Cryptozoology is the study of creatures that are rumored to exist. But for true believers and alleged eyewitnesses, these "cryptids" are alive and well and lurking among us.
- Marozi: With a maned lion's face fronting a jaguar-like body, the Marozi (also known as the spotted lion) was reported several times in the 1930s in Kenya's mountains but hasn't been mentioned much since. The Natural History Museum in Great Britain is said to be in possession of the spotted skin of a marozi, but many experts think the specimen represents a jaguar that bred with common spotless plains lions.
- Kamchatka Giant Bear: Swedish zoologist Sten Bergman, working in Russia's Kamchatka Peninsula in the 1920s, discovered a paw print that measured a full square foot, suggesting a bear of remarkable size. Similar sightings tell of an ursine almost twice the size of a typical North American grizzly bear, measuring six feet at the shoulder. Some Russian biologists believe there is a small group of Kamchatka Giant Bears that survived the most recent ice age.
- Skunk Ape: Bigfoot's smelly Southern cousin has been reported a number of times in Florida's swamps, most convincingly in 2000 by a couple who took an excellent snapshot of what looked to be a six-foot-six orangutan. The picture didn't capture its scent, of course, but the couple attested to its atrocity.
- Lizard Man: This scaly green hominid, the resident mysterious beast of Escape Ore Swamp in South Carolina, has long been at the center of local lore. While many consider the creature a hoax, others swear they've encountered it face to face. Lizard Man has had several brushes with fame: A local radio station once offered $1 million for a live capture, and in 1988, a South Carolina Republican leader labeled Lizard Man a staunch Democrat.
- Jersey Devil: According to most reports, New Jersey's cryptozoological curiosity has wings, a horse's face, a pig's hooves, and a kangaroo's body. The legend of the Jersey Devil was born in the 1700s--based on a tale of a cursed baby-turned-demon that flew off into the night--and boomed in the early 1900s, with supposed sightings all over the state. To this day, people report Devil sightings, mostly in the spooky Pine Barrens of southern New Jersey. While some locals think the creature is truly a supernatural beast, others say it's probably a misidentified sandhill crane.
- El Chupacabra: Puerto Rico's legendary "goat sucker" is a fanged and clawed beast that performs vampirism on livestock. The first accounts of its victims--often goats, chickens, horses, and cows--were reported in the 1950s by farmers who found animals drained of blood, with several large puncture marks. Some who have allegedly sighted the creature describe it as a short, kangaroo-like monster with oversize teeth and an oval head, but others liken it to a large reptile or bat.
- Tessie: Deep in Lake Tahoe on the California-Nevada border lurks a storied sea creature that's the Sierra Nevada cousin of the Loch Ness Monster. It's alleged that after a submarine expedition, undersea explorer Jacques Cousteau said, "The world isn't ready for what's down there." (He could, of course, have been referring to anything odd.) Popular descriptions portray Tessie as either a freshwater relative of a whale or a 20-foot sea serpent with a humped back.
- Champ: Like Tessie, Champ is named for the body of water in which it purportedly lurks, in this case New York's Lake Champlain. Several hundred recorded sightings typically describe the beast as an angular black sea monster measuring about 50 feet in length. One investigative group believes the often-sighted Champ is actually a surviving plesiosaur, a dinosaur that died off 60 million years ago.
This article was adapted from "The Book of Incredible Information," published by West Side Publishing, a division of Publications International, Ltd.