Tag Archives: Cryptozoology



PH is a 20 year-old student who lives in San Diego, California. She learned about the folk creature of the dropbear through her friend who is from Australia. She told me about it in an interview.


PH: my Australian friend tried to convince any non-Australian person she met about the existence of dropbears. This one is quite famous, I already knew about it. The fact that it’s so famous though made it easier to convince people because you can google dropbears and there’s a wikipedia page and lots of pictures so it seems legit. The pictures are all faked. The wikipedia page is actually about dropbears as folklore but at first glance it just looks real. Dropbears are koalas except carnivorous and vicious with very pointy teeth, they drop out of trees and attack people. Honestly almost every time my friend mentioned them to people she convinced them of their existence. It was always fun watching her casually do it to people. When we ran into other Australians she would mention dropbears and they would laugh and keep up the ruse.


The legend of the dropbear plays into the exported national image of Australia as a land full of wild and strange creatures. People believe the informant’s friend when she tells them about dropbears because they don’t know any better, they assume that it’s true because they know that “there’s a lot of weird animals in Australia.” The informant’s Australian friend clearly takes joy in exploiting this popular representation of Australia and tries to convince people of something that is totally made up. It is something, according to this informant, that Australians seem to be “in on.” They know better but they like to perpetuate belief in the legend.

The idea of the dropbear, a hidden, dangerous creature that descends upon the unsuspecting walker at any moment, reveals anxiety about the unknown creatures in the woods. The jungle is a place of rich and dense biodiversity, and a lot of creatures can be dangerous. This legend reflects the anxiety of facing them. Moreover, foreigners’ gullibility with respect to the dropbear reflects the anxiety about encountering a national other, one characterized by wildness, the jungle, and primitivity. The Australian telling the story then stands in for this other, from a far off and unfamiliar land. The story also gives its tellers some national pride in being Australians.

The Piasa Bird

Main piece:

(The following is transcribed from a conversation between the informant and interviewer.)

Interviewer: Would you tell me your version of the legend of the Piasa Bird?

Informant: My version… back in the olden days, tribes of Indians lived on the bluffs above the Mississippi River. Which was not even the Mississippi river then, but, umm, uhh, and their nemesis was a – a uhh dragon, who lived in the caves on the bluff below them someplace. And the dragon would, umm, periodically umm, come and take a-an Indian, uhh, for it’s-for it’s its meal. Uh. The uhh… Indians would shoot arrows at it but uhh the-the-the it had kind of a… bunch of scale plates on the outside that umm, would deflect the arrows, and uhh, they couldn’t kill it! Finally the chief said, “this is enough of this.”

Interviewer: (laughs)

Informant: So he said, uhh, “what I’m gonna do, I’m gonna get the, the uhh, dragon to a place where i can do a better job of killing it.” And he thought and thought and though for a while, and then he said – he took his daughter, good looking lady young lady and put her out on the edge of the bluffs, and he hid himself where he could uhh, see her and also, see the-the-the dragon coming in… to get her. And as the dragon came in it raised up, and the chief stood up, and shot… the only spot… on the dragon that wasn’t protected, and put the arrow into the dragon. The dragon uhh was… mortally wounded, ummm did not get the daughter, umm, flew back over toward the river, umm crashed into the river, and was never seen again. And so then – the chief was renowned for his skill at archery and uhh saving the rest of the tribe.

Interviewer: Wow.

Informant: To this day… nobody’s ever found that dragon. Haven’t found where it is, and people have looked. Umm. I looked.

Interviewer: (laughs)

Informant: Up and down the river – the bluffs. We used to go down there and climb on the bluffs and up and down the roads and all over the place. But to this day the dragon has never been found, and people wonder whether it’s really true or not. But I guess you have to figure that out for yourself.

Background: My informant lived most of his younger life in Alton, Illinois, where the Legend of the Piasa Bird originated. The legend is well known, at least in the southern Illinois region, though there is much mystery around the legend and that causes many slight variations in the story. It’s one large source of pride for the city of Alton.

Context: The informant is my Grandpa, and this piece was collected after I asked him if he knew any ‘folklore’ and gave him a day to think about it, on his request. He is certainly getting old, but he’s still rather sharp for his age.

Thoughts: The legend of the Piasa Bird supposedly comes from a traditional Native American story, but the story that most people know is some version of a telling by a professor, John Russell, at the nearby Shurtleff College in Alton. This is a strange example of reverse authorship. Did Russell make up the story? If he did, why? Why would he make up a legend for another group of people? In all the Piasa Bird is an interesting study of folklore.

Momo, or the Missouri Monster

Main Piece:

“I think in the 70s it was, I know the name of the town because it’s called Louisanna, Missouri. It’s on the Mississippi river in the south of the state and in the 70s apparently a few people reported seeing a very tall, like 7 to 8 foot tall, ape-like swamp creature in the woods- they also called it a swamp ape. But the distinguishing feature of this thing was it had a very huge like bulbous onion shaped head, but like an upside down onion though, so like big and bulbous- and it had shag all over it and like big, big like freakishly huge red eyes because it’s a shitty B-Movie monster pretty much. So it’s like Bigfoot but with a big onion head and it reeks because it lives in a swamp near the river. For a brief period in the 70s and 80s, I think it was, people got really into the idea- it became called Momo, Missouri Monster, from the state abbreviation monster.”


The informant is a 21-year old male from Kansas City, Missouri who has lived there for the majority of his life. His family comes from southern Missouri, near Joplin and the Ozarks. The town in question for this piece, Louisiana, apparently tried to profit off this cryptid very shortly after its sightings similar to other towns who use Moth man or Bigfoot sightings to drive tourism, however Momo was not nearly as successful as those previous examples. The town remains a relatively quaint and small town.


I overheard this story when the informant was talking to a group about cryptozoology and I asked him to share it again with me for the sake of transcription. The exact exchange occurred in his room a few hours later.


This piece appears to be another example of the common cryptid of Bigfoot. A large, ape-like creature that is elusive and on the fringes of society. Furthermore, these creatures are typically very smart and nearly human-like but not quite enough to warrant describing it as human. I feel there are a lot of these types of legends ranging from Bigfoot to Sasquatch and I feel this creature is another attempt to fit into that mold. What differentiates it and what makes this monster interesting, in my opinion, is how Momo is shaped to specify Southern Missouri. The Mississippi River is a huge part of the culture of Southern Missouri and so the monster being based out of a nearby swamp of the Mississippi River makes a lot of sense. What I like most about this legend is how it is clearly an attempt to cash in on the cryptid craze of Bigfoot and similar legends. While undoubtedly some people believe they saw the monster, the town quickly moved to monetize the creature and tourism surrounding it. However, compared to similar towns that attempt to make a tourism industry out of a local legend, this one did not work nearly as well, which makes it interesting to me. Finally, Momo is interesting as it fits the entire culture of Southern Missouri and the Ozarks as it is a creature on the fringe of society, which reflects the often isolated communities that exist in this area. Compared to a heavily urbanized city, a legendary monster like this is far more likely to appear in areas with lots of forest and mountains with small isolated communities, such as those in the Ozark Mountain range.

Knoxville Tennessee skunk ape

CML is my tutor at USC. She is 22 and a fourth year student at USC. She lived in Knoxville for 15 years. She learned about local culture at school learned urban legends from family and friends that were commonly spoken about. CML told me this piece of folklore during one of our tutoring session.


“Have you ever heard of the Skunk ape?”


No what’s that?


It’s like a yeti, little smaller than a normal Bigfoot, wonders the hills of eastern Tennessee, has a horrible smell. It comes from the Appalachian mountain and it eats people’s chickens. Sort of a silly thing, like people don’t take it seriously, I imagine it like a little thing, a nasty little skunk ape. No sympathy by people if a possum eat your chicken, but if a skunk ape eat them…oh shit”


There is not too much to a meaning to it but you want sympathy and try to make the story more dramatic and get attention rather than just having your chicken eaten by a common possum (because that would be a boring and uninteresting story)


For more information on the skunk-ape, see http://www.newanimal.org/skunkape.htm

The Hodag

In western Wisconsin lives the Hodag, a creature of folk legend native to Stephen’s Point that the informant described as their version of Bigfoot, but more evocative of a mongoose-like creature. It lives in the woods, and people frequently report sightings.

The informant claims most people don’t truly believe in the Hodag, treating it more as a tongue-in-cheek part of the culture. I suspect folk proliferation of the creature thrives largely due to the way the informant told me it bolsters the local tourism industry, with the Hodag plastered all over merchandise and used to entice outsiders to give the town a closer look and, by proxy, help out their business. Informant seemed dismissive of the local superstition, but still amused by it, as most Wisconsin natives probably are.

A bit of independent research revealed the Hodag is actually most closely associated with Rhinelander, Wisconsin, where it was “discovered.” That the informant didn’t know exactly where the creature is most popular despite living in Wisconsin indicates that general awareness of the creature greatly diminishes the farther out of Rhinelander one travels. I suspect it started out as some sort of hoax and proliferated from there, with locals becoming attached to the first accounts of the creature’s existence.