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Devious Viper:
Bigfoot and other beasts: A field guide to unproven animals

Cryptid: Any unknown living animal that is not currently recognized in the international zoological catalogues

Cryptozoology: The study of hidden animals

How is it possible for people to believe that we share the planet with huge creatures that have somehow managed to remain largely hidden for generations, despite intensive searches for the existence of even a single example?

These unknown beasts know no boundaries – ape-like hominids from North America, Asia and Africa; sea serpents from Scotland to Canada; giant snakes from South America – the list is long and colourful.

Believers point to the 20th-century discovery of such real creatures as the Komodo dragon monitor lizard or the Coelacanth, a two-metre long fish thought to have been extinct for millions of years, as proof that it is still possible for creatures to evade discovery in the modern world. But that, of course, does not constitute proof that all the beasts of myth and legend are real. Just how does one prove that something doesn't exist? And so the search for that most elusive of quarries goes on.

Here then, a brief field guide to the most famous of the unproven – the shy creatures that have engaged the public imagination despite (or perhaps because of) the skepticism and denials of the experts.


Throughout the last century, there have been many reported sightings in the Pacific Northwest of a tall, hairy, ape-like creature that walks on two legs. Some reports describe groups of Sasquatches foraging for berries, some say it knows how to swim, whistle, verbalize, even scream. Invariably, it is described as "shy."

According to one account, the term "Sasquatch" comes from a Chehalis word meaning "wild man" and was coined by a teacher in British Columbia in the 1920s. The Sasquatch name is usually applied to sightings in Canada, especially B.C. – but Bigfoot/Sasquatch researchers often use the terms interchangeably.

Bigfoot researchers have analysed feces and hair samples supposedly left by the mysterious creatures. Giant footprints yield calculations about the creature's weight and size (almost three metres tall and 150 to 325 kg).

But a picture, as they say, is worth a thousand stories.

The most famous evidence cited by Sasquatch/Bigfoot believers is a 16-mm film shot in northern California in 1967. It shows a hairy, apelike creature (supposedly a female) walking across a field as she looks over her right shoulder. Believers insist their analysis proves it's not a guy in a gorilla suit.

In April 2005, a car ferry operator in Norway House, Man., shot three minutes of video of a "big, black figure" moving on the opposite side of the river. He said the creature was massive. The video is, unfortunately, indistinct.

Other jurisdictions claim their own versions of Bigfoot/Sasquatch. The Texas Bigfoot Research Center chronicles a history of sightings going back to 1924. And then there's Momo, the "Missouri Monster," and the woman in Michigan who said her black eye was the product of an attack from a "huge, dark, hairy creature."

Legends of Yeti (also known as the Abominable Snowman) have floated around the Himalayan villages of Nepal and Tibet for generations. Some sightings have the creature with dark hair, like the Bigfoot. Others describe a man-sized, reddish-brown creature. Yeti apparently like yak meat. Believers insist they're really not that abominable.


The Loch Ness Monster supposedly swims in the inky depths of northern Scotland's Loch Ness. The most famous "evidence" for her existence, a 1934 photo that shows a head and neck slicing through the dark waters, was later exposed as a hoax – a plastic and wood model built atop a toy submarine. Not to worry. There are other photos. And Nessie lives still, through tourist sightings and a vibrant Nessie industry that nourishes the legend and the many jobs it provides.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.


Ogopogo is a Nessie-like creature that lives in B.C.'s Lake Okanagan. The creature was supposedly first spotted by aboriginal residents in the 19th century. Variously described as a five-metre to 20-metre-long, greenish, snake-like creature, it is usually detected by its "humps" that break the water. It supposedly has a head like a horse or a goat. Some accounts have it with a beard. Skeptics scoff, saying people are just seeing an optical illusion caused by waves or wind effects or boat wakes. Ogopogo believers say hundreds of eyewitness accounts can’t be wrong.

Manipogo/Winnipogo/Igopogo/Sicopogo... Name a deep, dark lake in Canada and chances are someone has seen something strange swimming in it. Western Canada has no fewer than 19 lakes with some kind of sea serpent dwelling therein. In central Saskatchewan, for instance, locals tell of something with the head of a seahorse that swims around Turtle Lake. It's been called, simply, the Turtle Lake Monster.

Ogopogo's famous moniker has, in fact, led to a school of similar names. Sicopogo lives in British Columbia's Shuswap Lake. Ontario's Lake Simcoe has been host to rare sightings of a large, sea lion-like creature that's been dubbed Igopogo.

Manipogo has apparently made several appearances in Lake Manitoba. Winnipogo – you guessed it – prefers the waters of Manitoba's Lake Winnipegosis.

And then there's Memphre, the sea monster that has been spotted in Quebec's Lake Memphramagog off and on for almost two centuries. It has been described as a dark animal, five to 15 metres in length, and is apparently a good swimmer.

Cadborosaurus ("Caddy" for short) is a flippered sea serpent that frequents the waters off B.C.'s Vancouver Island. It's named after B.C.'s Cadboro Bay.


Kraken was a legendary sea monster of Newfoundland and Norwegian folklore. The myth terrified generations of mariners who heard tales of a giant creature with huge arms and tentacles that could embrace a ship and crush the hull. Before you scoff, some experts believe that what the sailors may have been seeing was a giant squid – a very real but rarely-seen marine creature that has arms up to 11 metres long.

In 1990, Canada Post issued a series of four stamps paying tribute to four of the country's most persistent and best-known cryptids – the Kraken, Sasquatch, Ogopogo, and Loup Garou (the werewolf).

Of course, you will find all those crypto creatures in Monstropedia -  8-)


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