So I’ve been watching a lot of Cryptid related television recently in preparation for another forthcoming article here and one particular episode of a certain show stuck out to me. Now the sort of bread and butter for any kind of Cryptid related television as far as what gets talked about are the Cryptids that are “familiar” to a general audience. This is why over the years so many various television companies have run specials and at times funded expeditions looking for things like Bigfoot, the Yeti and the Loch Ness Monster. They are the ones most people know about. It is also why, if the subject isn’t the specific Bigfoot of the Pacific Northwest, it is a local variation, but with constant references to the aforementioned PNW Sasquatch. This is the formula these shows typically thrive on.
One such recent show that follows the local variations formula is the Destination America show Mountain Monsters. For those of you who have not seen this show, I will give a brief rundown of it, but I won’t go too much into detail here, as it will be one of the center focal points of my third article about recent Cryptid related TV. So the show follows a group of native West Virginia men who follow stories and sightings of local “monsters” of Appalachia, mostly staying with in their home state. The typical episodes for both seasons (as of this writing season two is still airing) focus on things like local variations of Sasquatch (Ohio Grassman), Phantom Dogs, Alien Big Cats, Lizard Men and Werewolves. Yet one recent episode strayed away from those and talked about another kind of creature, a kind I had never heard of before. The episode focused on some alleged sightings of a large, 10-15 foot, lizard like creature roaming around Pocahontas County, WVA, near the Virginia state line. As I have mentioned in previous articles Virginia is my home state, so this got me very excited.
Now what makes this so interesting? Well anyone who knows a lot about Cryptozoology knows this subject has a long and colorful history with oversized lizards. Some believe that is what the (in) famous Mokele Mbembe of the Congo is, the Artrellia of New Guinea is thought to be some form of giant lizard and some are convinced that Megalania is still roaming around the Australian Outback. In fact even the largest known species of lizard alive today, the Komodo dragon, was only confirmed by science in 1912. That means at just a little over a century ago most of the world had no idea these fascinating creatures where real. So lizards still have a lot to offer in the terms of Cryptozoology. Now back to the show. The episode in question talked about “recent” sightings and encounters with what the host dubbed the “West Virginia Fire Dragon.” They called it Fire Dragon not because it breathed fire, but rather that they believed it to be attracted to fire. The creature, according to the eyewitnesses, also didn’t look like a story book dragon, but more like a Komodo or any other large Varanid. Varanidae is the scientific name for the Monitor lizard family, of which Komodos are a part of.
Now the show consisted of talking to a few people who have claimed to have seen such a creature, a supposed video of said beast (which looked like very poor CGI), and finally a night “hunt” looking for it. Needless to say no Fire Dragons were found. Now this is very interesting on a few levels. Prior to the airing of this episode I had never heard of a Fire Dragon here in America. I did an internet search and the only matches I came across was links back to their site. I also know of at least one other local researcher who also tried to find any additional reports and came up with the same results. I hope this isn’t another Oklahoma Octopus situation here.
Drawing a blank there I wanted to see if I could find any other reports of giant Monitor like lizards from anywhere else in the country. This wouldn’t necessarily mean the Fire Dragon had any more credibility, but it would be something worth investigating. Just the idea of such things found here fascinated me. What I found shocked me. Indeed there was a “history” with such large lizards elsewhere in America. So where to start? Well let’s start with the stories that are more folkloric and move our way up to more modern sightings
There is a very interesting oral story told by the Yuchi Indians of Oklahoma about three young boys in the tribe who accompanied their village’s medicine man into the wilderness in order to learn his secrets of medicine. While out in the wilderness, the medicine man told the boys of a huge hollow tree that they were avoid at all costs. Later while out collecting fire wood one of the boys disobeyed the medicine man’s advice and tried to chop wood from it. As he did a huge lizard emerged from the tree, sized the boy, and dragged him inside to its lair. The medicine man later killed the beast by leaving poison bait outside the tree. The medicine man cut off the lizard’s head and took it back to the village. Ever since then the Yuchi Indians preformed a special Lizard Dance in honor of the event. This tradition is still employed to this day. According to one researcher, in the 90’s when a museum was erected to celebrate the Yuchi culture as well as Oklahoma history, tribesmen in attendance became excited when a fossil Therapod dinosaur was displayed, as they said it resembled the “Lizard” from their stories.
Now there is no proof that this story is anything else than folklore. But it is very interesting to note that the Yuchi tribe, while located in Oklahoma since the 1800’s, were originally from what is modern day Tennessee. They were relocated to Oklahoma when many of the tribes living in the eastern USA were. It is believed the story originated with them here and was taken with them to their new home. The saga keeps getting more interesting when you consider that another very interesting folklore story comes from the late 1800’s in Crosswick, Ohio not far from Tennessee. The story goes that two young boys were fishing in a creek near Crosswick, when a huge “snake” emerged from the reeds and came for them. The “snake” wasn’t a real snake, because it had legs, but it had a long slender body like a snake or Varanid. The lizard was described as being 30-40 feet in length, moved on four legs yet could stand on two, and was black and white colored with large yellow spots.
The creature caught one of the boys and began to drag him off. However, some local quarry workers heard the commotion and came to help. The beast released him and took shelter inside a large hollow sycamore tree. According to the story the tree was 26 feet across. Later that day a posse of men armed with axes and dogs came to get the creature. While they were in the process of cutting down the tree, the lizard emerged and even stood for a moment on two feet, before going down on four and escaping down the side of a cliff. A slightly alternate version tells of how the men cut off part of the lizard’s tail. No mention of what happened to the tail exists. The alternate version also says the boy seized by the lizard would later die from his injuries. After this story was to have taken place a group of men claimed to see a large lizard like creature cross a nearby road near a swamp.
Both of these stories are great visuals and valuable addition to local folklore, but they probably have no more bearing on reality than do stories about an old house haunted by the ghost of old man Jefferson, who probably never lived there or existed at all. However, it is worth noting that both stories originate from the same general area and are about 100 years apart. Could one have inspired the other? If so which came first? It’s hard to say. Even more fascinating is that not located too far from either location, and from WVA the supposed home of the Fire Dragon, we have modern reports of sightings of large unknown lizards.
In July 1975, in Trimble County, Kentucky, there were reported sightings of a large lizard like creature near Canip Creek, near Milton. Investigator Mark Hall talked with several eyewitnesses. Locals Clarence and Garrett Cable allegedly saw the lizard an astounding three times near a junk yard. A few clawed five inch foot prints were also found around the town dump. The lizard was described as 15 feet long with black and white stripes and quarter sized orange specks. The size and colors are off from the creature of legend, but as with all legends exaggeration is bound to happen.
Now having looked through stories and sightings, some obvious folklore, some a bit more puzzling, I will admit with this Cryptid the puzzling thing isn’t what it normally is. The biggest point of doubt most have with Cryptids is the size of the Cryptids themselves. However, that really isn’t the problem here, as the largest lizard living alive today is not that much smaller than this reported creature, at least the one reported in 1975. The biggest problem I have with any kind of large lizard living in any of these places is the environment. It is true similar sized lizards do exist, but they live in places where the temperature is warm and tropical. Large reptilian predators do exist in America, but they live in places where the weather is very warm and the winters are mild at their coldest. The winters of these states where the reports come from have very different weather.
Does this mean they are all hoaxes? No. After all when the tribes men saw a dinosaur skeleton they became excited. When know from other instances that sometimes bones and fossils can inspire legends and stories around them. And as for the 1975 reports, well maybe the creature was real, but an escapee from a private collection or zoo. It could also be why no more reports were collected after 1975. The lizard might have died in the winter due to the cold. Whatever the reason no more reliable reports of large lizards in the United States have come forward, that is until Mountain Monsters came along and so did the stories of the Fire Dragon. So I am left to wonder is this lizard real or fake. I would like to believe the reports are honest, but something tells me there is more deception going on around here. Sad really.