On the television, Monsters in America was investigating the Mothman sightings. I watched, because part of me, like Fox Mulder, wants to believe.
The terrifying Mothman of Point Pleasant, West Virginia.
Above: Mothman concept art by Tim Bertelink, Wikimedia Commons, 2016
However, growing up in the country, spending many nights in the woods camping or hunting, and knowing how deceptive eyes can trick the mind, I remained skeptical. I’ve seen countless owls of different varieties, including a few abrupt, up-close-and-personal encounters. A great horned owl winters-over in the Osage grove behind my house. One night, I saw it on the ground in the moonlight. It looked twice the size I knew it to be. That would make it roughly six feet tall.Once I worked out the distance to the giant, it shrunk back to normal owl height. Sadly, I feel I must debunk The Mothman as an owl or some other large bird freaking people out in the dark.
The Unintentional Monster.
Still, living in the country and being an outdoors man most of my life, I have seen things that fooled me, and a few I cannot explain.
I have been an avid kayaker since I was eleven-years-old. At that age, once out of sight of parental supervision on Florida’s Myakka River, I saw myself exploring the Amazon in search of the Lost City of Gold or The Creature from the Black Lagoon . That flight of fancy was easy to imagine as real on that black water river.
Looking for The Creature from the Black Lagoon. My favorite pastime. –Dark Oak
There were ‘gators, air plant infested palms, Spanish moss and cottonmouths hanging from the low branches of live oak trees. Sometimes, I would think I saw something, just back in the dark, tangled brush, watching me.
What, besides ‘gators and cottonmouths, lurks in these tannic waters?
Besides having an encounter with Momo (The Missouri Monster) while hauling hay late one night (this remains unexplained and is fodder for a future blog post), another encounter will always be semi-real to me.
I was twenty-nine, and had launched my kayak early one morning on Florida’s St. Mary’s River. I was paddling upstream against a gentle current, the morning mist heavy and fog-like in places, when I rounded a bend and saw a monster; a really big one.
The Hydra in the mist.
This multi-headed beast rose fifteen feet above the foggy shoreline sixty feet away. My first thought was my god, the Hydra exists! My second thought was to call bullshit on the first. I stopped paddling, telling myself there must be a reasonable explanation. As the monster did not attack, I began to paddle forward again, thinking this is where the doubter in every freaking monster movie gets eaten. As I closed the distance, the mist shifting around the beast made it difficult to tell if it was moving or not. It appeared to be watching me, which was unnerving. If you’ve ever been in a kayak, you know it is a tight fit and leg movement is very restricted. I began to feel like a Snack Pack.* Still, I paddled toward it. At twenty feet, when I was just about to decide discretion is the better part of valor, the mist diminished and I saw the monster’s true identity.
The hydra was a massive, washed out, flood slain tree. What I took for the heads of the hydra was a root mass. This was facing me, a half a dozen of its larger roots twisted and broken off about 6-7 feet from the center trunk. The fog and mist had simply hidden all the other details from me. But, at 30 feet and drawing closer, I was near to becoming a devote believer in monster hydras.
Flood slain trees. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. File:Two Uprooted Trees. – geograph.org.uk – 1013005.jpg
Picture the above scene in dim light and fog, bereft of context, with the details hidden and just the large branches having form. Those conditions can confuse anyone’s mind. So, when I hear about monster sightings and encounters, I run them past the Hydra Test. Most of them do not hold up–most of them.
*Snack Pack, trademark of CONAGRA FOODS RDM, INC