaper announced that “something” had been attacking swans at a picturesque, otherwise tranquil, nature reserve in the north of England. Eyewitnesses reported that a giant, unknown, creature had been seen dragging fully grown swans beneath the water – and which were never seen again. The location was the Wildfowl and Welland’s Trust Reserve at Martin Mere, Ormskirtk, Lancashire. And, when the media started reporting that the beast was “the size of a small car,” things really took off, in the publicity stakes.

Pat Wisniewski, the reserve’s manager, said that: “Whatever it was out there must have been pretty big to pull a swan back into the water. Swans weigh up to thirteen kilos. This could be an extremely large pike or a Wels catfish.” Wisniewski had good reason to take the matter seriously, as four years previously, in 1998, he had spotted something large and dark circling in the mere – much to his consternation and concern. It didn’t take long before a team of intrepid investigators from Britain’s premier monster-hunting group, the Center for Fortean Zoology, to head from their home-base in the south of England to Martin Mere. It was an ambitious project, led by CFZ Director Jon Downes, and with back-up provided by Richard Freeman, a former head keeper at England’s Twycross Zoo.

In no time at all, the story went from one of a mystery fish to a tale involving “dragons,” “unexplained ancient human mutilation,” and even “a resident mermaid.” Of course, much of this was due to media hype and sensationalism, but people were clearly seeing something out of the ordinary. The CFZ was determined to know exactly what it was. Freeman and Downes undertook numerous interviews with local folk who had seen the beast. They were pretty much unanimous that it was a powerful, fast-swimming, creature with a slick, shiny, muscular back – and which moved with astonishing speed.

(Nick Redfern) Mysterious creatures of the waters

It was thanks to Freeman’s dedication that, in July 2002, he finally caught sight of the monster-fish. Although it was only in view for mere moments, Freeman was pretty sure that what he encountered in the dark waters was a Wels catfish. But, this was no ordinary Wels. It was huge. In all likelihood, said Freeman, it was likely very old, somewhere in the region of no less than a century in age. The older the Wels, the bigger its size. Freeman opined that it had probably managed to successfully avoid one and all for decades, happily living on the local fish and bird population. And, of course, who would believe it if someone occasionally reported seeing a monster-fish in Martin Mere? Probably no-one until – for reasons unknown – the great beast made its presence known more and more in the summer of 2002. Sightings have subsided in recent years, leading to the possibility that the immense car-sized creature has died, or perhaps more likely, has retreated to the lower, muddy depths of the mere to avoid detection and media attention. Keep that latter possibility in mind should you ever visit Martin Mere and decide to go for a paddle. You may do so at your cost – and possibly at the expense of a few toes or even your very life.

And, finally: tucked away on the fringes of an old English village called Long Compton is a roughly circular formation of rocks called the Rollright Stones. For just about everyone that visits the stones, the effect is very much the same: a sense of being deep in the heart of a magical realm, one saturated by matters paranormal and supernatural. It’s not surprising, then, that the Rollright Stones have attracted numerous legends to explain their presence. There’s no doubting their point of origin: the Bronze Age. As for their purpose, that’s quite another matter. That the Rollright Stones are made up of a circle referred to as the King’s Men and a burial area that the locals call the Whispering Knights, has led to the creation of an engaging legend. It’s a legend that dates back to the first decade of the 17th century. So the enduring story goes, an evil witch – one Mother Shipton – did not take kindly to the king and his knights intruding upon her land and so, as a result, she cast an ancient, powerful spell and turned the entire party into blocks of stone. In that scenario, the Rollright Stones are the petrified remains of a long-gone army that was defeated not by bows and arrows, swords, and spears, but by malevolent hex.

Now we come to the matter of monsters. Paul Devereux is a noted expert on British-based stone circles and areas of archaeological significance, and the author of many books, including Stone Age Soundtracks: The Acoustic Archaeology of Ancient Sites. In 1977, Devereux created an ambitious program to study numerous standing stone formations in the U.K., ones which seemed to be surrounded by an excess of ultrasonic and magnetic phenomena. At the height of the investigation at the Rollright Stones, one of Devereux’s team caught a very brief view of a large, upright, shaggy-haired, animal lurking near the stones. In an instant, it was gone – something which prevented the witness from getting a good look at it. Nevertheless, he was sure it was no normal wild animal of the types that roam around the U.K., such as a fox or a deer. And, that's quite a list of leser known monsters!

Nick Redfern

Nick Redfern works full time as a writer, lecturer, and journalist. He writes about a wide range of unsolved mysteries, including Bigfoot, UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster, alien encounters, and government conspiracies. Nick has written 41 books, writes for Mysterious Universe and has appeared on numerous television shows on the The History Channel, National Geographic Channel and SyFy Channel.

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