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Frightening Creatures And Monsters

In addition to those who claim to have seen the Yeti/Abominable Snowman or the Bigfoot/Sasquatch, the world seems to be filled with people who have reported the sightings of other kinds of monsters. In the forests of Indonesia, there is supposed to be a manlike monster called the Orang Pendek, for example. Some of the Indians of Quebec tell of the Windigo, a huge, manlike creature that goes naked in the bush and eats Indians. The Windigo makes a sinister hissing noise and occasionally lets out fearful howls. This strikes terror in the hearts of those who hear it.

There are also many people who claim to have seen animal-like monsters. In 1919, a Monsieur Lepage was in charge of railroad construction in the Belgian Congo. One day, when he was out in the jungle, he came across a fierce creature. The animal, he said, "was some twenty-four feet in length with a long pointed snout adorned with tusks like horns and a short horn above the nostrils. The front feet were like those of a horse, and the hind hooves were cloven." He claimed that later the beast rampaged through a native village and killed some of the inhabitants. The Belgian government promptly forbade anyone hurting or molesting the animal.

Then there was the giant kangaroo that was seen by the Reverend W. J. Hancock of South Pittsburgh, Tennessee. In January 1934, Hancock described what he saw: "It was as fast as lightning and looked like a giant kangaroo running and leaping across the field." He said that the beast had just killed and eaten a large dog. The owner of the dog also saw the creature and agreed with the description. As other dogs disappeared, and then chickens were missing, the giant kangaroo was blamed, but it was never found.

In the fall of 1974, the Wall Street Journal published a story about a phantom kangaroo, saying that it stood better than four feet tall, weighed about 125 pounds, and had either a brownish-red or a brownish-gray coat. It had been seen around the Chicago area that fall, but also must have taken side trips to Indiana, Wisconsin, and southern Illinois. It had been sighted more than fifty times.

Even President Gerald Ford got into the act when he said: "The Chicago Bears want him for their backfield, and the Democrats want to register him to vote - at least once."The closest confrontation came when two Chicago policemen, Leonard Ciangi and Michael Byrne, swore that they saw the beast at about 3:30 A.M. on October 18, chased it down an alley, and cornered it in a fenced-in vard. The creature stood on its tail, thev said, and acted defensively. Then it jumped the fence and hopped away.

Byrne said: "It started to scream and get vicious. My partner got kicked pretty bad in the legs. The kangaroo smacks pretty good, but we got in a few punches to the head and he must have felt it. Too bad we didn't have our nightsticks there. Then we could have really hammered him."

Byrne then talked about the kangaroo's escape. "If I could have caught up with him, I would have given him a speeding ticket. It was a fifteen miles per hour zone." The morning after the confrontation, the police switchboard was swamped with complaints from people saying that the kangaroo was rummaging around in their garbage cans. And a truck driver claimed that the kangaroo bounced across the road in front of him while he was driving near Lansing, Illinois. There were also several sightings in Indiana and Wisconsin, and it had even been seen in Evanston, Illinois on the campus of Northwestern University.

The world is full of stories about brave heroes, magical events and fantastic beings. For thousands of years, humans everywhere—sometimes inspired by living animals or even fossils—have brought mythic creatures to life in stories, songs and works of art. Today these creatures, from the powerful dragon to the soaring phoenix, continue to thrill, terrify, entertain and inspire us.

We seem to catch glimpses of these creatures all around us: hiding beneath the ocean waves, running silently through the forest and soaring among the clouds. Some symbolize danger. Others, we think, can bring us luck or joy. Together mythic creatures give shape to humankind's greatest hopes, fears and most passionate dreams.

Monster is a term for any number of legendary creatures ("things that appear outside the course of Nature") that frequently appear in mythology, legend, and horror fiction. Marvels are things which happen that are completely against Nature. Are dragons real? Their bodies look like those of lizards, snakes or even dinosaurs—but dragons are found only in folktales and other stories.

Monsters have haunted the literary imagination from earliest times (e.g., the Cyclops, Grendel, etc.), but a particular interest in horror and the Gothic form dates back to the 18th and early 19th century. Taking their name from the Gothic architecture that often served as a backdrop to the action, these novels present supernatural events in naturalistic terms, thrilling readers with strange tales filled with mystery and terror. According to terrified—and, coincidentally, drunk—locals, the world’s crawling with monsters.

Canada reputedly has more lake monsters than any other country, boasting no fewer than a dozen in its cold waters. It's no surprise, therefore, that Lake Okanagan, located in British Columbia, might be home to one of the world's top ten monsters. The lake monster, dubbed Ogopogo (from an old music hall song) is unique in that native Indians in the region used to make live sacrifices to a water spirit in the lake as they crossed in boats near the reputed home of Ogopogo, Monster Island. Though any connection between the Indian legend and a modern monster is pure speculation, many eyewitnesses continue to report odd things in the lake.

Perhaps the oldest monster of folklore, there are many variations on dragons and giant serpents. The Bible's Book of Isaiah describes Leviathan, a monstrous sea serpent dragon. Some of the most developed dragons come from Chinese cultures; in fact for centuries some rural Chinese dug up (and made tea from) dinosaur bones, believing they were from dragons. The West is rich in dragon folklore as well; stories of a Christian martyr named George who slew a fearsome dragon later became known as Saint George the Dragon Slayer.

A distant cousin of the mermaid (in folkloric terms anyway), the sirens were beautiful, alluring women who dwelled near rocky cliffs and sung to passing sailors. According to legends, the hapless seamen would become enchanted by the sirens' song, following the mellifluous melody to their deaths as their boats crashed upon the rocky shore. It is an ancient morality tale about the evils of women, but not all sirens were so comely. Other accounts depict sirens as half-bird, half-women creatures who would lure travelers to their doom with harps instead of their voices. In Greek myth, Odysseus escaped the sirens by having his sailors plug their ears with beeswax, though in modern times doctors recommend soft foam earplugs for sailors who may encounter these dangerous monsters.

The giant squid is known to be real, though for centuries its existence was often rumored. Ancient sea stories told of the fearsome Kraken, a huge many-tentacled beast, said to attack ships and sailors on the high seas. Biologists finally verified the existence of a true sea monster: the mysterious giant squid Architeuthis. Dead specimens periodically wash up on the world's beaches, most often on islands whose name begins with "New": Newfoundland and New Zealand. The largest giant squid specimen was estimated to be 65 feet long, but the monster remained elusive until 2004, when Japanese zoologists filmed a giant squid at depth for the first time. The creature was about 26 feet long, was found nearly 3,000 feet below the surface.

The fearsome werewolf is a fascinating blend of man and beast. Some believe that a werewolf terrorized the French countryside in 1764, when a strange wolflike creature killed dozens of villagers; the fictionalized story was depicted in the film "Brotherhood of the Wolf." The werewolf is only one variation of lycanthropy, the ancient belief that certain people have the ability to change into animals, either at will, on certain dates, or on full moons. Witches and vampires, for example, are said to become cats, bats, and wolves on occasion. While the werewolf's origins are unclear, an unusual disease that causes excessive body hair (called hypertrichosis) may have contributed to belief in werewolves--in fact sideshow performers with the disease were once exhibited as werewolves or "wolfmen." The connection with the full moon likely came about because of wolves' and dogs' tendency to bark at the moon, but stories of silver bullets didn't arise until much later.

Bigfoot is of course the world's marquee monster, having had pizzas and monster trucks named after it. Bigfoot is known not for what it is (since no one knows for certain what it is, or if it even exists), but what it supposedly leaves behind: large footprints. Bigfoot's high profile is largely due to a short film taken in 1967 in Bluff Creek, California. This is the classic footage of Bigfoot, showing a furry, man-sized creature walking across a clearing. The film has never been proven authentic, and many suspect a hoax. It is also odd that the film remains the best evidence for Bigfoot 40 years later, despite the fact that video cameras are better, cheaper, and in more hands than ever before; surely if it was not a hoax someone would have recorded a film as good or better since then. Perhaps Bigfoot's most amazing quality is its ability to leave no hard evidence of its existence. No teeth, bones, live or dead ones have been found. By one estimate, there should be hundreds of thousands of Bigfoot in North America, yet not one of them has been hit by a car, shot by a hunter, or found dead by a hiker.

Thomas G. Aylesworth. Other Creatures On The Land. Science Looks at Mysterious Monsters Julian Messner, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, U.S.A., 1982.
Monsters, Inc. Maxim [Print + Kindle] . October 2002.


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