Darrell J. Pursiful

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Cryptids of Ohio, Expertly Illustrated

A new exhibit at the Rutherford B. Hayes presidential library features a slew of legendary creatures that purportedly haunt the Buckeye State. Atlas Obscura has the details, and you need to click through to see the paintings by Dan Chudzinski, historian and special-effects artist, who has rendered a number of these creatures in superb detail.


Dogmen and Cynocephali

cynocephalusThere are a cluster of mythological or cryptozoological creatures that seem to straddle the line between humanoids and canines. Dogs (descendants of ancient wolves) were the first animals humans ever domesticated, so you can see why they would figure heavily in our folklore. After thousands of years, they have become familiar to us while still remaining alien. The idea of creatures that blend human and canine characteristics can be especially unnerving or disconcerting.

In this post, I won’t try to deal with werewolves and other human–canine shape-shifters. If you want to know a little about those sorts of creatures, I’ve already written a little about them here. Instead, I’ll be dealing with non-shape-shifting creatures that combine in their natural (or supernatural?) form a blending of human and canine characteristics.


We can divide the canine–humanoid population into two broad groups, one more dog-like in overall body shape and one more human-like. Those in the first group have come to be called “dogmen,” especially among cryptozoologists. “Dogmen” possess what might be called a traditional “wolf-man” appearance. They have the overall build of a large dog or wolf, with digitigrade posture, a bushy tail, and often a muscular torso with forelegs longer than hind legs.

They are more often than not associated with modern-day sightings of unusual creatures rather than ancient myths or folklore, though they do sometimes show up in world mythology. For example, the sa’lawiya is a type of ghoul or jinn in the folklore of the Arabian peninsula. They have a form similar to a greyhound, slender and long-legged, but with an ash-gray mane. They enjoy frightening camels away from their grazing area.

The gizotso or “man-wolf” of Basque folklore might be something similar, though I’m not in a position to state that with certainty.


Cynocephalus simply means “dog-head.” It is a term applied to a number of dog-headed humanoids described in European sources as far back as ancient Greece. Unlike dogmen, cynocephali are generally human (or humanoid) from the neck down but possess dog-like or wolf-like heads. While dogmen are said to sometimes walk upright, cynocephali seem to be strictly bipedal and have a plantigrade posture. Furthermore, the generally do not have tails.

These creatures are usually said to inhabit far-off lands such as Ethiopia or India. They also seem to come in a number of different breeds or species.

African Cynocephali

The dog-headed humanoids of Africa are sometimes called cynoprosopi (“dog-face”). At least some of them have beards, and they are all covered in black fur. Despite their animalistic appearance, they are described as a tribe or tribes of more or less human “barbarians.” The dogmen of Libya, for example, were said to fight with the Libyan army, apparently as a sort of auxiliary force. Discussing the cynocephali inhabiting the lands south of Egypt, Aelian states,

After traversing the Egyptian oasis one is confronted for seven whole days with utter desert. Beyond this live the human Kynoprosopoi along the road that leads to Ethiopia. It seems that these creatures live by hunting gazelles and antelopes; further, they are black in appearance, and they have the head and teeth of a dog. And since they resemble this animal, it is very natural that I should mention them here [in a book on Animals]. They are however not endowed with speech, but utter a shrill squeal. Beneath their chin hangs down a beard; we may compare it with the beards of Drakones, and strong and very sharp nails cover their hands. Their whole body is covered with hair—another respect in which they resemble dogs. They are very swift of foot and know the regions that are inaccessible: that is why they appear so hard to capture.

Asian Cynocephali

Both European and Chinese writers spoke of tribes of cynocephali inhabiting Central Asia. For example, the medieval traveler Giovanni da Pian del Carpine reports a tribe of cynocephali living north of Lake Baikal that was encountered by the army of Ogedei Khan. In the an Old English document called The Wonders of the East, similar creatures are called Conopenae. They are described as having a horse-like mane, tusks, and breath “like the blaze of a fire.” They are described in some sources as “hairy giants.” They are sometimes called hemicynes or “half-dogs” and said to inhabit the regions of the extreme north.

Perhaps it is cynocephali of this species that were said to travel with the Germanic Lombards as they invaded western Europe. In his History of the Lombard People, Paul the Deacon writes,

They pretend that they have in their camps Cynocephali, that is, men with dogs’ heads. They spread the rumor among the enemy that these men wage war obstinately, drink human blood and quaff their own gore if they cannot reach the foe.

Indian Cynocephali

The most advanced cynocephali were those that Ktesias called Calystrians, which inhabited the mountains of India. According to Ctesias’s Indica fragment:

On these [the Indian] mountains there live men with the head of a dog, whose clothing is the skin of wild beasts. They speak no language, but bark like dogs, and in this manner make themselves understood by each other. Their teeth are larger than those of dogs, their nails like those of these animals, but longer and rounder. They inhabit the mountains as far as the river Indos. Their complexion is swarthy. They are extremely just, like the rest of the Indians with whom they associate. They understand the Indian language but are unable to converse, only barking or making signs with their hands and fingers by way of reply, like the deaf and dumb. They are called by the Indians Kalystrii, in Greek Kynocephaloi. They live on raw meat and number about 120,000…

The Kynokephaloi living on the mountains do not practise any trade but live by hunting. When they have killed an animal they roast it in the sun. They also rear numbers of sheep, goats, and asses, drinking the milk of the sheep and whey made from it. They eat the fruit of the Siptakhora, whence amber is procured, since it is sweet. They also dry it and keep it in baskets, as the Greeks keep their dried grapes. They make rafts which they load with this fruit together with well-cleaned purple flowers and 260 talents of amber, with the same quantity of the purple dye, and 1000 additional talents of amber, which they send annually to the king of India. They exchange the rest for bread, flour, and cotton stuffs with the Indians, from whom they also buy swords for hunting wild beasts, bows, and arrows, being very skilful in drawing the bow and hurling the spear. They cannot be defeated in war, since they inhabit lofty and inaccessible mountains. Every five years the king sends them a present of 300,000 bows, as many spears, 120,000 shields, and 50,000 swords.

They do not live in houses, but in caves. They set out for the chase with bows and spears, and as they are very swift of foot, they pursue and soon overtake their quarry. The women have a bath once a month, the men do not have a bath at all, but only wash their hands. They anoint themselves three times a month with oil made from milk and wipe themselves with skins. The clothes of men and women alike are not skins with the hair on, but skins tanned and very fine. The richest wear linen clothes, but they are few in number. They have no beds, but sleep on leaves or grass. He who possesses the greatest number of sheep is considered the richest, and so in regard to their other possessions. All, both men and women, have tails above their hips, like dogs, but longer and more hairy. They are just, and live longer than any other men, 170, sometimes 200 years.

This same advanced species is apparently found in Southeast Asia and even on islands in the Bay of Bengal. Marco Polo reported a tribe of barbarians with heads like big mastiff dogs living in the island of Angamanain (Andaman Islands). He said they grew spices but, unlike their Indian cousins, were very cruel.

Scottish Cynocephali

The wulver of the Shetland Islands are quite different from most dogmen in that they are a relatively gentle species. In Jessie Saxby’s Shetland Traditional Lore, she explains,

The Wulver was a creature like a man with a wolf’s head. He had short brown hair all over him. His home was a cave dug out of the side of a steep knowe, half-way up a hill. He didn’t molest folk if folk didn’t molest him. He was fond of fishing, and had a small rock in the deep water which is known to this day as the “Wulver’s Stane.” There he would sit fishing sillaks and piltaks for hour after hour. He was reported to have frequently left a few fish on the window-sill of some poor body.

North American (or maybe Japanese?) Cynocephali

The Buddhist missionary Hui-Shen of the late fifth century AD described an island of dog-headed men located to the east of Fusang, a legendary land that is identified by scholars as either Japan or somewhere in North America.

North American (for sure!) Cynocephali

According to cryptozoologists, similar creatures still inhabit parts of North America, though they usually describe them as being a type of sasquatch or bigfoot, just with an unusual skull or facial structure. Whatever may be said for the merits of such accounts, they seem universally to describe a purely animalistic creature with none of the tokens of human culture (clothing, tool use, etc.) found in Old World accounts.

Jersey Devil Sighting

Yeah, it looks pretty fake. But what photo of a cryptid doesn’t? Though at least the Jersey Devil doesn’t emit the same kind of photo-blurring effect one associates with Bigfoot, for example.

Uncanny Georgia: The Altamaha-ha


Image from Cryptidz.wikia.com

The Altamaha River drainage system is the largest in the United States east of the Mississippi. The river itself is formed by the confluence of the Ocmulgee and the Oconee Rivers just a few miles downstream from Lumber City, Georgia.

This river is also the home of the Altamaha-ha, Georgia’s answer to the Loch Ness Monster, an aquatic creature that purportedly lives in the marshes at the mouth of the Altamaha River near the city of Darien.

According to ExploreSouthernHistory.com,

The region where the Altamaha-ha is usually seen is a beautiful and mysterious estuary known for its vast marshes, multiple river channels and abandoned 18th and 19th century rice fields and canals. It seems appropriate that the beastie inhabits the waters around Darien, a town founded by Scot Highlanders from the shores of Loch Ness in Scotland.

The earliest sightings of “Altie,” as the creature is known, date back to the 1830s. It is described as a thirty-foot long (or longer) creature with seal-like flippers.

A few years ago, the Darien Chamber of Commerce commissioned artist Rick Spears to create a life-size model of the creature:

Spears says he had to extrapolate the creature’s appearance based on limited descriptions. “You don’t have any hard evidence like fossils, which can indicate the placement of muscles. They say it undulates up and down, but fish and reptiles move from side to side, so it’s mammalian,” he says. “And some people say it breathes steam or warm air, which suggests that it has lungs. Things like that have a basis in reality.”

So Apparently They Spotted a Bigfoot in North Carolina

Have no fear, though. The guy says his Yorkie protected him.

New Lizard Man Sighting

From Bishopville, South Carolina:

The fabled Bishopville swamp creature known as Lizard Man appears to have surfaced again Sunday afternoon.

Sarah, a Sumter woman who says she went to church with a friend Sunday morning, stepped out of the sanctuary to see the Lizard Man running along the tree line.

So she did what anyone else would do — took a picture with her phone.

“My hand to God, I am not making this up,” she wrote in an email to the ABC News 4 newsroom. “So excited!”

She says they were just a mile or so from Scape Ore Swamp, the site of a similar spotting of what may also be the Lizard Man in May.

A man who asked not to be identified submitted a short video of what he thought was the Lizard Man Monday morning. He said he took the video in May while coon hunting but kept its existence quiet — until he saw the reports of Lizard Man outside a church.

Which leads me to wonder, is the Lizard Man a Baptist or a Methodist?

Uncanny Georgia: The Georgia Mothman

mothmanThe Mothman, a purported giant winged humanoid, is associated with a string of sightings in West Virginia in the 1960s. A similar creature, however, was sighted in recent years in north Georgia. A woman who wished to remain anonymous reported an encounter on an old country road. She says,

Suddenly, something flew in front of the car and hit the windshield with enough size and force that it totally mangled the grill and hood. I immediately stopped the car. I heard what sounded like wings flapping on the roof, but then something rolled down the back window onto the trunk then eventually on to the road. I thought I killed whatever it was. A woman in a truck had pulled up from behind and said she saw the thing hit the road. She said that it’s eyes were glaring bright red. As we looked more closely at this thing it resembled a man with large bat-like wings….

This thing had the body of a well-built man. It had no feathers but charcoal gray skin like that of a bat with some hair on the shoulders and around the eyes and legs. When it spread it’s wings, it had the span of 12 foot or more. I estimate it was about 8 foot tall. It had no head however, just the eyes embedded on the shoulders that had brows. I didn’t noticed a mouth or nose.

Someone else in northern Georgia apparently had a similar encounter and managed to snap a photo of a glowing, winged creature. (Though it’s probably a fake.)


Uncanny Georgia: Pterosaurs

rhamphorhynchusYes, pterosaurs. Apparently, there have been several sightings of large flying creatures in north Georgia that strongly resemble pterosaurs, prehistoric flying reptiles believed extinct for 65 million years.

Sightings have been recorded in Waltonville/Gwinnett Counties (Loganville), Barrow County (Winder), Heard County (Franklin), and Towns County. According to one eyewitness,

[In] July of 2010, My wife and I were sitting outside when motion from above the tree tops to our left caught my attention; it’s very hard to explain how I felt at that moment. We were looking at two extremely large birds flying together and heading north . . . I can only guess to be 15-20′ wing spans and the motion of their wings as they flew was very slow. The head was long and ended in a point; wings ended in a point and appeared to be featherless . . .

Anyway, it happened again yesterday [Dec 9, 2012], this time there were three of us who saw this bird fly over, in plain sight, in daylight, up close . . .

. . . I have been trying to contact a whole lot of people (with not much success) I don’t know how to say this any other way except that I have seen these very large birds that don’t even come close to looking like anything else I’ve ever seen. I believe them to be Pterosaurs or something similar to them. . . . I have seen three of these birds in the past year and a half, I have also heard them. . . .

This last sighting has sparked me to do something about it. There were two other people with me when I saw the last one; this was three days ago. I am intent on identifying these large birds. This is not a joke, I, we have seen something that is not supposed to be here! (emphasis added)

Other accounts (linked under “Sightings” above) report the presence of a long tail on at least some of these creatures.


If It Lived in the American South, It Never Would Have Survived This Long

Via Sky News:

The Loch Ness monster is most likely a large catfish, according to an expert who has spent 24 years searching for Nessie.

Steve Feltham, 52, gave up his home, his job and his girlfriend to move nearer the Scottish loch in pursuit of the legend.

Speaking to Sky News, Mr Feltham did not claim he had solved the mystery of Nessie.

But he said: “Looking at all the evidence, speaking to eyewitnesses, the most likely solution is a Wels catfish.”

The fish can grow up to four metres (13ft) long and weigh over 400kg (880lb).

Uncanny Georgia: The Allatoona Toe Nibbler

The Toe Nibbler's Next Victim?

The Toe Nibbler’s Next Victim?

Seriously, how can I not include a cryptid with a name like “the Allatoona Toe Nibbler”? Especially since it is popular enough to have an entire blog dedicated to it?

Lake Allatoona is a man-made reservoir lake northwest of Atlanta. It is also, if reports are to be believed, home to some sort of unknown aquatic creature. Reports of the Toe Nibbler began in the 1950s. Even in recent years, boaters and swimmers have reported occasional nipping of the fingers and toes that could not, they say, be attributed to ordinary and harmless fish. Some say they have seen the creature. According to the aforementioned blog,

Those that have seen the Toe Nibbler describe it as being smaller than a human (accounts range from three to four foot in length.) Most often it is said to be dark green, brown, or black in color and has been seen sliding along under the surface of the water. It seems to enjoy shaded areas of the lakes and is seen most often up in small, but deep, coves along the shoreline.

The few accounts of up-close confrontations with the creature agree that it has small, black beady eyes and one eye witness stated that they saw a three toed webbed hand or foot extend out of the water.

So, what is this odd creature? Is it a pygmy cousin to more famous lake-dwelling monsters like the Loch Ness Monster or Lake Champlain’s “Champ”? A joke or a hoax? A known aquatic animal misidentified by swimmers with overactive imaginations?

It beats me, but you’ve sure got to love the name of this thing. 🙂