Category: Fictionalysis

Fictionalysis – Cryptid Tier List II

Bigfoot, Nessie and Squonk; in my first cryptid tier list post, I went over a few high-key cryptids so as to outline some of the more common archetypes seen in these stories of supposedly-real subjects. What we found were creatures who defined themselves with uncanny characteristics and monsters who played heavily into our own human curiosity. The quality of these commonplace cryptids varied wildly, proving that even the most outlandish of ideas can gain a following. This time, we’re going to be delving into the B-listers and seeing if we can find better or worse executions of the well-known enigmatic aberrations. 

As a refresher, the aim of this list is to determine the overall storytelling quality of these cryptids. Believability, uniqueness and versatility are the key components that I’m looking for, the aspects which form the narrative of these creatures. Once I’ve analyzed these points, I will tier them using a letter grading system between S and D. S-tiers are the standouts and D-tiers are the utter wastes of time. It bears noting, though, that a D-tier might not necessarily be a bad idea, just that it’s a bad cryptid. You could have a solid physical creature design but if doesn’t have much going for it past that then it probably isn’t going to get a high grade. That in mind, let’s get into today’s cryptids.

Loveland Frog

The first artist’s interpretation of this creature did not fill me with hope when I started reading about the Loveland Frog. I made a big deal in my last post about the idea of honing in on specific, unique attributes of a creature while never offering the full picture. This allows a reader to contort the image in their mind in such a way that it fits within their uncanny valley, therefore making it more engaging and believable. More often than not, cryptids are actually extremely silly looking in execution and seeing these ridiculous depictions is the quickest way to plummet the believability factor right down to zero. Unfortunately, the Loveland Frog immediately suffers for this fact. 

Let’s not call it early, though, perhaps the story itself has something worthwhile to offer! Just as Mothman and the Dover Demon, the Loveland Frog has multiple separate sightings going for it. The first of them supposedly happening in 1955 when a businessman saw not one but three Loveland Frogs. The physical description for them in this sighting is quite interesting, detailing the Frogs as specifically having the head-shape and faces of frogs along with leathery, hairless skin and webbed hands and feet. This might just be me but I would imply the rest of the creature to be more traditionally human-like in nature as opposed to the artistic depiction which shows it as just a big, standing frog. I would argue that my implied version would be far more uncanny and that feeds into my earlier point, because I saw the version which I perceive as being sillier I’m less inclined to engage with this creature and form my own image. 

The fact that there were multiple Frogs is also quite interesting. With Mothman and the Dover Demon, they were the only of their kind which achieves a couple of things. First of all, in being so unique and rare it becomes easy to justify why they aren’t sighted more often. Second, it allows them to be described as abnormal mutations which spurs feelings of creepiness and mystery while adding another layer of justification to them. The Frogs being multiple implies that they are a species, an outcome of evolution, which can be a double-edged sword. The idea that evolution could make this happen is creepy and it could make for some interesting stories while also giving people the hope of being able to see one themselves, though dependant on the creature it can feel like a stretch and it becomes harder to justify how they stay hidden. I would say that the Loveland Frog, as it’s presented, leans closer to being a stretch. 

At this point, I would say that this first sighting is a good establishment of the cryptid given we take away the artistic interpretation. However, there is another problem with the Loveland Frogs. It’s noted that they converse with each other, which is a good touch as it implies intelligence. Intelligence they would need to stay out of the sight of humans. They are then described as holding a wand or metal cylinder which emits sparks. It doesn’t track for this to be a firecracker or anything of the like for more reasons than just the fact that these creatures still live in/near the water and the idea of them having an actual magic wand is just dumb. No one is going to believe in a cryptid which is a frog wizard. An important part of being a cryptid is the possibility of being real and this ain’t it chief. 

The others don’t really add much, pretty much just being accounts of people seeing the creature. Preferably, other notable accounts of a cryptid should expand on it and give it more attributes for us to theorize about. The Loveland Frog could have been a lot better if, instead of randomly having sparklers during the first sighting, they were seen using human tools in the second. This would further display their intelligence and pose them as actually being uncomfortably close to us in that regard, leading us to question just how advanced they are. Instead, we get some wacky nonsense followed by actually nothing which ends up being dismissed as a pet iguana sighting. The Loveland Frog has potential, though the stumbles in its narrative and associated visual interpretations make it difficult for me to rate it highly as a cryptid.

Loveland Frog Rank: C

Honey Island Swamp Monster

With the Loveland Frog joining Mothman and the Dover Demon in C-tier, it seems that these types of cryptid are surprisingly difficult to execute. Although, perhaps it is hard to make people in the modern age believe in supposed sightings spouted by random civilians. The stories of these cryptids just never seem to focus on the right details and as a result they end up being far too silly. Given that fact, I’m happy to say that the Honey Island Swamp Monster appears to be the execution of this archetype that I’ve been looking for.

The first thing we always look for are the uncanny features and this Swamp Monster certainly covers that criteria. It’s supposedly seven-foot tall, has disproportionately large eyes, thin legs yet a large chest and shoulders and grey hair all over its body. This is enough to give us a pretty striking image in our minds without revealing too much. While we could assume that it’s humanoid, it was first seen on all-fours and is even compared to a lion when seen from behind. There’s a variety of ways we could interpret this creature and that’s a great thing. While the man who originally sighted it apparently said that the eyes were its most outstanding feature, we can hone in on what we find creepiest about it. Personally, I would say it’s the hair, long on its head so as to hide what it is. 

The second account related to the creature does something interesting in that the creature isn’t actually seen a second time. Instead, we are told of the trail of murdered yet uneaten boar bodies that are assumed to have become prey to the Swamp Monster. This tells us that it is not only a hunter but how it kills while adding the further mystery of why it just leaves the bodies. The first boar is said to have been dead for a day or two and yet no other creatures touched it, which is an interesting detail. The image of the third boar’s blood pouring from its neck into the water is not only genuinely creepy but also hints that the blood might be what it wants. Again, enough details are left for us to draw our own conclusions, which is what makes these types of cryptid work. 

The plaster cast tracks of the monster is also a fantastic touch. It’s an odd and unique element which adds a level of realism to this cryptid which has been missing from those I’ve covered prior. Rather than some silly artistic interpretation, these tracks become the iconic image for the Swamp Monster and that works because, again, it’s just one detail from which we are left to imagine the creature who left them. Then, once we finally get that image in our minds, we have to wonder how such a creature thrives in its swampy environment and how aquatically capable it is and if it uses the cover of underwater to catch unsuspecting prey. There’s so much to consider here and I’m glad to see that these types of cryptids don’t all fall into the same traps.

Honey Island Swamp Monster Rank: S

Skunk Apes

While I would have liked to avoid any Bigfoot-likes after covering the original since they’re all very likely to be just the same, the name ‘Skunk Ape’ really drew me in. Given it has a name like that, I really don’t know what I expected. I’m going to be honest, I am somewhat impressed that some crazy managed to make a business out of Bigfoot-but-smelly. Like the Honey Island Swamp Monster, the Skunk Ape lives in a more swampy environment yet this fact isn’t really used to add anything to the cryptid’s lore. That just happens to be where the Skunk Ape is. There’s note of it picking up its stink in alligator dens, which could be interesting but that fact isn’t further expanded on.

To review, the major positive of Bigfoot is the human-like implications of the way it walks. This positioned it as being a more advanced primate species, perhaps even comparable to humans in that regard. The Skunk Ape is the same, though I can’t really give it any credit for this fact since it’s completely unoriginal. The Skunk Ape absolutely feels like a lazy scam which rides on the popularity of Bigfoot. The one original thing it does have going for it could have been used to separate the two but reading up on this creature it feels like more of an afterthought. All in all, this is just a lazy copy and a great example for why I want to avoid Bigfoot-likes going forward. 

Skunk Ape Rank: D

Mongolian Death Worm

The first thing which separates the Mongolian Death Worm from other cryptids is the fact that it doesn’t seem to be sourced from a couple of conveniently documented incidents. Rather, it is something which has spread across Mongolian culture thanks to an unknown number of accounts. If multiple accounts helps to make a cryptid more believable, which I think is the case, then the worm has a lot going for it. There is, however, a drawback to not having iconic sightings to latch on to. That being that the accounts of the creature are expectedly scattered and inconsistent. In the death worm’s case, debate lies around its size, whether or not it has a mouth and if it can or can’t produce an electrical discharge. 

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it, once again, leaves us to form our own version of the creature, however we do need a consistent base body on which to apply these features. Thankfully, the worm has that with its striking image of being red and intestine-like. The native name for the Death Worm, Olgoi-Khorkhoi, even translates to intestine worm. I would say that the idea of a living intestine is rather disturbing so, despite not being human or humanoid in nature, the Death Worm still manages to intrigue us. This gross interest is only pushed further by the stories of it killing camels and laying eggs inside their intestines, turning them the same shade of red in the process. 

Knowing that it can kill such large creatures with ease and turns them into a part of its reproductive cycle establishes it as being scary and threatening to us. That just leaves the question of how it actually kills. Well, being literally called a ‘Death’ worm, you can imagine it has a few methods. The most reasonable of which being the fact that it can spit venom, which is fairly standard. Then, there’s the prevalent claim that it can kill upon touch, which is more difficult to swallow but given how there are frogs who produce poisons of such potency it isn’t outside of the realm of possibility. The most ridiculous of the Death Worm’s killing methods has to be the aforementioned electrical discharge. It seems that not many actually believe the Death Worm can do this and for good reason. It’s kind of silly and I don’t see why a creature would have such an ability when they live in a desert. 

It has been determined that the Mongolian Death Worm is more likely a reptile of some sort rather than actually being a worm, either a snake or some type of legless lizard. This discussion on the worm’s true nature, theorizing on how it could actually exist, helps to bump up its believability despite a lack of evidence. Furthermore, it does make way for stories in which people determine the true nature of the creature despite the danger it poses. I think the only downfall to this cryptid is the fact that not much can really be done with it with regards to story writing. Though it has many things going in its favor, the Death Worm is in essence just a Very Dangerous Creature. In that regard it’s the best cryptid I’ve seen so far, yet that alone isn’t enough for it to hit the S-rank. 

Monglian Death Worm Rank: A

Flatwoods Monster

Here we get into a subject that I’ve somehow managed to avoid up until this point, a cryptid who has elements of being extraterrestrial. I would be willing to argue that a majority of UFO or alien sightings are cryptid-like in nature, even if the concept of aliens is separate from that of cryptids. Oddly enough, I would say that these sightings are very similar in nature to how I described Nessie and other lake monsters in the first post. People ‘see’ them and want to believe in them because of our own curiosity. Even if the stories of the sightings are baseless or crazy, the vastness of space from which aliens come allows us to suspend our disbelief. It’s nigh-impossible to prove that there aren’t aliens of some sort out there, which draws us to the idea of them. Basically, what I’m saying is that aliens are Nessie.

Now, since it’s impossible to know exactly what form an extraterrestrial race would have, it’s very difficult to gauge the believability for such entities. The premise of being alien does give them some breathing room when it comes to outlandish design, though I would say it still has to have some merit. By that I mean, these aliens still have to look like functioning, living beings. The image associated with with the Flatwoods Monster, which makes it out to be an angry dinner plate and claws wrapped in clothing, does not fill this criteria. Really, it’s the face that makes this cryptid look more stupid than anything, oversized eyes can be a good detail but not when they’re exaggerated to the point of being literal car headlights.

The weird clothes? Fine, aliens would likely have different materials and tailoring techniques to us. Clawed hands? Completely viable, especially seeing as we don’t know their evolutionary line. Also tells us that they’re perhaps more natural/instinctual hunters when compared to us. Giving a bestial trait to an entity who is intelligent enough to reach our planet from wherever they’re from is somewhat odd but not a deal-breaker. The ten-foot height? While obviously just an exaggerated feature to make it feel more intimidating, an alien could come from a planet with a higher percentage of oxygen than us and therefore be bigger. At least, I’m fairly sure that’s how it works. The point is that a race which is taller than us isn’t beyond belief. Regardless, these are all facts that have to be considered when making an alien race. What are the conditions of their planet and what does their society look like considering how advanced they must surely be?

That’s why I’m not really a fan of alien sightings like this one, where it hisses and charges at the group who saw it. That makes it out to be far less intelligent than it should be and begs the question why did it even come to our world? Just to attack us? Clearly it’s not suited to that, seeing as it failed to catch the first humans it saw. This ‘why’ is so important when it comes to aliens and when it’s completely indiscernible like this I would say you have a bad alien. Instead, you have a case where the group in question very clearly just saw an animal of some kind and it boggles my mind how they could receive any attention at all. This is a shoddily thought-out hoax, functioning best as an example of how not to create an alien cryptid. 

Flatwoods Monster Rank: D

Scape Ore Swamp Lizard Man

Swamp-associated creatures seem to be the theme in this post because here we have another one. Unfortunately, it seems the Lizard Man of Scape Ore Swamp is going to be another which misses the mark. The fact that it’s a reptile seems to be entirely arbitrary, only being one so as to separate from the swathes of primate cryptids that’re going around. Surely enough it’s the only unique thing about it, with its other features being taller than a human and having red-eyes. You know, the most generic ‘scary’ features known to mankind. 

The primary quota of this creature, going from the stories I’m seeing, seems to be causing moderate damage to cars. This isn’t necessarily awful since the broken pieces and scratch marks could be used in the same way as the Honey Island Monster’s tracks to create unique and perceivable traces of the creature. The problem is that, on their own, they just aren’t substantial enough. Without any other kind of supplementary evidence or reason for us to believe that this is a lizard man, we can just say it was a bear and be done with it. This is just another run-in-the-mill lazy cryptid ‘sighting’ manufactured just to make merchandise, I have no reason to believe it’s anything other than that. If it tried at all to play into the fact that it’s reptilian then I might give it a C but it doesn’t, so this cryptid has nothing.

Scape Ore Swamp Lizard Man Rank: D

Pope Lick Monster

The Pope Lick Monster turned out to be a very difficult cryptid to approach, having several different supposed backstories and a fair amount of supplementary lore behind it. The most prevalent story seems to portray it as a former circus freak who was mistreated until it decided to get revenge against all of humanity. Other stories say that he was the product of a sexual relationship between a farmer and his sheep or that a farmer sacrificed goats in exchange for satanic power. To be honest, I don’t see why not all of these can be true. A farmer commits bestiality but when the sheep and goats of the farm produce no offspring for him he takes to murdering them, warping into the goat man. His mind collapsed because of the transformation, he was subsequently picked up by a travelling circus who mistreated him until rage was all that was left within him.

At the very least, I have to concede that the Pope Lick Monster has a fair amount of story writing potential right off the bat. Whether or not those stories could ever be believable… Yeah, I think I can say we’re sacrificing believability for versatility here. We’re absolutely looking at more of a fantasy backstory than anything possibly rooted in reality. By physical design, there’s nothing about the Pope Lick Monster which makes it too outlandish by cryptid standards, being a humanoid with goat/sheep features to make it uncanny. It’s 100% the lore of it which tosses it outside of the cryptid criteria. 

This fact becomes even more pertinent when we get into how this creature supposedly functions/kills. Its most realistic method is use of a blood-stained axe, which feeds into both the sacrificial and brutal vengeance backstories well. Particularly the goat-sacrifice backgrounds as we can imply that the axe was its method of sacrifice. Then we get into the satanic powers, wherein it mimics voices to lure people or just straight up uses hypnosis. Don’t get me wrong, I think voice mimicry is one of the best creepy abilities out there and it works especially well with figures whose upper-halves are decidedly non-human. It’s just paired with the hypnosis and everything else about the backstory it’s only becoming less likely for people to suspend their disbelief.

This creature is also tied to a railroad trestle bridge over Pope Lick Creek and supposedly lures people into either being hit by the train or falling from the trestle. Given its backstory, the connection between this cryptid and the railroad seems very random. It isn’t intrinsically tied to any railways and I don’t see any reason why it would use such a roundabout fashion to kill victims. While the question of how the Monster and the railway are connected could make for another story, it’s just another of disconnect when it comes to the creature as a cryptid. Overall, I feel like this is a fun enough entity, though it falls apart when one tries to define it as a cryptid.

Pope Like Monster Rank: C

Beast of Bray Road

I said that the Pope Lick Monster was a difficult cryptid to approach and then the Beast of Bray Road leapt into my life. The accounts of this creature are so vastly inconsistent that, even though its defining trait is that it’s a werewolf, it might not be a werewolf. It might instead just be a bunch of random animals that people saw or other cryptids that were apparently just roaming the area. There doesn’t really seem to be any defining sightings to look over so I’m left to believe that this cryptid spawned from just a bunch of people seeing random things. Following the werewolf route, it seems that it was just one in a string of werewolf sightings and I could not honestly find what made this one unique. 

In the Mongolian Death Worm section, I said that a vast number of scattered accounts could work in favor of the cryptid in question. However, that’s only if the people who sighted it agree on its most general and defining features. This doesn’t seem to be the case here, depending on where you look the Beast of Bray Road is either a werewolf or just a Bigfoot-like or actually just random animals. I tore into the Scape Ore Swamp Lizard Man for being vague but this really takes the cake, I cannot see how people managed to turn this mess into a cryptid. It feels like, after the sightings, werewolf was just something it was arbitrarily defined as so as to separate it from the Bigfoot-likes. There’s no justification for why it’s a werewolf and not just a wolfman, we just have to believe that it is one because??? It’s too discordant, too vague, there’s no mystery here only confusion.

Beast of Bray Road Rank: D

Ozark Howler

Oh boy, another creature which is built off of varying descriptions. Thankfully, it seems that there is some level of consensus surrounding this one as opposed to the scattered nonsense of the Beast of Bray Road. Ozark Howler, a creature whose name looks as if it belongs on a Yugioh card, is the size of a bear, has a thin, stocky body, shaggy hair, the beard of a goat, glowing red eyes and horns protruding out of its head. It also might have a long or short tail, depending on who you ask. There’s also some debate as to if the creature is feline in nature. You got all that? Don’t bother if you don’t, we’re absolutely throwing this physical description immediately into the trash. 

This is another example of a creature who has way too much going on with it. I like the concept of a creature which uses bear as a base rather than a primate, bears are innately intimidating and since many bigfoot-likes are most likely just bears anyways the Howler could play into that and therefore become more difficult to disprove. The thin body takes away from that a bit but so long as the paws are intact it’s not completely ruinous. Shaggy hair on a bear is a unique and uncanny feature, that’s fine, then we get to beard of a goat, glowing red eyes and horns. These are the ‘you’re trying too hard’ features which utterly discredit the cryptid in an attempt to make it seem scarier. Let me make this clear, just telling us about random features doesn’t make the cryptid scary!

I wouldn’t even mind the debate on its potential feline nature if it weren’t for this overblown mess of features. It would add another layer of uncanniness and reasonably throw into question if, under the already mentioned shaggy hair, there is a warped bear or a gargantuan cat. This would be a good example of uncertainty because both bear and big cat tracks could be argued to be the Howler. Presented well, this could be a decent creature, it just unfortunately isn’t. Believability is a cliff and those spoooky demonic features pushed the Howler way over the edge. Homing in on the howling aspect of the creature is another great way of separating it from other cryptids and making it unique. That factor places the thought in people’s minds that, when they hear a howl they don’t recognize, it could be the howler. All of the elements for a good cryptid are here, it just isn’t put together properly. Put together with a lack of real story behind it, the Howler ends up in an unfortunately low tier in this list.

Ozark Howler Rank: C

Tsuchinoko

The Tsuchinoko, arguably one of the deepest cryptids out there, bears a name with two meanings. The first is ‘child of dirt’, which symbolizes the absolutely control over the earth that the Tsuchinoko holds. They are able to blend into their surroundings so well that it could be argued that they are one with the world, the emissaries of the planet’s will. The other name of the Tsuchinoko, ‘child of hammer’, supports this theory. They are the gaval which brings down judgement upon those who walk the surface, the modern-day mjolnir which no human could ever wish to grasp. The wide belly of the Tsuchinoko, which separates it from its serpentine brethren, is such so that no human could ever wrap their hands around it. 

You might have noticed that both of the Tsuchinoko’s names have the word ‘child’ in them. This is because the Tsuchinoko bears eternal youth, having cast away the flow of time so as to forever be the earth’s arbiter. You might think that being in the air would keep you safe from the Tsuchinoko’s discretion, however gravity and space are no boundaries for this majestic creature. Even while in the air, it can leap a second time to catch those who attempt to look down upon it. You can never hope to outrun the Tsuchinoko, for it can bite its own tail and become a hoop to roll down hills at blistering speeds. This infinite form represents the fact that you can never escape from the Tsuchinoko once it has deemed you unworthy. It will never run from an adversary and nothing can block its path, if the Tsuchinoko comes for you then you should be prepared to receive the venom in its fangs. 

Tsuchinoko Rank: Real