are violent and aggressive critters found in lumberwoods from Maine to Oregon.
Injury and death blamed on freak falling branches are always the work of an
agropelter, who hates lumberjacks for their invasion of its territory.
description of an agropelter comes from Big Ole Kittleson, who survived an agropelter
attack long enough to see the creature escape. An agropelter has the villainous
face of an ape on a sinewy little body, with incredibly powerful arms like
use the prodigious strength of their arms to break off and fling branches. They
always pelt with pinpoint accuracy, smashing or impaling their victims. Big Ole
Kittleson was fortunate enough to be pelted with a rotten branch that crumbled
their murderous activities, agropelters are highly agile climbers and
brachiators, and make their home in trees by eating and hollowing out the
center of a dead tree. Pups are born on February 29 and always in odd numbers.
Agropelters subsist on a diet of owls and woodpeckers. As these birds are sadly
being exterminated, the agropelters are getting scarce.
E. (1935) Paul Bunyan Natural History. Madison, Wisconsin.
Cox, W. T.
(1910) Fearsome Creatures of the Lumberwoods with a Few Desert and
Mountain Beasts. Judd and Detweiler, Washington D. C.
H. (1939) Fearsome Critters. The Idlewild Press, Cornwall, NY.
The Jarjacha is a nocturnal Peruvian beast, quadrupedal, with a long neck and glowing eyes. It lives on a diet of human flesh, but has very specific preferences: it feeds solely on incestuous men and women, or those who have committed carnal sins towards their spiritual compadres. It itself may be born from the soul of an incestuous person or taboo-breaker.
manifests primarily in its call, a loud rattling cry that echoes through the
hills. “Jar-jar-jar-jar-jar”… It
repeats, over and over. The villagers shiver, cross themselves, and lock their
the atmosphere is tense. Everyone knows there is a sinner among them, some
incestuous wretch who has brought judgment down on themselves. The parish
priest decries the existence of the son of Satan in their midst, one who will
be punished by divine retribution. Eventually the shamed culprit is brought to
light, and given an auto-da-fé in the
Jarjacha is the
worst insult that can be leveled at someone.
Bustamante, M. E. (1943)
Apuntes para el folklore Peruano. La
of Exceedingly Lofty Mountain in China are home to the Chouyu. It is like a
rabbit but has a bird’s beak, owl’s eyes, and the tail of a snake. It falls
asleep (i.e. plays dead) when it sees people. If a chouyu is seen it is an omen
of a locust plague.
identifies this animal as the armadillo, but admits with impressive
understatement that China is a bit far from the neotropics…
(1983) Étude sur la mythologie et l’ethnologie de la Chine ancienne.
Collège de France, Paris.
Strassberg, R. E. (2002)
A Chinese Bestiary: Strange Creatures from the Guideways Through Mountains
and Seas. University of California Press.
The Sermilik, “ice-clad”, is an enormous and highly dangerous polar bear found in the seas around Aasiaat in Greenland. Unlike the bears it resembles, it has very long fur completely covered with ice. Four lumps of ice at the surface are in fact the four paws of a sermilik lying in wait, and young hunters are warned never to paddle near those.
K. (1924) Ethnography of the Egedesminde
District. Bianco Lunos Bogtrykkeri, Copenhagen.
The Dingonek is a creature that lives in the Maggori River in Kenya, as well as in Lake Nyanza (Victoria). Our primary source for the dingonek comes from big-game hunter John Alfred Jordan, as recorded by Edgar Beecher Bronson. As a tale told by one big-game hunter to another, there is no reason to believe there was any embellishment or exaggeration involved.
Legends of aquatic monsters predate Jordan’s account, but they describe a generic large water python. Clement Hill claimed to have seen one in Lake Nyanza that attempted to seize a man on the prow of his boat. It had a dark, roundish head.
The dingonek as described by Jordan is a cross between a sea serpent, a leopard, and a whale. It is fourteen or fifteen feet long. Its head is similar in shape and markings to that of a leopard, but is the size of a lioness’ head. There are two long white fangs protruding downwards from the upper jaw. The back is broad like that of a hippo, patterned and colored like a leopard, and “scaled like an armadillo”. The tail, used for aquatic propulsion, is broad and finned. When ashore, the dingonek leaves behind prints as wide as a hippo’s but with reptilian claw-marks.
A .303 shot behind the ear had no effect on the dingonek. It reared straight up out of the water, and Jordan ran for his life. The dingonek was not seen again.
Hobley tells of another man who swears he saw a dingonek. When the Mara River was in flood, the eyewitness said he saw a creature floating down the river on a big log. It had its tail in the water, but its length was estimated to be sixteen feet. It had scales, spots like a leopard, and a head like an otter, but no long fangs. When shot at, it slipped into the water and disappeared. Apart from the (surely inaccurate) length given, this is a good account of a Nile monitor lizard.
Finally, rock art from a cave in Brakfontein Ridge, South Africa, has been claimed to depict a walrus-like dingonek, but the location is far from the dingonek’s habitat, and the association is arbitrary.
Heuvelmans initially believed the dingonek to be an odd species of prehistoric crocodile. Later he revised this to create an aquatic saber-toothed cat whose wet fur clumped and gave the appearance of scales.
As armadillos are New World animals, modern reconstructions have assumed the armadillo “scales” to be those of a pangolin instead. Other recent additions include a single horn and a stinger tail, neither of which have any basis.
Cryptozoologists have equated the dingonek with a number of other creatures, including the far better known Lukwata, the Ndamathia, and the Ol-umaina or Ol-maima of the Mara River. This is known to the Masai and has been described by Hobley as fifteen feet in length and scaly with a dog-like or otter-like head, leopard spots, small ears “marked somewhat after the fashion of a puff adder”, a short neck, short legs with claws. It may be seen sunning itself on logs and riverbanks, and dives into the water when threatened. Hobley’s ol-umaina account is copied by Heuvelmans, who expresses some confusion at the “ears” comment but otherwise affirms that the dingonek and the ol-umaina are one and the same. Shuker corrects the name to ol-maima.
All of this is moot. Ol-maima (or, more correctly ɔl-máɨ́má) is the Maa term for a cripple or a Nile monitor lizard (owing to its waddling movement on land). The descriptions are exaggerated but recognizable accounts of monitor lizards – as the dingonek itself almost certainly is.
Bronson, E. B. (1910) In Closed Territory. A. C. McClurg & Co., Chicago.
Bryant, A. T. (1948) The Zulu People. Shuter and Shooter, Pietermaritzburg.
Conway, J.; Kosemen, C. M.; and Naish, D. (2013) Cryptozoologicon Vol. I. Irregular Books.
Heuvelmans, B.; Garnett, R. trans. (1958) On the Track of Unknown Animals. Rupert Hart-Davis, London.
Hobley, C. W. (1913) On Some Unidentified Beasts. The Journal of the East Africa and Uganda Natural History Society, III(6), pp. 48-52.
Oswald, F. (1915) Alone in the Sleeping-Sickness Country. Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., London.
Payne, D. L. and Ole-Kotikash, L. (2008) Maa Dictionary. University of Oregon, accessed online.
Shuker, K. P. N. (1995) In Search of Prehistoric Survivors. Blandford, London.
Stow, G. W. and Bleek, D. F. (1930) Rock-paintings in South Africa. Methuen & Co. Ltd., London.
Among Aristotle’s many references to the elephant, we are told that its five toes are not perfectly jointed, its forelegs are larger than its hind ones, and its hind legs have short ankles. It has a trunk that it can use as a hand, drinking and eating with it, pulling up trees with it, and using it to breathe when walking through water. This remarkable appendage is cartilaginous and jointless.
The 1220 Latin translation of Aristotle by Michael Scot was based off an Arabic translation from the Greek. Scot retained various Arabic words in his text, and hence Aristotle’s passage on the elephant’s appendicular anatomy became et habet duo cahab parva respect magnitudinis corporis sui – here, cahab is Arabic for “ankle”, and the phrase reads “and [the elephant] has two ankles that are short relative to the size of its body”. Scot used cahab consistently to refer to the ankle or the talus bone.
Thomas de Cantimpré did not recognize the word cahab and assumed it to be the subject of the verb habet. From that the sentence became Caab animal marinum est, ut dicit Aristotiles, parvos habens pedes respectu corporis sui, quod utique magnum est, “Caab is a sea animal, as says Aristotle, whose legs are small in proportion to its body, which is huge”. Based on that and the remainder of the Aristotelian description, Thomas says that the caab has one leg that is long and which it uses as a hand to bring vegetation to its mouth; this leg is made of cartilage. Thomas also misreads the behavior of the elephant in water and makes his caab a fully aquatic marine animal, one that breathes underwater and then, upon reaching the surface, spouts the water it swallowed while breathing. Finally, he spontaneously gives his animal the feet of a cow.
In turn, Albertus Magnus “borrows” Thomas’ account, dropping the reference to Aristotle. This time it is called cahab, and now all of its legs are cartilaginous and resemble those of a calf. Albertus also makes a logical association with the cetacean act of spouting; his cahab holds its breath underwater and spouts at the surface sicut delfinus et cetus.
The last iteration of the cahab is provided by Olaus Magnus, who transposes this odd cartilage-legged sea creature into Scandinavia. He tactfully compares the cartilaginous feet to those of both cows and calves (vaccae, aut vituli). Olaus cites Albertus Magnus as the source of the cahab in the Latin version of his Historia, but the French and English translations omit this crucial citation.
Finally, the English translation misreads the name of the cahab as “sahab”, decisively casting this elephant adrift in a sea of translation errors.
Aristotle, Cresswell, R. trans. (1862) Aristotle’s History of Animals. Henry G. Bohn, London.
de Cantimpré, T. (1280) Liber de natura rerum. Bibliothèque municipale de Valenciennes.
Cuba, J. (1539) Le iardin de santé. Philippe le Noir, Paris.
Gauvin, B.; Jacquemard, C.; and Lucas-Avenel, M. (2013) L’auctoritas de Thomas de Cantimpré en matière ichtyologique (Vincent de Beauvais, Albert le Grand, l’Hortus sanitatis). Kentron, 29, pp. 69-108.
Magnus, A. (1920) De Animalibus Libri XXVI. Aschendorffschen Verlagbuchhandlung, Münster.
Magnus, O. (1555) Historia de gentibus septentrionalibus. Giovanni M. Viotto, Rome.
Magnus, O. (1561) Histoire des pays septentrionaus. Christophle Plantin, Antwerp.
Magnus, O. (1658) A compendious history of the Goths, Swedes, and Vandals, and other Northern nations. J. Streater, London.
Unknown. (1538) Ortus Sanitatis. Joannes de Cereto de Tridino.
The Ichisonga is a pachyderm-slayer from the folklore of the Lambas of Zambia, usually found in the Kafue River. It is a herbivorous water beast that resembles a rhinoceros and has a horn on its forehead.
Although a grass-eater, the ichisonga has a special hatred for the hippopotamus. If an ichisonga hears a hippo, it leaves the Kafue River, traveling along the bank so the hippo does not scent it. Then it re-enters the water, goes for the largest bull hippo, and stabs it to death with its horn.
If an elephant is killed nearby, the ichisonga will roar and drive the hunters away from the carcass. It then stays near the elephant’s remains for days until the carcass rots. The ichisonga is motivated by uŵulwishya – jealousy.
Doke, C. M. (1931) The Lambas of Northern Rhodesia. George G. Harrap and Company Ltd., London.
The Wako are tsawekuri, animal spirits in the folklore of the Cuiva of Colombia and Venezuela. They look like pacas, with spots and long vicious fangs. Wako dig caves with many small exits and hiding-places, and live there in large numbers. Their call sounds like ao, ao, ao, ao.
Wako are carnivorous and anthropophagous. Anyone who ventures into their caves is hunted down and devoured. However, they refuse to chase anyone who is naked.
A Cuiva man who was left by his wife once made the suicidal decision to dig into a wako nest. Despite his son’s entreaties, he dug into the hole where a wako had been seen, feeling around with his hand and pulling it out quickly. His actions startled the wako, who ran out of their burrow calling ao, ao, ao, ao. There was nothing left of him after they were done.
Another man descended into a wako cave to avenge his pregnant wife, who had been eaten by the wako. He successfully exterminated the entire nest of wako.
Arcand, B.; Coppens, W.; Kerr, I.; and Gómez, F. O.; Wilbert, J. and Simoneau, K. eds. (1991) Folk Literature of the Cuiva Indians. UCLA Latin American Center Publications, University of California, Los Angeles.
The Chang Nam, or “water elephant”, is native to the jungle streams of Thailand. Its equivalent in Myanmar is called the Ye Thin.
A chang nam looks like a miniature replica of an elephant. It is no bigger than a rat but has a trunk and sharp little tusks and all the hallmarks of elephants.
These water elephants are extremely dangerous. Merely seeing a chang nam’s shadow causes instant death. A chang nam will also stab footprints and reflections in the water with its tusks, bringing about the death to the owner of the footprint or reflection.
It seems uncertain whether the chang nam has a purely supernatural origin or if it has some real animal as its basis. Nonetheless, stuffed chang nam skins are available for sale to gullible tourists; these are manipulated frog or rodent skins with tusks attached.
Wood, W. A. R. (1965) Consul in Paradise: Sixty-nine Years in Siam. Souvenir Press, London.
The Làlomèna is found in the waterways of Madagascar. It has two very red horns and looks like an ox. It is among the strongest of aquatic animals, but little more is known of its appearance and attributes.
Sub-fossil remains of Madagascan hippos have been referred to as làlomèna bones.
Sibree, J. (1896) Madagascar Before the Conquest. Macmillan, New York.