Cryptids of the Southwest

by Amanda Push

The night Brenda Harris discovered Bigfoot on her porch started off quite ordinary. It was a hot summer night in Upper Fruitland, on the west side of Farmington, where she lived with her husband and two children. Her husband had just left for his graveyard shift and her brother and children’s cousins were staying the night.

The children were playing when Harris heard footsteps and heavy breathing outside. In horror, Harris, her brother, and the children listened as the footsteps made their way from the gravel to the porch where whoever — or whatever — began jiggling the front door handle. Still terrified but determined to figure out what was going on, Harris unlocked the deadbolt, threw open the door, and came face-to-face with a dark, hairy being that towered over her.

Perhaps as surprised and frightened as Harris was, the creature bolted away from the mobile home leaving the family stunned. Harris hurriedly put the children to bed, but didn’t get much sleep herself that night as she tried to wrap her mind around what happened. The next morning, she found a three-toed, 18.5” footprint outside her home.

When you bring up the subject of cryptids, it tends to be met with lots of scoffing and quite a bit of eye-rolling. Not many people believe that tall, hairy ape-like creatures roam the woods or that reptilian humanoids roam the desert.

To be fair to the naysayers, it’s a strange topic. In fact, one of the first things that pops up in the results should you type in “cryptids News Mexico” into your Google search engine is a headline that reads “Creature Wearing Invisibility Cloak Walking in New Mexico Forest.” Despite the cynics, however, the stories and sightings keep coming, particularly in the Southwest where we seem to draw an array of particularly interesting creatures.


Where it’s been spotted: Park County, Colorado — In August 2018, a woman and her daughter reported a vile-smelling tall, dark figure that threw rocks at them while they were hiking.

Origin story: Bigfoot is such an ingrained legend within American lore that even the FBI has files on the ape-like entity. “Bigfoot” was first coined in 1958 by journalist Andrew Genzoli of the Humboldt Times. Genzoli wrote a column in response to a reader letter who wrote in about loggers in Northern California who found large footprints.The column was in jest but immediately attracted attention from readers which led to Humboldt Times journalists reporting follow-up articles, including one in which the loggers had officially named the creature “Big Foot.” Obviously, the name stuck.
While modern American lore can be tied back to this 1958 story, this was by no means the first time stories of big, hairy ape-like creatures surfaced in history. There are stories and reports from all over the world from long before the article was written. For example, in western Canada, the Sts’ailes First Nation Indigenous tribe have Sasq’ets ingrained into their lore. This term, as you might guess, is the origin of the word “Sasquatch.”

Slide Rock Bolter

Where it’s been spotted: After the Slide Rock Bolter was spotted on Lizard Head near Silverton, a forest ranger supposedly set up a dummy filled with explosives to lure the creature. The ruse apparently worked but simultaneously flattened half the buildings Rico, according to the 1910 book “Fearsome Creatures of the Lumberwoods,” by William T. Cox.

Origin story: The legend of the Slide Rock Bolter is one of the strangest of the Southwest cryptids. Back in the 1800s, Colorado miners and lumberjacks told stories of a massive land whale that lived in the mountains. This dry-land Moby Dick would wait at the tops of mountains waiting for prey to cross its path. Then, in a thunderous avalanche, it would slide down the mountainside destroying everything in its path before gulping down its meal with its large mouth. This imagery is both ridiculous and terrifying. Over the years, this land-locked whale has been blamed for missing hikers and Colorado tourists, though we’d like to think that if anyone saw a giant, landlocked fish was eating people we would spot it more often.


Where it’s been spotted: In 2016, a man posted photos to Facebook of a creature that looked very similar to other Chupacabra sightings. He spotted the doglike creature on a Sun City, Arizona golf course.

Origin story: El Chupacabras come from Latin lore. They are hideous, vampiric “goatsuckers” that drain the blood from goats. They’ve been described as both hairless canines as well as hairy lizards. The legendary creature became popularized after Puerto Rican newspapers began reporting in 1992 that farm animals across the island were found with puncture wounds on their necks and drained of blood. In 1995, its popularity exploded when a Puerto Rican woman reported seeing the creature, describing it as “4-feet high, with wide, dark eyes, thin arms, three fingers and two legs,” and “no ears or genitals, only small air holes for a nose, and spikes down its back.” UFO researchers picked up on her account and the rest is history.


Where it’s been spotted: In Two Guns, Arizona, Aswang are believed to inhabit the Apache Death Cave. On several occasions, pregnant cows near Two
Guns have been discovered dead—their fetus calves nowhere to be found.

Origin story: The Aswang, a vampiric cryptid known for its shapeshifting abilities, was first discovered in the Philippines hundreds of years ago. The Aswang does not sound like a creature you’d want to run into, even in a very well-lit alley. This creature has long, sharp claws, smells like rotting meat, makes rattlesnake-like noises, and has an affinity for eating small children and sucking fetuses out of its prey. Because Aswang are shapeshifters, they can be difficult to identify. According to legend, by day they would live amongst people, then by night shapeshift into various animals.

Bear Lake Monster

Where it’s been spotted: In 1860, two boys were out on the lake fishing when the cryptid came so close to their boat that it nearly capsized them.

Origin story: Bear Lake, located northeast of Salt Lake City, Utah, is a popular tourist destination because of its various outdoor activities and beautiful landscape. But that’s not all it’s known for. Bear Lake is also the home to a large, mysterious creature that lives in the waters of the lake. Back in the 1800s, Mormon colonists reported spotting the cryptid in the lake: a serpent-like monster with a head like an alligator and short, stubby legs. The nearby Shoshone tribe referred to the creature as a “water devil.” According to the tribe, the Bear Lake Monster was evil and was to be avoided. It was said that if you ever went swimming in the lake or got too close to the water’s edge, you were in danger of getting attacked by the monster. Even Mormon leader Brigham Young allegedly attempted to ensnare the Bear Lake Monster.

The Rake

Where it’s been spotted: Many sightings of The Rake have occurred in Peach Springs, Arizona. One night, a bar owner was closing up shop because of a mysterious power outage when he reported spotting a grayish, white humanoid figure.

Origin story: The Rake is a creature of nightmares. It is said to reside in the Grand Canyon Caverns near Peach Springs, Arizona. According to lore, the cryptid is about nine feet tall with long, sharp claws. The Rake is nocturnal and makes highpitched, blood-curdling screams. Sightings of the creature go back as far as the 1800s and violence always followed in its wake. Aside from its taste for violence and human flesh, the Rake is believed to have the ability to turn off electricity.

Guadalupe Giants

Where it’s been spotted: In 1902, a rancher uncovered the graves of ancient human giants in Guadalupe, New Mexico.

Origin story: Believe it or not, at one point anyway, giants may have roamed the Southwest. In 1902, The New York Times reported that a rancher named Luiciana Quintana found the skeletal remains of 12-foot giants in Guadalupe, New Mexico. Archaeologists flocked to the site to investigate more. “The men who opened the grave say the [giant’s] forearm was four feet long and that in a well-preserved jaw the lower teeth ranged from the size of a hickory nut to that of the largest walnut in size,” according to The New York Times. “The chest of the being is reported as having a circumference of seven feet.” Unfortunately, not much more is known about the skeletons as the discovery became lost to history.


Where it’s been spotted: One witness in northern Arizona claimed to see the Olitiau during a drive through Oak Creek Canyon on State Route 89A. When the creature noticed her watching, it flew away.

Origin story: The Olitiau is one of the less known of the cryptids but this makes it no less terrifying. There have been sightings of the Olitiau across the world, including the Amazon Rainforest and Africa. In 1932, Ivan Sanderson, an explorer and cryptozoologist, was traveling in Cameroon, Africa. Sanderson and his hunting partner were attacked by an Olitiau while they were shooting bats next to a stream. Sanderson described the creature as bat-like with a 10-to-12 foot wingspan. In northern Arizona, the Olitiau allegedly lives in the lava-tubes of Humphrey’s Peak near Flagstaff, Arizona.


Where it’s been spotted: In 2010, a woman overturned her vehicle into a canal in Mesa County, Colorado because there was a vampire in the road, according to the Denver Post. She was driving down on a dirt road near the town of Fruita when she spotted it. Panicking, she threw her vehicle into reverse, and drove it until it overturned.

Origin story: For as sunny as Colorado is, it might surprise you to learn that there have been numerous vampire sightings. The most prolific of all was Fodor Glava of Transylvania, the Lafayette Vampire. During the 1800s and 1900s, the mining town of Lafayette attracted workers from all over the country and the world, including Glava. Glava died in 1918 and rumors immediately sprang up that he had been a vampire, no doubt at least partly due to the fact that he hailed from Transylvania. A tree even started growing from out of his grave, convincing people that the tree sprouted from a stake in Glava’s heart. We’re no scientists but this seems a bit far fetched even to us.


Where it’s been spotted: A resident of the Do a Ana Mountains in New Mexicoclaimed in 1998 he found two enormous birds. He estimated their wingspan was about 20 feet and described them as each about the size of a small plane.

Origin story: People shouldn’t be spotting teratorns these days mostly because they went extinct in the Pleistocene Era, which ended about 11,700 years ago. However, the reported sightings of strange, giant bird-like creatures have persisted throughout history. In the 1970s, a Colorado man supposedly discovered a pterosaur in northeast New Mexico, and in the 1800s, the residents of Lordsburg, New Mexico, reported seeing massive, featherless birds in the sky, often.

Grand Canyon Troll

Where it’s been spotted: In 2013, a woman claimed she came across a troll drinking from a pool of water while hiking the Canyon Point Trail on the Mogollon Rim near the Grand Canyon.

Origin story: Over the years, there have been multiple sightings of a troll that supposedly lives near the Grand Canyon. The creatures are covered in gray fur and have talons. One passerby even said the troll he spotted was drinking the blood of two dead cougars when he came across it. When the troll realized he was there, he screamed and waved a club at him (this sounds more like a caveman to us). Though they seem to have made it all the way out to Arizona, troll lore stems from medieval fairy tales, folklore of European forests centuries old. One of the most famous troll tales is that of the Three Billy Goats Gruff where a troll blocks three goats from passing over a bridge unless they pay up.


Where it’s been spotted: In 2014, three bikers came across a reptilian humanoid creature in the Sonoran Desert in Arizona. The monster was 6-foot tall, had claws, was ape-like in the way it moved, and had green and red scales.

Origin story: Reptoids are also often referred to as Reptilians and Draconians. The theory is that these are a humanoid race of reptiles that secretly live on Earth. Since they have shapeshifting abilities, some people believe they disguise themselves as humans and live amongst us. Some conspiracy theories claim that they may even be running the world. Clearly, no one told the reptoid living in the Sonoran Desert.

Monsters of Bottomless Lakes

Where it’s been spotted: In the 1980s, a man in a boat reported spotting a giant turtle surface at Bottomless Lake in New Mexico. It was so massive, the witness was sure it was the Loch Ness monster at first.

Origin story: Bottomless Lakes holds the honor of becoming the first state park in New Mexico in 1933. Lake legends sprouted mostly because the nine lakes appeared to have no end. Allegedly, legendary outlaw Billy the Kid and his gang hid out from the law at those lakes. While they were there, they tried using rope to figure out how deep it was. Since they were unable to, they determined that the lakes were “bottomless.” You get it. The Bottomless Lakes are filled with a variety of creepy creatures like giant turtles, an octopus-humanoid man, a dragon, and a ghost horse. If someone has the misfortune of drowning in the lakes, the lore states that they were trapped by a magical force that relocates them to Carlsbad Caverns. That or they got eaten by the giant turtles which are apparently the size of cars. We supposed that’s what you get for swimming in a lake that is supposedly bottomless.


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