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Tracking Texas Cryptids: What are they and where to find them?

Illustration by Raul Alonzo / Texas Standard

Texas has no shortage of tall tales. However, for folks who swear they saw a jackalope hop away from them or have tracked the Texas Goatman, the truth is out there.

Which is why Texas Standard is launching a special series this spooky season called Tracking Texas Cryptids. We’ll be talking about the origin stories, sightings and lore of these legendary creatures.

Kicking off this special series is cryptozoologist, Texas Bigfoot aficionado, author and podcast host Lyle Blackburn. He told Texas Standard how sightings in the state are higher than any other because of the rich landscape and variety of environmental elements. Listen to the interview above or read the transcript below.

This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:

Texas Standard: What’s a cryptozoologist? And for folks who don’t know, what’s a cryptid?

Lyle Blackburn: Well, it’s kind of a default term for anyone who researches or writes about creatures that have been alleged to exist but have not been proven. And of course, people recognize those kind of creatures as Bigfoot, Chupacabra, lake monsters … and “cryptid” is a term for those creatures, those unproven creatures.

I see. And you would be the cryptozoologist. How did you become fascinated with cryptids in the first place?

Well, it’s just been a lifelong interest.

As a young kid, I always loved monster movies. And then I was fortunate to get a book in third grade which had tales of Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster and the Yeti. And so at that point, I realized that there could be “monsters” out there in the real world.

I’m a lifelong Texan. I grew up hunting with my father. So I was in the woods and in a lot of small towns from an early age. So, you know, that sort of combination of the Texas outdoors and the possibility of seeing some strange creature just really captured my imagination.

Ever been in a deer stand and spotted something that you couldn’t identify?

Well, not while hunting. But I have seen and heard a few strange things over the years while doing some field research that I simply can’t explain.

Like what, for example?

Well, I’ve done a lot of research just across the border in Arkansas, home of The Legend of Boggy Creek, which was a movie that was a big hit in the '70s that dramatized sightings of a Sasquatch-like creature. And I was up there in the swampy bottoms when I saw a tall shape, some kind of animal or creature walk between some trees.

It was kind of reddish brown. And this was actually in daylight. And it was in a place where people don’t frequent. It’s in some low bottoms — there’s waterways with alligators and such. And of course, it just kind of disappeared into the thick woods.

And I couldn’t get another view of it, but I really can’t explain. It wasn’t a person. It wasn’t a smaller animal that I’m familiar with. So, interesting stuff.

Now, you even wrote a book specifically on the Texas Bigfoot. Was this creature what you suspect to be the Texas Bigfoot, or is this a different creature?

Well, in general, I mean, the ubiquitous sightings of these tall, upright, hair-covered creatures, you know, they don’t probably recognize our borders. So all that forestry, especially in the eastern third of Texas, known as the Piney Woods, that extends on into Louisiana and up into Arkansas. So all that area is really a hotspot of Bigfoot activity. There’s been reports in East Texas and all around there, going back a century at least.

Bigfoot, I think of as more a sort of northwestern U.S. phenomenon. I’m a little surprised that Texas would seem to have one of its own, but we do have a lot of cryptids that seem to be very Texas-centric, do we not? I think of the Chupacabra, for example.

Yes, true. The Chupacabra kind of got more of a reputation as being something more specific to Texas, although actually the origins of the word, which is Spanish for “goat-sucker,” there were sightings in the 1990s in Puerto Rico and in some of the South American countries.

And then later on in the 2000s, we begin to see those hairless, strange canids, which the media call Chupacabras.

What other Texas cryptids are out there lurking?

Well, there has been sightings of what we would call flying humanoids, and those are reports of large anthropomorphic human-like things with wings.

You have sightings down mostly in the southern portions, San Antonio and on, of large Thunderbirds, which are incredibly large birds that don’t really fit any description of known birds. We have other kind of strange anomalies.

The Ottine Swamp down in South Texas has its own sort of swampy creature that’s been reported. Out west we have the Horizon City Monster next to El Paso. That’s kind of a Neanderthalish Bigfoot. And one of the most famous is the Lake Worth Monster from right here where I live in Fort Worth, which is described more like a goatman, if you will.

Interesting. Well, you know, I was online just sort of checking around for what folks have to say about cryptids and I noticed that Texas seems to lead the country when it comes to cryptid sightings. Does that stand to what you have learned about cryptids over the years? That we have more than most folks?

That is true.

I mean, you know, Texas is known for big things. And certainly, again, people would simply be surprised at the staggering number of Bigfoot sightings that have been reported here. And, you know, we can stand up to anybody’s forestry. We’ve got a huge state that encompasses a lot of different kinds of landscapes and ecology which can support things like Chupacabra.

We’ve even got reports down in the Hill Country and some of those areas of what people would describe as werewolves. They’re called dog men in cryptozoology, but these are like living werewolves. So we’ve pretty much got it all.

What is your take personally, having followed a lot of these stories? Do you believe in these cryptid tales or are you more along the lines of wanting to debunk them or test them out? Where do you fall?

Well, you know, without some solid proof, I have to remain balanced in sort of a skeptical view.

But the thing is, especially after you’ve really delved into this — and I’ve interviewed hundreds of people who claim to have had encounters — at the end of the day, even if you can kind of dismiss some of the more vague sightings or wishful thinking, there is a core of those reports that you just simply cannot explain away.

And so, you know, I can’t say exactly what kind of creatures they may be seeing and their biological makeup. But I can tell you that there are unexplained things out there that people are seeing that we strive to get our minds around.

And I’m not necessarily out to prove it to the world. I just am interested in the phenomenon of the sightings and how some of these monster legends have endured over the years and even affected some Texas towns to where they’re kind of known for these creatures.

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Kristen Cabrera