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9 Famous Cryptids and Legendary Creatures Debunked

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With interests in science and nature, the author explores topics from a unique and sometimes controversial perspective.

Have sightings of strange but real animals led to many of our monster myths?

Have sightings of strange but real animals led to many of our monster myths?

I stepped onto my back deck just as I do each morning, hot coffee in hand. It was a crisp fall day, and the sun had already risen over the woodlands to the east. Birds were at my feeder, along with a team of marauding squirrels. I looked west, to the fields next to my property and the apple orchard in the distance.

There I saw it, standing atop a hill several hundred yards away. My jaw dropped as I recognized the beast, one I never dreamed I would meet in the flesh. It was the legendary Goatman!

He was a spectacular creature, tall and lean with long arms ending in hooves. The monster stood straight as a man and craned its neck to take in the view across the field.

My mind raced between fascination and panic as the creature shifted its gaze in my direction, revealing enormous eyes and an impressive set of antlers.

Wait. Antlers?

The Goatman went down on all fours, revealing itself to be a whitetail deer. It was a large buck, and an impressive deer for sure, but not a cryptid of any kind.

It had been standing on its hind legs to reach an apple in a tree, and I caught sight of it just at the right time for it to look like a strange humanoid creature.

In just a few seconds, my mind raced to find a solution for this odd sight and came up with Goatman. It’s kind of funny, but it then occurred to me that this kind of mental stretch might go a long way toward explaining cryptid sightings around the world.

How easily are we fooled, and how often have misidentified animals been responsible for the creation of cryptid myths and legends? Those are the questions this article attempts to answer.

The Goatman is just one famous cryptid for which we can come up with a reasonable explanation. In this article, we’ll try to explain away some of the most legendary cryptids and see how far we get.

1. Megalodon Shark

The megalodon shark was a powerful predator that once roamed the oceans of our world. At an estimated maximum size of sixty feet and with teeth the size of a man’s hand it was the apex hunter of the prehistoric sea.

Mainstream science recognizes it as an extinct species that vanished millions of years ago, but there are those who believe it is still out there today.

It’s an interesting idea, backed up by occasional sightings of massive sharks. Some fishermen in remote areas have reported great white sharks topping thirty or forty feet, which is all the anecdotal evidence some people need to convince them that meg is still alive.

Megalodon Sightings Explained

What else could explain these sightings of massive sharks? Here are some ideas:

  • Whale Sharks. The whale shark is a filter feeder that poses no danger to humans. However, it can reach an adult length of over forty feet. Are supposed megalodon sightings actually misidentified whale sharks?
  • Anomalous White Sharks. The largest great white sharks top out at a little over twenty feet, but what if they get much, much bigger? While still pretty incredible, huge great white sharks are more likely that a living megalodon.
Great white sharks can grow to lengths of over 20 feet, though some claim they can get much larger.

Great white sharks can grow to lengths of over 20 feet, though some claim they can get much larger.

2. The Jersey Devil

The Jersey Devil is one of the creepiest cryptids ever reported. Supposedly the demon spawn of a human woman, born with cloven hooves, wings, and a horse-like head. According to legend, it has haunted the New Jersey Pine Barrens for hundreds of years.

It sounds crazy, except for a rash of sightings that occurred back in 1909 when the Jersey Devil was reported in dozens of locations. Some witnesses watched the creature for several minutes at a time, and it was reported at least three times by police officers.

Explanations for Jersey Devil Sightings

What explains what these people were seeing?

  • Great Horned Owl: These aggressive night predators have a wingspan of nearly five feet and eyes that glow at night. They are year-long residents of New Jersey.
  • Large Cranes: The Blue Heron is a crane native to the northeast that stands several feet tall. While not aggressive to humans, it is easy to see how it could scare the heck out of someone if it is startled at night. The Sandhill Crane is another possible culprit.

3. Bigfoot

Of all of the creatures listed in this article, Bigfoot is not only the most famous cryptid, and also may be the toughest to explain. Described as a massive, hairy, bipedal, ape-like humanoid, it stands anywhere from six to ten feet tall and is extremely elusive. This doesn’t even come close to matching any other animals in North America.

Bigfoot is also the cryptid with the most alleged evidence behind it, with everything from footprint casts, recorded sounds, and even photos and videos. So what explains this creature, if it isn’t real? There are no apes in the new world and no other bipedal animals.

What Explains Bigfoot Sightings?

  • Humans: Could humans in weird locations explain Bigfoot sightings? Some may be wearing dark clothes or even ghillie suits for hunting. Worse, others may be wearing costumes and intentionally trying to deceive people.
  • Bears: The only other creatures that would match the reported size of Bigfoot are black and brown bears. A large black bear may be up to seven feet tall on its hind legs, and some brown bears may approach ten feet.
Are many Bigfoot sightings simply misidentified bears?

Are many Bigfoot sightings simply misidentified bears?

4. The Kraken

The Kraken is an enormous cephalopod with the power to snag sailors off deck and even sink entire ships. For hundreds of years, the beast was feared by those brave enough to cross the oceans of the world, until modern times when we became advanced enough to shun such fallacies.

These days we know there is no such thing as the Kraken. Except there is. It isn’t likely to attack people or ships unprovoked, but there are several creatures that likely led to the legend of the Kraken.

What Is the Kraken Really?

  • Giant Squid: At a maximum length of over forty feet the giant squid is a real-life sea monster.
  • Colossal Squid: The colossal squid grows only slightly longer than the giant squid but is much more massive.
  • Giant Octopus: The giant Pacific octopus may grow to an adult length of twenty feet.

5. Mothman

A creature known as the Mothman terrorized Point Pleasant, West Virginia in the 1960s. Witnesses reported a large, winged humanoid creature with glowing eyes, with several claiming to have been chased by the beast.

The appearance of the Mothman seemed to coincide with the tragic Silver Bridge collapse in 1967, which killed 46 people.

Was the Mothman somehow responsible? If not, what was it?

Mothman Sightings Explained

  • Sandhill Crane: This is a bird that can stand four feet tall. While not common in the area, a stray bird would be alarming to see at night.
  • Owls: The Great Horned Owl and Barred Owl are large birds that may surprise people at night, and appear to have glowing eyes.

Obviously, if either of these explanations is true it would mean the Silver Bridge collapse was simply a coincidence.

6. The Loch Ness Monster

Nessie is one of the most famous cryptids in the world, said to haunt Loch Ness in Scotland. By most accounts, it is a large-bodied creature with a long neck and flippers, which sounds an awful lot like some species of plesiosaur.

The only problem is plesiosaurs went extinct some sixty-five million years ago, during the same time as the dinosaurs. As Loch Ness is connected to the ocean, some cryptozoologists theorize there may still be a population of plesiosaurs that somehow survived extinction and continue to thrive in the lake and surrounding seas.

Let’s table that idea for now and explore some more reasonable explanations:

What Is the Loch Ness Monster?

  • Seals: Seals do occasionally pop up in Loch Ness. While they certainly don’t reach the alleged size of Nessie, several animals swimming together might confound a viewer enough to decide they witnessed one large creature.
  • Logs: While the average sensible human can surely tell the difference between a monster and a log, factors such as time of day, surface conditions, and weather may cause misidentification. Combine that with the expectation of possibly seeing a monster in the water and it may be plausible that some monster sightings are simply logs bobbing at the surface.
  • Sturgeon: European sea sturgeons are huge fish that may grow up to twenty feet in length. They are bottom dwellers and rarely surface, but when they do it must be quite surprising.
Is the Loch Ness Monster a plesiosaur, or is there another explanation?

Is the Loch Ness Monster a plesiosaur, or is there another explanation?

7. Sea Serpents

Since ancient times sailors have told tales of massive serpents that rise from the deep and attack ships, sometimes sinking them to the briny deep. Sea serpents are, of course real. But the largest sea snakes don’t even reach a length of ten feet, While they may be aggressive in certain situations it is unlikely they’d even sink a rowboat.

So, what did these sailors see, or think they saw, that terrified them so?

Explanations for Sea Serpent Sightings

  • Giant oarfish: While not a cryptid, the giant oarfish is an interesting creature in its own right. It is a fish, not a snake, but due to its long, slender body, which can reach lengths of thirty feet, is it easy to see how mistakes could be made. Oarfish are docile and rarely surface, but when one does it was surely a terrific sight for the sailors of days gone by.
  • Eels: The European conger eel and the Moray eel can each grow up to twenty feet in length. Though such specimens are rare, they may have contributed to the sea serpent legend.

8. Mermaids

As if Krakens and giant sea serpents weren’t enough, there was one more creature ancient sailors had to contend with if they wanted to make it safely across the sea. Mermaids are half woman, half fish, and known to entice unwary seamen to their watery graves.

It would be easy to dismiss them as a tall tale perpetuated by sailors fearful of crossing the Atlantic on their way to the New World, except mermaids are allegedly sighted by people from many different cultures, dating back to antiquity.

What are these people seeing?

Mermaid Sightings Explained

  • Sea Cows: These are fully aquatic mammals such as manatees and dugongs. They have flipper tails as reported on mermaids, and they surface for air. Seen from a distance, it is reasonable to believe an already wary sailor may mistake one for a mermaid.
  • Whales: Most whales are too large to be mistaken for a mermaid, but their vocalizations may contribute to the legends of mermaids luring sailors to their death with their song.

9. The Yeti

The Yeti is Bigfoot’s frosty cousin and inhabits the Himalayan Mountain region. Like Native Americans in North America, indigenous people have stories of the Yeti dating back thousands of years. Like Bigfoot, it is said to be a large, humanoid, bipedal creature with brown or black fun.

If this thing isn’t a relative of Bigfoot, what is it?

What Explains Yeti Sightings?

  • Bears: The Himalayan brown bear and Tibetan Blue bear are both species that live within the reported Yeti range.

Are Cryptids Real?

This article provided several explanations for some of the most famous cryptids in the world. Maybe you are now satisfied that these paranormal monsters don’t really exist. Or, maybe after reading this you have more questions than ever.

As for me, while I think skepticism is important, I think it is equally important to look at these legends with an open mind. Just because my Goatman sightings was a bust doesn’t mean there can’t be strange and exciting creatures still out there, waiting to be discovered.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


Jim Henderson from Hattiesburg, Mississippi on May 13, 2020:

Great Hub. I so enjoyed this. Who doesn't love a cryptid? You really had a great intro to this; I was about to hide under my bed!

Bigfoot? Oh yeah, I've seen several massive, hairy, bipedal, ape-like humanoids, however most worked at the 7-11 !

I enjoy this kind of stuff. Nicely written. Thanks. And...I get to be the first to comment!