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Bigfoot or Bust: Where to Encounter America's Mythical Monsters on Your Summer Road Trip

July 8, 2014
scooby do
scooby do

Even Scooby-Doo wants no part of the mythical creatures you may encounter during your summer travels (he’s seen enough of `em, thank you). 

Shortcuts to popular tourist destinations can sometimes stretch through the back roads of less traveled, uninhabited byways. Driving deep into some of these rural regions comes with associated risks. Like something out of a “Scooby-Doo” episode, getting a flat tire on a moonlit, desolate dirt road might bring your family face to face with a creepy creature, the likes of which have only been seen by locals. From Sasquatch to the Montauk Monster, here’s a glimpse of some of the most legendary creatures in U.S. folklore to run across the beaten path.

jersey devil
jersey devil

Artist drawing of the Jersey Devil, Philadelphia Post 1909 (Photo: WikiCommons)

Jersey Devil: New Jersey

For 260-plus years, an animal or entity known as the Jersey Devil has been witnessed by over 2,000 people. Yet, with inconsistent reports — and the fact that it’s never been captured — the Jersey Devil continues to avoid the leap from mythology to zoology (although it is the name of New Jersey’s hockey team). With the head of a horse and the wings of a dragon, this feisty amalgamation is reputed to bite, scratch, scream, and spit at those disturbing its lair in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. Want to learn more about the little devil (and other creepy creatures)? Head to the Paranormal Museum, in Asbury Park.

Wampus Cat: North Carolina and Tennessee

Those who camp deep in the Appalachian wilderness might just hear the wailing screams of the ferocious, and unsubstantiated, Wampus Cat. This half-dog, half-cat beast — the stuff of Cherokee folklore — is well-known to locals. In fact, the cougarlike creature is the mascot of several Tennessee high school sports teams. Go, Wampus Cat!


"Bigfoot" (Photo: Everett Collection)

Sasquatch: Pacific Northwest and elsewhere

Likely the most famous of the cryptids, Sasquatch, also known as Bigfoot, is a furry, gorillalike animal that roams the forests, leaving behind only footprints and an occasional tuft of hair. Many have witnessed this beast, but their cameras seem to capture only grainy, shaky footage. Here’s hoping a trained videographer comes face-to-face with the mighty Sasquatch. Check out Linda Godfrey’s new book, “American Monsters: A History of Monster Lore, Legends, and Sightings in America,” on the Pacific Northwest’s biggest pet or the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization for everything Sasquatch.

lake tahoe
lake tahoe

"Here there be Tessie": The Lake Tahoe residence of a mythical serpent (Photo: Getty Images)

Tahoe Tessie: California and Nevada

Lake Tahoe, cradled in a valley of the Sierra Nevada, is a serene setting for outdoor enthusiasts. But Nevada’s largest freshwater lake is also home to Nevada’s largest mythological serpent, Tahoe Tessie. About six sightings are reported each year — I’m guessing around tourist season. Claims of dark shapes just above the lake’s surface provide just enough proof to intrigue visitors. If you’re going to search for Tahoe Tessie, bring your binoculars — and a fantastic imagination.

Melon Heads: Connecticut

They’re human and they’re mutant. They’re cannibals and they’re inbreds. In other words, this folklore band of uncle-brothers has all the fixin’s of “Deliverance.” But fear not. They’re allegedly confined to a dirt road, dubbed Dracula Drive, in Fairfield County. Make sure your GPS steers you clear of this lonely road.

Related: Vampire Country: A 5-Day Road Trip Through Transylvania

montauk monster
montauk monster

The “Montauk Monster” (Photo: WikiCommons)

Montauk Monster: New York

The Montauk Monster was “discovered” along the Long Island coast, when a beachcomber encountered a mysterious-looking carcass that apparently washed ashore. The body looked similar to a bald, juvenile griffin or Jabba the Hutt’s pet. Unfortunately, with no recorded sighting of a live Montauk Monster, it’s difficult to describe its demeanor. But it’s safe to assume you might want to watch where you step on Long Island’s sandy shores.

dover demon
dover demon

Artist drawing of the “Dover Demon” (Photo: Chin-Yun Lao/Flickr)

Dover Demon: Delaware

In 1977, teenager Bill Bartlett swore “on a stack of Bibles” that he saw a creature with the body of a baby, gangly arms and legs, an oblong head, and large orange eyes crawling on all fours along a rock wall. All in all, over two days, four people witnessed this humanoid form. The good news: The Dover Demon hasn’t been seen since then. The bad news: Delaware’s about due for a Dover Demon sighting.

The Hopkinsville Goblins: Kentucky

The hills of Hopkinsville have little green men. These emerald guys appeared in 1955 after an apparent meteorlike shower. Maybe it’s the moonshine — flowing through Kentucky like the Cumberland River — that has influenced sightings of paranormal activity in the Bluegrass State.

Related: The Aliens Are Coming! 7 Places to Spot a UFO

spring heeled jack
spring heeled jack

Mystery magazine cover featuring “Spring-heeled Jack.” Is it us or does he look a lot like Batman? (Photo: Wiki Commons)

Spring-Heeled Jack: New Mexico

This pale villain arrived in New Mexico in the 1930s by way of London and is thought to have ties to Jack the Ripper (I suppose the winters got too cold for Jack to stay in jolly old England). He is tall and thin, hiding clawlike hands under a black cloak. If that wasn’t creepy enough, some say he can spit blue and white flames from his mouth. Jack gets his name from the way he charges at his victims, leaps from rooftop to rooftop, and retreats into the darkness. He’s a trickster, luring people from their homes (and I suppose their hotel rooms) to violate them. So be forewarned: Jack is on the attack.

Related: A Terrifying Trek Into the Heart of Darkness. America’s 8 Scariest Hikes

Huggin’ Molly: Alabama

Many an Alabama child has been raised to heed the tale of Huggin’ Molly, the “lady in black” who roams the streets searching for someone to squeeze to death, all the while screaming in their ear. We all have an aunt like that. 

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