In most cases, when someone sights a mysterious beast, upon closer examination it turns out to be an ordinary animal that was mistaken for something else. Truly mysterious sightings fall into two categories: animals unknown to the scientific world and that defy classification, and known animals seen in unlikely locations, either because they are far from their native habitat or because they are thought to be extinct.
Cryptozoologists, researchers who study mysterious beasts, call them OOPs, short for “out-of-place” animals. The most common OOPs are big cats, such as leopards and panthers, which have often been reported in England, Australia, and North America, but there have been many other OOPs sightings as well. For example, kangaroos have been sighted in Illinois and Wisconsin, and various species of bears in England. Animals believed to be extinct have also been spotted in numerous places, and in a few instances, these sightings have led to the discovery that the animal is not extinct after all.
For example, in 1938 the coelacanth, a 5-foot-long (1.5m) fish believed to have gone extinct during prehistoric times, was found in the waters off South Africa. As a result, cryptozoologists contend that other species, such as “living dinosaurs,” may yet be discovered. Sightings of such creatures have been reported, including a flying reptile with a 5-foot (1.5m) wingspan supposedly seen in Texas in September 1983. No physical evidence of any such living fossil has yet been found, however, and skeptics insist that such sightings are either hallucinations or hoaxes.
Skeptics say the same thing about sightings of mysterious beasts whose existence has never been documented. Of these beasts, among the most notable are the Loch Ness monster, said to live in a Scottish lake (loch in Scots) called Loch Ness, and bigfoot, said to inhabit the Pacific Northwest of the United States. Sightings of both of these creatures have been reported on numerous occasions, but witnesses have never gotten the kind of proof of their experience that would satisfy skeptics.
- cats, unknown;
- dinosaurs, living;
- Loch Ness monsters
The Greenhaven Encyclopedia of Paranormal Phenomena – written by Patricia D. Netzley © 2006 Gale, a part of Cengage Learning