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A Map of the United Monsters of America

One corner of the animal kingdom is immune from extinction: the monsters that thrive in our imagination (and on this map).

Image © Hog Island Press, reproduced with kind permission.

The natural world is losing up to 2,000 species a year, and that's a low estimate. Fortunately, one corner of the animal kingdom is immune from extinction: the monsters that thrive in our imagination. This map unites America's most famous cryptids on one map, from Caddy, a Northwestern sea serpent, over Nebraska's Alkali Lake monster to the skunk apes of Southern Florida.


There's a whole discipline dedicated to the study of beasts unknown to science: cryptozoology, literally 'the study of hidden animals'. Although frowned upon by mainstream science, some of these 'hidden animals' have actually been proven to exist. The giraffe-like okapi of Central Africa was confirmed only in 1901. Indonesia's komodo dragon seemed too fantastical to be true until 1912, when its existence finally could be documented. These two species share the questionable distinction of having their existence threatened (by us) so soon after being discovered (by us).

Until science discovers evidence for the Loch Ness monster, the Himalayan yeti or any of their fellow cryptids (i.e. 'hidden creatures'), these monsters will have the good fortune to be as uncountable as they are unaccounted for, free to roam and multiply in our campfire stories and our folklore. The United States has quite a few of these cryptids, some famous, like the Mothman or the Chupacabra, some perhaps only known (and feared) locally, like the Beast of Busco or the Pope Lick Monster.

Image © Hog Island Press, reproduced with kind permission. Map found here.

As shown on the map, which brings them together for the first time, most cryptids are concentrated in the eastern third of the US. Perhaps not surprising: that's where most people live, thus presumable also an agreeable environment for monsters (as notable for their attention-seeking as for their camera-shyness). Further west, monsterdom is spread more thinly, with just 15 out of 32 cryptids mentioned on the map occurring in the two thirds of the land mass west of the Mississippi. So, which are America's favourite monsters?

1. Alkali Lake Monster

A 40-feet horned reptile said to inhabit Nebraska's Walgren Lake (formerly Alkali Lake). Favorite treat: livestock and fishermen. Stinks to high heaven. More at American Monsters.

2. Altamaha-Ha

A 30-foot creature navigating the mount of Georgia's Altamaha River with seal-like movements, blending in to its surroundings thanks to its green skin. A.k.a.: Altie. Possible footage of the monster here.

3. Bear Lake Monster

Although the person who first reported the Monster of Bear Lake, on the Utah-Idaho border, later admitted it was a “wonderful, first-class lie", his tall tale has continued to generate numerous sightings, turning the 30-foot 'water devil' into a modest tourist attraction. More at American Folklore.

4. Beast of Busco

In 1949, inhabitants of Churubusco, Indiana reported seeing a giant snapping turtle which, despite a month-long turtle-hunt, managed to evade its pursuers. The town now boasts a statue of 'Oscar the Turtle', and annual Turtle Days, held in June. More at Unknown Explorers.

5. Bessie

Loch Ness has Nessie, Lake Erie has... Bessie. Snake-like and between 30 and 40 feet, Bessie was first sighted as far back as 1793. A.k.a.: South Bay Bessie. Has its own comic book series.

6. Bigfoot

Perhaps North America's most famous cryptid, this large, hairy apeman is said to inhabit the forests of the Pacific Northwest. Bigfoot (a.k.a.: Sasquatch) has left an aptly large imprint on American popular culture, figuring in countless TV series, movies and even a musical. The famous picture, claimed by some to show a genuine Bigfoot, by others a man in a gorilla suit, can be seen here.

7. Big Bird

A giant, ape-faced bird that terrorized the Rio Grande Valley. First spotted in 1976, it has blood-red eyes and a 12-feet wingspan. After a few months, the monster disappeared as mysteriously as it had emerged. Could it have been a jabiru, a Central American stork, as claimed by the Brownsville Herald?

8. Caddie

Named after Cadboro Bay in British Colombia, Caddie is a sea monster said to frequent the coasts of Washington and Oregon. A.k.a.: Cadborosaurus willsi. More at The Cryptid Zoo.

9. Cassie

Maine and Oregon both have a Portland, and also a sea monster. The Pine Tree State's Casco Bay is home to Cassie. Sea serpents were reported in the area as early as 1751, but have tailed off in the last couple of decades, says Maine Mysteries.

10. Chessie

Chesapeake Bay has its own sea monster – unavoidably called Chessie. Reportedly 25 to 40 feet long, it was sighted most often between the mid-1970s and mid-1980s, and as recently as 2014. Ranked #8 scariest sea serpent by Animal Planet.

11. Champ

The champion among American lake monsters, Champ's habitat is Lake Champlain on the New York/Vermont border. As with many monsters, the numerous contemporary sightings are supported by Native American traditions – in this case, the local Abenaki tribe's stories about a creature called Tatoskok. Last year, the Daily Mail reported on audio recordings presented as evidence of Champ's existence.

12. Chupacabra

The original sighting of the Chupacabra (Spanish for 'goat-sucker') was in the mid-1990s in Puerto Rico, and apparently influenced by a creature in the sci-fi movie Species. A rash of sightings (and mutilated goats) in northern Mexico and the southern US has been linked to mangy dogs. Yet the legend lives on, reports the Huffington Post.

13. Flathead Lake Monster

The Flathead Lake Monster is that Montana Lake's version of Nessie. Strangely, nobody thought of calling it Flessie. More at NBC Montana.

14. Honey Island Swamp Monster

Seven feet tall, with gray hair, red eyes and a foul smell, the Monster of Honey Island Swamp, Louisiana is a hominid cryptid seen since 1963 (but also linked to older Native American myths).

16. Jersey Devil

Winged and hoofed, the Jersey Devil would probably look like a devil, if it could be coaxed out of its lair in New Jersey's Pine Barrens. More info (and t-shirts) here.

17. Kipsy

Or the Hudson River Monster. Could also be an unusually large (and very lost) manatee. See also Cryptid Wiki.

20. Loveland Frogmen

Humanoid frogs about 4 feet tall, first sighted in Loveland, Ohio, and from 2014 stars of their own musical, named Hot Damn! It's the Loveland Frog! More at Who Forted?

21. Mogollon Monster

A Bigfoot-like creature sighted along the Mogollon Rim in central and eastern Arizona. No attested sightings confirm its existence, but the monster does have its own website.

22. Mothman

'Couples See Man-Sized Bird...Creature...Something', titled the Point Pleasant Register on 16 November 1966. The sightings continued for just over a year, popularized by the book The Mothman Prophecies (1975), turned into a 2002 movie starring Richard Gere.

25. Paddler

Is Paddler a real monster in Lake Pend Oreille, Idaho, or is it just a cover story for secret Navy submarine tests? More on Cryptomundo.

26. Pukwudgie

A three-foot humanoid from Wampanoag (Massachusetts) folklore, with enlarged noses, fingers and ears, able to appear and disappear at will, transform into a porcupine, and lure humans to their deaths. Hence best left alone.

27. Pope Lick Monster

The Pope Lick Monster is part man, part bovine, lives under a railway bridge near Louisville, Kentucky, and kills people either by luring them onto the tracks, or jumping down on motorists beneath the bridge. Quite disappointingly, no actual popes were licked in the making of this urban legend. More at the Louisville Ghost Hunters Society.

28. Shunka Warakin

An Ioway term meaning 'carries off dogs', the Shunka Warakin is said to resemble either a hyena or a wolf, or both. One such animal was shot and mounted in 1880s Montana, was displayed in a local store until it mysteriously vanished in the 1980s. 'Ringdocus', as the animal was named, was found again in 2007, according to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.

29. Skunk Apes

A.k.a. Florida Bigfoot, the skunk ape, according to the US National Park Service, does not exist. However, some mysterious photos sent in by an anonymous source, seem to indicate otherwise.

30. Tessie

Another Nessie spin-off, Tessie swims in Lake Tahoe, on the California-Nevada border. After a few dives in the mid-1970s, famed French oceanographer Jacques Cousteau reportedly said: “The world isn't ready for what is down there".

31. Thunderbirds

Large bird-like creatures with enormous wingspans, associated with Native American myths, but sighted (and shot) in modern times; as in one famous (but apocryphical) case in the early 1980s. A picture of a dead thunderbird nailed to a barn in Arizona is one of the many cryptid clues that have 'mysteriously' gone missing. Or is this it?

32. Wampus Cat

A cougar-like cat stalking eastern Tennessee, not unlike the Eewah, a half-woman, half-cougar, from Cherokee mythology. Legend has it that when you hear the Wampus cry, someone will die within the next three days. The Wampus Cat also steals children, and smells awful. More here.

Strange Maps #698

Got a strange map? Let me know at strangemaps@gmail.com.

Hints of the 4th dimension have been detected by physicists

What would it be like to experience the 4th dimension?

Two different experiments show hints of a 4th spatial dimension. Credit: Zilberberg Group / ETH Zürich
Technology & Innovation

Physicists have understood at least theoretically, that there may be higher dimensions, besides our normal three. The first clue came in 1905 when Einstein developed his theory of special relativity. Of course, by dimensions we’re talking about length, width, and height. Generally speaking, when we talk about a fourth dimension, it’s considered space-time. But here, physicists mean a spatial dimension beyond the normal three, not a parallel universe, as such dimensions are mistaken for in popular sci-fi shows.

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A new hydrogel might be strong enough for knee replacements

Duke University researchers might have solved a half-century old problem.

Lee Jae-Sung of Korea Republic lies on the pitch holding his knee during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group F match between Korea Republic and Germany at Kazan Arena on June 27, 2018 in Kazan, Russia.

Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images
Technology & Innovation
  • Duke University researchers created a hydrogel that appears to be as strong and flexible as human cartilage.
  • The blend of three polymers provides enough flexibility and durability to mimic the knee.
  • The next step is to test this hydrogel in sheep; human use can take at least three years.
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Predicting PTSD symptoms becomes possible with a new test

An algorithm may allow doctors to assess PTSD candidates for early intervention after traumatic ER visits.

Image source: camillo jimenez/Unsplash
Technology & Innovation
  • 10-15% of people visiting emergency rooms eventually develop symptoms of long-lasting PTSD.
  • Early treatment is available but there's been no way to tell who needs it.
  • Using clinical data already being collected, machine learning can identify who's at risk.

The psychological scars a traumatic experience can leave behind may have a more profound effect on a person than the original traumatic experience. Long after an acute emergency is resolved, victims of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) continue to suffer its consequences.

In the U.S. some 30 million patients are annually treated in emergency departments (EDs) for a range of traumatic injuries. Add to that urgent admissions to the ED with the onset of COVID-19 symptoms. Health experts predict that some 10 percent to 15 percent of these people will develop long-lasting PTSD within a year of the initial incident. While there are interventions that can help individuals avoid PTSD, there's been no reliable way to identify those most likely to need it.

That may now have changed. A multi-disciplinary team of researchers has developed a method for predicting who is most likely to develop PTSD after a traumatic emergency-room experience. Their study is published in the journal Nature Medicine.

70 data points and machine learning

nurse wrapping patient's arm

Image source: Creators Collective/Unsplash

Study lead author Katharina Schultebraucks of Columbia University's Department Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons says:

"For many trauma patients, the ED visit is often their sole contact with the health care system. The time immediately after a traumatic injury is a critical window for identifying people at risk for PTSD and arranging appropriate follow-up treatment. The earlier we can treat those at risk, the better the likely outcomes."

The new PTSD test uses machine learning and 70 clinical data points plus a clinical stress-level assessment to develop a PTSD score for an individual that identifies their risk of acquiring the condition.

Among the 70 data points are stress hormone levels, inflammatory signals, high blood pressure, and an anxiety-level assessment. Says Schultebraucks, "We selected measures that are routinely collected in the ED and logged in the electronic medical record, plus answers to a few short questions about the psychological stress response. The idea was to create a tool that would be universally available and would add little burden to ED personnel."

Researchers used data from adult trauma survivors in Atlanta, Georgia (377 individuals) and New York City (221 individuals) to test their system.

Of this cohort, 90 percent of those predicted to be at high risk developed long-lasting PTSD symptoms within a year of the initial traumatic event — just 5 percent of people who never developed PTSD symptoms had been erroneously identified as being at risk.

On the other side of the coin, 29 percent of individuals were 'false negatives," tagged by the algorithm as not being at risk of PTSD, but then developing symptoms.

Going forward

person leaning their head on another's shoulder

Image source: Külli Kittus/Unsplash

Schultebraucks looks forward to more testing as the researchers continue to refine their algorithm and to instill confidence in the approach among ED clinicians: "Because previous models for predicting PTSD risk have not been validated in independent samples like our model, they haven't been adopted in clinical practice." She expects that, "Testing and validation of our model in larger samples will be necessary for the algorithm to be ready-to-use in the general population."

"Currently only 7% of level-1 trauma centers routinely screen for PTSD," notes Schultebraucks. "We hope that the algorithm will provide ED clinicians with a rapid, automatic readout that they could use for discharge planning and the prevention of PTSD." She envisions the algorithm being implemented in the future as a feature of electronic medical records.

The researchers also plan to test their algorithm at predicting PTSD in people whose traumatic experiences come in the form of health events such as heart attacks and strokes, as opposed to visits to the emergency department.

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