Archive for the “My Favorite Monsters” Category

In 1931, on the Isle of Man, the Irving family received a strange visitor. Strange animal noises began coming from the attic, but no animal was found. Soon, the noises started to resemble words and phrases spoken by the family, in much the same way that parrots imitate human speech. In a short period of time, the source of the noises introduced himself to the family. He was a mongoose, and his name was Gef.

Gef turned out to be a very talkative houseguest for the Irving family, though very elusive. He declined to be seen, but he did once let Mrs. Irving stroke his fur. He also had a penchant for sneaking into the homes of the neighbors and reporting all the juicy bits of gossip to them. He was also not overly fond of strangers, making a habit of telling guests to the house to “go to hell.” Apparently his high, squeaky singing voice made up for his insolent behavior, and the Irvings enjoyed his renditions of popular tunes.

Gef became a minor celebrity, much to the consternation of the locals, who didn’t care for him one bit. He was also the subject of investigation by many of the leading psychic researchers of the day. Sadly, when the Irving family moved in 1937, Gef vanished as mysteriously as he arrived. In 1947 a strange creature was shot by another local farmer, but it was never conclusively proven whether or not it was Gef.

I love Gef. Gef is my favorite monster of all time. Oh sure, to a person of skeptical mind it sounds like a harmless prank thought up by a child, perhaps the daughter of the Irving family, that spiraled out of hand, with the family perhaps enjoying making fools of people with a little innocent trickery. But, c’mon…it’s a talking mongoose! How is that not the coolest thing in the world? It has to be true, it simply has to be! I don’t want to live in a world where there’s no such thing as a talking mongoose!

The Gef the Talking Mongoose Tribute Page

A heated message board discussion on the reality of Gef

This site claims Gef was just a poltergeist, a popular alternate theory to “the family made it up.” But still not as plausible as “a real live talking mongoose.”

Psychic investigator Harry Price’s account of his investigation into Gef

Gef is mentioned here as one of the many supernatural charms of the Isle of Man, as well as on this local hotel’s page.

Everything you ever wanted to know about mongeese.

The only known photo of Gef

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For my second favorite monster, we get a bit of a departure from what has gone before. For one, it’s a European beast, rather than one haunting the Americas. Two, it has an historical pedigree rather a bit more convincing than a few blurry photographs, unconvincing eyewitnesses and a dead goat here and there. There is ample historical evidence surviving from the period to indicate that there truly was some kind of animal in the County of Gevaudan that killed nearly one hundred people and was seen by dozens of eyewitnesses. There’s even a…well, we’ll get to that in a minute. Third, the Beast of Gevaudan is one of the very few monsters out there to be regarded as female. It’s La Bete to the French, and don’t you forget it.

The broad facts of the case are fairly easy to relate. In the wolf-haunted southern county of Gevaudan in mid-18th century, starting in the summer of 1764, a wolf-like beast the size of a cow began to attack people. A few survived, but most who saw the creature were killed by it. La Bete’s reign of terror continued for several years, attracting the attention of all France, including worrying Louis XV a great deal. Several likely candidates for the beast were killed by hunters, but deaths continued shortly after each proclamation that La Bete was dead. Popular opinion started to sway towards the belief that La Bete was a judgment sent from God against the wickedness of the people. The English insisted that it was some large baboon escaped from a menagerie. Finally, Jean Chastel, using two silver bullets made from a melted down medallion of the Virgin succeeded in killing La Bete once and for all. The carcass was sent to the court of the king.

I mean, it sounds like some sort of fairy tale, and in other circumstances it would be hard to credit. It sounds more like yet another regional French monster, such as the tarasque (and damn you D&D players for filling up the internet with page after page about your stupid made up monster, thus making it difficult for me to find one about the actual tarasque!). Plus, it makes for an odd little footnote to history; that in the midst of the Enlightenment, France was gripped by a monster panic. A compelling counter-argument about the universal good that was brought about by humanism and Enlightenment philosophy, as it were. Except, of course, for the pesky fact that almost a hundred people were killed by La Bete. It may be tempting, in our comfortable 21st century homes, to dismiss the people living in rural France in the 1700s as backwards, superstitious peasants who merely mistook some wild dog for a horrible monster, but it strikes me as a very arrogant thing to do.

The Wiki, with a nice shot of one of the memorials to La Bete.

This French page summarizes the story, as well as having a good picture of the memorial to Jean Chastel.

Another French page, with many shots of the region and various memorials to La Bete.

Les Loups de Gevaudan, the wolf-park in the region (see, I told you it was wolf-haunted).

All about Lozere, or the modern region encompassing the County of Gevaudan.

These pages on the Cevennes National Park also contain much information on La Bete.

A nice summary of the history of La Bete’s killing spree.

I just love this picture.

Poems about La Bete written by children.

The most obvious solution for the mystery of La Bete: a werewolf.

La Bete considered as one of many mystery “maulers”

Message board posters argue about what La Bete really was

Other mysterious creatures of the period and region

Film reviews for Brotherhood of the Wolf, aka Les Pacte des Loups, the most famous film about La Bete, if wildly historically inaccurate.

The trailer for Brotherhood of the Wolf

Oh, and that thing I said I’d get to in a minute…well, the carcass of the creature killed by Jean Chastel was sent to the National Museum of Natural History, where it was misplaced sometime after 1819. But it had been positively identified as an example of Hyaena hyaena, or the striped hyena.
See, I just gave you a monster story with a resolution.

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One night, in a shack out in the Pine Barrens in New Jersey, a woman was giving birth. No one was quite sure if she was a witch or not. And she’d had many children before and this was unlucky number thirteen. When the baby was born, it was a grotesquely misshapen monster, with cloven feet, bat wings, a forked tail and the head of a horse. It beat the midwife and flew away through the chimney. For a time it visited its mother every day like a dutiful child, until she got fed up with it and chased it away. Now it haunts the forests of New Jersey, letting out blood-curdling screams in the night and staring in to people’s houses with its glowing red eyes.

I have no excuse for my fondness of the Jersey Devil. At the root, like many of my favorite monsters, I like him simply because he looks cool. I probably first became aware of him in an old elementary school book of monsters, illustrated with wood-cuts (which even at the time I found fascinating), including many period newspaper illustrations of the Jersey Devil. That’s probably what did it for me. The old newspaper articles, with their illustrations that were far more compelling than their yellow journalism prose, made it seem as if people were genuinely panicked over a fanciful creature out of American folklore. And that’s probably the other thing that drew me to fellow. He’s quite obviously a creation of early American myth-making, that’s survived into the present day. No one takes wooly snakes or jackalopes seriously anymore, but the Jersey Devil is still sighted to this day. It just makes me, somehow, glad, to think of the goofy looking guy out there when so many of the other creatures of the early American period are now only found in dry academic texts about “Post-Revolutionary Folktale Types: An Overview and Bibliography.”

The inevitable Wiki, and is it just me, or do the Wikipedia entries on monsters not enter into the proper spirit?

A nice overview of the Jersey Devil story and sightings

A good JD page with plenty of newspaper illustrations

More stories of JD sightings

The New Jersey Historical Society tries to put the matter into perspective

If you can overlook the terrible background image, here’s a first-hand eyewitness account

This page goes into the hysteria surrounding the 1909 sightings

A page all about JD for the kids

A brief article about the historical activities of the Devil

A Jersey Devil action figure, with bonus Mothman action figure!

Homepage of the Jersey Devil club

A Jersey Devil photo?

Another exhaustive JD page

These mad, rash fools actually go out looking for JD

Ah, these must be JD photos, they’re blurry, as all good monster photos are

JD, Mothman…they’re just pterosaurs that survived to the present day

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For about a year in the late 60s, the city of Point Pleasent in West Virginia was terrorized by a strange beast. Mostly it seemed to just chase people around in their cars or look in windows at them. It was described as a bird-like creature as tall as a man, with glowing red eyes in its chest. The incidents probably would have been largely forgotten by history as just another example of the weirdness scares that seemed to pop up regularly during the height of Cold War paranoia, except for two things. One, paranormal journalist John Keel went to investigate the sightings and became intimately involved in the events (one could almost say to the point of tainting any possibility of real research ever getting done) and two, in December 1967 the Silver Bridge collapsed, killing forty-six people, an event believed to have been “predicted” by the Mothman. The explanations for what Mothman were range from the terrestial (a mutant owl), the extra-terrestrial (Aliens!), and the other dimensional (beings from a higher plane of reality inserting themselves into our three dimensional time space continuum in order to conduct experiments on us–and, oh man, do I wish I were making that last one up).

It’s all bunk, of course. Oh sure, something happened in Point Pleasent. But what we’re probably looking at here is the most well documented case of mass hysteria affecting a small regional area, egged on by a glory-seeking “investigator” desperate to become part of the story, and people traumitized by a disaster searching for some kind of rational explanation for what befell them.
He looks really freaking cool though.

The inevitable Wikipedia entry

The official page of the Mothman festival

Pictures from the Mothman festival

The Mothman investigation

A Mothman retrospective, with a gallery of covers of Keel’s book The Mothman Prophecies (I have the one with the Frazetta cover)
The only problem with this site is that it seems to think that the damn book is any good at all. It’s not.

A list of the people who have died in connection to the Mothman case

An exhaustive account of the Mothman case

Eyewitness accounts of the Mothman

Disnformation’s Mothman page, with more links than you can shake a stick at

Cryptozoologist Loren Coleman responds to this Blogcritics review of the Richard Gere Mothman film based loosely on John Keel’s book

This page has a picture of the Mothman action figure (it’s not a doll!)

Kick ass Mothman statue

Production notes for the film The Mothman Prophecies

An article on an apparently never released Mothman film by Doug TenNapel (it doesn’t look at all like a rehash of the “science=bad” tone of most of his comics work…)

Mothman sightings in Texas, by people whose names link them to the Point Pleasent case

Why do Mothman’s eyes glow red

Is the Mothman a Thunderbird…because, you know, it makes more sense than four-dimensional beings messing with our heads

The Spoil-Sports Guide to Mothman

Mothman-The Band

Shoot the Mothman Flash Game

Point Pleasent, a Mothman comic from APE Entertainment

Mothman-The Entomologist

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See, I told you the monster count-down wasn’t going to be what you expected…

I’m just not that into the traditional horror monsters. Vampires, zombies, ghosts, witches…they just aren’t that scary. They’re too strongly rooted in various folk traditions to strike me as anything but quaint. (I will confess to having a fondness for werewolves, but that’s purely a symbolism thing, and nothing to do with the fact that werewolf movies generally have lots of male nudity.) Plus, they’re too human. Let’s face it, monsters should be strange, alien and weird. They should be outside human experience, not just a dead guy in a bad tux.

And so, El Chupacabras. I first became aware of him in the mid-90s. In Southern California we have a lot of slow news days, and a large Spanish-speaking population, so we started to hear about the mysterious creature in Puerto Rico killing livestock early on. It was mostly in a highly suspicious, “it’s the Mexican version of Bigfoot!” style of reporting, but never outright saying that of course the animals were just attacked by wild dogs. I just thought it was a really cool looking monster, just preposterous enough to be really enjoyable. And those rows of spikes are so distinguished looking.

Wikipedia’s Chupacabras page, notable mainly for explaining the entomology of the word and explaining why it looks like a plural in its singular form.

Chupacabras song lyrics

Why, it’s a blurry photograph of something at a distance, it must be proof that Chupacabras exists.

A scientific paper noting the lack of rigor mortis or blood clotting in Chupacabras victims, also a link to UFO sightings. Of course.

A brief timeline of Chupacabras sightings, including a possible pre-Columbian carving of one.

A dessicated, mummified Chupacabras corpse was found in New Mexico. It must be real, and not just a Jenny Haniver. (image via)

This Italian site has a photo of a fresher Chupacabras corpse, or possibly it’s a dead ghoul. In any case, it’s certainly not just a dead coyote with mange and skin parasites.

Japanese “mystery figure” style Chupacabras figures (via)

Mexican Chupacabras robot toy.(via)

Gallery of Chupacabras themed t-shirts.

Lots of utterly convincing Chupacabras photos, including some very rare sound files.

True tales of encounters with Chupacabras.

This page has a trailer for a Chupacabras film staring John Rhys-Davies and Giancarlo Esposito.

The Spoil-Sports Guide to the Chupacabras

Account of an expedition to find the Chupacabras. Also, scroll down a bit on this page for the actual film of the expedition.

Is the goat-legged creature of Calaveras County…a Chupacabras?

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