Informant is a USC student living in California.
“The Squonk is a creature that foresters and lumbermen started seeing in the late 20th century in Pennsylvania hemlock forests. So they’d be cutting down trees and in the glade, and they’d see a squonk. And they’ve described them as like ugly dog-like creatures with loose-fitting skin and really huge eyes that are like full of sadness and hatred for themselves and then, um, if a squonk knows that it’s been seen, it will dissolve into a pool of its own tears and, yeah, I’ve never seen a squonk but I like the legend of it, I like to think they’re out there.”
I asked my informant whether or not he knew of any legendary animals. He told me about the squonk, which he first encountered on the Internet, and then found more information in bestiary texts.
Legendary creatures can be somewhat associated with spirits—they generally don’t appear without a particular reason or are tied to a specific place (depending on how popular the creature is). Spirits are also usually reminders from the past that appear to uphold culture, enforce the status quo, and/or remind people of traditions. In the case of the squonk, it seems to be related to issues regarding deforestation and/hunting, warning humans (as it appears to foresters and lumberjacks) against the dangers of doing so, given how it seems to be a creature filled with sadness. Spirits come and go, some evade human contact while others don’t, so their existence is guaranteed more by the texts and performances that contain them rather than their actual presence. In the case of the squonk, as it is a relatively recent creature, its presence on the web is a textual space it exists in, providing meaning for its existence.