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9 Things That Might Kill You (If They Actually Exist)

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No doubt you've heard of Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster, but you may not have known that they belong to a class of creatures called cryptids. The technical definition is a creature that can't be proved to exist, even though sightings of this "thing" may have occurred. The definition also includes sightings of creatures thought to be extinct.

Yeah, so that's the "technical" definition. One that makes more sense to me is, "Creatures you might see featured in the Weekly World News." Which is not to say that these creatures aren't really lurking somewhere "“ in fact, some cryptids have been proven to exist. For example, the Kraken, a mythical sea monster, is now widely accepted as an early description of the giant squid, which does, in fact, inhabit the seas (although it's hard to catch alive).

So, on the chance that some of these cryptids aren't just local legend or mythological beings, here are nine to watch out for.

1. The Mongolian Death Worm

mongolian.jpgEven the name is terrifying. This two-to-four foot-long worm supposedly makes its home in the Gobi Desert. Locals refer to it as "allghoi", which means "blood filled intestine worm". Yummy. The allghoi's might be able to kill you by secreting a yellow poison that kills on contact, but it probably doesn't need to. It's rumored that it can also kill from a distance by some sort of electrocution. Adventurers should definitely avoid the Gobi Desert in June and July, because that's when the allghoi is the most active. Also, you're going to want to avoid wearing your "When life gives you scurvy, make lemonade" shirt, because the Death Worm is attracted by the color yellow. Don't say I didn't warn you. Note: Kinda reminds me of the sandworms from Beetlejuice.

2. The Beast of Bray Road

If you're near Elkhorn, Wisconsin, and see something resembling Bigfoot or perhaps a large wolf walking on its hind legs, don't stop to see if it's friendly. The Beast of Bray Road might not actually kill you "“ so far the only suspicious activity chalked up to this maybe-werewolf is the slaughter of small game and deer. One Web site says it behaves aggressively, though, so I probably wouldn't try its patience.

3. Beast of Gévaudan

While we're talking about Beasts, we should discuss the Beast of Gévaudan. It's a French cryptid that killed an estimated 60-100 people between 1764 and 1767. It must have been quite a peculiar-looking thing, because eyewitnesses describe it as being about the size of a cow with a long, lion-like tail, red fur and a head with small pointed ears and sharp fangs. King Louis XV sent acclaimed hunters after the beast, who successfully killed an abnormally large wolf in September of 1765. When more attacks occurred in December of the same year, it was concluded that the wolf that was killed was not the Beast in question. Another large creature was killed in June of 1767 "“ when they gutted it, the remains of a little girl were found inside. The deaths ended after that, so presumably the right thing was killed... the question remains, though, what was that thing?

4. The Brosno Dragon

If Nessie has a cousin, the Brosno Dragon could be it. He's been lurking in Lake Brosno in the Russian city of Novgorod since the 13th century, according to one report. That's when he ate some of Batu Kahn's (grandson of Genghis Khan) soldiers and horses when they tried to let their horses drink from the lake. Supposedly Batu Khan and his soldiers were so scared that they turned tail and ran, leaving Novgorod in peace. Today, most people are understandably skeptic about the existence of the dragon and some seem to think it could be a mutant beaver"¦ which really seems just as strange in my book, but whatever. One scientific approach suggests that gas bubbles up from the bottom of the lake and makes it look like something large is moving under the water.

5. The Jersey Devil

puddy.jpgThe Jersey Devil, AKA the Leeds Devil, supposedly came about in the 18th century when a woman had her 13th child. She was so sick of having children with her husband (whom she did not love) that she would rather have the Devil's child than have one more child by her husband. Her wish was granted and the baby was born with claws, a tail and hooves. Ouch. It flew out the chimney and began to terrorize New Jersey, including some notable people like Napoleon Bonaparte's brother and Commodore Stephen Decatur. There was a week in January of 1909 that the Devil seemed particularly bent on wreaking havoc "“ it was sighted every single day, attacking dogs and people. By Friday of that week, people were so scared that businesses and schools were actually shutting for the day out of fear.

6. Dobharchu

A traditional Irish ballad tells the tale of Grainne Ni Conalai on September 24, 1722. She went to Glenade Lake in County Leitrim to bathe and never came back. When her husband went to look for her, he found her mangled near the water with a huge beast, a cross between an otter and a dog, lying asleep on her. Her husband returned home and got his brother; together the two of them went back to the lake and used their horses as bait. When the dobharchu lunged at the horse, the brothers stabbed it in the heart. Some stories say they sliced its head off.

Before it died, though, let out a whistle to call its relatives to seek vengeance. It doesn't look like there have been any sightings since, but just the same, I can't imagine they get many skinny-dippers in Glenade Lake these days.

7. The Pope Lick Monster

popelickcreek.jpgWith a name like that, you would expect the Pope Lick Monster to have a very odd story of origin. You might be disappointed to learn that it's really just named for the creek/railroad trestle it was sighted at "“ Pope Lick Creek and trestle near Louisville, Kentucky. The half human, half goat kills people in one of two ways: he's either so horrifying that when people encounter it near the trestle, they would rather jump off the bridge to their deaths than be near it, or he hypnotizes whoever he finds and tosses them off.

No matter what you believe, the fact remains that there is a relatively large number of accidental deaths at that very location.

8. Kikiyaon

The Kikiyaon gives a whole new meaning to Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds. It lives in West Africa and looks kind of like an owl"¦ an owl with razor-sharp talons and a deadly beak. You know it's coming after you when you hear the strangled cry it makes, which turns into a scream that lingers in the air. One account says it's similar someone being strangled very slowly. If you see it and escape, don't start thanking your lucky stars just yet "“ you'll probably die soon afterward anyway. It flies faster than a man can run, so most likely you're doomed anyway"¦ if it exists.

9. The Mothman

mothman.jpgOur list concludes with a cryptid you might have heard of, especially if you saw the Richard Gere-Debra Messing movie The Mothman Prophecies. The Mothman is, as you would expect, a creature that looks like a human with giant wings on his back. Most descriptions say he has bug-like red eyes. He was first sighted in West Virginia by two couples who were out on a late night drive. For the next year he was sighted by numerous people, some claiming to be chased at more than 100 miles per hour. A little more than a year after the first sighting, the Silver Bridge collapsed into the Ohio River, killing 46 people. The Mothman wasn't seen as much after that. So was the Mothman trying to warn locals about the impending doom? Or did he cause it? Either way, Point Pleasant, W.V. has become well-known as being the home of this cryptid and even embraces the fact: the town erected a 12-foot statue of the Mothman and just celebrated their sixth annual Mothman Festival in September.

Do you have any cryptids in your area, or know of some I didn't cover here? Do tell. I love this stuff.

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Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
A Chinese Museum Is Offering Cash to Whoever Can Decipher These 3000-Year-Old Inscriptions

During the 19th century, farmers in China’s Henan Province began discovering oracle bones—engraved ox scapulae and tortoise shells used by Shang Dynasty leaders for record-keeping and divination purposes—while plowing their fields. More bones were excavated in subsequent years, and their inscriptions were revealed to be the earliest known form of systematic writing in East Asia. But over the decades, scholars still haven’t come close to cracking half of the mysterious script’s roughly 5000 characters—which is why one Chinese museum is asking member of the public for help, in exchange for a generous cash reward.

As Atlas Obscura reports, the National Museum of Chinese Writing in Anyang, Henan Province has offered to pay citizen researchers about $15,000 for each unknown character translated, and $7500 if they provide a disputed character’s definitive meaning. Submissions must be supported with evidence, and reviewed by at least two language specialists.

The museum began farming out their oracle bone translation efforts in Fall 2016. The costly ongoing project has hit a stalemate, and scholars hope that the public’s collective smarts—combined with new advances in technology, including cloud computing and big data—will yield new information and save them research money.

As of today, more than 200,000 oracle bones have been discovered—around 50,000 of which bear text—so scholars still have a lot to learn about the Shang Dynasty. Many of the ancient script's characters are difficult to verify, as they represent places and people from long ago. However, decoding even just one character could lead to a substantial breakthrough, experts say: "If we interpret a noun or a verb, it can bring many scripts on oracle bones to life, and we can understand ancient history better,” Chinese history professor Zhu Yanmin told the South China Morning Post.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

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6 Eponyms Named After the Wrong Person
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Salmonella species growing on agar.

Having something named after you is the ultimate accomplishment for any inventor, mathematician, scientist, or researcher. Unfortunately, the credit for an invention or discovery does not always go to the correct person—senior colleagues sometimes snatch the glory, fakers pull the wool over people's eyes, or the fickle general public just latches onto the wrong name.

1. SALMONELLA (OR SMITHELLA?)

In 1885, while investigating common livestock diseases at the Bureau of Animal Industry in Washington, D.C., pathologist Theobald Smith first isolated the salmonella bacteria in pigs suffering from hog cholera. Smith’s research finally identified the bacteria responsible for one of the most common causes of food poisoning in humans. Unfortunately, Smith’s limelight-grabbing supervisor, Daniel E. Salmon, insisted on taking sole credit for the discovery. As a result, the bacteria was named after him. Don’t feel too sorry for Theobald Smith, though: He soon emerged from Salmon’s shadow, going on to make the important discovery that ticks could be a vector in the spread of disease, among other achievements.

2. AMERICA (OR COLUMBIANA?)

An etching of Amerigo Vespucci
Henry Guttmann/Getty Images

Florentine explorer Amerigo Vespucci (1451–1512) claimed to have made numerous voyages to the New World, the first in 1497, before Columbus. Textual evidence suggests Vespucci did take part in a number of expeditions across the Atlantic, but generally does not support the idea that he set eyes on the New World before Columbus. Nevertheless, Vespucci’s accounts of his voyages—which today read as far-fetched—were hugely popular and translated into many languages. As a result, when German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller was drawing his map of the Novus Mundi (or New World) in 1507 he marked it with the name "America" in Vespucci’s honor. He later regretted the choice, omitting the name from future maps, but it was too late, and the name stuck.

3. BLOOMERS (OR MILLERS?)

A black and white image of young women wearing bloomers
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Dress reform became a big issue in mid-19th century America, when women were restricted by long, heavy skirts that dragged in the mud and made any sort of physical activity difficult. Women’s rights activist Elizabeth Smith Miller was inspired by traditional Turkish dress to begin wearing loose trousers gathered at the ankle underneath a shorter skirt. Miller’s new outfit immediately caused a splash, with some decrying it as scandalous and others inspired to adopt the garb.

Amelia Jenks Bloomer was editor of the women’s temperance journal The Lily, and she took to copying Miller’s style of dress. She was so impressed with the new freedom it gave her that she began promoting the “reform dress” in her magazine, printing patterns so others might make their own. Bloomer sported the dress when she spoke at events and soon the press began to associate the outfit with her, dubbing it “Bloomer’s costume.” The name stuck.

4. GUILLOTINE (OR LOUISETTE?)

Execution machines had been known prior to the French Revolution, but they were refined after Paris physician and politician Dr. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin suggested they might be a more humane form of execution than the usual methods (hanging, burning alive, etc.). The first guillotine was actually designed by Dr. Antoine Louis, Secretary of the Academy of Surgery, and was known as a louisette. The quick and efficient machine was quickly adopted as the main method of execution in revolutionary France, and as the bodies piled up the public began to refer to it as la guillotine, for the man who first suggested its use. Guillotin was very distressed at the association, and when he died in 1814 his family asked the French government to change the name of the hated machine. The government refused and so the family changed their name instead to escape the dreadful association.

5. BECHDEL TEST (OR WALLACE TEST?)

Alison Bechdel
Alison Bechdel
Steve Jennings/Getty Images

The Bechdel Test is a tool to highlight gender inequality in film, television, and fiction. The idea is that in order to pass the test, the movie, show, or book in question must include at least one scene in which two women have a conversation that isn’t about a man. The test was popularized by the cartoonist Alison Bechdel in 1985 in her comic strip “Dykes to Watch Out For,” and has since become known by her name. However, Bechdel asserts that the idea originated with her friend Lisa Wallace (and was also inspired by the writer Virginia Woolf), and she would prefer for it to be known as the Bechdel-Wallace test.

6. STIGLER’S LAW OF EPONYMY (OR MERTON’S LAW?)

Influential sociologist Robert K. Merton suggested the idea of the “Matthew Effect” in a 1968 paper noting that senior colleagues who are already famous tend to get the credit for their junior colleagues’ discoveries. (Merton named his phenomenon [PDF] after the parable of talents in the Gospel of Matthew, in which wise servants invest money their master has given them.)

Merton was a well-respected academic, and when he was due to retire in 1979, a book of essays celebrating his work was proposed. One person who contributed an essay was University of Chicago professor of statistics Stephen Stigler, who had corresponded with Merton about his ideas. Stigler decided to pen an essay that celebrated and proved Merton’s theory. As a result, he took Merton’s idea and created Stigler’s Law of Eponymy, which states that “No scientific discovery is named after its original discoverer”—the joke being that Stigler himself was taking Merton’s own theory and naming it after himself. To further prove the rule, the “new” law has been adopted by the academic community, and a number of papers and articles have since been written on "Stigler’s Law."

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