It's Halloween once more and across the world various traditions are observed for the spookiest day of the year. With them, all manner of creatures of the night rise from the beyond to bring the fear and the hauntings.
But you've heard of most of these monsters before - you've got your ghouls, zombies, ghosts, skeletons, witches and werewolves. You've got your Loch Ness monsters, your serial killers, your escaped convicts and your killer clowns.
So this Halloween blog is not about those characters. We're going to take a walk down the creepy, overgrown and less-travelled roads of the cryptids, scary creatures of folklore whose existence are unconfirmed and who are studied by cryptologists across the globes. These are the lesser-known but just as eerie Halloween figures who inspire and have inspired the nightmares of countless generations.
Mokele-Mbembe, The Republic of Congo
Deep in the heart of darkness in the Republic of Congo, there walks a creature from a time long forgotten, a behemoth from the Earth's early repertoire, a dinosaur for all extents and purposes. This is Mokele-Mbembe, a beast which many cryptologists believe to be a sauropod which still roams the jungle.
Described in Congo river tales, Mokele-Mbembe is said by the Congolese as being a mix between an elephant and a dragon, which lives in the water and hunted hippos around Lake Bangweulu. Other accounts claim that it lives in the caves around the lake, feeding on vegetables and attacking any canoes which come near its domain, slaughtering the crews but never eating their bodies.
While various sources have contributed to the legend with the same details, Mokele-Mbembe sadly is widely regarded as just a myth. It makes for an excellent Halloween monster however, and it's a compelling thought that dinosaurs are still crashing around somewhere in undiscovered parts of Africa.
The Bunyip, Australia
As if the Australians didn't have enough to worry about, what with their wildlife, the aboriginal people have a wealth of stories about various eerie cryptids which roam the outback and the countryside. The most dangerous, famous and unsettling of these is the vicious Bunyip.
Often thought of as a water creature again, the Bunyip varies greatly in its imagery; this may well because the word Bunyip simply means 'evil spirit' in Aboriginal. Accounts have given it every characteristic from a dog to a starfish, and it is always large enough to eat a human. Unidentified cries which ring across the Australian landscape are often attributed to Bunyips, and despite his name, people disagree as to whether it is a herbivore or carnivore, peaceful watcher of the water or ferocious man-eater. Either way, we'd recommend caution if you find yourself in any billabongs, swamps, marshes or lakes since this is where the Bunyip calls its home.
Chupacabra, Central Americas
Chupacabra means goat-sucker in English, which should tell you about everything you need to know. Found across central America, this slimy, vampiric character slinks around the farms of Puerto Rico and Mexico, catching livestock and sucking out the blood from them and leaving their drained bodies strewn across the meadows.
The chupacabra is a hairless dog-like creature with deep green scales or it's a reptilian bipedal monster with spikes across its back and vicious claws, depending on who your witness is. As ever, sightings vary and have been recorded as far away as Russia and Iraq.
The original account comes from a citizen of the small town of Canóvas in Puerto Rico, who saw a mysteriously proportioned figure from her window and declared it to be a chupacabra. It just so happened however, that her detailed description matched up with the movie monster of the film Species which she had previously seen. So naturally, take this cryptid with a pinch of salt.
Black Shuck or the Barghest, England
Perhaps not as fantastical as some of the other entries on this list, but the infamous Black Shuck (or Barghest as it is known in the north of England) is one of the most widely recognised cryptids thanks to its appearance or rather the allusion to it in Bram Stoker's Dracula. Black Shuck is an enormous, hulking black dog whose appearance is an omen said to predict death and violence.
Black dogs of monstrous sizes have frequently inspired writers and folklore across England, and Black Shuck himself was first given his name by Reverend E.S Taylor in 1850, who called it 'Shuck the Dog-Fiend'. Blazing fiery eyes peering out from a shaggy black face make this a cryptid to be reckoned with, and the first mention of such canine fiends was as far back as 1127.
The Dracula connection is one that concerns the titular vampire who took a form reminiscent of Black Shuck when he leapt up from his shipwreck in Whitby in the shape of an enormous black hound.
Those are our cryptids of choice for this spooky season - got a favourite creepy critter? Let us know in the comments below.