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Friday, April 19, 2024

California’s creepiest cryptids

Six mysterious creatures you may meet in the golden state 


By SAVANNAH BURGER—arts@theaggie.org


Across the country, there have been numerous reports of mysterious animals, creatures and human-like entities stalking around both rural and urban areas. Some of these sightings date back hundreds of years, with creatures matching accounts of old Indigenous stories still being reported to this day. A number of the most obscure and iconic of these cryptids can be found in our beloved state, California.

California has witnessed the sight of many creatures that have scared the wits out of its inhabitants. While some cryptids have been sighted more than others, no one can deny that each one would be horrifying to see in person. Whether they creep around forests, neighborhoods or even lurk in the depths of lakes, it seems that Californians can walk straight into an unidentified creature at any turn.

To start off, one cannot talk about the cryptids of California without mentioning the quintessential behemoth himself: Bigfoot. While Bigfoot creatures have been featured in various stories and visual depictions for hundreds of years in multiple countries, there has been an especially dense record of spotting this big guy in the Pacific Northwest and especially so in California. 

Bigfoot was popularized following the 1967 Patterson-Gimlin footage of a bi-pedal creature (thought to be Bigfoot) walking across a clearing in a forest located in Willow Creek, California. Although there is major discourse over the validity of the film, it is still unclear whether the mysterious film is a hoax or not. 

As Bigfoot has been majorly popularized and used in marketing in the last 50-or-so years, it’s more than likely that a lot of reported sightings are hoaxes. However, there are many people that swear by their accounts, fear Bigfoot with their lives and go so far as to suggest that there are actually multiple sasquatches, Bigfoot simply being one of many. Whether you believe this or not, be vigilant the next time you go camping.

Another group of cryptids that are known from their cameo on camera are the Fresno Nightcrawlers. First spotted in 2007 on a CCTV camera monitoring a Fresno resident’s home, the Fresno Nightcrawlers are depicted as tall, white, disembodied pairs of legs that come down to a singular point; no feet. In the footage, they slowly and silently walk across the field in front of the security camera. Nobody has debunked this video yet, and the nightcrawlers were spotted again on camera in 2011 in Yosemite National Forest. Are they aliens? Inter-dimensional beings? Nobody has figured it out yet.

On the scarier side of things, not many have heard of the California Dark Watchers. Lurking around the Santa Lucia Mountains that run through Monterey and San Luis Obispo Counties, the dark watchers are pitch-black, humanoid figures that are dressed in cloaks and wide-brimmed hats. They appear between the late afternoon and sometimes even twilight. Known to stay stationary on mountaintops, they also stalk hikers. There’s been accounts written by Spanish conquistadors in the 1700s, describing them as “los vigilantes oscuros,” which directly translates to “the dark watchers.” Watch out for them on your next hike.

Another well-known cryptid, the Tahoe Tessie, is like the Lake Tahoe version of Loch Ness’s “Nessie” in Scotland. There have been sightings of the large, black, serpentine creature since the 1950s, with some sources claiming that lumberjacks recounted seeing the beast in the early logging days of California during the 1800s. Many suspect Tessie lives in an underwater tunnel beneath Cave Rock. 

Although many still believe in the slippery serpent, UC Davis’ Tahoe Environmental Research Center insists that the serpent is not real. Charles R. Goldman, professor of limnology and zoology who founded the university’s Tahoe Research Group, determined that the creature could very well be something like a 1,500 pound sturgeon, or simply the effects of pareidolia, the tendency to perceive something meaningful from abstract visual patterns. The possibility of Tessie’s existence still isn’t zero, though.

Driving through Southern California at night? You may want to be cognizant of what could be prowling along the road. The Riverside Monster has been reported seen around Riverside, complete with inhuman tallness, long limbs, no nose, a large, gurgling mouth and glowing eyes. 

First spotted at night in 1958 by a man named Charles Wetzel, he described speeding away from it and immediately reporting it to the Riverside police. Although there haven’t been many other sightings since, some theorize that the Riverside Monster is either an undiscovered species, an alien or simply a vulture that was wildly misconstrued.

Finally, the west coast’s take on the famous Jersey Devil. The Lone Pine Mountain Devil, presumably located in the eastern Sierras, is a winged, bat-like flesh-eater that was allegedly first seen in the late 1800s by a group of Spanish settlers.

 According to their story, there were multiple devils that flew around and brutally attacked the group. This flying creature is believed by some to be a guardian of the area, targeting those who disrespect nature or trespass on their territory. Truth or hoax, it’s still a scary thought for those traversing the Sierras.

Whether it be frightful true stories or tall tales, the urban legends of California cryptids are quite intriguing, at the very least. Whether you take people’s accounts seriously, it’s not outside the realm of possibilities that something science has not identified yet could lurk around our beautiful state. Watch out!


Written by: Savannah Burger—arts@theaggie.org



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