America: land of the free, and home of the...cryptid? The United States is home to a surprising number of spooky, monstrous creatures, many stemming from legends that date back to ancient times.
Why do we cling to our folk monsters, reviving them again and again just as they threaten to slip into obscurity? Some propose that these creatures are manifestations of human fears; others propose that they're externalizations of our own demons; and still others insist that Bigfoot is absolutely real, and they've seen him for themselves.There are many reasons why these creatures have continued to live on in our subconscious minds, but one thing is certain: They're not going anywhere. Sometimes they're nothing more than fodder for campfire legends, and sometimes they're little prickles of unease when walking by a forest at night, but even if you're a staunch realist, it's sometimes hard to shake off/lean away from the haunting legends that gnaw at the seams of our reality.
If you're a demon hunter (or are just looking to get yourself into big trouble with malevolent spirits), here's a handy list of five all-American monsters—and where to find them.
1. West Virginia: Mothman
The Mothman was first sighted in 1966, when five men digging a grave in a cemetery near Clendenin, West Virginia spotted a creature that was not quite a bird and not quite a man but that was definitely flying over their heads.
Since then, there have been several sightings of a "man with ten-foot wings" in these parts of West Virginia, which are now known as the "TNT area." During World War II, this area was home to a manufacturing camp that kept explosives in underground bunkers; afterwards, it was abandoned.
Aside from the Mothman, there have been several other odd reports coming from this part of West Virginia, including stories of UFOs and premonitions of the collapse of the Silver Bridge. If you visit the TNT area yourself, perhaps you'll catch a glimpse of some of these mysterious things; or, perhaps you'll be confronted by a different kind of monster—the ongoing traumas and legacies of war.
Image via K102.5
2. New Jersey: The Jersey Devil
If you're in the business of seeking out terrifying thrills, New Jersey's Pine Barrens is a worthwhile destination in and of itself. The Pine Barrens is a 1.1 million square mile area of forest. Once, the area was home to bustling manufacturing towns; but now, the majority of those towns have been abandoned, and the land remains empty.
Or is it? Not according to folklore, which tells of a variety of spooks and spirits out there in the pines, the most famous of which is the Jersey Devil. According to legend, a Pines resident called Mother Leeds gave birth to her thirteenth child in 1735—a child that, moments after its birth, sprouted wings, horns, and talons, and tore its midwives to pieces.
Throughout the next two hundred years, the Jersey Devil was spotted occasionally in the Pine Barrens region, and many heard terrifying wails echoing from the bogs and underbrush. Today, many still believe that the Devil walks today, and many have claimed they've spotted him there. To find the Jersey Devil, take Route 9 through the Pine Barrens of New Jersey; just make sure you're not out too late at night.
Image via Holy Synergia
3. Alaska: The Urayuli
Far up north, among the ice and snow, you might find yourself face to face with a ten-foot-tall man covered in thick hair. Don't worry, though: These creatures are actually peaceful. Legend has it that these men are transformed children who were lost in the night.
The Urayuli is an iteration of the Yeti, a lumbering giant that originated in the hills of the Himalayas. The earliest reports of the Yeti come from the 12th century, and they persist right up to modern times. To see for yourself, check out the forests surrounding Ketchikan, where reports of hairy, ghostly men are regular among wide-eyed tourists and townsfolk alike.
Image via Bigfoot
4. California: Fresno Nightcrawlers
While Fresno may not be top on your list of California destinations, maybe it should be first on your list of demon-hunting spots. That's because it's the only place where you can see a demon known as the "Nightcrawler." These little ghouls were first caught on camera in 2007, and interestingly, though most video evidence of paranormal activity can be easily disproved, experts have admitted that it would be hard to fake these cryptids.
After a few more cameras captured glimpses of these spindly creatures, several Native American tribes noted their resemblance to certain wood carvings and myths. According to some modern legends, these cryptids are ancient swamp beings that have existed on earth since the dawn of time; and some myths propose that these beings are making themselves known publicly because they want to make peace with humankind.
Image via the Fresno Bee
5. Wampus Cat
This peculiar feline has been spotted in northeastern Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, and specifically, at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. Several students of the university have reported that an oddly humanoid catlike creature has attacked them in the night.
According to legend, the golden-eyed, half-dog, half-cat lurks in Knoxville's sewers, emerging to terrorize citizens before retreating back into its putrid hideaway. There are several origin stories surrounding this gigantic monster. One Cherokee legend proposes that a woman donned the skin of a mountain lion in order to spy on her husband while hunting. They discovered her and, as a punishment, she was forced to wear the lion's skin eternally.
Image via Deviantart
These are just five of the most fascinating American monsters, but check out the maps below if you want to plan out a full-on cross-country road trip.
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