The cryptid scene in the Northwest is the gold standard, just admit it. And yeah, we got some Bigfoot stuff in here. (And we have a separate guide to all of it at this link.) But believe us, there’s a lot more to discover behind the trees… and some of it is more than myth.
She’s beauty and she’s grace. This snaky sea monster (which may be singular, but seems to move in a family group according to some stories) is best known for sightings in Cadboro Bay, British Columbia. Despite being largely serpentine, Caddy is said to have a horselike head with a waving mane of hair (or decomposing whale baleen, depending on how you see the world). (Episode 13, Our Friend the Cadborosaurus.)
Legend? Lost species? No, this one’s just a flat-out hoax. But it’s a hoax that was developed to help teach children how to think critically about the information they find on the internet. A worthy quest, an entertaining story, and a beloved (if fictional) critter in our menagerie. (Episode 12, The Skydiving Beaver and the Arboreal Octopus.)
The Giant Palouse Earthworm has been all over the place, from a myth to a cryptid to an endangered species. It’s outlandishly large, freakishly pale, and a very special part of the Palouse micro-eco-system that unfortunately mostly gets studied when it gets run over with tractors. (Episode 10, The Giant Palouse Earthworm.)
This one sounds fake but is actually legit. They’re wolves, but their hunting ground is the sea - they can swim for miles and 90% or more of their diet is seafood. (We imagine they are very glossy, and probably smell sort of fishy.) While they’re still real wolves, they are smaller than their inland cousins and are a genetically distinct population. (Episode 23, Yappy Howlidays - Christmas in July.)
Oh, bless. Just look at that goofy thing. Is it a prehistoric direwolf? A legendary predator whose name means “carries off dogs”? Or just bad taxidermy? Some say that Ringdocus, a.k.a. the Sherwood Beast or the Madison Monster, is the legendary shunka warakin, known in Montana folklore as a creature with aspects of both hyena and wolf. (Episode 23, Yappy Howlidays - Christmas in July.)
Some say that they’re the legendary Thunderbirds of Native legend, while other say they’re anachronistic pterodactyls. Either way, we sure seem to have some unusually hefty sky chickens around these parts. In this episode, Devon talks about the legends as well as some potential sources of inspiration, such as the California Condor (which legit can have a 10 ft wingspan) and the Washington’s Eagle (which may be a misidentification, an extinct species, or a cryptid in its own right, but allegedly went 16 feet from wingtip to wingtip). (Episode 42, Big Damn Birds.)
It’s hard to live up to what other people say and write about you sometimes. Especially if you’re the unassuming ice worm, a bitty little actual critter that prefers to live on the frozen surface of glaciers in Alaska and Canada. In fact, if you pick one up, your body heat will cause it to melt and die. They live on algae and pollen that falls on the glacier, and burrow into the ice itself to avoid the warming rays of the sun. They can only dream of being the 50-foot-long titans described by the more excitable legends of the ice worm. In fact, they can’t even live up to the four-inch-long depiction in Robert Service’s poem, “The Ballad of the Ice Worm Cocktail.” (Episode 43, The Ballad of the Ice Worm.)
Unlike most lake and ocean monsters, the Pend Oreille Paddler popped up for the first time in the 20th century. It’s gunmetal grey, has a periscope-like neck, and may or may not be a surreptitious test submarine. Or a sturgeon? But it sure is… something. (Episode 85, The Pend Oreille Paddler.)
In addition to big damn birds, some people have also spotted big damn cats around the Northwest. Specifically, slinky all-black kitties the size of a cougar or bigger - but with unusually small ears. While cougars are certainly a regular feature of the Northwest’s wildlife, biologists tell us that genetically, they shouldn’t be able to mutate into melanistic, all-black versions. Escaped zoo animal? Radically misidentified housecat? I don’t know about you, but I hope I can see for myself… from a safe distance. (Episode 79, Big Damn Cats.)
There may be limits to how weird living creatures can be, but there’s no limit to how weird humans will be. Yes, in the 1950s and 1960s, intrepid (weird) men would dive into the Puget Sound to bother whatever Pacific Octopuses they could find. Specifically, they would grab ‘em and haul ‘em up to land, and whoever had the most tentacular poundage was the winner. Some of the unwilling eight-limbed competitors were returned to the sea, while others would be sent to the aquarium or simply become dinner. The trend was already fading when Washington State made it illegal in 1976 to “molest or harass” an octopus. This episode also touches on a less verifiable but related critter, the legendary King Octopus who is said to be as much as 600 lbs in weight and is alleged to live in the collapsed ruins of theTacoma Narrows Bridge.
Hi, he’s the great 18th century explorer Georg Wilhelm Steller, and you may remember him from such verified creatures as the Steller’s sea eagle, the Steller’s sea lion, and the Steller’s sea cow (he was great at branding, if not at creative names). Of all his many discoveries, there is only one that was never externally verified… the Steller’s Sea Ape. Steller claimed to see this five-foot-long, furry, playful sea creature off the coast of Alaska. At least one other person has claimed to see something similar in the same area, but it remains in the unresolved/cryptid box. Was it a mis-identified young fur seal? A weird otter? Or just Steller making a weird joke about the short, furry captain of the ship he was on? We briefly cover this - but solve nothing - in the Pacific Northwest Pop Quiz episode.
More critters and cryptids to follow, including good dogs, batsquatch, and the geoduck.