MONSTERS OF LAND, SEA, AND AIR



While so many of the mysterious creatures that are frightening and disturbing may belong completely to the realm of the supernatural and fanciful, judgment must be reserved concerning some of the monsters reported roaming the forests and jungles. In recent decades a large number of animals previously unrecognized by the experts, although well-known to the aboriginal inhabitants of the locales that were the creatures' natural habitat, have been officially "discovered."

Although hunters in Kamchatka, Manchuria, and Sakhalin had long been telling excited stories of the giant carnivorous brown bear they had encountered, European scientists did not accept the existence of the bear until 1898. The largest land animal next to the African elephant is the white rhinoceros, which remained officially unacknowledged until 1900. The largest of the apes, the mountain gorilla, was considered a native superstition until 1901. The dragons of Komodo Island, Indonesia, were considered the creations of a strange myth conjured up by the islanders until 1912. And the British zoologist who described the bizarre "royal hepard"—a half-leopard and half-hyena beast long claimed by the natives of Rhodesia to be an actual beast of prey—wondered how such a large animal, and one so distinct from other species, could have remained "unknown" for so long.

In June 1994, the first living specimen of the Vu Quang ox was caught in a rugged area on the Vietnamese-Laotian border, and its verified existence was hailed as the zoological find of the half-century. This horned mammal, weighing more than 200 pounds with cinnamon, black, and white coloration, is a hemibovid, a species ancestral to both oxen and antelope that was thought to have become extinct four million years ago. Zoologists estimated their present population to be in the hundreds.

In July 1999, zoologists saw the first photographic evidence that the Javan rhinoceros, thought completely wiped out on the Asian mainland in the 1960s, still thrived 130 kilometers north of Ho Chi Minh City in the Lam Dong province of Vietnam. These huge animals, which can weigh more than 3,000 pounds, have somehow been misplaced or missed for nearly 40 years.

In December 2000, scientists set out to search the northern jungles of Thailand for conclusive proof of the sightings of large, hairy elephants that witnesses claim strongly resemble the long-extinct woolly mammoth. What these scientists and forestry officials may discover is either a new species of elephant or long-lost descendants of the great-tusked mammoth of the Ice Age.

For at least 200 years now, stories have emerged from the swamps, rivers, and lakes of African jungles that there exists a brownish-gray, elephant-sized creature with a reptilian tail and a long, flexible neck. The native people call it "mokele-mbembe" ("the one who stops the flow of rivers") or "emela-ntuka" ("the one who eats the tops of trees"). In 1980, Dr. Roy Mackal led an expedition into African swamps that are "Mokey's" hangouts and stated later that the descriptions of the beast would fit that of a sauropod, the giant plant-eating reptile that supposedly became extinct about 60 million years ago.

J. Richard Greenwell, an expedition member from Tucson, Arizona, told of having discovered huge tracks that led into the Likouala River. In his opinion, no animal smaller than an elephant could have left such a path through the thickets near the river, and, Greenwell noted, elephants always leave an exit trail when they leave a river. Whatever left these massive prints made no such sign of an exit, which may indicate that Mokey is a marine, as well as land, creature.

Tracking even dinosaur-sized creatures is not that simple in the Likouala swampland, which is twice the size of Scotland, and thick with venomous snakes and disease-bearing insects. On November 28, 1981, Herman Regusters, an aerospace engineer from South Pasadena, California, and his wife, Kia, claimed to have seen and to have photographed a dinosaurlike animal in a remote African lake. Kia Regusters said that the gigantic reptile was dark red with a long, thick neck, and longer than two hippopotamuses. Unfortunately, the photograph taken by the Regusters was rather fuzzy, and their tape recording of the "roaring trumpeting noise" heard frequently around Lake Tele was impossible to identify.

Dr. Bill Gibbons, a zoologist who specializes in attempting to track down new species, told the (London) Sunday Times (June 3, 1999) that he is certain that mokele-mbembe exists. According to Gibbons, cryptozoologists had heard reports that hunters from the Kabonga tribe had killed a mokele-mbembe and had tried to eat it. Its flesh proved inedible and the carcass was left to rot and be gnawed and pecked at by scavengers.

If there are monsters from the Age of Reptiles surviving in the remote jungles of the world, what giant creatures might be thriving in the vast depths of the seas and a number of the larger lakes throughout the world? What prehistoric monsters might be surviving unchanged, unscathed by the Earth changes that annihilated their cousins more than 60 million years ago? Supporting such speculations were the discoveries of numerous coelacanths (crossoptergian fish) off the coast of southeast Africa in 1938. The coelacanths that were dragged from the ocean by the nets of fishermen had survived almost unchanged for 70 million years—from a time even before the Age of Reptiles. Then, after nearly 200 of the supposedly extinct "living fossils" had been discovered on the southeast African coast, the fourth coelacanth, a female almost five and a half feet long, was caught off the coast of Madagascar in March 2001. If a number of coelacanth, whose species preceded the dinosaurs, have survived, why not some aquatic descendants of the giant reptiles?

A popular theory to explain the existence of sea monsters is that they may be survivors of one of the giant reptiles of the Mesozoic Age. Philip Gosse, the famous nineteenth-century naturalist, was an avid exponent of the possibility that plesiosaurs could still be thriving in the Earth's oceans. While the Mesozoic Age ended tens of millions of years ago, he argued, there was no a priori reason why some of the descendants of the great sea reptiles could not have survived. Other marine zoologists favor the unverified existence of an aquatic mammal related to the whales as their candidate for the mantle of sea monster. They maintain that the horselike mane often reported on the so-called sea "serpents" would be an unlikely appendage for a reptile—and, they argue that only a warm-blooded mammal would be able to survive in the cold water of the North Atlantic where so many sea monster stories originate.

Still other marine researchers have expanded the theory of the monstrous sea mammal and combined it with another candidate for survival from prehistory. They hypothesize the survival of an ancient species of whale known as Zeuglodon or Basilosaurus, whose fossil remains are well-known. Well-equipped for the role of a sea monster, Basilosaurus was a huge beast with a slim, elongated body measuring over 70 feet in length. Its skull was long and low, and the creature propelled itself by means of a single pair of fins at its forward end. This massive marine monster is known to have survived into the Miocene Epoch, just over 30 million years ago. If the coelacanth has survived for 70 million years, it seems possible that the relatively young Basilosaurus could still be inhabiting the seas.

After years of researching Nessie in Loch Ness and similar long-necked lake creatures all around the Northern Hemisphere, Dr. Roy Mackal has come to believe that rather than beholding "monsters" in the waters, people are witnessing small, remnant bands of Zeuglodons. In Mackal's theory, the creatures migrate from oceans to lakes, following such prey as spawning salmon. Lake Champlain is linked to the Atlantic Ocean by the Richelieu and St. Lawrence Rivers of Quebec. Loch Ness is connected to the sea, and so is Lake Okanagan in British Columbia, where Ogo-pogo is frequently sighted.

Smaller than the Basilosaurus, a later development on the evolutionary ladder, Zeuglodons bear little resemblance to modern whales. Mackal said that the fossil remnants of the creature at the Smithsonian Institute "looks like a big anaconda [a large semiaquatic boa constrictor] with a ridge down its back."


DELVING DEEPER

Coleman, Loren. Mysterious America. New York: Par aview, 2002.

——. "Top Cryptozoological Stories of the Year 2001." The Anomalist, January 4, 2001. [Online] http://www.anomalist.com/features/topcz2001.html.

Heuvelmans, Bernard. On the Track of Unknown Ani mals. New York: Hill and Wang, 1958.

Mackal, Roy P. A Living Dinosaur? In Search of Mokele-Mbembe. New York: E. J. Brill, 1987.

——. Searching for Hidden Animals: An Inquiry into Zoological Mysteries. Garden City, N.Y.: Double day, 1980.


DELVING DEEPER

Carrington, Richard. Mermaids and Mastodons. Lon don: Arrow Books, 1960.

Heuvelmans, Bernard. On the Track of Unknown Ani mals. New York: Hill and Wang, 1958.

Mackal, Roy P. A Living Dinosaur? In Search of Mokele-Mbembe. New York: E. J. Brill, 1987.


DELVING DEEPER

Bord, Janet, and Colin Bord. Alien Animals. Harris burg, Penn.: Stackpole Books, 1981.

Coleman, Loren. Mysterious America. New York: Par aview, 2002.

Dey, Iain. "Monster-hunters Set to Trap Nessie with the Net." The Scotsman, October 30, 2001. [Online] http://www.thescotsman.co.uk/text_only.cfm?id=119742.

Dinsdale, Tim. Loch Ness Monster. 4th ed. Boston: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1982.

Mackal, Roy P. The Monsters of Loch Ness. Chicago: Swallow Press, 1976.

"Monster Hunter." 60 Minutes II, December 5, 2001. [Online] http://www.cbsnews.com/now/story/0,1597,320220-412,00.shtml.

Russell, Davy, ed. "When Lake Monsters Attack!" X-Project, August 16, 2001. [Online] http://www.xprojectmagazine.com/archives/cryptozoology/lmaattack.html.


DELVING DEEPER

Carrington, Richard. Mermaids and Mastodons. Lon don: Arrow Books, 1960.

Cleary, Ryan. "Monster Beached." The Telegram, August 2, 2001. [Online] http://www.thetelegram.com/topstories/news/story.asp?id=46701&In=In.

Coleman, Loren. Mysterious America. New York: Par aview, 2002.

Ellis, Richard. Monsters of the Sea. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1994.

Heuvelmans, Bernard. In the Wake of the Sea Serpents. New York: Hill and Wang, 1968.


DELVING DEEPER

Armstrong, P. A. The Piasa or the Devil Among the Indians. Morris, Ill., 1887.

Coleman, Loren. "Top Cryptozoological Stories of the Year 2001." The Anomalist, January 4, 2001. [Online] http://www.anomalist.com/features/topcz2001.html.

Porco, Peter. "Southwest Alaskans See Bird They Say Is Super Cub-sized." Anchorage Daily News, Octo ber 15, 2002. [Online] http://www.adn.com/1962481p-2066841c.html.

Steiger, Brad. Worlds Before Our Own. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1978.



User Contributions:

Mercedez
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Aug 22, 2006 @ 3:03 am
Well I did'nt see a bird but neighborhood kids and neighbors always talked about this mexican myth about a giant bird either half women or half man called ("Latusha")the spelling is wrong;and they said at night when its real quiet and you here a whistle,whistle back and you will start to hear a sreaming bird,I never beleived it months and months went by ;one night me and a friend of mine were out about 2'0clock in the morning my friend dropped me off at my window because i snuck out earlier that night 'so i was inside at this point my friend lived right around the corner so i told her i would watch her until the end of the street so i whistled not thinking of anything out of the window i heard a loud scream like uh bird screaming i stuck my head in as fast as i could closed my curtains i starting hearing loud flapping sreams sounds of rustling of the ground outside right outside of my window i stood there staring at my window i couldnt see anything because the light was on i couldnt even see a shadow and then it stopped i ran into my moms room i told her she thought i must have been dreamin but i was wide awake that mornin i slept with light on Ive told many people and for years no one ever beleived me or still believes me but its ok i know what i know and i know what heard im not crazy i know it had to be that bird.Ifsomeone could please look into it!! sometimes im scared to be outside at night by myself,i know its crazy SanAntonio,Texas
Alex
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Jan 11, 2007 @ 10:10 am
The Loch Nes Monster appaers to be a legend. No-one knows for sure...is it real or not?? im sure there are lots of people out there who belive its real...but then again...its a myth. i watch this web cam all day trying to find nessie. i've never found it, he or she...I hope that if they find it they wont kill it or torture.
Katie
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Mar 31, 2007 @ 11:11 am
Look at the pictures people have taken. All my life I thought it was real, whose to say that it's not a elephant's trunk and back sticking out of the water? And if it is real, I hope they protect it and let it be.
neesh
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Apr 5, 2007 @ 12:12 pm
I am not one to believe in myths, but the Loch Ness Monster does appear to be real. I think if not the Loch Ness, there IS something down there. I hope they do find out, but I hope they let it remain in the waters of Scotland.
J. Kazoo
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May 15, 2007 @ 1:01 am
The second picture was actually a peice of woodwork made by the owner of the castle. The peice of wood was 6 inches tall!
Fujinakawa
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Aug 16, 2007 @ 7:07 am
Very informative but more illustrations would have been good.
A recent story that i have heard comes from a small village of people in Kranskop (South Africa)which i regularly visit. Many of the residents know of and have recently seen a two headed python which they claim is well over 50meters. The snake is said to live on the peak of the hill (the Kop) but comes down every once in a while to feed on live stock.I am not sure about the size of this snake in particular but i have seen huge specimens of pythons and other snakes there. Not to long ago there was a 13foot python living in an abandoned vehicle near the main river. More recently there was an 11foot python run over by a truck in the same vacinity.

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