Map of the United Monsters of America
The natural world is losing up to 2,000 species a year,
and that’s a low estimate. Fortunately, one corner of the animal kingdom is
immune from extinction: the monsters that thrive in our imagination. This map
unites America’s most famous cryptids on one map, from Caddy, a Northwestern
sea serpent, over Nebraska’s Alkali Lake monster to the skunk apes of Southern
There’s a whole discipline dedicated to the study of
beasts unknown to science: cryptozoology, literally ‘the study of hidden
animals’. Although frowned upon by mainstream science, some of these ‘hidden
animals’ have actually been proven to exist. The giraffe-like okapi of
Central Africa was confirmed only in 1901. Indonesia’s komodo dragon seemed too
fantastical to be true until 1912, when its existence finally could be
documented. These two species share the questionable distinction of having
their existence threatened (by us) so soon after being discovered (by us).
Until science discovers evidence for the Loch Ness
monster, the Himalayan yeti or any of their fellow cryptids (i.e. ‘hidden
creatures’), these monsters will have the good fortune to be as uncountable as
they are unaccounted for, free to roam and multiply in our campfire stories and
our folklore. The United States has quite a few of these cryptids, some
famous, like the Mothman or the Chupacabra, some perhaps only known (and
feared) locally, like the Beast of Busco or the Pope Lick Monster.
As shown on the map, which brings them together for the
first time, most cryptids are concentrated in the eastern third of the US.
Perhaps not surprising: that’s where most people live, thus presumable also an
agreeable environment for monsters (as notable for their attention-seeking as
for their camera-shyness). Further west, monsterdom is spread more thinly, with
just 15 out of 32 cryptids mentioned on the map occurring in the two thirds of
the land mass west of the Mississippi. So, which are America’s favorite
1. Alkali Lake Monster
A 40-feet horned reptile said to inhabit
Nebraska’s Walgren Lake (formerly Alkali Lake). Favorite treat: livestock and
fishermen. Stinks to high heaven. More at American
A 30-foot creature navigating the mount of Georgia’s
Altamaha River with seal-like movements, blending in to its surroundings thanks
to its green skin. A.k.a.: Altie. Possible footage of the monster here.
3. Bear Lake Monster
Although the person who first reported the Monster of
Bear Lake, on the Utah-Idaho border, later admitted it was a “wonderful,
first-class lie,” his tall tale has continued to generate numerous sightings,
turning the 30-foot ‘water devil’ into a modest tourist attraction. More
4. Beast of Busco
In 1949, inhabitants of Churubusco, Indiana reported
seeing a giant snapping turtle which, despite a month-long turtle-hunt, managed
to evade its pursuers. The town now boasts a statue of ‘Oscar the Turtle’, and
annual Turtle Days, held in June. More at Unknown Explorers.
Loch Ness has Nessie, Lake Erie has… Bessie. Snake-like
and between 30 and 40 feet, Bessie was first sighted as far back as 1793.
A.k.a.: South Bay Bessie. Has its own comic book series.
Perhaps North America’s most famous cryptid, this large,
hairy ape-man is said to inhabit the forests of the Pacific Northwest. Bigfoot
(a.k.a.: Sasquatch) has left an aptly large imprint on American
popular culture, figuring in countless TV series, movies and even a musical.
The famous picture, claimed by some to show a genuine Bigfoot, by others a man
in a gorilla suit, can be seen here.
7. Big Bird
A giant, ape-faced bird that terrorized the Rio Grande
Valley. First spotted in 1976, it has blood-red eyes and a 12-feet wingspan.
After a few months, the monster disappeared as mysteriously as it had emerged.
Could it have been a jabiru, a Central American stork, as claimed
by the Brownsville
Named after Cadboro Bay in British Colombia, Caddie is a
sea monster said to frequent the coasts of Washington and Oregon. A.k.a.: Cadborosaurus
willsi. More at The
Maine and Oregon both have a Portland, and also a sea
monster. The Pine Tree State’s Casco Bay is home to Cassie. Sea serpents were
reported in the area as early as 1751, but have tailed off in the last couple
of decades, says Maine
Chesapeake Bay has its own sea monster – unavoidably
called Chessie. Reportedly 25 to 40 feet long, it was sighted most often
between the mid-1970s and mid-1980s, and as recently as 2014. Ranked #8
scariest sea serpent by Animal
The champion among American lake monsters, Champ’s
habitat is Lake Champlain on the New York/Vermont border. As with many
monsters, the numerous contemporary sightings are supported by Native American
traditions – in this case, the local Abenaki tribe’s stories about a creature
called Tatoskok. Last year, the Daily
Mail reported on audio recordings presented as evidence of Champ’s
The original sighting of the Chupacabra (Spanish
for ‘goat-sucker’) was in the mid-1990s in Puerto Rico, and apparently
influenced by a creature in the sci-fi movie Species. A rash of
sightings (and mutilated goats) in northern Mexico and the southern US has been
linked to mangy dogs. Yet the legend lives on, reports the Huffington
13. Flathead Lake Monster
The Flathead Lake Monster is that Montana Lake’s version
of Nessie. Strangely, nobody thought of calling it Flessie. More
14. Honey Island Swamp Monster
Seven feet tall, with gray hair, red eyes and a foul
smell, the Monster of Honey Island Swamp, Louisiana is a hominid cryptid seen since 1963 (but
also linked to older Native American myths).
16. Jersey Devil
Winged and hoofed, the Jersey Devil would probably look
like a devil, if it could be coaxed out of its lair in New Jersey’s Pine
Barrens. More info (and t-shirts) here.
Or the Hudson River Monster. Could also be an unusually
large (and very lost) manatee? See also Cryptid Wiki.
20. Loveland Frogmen
Humanoid frogs about 4 feet tall, first sighted in
Loveland, Ohio, and from 2014 stars of their own musical, named Hot
Damn! It’s the Loveland Frog! More at Who
21. Mogollon Monster
A Bigfoot-like creature sighted along the Mogollon Rim in
central and eastern Arizona. No attested sightings confirm its existence, but
the monster does have its own
‘Couples See Man-Sized Bird…Creature…Something’,
titled the Point Pleasant Register on 16 November 1966. The
sightings continued for just over a year, popularized by the book The
Mothman Prophecies (1975), turned into a 2002 movie starring
Is Paddler a real monster in Lake Pend Oreille, Idaho, or
is it just a cover story for secret Navy submarine tests? More on Cryptomundo.
A three-foot humanoid from Wampanoag
with enlarged noses, fingers and ears, able to appear and disappear at will,
transform into a porcupine, and lure humans to their deaths. Hence best left
27. Pope Lick Monster
The Pope Lick Monster is part man, part bovine, lives under
a railway bridge near Louisville, Kentucky, and kills people either by luring
them onto the tracks, or jumping down on motorists beneath the bridge. Quite
disappointingly, no actual popes were licked in the making of this urban
legend. More at the Louisville
Ghost Hunters Society.
28. Shunka Warakin
An Ioway term meaning ‘carries off dogs,’ the Shunka
Warakin is said to resemble either a hyena or a wolf, or both. One such animal
was shot and mounted in 1880s Montana, was displayed in a local store until it
mysteriously vanished in the 1980s. ‘Ringdocus,’ as the animal was named, was
found again in 2007, according to the Bozeman
29. Skunk Apes
A.k.a. Florida Bigfoot, the skunk ape, according to the
US National Park Service, does not exist. However, some mysterious photossent
in by an anonymous source, seem to indicate otherwise.
Another Nessie spin-off, Tessie swims in Lake Tahoe, on
the California-Nevada border. After a few dives in the mid-1970s, famed French
oceanographer Jacques Cousteau reportedly
said: “The world isn’t ready for what is down there.”
Large bird-like creatures with enormous wingspans,
associated with Native American myths, but sighted (and shot) in modern times;
as in one famous (but apocryphal) case in the early 1980s. A picture of a dead
thunderbird nailed to a barn in Arizona is one of the many cryptid clues that
have ‘mysteriously’ gone missing. Or is this
32. Wampus Cat
A cougar-like cat stalking eastern Tennessee, not unlike
the Eewah, a half-woman, half-cougar, from Cherokee mythology. Legend has it
that when you hear the Wampus cry, someone will die within the next three days.
The Wampus Cat also steals children, and smells awful. More here.