Oct 05, 2022 I Nick Redfern

Monsters of a Very Weird Kind: They Might Not Get Stranger!

Today's article is on one specific issue: that of some of the weirder sides of Cryptozoology. We'll begin with the undeniably strange story of the "Oklahoma Octopus." And quite a story it is! It’s a deeply strange story that is very much dominated by myth, folklore, and urban legend, but which just might have at its heart a genuine mystery of cryptozoological proportions. And it goes like this: in the waters of Lake Thunderbird, Oklahoma, something monstrous and weird is said to dwell. It’s described as being octopus-like – hence the memorable moniker the creature now has – and is somewhat akin to a scaled-down version of horror-maestro H. P. Lovecraft’s most famous creation, Cthulhu. In Lovecraft’s own words, Cthulhu was: “A monster of vaguely anthropoid outline, but with an octopus-like head whose face was a mass of feelers, a scaly, rubbery-looking body, prodigious claws on hind and fore feet, and long, narrow wings behind.” The wings aside, that’s not a bad description of the Oklahoma Octopus, too! Of course, Cthulhu was merely the product of Lovecraft’s weird-but-gifted mind, right? Well…probably. There is, however, a school of thought that believes Lovecraft based at least some of his works on his own, secret, arcane knowledge of terrible beasts and of fantastic, lost lands and ancient civilizations. Lovecraft was somewhat familiar with Oklahoma too: he ghost-wrote The Mound, which was focused on dark goings-on in Caddo County, Oklahoma. And on the subject of Oklahoma…

(Nick Redfern) Beware of the Oklahoma Octopus!

As noted above, most of the claimed sightings of the Oklahoma Octopus have been reported from within the depths of Lake Thunderbird. This, in itself, is curious, and for three, specific reasons: (A) Lake Thunderbird is a freshwater lake; (B) the lake wasn’t built until 1962 (which begs the question: where did the beast, or beasts, come from?) and (C) octopuses live in saltwater environments. Unless, that is, against all the odds an octopus or several have managed to cope with, and adapt to, a freshwater world. There are other, notable aspects to the story, too: the lake itself is named after another legendary creature of cryptozoological proportions, the Thunderbird, a staple part of Native American lore and history. Plus, the Native Americans that called the area their home centuries ago told stories of monstrous, octopus-like water-beasts in the area way back then - and long before the Oklahoma Octopus was on anyone’s radar. The specific locations were the Illinois River (which snakes its way through arts of eastern Oklahoma) and the Verdigris River. As for the witness reports, they typically revolve around sightings of fairly significantly sized tentacles seen breaking the surface of the lake. Seldom is a complete creature encountered; but there are several such cases which, collectively, still leave the matter wide open.

Now, onto a beast with a very appropriate title: the Mongolian Death Worm. Known and feared by those that call the Gobi Desert their home, the Mongolian Death Worm is a beast that has become legendary in monster-hunting circles. That, at least, is its westernized title. For the people of Mongolia, it’s Allergorhai horhai which translates into English as “intestine worm.” Its distasteful and monstrous moniker is derived from eyewitnesses to the creature, who say that it in physical appearance it resembles the stomach of a cow and is blood red in color. The Mongolian Death Worm can grow to lengths of five feet, is as thick as a man’s arm, and is best avoided at all costs. Indeed, it didn’t get its memorable name without reason. In addition, it predominantly lives underground.

The creature has two ways in which it brings down its prey – which often includes people. It has the ability to spit, over distances of up to around twelve feet, an acid-like venom that can burn through clothing, skin, muscle, and right down to the bone; something which causes the skin of the victim to turn a sickly, jaundice-like yellow. The coiling terror can also emit a powerful and fatal electric shock that – in a fashion not unlike an electric eel – kills or stuns its prey, thus allowing it to move in and partake of a good meal. It was not until the mid-1920s that word of this hideous thing reached the west; prior to that time it was a case of what happens in the Gobi Desert stays in the Gobi Desert. The news that Mongolia was home to one of the most terrifying of all monsters came from one Professor Roy Chapman Andrews, who was not only the author of the 1926 book On the Trail of Ancient Man, he was also the inspiration for one of Hollywood’s most famous characters of the gung-ho kind, Indiana Jones. It was while seeking evidence of the presence of ancient man in Mongolia that Andrews heard some very weird tales about a certain deadly beast that lived below the sands.

In his now old book, Andrews said: “This is probably an entirely mythical animal, but it may have some little basis in fact, for every northern Mongol firmly believes in it and gives essentially the same description. It is said to be about two feet long, the body shaped like a sausage, and to have no head or legs; it is so poisonous that even to touch it means instant death. It is reported to live in the most arid, sandy regions of the western Gobi. What reptile could have furnished the basis for the description is a mystery!” The next data of significance surfaced in 1967, when a Czech adventurer and explorer named Jaroslav Mares learned of the monster’s legendary and lethal reputation. One source told Mares: “My brother, living in Oboto Chajun aimak, knew of a man who encountered an Allergorhai horhai, one herdsman told me. His name was Atlan. Once he returned with a friend from a neighboring camp. They were riding their horses, and it was just after noon, one day in July. The sun was shining. “Suddenly, Atlan’s horse fell down. The rider stood up and went to the horse, but suddenly cried out and fell again. Atlan was five meters behind, and saw a big, fat worm slowly crawling away. Atlan stood in horror and then ran to his friend. But he was dead and so too was his horse.”

A great deal more was learned about the Mongolian Death Worm in the summer of 1990. That’s when a cryptozoologist named Ivan Mackerle traveled to one particular part of Mongolia: an area of desert southwest of Dlandzadgad. One of the U.K.’s most respected cryptozoologists, Richard Freeman, says of one particularly intriguing account that Mackerle uncovered: “The expedition’s interpreter, Sugi, told them of a dramatic incident from his childhood. A party of geologists had been visiting Sugi’s home region. One of them was poking into the sand with an iron rod when he suddenly collapsed as it poleaxed. His colleagues rushed to his aid only to find him dead. As they examined the ground into which he had shoved, they saw the sand begin to churn violently. Out of the dune came a huge bloated death-worm.” Reports of the Mongolian Death Worm continue to surface periodically, suggesting that one should be very careful when crossing the Gobi Desert, lest one has some warped desire to end up as the meal of a monster.  

(Nick Redfern) Monsters everywhere!

How about a certain lake monster known as Teggie? You may not know about this one, but it's a highly dangerous one (or a colony of them). Deep in the heart of North Wales there exists a large expanse of water called Lake Bala. You may say, well, there’s nothing particularly strange about that. You would be correct. Lake Bala is not out of the ordinary, in the slightest. But what is rumored to dwell in its dark depths most assuredly is out of the ordinary. It’s the domain of a violent lake monster called Teggie. Or, is the story born out of secret, military experiments? It all very much depends on who you ask and who you believe. Before we get to the matter of Teggie, it’s worth noting that within Lake Bala there lurks a creature called the Gwyniad. It can hardly be termed a monster, as it’s just a small fish. But there is one issue concerning the Gwyniad that does have a bearing upon the matter of Teggie. The Gwyniad is a fish that dates back to the prehistoric era and is found in Lake Bala and nowhere else – at all. This has, quite naturally, given rise to a thought-provoking question: what else of a prehistoric nature might be in Lake Bala? And how big might it grow? The questions are intriguing. The answers are even more so.

Whereas sightings of the Loch Ness Monster date back more than 1,500 years, Lake Bala’s resident unknown beast has only been reported for just over a century. Some locals, who claim to have seen the Teggies at close quarters, say the creatures resemble huge, violent, northern pike. They are ferocious fish that can easily grow to four feet in length; occasionally five; and, rumor has it, even six. If, however, the Teggies are northern pike, then they would have to be true giants, since witnesses claim that the creatures they encountered were in the order of ten to fifteen feet. No-one, surely, needs telling that a too close encounter with such a creature would result in a swift and bloody death – but not for a Teggie, though. Then there are the equally baffling reports of a reptilian monster that vaguely resembles a crocodile. Such a scenario is unlikely, as a colony of crocodiles would stand little chance of adapting to, and surviving, a harsh North Wales’ winter – never mind untold numbers of centuries of such winters. There is, however, a third theory for what the Teggies might be. It’s just as strange and controversial as the crocodile and northern pike scenarios, but in a very different fashion.

There are longstanding rumors in and around the Bala area that in the build-up to the First World War, the British Royal Navy clandestinely let loose a group of seals into the lake. The reason: to strap them with dynamite and train them to attacks specific targets, namely warships. It should be noted that the dynamite was not real and the “warships” were just small rowing boats. In other words, the project was a test-run, in the event that the Royal Navy might find itself at war with Germany (which it did in 1914, when the First World War broke out), and suicidal seals, strapped with explosives, might be required to fight for their country. So the story goes, the seals proved impossible to train, and the project was abandoned. And, so today, what people are seeing today are brief glimpses of the original seals that bred and bred and so on. Of course, it’s very possible this is nothing more than a tall tale, passed on through the generations and without any actual facts to support it. And, it must be said, it would be very difficult to mistake a seal for a crocodile or a huge, violent pike. Thus, the legend of Teggie continues to thrive

And, finally, there's a certain rival to the Mothman of Point Pleasant, West Virginia. Sometimes a monster is described as being so incredibly strange that one can do very little beyond than relate the facts – chiefly because the available facts are so strange and near-unfathomable, in terms of what they might represent. A perfect example of just such a uniquely weird case dates back to the 1950s. In terms of the location, all we know for sure is that it was somewhere in the vicinity of Falls City, Richardson County, Nebraska. As for the witness, we know him only as “John Hanks,” an admitted pseudonym that the man in question chose to use to protect his real identity. When you read the details of his experience, you will undoubtedly realize why the man was determined to protect his real name from prying, inquiring eyes. It’s a case that was carefully investigated by one of the world’s foremost experts on bizarre, flying beasts, Ken Gerhard. Even Gerhard, for all the cases of flying anomalies he has investigated, finds the entire affair baffling – which is saying something!

(Nick Redfern) When a flying half-human thing takes to the air!

It was late one night, at some point in the latter part of 1956, said Hanks, when he came face to face with a true giant; a creature in excess of nine feet in height, one that was humanoid in shape, but which most certainly could never be termed a member of the human race. That much, at least, we can ascertain from Hanks’ description. Ken Gerhard says, with a great deal of justification, that “[Hanks’] description of the creature sounds reminiscent of something out of an H.P. Lovecraft story.” Gerhard is not wrong in suggesting that Hanks’ monster would have found itself right at home in the pages of one of the legendary horror maestro’s novels. In fact, Gerhard is right on target. Hanks’ nightmarish thing had a pair of fifteen-foot-wide wings that, rather oddly, appeared to be made of bright, shining, aluminum! Not only that, the wings appeared to be strapped to the creature; almost grafted onto its body in definitive cyborg-style. If that was not nearly strange enough, the robot-birdman displayed numerous, multi-colored lights that spanned the entire undersides of both wings. Whether for illumination, display, or something else, Hanks didn’t know. Even stranger still, if such a thing is possible, the winged man-thing had a “panel” attached to its chest and which, Hanks assumed, was some kind of control mechanism that allowed the creature to land, take-off, and soar the heavens above. And that's a good way to end!

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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