Bigfoot. Yeti. Nessie. The world is full of monsters.
No matter where in the world you look, monster myths are a staple of human culture. Name a jungle dense enough, a desert remote enough, a mountain range frighteningly impassable, and it’s likely populated with ape men who walk on two feet, a lost world of dinosaurs who escaped extinction and terrifying creatures unknown to science—at least according to folk wisdom.
You don’t even have to look too far. The United States has several versions of sasquatch, including the Ohio Grassman and the Florida Skunk Ape, not to mention its fair share of lake monsters in the mold of Nessie. Monster myths, it seems, are a fundamental part of man’s relationship with nature: they represent both the danger of the outdoors, and for some, the adventure.
In the latter category falls a class of amateur sleuths who call themselves “cryptozoologists.” Cryptozoologists (not to be confused with actual zoologists) take folktales and hearsay more seriously than most. They travel to the ends of the earth searching for clues about populations of rogue Tyrannosaurs in the Australian Outback or aquatic sauropods hiding in the deepest jungles of the Congo Basin. They collect anecdotes and grainy photographs, folksongs and historical records, all in search of elusive so-called “cryptids” that may or may not exist. (Usually not.)
In some cases, though, there may be a grain of truth to the myth. Some stories, like those of the terrifying grey cat of Tanzania called Mngwa, may represent folk memory of an animal that went extinct prior to the arrival of western science; in at least one case there’s a sliver of a chance that the storied beast, only recently thought to be extinct, may have a relict population hiding beyond the frontier.
Whatever the truth of the matter, many of these stories are irresistible and may just fuel your imagination on your next trek into unknown country.