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Top 5 Lesser Known Cryptids & Urban Legends in North America

m Bigfoot to Mothman, from ghosts to grey aliens, and everywhere in between, America is rich with stories of cryptids, creatures, and all manner of miscellaneous paranormal paraphernalia. However, while many of these monsters and myths have made their way into popular culture and the public eye, others have sadly not gotten the love the deserve, including some of the weirdest ones (as opposed to an ape thing with big feet; why something so boring became so popular is the real mystery in my mind). That’s why I’m counting down my top five underrated cryptids from all over America.

5: The Hodag

The Hodag was believed to be a monster that lived in Wisconsin, preying on the loggers of the woods. It was said to be born from the ashes of cremated oxen, a living embodiment of the vengeance of animals against abuse. Its description was fascinating too, described in 1893 as having "the head of a frog, the grinning face of a giant elephant, thick short legs set off by huge claws, the back of a dinosaur, and a long tail with spears at the end,” with a deep black body and rows of spines along its back. It was said to have been discovered in 1893 in Rhinelander, and it was investigated by Eugene Shepard, who claimed not only that he found the beast, but that he led a hunting party to kill it with dynamite.

It sounds like prime material for a campfire story, until one learns that Shepard was a notorious prankster. Later on, he set up his own sideshow act, claiming to have caught a Hodag alive this time, but after a while, skeptics exposed that this was entirely fake. Moreover, the more one learns about stories in folklore, the less intimidating it becomes. Some articles claimed that its main prey was “all white bulldogs,” which not only takes the bite out of its predatory nature, but also makes me chuckle at the odd specificity of the idea. Furthermore, its weakness was sometimes said to be lemons; squeeze a couple on a Hodag, even if it wants to attack, and it will instantly die. Last, but not least, some stories said that the thing is so ugly that it hates its own reflection and cries to itself; coupled with the other information that makes it unintimidating, this kinda just makes me want to hug and pet the Hodag, not run in terror. Still, the Hodag earns a number five spot purely because everything about it is so funny to me that I want more people to talk about it.

4: The Flatwoods Monster

This entity only makes number four because it may be the most (relatively) well-known of the creatures on this list, but it’s still quite fascinating; it’s considered one of the definitive examples of a close encounter. In the town of Flatwoods, Virginia, several eyewitnesses claim to have seen a pulsating, red light floating down to land, hiding behind a hill. All these eyewitnesses report that when they approached the scene to investigate, there was a humanoid figure of some kind, with a head or a helmet “like the Ace of Spades,” with only two glowing eyes or eyeholes. While none of the eyewitnesses were harmed, they were all deeply frightened and troubled by the events. Later on, people who went to the supposed site of the red light found marks in the earth as if something had landed on it.

Skeptics claim that the encounter was probably a case of overactive imagination and coincidence. Their theory states that a meteor crashed on the hill, illuminating the area and disconcerting the witnesses. When they see what might have been an owl (whose eyes shine if the light catches them due to night vision) standing on a pole or stump, the darkness of the night and the strange red lighting from the meteorite could easily create the convincing silhouette of a monster of some kind. However, several other reports of strange lights floating in the sky in the local area had occurred both before and after the encounter with the Flatwoods Monster. So, was it just imagined, or could the monster have been an alien? Nobody knows for sure.

3: The Hidebehind

One of my personal favorite creatures from American folklore is the Hidebehind, a creature said to stalk the woods at night, stalking colonial woodsmen to drag them off to its lair and eat them. As its name would suggest, the reason it’s such an effective predator is because it’s possibly the stealthiest creature on Earth. With its wire-thin body and lightning reflexes, it can quickly dart out of sight and hide behind the thinnest and smallest objects if it’s in danger of being spotted, allowing it to stalk closer and closer to its prey without ever getting noticed (until it’s too late, that’s it).

The intrigue behind it is diminished a little by the fact that some have described it, saying that it looks about six-feet tall, black-furred, and has a curved tail, implying that it’s not as perfect a hider as it might seem (granted, nobody’s seen its face). Also, it apparently refused to feed on people with alcohol in their body, but that feels more like a wacky excuse some lumberjack devised one day to drink far more than was necessary. Still, the idea of this unseen stalker in the woods that nobody has fully seen is a deeply creepy idea that I can’t help but love.

2: The Pope Lick Monster

First of all, “Pope Lick,” are not two words I ever thought I’d ever see next to each other. Second, this creature is a truly chilling monster that deserves far more discourse around it. This creature, while appearing to be a monstrous hybrid of a man, a goat, and maybe a sheep, is far more sinister than it appears. It’s said that the "Goatman,” haunts a particular stretch of railroad trestle over Pope Lick Creek. If anyone ventures too close, it’s said that it will imitate the voice of someone atop the bridge, or even use a sort of mind-control, to lure you to climb the bridge to the top to face the Goatman personally. From there, nobody quite knows what happens; some say a train will come by just then to run you over, while others say that you’ll see the monster’s face, and it’ll be so horrifying that you’ll run straight off the bridge to your death. As if that weren’t creepy enough, there’s a street that runs underneath the trestle. Rumor has it that if you drive underneath it at night, he will leap from the bridge and onto the roof of your car, attacking you with a massive axe it keeps on its person.

The origins of this beast are unknown; it’s said to be everything from an escaped, vengeful circus “freak,” to the ghostly form of an old farmer who sacrificed goats to the Devil for power. Whatever the Goatman is, though, if it exists, the only way it seems it can be escaped is to simply not venture into its territory. Most of the area is cordoned off to the public, since there were actual deaths linked to thrill-seekers venturing onto the bridge and getting run over (or just trying and failing to climb it to begin with), but whether these people met the Goatman face-to-face or simply met with the consequences of trespassing in a hazardous place is anyone’s guess.

1: The Loveland Frog

This is one of the strangest and least talked about entities I’ve ever had the pleasure of learning about. This class of creature seems localized to only the Loveland area in Ohio, haunting its riverbanks and bridges. It’s said that these things look faintly like frogs, but they stand three to five feet tall on their hind legs. It’s said that even in the 17th century, the native Twightwee people of the area warned French colonists against a creature of this description, supposedly immortal and vicious towards trespassers in its territory.

One of the most intriguing eyewitness accounts apparently comes from 1955, when a late-night business traveller stumbled upon three of these creatures. Each of them apparently carried a wand of some sort, one that gave off sparks and smelled of “almonds and alfalfa.” After waving their wands and making noises at the driver, he (quite understandably) panicked and drove away. Even more intriguingly, two police officers in the area, Ray Shockey and Mark Mathews, claiming to have seen creatures of that description multiple times during their patrols. While they were, unfortunately, mocked for their reports, many locals nevertheless claim to have seen entities of this description. What are these creatures? Are they aliens? Demons? Mere legend? Nobody can say, but they are a fascinating cryptid that I am very pleased to learn about.

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