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Monster myths debunked: From Bigfoot to the Loch Ness monster
Every corner of the world has its own monster or - to use a more technical term - its own ‘cryptid’. Those who believe in them follow the pseudoscientific subculture known as cryptozoology, which aims to prove the existence of entities derived from the world of folklore and myth.
We’ve all heard of them, those mythical creatures that are said to share this world with us, roaming, swimming, and flying around our planet yet evidence of their actual existence is scant, to say the least.
Here we take a look at four of the most famous monsters from around the globe and uncover the truth behind each.
Loch Ness Monster
Fondly known as ‘Nessie’, the legend of the famous long-necked dinosaur creature swimming around Loch Ness in Scotland dates back over 1500 years. The first written record of the beast comes from the 6th century AD, however, Nessie mania didn’t kick off until the 1930s after a new road was completed along the Loch, which is situated around 8 miles from the city of Inverness.
Sightings of the prehistoric creature were said to have increased from that point onwards and a footprint was even discovered. That was quickly debunked as being the print of a hippo, most likely a stuffed one or from a hippo-foot umbrella stand.
In 1934, the most famous picture of Nessie was captured. The black and white photo showed a creature reminiscent of the extinct plesiosaurs, a lineage of dinosaurs that went extinct some 65 million years ago.
However, during the 90s the photo was proved to be a hoax and subsequent expeditions using the latest in sonar and underwater technology have failed to provide any evidence that Nessie lives.
In 2019, a scientific study took an environmental DNA survey of Loch Ness to determine what organisms lived in the waters. It concluded that the loch was not home to ‘any giant reptiles or aquatic dinosaurs’. It did discover that the loch contained a large number of eels leading to one theory that the monster was in fact an oversized eel.
If Nessie does exist, not only is she incredibly good at hiding but she’s also equipped with the skills to elude modern science.
If Nessie takes the crown as the most famous of water-based monsters, Sasquatch is surely her terrestrial counterpart. Stories of bipedal hairy creatures are known from around the world. Indonesia has the Orang-pendek, China the Yeren, Australia the Yowie, the Himalayas have the Yeti (more on that later) and America has the Sasquatch.
Also referred to as Bigfoot, the humanoid is described as a large ape-like creature that walks on two legs and inhabits the forests of North America. The modern legend stems from a 1950s newspaper article written in the American Humboldt Times that highlighted the story of Californian loggers who discovered large footprints, hence the nickname Bigfoot.
In 1967, Roger Patterson and Robert Gimlin captured the most famous video of the creature in an area called Bluff Creek in northern California. The minute-long clip allegedly shows a Sasquatch casually strolling across a creek bed in a wooded location.
In the years that have followed, not a single shred of irrefutable evidence has been discovered to prove the existence of Sasquatch. Videos always seem to be blurry, hair samples are always proven to be from other creatures and in 2002 the family of a deceased logger claimed the original footprints that sparked the whole Bigfoot craze were fakes carried out by their father.
The scientific community have questioned how a large creature, such as Bigfoot, could sustain a breeding population with all the requirements of food, territory and shelter and still remain hidden in the process. ‘There are lots of undiscovered things, particularly in the natural world,’ said Dr Eric Rickart, the curator of Vertebrate Zoology at the Natural History Museum of Utah. ‘But they don’t take the form of giant apes running around in largely settled areas of the world.’
The most likely explanation for Sasquatch sightings is misidentification, bears being the most likely candidate.
The mountainous snowy cousin of Sasquatch, the Yeti (or Abominable Snowman) is another ape-like creature, this time said to wander the Himalayan mountain range in Asia.
The creature has its origins in folklore and is an important part of the legends and myths of Sherpa communities. When Western mountaineers began exploring the Himalayas in the early 20th century, reports of the Yeti started coming in thick and fast and each one more sensational than the last. Even famed explorer Sir Edmund Hillary conducted an expedition to find the Yeti in the early 1960s.
Ever since then, grainy footage, large footprints and eyewitness accounts have become the supposed backbone of Yeti evidence. Bones and hair samples have been found but all have been attributed to other animals such as bears and antelopes. Just like Bigfoot, scientists have argued that such a large primate would need to roam widely to find enough food, making it hard to stay hidden for so long.
Misidentification is the probable explanation for Yeti, bears again proving to be the most likely candidate.
Heralding from Latin America, Chupacabra’s name means ‘Goat Sucker’. With origins in local folklore, it wasn’t until 1995 that the creation burst into life and the world’s first eyewitness bore testimony to what they saw. After several sheep were killed in Puerto Rico, the creature was supposedly seen in the town of Canóvanas. Described as a medium-sized reptile-like creature with spines running down its back and tail, the monster is said to attack and drink the blood of livestock.
Since that initial sighting, others have cropped up across the world but none have provided any concrete evidence of the creature's existence. It seems that humans love a good old-fashioned monster story and have the propensity to indulge and embellish details along the way. Just like the other cryptids mentioned, a large portion of the evidence about the existence of the Chupacabra comes from witness testimony, which has led to an array of ever-changing descriptions about the creature.
However, so-called Chupacabra bodies have also been discovered but none were of the mythical creature. All turned out to be dogs, coyotes or raccoons with sarcoptic mange; a skin disease caused by mites that causes the animals to lose their hair.
Scientists have argued that most sightings are likely to be of these infected creatures, which would also explain their propensity of attacking livestock as they make easier prey for a predator that is severely weakened.
American writer and investigator Benjamin Radford spent five years looking into the creature and concluded, ‘From my perspective, there is absolutely no reason to believe that anything out of the ordinary is involved in the attacks on livestock.’