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A purpoted female bigfoot in northern California, caught on film in 1967.

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In March of 1972, on two separate occasions, two Ohio policemen saw what has become known as the “Loveland Frogman.” The first incident took place at 1:00 AM on March 3, 1972 on a clear, cold night. Officer Ray Shockey was on route to Loveland, via Riverside Road, when he thought he saw a dog beside the roadway, in a field on Twightwee Road. But then the “thing” stood up, its eyes illuminated by the car lights, looked at him for an instant, turned, and leapt over a guardrail. Shockey saw it go down an embankment and into the Little Miami River. He described the thing as weighing about sixty pounds, standing about three to four feet tall, and having a textured, leathery skin and a face like a frog or lizard. Shockey drove to the police station and returned with Officer Mark Matthews to look for evidence of the creature. They turned up scrape marks leading down the side of the small hill near the river.

On St. Patrick's Day, March 17, 1972, Officer Matthews was driving outside of Loveland when he had a similar experience. Seeing an animal lying in the middle of the road, he stopped to remove what he thought was a dead critter. Instead, when the officer opened his squeaky car door, the animal got up into a crouched position like a football player. The creature hobbled to the guardrail and lifted its leg over the fence, keeping an eye on Matthews the whole time.

Perhaps it was the funny smirk on its face, but Matthews decided to shoot it. He missed, however, probably because the thing didn't slow down. Matthews later told how he felt the creature stood more upright than the way Shockey had described it. One area farmer told investigators he saw a large, frog-like or lizard-like creature during the same month of the officers' sightings.

a park bench in Savannah, Georgia, Photograph by Brian Gordon Green

The object of superstition worldwide, black cats are often considered harbingers of bad luck. This one seems unaware of his power over humans though. When the Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth Rock, they brought with them a devout faith in the Bible. They also brought a deepening suspicion of anything deemed of the devil. Comprised of Englanders and Europeans, these pilgrims were a deeply suspicious group. They viewed the black cat as a companion, or a familiar to witches. Anyone caught with a black cat would be severely punished or even killed. They viewed the black cat as part demon and part sorcery.

International Wolf Center in Ely, Minnesota, Photograph by Joel Sartore

Wolves feed primarily on medium to large sized ungulates, though they are opportunistic feeders, and will generally eat any meat that is available, including non-ungulate species, carrion and garbage. Cannibalism is not uncommon in wolves, and has been recorded to occur in times of food scarcity, when a pack member dies, and during territorial disputes. Humans are rarely, but occasionally preyed upon. In everything from pop songs to literature to Saturday morning cartoons, humans have long vilified wolves. They once roamed throughout North America, but their spine-tingling howls were nearly extinguished in the U.S. by ranchers trying to protect their livestock. Efforts to restore wolves to the wild are succeeding, though. Here a gray wolf fiercely guards its meal.

feeding on a spider in Arizona, Photograph by Paul Zahl

The bite of a tarantula was once believed to cause a fatal condition called tarantism, whose cure was believed to involve wild dancing of a kind that has come to be identified with the tarantella. The Lycosa tarantulas, being larger and more fearsome-looking, tended to be unjustly credited with any severe bites. Large, hairy, and fast, tarantulas are the stuff of nightmares. But these awe-inspiring arachnids are intimidating in looks alone; their venom is harmless to humans, less painful than a bee sting. There are hundreds of tarantula species found in most of the world's tropical, subtropical, and arid regions. They vary in color and behavior according to their specific environments. Generally, however, tarantulas are burrowers that live in the ground.

A vampire bat laps blood from a sleeping calf somewhere in the United States. Photograph by Bruce Dale

Bats are the only mammals that can fly, but vampire bats have an even more interesting distinction-they are the only mammals that feed entirely on blood. These notorious bats sleep during the day in total darkness, suspended upside down from the roofs of caves. They typically gather in colonies of about 100 animals, but sometimes live in groups of 1,000 or more. In one year, a 100-bat colony can drink the blood of 25 cows.

During the darkest part of the night, common vampire bats emerge to hunt. Sleeping cattle and horses are their usual victims, but they have been known to feed on people as well. The bats drink their victim's blood for about 30 minutes. They don't remove enough blood to harm their host, but their bites can cause nasty infections and disease. Vampire bats strike their victims from the ground. They land near their prey and approach it on all fours. The bats have few teeth because of their liquid diet, but those they have are razor sharp. Each bat has a heat sensor on its nose that points it toward a spot where warm blood is flowing just beneath its victim's skin. After putting the bite on an animal, the vampire bat laps up the flowing blood with its tongue. Its saliva prevents the blood from clotting.

Young vampire bats feed not on blood but on milk. They cling tightly to their mothers, even in flight, and consume nothing but her milk for about three months. The common vampire bat is found in the tropics of Mexico, Central America, and South America. These archetypal eerie animals are the only mammals that subsist solely on blood.

The empty exoskeleton of a huntsman spider, in Arizona, Photography by Paul Zahl

Huntsman spiders do not build webs, but hunt and forage for food: their diet consists primarily of insects and other invertebrates, and occasionally small skinks and geckos. They live in the crevices of tree bark, but will frequently wander into homes and vehicles. They are able to travel extremely fast, often using a springing jump while running, and walk on walls and even on ceilings. They also tend to exhibit a "cling" reflex if picked up, making them difficult to shake off. The empty exoskeleton of a huntsman spider is only slightly less creepy than the real thing. These imposing arachnids can be huge, with some species exceeding 5 inches in diameter. They're generally shy though, and their bite, though painful, is otherwise harmless.

the great horned owl has adapted to a wide variety of habitats and climates, Photograph by Joel Sartore

The most common owl in North and South America the bird is named for the tuft of feathers on its head that look like horns. These birds also have 500 pounds per square inch of crushing power in their talons. An average adult human male has about 60 pounds per square inch in his hands. In northern regions, where larger prey that cannot be eaten quickly are most prevalent, they may let uneaten food freeze and then thaw it out later using their own body heat. They also tend to eat and regurgitate food in the same locations. The great horned owl is a hard-working partner and father. In late winter, while his mate stays on the nest with their clutch of two or three eggs, the male heads off to find food for both of them, carrying rats, mice, and squirrels back to the nest. Once the chicks hatch, his job gets harder-he now has to feed an additional two or three mouths.

The tiny beast crouches and peers out from a tree in the night-time jungle, its huge pale eyes glowing in the moonlight. Its black fur makes it almost invisible in the darkness, but those who have seen it say that the third finger on each hand is strangely long and thin, and its ears are disproportionately large. Locals sometimes call this little goblin the witch-cat. They think its appearance foretells death, and they take care to avoid or kill it.

Someone encountering creatures would probably think they were frightening and mysterious monsters. The witch-cat is actually an aye-aye, a member of the lemur family. It is actually shy and harmless. The strangest thing about it is that it had long been thought to be extinct; then, in 1986, three aye-ayes were discovered and captured by scientists for study. The second creature described above is not well documented. Most scientists consider it a myth or, at best, a misperception of a common animal - perhaps a dog, as the officer first thought he was seeing.

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