7 Scary Monsters Some People Think Exist

iStock
iStock

With Halloween approaching you’ll be hearing lots about ridiculous fictional monsters like vampires and zombies. But what about the “real” monsters that may be skulking around the country undetected? Let’s take a look at a few of these scary cryptids that may or may not exist.

1. The Skunk Ape

These stinky monsters could be lurking most anywhere around the South, but they have a particular tendency to pop up in Florida. The skunk ape is a seven-foot-tall behemoth that looks something like a gorilla, but his truly distinguishing feature is his awful smell. Skunk ape sightings date back to the 1940s, and in 2000 the Sarasota Sheriff’s Department even received an anonymous letter containing several pictures of a smelly ape wandering around in the night.

While the National Park Service has dismissed the existence of skunk apes as a myth—the service says the sightings are probably just a guy in a gorilla suit who might end up getting himself shot—local residents remain adamant that the fragrant primates occasionally appear to terrorize their pets.

2. The Dover Demon

In the spring of 1977, three different teenagers had encounters with an odd humanoid creature over the span of two days. The creature, which was later dubbed “the Dover Demon,” was supposedly around four feet tall with glowing orange eyes, a watermelon-shaped head, and long, thin fingers.

The Dover Demon disappeared after those two days, and he hasn’t been seen since. Some skeptics dismiss the stories because of the witnesses’ young ages, while others think the teens may have seen a moose foal. The witnesses remain adamant that they saw the bizarre creature. Williams Bartlett, who went on to become a successful painter, still maintains that he saw something weird and even wrote on his sketch of the demon, “‘I, Bill Bartlett, swear on a stack of Bible’s [sic] that I saw this creature.”

3. Champ

Champ is Lake Champlain’s answer to the Loch Ness Monster. Ever since a railroad crew first reported spotting the “head of an enormous serpent sticking out of the water” in 1819, reports of a long-necked sea monster have been coming out of Lake Champlain. In the 1880s, P.T. Barnum even offered a $50,000 reward to anyone who could bring in Champ dead or alive, and even though many tried to collect the bounty, none succeeded. Although there have been over 300 reports of Champ sightings, including some by law enforcement officials and entire crews of ships, scientists haven’t been able to prove Champ exists.

4. The Honey Island Swamp Monster

What is it with cryptids and poor hygiene? Louisiana’s Honey Island Swamp Monster is supposedly every bit as malodorous as the skunk ape. Retired air traffic controller Harlan Ford first spotted the monster in 1963; he described it as being seven feet tall with gray hair and large amber eyes. A few years later researchers found footprints they thought could belong to the swamp monster. The large prints had four webbed toes, which led to a popular local legend that the monster is the product of (biologically impossible) interbreeding between alligators and circus chimpanzees that may have been lost in the swamp in a train crash decades earlier.

5. The Fouke Monster

If you’ve ever seen the classic 1972 low-budget horror docudrama The Legend of Boggy Creek, you’ve heard of this particular monster. In the mid-1950s, residents of Fouke, Arkansas, reported that a large, roaring ape-like creature was stalking their farms and killing livestock. In May 1971 the monster allegedly attacked the home of Bobby and Elizabeth Ford and even threw Bobby from his own porch. Law enforcement and local hunters attempted to track the monster, but they only turned up a series of large three-toed footprints.

Here’s the trailer from the aforementioned film adaptation of the story:

6. The Jersey Devil

This one’s significantly more terrifying than New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur, although the monstrous local legend did lend his name to the hockey team. As the story goes, in the early 18th century a poor woman named Mother Leeds proclaimed, “Let this one be a devil,” while giving birth to her 13th child, only to have the curse come true. The “child” emerged with hooves, leathery wings, horns, and sharp claws, killed the midwives, and began flying around wreaking havoc.

The legend has certainly had staying power. Nearly 200 years later, the Devil became a big deal again in 1909. That January, reports of odd footprints being found in the snow on the roofs of houses caused such a panic that the devil was up to no good that mills and schools closed after workers and students were too terrified to leave their homes.

Since then, the Jersey Devil has received the credit and blame for all sorts of strange happenings around the Garden State. Lose a cow? The devil probably flew off with it? Hear a weird noise. The devil, naturally. In 1960, Camden’s merchants even offered a $10,000 bounty to anyone who could capture the mischievous flying devil, but they never found any takers.

7. The Loveland Frog

What does a three-foot-tall bipedal frog smell like? If you believe the people who have spotted Ohio’s Loveland Frog, the creatures have a distinct odor of alfalfa and almonds. The frogs first revealed themselves to the public in 1955, when either a police officer or a businessman (reports vary) saw three or four of the yard-tall frog-face creatures squatting under a bridge near Loveland, Ohio. In 1972 two police officers spotted a similar giant frog creature that hopped over a fence and into the Little Miami River.

One of the officers who made the second sighting, Mark Matthews, has since claimed that what he saw wasn’t a frog-faced creature, but rather some sort of large pet lizard that had escaped from its home. Many locals still believe that the Loveland Frogs are still lurking, though.

26 Fascinating Facts About Fossils

Mental Floss via YouTube
Mental Floss via YouTube

If you’ve never visited the Big Bone Room, you’re in luck. Check out our visit to New York City's American Museum of Natural History for a rundown on fossils, which provide invaluable insight into our understanding of history and its once-living occupants.

In this edition of "The List Show," editor-in-chief Erin McCarthy explains the ins and outs of excavation, fossil follies (extinct giants were a big miss), and the terrorizing prospect of a 3-foot-tall parrot.

For more episodes like this one, be sure to subscribe here!

14 Festive Facts About A Charlie Brown Christmas

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

More than 50 years since its premiere on CBS on December 9, 1965, A Charlie Brown Christmas remains one of the most beloved holiday specials of all time. Like Charlie Brown himself, the flaws—scratchy voice recordings, rushed animation—have proven endearing. Take a look at some facts behind the show that killed aluminum trees, the struggles to animate Chuck’s round noggin, and why Willie Mays is the unsung hero of Peanuts.

1. Charles Schulz wasn't really interested in getting into animation.

Since the debut of Peanuts in 1955, Charles Schulz and United Press Syndicate (which distributed the comic strip) had gotten a steady stream of offers to adapt the characters for film and television; the artist was also directly petitioned by young readers, who would write Schulz asking when Snoopy would come to some kind of animated life. His stock reply: “There are some greater things in the world than TV animated cartoons.”

He relented for Ford Motors—he had only ever driven a Ford—and allowed Charlie Brown to appear in a series of commercials for the Ford Falcon in the early 1960s. The spots were animated by Bill Melendez, who earned Schulz’s favor by keeping the art simple and not using the exaggerated movements of the Disney films—Bambi, Dumbo—Melendez had worked on previously.

2. Willie Mays played a part in getting it made.

Schulz capitulated to a full-length special based on the professional reputations of his two collaborators. The cartoonist had seen and enjoyed executive producer Lee Mendelson’s documentary on baseball player Willie Mays, A Man Named Mays; when Mendelson proposed a similar project on Schulz and his strip, he agreed—but only if they enlisted Melendez of the Ford commercials. The finished documentary and its brief snippet of animation cemented Schulz's working relationship with the two and led Schulz to agree when Mendelson called him about a Christmas special.

3. CBS and Coca-Cola only gave them $76,000 to produce it.

When Coke executives got a look at the Schulz documentary and caught Charlie Brown on the April 1965 cover of Time, they inquired about the possibility of sponsoring an hour-long animated holiday special. Melendez felt the short lead time—only six months—made that impossible. Instead, he proposed a half-hour, but had no idea how much the show should be budgeted for; when he called colleague Bill Hanna (of Hanna-Barbera fame) for advice, Hanna refused to give out any trade secrets. Melendez wound up getting a paltry $76,000 to cover production costs. (It evened out: Schulz, Mendelson, and Melendez wound up earning roughly $5 million total for the special through 2000.)

4. A Charlie Brown Christmas was going to have a laugh track.

In the ‘60s, it was standard procedure to lay a laugh track over virtually any half-hour comedy, even if the performers were drawn in: The Flintstones was among the series that used a canned “studio audience” to help cue viewers for jokes. When Mendelson told Schulz he didn’t see the Peanuts special being any different, the artist got up and left the room for several minutes before coming in and continuing as if nothing had happened. Mendelson got the hint.

5. Snoopy's voice is just sped-up nonsense.

The early Peanuts specials made use of both untrained kids and professional actors: Peter Robbins (Charlie Brown) and Christopher Shea (Linus) were working child performers, while the rest of the cast consisted of "regular" kids coached by Melendez in the studio. When Schulz told Melendez that Snoopy couldn’t have any lines in the show—he’s a dog, and Schulz’s dogs didn’t talk—the animator decided to bark and chuff into a microphone himself, then speed up the recording to give it a more emotive quality.

6. Charles Schulz hated jazz.

The breezy instrumental score by composer Vince Guaraldi would go on to become synonymous with Peanuts animation—but it wasn’t up to Schulz. He left the music decisions to Mendelson, telling a reporter shortly after the special aired that he thought jazz was “awful.”

7. Charlie Brown's head was a nightmare to animate.

Because Melendez was unwilling to stray from Schulz’s distinctive character designs—which were never intended to be animated—he found himself in a contentious battle with Charlie Brown’s noggin. Its round shape made it difficult to depict Charlie turning around; as with most of the characters, his arms were too tiny to scratch his head. Snoopy, in contrast, was free of a ball-shaped cranium and became the show’s easiest figure to animate.

8. Charles Schulz was embarrassed by one scene.

Careful (or repeated) viewings of the special reveal a continuity error: in scenes where Charlie Brown is standing near his tree, the branches appear to grow from moment to moment. The goof annoyed Schulz, who blamed the mistake on two animators who didn’t know what the other was doing.

9. A Charlie Brown Christmas almost got scrapped by Coke.

Mendelson recently told USA Today that an executive from McCann-Erikson—the ad agency behind Coke—paid him an impromptu visit while he was midway through production. Without hearing the music or seeing the finished animation, the ad man thought it looked disastrous and cautioned that if he shared his thoughts with Coca-Cola, they’d pull the plug. Mendelson argued that the charm of Schulz’s characters would come through; the exec kept his opinion to himself.

10. CBS hated A Charlie Brown Christmas.

After toiling on the special for six months, Melendez and Mendelson screened it for CBS executives just three weeks before it was set to air. The mood in the room was less than enthusiastic: the network found it slow and lacking in energy, telling Melendez they weren’t interested in any more specials. To add insult, someone had misspelled Schulz in the credits, adding a “T” to his last name. (Schulz himself thought the whole project was a “disaster” due to the crude animation.)

11. Half the country watched A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Viewers weren’t nearly as cynical about Charlie Brown’s holiday woes as his corporate benefactors. Preempting a 7:30 p.m. EST episode of The Munsters, A Charlie Brown Christmas pulled a 50 share, meaning half of all households with a television turned on were watching it. (That amounted to roughly 15 million people, behind only Bonanza.) CBS finally acknowledged it was a winner, but not without one of the executives getting in one last dig and telling Mendelson that his “aunt in New Jersey didn’t like it.”

12. A Charlie Brown Christmas killed aluminum tree sales.

Aluminum Christmas trees were marketed beginning in 1958 and enjoyed fairly strong sales by eliminating pesky needles and tree sap. But the annual airings of A Charlie Brown Christmas swayed public thinking: In the special, Charlie Brown refuses to get a fake tree. Viewers began to do the same, and the product was virtually phased out by 1969. The leftovers are now collector’s items.

13. There's a live-action play version of A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Up until 2013, anyone staging a live-action rendition of A Charlie Brown Christmas for their local school or theater had one thing in common: they were copyright infringers. The official rights to the story and characters weren’t offered until recently. Tams-Witmark fields licensing requests for the play, which includes permission to perform original songs and advertise with the Peanuts characters—Snoopy costume not included.

14. In 2015, the voice of Charlie Brown was arrested.

Peter Robbins continued voicing Charlie Brown until he turned 13 years old, at which point puberty prohibited him from continuing. In November 2015, the 59-year-old Robbins pleaded guilty to making criminal threats against a mobile home park manager and a sheriff. According to CBS News, the troubled former actor claimed that schizophrenia and bipolar disorder led him to make the threats. He was sentenced to four years and eight months in prison.

Additional Sources:
The Art and Making of Peanuts Animation
Schulz and Peanuts
A Charlie Brown Christmas: The Making of a Tradition
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