How strange is your world?

Many of us complain of how mundane, how humdrum our world is, how numbingly normal everything is, but somehow miss the irony of how we dismiss the extraordinary and uncanny. In the dominant rationalist paradigm of our day we tend to treat the world as if practically everything has already been satisfactorily explained, or soon enough will be. There’s no mystery left, aside from the mystery of why people still believe irrational things.

But, statistically speaking, the odds are that you know someone who’s seen something strange: whether it’s your brother, or your aunt, or the librarian, or the school secretary, or your supervisor, many, many more people have witnessed some strange things that defy the plausibility structures we are indoctrinated to believe are compulsory for being a sensible adult human being in the modern West. Maybe you have seen something you can’t explain, something that rattled your sense of the real, of the possible; something that rearranged your safe, sterilized world and reawakened a sense of strangeness. 

The Lord has never operated in a very safe or normal manner. He prefers to accomplish his will through the impossible, through peculiar people, through strange triumphs of paradox. And he has appointed his praise to come from strange beings that remind us, his image bearers, of how wonderfully weird this entire project has been from the very beginning. “Praise the Lord from the earth, all sea monsters!” (Ps 148:7); the behemoth “is the chief of the ways of God” (Job 40:19). These weird creatures bear witness to the high strangeness of our world and its Creator, whom we cannot begin to fathom. 

So enjoy this list of our favorite cryptids and stamp the dust of bland normalcy from your feet. Look around you and listen to the voices you tend to exclude. No one needs to make our world strange again — it’s never stopped being strange. 

Blake I. Collier’s List

1. Wendigo/Windigo/Witiko

Something happened about 3-4 months ago. I became increasingly interested in the Algonquian — Native American tribes largely found in Canada and the northern reaches of the US — legends of the wendigo, a being that is created from the eating of human flesh, often due to starvation, and is cursed to never be satiated no matter how much human flesh it devours. And this is just part of the legend. The accounts of wendigo visitations are numerous, and many indigenous people in Algonquian tribes believe in their existence to this day. I have even been warned by a few to be wary of focusing too much upon them, for fear it would draw their attention to me. This is not even going into the multitudes of interpretations that can be laid over these tales. So, like I said before, something happened 3-4 months ago: I now pretty much believe in the existence of wendigos.

2. Gef, The Dalby Spook

Is it a paranormal weasel? Or perhaps a mongoose that skipped ahead several thousand evolutionary steps to gain a pure grasp of English and witty banter? Maybe it was just the wicked ventriloquist talents of a young girl. Whatever it is, this entity haunted the farmhouse of a family on the Isle of Man for nearly a decade and made cryptids adorable again.

3. Flying Humanoids of Mexico

If these flying — really levitating, because they have no wings or means of propulsion in most accounts — humanoid figures are an actual, metaphysical being, then this would be the thing that would make me hesitate in taking a trip to Mexico. One particular account involving a Mexican police officer who had a run-in with one of these beings in an alleyway is quite harrowing. It looked like an old woman with dark skin and dark sockets with no eyelids. It hovered over to his patrol car and then sped into his windshield causing him to start speeding in reverse down the alleyway to escape. And this is just one account. *Shivers*

4. Casa Blanca Entities

A strange extraterrestrial-ish case from 1955 in Riverside County, California, remains one of the most endearing accounts of high weirdness in my humble opinion. A group of eight young boys playing in one of their neighborhood yards witnessed various translucent, glowing orbs and domes with inhuman faces before they noticed one landing on a nearby football field. As they went to inspect the orb, a much larger entity emerged from the orb. It’s translucent satin-like skin undulated, and it had tentacle-like legs. The catch of this whole thing, whenever the kids called their parents out to witness these entities, the adults were unable to see anything. Was it just mass hysteria mixed with the active imaginations of childhood? Maybe, but I prefer to believe otherwise. 

5. The Gurning Man of Glasgow

This being is tied specifically to the Scottish city of Glasgow in the 1970s, when four separate females encountered what seemed like a full-bodied human male who seemed physically tormented. He would follow them, walk towards them, or in the most terrifying case crawl upon their bed toward them in the middle of the night, before vanishing. His seemingly physical body makes him one of the more unique apparitions on record. His name comes from a British term that describes a particular facial distortion: the lower jaw moves out and up to where the lower lip covers the upper lip. Some of the other etymology of “gurn” ties it to a snarling dog or to distorting one’s countenance. Whatever the case, the gurning man is the stuff of nightmares.

Ian Olson’s List

1. The Bray Road Beast

The legendary werewolf-adjacent creature of Elkhorn, Wisconsin, and its surrounding environs has been frightening drivers since at least the early 1990s, though apocryphal stories tell of much earlier sightings as far back as 1936. This beast resembles nothing so much as a seven-foot-long American Werewolf in London and can take a beating: people have hit it with their cars, resulting in little more than an upset beast. Even more frighteningly, it seems to exhibit an almost human intelligence or impulse to worship: the beast has been seen kneeling beside the road, holding dead creatures in a posture almost like supplication. The beast is taken seriously enough by locals that at least one person had a weapon charge against him dropped when he said he wouldn’t go on Bray Road without a gun. Put all of this together and it should be clear why I proposed to my wife on Bray Road, right? (I’ve never not been sPoOkY.

2. Mothman

Point Pleasant, West Virginia’s Mothman spread confusion and dread for just over a year, from November 1966 to December 1967, before disappearing entirely after the collapse of the Silver Bridge. This being’s name is unfortunate, as it in no way resembles a moth: the Batman TV show was popular at the time and the press needed something to call this thing, and quick. Eyewitnesses reported a tall, dark figure with enormous wings folded against its frame. It could fly and keep pace with a car driving upwards of a hundred miles an hour. Above all what people remembered were its glowing red eyes and its horrible face which, to a person, they could not describe, nor could they ever forget. Other bizarre phenomena accompanied the sightings of the Mothman, including poltergeist activity, strange lights, frightening phone calls from strange voices, and several predictions from an entity calling itself Indred Cold. This is one I simply can’t imagine as a hitherto unclassified animal — it really does sound like some imp from a Hieronymous Bosch painting teleporting into Small Town, USA. Let’s hope he doesn’t show up again any time soon …

3. Sasquatch

This famous hairy biped has been lampooned in Harry and the Hendersons, A Goofy Movie, and beef jerky commercials, but the real deal is impressive. Various peoples around the globe have different names for this “wild man,” but the name that’s stuck in North America has been Sasquatch. This name is derived from the Halkomelem sasq’ets and was popularized in a series of articles written by J. W. Burns thirty years before the “Bigfoot” moniker was ever coined. Since then Sasquatch has been spotted all over the continental United States and is widely considered a peaceful guardian of the wilds. Some stories, however, do tell of Sasquatch abducting human persons or besieging them in their cabins. Perhaps they’re predominantly benign but get fed up with Americans’ benighted wastefulness and disregard for nature. It’s hard to be sure, but what is certain is that the sound of their calls at night has created some of the eeriest audio you can find anywhere. My son Theo has a special place in his heart for Sasquatch — it wasn’t that long ago he would attribute most natural phenomena to Sasquatch. Rock slide? “Must’ve been Sasquatch.” Iceberg breaking up? “I fink Bigfoot did that.” Maybe he’s right.

4. Ogopogo

Not quite North America’s answer to the Loch Ness Monster (that would be Champ of Lake Champlain, New York/Quebec), Ogopogo is the resident beast of Lake Okanagan, British Columbia. Ogopogo (or “Oggy”) has been sighted here for centuries and is well-attested in Native American folklore in which it is called Naitaka. Ogopogo is a gigantic serpent who in times past, it is said, required a sacrifice before permitting safe passage across the lake. In more recent decades, however, Ogopogo is looked upon as an unclassified creature rather than a paranormal entity. But is this just disenchantment breaching the surface of our collective consciousness to flush the unheimlich from our backyards? 

5. The Jersey Devil

This terror of the Pine Barrens has been haunting South Jersey, Delaware, and even Maryland since the early eighteenth century. Originally known as the Leeds Devil, this beast was the result of Jane Leeds’ thirteenth pregnancy. On discovering she was pregnant yet again, she cursed the child, and sure enough, one stormy night in 1735 a monster was born to her. It flew up the chimney on bay wings, raising an unholy racket the entire way. Since then it has prowled the Pine Barrens, frightening locals and killing livestock. Stephen Decatur has seen it; Napoleon Bonaparte’s brother has seen it; I have trouble believing a Zahl at some point down the decades hasn’t seen it. Bloodcurdling screams pierce the air and cloven tracks evidence the Jersey Devil’s comings and goings. Is it an as-yet-unidentified animal? Or is it the cursed thirteenth child of Mother Leeds, wandering the earth to sew terror wherever it roams?