Michael Delahoyde, PhD

Professor of English



The following represents just a small number of the unknown animals in which cryptozoologists are interested, according to Bernard Heuvelmans, “Annotated Checklist of Apparently Unknown Animals With Which Cryptozoology Is Concerned,” Cryptozoology 5 (1986), extracted by Melissa Alles.

Marine Forms

Merfolk-like animals not necessarily relatedto the present dugong and manatees – their classical scientificexplanation:

“Mermaids” and “mermen”reported from seas where no recent species of sirenians are knownto have lived during historical times. In the most complete workdevoted to the mermaid legend (Benwell and Waugh 1961), 70 sightingsof such creatures are listed. Out of these, 52 (almost three-quarters)have allegedly occurred far from the areas where the three speciesof manatee, the dugong, and the enormous Steller’s sea-cow areknow to be or to have been confined: 47 in European waters, threeoff of Greenland and in the extreme northeast of North America,one in Polynesia, and one in the Arctic Ocean. In these regions,the existence of seals, sea-lions, or walruses cannot, as hasbeen suggested, make up for the absence of sirenians, since pinnipedslack the essential – almost indispensable – feature which makesan aquatic animal congruent with the mythical archetype of themermaid (the devouring mother or the ever-deceiving vamp): thepectoral mammae. Only a still-unrecorded species of recent Sirenia,or possibly – though much less likely – an unknown form of primateadapted to sea-life, could explain the abundance and persistenceof merfolk reports in certain seas up to modern times.

In the northern Pacific, south of the AleutianIslands, an unidentified merfolk-like animal of much smaller size(5 feet long) observed for over two hours by naturalist GeorgWilhelm Steller in 1741, and described by him as a “sea-ape.” It seemed devoid of forelimbs, and had an asymmetrical tail ofwhich the upper fin was longer than the lower one, as is the casein sharks. Could this be the aquatic form of primate alludedto above? Roy P. Mackal suggests that this animal, which sometimesraised itself one-third of its length out of the water (as pinnipedsoften do), could be either a northern form of the leopard seal(Hydrurga leptonyx), only known at present from the AntarcticOcean, or a very young specimen of a surviving zeuglodon (Basilosaurus). The survival of this fossil archeocete could moreover accountfor native traditions of a large long-necked sea “monster”called tizheruk on King Island and pal rai yuk onNunivak Island (Mackal 1980). The front flippers of both animalscould have been held so closely pressed to the body as to passunnoticed in Steller’s specimen. But none of these hypothesescan explain the disturbing shark-like tail of the “sea-ape.”

A marine saurian; that is, a huge ocean-dwellingreptile shaped like a crocodile or a lizard. It could be eitherone of the thalattosuchian crocodiles of the Mesozoic Era, whichhad a fish-tail and the hind-legs transformed into flippers, ora surviving mosasaurian, an outsized sea cousin of the monitorlizards. It is even possible that both of these survive separatelyin tropical waters.

Giant squids more than 100 and even 200 feetlong overall (the largest measured specimens of Architeuthisare only about 50 feet long). Claims for much larger creatureshave been conjectured from the size of scars left by the toothedsuckers of large squid on the skin of sperm-whales, and from thelength and thickness of the arms of squids found in the belliesof – or vomited up by – these carnivorous whales, the ratio betweenthe dimensions of the greatest suckers and the body-length, andthe ratio between the dimensions of the sessile arms and thissame length being approximately constant in Architeuthis. Of course, quite differently proportioned squids of unknown generacould be responsible for both outsized sucker marks and the cessionof relatively enormous arms, but this would be even more unlikelythan the existence of individual specimens of Architeuthisof much bigger size, or of a larger unknown species of this genus(Heuvelmans 1958, 1968).

Freshwater Forms

In Cold Temperate Lakes and Rivers

So-called “lake monsters,” generallydescribed as the long-necked type of “sea serpent” capableof crawling on land (Megalotaria longicollis), in LochNess and several other Scottish locks, but also throughout thenorthern regions in the lakes of Wales, Ireland, Iceland, Norway,Denmark, Sweden, Finland, the Soviet Union, Japan, Canada andthe U.S.A. (Costello 1974, Mackal 1980, Bord and Bord 1980). Incidentally, the Loch Ness animals have been described as Nessiterasrhombopteryx on the basis of an underwater photograph of adiamond-shaped fin (Scott and Rines 1975). This generic nameis long antedated by Megalotaria (Heuvelmans 1965), butthe specific name may well be retained as valid, even as justsubspecific, since it is very likely that the diverse landlocked,freshwater forms differ at least slightly from the ocean-dwellingone.

“Lake monsters” similarly described,in Argentinian (iemisch?), south Australian (bunyip)and Tasmanian lakes (Heuvelmans 1955, 1958, Mackal 1980), butalso in the Orange River and in the tributaries of the Vaal River(groot slang) in South Africa (Heuvelmans 1978).

Attention must be drawn to the fact that allthese long-necked animals have been reported from stretches offreshwater located around isothermic lines 10°C; that is,between 0°C and 20°C (i.e., 50°F, between 32°Fand 67°F) in both Northern and Southern hemispheres. Onecould hardly wish for better circumstantial evidence of theirexistence.

In Tropical Lakes, Rivers, and Swamps

In Africa (Ethiopian Region):

Giant anacondas up to 60 feet long (Sucurijugigante) – and thus possibly belonging to a species distinctfrom Eunectes murinus – in the Amazon basin (Heuvelmans1955, 1958).

A mysterious beast of the Paraguayan Chaco,described as “a slug-like snake,” but as broad as ahorse and having the head of a dog and a poisonous barbed spikein its stumpy tail. It is most probably what some of the localIndians call manguruyú or giant catfish, an 18-foot-longfish said to grow up to half a ton in weight (Craig 1954).

Terrestrial Forms

In Europe (Palearctic Region):

Wild hairy men, most probably Neanderthalshaving survived into historical times. Know as satyrsin classical antiquity – a name borrowed from the Hebrew se’ir(“the hairy one”) – and as wudewása (“woodbeing”) in the Middle Ages, they were reported until the13th century in Ireland, until the 16th century in Saxony andNorway, until the 18th century on the Swedish island of Ölandand in Estonia, in the Pyrénées (iretges, basajaun)up to 1774 at least, and in the Carpathians (“wild man”of Kronstadt) up to 1784 at least.

In Cold Temperate Asia (Palearctic Region):

Gigantic hairy hominoids (most probably Gigantopithecussp.) in southern Tibet (nyalmo, mi-chen-po), Sikkimand northern Bangladesh, from where, like the Neanderthal-likemen, they spread into the Oriental Region, namely Burma (tok,kung-lu), China up to Manchuria (xiao, da-mao-ren),and North Vietnam (shan-tu).

Mammoths (Elephas primigenius) allegedlysurviving in Siberia’s taiga, an endless evergreen forest of pineand birch. The age-old rumors claiming their survival seem tobe based mainly upon specimens frozen from between 9,000 and 13,000years B.P., complete with muscles, skin, and hair. These impressivecarcasses have occasionally been seen “emerging” fromblocks of melting peat by terrified natives. There is only onedetailed report of an actual encounter with a live animal: anelderly hunter born in the Usuri region told a French consul in1918 that, two years before, he had sighted a huge elephant withvery curved tusks and fairly long hair after having followed itsenormous tracks in the woods for several days. Although perfectlymatter-of-fact and ingenuous, this story is so vaguely and evenabsurdly located that it is considered far from reliable (Heuvelmans1958).

In North Africa (Palearctic Region):

Very large snakes reported from eastern Moroccoto Tunisia, and often said to be longhaired (crested, or, muchmore likely, seen shedding their skins). They could be pythonssurviving – just as crocodiles have – in scraps of tropical vegetationremaining north of the Sahara Desert, and occasionally strayingfrom them (Heuvelmans 1978).

In Tropical Asia (Oriental Region):

Giant bats, said to be the size of a smallchild, reported from Vietnam, Java (aul), and the Philippines.

A youth-sized ape with a conical head, reportedsince classical antiquity (“Pan with wedge-shaped head”)and now sensationalized as the abominable Snowman, in northernIndia and the Himalayas, from Kashmir (vana-ma-nusha) toBhutan (jungli admi), through Nepal (yeh-teh oryeti, mi-teh), Sikkim (shukpa) and Bangladesh(ban-manush). It has long been confused with both theNeanderthal-like men and the Gigantopithecus-like hominoidsmentioned above, but it is obviously a true ape, running on allfours when hurried (Izzard 1955). It is probably a remnant ofthe rich fossil pongid fauna of the Siwaliks, which includes Sivapithecus. It has been described as Dinanthropoides nivalis (Heuvelmans1958). While it is quite possible that the fossil anthropoidapes referred to above are more closely related to this form thanto the orangutan, it is equally possible that the so-called Snowmanis merely a particular form of orangutan, more terrestrial thanthe tree-dwelling kind.

In Tropical and Southern Africa (EthiopianRegion):

An alleged bear of unparalleled ferocity inEast Africa (chemisit, ketit, shivuverre,koddoelo, Nandi Bear). Reports are often based upon sightingsof very large black ratels or honey-badgers (Mellivora capensis),and upon the savage deeds of spotted hyenas of unusual color orsize, but probably also, originally, upon encounters with giganticbaboons supposedly extinct (Theropithecus [Simopithecus]sp.) (Heuvelmans 1982).

Flying lizard-like animals reminiscent ofthe pterosaurs of the Mesozoic Era, in Zimbabwe and Zambia (kongamato),around Mounts Kenya and Meru in East Africa, in the Kasai Provinceof Zaire, in Cameroons (olitiau, an obvious misunderstandingfor ole ntya, “the forked-one,” i.e., the Christiandevil), and in Ghana (sasabonsam). Some of these couldactually be unknown species of giant bats, or even the strange-lookinghammer-headed bat (Hypsignathus monstrosus) (Heuvelmans1978).

Rather large snakes, said to be crested andoften to have a cry like the crow of a rooster, reported throughouttropical Africa. They are know as n’gôk-wiki tothe Baya of the Central African Republic (Heuvelmans 1978). Describedas truly gigantic in the Mataba River area, in the norhtern Congo,where they are know as nguma-monene (great snake), similarreptiles with a serrated ridge running along the spine could,according to Roy P. Mackal, be outsized monitor lizards, or evenmore primitive snake-like lizards (Mackal 1986).

In North America (Nearctic Region):

Gigantic, hairy hominoids, leaving huge human-likefootprints, some showing distinct dermatoglyphs, reported frommost Canadian provinces and American states, from Alaska to Florida,but more frequently from those bordering the west coast of thecontinent (sasquatch, oh-mah, toké-mussi,Bigfoot) (Sprague and Krantz 1977, Green 1978, Bord and Bord 1982). This form, generally thought to be related to the fossil gigantopithecinesof Asia, Gigantopithecus blacki of China and Gigantopithecusbilaspurensis of India, has, in fact, been formally assignedto Gigantopithecus blacki by Grover S. Krantz (1986). Krantz has also proposed that, should the living form prove tobe sufficiently different, Gigantanthropus canadensis wouldbe an appropriate name.

A chimpanzee-like ape, mainly nocturnal andcapable of swimming, reported from North American swamps and intemperate bottomland hollows. It is probably the same creaturewhich is known as bukwus to the Tsimshian Indians, andafter which they carved wooden masks. Despite its smaller sizeand its quite different habits, it has generally been confusedwith the former hairy giants. According to Loren Coleman, itcould be a Nearctic representative of the dryopithecines, believeduntil now to have been restricted to the Old World from the Mioceneto the Pleistocene (Coleman 1983).

Gigantic flying birds of prey, with a wingspanof between 10 and 16 feet, and thus larger than the Andean Condor. Generally dubbed “thunderbirds,” they are suspectedof attempts to abduct small children, and have been reported frominnumerable parts of the southern half of the USA. Loren Colemansuggests that they could be North American teratorns survivingfrom the Pleistocene. The most common of them, Teratornismerriami, had a wingspan of 10 to 12 feet, and Teratornisincredibilis, from Nevada and California, may have approached17 feet. Some of the remains of these huge carnivorous birdsare only 8,000 years old: it seems that they were hunted by earlyAmerindians (Coleman 1985).

Outsized lizards, snakes, beavers, and evenkangaroos – not to mention dinosaurs, unicorns, and flying men- reported from many parts of the USA, but obviously based inmost instances upon misidentifications, gross exaggeration, orplain hoaxes.

In Australasia (Australasian Region):

Gigantic monitor lizards, up to 30 feet inlength, reported from tropical rivers and lakes of eastern Australia,but also reported in scrub-covered mountain ranges of New SouthWales, around the Murray River, and even further south near LakeAlexandrina in Victoria.

Small, dark men, with long straight hair ontheir heads, and sometimes slanderously said to be endowed withthe Christian devil’s attributes, such as a tail and goat’s feet(vui, wui), on some of the New Hebrides islands.