Tuesday, January 15, 2019

WHAT IF? A writer’s love affair with cryptids

Posted by: Dani Harper, Author

The idea of strange and mysterious creatures sharing our world has always fascinated me. As a little kid, I soooo wanted Nessie to be real (and I wanted a sea monster of my very own!) 

Even now, as an alleged grownup, few things would excite me more than to see a major news network announce that the Sasquatch was alive and well and reading the Seattle Times in a Pacific Northwest forest.

Why? Maybe because one of my hobbies is collecting myths and legends from many cultures. Maybe because I grew up on a steady diet of science fiction and fantasy, and I write paranormal and fantasy novels now. It might also have something to do with my addiction to monster movies (I can usually be counted on to drop everything and bring the popcorn!) Mostly it’s that my imagination and creativity thrive on a single driving question:

“What if?”

Unknown animals have been dubbed “cryptids”, and cryptozoology is the study of such undiscovered creatures. The root of both words comes from the Greek word kriptos, meaning hidden. What if, indeed!


The most well-known aspect of cryptozoology, the one which tends to capture most of the media attention, concerns the search for animals which are alleged to exist but are not confirmed. This includes the aforementioned “classics” like the Loch Ness Monster and Bigfoot—but they’re only the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

The Beast of Bray Road is a werewolf-like being reported to live in Wisconsin. The Thunderbird with its 14-foot wingspan is still said to follow storms from Texas to Illinois. The Ogopogo is a legendary lake monster in British Columbia, Canada (see my post: http://herebemagic.blogspot.com/2018/06/is-there-monster-in-your-lake.html ). And a sea serpent named Caddy has been sighted off the northwest Pacific coast. 

You’ve probably heard about the Chupacabra of Mexico and the American Southwest, which is said to drink the blood of goats. The Jersey Devil purportedly haunts the Pine Barrens of southern New Jersey, while Florida is allegedly home to both the Skunk Ape and the Muck Monster.

Around the world, there are countless cryptid stories. The Himalayan mountains is believed to be the territory of a number of primate creatures such as the Yeti, the Buru and the Barmanu. Another primate, the Yowie, is Australian. 

One of my favorites? The Mongolian Death Worm. Who couldn’t love a title like that? This large snake-like creature is said to live beneath the sand in remote areas of the Gobi Desert. Residents there claim the bright red worm kills by spraying an acid-like venom or by electrocuting its victims! I don’t know if these cryptids inspired the mighty sandworms of Frank Herbert’s Dune novels, but they did apparently influence the “graboids” of the movie Tremors (and yes, I’ll admit to owning that movie – popcorn, anyone?).


What you might not know is that Cryptozoology encompasses two other fields of investigation. One is the search for still-living examples of animals generally thought to be extinct. For instance, tales are told in South America of the mapinguari, a 10-foot tall mammal with huge backward-facing claws that lives in the deep jungle. The descriptions are eerily similar to that of the Giant Ground Sloth (megatherium) that lived in the region 10,000 years ago.

The swamps, creeks and waterholes of Australia may be the home of the carnivorous bunyip or kianpraty, described as having a doglike face, tusks, and flippers. Some think the bunyip may be a prehistoric marsupial which did not go extinct.

The premise of The Meg, a 2018 movie, is that a giant prehistoric shark (megalodon) could still be swimming in the unexplored depths of our oceans. And hey, there could be hope for that theory if you look at the story of a 
six-foot-long carnivorous fish called the coelacanth. This bony creature was believed to have gone extinct 65 million years ago. That is, until someone caught one off the coast of Africa in 1938! Since that time we’ve learned that there are not one but two species of this primitive fish still lurking in the depths, and you can see some of National Geographic’s video footage at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4jl_txxYQEA  


The third area of cryptozoology concerns animals which are known to exist, but are being sighted in areas very far from their usual habitat. Are black panthers roaming the British countryside? And what about the stories of giant black cats in many American states from Alabama to Texas and beyond—including the Ozark Howler? Are they escaped pets or former zoo animals? Or variations of indigenous animals?

Although stories of black mountain lions persist, science holds that leopards and jaguars are the only big cats whose coloration can be entirely black. In recent years, a few jaguars were confirmed present in Arizona and New Mexico – areas where the species once lived many years ago. So far, however, the confirmed jaguars were all spotted, not black.


Would it surprise you to know that the mountain gorilla, the okapi, the Komodo dragon, the platypus, the kangaroo and the giant panda were all once thought to be fictional creatures? 

Sri Lankan legends tell of the ulama, a terrifying horned bird that screams in the night. In 2001, it was discovered to be a new (and very large) species of owl! A similar thing happened in Western Indonesia, where Moni folklore featured the bondegezou -- the "man of the forest". In 1994, an animal new to science was discovered there: the dingiso. This black and white tree marsupial spends a lot of time on the ground and often stands upright.


You only have to glance through the TV guide to see that interest in cryptids has grown exponentially in recent years. For some it's a serious pursuit. For others, it's just good fun. But whether we want to believe or just want to be entertained, cryptids have an important job:

Humans need things to wonder at and things to wonder about. As our lives become increasingly ruled by technology, the more we may take comfort in the idea that not everything in our world has been documented and catalogued, that we don’t know everything there is to know. That there are still mysteries...

And we still get to ask what if?


The fae are cunning, powerful and often cruel. The most beautiful among them are often the most deadly. Hidden far beneath the mortal world, the timeless faery realm plays by its own rules—and those rules can change on a whim. Now and again, the unpredictable residents of that mystical land cross the supernatural threshold…

In this enchanting romance series from Dani Harper, the ancient fae come face-to-face with modern-day humans and discover something far more potent than their strongest magic: love.

See ALL Dani's novels on her Amazon Author Page


  1. What a great article.We do need mysterious things,buried treasure,UFOs,Cryptids.Things to remind us life is still not a sure and known routine.

  2. Thank you - I'm glad you enjoyed the article. :)


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