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What Are Cryptids?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 21, 2024
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Cryptids are animals which are generally believed to be legendary in mainstream biology. These animals are studied by people known as cryptozoologists, who are either interested in proving that they exist, or interested in studying the myths and cultural beliefs which have arisen around such animals. Strictly speaking, cryptids are not mythological; creatures like unicorns, for example, are not considered cryptids, because they are accepted as myths. Rather, cryptids are animals which some people think could actually exist.

In some cases, cryptids are rediscovered extinct species, or animals which people originally thought were hoaxes. In these cases, the animal is considered a cryptid because only a few unverified sightings have occurred, but eventually enough scientific evidence accumulates to prove that the animal really does exist, in which case it is no longer a true cryptid. One example of this is the coelacanth, a fish thought to be extinct until living versions were discovered. Another is the platypus, which European scientists thought was a hoax until numerous proofs were brought back to show that it really did exist.

Other cryptids include humanoid creatures such as the Abominable Snowman or Yeti and Sasquatch, also known as Bigfoot. Creatures like the Loch Ness Monster, known affectionately as Nessie, are also considered cryptids. Other legendary animals may be more animal like in nature, such as the chupacabra, drop bear, Northwest Tree Octopus, and the Montauk Monster.

Some supporting evidence does exist for most cryptids. This evidence can include reported sightings, historical claims, grainy images, and sometimes even video. However, the evidence does not hold up to rigorous scientific examination, and thus is not accepted by the scientific community. On occasion, scientific rejection of these animals has resulted in egg on the face of scientists as zoologists manage to verify that a supposed cryptid really does exist; several animals believed to be extinct, for example, have been rediscovered and treated as cryptids for some time before the evidence finally indisputably proved that they exist.

Many cultures have legends featuring mysterious animals, with various versions of legendary beasts swimming, flying, and crawling across all the corners of the Earth. In some cultures these legends are treated primarily as fun fiction, and not taken seriously, while in others, people genuinely believe that these cryptids exist. They may ascribe various social and cultural problems such as the loss of livestock or disappearance of children to these legendary animals, for example.

A List of Cryptids Believed To Roam the United States

When you first learn about cryptids, you may think they are mere beasts of foreign folklore. However, the United States has plenty of reports of various varieties of elusive creatures roaming the region. Here are a few of the most intriguing U.S. cryptids:

  • The Beast of Bray Road - Elkhorn, Wisconsin
  • The Jersey Devil - The New Jersey Pinelands
  • The Ohio Grassman - Ohio and Western Pennsylvania
  • The Pukwudgies - Massachusetts and Eastern Rhode Island
  • The Snallygaster - Maryland, New Jersey, Ohio and West Virginia

7 Aquatic or Semi-aquatic Cryptids From Around the World

Nessie, Scotland's Loch Ness Monster, may be the most famous aquatic cryptid. However, she isn't the only legendary marine creature. There are numerous other aquatic or semi-aquatic anomalies worldwide. Some of the most notable water-loving cryptids include:

  1. Akkorokamui - Volcano Bay, Japan

Japan's Volcano Bay residents believe in Akkorokamui, a colossal sea creature. The region's locals report sightings, as well as a British missionary, John Batchelor, who was visiting in the early 1900s. Batchelor noted in his writings that a massive monster overturned a boat of three fishermen, identified the creature's round shape and told that it "emitted a dark fluid and noxious odor."

  1. Dobhar-Chú - Ireland

"Dobhar-chú" translates to water dog and is believed by the Irish to be a species of giant animal with canine- and otter-like features. People typically report seeing these frightening beasts around Ireland's rivers and lakes. They believe that they are highly aggressive and tend to strike in multiples. Interestingly, some ancient gravestones document the dobhar-chú as the decedent's cause of death.

  1. Filiko Teras - Coastal Cyprus 

Filiko Teras is one of many Greek legends. People believe that this creature resides off the coast of Cyprus. Although it is infamous for overturning small boats, it is not known for ill-will towards humans. In fact, Filiko Teras means "friendly monster."

  1. Mokele-Mbembe - The Congo Basin, Africa

The Mokele-Mbembe is a famous cryptid that purportedly lives in the Congo swamps. The name Mokele-Mbembe means "large river-dweller." Since the 18th century, people have reported the occasional glimpse of this monster. Residents believe that this Congolese creature occasionally causes blockages in the area's water system by wedging itself into a bottleneck of a river or stream.

  1. Ogopogo - Lake Okanagan, British Columbia, Canada

British Columbia has its own Loch-Ness-esque water serpent called Ogopogo. It was initially called N'ha-a-tik, which translates as "sea devil," by the native tribes of the Lake Okanagan region in the 1800s. The tribal people have passed down tales of the creature requiring a live sacrifice of an animal before allowing someone to cross the lake. These stories led the people to kill a chicken or other small animal at the lake to toss into the water to appease the monster.

  1. Selijordsormen "Selma" - Lake Seljordsvatnet, Norway

Locals have given the Selijordsormen the cute nickname Selma. Like Nessie of Scotland, Selma's body holds a serpent-like appearance. People believe she lives in Lake Seljordsvatnet in Norway, and reports of sightings of her go back to the 1700s. Selma is described as approximately 20 meters long, swimming around the lake with the help of frontal fin-like appendages.

  1. Waitoreke - New Zealand

Waitoreke are mysterious creatures of New Zealand that look like giant otters and live in New Zealand. Fortunately, they don't have a reputation for being malicious or bothering humans. These cryptids have been on the minds of New Zealanders for centuries. Native Maori people show an animal pelt, supposedly from a waitoreke, that their 1800s ancestors killed. No one has identified the unique hide as originating from any known species, so for now, this is one item of "proof" that waitoreke are real.

Frequently Asked Questions

What exactly are cryptids?

Cryptids are creatures or animals that are rumored or alleged to exist but lack substantial evidence to confirm their presence. They often stem from folklore and myth, capturing the public's imagination due to their mysterious nature. Examples include Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, and the Chupacabra. Their existence remains unverified by the scientific community.

Why do people believe in cryptids despite the lack of evidence?

Belief in cryptids often arises from a combination of anecdotal sightings, cultural folklore, and the human propensity for curiosity about the unknown. The thrill of discovery and the possibility of uncovering new species play into this belief. Moreover, historical precedents where mythical creatures were proven real, like the gorilla, fuel hope for cryptid enthusiasts.

How do scientists approach the study of cryptids?

Scientists approach cryptids with skepticism and require rigorous evidence before considering them as part of the known natural world. They utilize the scientific method, requiring verifiable data such as physical evidence or reliable, documented observations. Cryptozoology, the study of cryptids, is not widely recognized as a legitimate science due to its speculative nature.

Have any cryptids ever been proven to exist?

While most cryptids remain unverified, there have been instances where mythical or unknown creatures were discovered to be real. The okapi, once a creature of legend in African folklore, was scientifically described in the early 20th century. Such discoveries give credence to the possibility that some cryptids may indeed exist, awaiting discovery.

What impact do cryptids have on culture and tourism?

Cryptids have a significant impact on culture and tourism, often becoming iconic symbols of regions, inspiring movies, books, and merchandise. Towns like Loch Ness in Scotland thrive on tourism related to their local cryptid legends, with visitors hoping to catch a glimpse of these elusive creatures, thereby boosting the local economy.

Is there any ongoing research into the existence of cryptids?

Yes, there are ongoing research efforts into cryptids, often led by cryptozoologists and enthusiasts. These investigations range from field expeditions to analyze eyewitness accounts to the examination of purported evidence. However, such research is typically self-funded or supported by private organizations, as mainstream science allocates little to no funding for cryptid research.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a AllThingsNature researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By TreeMan — On Dec 23, 2011

@matthewc23 - Quite strong feelings on here against crytozoology. It may be true that the field is pseudo-science, but regardless it is something that is a bit fun and does appeal to people who are fascinated with the unknown.

Myths and legends of monsters and beasts exist and this field simply creates a medium for which to study these stories. Some may be reliable and most can be explained, but sometimes there are things out there and evidence comes to light that makes people wonder as to what in the world it was and that is where crypto-zoologists come in to study.

As long as the crypto-zoologist is honest they will look at the claim and see whether or not the animal could exist. I am sure some people, who claim to be crypto-zoologists, will try and be glory hounds and get as much attention and press as possible, but I am sure there are honest ones out there that want to contribute to the scientific community with something that is not studied enough.

By matthewc23 — On Dec 22, 2011

@JimmyT - I completely agree with your strong point. The area of cryptozoology is not a scientific field of study, but is rather seen as pseudo-science by the scientific community.

This field is mostly filled with enthusiasts as well as people who do not know what they are doing. There are a few people who may be qualified in fields of biology to take a legitimate look at some of these creatures, but for the most part it mostly consists of people play acting as scientists and biologists.

Now as far as their contributions go, they simply add a field of study that investigates legends and mythological beings that may have some outside chance of existing, however this does not mean that they take serious scientific studies of the creatures and really find anything to contribute to society besides furthering the legends.

As far as "discovering" animals like the platypus goes, sorry I do not buy into the field discovering this. It was merely a legend that turned into fact when someone happened to find one and science labeled it as fact.

By JimmyT — On Dec 22, 2011

@titans62 - That is the thing though, the field of crypto-zoology is in fact a pseudo-science and is not accepted by the various fields of biology.

The field of cryptozoology is seen as a joke by many people in the scientific community and it is only because most are just enthusiasts that have little scientific training and only hope to prove conspiracy theories and myths.

Yes, there have been a few in the past that have been proven as fact, like the platypus and the coelacanth, but these were not done by crypton-zoologists, but rather through someone just happening to find one.

It was not the field of cryptozoology that turned these myths into fact, but rather, they simply continued the legend until someone just happened to find it. The field may claim that they discovered these animals and proved they were real, but it is not a true claim and is just a matter of luck and convenience that it was found.

By titans62 — On Dec 21, 2011

The perception of crypto-zoologists is that they only research the mythological and make wild claims and accusations about these creatures actually existing, however it seems like that this is a real type of study and that they do try to provide a service to humanity and the world of biology.

Although some mythological creatures, like unicorns, are considered myths, these are eliminated by crypto-zoologists as being pure myth and they do try to look at myths like bigfoot as being possibly legitimate and worth looking into.

Although they may be made fun of all the people in this field will be laughing and celebrating their scientific discovery when one of these creatures is proven as being real and would only have happened because people devoted time to this pseudo-science.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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