The Bear Lake Monster, Utah

 

The Bear Lake Monster is a snake-like creature said to inhabit Bear Lake in Utah. The legend of this particular lake monster appears to have originated in newspaper articles written by Joseph C. Rich for the Deseret News in 1868. His stories referred to Indian (Native American) mythology and, based on eyewitness reports, described a huge, brown aquatic animal that moved at speeds of up to 60 miles per hour:

Mr. Sleight ways he distinctly saw the sides of a very large animal that he would suppose to be not less than 90 feet in length. Mr. Davis doesnt think he was any part of the body, but is positive it must not have been less than forty feet in length, judging by the waves it rolled up on both sides of it as it swam, and the wave it left in the rear. It was going south, and all agreed it swam with a speed almost incredible to their senses. Mr. Davis says he never saw a locomotive travel faster, and thinks it made a mile a minute.

Joseph Rich later revealed the stories he had written were a hoax, but that doesnt stop the occasional modern sighting, or the small tourist industry that has grown up around the Bear Lake Monster.

The Mapinguari of Brazil

The Mapinguari is a cryptid said to roam the deep jungles of Brazil. It appears to originate from local tribal lore. Eyewitness reports, which derive almost exclusively from loggers and tribe members, describe the animal as significantly taller than a normal person, hairy, clawed, often aggressive, and possessing a foul odor as well as a disconcerting ability to tear up trees. Tribal folklore, less mired in reality, speaks of a creature with one eye, two mouths (one on the stomach), alligator-like skin so tough that it stops all weapons, and a serious attitude toward anyone who dares harm its jungle home. The legend of the Mapinguari is not an obscure one; it has made its way into the mythology of every Amazon tribe as well as Brazilian pop culture, and one town has even erected a statue in its honor.

Legends are one thing, but what about modern sightings? Some scientists have speculated that the Mapinguari could be a relict giant ground sloth, an animal that is thought to have gone extinct about 10,000 years ago. Recorded reports of possible relict giant sloths in South America go back to the 1890s. This is somewhat plausible or at least more likely than a vengeful, indestructible cyclops because the Amazon is such a huge and still to this day somewhat unexplored region. A large animal could easily hide in its thick jungles, but could an entire population of giant ground sloths really survive for so long without leaving behind any physical evidence? Where are the stool samples or skeletal remains, and why hasnt anyone ever found any? This is the question that keeps drawing researchers back to the area, but so far theyve collected nothing but eyewitness accounts and a few unverifiable sets of tracks.

Meanwhile, the sightings persist, and the search for the Mapinguari continues.

Huge Bird Sightings

Updating the True Ghost Stories Page recently, I once again came across several reports of huge birds that I received around 2006. It intrigued me enough to go searching for more information. I remember trying to research the phenomenon at the time I originally received the stories, and not finding much. Fortunately, the web is far bigger today and I have discovered some intriguing information about huge bird sightings.

First, the basics: the largest known living flying bird (as opposed to flightless ones like ostriches), the wandering albatross, has a wingspan from 8 to 11.5 feet. Other huge birds include storks, pelicans, the Andean condor, with a wingspan up to 10 feet, and the endangered California condor, which tops out at 9.5 feet across. Only the last species lives in the United States; other large U.S. birds include bald eagles and golden eagles. Birds with larger wingspans, such as the astonishing 23 foot wide Giant Teratorn, are extinct.

Nevertheless, people in modern times have reported sightings of huge birds whose wingspans easily surpass any known living species. Many of the sightings take place in Texas, but these gigantic animals have also been spotted in Australia, Alaska, Alabama, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Florida, and other places. Reports range from solitary birds sitting in trees to entire flocks of eight or more birds. Although the Native American legend of the Thunderbird is sometimes mentioned as an aside to the sightings, very few of the eyewitness accounts make any supernatural claims; they are describing birds engaging in ordinary birdlike behavior, unremarkable but for their incredibly large size.

What could these birds be? Theories range from relict animals (species believed to be extinct but perhaps still living) to simple optical illusion, causing large birds to look even larger in the eye of the beholder due to lack of perspective or landmarks against which to compare. Mistaken identity does likely account for some of the sightings, but what of the giant birds seen taking off from trees?

Compounding the mystery is that reports are often clustered around a place and time (perhaps the most famous of these being the Big Bird sightings in Texas in the 1970s) and then either abruptly or gradually peter out. The group of stories I received during the year 2006 would seem to bear this out. Perhaps the birds only swoop low enough or through populated places under certain conditions, or perhaps public reports encourage others to share their stories. Whatever the case, this mystery continues to fascinate me due to its earthly nature, and I would love to hear more experiences from readers.