According to legend, a basilisk was produced when a chicken egg was hatched under a toad or a serpent. There were, according to legend, several species of this animal. One species burned up whatever they approached; a second were a kind of wandering Medusa's heads, and their look caused an instant horror which was immediately followed by death. The basilisks were called kings of serpents because all other serpents and snakes, behaving like good subjects and wisely not wishing to be burned up or struck dead, fled the moment they heard the distant hiss of their king, although they might be in full feed upon the most delicious prey, leaving the sole enjoyment of the banquet to the royal monster.
In 1832, U.K. representative B.H. Hodson, while living in Nepal, claimed to have seen the Abominable Snowman attack his servants. Hodson described the creature as a "wild man ... covered in long, dark hair, and had no tail". This is generally considered the first report of the Abominable Snowman made by a Westerner.
According to local legends, the Mapinguari, a large, nocturnal, red-haired monster with a disorienting stench, roams the Amazon jungle of Brazil. Locals describe the Mapinguari as standing about two meters tall when on its hind legs. Interestingly, its feet are turned backwards and it is reportedly capable of ripping apart palm trees with its large claws. Although most scientists dismiss the Mapinguari as myth, a few, among them ornithologist David Oren, believe the Mapinguari may actually exist. They theorize that it may be a surviving giant ground sloth similar to the Mylodon, generally thought to have gone extinct about ten thousand years ago. It would not be entirely unprecedented to discover a living specimen of a species thought to be extinct for such a long period. In 1972, Dr. Ralph Wetzel discovered living specimens of the Chacoan Peccary, a close relative of pigs and boars, while on an expedition to the Gran Chaco. Prior to his discovery, the only example of this type of peccary had come from fossil remains, and they were generally considered to have died out about ten thousand years ago.
The NHL's New Jersey Devils are named after the Jersey Devil, a legendary creature who has reportedly been sighted by numerous New Jersey residents for almost three centuries, but whose description has changed dramatically over the years. Originally described as a demonic child with hooves, bat wings, a forked tail, and the head of a horse, the creature has since been described as a flying lion, a green alien-like monster, and a faceless hairy creature. Some believe the Jersey Devil is a myth, while others believe it to be something supernatural. Still others believe the creature to be some sort of alien or a survivor of the Jurassic period.
In the summer of 1816, while visiting the poet Lord Byron at his villa near Lake Geneva in Switzerland, Mary Shelley created the character of the Frankenstein monster. During this visit, stormy weather forced the party to spend most of their time indoors. To pass the time, some of Byron's other guests read from a volume of ghost stories. One evening, Byron issued a challenge -- that each of his guests should write a ghost story of their own. Mary's story, which was inspired by a dream, eventually became her most famous literary work -- the novel Frankenstein.
Scylla was once a beautiful maiden until she was changed into a snakelike monster by the sorceress Circe. She lived in a cave high up on a cliff, from where she was known to thrust forth her long necks (she had six heads), and in each of her mouths seize one of the crew of every vessel passing within reach. According to legend, she murdered six of the companions of Ulysses, and tried to wreck the ships of Aeneas until she was turned into a rock.
Famed Mexican cinematographer Gabriel Figueroa once told of a legendary humanoid creature that supposedly lived in South America. Producer William Alland overheard the story, and it became the inspiration for The Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954). The Creature is considered by many critics to be Universal's last great classic monster, and it spawned several sequels including Revenge of the Creature (1955) and The Creature Walks Among Us (1956).
In Greek mythology, the story of Lycaon serves as one of the earliest examples of the werewolf legend. According to one version of the story, Lycaon was transformed into a wolf as punishment for eating human flesh. According to another version, he served up his own son Nyctimus, offered the dish of human flesh to Zeus on the altar of mount Lycaeus, and was immediately turned into a wolf by the disgusted god. This gave rise to the legend that a man was turned into a wolf at each annual sacrifice to Zeus Lycaeus, but if he refrained from eating human flesh for ten years he would regain his human form.
According to Greek mythology, the three-headed watchdog Cerberus was said to guard the entrance to Hades. Although it was sometimes said to have as many as a hundred heads, most accounts describe Cerberus as having only three heads and the tail of a serpent. The center head was that of a lion, and the other two resembled a dog and a wolf. Cerberus was the offspring of the giant Typhon and Echidna, a monstrous snakelike creature. Heracles temporarily brought Cerberus to the upper world as the last of his Twelve Labors.
The Dracula legend is generally believed to have evolved from the life of Vlad Tepes or Vlad the Impaler, a Prince of Wallachia who lived from 1431 to 1476. Best known for the cruelty of his reign, he was greatly disliked, but he served as a sort of buffer between Europe and the Ottoman invaders, and this made him key to the European defense. He filfilled this purpose well, killing so many Turks that the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II laid siege on Vlad's castle himself. Vlad did not restrict his killing, however, to his enemies. He also had a habit of pillaging certain towns under his rule and murdering a great number of his own subjects. True to his name, most of his victims were impaled. According to some legends, he was eventually taken captive by the Hungarians who burned out his eyes and buried him alive. The next day, however, when his grave was unearthed, they found no corpse. Shortly thereafter, there were a number of mysterious deaths at his castle, giving rise to the belief among his subjects that he had somehow survived -- and perhaps giving rise to the vampire myth as well.