They are the creatures whose existence science has yet to prove. They have been spotted by the public and sometimes even captured on film.
The beings that make up our Top 10 list of mythical beasts come to us from ancient cultures, the depths of extinction, and urban legend; and while their existence may be widely questioned by all but the most ardent believers, they have certainly captured the imagination.
It was only this August that the global media ran stories on a short video clip supposedly showing the infamous Loch Ness Monster sparking interest in the Scottish loch all over again.
While we can’t guarantee that you’ll actually catch a glimpse of these elusive characters, we’re sure you’ll have a great time looking!
Bigfoot, North America
He’s big, he’s hairy and he’s known the world over. Bigfoot, also known as sasquatch, is an ape-like creature lives in forests across the Pacific Northwest region of North America.
Bigfoot is usually described as a large, hairy, bipedal humanoid.
Bigfoot sightings predate European settlement and the term sasquatch comes from the word sásq’ets from the First Nation Halkomelem language.
The first photographic evidence was a set of footprints captured in the 1950s, but the most famous Bigfoot image is from a slightly blurry piece of film that was shot in Bluff Creek, California, in 1967.
Sadly, most scientists doubt Bigfoot’s existence and believe he’s a combination of folklore, misidentification, and hoaxes, but that hasn’t stopped the furry guy from having a loyal following.
Best Places to Spot: Bigfoot Scenic Byway (part of California State Route 96), 89 miles from Willow Creek to Happy Camp.
Golem, Czech Republic
This isn’t the Golem of Lord of the Rings fame.
Originating in Jewish folklore, a golem is an animated human-like being, created entirely from inanimate matter. One of the most famous of all golem stories centres on the 16th century rabbi Judah Loew who created a golem out of clay from the banks of the Vltava River to defend the Prague ghetto against anti-Semitic attacks and pogroms.
In a scene that prefigures Frankenstein, Rabbi Loew brought his golem to life through ancient rituals and speaking incantations and inserting a shem (one of the names of God written on a piece of paper) into its mouth. He named the golem Josef and it is said he had the power of invisibility and could summon the spirits of the dead.
The most important rule of golem ownership is that they are not allowed to be alive on the Sabbath (Saturday). Rabbi Loew took special care to deactivate the golem every Friday by removing its shem, but it would appear one week he messed up and things took a violent turn.
Thankfully, the Rabbi managed to pull the shem from his mouth and the golem fell to pieces.
Best Places to Spot: According to legend, the golem’s remains still lie in the attic of the Old New Synagogue, Josefov, Prague.
Mimi are tall, thin fairy-like beings found in Arnhem Land in Australia’s Northern Territory.
Described in Indigenous folklore, Mimi have extremely thin and elongated bodies, so thin they risk breaking in high winds. To protect themselves from the elements, Mimi spend most of their time living in rock crevices.
It is said they taught the Aborigines how to hunt, prepare meat and use fire, and while generally harmless they have been known to be mischievous on occasion.
Legend has it that Mimi were the artists of first rock paintings and shared their skills with the Aboriginal people.
Best Places to Spot: Anbangbang and Nangawulurr Shelters, Burrunggui rock formation, Kakadu National Park.
Moa, New Zealand
As these giant birds were once found throughout New Zealand the moa can’t really be classified into the world of mythology, but this extinct species has certainly become the stuff of legend.
Looking like an oversized emu, these giant birds stood at around 3.6m (12 ft) and weighed a hefty 230 kg (510 lb). It’s thought most moa species died out in the 16th century due to overhunting and habitat decline, but reported sightings continued into the 1800s and beyond.
One of the most recent supposed moa sightings occurred in 2008, when Australian cryptozoologist Rex Gilroy discovered 35 ground prints he believed belonged to a colony of scrub moa in the remote Urewera Ranges.
A celebrity in the world of cryptozoology, the Yeti (sometimes called the Abominable Snowman) is a tall, ape-like being believed to roam the Himalayan region of Nepal and Tibet.
Similar to Bigfoot, the Yeti has long been and part of indigenous mythology and first entered Western popular culture in the 19th century.
Sceptics say people are simply misidentifying the Tibetan blue bear, the Himalayan brown bear or Dzu-Teh, but believers are adamant this ancient creature exists.
It would appear the Yeti has developed a case of itchy-feet, with the beast being spotted in Thailand, Russia, and Japan.
Best Places to Spot: Khumbu (Everest) Region, Nepalese Himalayas.
The windswept and sparse beauty of Iceland’s landscape is the perfect setting for a little fairy tale magic so it’s no surprise the elf-like creatures called Huldufólk (hidden people) and álfar (elves) are an integral part of Icelandic folklore.
The belief in Huldufólk seems to have roots deep in Iceland’s multicultural past with influence from Norse settlers’ álfar and the fairies of Irish slaves.
Figures are often thrown about suggesting between 50-70 per cent of Iceland’s population believes in the existence of fairies, but opinion is divided on the accuracy of these numbers.
Whether people believe or not, Huldufólk have certainly made an impact on everyday life. In the present day, building projects have been altered to avoid the rocky areas where they live, tiny elf-sized churches have been built, and Icelandic gardens often feature tiny wooden álfhól (elf houses).
Best Places to Spot: Take a 90min “Hidden Worlds Tour” around Hafnarfjörður, home to one of Iceland’s largest elf colonies under the guidance of Huldufólk expert Erla Stefánsdótti.
Loch Ness Monster, Scotland
Believed to be a modern day relative of the extinct water dinosaur the plesiosaur, the Loch Ness Monster, or Nessie to her friends, is true cryptozoology royalty.
Thanks to a ton of supposed photographic evidence and continuous sightings, the Nessie myth has spread across the globe.
Found in the breath-taking Scottish Highlands, Loch Ness is a large, deep, freshwater loch extending for approximately 37 km (23 miles). Fed by seven major rivers, its deepest point is 755 ft and it contains more fresh water than all the lakes of England and Wales combined.
The first official sightings of Nessie were in 1933 when a couple from London saw ‘a most extraordinary form of animal’ cross the road in front of their car and when motorcyclist Arthur Grant claims to have nearly run it over.
The myth is truly alive and well with the most recent Nessie photographs captured in August 2013.
Explanations for the sightings include misidentified eels, birds, seals, even a lost circus elephant, plants, rocks or optical illusions.
Over the decades, many scientific searches have been carried out on the lake with mixed results, though even the most conclusive evidence is unlike to stop Nessie fans from believing.
Best Places to Spot: There’s only one place you need to go – Loch Ness, Scotland.
High in the mountains and forests of Japan live a breed of protective, yet disruptive, spirits called tengu.
The earliest tengu were bird-like creatures pictured with beaks, but over time this feature has been humanised into an unnaturally long nose which, along with a bright red face, has become the tengu’s defining characteristic.
In the 12th and 13th centuries, tengu were viewed as evil and angry ghosts who possessed and abducted their victims. However, by the 18th and 19th centuries the tengu took on a more favourable light as protectors of the forest.
One of the most famous and highly ranking tengu is Sōjōbō who lives on Mount Kurama just north of Kyoto.
The King of all Tengu, Sōjōbō is an extremely powerful mountain hermit said to hold the strength of 1000 normal tengu.
He’s also a handy parenting tool – in some Japanese villages, parents tell their children Sōjōbō is waiting to eat any little ones who venture into the forest after dark.
Best Places to Spot: Mount Kurama, home to Sōjōbō – King of the Tengu. Why not visit in October for the annual Kurama Fire Festival?
Mongolian Death Worm, Mongolia
Like something out of Tremors, the Mongolian Death Worm (olgoi-khorkhoi to locals) is not an animal you’d like to have a close encounter with.
Said to inhabit the Gobi Desert, Mongolian locals describe a 2 to 5 foot long bright red killer that spits corrosive acid and has a deadly electric discharge.
The worm spends most of the year hibernating below the desert only to emerge in June and July especially after rain.
Resent investigations found no evidence of the worm’s existence, but there’s still a chance it may be hiding along the prohibited areas of the Mongolian–Chinese border.
Best Places to Spot: Southern Gobi Desert, Mongolia.
El Chupacabra, Central and North America
A 3-4 foot tall reptilian-like creature with leathery, scaly greenish-gray skin and sharp quills running down its spine, El Chupacabra literally means goat sucker.
Chupacabra is a relatively new arrival to the world of cryptozoology, but thanks to being picked up by popular culture, including a 1997 X-Files episode titled “El Mundo Gira”, it has had a rather rapid rise to fame.
The first reported sighting was in Canóvanas, Puerto Rico in 1995 when several dead sheep were discovered with three puncture wounds to the chest area and completely drained of blood.
Since then Chupacabra has been seen as far north as Maine and as far south as Chile with several sightings occurring in Texas.
Various investigations explain eye-witness accounts as either misidentifications or hoaxes and the animal killings as the work of coyotes. But as reported sightings continue, it would seem El Chupacabra is still out there.
Best Places to Spot: Canóvanas, Puerto Rico.
Main image by Bob Doran