You've heard of Bigfoot, Nessie, and the Abominable Snowman. Here are a few of their more obscure (but just as fascinating) cousins.
Where it lived: Ethiopia
Legend: Latin for "shade foot", these relatively peaceful creatures were first recorded in around A.D. 77 by the Roman historian Pliny the Elder. They were said to live in the wilds of what is now Ethiopia and were described as small, pale, humanlike creatures-but with only one leg and a giant foot. They hopped around on that giant foot, but they also used it as sun shade: Sciopods supposedly spent several hours a day lying on their backs with their giant feet in the air to block the harsh North African sun. Sciopods were extremely powerful, too. They could kill a large game animal (or a human) with a single jumping kick. But never fear-the strange creatures didn't eat meat. Or plants. Or anything. They existed solely on the aroma of living fruit, with they always carried with them. Sciopods are mentioned in numerous writings over several centuries, ending sometime in the Middle Ages.
(Image credit: Flickr user Miss Cellania)
Where it lived: Arkansas
Legend: This monster was first heard of in the 1880s, when Arkansas farmers reported being terrorized by a huge lizard. In 1897 Fred Allsopp, a reporter for the Arkansas Gazette, wrote about an encounter with the beast. The monster, which Allsopp named a "gowrow" after the sound it made, had been eating livestock in the Ozark Mountains in the northwest of the state. A local business man named William Miller formed a posse to hunt and kill it. They found its lair, which was littered with animal (and human) bones, and waited for it. It surprised them by emerging from a nearby lake and attacking them-but they were able to kill it with several gunshots. Miller described the gowrow as being 20 feet long, with huge tusks, webbed and clawed feet, a row of horns along its spine, and a knifelike end to a long tail. He said he sent the body to the Smithsonian Institute-but it mysteriously never made it. Allsopp finished the article by saying he believed it was a "great fake", but sightings of a similar lizardlike creature were reported in the Ozarks for many years.
(Image credit: Flickr user Luciana Christante)Monster: Encantado
Where it lives: The Amazon River
Legend: Encantado means "enchanted one" in Portuguese and refers to a special kind of boto, or long-beaked river dolphin native to the Amazon-that can take human form. Encantados are curious about humans and are especially attracted to big, noisy festivals, which they often attend as musicians, staying in human form for years. How can you recognize one? Look under its hat: They always have bald spots that are actually disguised blowholes. Encantados are usually friendly, but they occasionally hypnotize and kidnap young women and take them back to the Encante, their underground city. Sometimes the women escape and return...pregnant with an Encantado baby.
Where it lives: Japan
Legend: Kappas are said to inhabit lakes and rivers throughout the Japanese islands. They look like frogs, but with tortoiselike shells on their backs. They can leave the water-carrying their shells with them-because they have shallow depressions in their heads in which they keep a bit of water that not only allows them to walk around on land but also makes them incredibly strong. If you encounter one, bow to it. They're very polite, so they'll have to bow back to you...and the water will spill out of their head-bowls, weakening them. Their favorite food: the blood of small children. Their second-favorite: cucumbers. That's why you can still see people in Japan throwing fresh cucumbers into lakes and rivers-with the names of their children carved into them. This, the legend says, will protect their little ones from the kappa's clutches.
__________The article above is reprinted with permission from Uncle John's Endlessly Engrossing Bathroom Reader.
Since 1988, the Bathroom Reader Institute had published a series of popular books containing irresistible bits of trivia and obscure yet fascinating facts.
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