Tag Archives: cryptid

Folktale Creature: The Squonk

Main Piece: 

“He’s just sad and ugly and I love him. Oh boy, so, the squonk is basically this kind of urban legend, like cryptid creature that’s certainly meant to explain like those weird noises hunters hear in the night. And the thing is that the squonk cries a lot because he’s ugly, and that’s what those weird noises are. And that’s it. He just cries a lot because he’s ugly and no one wants to be the squonk.”

Background:

My informant had a strong personal connection to the squonk that was mostly based on finding the concept delightful. She is from an entirely different area than the squonk, which supposedly exists in Pennsylvania. My informant discovered the concept online, but does not recall exactly where. As mentioned above, she says it is meant to explain strange sounds hunters hear that sound like crying.

Thoughts:

Folklore is normally emblematic of the culture in which it exists. For example, modern American folklore tends to have an emphasis on the future and the brightness at the end of the tunnel- proverbs such as “all’s well that ends well” or “the ends justify the means.” Americans tend to have an emphasis on happiness and hope to the exclusion of other sentiments. It’s interesting, then, that there’s this specifically Pennsylvanian creature that is so unbearably and irredeemably ugly that all it does is cries. This kind of hopelessness is not normally emblematic of American folklore. Two possible explanations fit within the framework of America as a mostly hopeful folk group. First, this could be a bizarre way of putting down the other. The hunter is not the one crying in the woods because they’re ugly- it’s the noise possibly frightening them that is. Second, this could be an example of an unconsciously counter-hegemonic folk belief. The majority of America is full of blind hopeful folklore, but we believe in a creature that lives in the woods and cries because of how depressed it is over its hideousness.

The Goat-Man Of Pope Lick Creek

Informant’s Background:

My informant, AH, was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky, but now lives in Los Angeles where she attends undergraduate study at USC. She is 21 years old.

Context:

The informant is a close friend and former roommate of mine. I asked her if she had any folklore from her hometown in Kentucky she could share with me. For the purposes of this performance, she is labeled as AH, and I am labeled as AT.

Performance:

AH: “So there’s this creek, pretty close to my house, probably about like ten minutes away, it’s called Pope Lick, I don’t know why, but uhm me and my friends would go there pretty often because there’s these like train tracks that run up above and underneath there is where the goat man is supposed to be. So the goat man he’s supposed to be like legs of a goat, top part of a dude, and what he’s supposed to do is if you’re there at night (which we were pretty often), he’d go and like either like lure you down and then go and like grab you and eat you or he’d like fucking jump down and get you. But that was his whole thing like (*in spooky voice*) oooOOhhh we’re hanging out, and we might die! Someone’s gonna get killed by the goat man! But it was very fun, yeah, that’s most of the stuff.”

AT: “Where did you first hear about it?”

AH: “So I first heard of it… my uh-my girlfriend at the time she was like “oh, have you heard of the goat man?” and I was like “no” and she was like “yeah so if we go here at night we might see this like goat man person thing.” And that was like when I first heard about it and then we went together and we didn’t see anything, but it was definitely kind of like a creepy vibe, like abandon fucking train tracks, kind of creepy.”

Thoughts:

The first thing that came to mind upon my hearing about this was Ray Cashman’s article Visions of Irish Nationalism, which we read in class, more specifically where Cashman discusses how a seemingly innocuous location can hold a special meaning to the locals of the area or to those properly informed (Cashman, 373). In this case, the location is seemingly mundane, a railroad trestle bridge, yet there it has a different meaning to those that live in the area that are “in the know”. According to my research, there actually have been a number of deaths as recently as 2019 at the location, as it is actually not abandoned and is a major railway for trains. So in this case we see an example where depending on the time of the visit, and how safe they were being, the informant and their partner could easily have been seriously injured by going to a location that is actively dangerous and prohibited of entry to the public, yet the myth surrounding the location provides a new meaning to the location, and makes it a desirable destination to visit for locals.

Cashman, Ray. Visions of Irish Nationalism. Journal of Folklore Research, Vol. 45, No. 3. Pp. 361-381.

El Chupacabra Sighting

Context: My informant, JP, is my uncle. He grew up in Texas and hearing legends of El Chupacabra from his friends. He has told this story many times in the past to family and friends, and shown the accompanying video. While I’m not sure he actually believes it, he always tells the story as if it is entirely factual and a real account of a chupacabra sighting. This piece was collected over the phone as he told the story to me and his girlfriend. In the text, I am SW and B refers to JP’s son (my cousin) who was approximately 11 at the time.

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JP: “Well first of all, you gotta know what the chupacabra is. And literally translated from Spanish it means ‘goat sucker.’ And it came about that, I don’t know, years and years, probably a century or two ago, the farmers down in um… Mexico and south Texas, some of their goats would end up dead in the field, and like the blood would be sucked out of them. They looked to find out what was doing this, and the… the whole tale of the chupacabra. It wasn’t just goats either, there were cattle and other things that were dead and all the blood was sucked out of them. Anyhow, there’s been sightings over the years, a whole bunch of times, of people seeing the chupacabra. And, and various descriptions of them. I used to think that stuff was just fantasy and just kind of make believe, and kind of funny. Until one night, when B and I were going to um… Jack in the crack. We were hungry at about 12:30 at night. So we were going down to go get some tacos and whenever I turned onto the big street, there it was running down the middle, the median of the street, running the opposite direction we were going. It was el chupacabra. It was about the size of a coyote but it had no hair on there, and it ran like kind of like a deer, kind of hopped with the back legs and stuff, it was kind of weird. And I told B I was like ‘oh that’s the chupacabra! I saw him before that is him!’ And it looked just like the descriptions that people talk about, I mean big teeth that are sharp and… and long and um kind of a dog-like face but wasn’t a dog. I mean, kind of looked like it but not a whole lot like a dog. And there was no hair on this thing, and it was kind of a brownish, blackish color. And the ears were set farther back than like a coyote or a dog too. And they were smaller. So anyhow he was running that way so we went back around, and um, pulled into this space – cause we saw him cross the street. And we pulled into the… behind the fire station where we saw him go in. And we were looking, and um… this is whenever the video actually started right about this point. And we were looking and then all of a sudden we saw it! It was there, we just caught a glimpse of it but it took off running. So we had to whip back around and get back out onto the main street, drive down about an eighth of a mile, and then turn into a neighborhood, and then come back towards this big, massive park where we saw the chupacabra. And we um, we turned on the street to see it. And we were looking… couldn’t find it, couldn’t find it, and then B goes ‘there it is! There it is!’ and it was in the park! So I drove over the curb, into the park at 12:30 at night in this big grassy area. And the chupacabras going and we were following this thing and it was running from us. And we have video of this thing because like I said, I used to think it wasn’t true, but then we actually saw him. And… the way it was running it was weird it looked like… it ran more like a deer. But, like I said the size of a coyote but no hair and it was kind of blackish, and big teeth and the eyes were really big too. Yeah the eyes were big. Anyhow so we were chasing, he was running away from us and we were flying in the car going probably about 30 miles an hour through this park trying to chase this chupacabra. And it was zigging and zagging and we were zigging and zagging in the car going left and right. And B is laughing and he’s getting thrown all around and I was like laughing too. I’m like going, I was like ‘oh my god, get this on video! People are going to pay money to see this, this is evidence right here!’ So…  and then we made a, at this point that chupacabra made a hard left bank and took off and there was a whole bunch of rabbits right there. And um, but he was too afraid running away from us that he didn’t go after any of them, he didn’t try to suck any of the rabbits off or anything. So anyway, he took off running into this neighborhood, and we were flying we jumped over the curb, then went back into this neighborhood area and down the alley. And then that’s kind of where we lost it. It… heading over in that area. And then um, B was laughing so hard he wet his pants in the car. But it was, that is the honest god’s truth, and I have video evidence to prove it. And his eyes… it might have been the way that our headlights hit it but his eyes glowed. I mean they were like glowing things, like a yellowish, greenish kind of color. And we’ve seen him two other times, and actually one time we saw him in the daytime. But the other times that I saw it was in the nighttime. And um… even like about a year or two after that we saw it again. And it was, it was the same one because it had the same kind of black um… brown spot on it.”

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Analysis:

My uncle loves telling this story as his firsthand encounter with a legendary monster. I’m fairly certain the animal in the video is actually some kind of coyote or even a large rabbit, and I have a feeling he knows that too. However, it makes a very engaging story to tell at parties or to friends. The way my uncle tells the story with so much gusto and detail shows his love of being seen as an engaging storyteller and the life of the party. The traditional legend of El Chupacabra is fairly common in Texas because of its proximity to Mexico and high population of Mexican immigrants. The fact that my uncle has his own story shows the intermingling of folklore between traditionally separate national folk groups. It also shows humanity’s propensity for using supernatural stories to explain things that they otherwise can’t, even if a normal animal would be a much more logical explanation.

For another description of the chupacabra, see Lewis, Robert. “Chupacabra”. Encyclopedia Britannica, 18 May. 2020, https://www.britannica.com/topic/chupacabra

Arizona Bigfoot

Informant’s Background:

My informant, JA, is a undergraduate student at the University of Southern California. He moved from his family home in Arizona to attend college in Los Angeles. His family is of German ancestry.

Context:

I (AT) am a close friend of JA, and he comes over to hang out at my apartment often. I asked him if he had any folklore he could share and this story was his response.

Performance:

JA: “So anyways I’m in my psych class, professor to be left unnamed for confidentiality reasons, err, and he’s been like a perfectly good professor the whole semester, like very informative, very smart well-informed guy, older guy, and then he’s like-this last class he’s like yeah I went hiking and I saw bigfoot one-hundred-percent and I’m one-hundred-percent confident in this.”

AT: “What was the story exactly?”

JA: “Uhm… The story was, I’m trying to remember all of the details, but mostly that he was hiking in the woods in like a relatively uhm… popular-not even relatively popular, just like a-some place in Arizona like a wooded area that the guy hikes a lot etc and he was just like yeah I saw him there and he was bigfoot, and he was like eight feet tall and yeah, I’m like a hundred percent certain of what I saw.”

Informant’s Thoughts:

JA: “That was all the detail he really gave on the story. I wasn’t really sure if he was shitting us, but he seemed to believe it and he waited to tell it to us at the end of the year and then that was the last class I had with him and then I haven’t spoken to that professor like since so it wasn’t like a gotcha or anything.”

Thoughts:

Stories of Bigfoot are fairly common throughout the United States and Canada. I think this example is interesting because of the context in which the story is presented, and more specifically, the way in which it is presented. In my analysis of this performance, I thought a lot about the lack of information given by my informant. It seems to me that the informant had a very skeptical attitude towards the narrative his teacher was presenting, and framed the whole re-telling of that narrative in a way that implied that the teacher’s story was not to be believed, or that he was crazy, that he broke off from the normal at the last day of class. It occurred to me the link between the negative viewing of the original storyteller’s narrative by our informant and the lack of the actual ability to recount much of the original storyteller’s (the professor) narrative. To put it simply: the informant did not care about the bigfoot story. To the informant, the story was that the teacher was crazy, or weird, and that he presented this narrative on the last day of class, and how crazy that was. But what is lost is much of the original storyteller’s bigfoot tale. I think it’s very interesting how much a narrative can change depending on who is telling it, as in this case the entire narrative is reframed from what was originally intended by the professor’s telling of the story.

Indrid Cold

Text:

Informant: Ok, so this guy. Oh my god. I’m obsessed with him. I love him. Basically, in West Virginia — the same place my boy Mothman is from– this guy got into a car accident. He was saved from the wreckage by this guy who had a really creepy smile. He just kept smiling. The guy who crashed his car was like “Woah who are you?”, and creepy smile guys was like “My name’s Indrid Cold”, but Indrid Cold didn’t use his mouth. He told the guy telepathically. The reigning theory on this guy Indrid Cold/ The Smiling Man/ The Grinning Man is that he’s come from a race of aliens who all smile and grin. He was the one to try and first contact Earth. I heard about him on a podcast years ago, and I’ve been obsessed with him ever since. While I don’t know if he was an alien, I know deep in my heart that he existed. 

Context:

I asked a group of friends to share what they knew about cryptids. This was one of their replies.

Thoughts: I’m considered myself fairly well-versed in the world of cryptids, but upon learning of Indrid Cold I learned that there were ones I had never heard of.