Travis Laurence Naught

A Less than Handy Guide to Cryptids in the United States

Travis Laurence Naught looks at our fascination with folkloristic creatures and our pursuit to capture if they’re real or merely overly active parts of our imagination.

 

Imagination is a powerful tool. Magellan imagined a world where if he sailed far enough west he would end up coming back home from directions east of his departure. The man flew in the flat face of conventional wisdom and uncovered a whole new world. Imagine if he had found a lamp, or allowed a princess on deck with him … I digress.

The thing is, people only know what they know until someone else proves them wrong. It is this worldwide history of being proved wrong that gives hope to those who believe in what many would call the unbelievable. Pandas, mountain gorillas, and coelacanths are a few of the more bragged upon discoveries by cryptozoologists. But it’s not that no one knew about these creatures’ existences, it was WHO knew.

A popular comedian (meaning millions of people laugh at their material, I don’t care if you like them or not) makes a joke about a fish that is caught and then released. Kathleen Madigan gives a chuckle-worthy setup followed by a punchline dealing with all the other fish not believing the stories told by their returned friend. Science might have some deeper questions, but if Neil deGrasse Tyson swore to seeing Bigfoot, there would be much less speculation regarding its simple existence.

 

If Neil deGrasse Tyson swore to seeing Bigfoot, there would be much less speculation regarding its simple existence.

 

Proof is the long-lamented failing in regards to the acceptance of any mythical beast in modern culture. Evidence in the form of bones, a body, or even high definition video is lacking. Many people would have to be bitten in the neck, smacked in the face, or dragged underwater by one of these cryptids before coalescing to certify them as real.

Chupacabra is more than happy to answer that call! Stop with all the fancy lighting and video cameras to try and catch evidence of it attacking your goats. Grab a stick, preferably a willowy branch of some sort so as not to harm the poor thing when you swing wildly at it, and stumble across unfamiliar territory in the Texas desert some night. Mind the occasional shimmy vibrations of upset diamondbacks, reserve the urge to howl back at the coyotes, and if you hear the screech of a wayward puma, it’s perfectly acceptable to piss your pants. The best times for encountering Chupacabra are between 3:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m., just when the darkest part of the night prepares to harken in the day. Leave your cell phone on when you go, though; that way the location of your dried remains can be traced.

Sasquatch, including its plethora of incarnate references, is a little less zealous to be found out. Generations of recognition by America’s indigenous populations have been widely ignored by the current reigning oligarchy. Still, the prideful species cannot help gallivanting across video screens at inopportune times (gotta maintain some mystery) and peeking in on rural residents every now and then (Look out your window, surprise!). Plenty of organizations bring together city and country folk in search of this great hairy beast in some of the most remote regions left in this country. Maybe they’re trying too hard. They need to leave all those fancy gadgets behind, borrow a family member of mine, and walk about a mile into the nearest woods. I won’t name any names, but his belief about a large, smelly ape predates my life … and my parents’ lives. That kind of belief is sure to draw interest from any ’squatch that might be in the area.

And lo, this article would be remiss to not mention monsters of the deep. The Paddler, Champy, Ogopogo, and many more creatures of the deep are the North American equivalent of Nessie. Each seems like it would be the easiest of oddities to disprove, considering they reportedly live in areas of finite space. Use a submersible! Hell, use a whole team of submersibles and dive into every nook and cranny beneath those glassy surfaces! Don’t worry, you don’t look anything like a tasty treat while dressed up like a human-sized fishing lure.

The scariest thought surrounding any of these cryptids might just be that they do not exist. Websites like Mysterious Universe bring together groups of people who find a social life by debating and investigating strange news. For some it’s a pastime, for others it’s a way of life. With access to so many powerful tools at hand, it seems there should be more certainty in disregarding any of their existences as myth. But, every time the world seems done with thinking they might exist, another plant sprouts from the seeds of mystery sewn deeply in the gardens of our collective imagination.

 

Travis Laurence Naught

Travis Laurence Naught is an author who happens to be a quadriplegic wheelchair user. Individual poems, stories, and various other material by Travis have been published online (Section 8 Magazine, Empty Sink Publishing, Damfino Press, and others) and in print (Gold Man Review, Lost Coast Review, Empirical Magazine, and more). His first book of poetry, The Virgin Journals (ASD Publishing, 2012), is currently out of print, but copies can still be found. Check out naughtapoet.blogspot.com for more information and original writing by Travis.

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