Sometimes it can be surprising just how much about our world is still a mystery. For example, plenty of new species are identified every year: finding them can come as a complete shock to scientists or, on the other hand, can happen after much search and effort. But when it comes to identifying new species, at the very least a captured specimen is needed to verify a find. In the meantime, then, we are all left guessing what’s myth and what’s reality. And each of the following 19 cryptids have been spotted by witnesses; in some cases, dozens of people have reported laying eyes on the beasts. So do they exist? We’ll let you decide.
19. De Loys’ Ape
Sometimes even finding a specimen isn’t enough for the critics. While hunting for petroleum on the Columbian-Venezuelan border in 1920, Swiss geologist François de Loys claimed to encounter two unusual apes that walked on their hind legs. One of the animals was shot, negotiated into place and photographed. In 1929, then, the animal was declared a new species by anthropologist George Montandon, who gave it the scientific name Ameranthropoides loysi. Today, some still believe that a unique species was found, while others maintain that it was merely a spider monkey.
Arguably the best-known cryptid out there, Bigfoot has appeared in North American folklore for generations. With a gigantic, hairy human-like form, the creature really captured the imagination of those in the post World-War II era. Indeed, in the 1950s construction worker Jerry Crew claimed to have spotted enormous footprints in Bluff Creek, California. As a result, Bigfoot hunters have since continued to make pilgrimages to the area. And by the time the Bigfoot Field Researchers’ Organization was set up in 1995 to explore the mystery, moreover, the beast had reached legendary status. So far, though, the team has not discovered any convincing evidence to support its existence.
17. The Beast of Bodmin Moor
The Beast of Bodmin Moor is a panther-esque animal that’s said to haunt the English county of Cornwall. Allegedly first seen in 1983, the ghost cat has since been blamed for the strange deaths of livestock. But perhaps it’s not a phantom at all. In 1998 a video emerged of an approximately three-foot-long cat-like animal prowling Bodmin Moor, which one zookeeper claimed was the “best evidence yet” that big cats lived in the region.
Hailing from the Himalayas, the Yeti is considered a huge, ape-like creature, covered in shaggy white fur. The beast is an important part of Everest folklore, and mountaineer Charles Howard-Bury is credited with bringing the legend to the Western world in 1921. Thirty years on, then, British explorer Eric Shipton took photographs of what he claims were enormous footprints – and the beast reached iconic fame. And the legend still intrigues others: an alleged sighting of the Yeti in a Spanish ski resort in early 2016, for example, set the internet on fire.
15. Loch Ness Monster
As we all know, this famous cryptid is said to patrol the waters of Scotland’s Loch Ness. Perhaps strangely, though, it was a vacationing London couple who in 1933 first claimed to have seen the creature while it was allegedly crossing the road in front of their car. While scientists say that the animal is unlikely to exist, sightings continue and interest in the plesiosaur-like Nessie never seems to fade.
Originating as a late 20th century Latin American legend, the chupacabra was blamed for the deaths of 150 farm animals in Puerto Rico, all found bizarrely drained of their blood. Supposed witnesses claimed that the animal had a reptile-esque body with spines. Since then, however, other reports have risen saying that the animal is more like a hairless coyote – but still spiky.
The massive serpent-like Yacumama terrifies the tribespeople of South America. Legends of the beast as Quetzalcoatl can be traced back to Aztec writings in Mexico, where one ancient stone carving depicted a snake-god consuming a person. In 1906, meanwhile, British explorer Percy Fawcett shot and killed what he claimed was a 62-foot-long anaconda in the Amazon River. So is Yacumama a creature unknown to science or a leviathan snake species?
Will-o’-the-wisps have gained some contemporary fame in recent years due to their inclusion in the Disney movie Brave, yet tales of these ghostly lights that lead travelers off their paths are well established in European folklore. And while some believe them to be caused by fairies, others attribute them to the flare-up of methane gases from swamps or even bioluminescent wildlife.
Nicknamed “Caddy,” the seahorse-like Cadborosaurus is said to lurk in the waters of the Pacific Northwest. With an average sighting of about once or twice a year over the last 200 years, it’s a rather shy cryptid. But in 1937 excitement ran high over a possible specimen retrieved from the stomach of a sperm whale; sadly, it was later found to have naturally come from the whale’s uterus.
Ropen hails from the island of New Guinea and is believed to either be a huge bat or even a pterosaur. The vast majority of sightings talk of seeing not the creature itself but its light, suggesting that the nocturnal cryptid is bioluminescent. And while maps dating from the 16th century depict flying “sea monsters” in the region, it wasn’t until soldier Duane Hodgkinson reported seeing a pterodactyl in 1944 that the ropen was brought into Western consciousness.
9. Skunk Ape
While Bigfoot is best known for stalking the forests of California and the Pacific Northwest, its cousin the skunk ape has ranged over Florida, North Carolina and Arkansas. Reports of the foul-smelling animal reached their peak in the 1960s and 1970s; arguably the most famous photographs surrounding its legend, though, come from one woman in Sarasota County, who in 2000 thought she was documenting an escaped orangutan. Others are sure, though, that her photos prove the existence of the skunk ape.
8. Queensland Tiger
Australia’s ferocious feline, the Queensland Tiger, existed in indigenous legends before reaching popular culture in 1871. Perhaps its most famous potential sighting, though, was in 1964 by Rilla Martin, who photographed an animal as it stood in some scrub near the roadside. While some have asserted that that the creature could be a surviving thylacine, this species is thought to have been nearly wiped out entirely on the Australian mainland around 2,000 years ago. Mysterious…
Speaking of Down Under, Australia also has its own ape-like cryptid! Stories of Yowie appear frequently in Aboriginal legend, but modern sightings of the creature are quite varied. In the 1970s, in fact, public fascination with the beast soared after the Queanbeyan Festival Board offered a $200,000 reward for the capture of the animal. Unfortunately, however, the prize still remains unclaimed today.
6. Jersey Devil
There are many different iterations of the Jersey Devil, but eyewitnesses usually claim that it has two kangaroo-like legs, a goat’s head and wings. The creature is said to live in the Pine Barrens region of New Jersey, where it has haunted locals for over 250 years. Sightings of the beast, moreover, are still a common local phenomenon.
5. Black Shuck
The Black Shuck is a ghostly dog with red eyes that’s said to roam the region of East Anglia in the U.K. Stories of the creature have been popular in the country’s folklore for centuries, with the earliest description of similar-sounding canines in the area dating back to around 1127. In fact, the Black Shuck is said to have inspired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles. Could there be some truth behind this well-known tale, then?
The odd-looking North American jackalope has been the stuff of legend since 1939, with the antlered animal subsequently inspiring stories, music and even the name of a brewing company. The jackalope is said to have a ferocious nature, leading to its nickname of the “warrior rabbit.” And while some believe that the jackalope is now extinct, others claim that it exists in small populations around the country: it may also be possible, meanwhile, that jackalopes are actually rabbits suffering from a virus that causes horn-like tumors.
On your next skiing vacation, don’t forget to look out for Tatzelwurm. The creature lives in the snowy European Alps, where tales of the animal have been recorded since the 18th century. Indeed, in the oldest recorded encounter with the beast, a man was said to have been so frightened by its appearance that he suffered from a heart attack and died. Sightings are variable, with some claiming that the creature is reptilian, others saying that it’s more feline in nature.
With dense forests and awesome mountain peaks, British Columbia potentially boasts some of the most beautiful scenery in the North American continent. Yet, reportedly, the deep waters of Okanagan Lake conceal an up to 50-foot-long beast. Sightings of snake-like Ogopogo have been made by First Nations people since the 1800s, but it wasn’t until 1926 that a crowd of people sighted the creature, bringing Ogopogo into public consciousness – seven years before Scotland’s Loch Ness Monster.
Huge birds are the stuff of legend among Native American tribes, with some stories claiming that the creatures can flap their enormous wings so hard that thunder starts to roll. In 1977, moreover, a thunderbird reportedly tried to carry off a ten-year-old boy as he played in a backyard in Lawndale, Illinois. Descriptions given by those who had seen the scene match an Andean condor, yet these birds cannot lift heavy loads. Intriguing…