“He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.”
Bill, bill, credit card application, invitation to my class reunion at Miskatonic University. Has it really been twenty years? I always thought I’d wait until at least the fifty year reunion. That way, I wouldn’t have near as many boring stories to listen to. I figure that the majority of my classmates will have died or mutated. But I have fond memories of Professor Dexter and his rambling lectures on the mating habits of the Chupacabra, and I thoroughly enjoyed my semester abroad in Scotland. There are just not enough misty moors, or deep water lakes, in the States.
Luckily, there’s plenty of odd creatures right here in the Keystone State for a cryptozoologist to study. Monsters of Pennsylvania, a new book written by Patty A. Wilson and published by Stackpole Press, features some of the best bone-chilling stories of Pennsylvania’s more elusive fauna.
There’s your traditional five-toed bigfoot. He’s intelligent, curious, shy and certainly a little startling. He’s stalked hikers and hunters, and even appeared on farms and in backyards, but did you know about his smaller cousins? There’s the three-toed creature often called a skunk ape because of the foul odor, and there’s the four-toed Albatwitch that stands only five feet tall. Albatwitch is short for “apple snitch”. These little guys are found along the heavily-wooded banks of the Susquehanna River, and are known for stealing apples from picnickers, and pelting them with the apple cores.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission insists that there are no mountain lions in Pennsylvania, but stories of these and other big cats persist. Some are hoaxes or mistaken identity, but some remain unexplained. There are many strange things in the Black Forest of Tioga and Potter County, including the tale of Bertha. She was reputed to be larger than any bobcat, yet the cat’s dark markings never changed.
Even the skies of Pennsylvania contain strange creatures. You are probably familiar with the Jersey Devil, who stalks the Pine Barrens. It has been described as having ram’s horns, and either a dog’s head or a horse’s head, three to five feet tall, and has been sighted from Canada to Texas, but most frequently in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York. This beast has been observed eating berries, but has been associated with livestock deaths. A creature of the air that has been blamed for the disappearance of children and the elderly is the thunderbird of Western Pennsylvania and the Black Forest. These huge black birds are said be over five feet long with wingspans of fifteen feet or more.
There are also tales of serpents and ghastly lizard creatures in the rivers and lakes, including the Broad Top Snake, said to be the mutant spawn of an escaped circus boa constrictor and a native black snake. Included are whispers of werewolves and strange, poultry-stealing varmints who rip the heads off chicken and cast the drained bodies to the ground.
There’s nothing like enjoying these stories late at night in bed, or sharing them around a roaring campfire. So grab a copy, keep your camera handy and you might just get that photo published in my upcoming field guide, “Cryptids and other Creepy Critters“…
Bigfoot? Or Big Alien Cats? Leave a comment and let me know.