Cryptids Cooler Than Bigfoot: Wolpertinger
Horned rabbits have a long, mythical history with many parts of the world from the North American jackalope to the Arabian al-mi’raj. Though a bunicorn might naturally seem like the cuddly cousin of the equine unicorn, legends of its brutal ferocity are so common that the creature has even made its way into a famous video game. Still, the difference between these legendary bunnies is one of quantity, and in fact, are explained away by the effects of Shope papilloma virus. That’s where pure German ingenuity comes in.
Meet the Wolpertinger, Europe’s answer to bunny science. Not satisfied to just put a horn on a rabbit, the Bavarian people attached whatever animal parts they could come up with, be it wings, fins or even talons. These days, though, wolpertingers are less feared than they are stuffed as German taxidermists have successfully straddled the fence dividing art and creepy hobbies.
If you’ve ever watched a video of a carnivorous plant in action, you’ve no doubt experienced a strange sensation of simultaneous fascination and terror. Plants like the venus flytrap appear so creepy to us because they challenge our notion that flora is more or less a benevolent backdrop within our lives. With their stiff trunks and firmly-planted roots, it might seem that trees are incapable of stirring the same kind of fear. Enter the hungry Ya-Te-Veo.
The Ya-Te-Veo is said to be a tree stump of wriggling tentacles that violently grabs at anything nearby. Literally meaning “I see you, there,” the monster was named for the words it supposedly spoke to its victims before grabbing them. The man-eating tree first appeared in late 19th century “travelogues” purportedly detailing creatures from the remote Mkodo tribe in Madagascar. Though the author eventually admitted that not even the tribe existed, the cryptid stuck with readers, and today lives on as JK Rowling’s Whomping Willow, the dendritic gatekeeper of one of Hogwart’s many secret paths.
Isshii + Kussie
It would seem that for just about every city near a lake, there is a camera-shy sea serpent lurking beneath the surface. After the world became captivated with Scotland’s Loch Ness Monster, America was so jealous that it invented several of its own, including Bessie, Champ, and Ogopogo. Now even Japan is getting in on the action with the friendly-looking Isshii and Kussie.
Surprisingly, there actually appears to be quite a bit of truth to the existence of these cryptids. Myths of feral men were common throughout Southeast Asia as recently as the early 1900s.
Today, the bones of the 1.5 meter-long Homo floresiensis have been found in the Liang-Bua caves, as well as across Indonesia and northern Australia. The bones are over ten thousand years old, but their size, proximity, and relative youngness have encouraged more literal interpretations of legends from the Nage folklore.
Now that the existence of such marine behemoths like the colossal squid and blue whale are matters of fact, cinematic efforts to revive interest in the existence of other maritime monsters have only increased–especially that of the Aspidochelone.
While animals like the Kracken and Leviathan were ones that fed on isolated sailors, the Aspidochelone was a hazard for its obliviousness of the sailors anchored to its back. Recently known for its role in The NeverEnding Story and Avatar: The Last Airbender, the impossibly huge Aspidochelone is a sea turtle so large and docile that its shell serves as a thriving ecosystem. As the story goes, sailors would be in the process of unloading their booty when the giant turtle would dive to feed, unaware that it was dragging a tiny world to its doom.
Bigfoot and Yeti are two of the most well-known and recognizable cryptids because they so directly resemble humans. That much more popular are the monsters into which men transform, such as the werewolf. These man-monsters are famous because they play on our fears of our own evolutionary history, and remind us of how easily civilization may be stripped from any individual at almost any time. The Wendigo of Algonquin lore was the abominable snowman on steroids.
Depending on the storyteller, the Wendigo was a body-possessing spirit or a werewolf-like affliction caused by eating human flesh. Once infected, the victim was consumed by violent, ravenous cannibalism that emaciated the body and destroyed the soul. They were basically the first zombies, though other tribes described them as standing a story tall and hairy like a primate. The Wendigo would grow with each person he ate thus never feeling full, a Sisyphean punishment of the stomach.
Far and away the most twisted and frightening cryptid on this list, the Aboriginal tribes of Australia tell of a monster straight from the pages of HP Lovecraft. 19th-century European reporters noted that the tribespeople all feared the creature they called “evil spirit,” but few people seemed able to describe it in any detail. At its most normal, the bunyip was described as an enormous starfish, but others said it had a dog’s head and a horse’s tail, with flippers, tusks, horns, and even a platypus beak.
Bunyips were said to lurk under cover of water and night, shrieking so loud that Aborigines would avoid watering holes they suspected might be haunted. Anyone who did not heed their warnings would be snapped up and devoured, particularly women and children.
Though cryptozoologists gave the bunyip a great deal of attention throughout the 1800s, the tendency of the Aborigines to identify just about any animal skull as a bunyip’s delegitimized efforts. Those who don’t dismiss the bunyip as myth propose that ancient Aborigines continued knowledge of the Diprotodon.