Excerpted from Real
Monsters, Gruesome Critters, and Beasts from the Darkside
In 2001, the Media Psychology Lab at California State
in Los Angeles polled people across the United States from ages six
to 90 in all ethnic groups to determine which movie monsters ranked
as the favorites. According to the survey, the most frightening motion
picture of all time for all groups was The Exorcist (1973), in which
a demon possesses a young girl.
The favorite top ten monsters after The Exorcist
were the following:
1. Dracula, with the majority of respondents favoring the 1931 version
with Bela Lugosi as the blood-sucking count.
2. Freddy Krueger with the razor-sharp metal talons
on his fingers from A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984).
3. The Frankenstein monster, the original version
with Boris Karloff (1931).
4. Godzilla, the prehistoric giant reptile that spews
radioactive rays and stomps cities to rubble, from the original Japanese
film, Godzilla of the Monsters (1954).
5. King Kong, the giant ape from the original with
the Willis O‘Brien stop-action figures (1933).
6. Chucky, the perverse, demonic murderous doll,
from Child’s Play (1988).
7. Michael Myers, the masked murderer, who is described
in the film Halloween (1978) as the essence of pure evil.
8. Hannibal Lecter, the erudite, cannibalistic serial
killer from The Silence of the Lambs (1991).
9. Jason, the unstoppable monster in the hockey mask,
from Friday the 13th (1980).
10. The multi-jawed, many-fanged extraterrestrial
creature that terrorized the crew of a spaceship in Alien (1979).
Inspired by the Media Psychology Lab's poll of movie monsters,
I decided to survey a number of cryptozoologists, paranormalists, psychical
researchers, Forteans, and UFOlogists and receive their nominations
Top Ten List of Real-Life Monsters:
Tie for First Place: Bigfoot and Mothman
Although reports of a large apelike creature in the United States and
the Canadian provinces are known in the oral traditions of native tribes
by such names as Bigfoot, Sasquatch, Wauk-Wauk, Oh-Mah, or Saskehavis,
as well as in the journals of early settlers and in the columns of frontier
newspapers, wide public attention was not called to the mysterious beast
until the late 1950s when road-building crews in the Bluff Creek
area north of Eurkea, California, began to report a large number of
sightings of North America‘s own “abominable snowman.”
In North America, the greatest number of sightings of Bigfoot have come
from the Fraser River Valley, the Strait of Georgia and Vancouver Island,
British Columbia; the “Ape Canyon” region near Mt. St. Helens in southwestern
Washington; the Three Sisters Wilderness west of Bend, Oregon; and the
area around the Hoopa Valley Indian Reservation, especially the Bluff
Creek watershed, northeast of Eureka, California.
On November 15, 1966, two young married couples were driving through
the marshy area near the Ohio River outside of Point Pleasant, West
Viriginia, when a winged monster, at least seven feet tall, with glowing
red eyes, loomed up in front of them. Later, they told Deputy
Sheriff Millard Halstead that the creature followed them toward Point
Pleasant on Route 62 even when their speed approached 100 mph.
When news of the mysterious encounter achieved local celebrity status,
and numerous other area residents said that they had seen the giant
birdlike creature near the same abandoned TNT plant a few miles north
of Point Pleasant.
Intrigued by the stories, writer John A. Keel visited Point Pleasant
on numerous occasions and learned about the bizarre occurrences associated
with Mothman's appearance, including the eerie forecast that the Silver
Bridge in Point Pleasant would collapse and many people would be killed
as a result.
Number Two - The Jersey Devil
People have been sighting the Jersey Devil in the rural area around
south Jersey since 1735, which, according to local legend, is the year
that it was born. Some witnesses have said that the Jersey Devil that
haunts the Pine Barrens in southeastern New Jersey is a cross between
a goat and a dog with cloven hoofs and the head of a collie. Others
swear that it has a horse’s head with the body of a kangaroo.
Most of the people who have sighted the creature also mention a long
tail, and nearly all of the witnesses agree that the thing has wings.
Number Three - Nessie-Type Long Neck Lake Monsters
Nessie, most often described as a long-necked monster resembling a prehistoric
creature from the Age of Reptiles, has been seen in and near Loch Ness
since St. Columba made the first recorded sighting in 565. Today,
nearly two million tourists come to Scotland each year to see if they
might obtain a glimpse and a photograph of the elusive beast.
Although Nessie is far and away the most famous of all monsters inhabiting
inland bodies of water, there are reports of equally large, equally
strange aquatic creatures in lakes all over the world. In the
United States and Canada, there are such familiar lake monsters as “Ogopogo,”
Okanogan Lake, British Columbia; “Champ,” Lake Champlain, New York;
and “Memphre,” Lake Memphremagog, Vermont.
Number Four - Chupacabras
Named for its seeming penchant for attacking goats and sucking their
blood, the Chupacabras (“goat sucker”) both terrified and fascinated
the public at large when it first burst upon the scene in Puerto Rico
in the summer of 1995. From August of 1995 into the 21st century,
the monster has been credited with the deaths of thousands of animals,
ranging from goats, rabbits, and birds to horses, cattle, and deer.
While some argue that the creature is a new monster, others point out
that such vampiric entities have always existed and been reported by
farmers and villagers in Puerto Rico and Central and South America.
Number Five - Werewolves/Shapeshifters
Early cultures throughout the Americas, Europe, Asia, and Africa formed
totem clans and often worshipped minor deities that were half-human,
half-animal. Norse legends tell about hairy, humanlike beings that live
in the underworld caves and come out at night to feast on the flesh
of unfortunate surface dwellers.
Psychologists recognize a werewolf psychosis (lycanthropy or
lupinomanis) in which persons so afflicted may believe that they change
into a wolf at the full moon. Those so disturbed may actually
“feel” their fur growing, their fingernails becoming claws, their jaw
lengthening, their canine teeth elongating.
Number Six - Thunderbirds
The Thunderbird figures prominently in the tribal traditions of many
Native American tribes. To the Lakota of the prairie, the Thunderbird
is an embodiment of the Great Mystery, the Supreme Being, that created
all things on earth. While scholars over the centuries have
attributed the Native American myths of the Thunderbird to their reverence
for the eagle, the largest of indigenous birds in North America, many
people have claimed to have seen for themselves a great bird, far larger
than the eagle, flying overhead. In fact, even in the 19th century,
some witnesses were claiming to have seen flying monsters that resembled
pterodactyls, the winged reptiles that became extinct 60 million years
Number Seven: Springheeled Jack
About the middle of November 1837, the lanes and commons of
Middlesex, England, suddenly became places of dread. An eerie figure
said to be possessed of supernatural powers was stalking the
frightened villagers by night and effortlessly avoiding capture by
the police. Because of this creature's ability to leap over tall
hedges and walls from a standing jump. he was given the name of
Number Eight: Living Dinosaurs, such as Mokele Mbembe
For at least 200 years, stories have emerged from the swamps,
rivers, and lakes of African jungles that there is 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.
Number Nine: Flatwoods Monster
Kathleen May described the alien being that
she and seven other Flatwoods, West Virginia, residents saw on
September 12, 1952 as looking more frightening than the Frankenstein
monster. A group of boys had been at a nearby playground
when they sighted a flying saucer emitting an exhaust that looked
like red balls of fire. According to the boys, the UFO had
landed on a hilltop in back of the May house.
Gene Lemon, a husky 17-year-old, found a flashlight and said
that he was going to investigate. About half way up the hill,
Lemon directed the beam of his flashlight on what he believed to be
the green, glowing eyes of an animal. Instead, the beam
spotlighted an immense, humanlike figure with blood-red face and
greenish eyes that blinked out from under a pointed hood.
Behind the monster was a “glowing ball of fire as big as a house”
that grew dimmer and brighter at intervals.
Number Ten: Dover Demon
Whatever it was that William Bartlett and two other teenagers
sighted in April 21 to 23, 1977 in Dover, Massachusetts was
real. The “thing” that has become known as the Dover Demon was
seen by Bartlett as it crept along a low stone wall on the side of
the road. It stood about four feet tall and carried its
hairless, rough-textured body on two spindly legs. Its arms
were also thin and peach-colored. The creature’s huge,
watermelon-shaped head was disproportionate in size to its
relatively small torso, and it bore two large, glowing red-orange
from Real Monsters, Gruesome Critters, and Beasts from the Darkside