Halloween is October’s signature scary event, but the month of creepy creatures also is known as Bat Appreciation Month and Raptor Month.
Bats, goblins, witches, zombies, ghosts, werewolves and vampires are among the frightening critters (imagined, costumed and perhaps real) you’ll see this time of year in US stores, front yards and knocking at their doors.
Everyone loves a monster. Clinical pathologist David Rudd of Texas Tech University, said horror films and haunted houses are big attractions, because scary things turn on the brain’s fight-or-flight response, which increases heart and respiration rates and causes muscles to tense. There’s an enjoyable adrenaline rush even when there’s no actual risk of harm.
Florida’s First Coast attracts excited crowds that gather to stare out to sea when a shark is spotted in the waves. Da dum ... da dum.
About 10 years ago, a rippling wake in otherwise still water in a West Palm Beach lagoon caused a stir among residents. Although no one actually saw the creature, it was nicknamed the “Muck Monster”, and there was talk of turning the city pier into a sea monster tourist spot, a la the Loch Ness Monster.
A researcher recently disputed the existence of Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster, claiming DNA in the water indicates it could be a really big eel, not a giant dinosaur. Spoil sport! Apparently the water in Scotland’s Loch Ness contains a large amount of eel spit. Frankly, I think a big eel qualifies as a monster. A small snake in the grass is enough of a monster to make me shriek and levitate, while my spouse the Binmeister roars with laughter.
Never fear, there are plenty of fearsome creatures around. In September, a giant dragon-like critter was spotted swimming in a central Chinese river. In 2018, gator hunters captured a 4m long alligator – almost as large as the captor’s boat – in Basin Bayou, Florida.
Bigfoot sightings have occurred around the United States in rural areas of the Great Lakes, Southeast and Pacific Northwest, as well as in many foreign countries; they’re called Yeti in the Himalayas, and Sasquatch in Canada. Which makes me wonder, is the plural Bigfeet?
There’s also the Jersey Devil in South New Jersey, which has a horse head, bat wings and claws. The town of Point Pleasant, West Virginia, has a statue dedicated to its hometown monster, Mothman, while the Florida Everglades National Park features a “Florida Skunk Ape” gift shop.
According to Weird US by Mark Moran and Mark Sceurman, in 1891 a Northeast Florida newspaper reported that a sea serpent with a dog-like head and a long skinny neck chased bathers from the ocean at Jacksonville Beach.
There also were reports in 1956, 1961 and again in 1975, of a big manatee-like monster or brontosaurus in the St Johns River.
An iconic monster in the Intracoastal Waterway would be quite the marketing draw. Think of the naming possibilities: the Mutant Intracoastal Mammoth Manatee; Palm Valley Flamingosaurus Rex; and lurking in golf course lagoons, a Man-Eating Mulligan Monster.
Unfortunately, science is taking a lot of the spooky fun out of October.
In September, The Wall Street Journal reported scientists who were exploring a crater in the seafloor off the coast of Mexico discovered that a “city-sized asteroid” had hit Earth a million years ago, wiping out dinosaurs and most other life.
A Washington Post article said mass extinctions have been caused by five cataclysmic events, including the asteroid, a convergence of continents, volcanic eruptions and glaciers that locked the oceans with acres of ice.
Researchers predict we’re due for a sixth mass extinction; this one will be caused by human activities such as raising cattle for food, deforestation, travel by cars and planes, and burning fossil fuels.
I have another theory. For those who want to blame the end of the world on global warming, keep in mind October also is known as World Menopause Month. Now that is scary! – Tribune News Service/The Florida Times-Union