5 Creatures That May Not Exist, But Get Government Protection Anyway

Dave Shealy is founder of the world's only research center dedicated to the skunk-ape (the 7-foot tall, 450-pound apes that supposedly stroll through Florida reeking of rotten eggs). He's spent much of his life trudging through the Everglades looking for signs of the creatures and has even gone so far as to call for the state of Florida to pass a law outlawing the hunting of them.

This guy is nuts, right? No matter your answer, he's not the first person to try this with the skunk apes, and certainly not the first to push for government protection of a cryptid (an animal whose existence can't be proved with scientific certainty). In Florida, the US, and even elsewhere in the world, individuals, politicians, and organizations have fought for legal protection for cryptids.

Here are five times where they've been successful.

1. Whitey

A portion of Arkansas's White River, between the towns of Jacksonport and Possum Grape, is a protected wildlife refuge. The wildlife in question? The White River Monster, a gray aquatic creature roughly the size of a boxcar affectionately known as "Whitey."

Whitey was first sighted in 1915, and has been spotted intermittently since then. In 1973, after another sighting, State Senator Robert Harvey introduced a bill that would create the White River Monster Refuge and make it illegal to harm Whitey within its boundaries. The bill was quickly signed into law by a large majority. [Image courtesy of Ozarks Magazine.]

2. Champ

A similar river creature enjoys protection from both Vermont and New York. In the 1980s, the two states passed resolutions helping Champ, a serpent-like creature that inhabits their shared waterway, Lake Champlain. The resolutions declared Champ a protected species and made it illegal to harm him in any way. Champ's protected species status also earns him conservation funding from the Lake Champlain Land Trust.

Champ lovers are patiently waiting for Quebec, which also borders the lake, to pass a similar resolution. [Image courtesy of]

3. Bigfoot

Speaking of the Canadians, Mike Lake, a member of the Canadian Mounted Police, petitioned the Canadian Parliament earlier this year to add Bigfoot to the country's Species at Risk Act alongside the Whooping Crane and Blue Whale. According to Mr. Lake, the reason that there haven't been many Bigfoot sightings is that the creature is endangered, and not shy like many believe.

The Skamania County Board of Commissioners in the state of Washington realized the same thing Lake did and passed an ordinance in 1969 that set a $10,000 fine and five years in prison for anyone who killed a Bigfoot in the county. [Image courtesy of]

4. Migoi

The cryptid protection trend isn't limited to North America. Plenty of countries have their own legendary creatures and their own laws protecting them. The migoi is the Bhutanese version of the Yeti, but with a few more quirks. The red haired creatures reportedly stand eight feet tall and often walk backwards or turn invisible to fool trackers and hunters. They've been part of the country's legends for centuries, and even show up in ancient Bhutanese and Tibetan texts.

In 2001, the Bhutanese government created the Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary, a 253 square-mile protected habitat for the migoi. The sanctuary is also home to pandas, snow leopards and tigers, but in a display of Big Government spending at its best, the Bhutanese maintain that the refuge was created specifically for the migoi and cuddly pandas are simply a bonus. [Image courtesy of]

5. Nessie

And here's our big star, the diva of the cryptid world: the Loch Ness Monster. Not only did Nessie get protection from poachers under the provisions of the Scotland's 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act, which makes it illegal to snare, shoot or try to blow her up, but the old girl helped out one of her distant relatives in the process.

In the summer of 1985, the Scots received a request by the Swedish government for guidance on how it should draft formal legal protection for the Storsjo monster, the Swedish equivalent of Nessie in Lake Storsjo. The Scottish government consulted their Nature Conservancy Council, decided a lake monster would be protected under the 1981 legislation, slapped a "protected species" sticker on Nessie and advised the Swedes that "the legislative framework to protect the monster is available, provided she (or he) is identified by scientists whose reputation will carry weight with the British Museum."

The Swedish government passed legislation to protect their monster, but it was revoked a few months ago after a government watchdog group challenged the law, claiming legislation was not necessary to protect an unproven species.

Nessie is still protected to this day and no cryptids were harmed during the writing of this article.

Matt Soniak is our newest intern. (Well, he's tied.) You can learn lots more about him here, or read his own blog here.

10 Songs Bill Nye Made Educational

Bill Nye may have graduated from Cornell University with a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering, but it wouldn't be too surprising if the Science Guy picked up a minor in parody songwriting along the way. For all but four episodes of his five-year stint on PBS, Nye capped off his show with a music video spoofing a pop song with an educational spin. With the 20th anniversary of his show (September 10) just in the rear-view mirror, here are 10 of fictional Not That Bad Records' greatest hits from the not-actually-real album "Soundtrack of Science."

1. Nyevana — "Smells Like Air Pressure"

For the show's 1993 pilot episode, Nye drew inspiration from the Seattle grunge rock scene, borrowing a page from the Kurt Cobain songbook to explain the properties of air pressure. "Smells Like Air Pressure" tips its metaphorical cap to the iconic "Smells Like Teen Spirit" music video, cheerleaders and all. Nyevana's shaggy blonde mane-sporting Cobain lookalike pumps the rock star's famously incoherent slurs with some serious educational clout — the chorus rambles with the lines, "Air has pressure, and it's moving / All around us, and it's grooving."

2. Bill Nye — "There's Science in Music"

Instead of employing a parody band to spoof The Rocky Horror Picture Show's "Time Warp," Nye flexed his own pipes in a musical number about sound waves titled, appropriately, "There's Science in Music." The Science Guy plays off Richard O'Brien's vocal delivery from the original "Time Warp," deadpanning the opening lines: "It's vibrations / Sonic sensations." And with a spot on the Dancing with the Stars roster for the show's 17th season, Nye proves he can cut a rug with some wobbly moves in the music video.

3. Sure Floats-a-Lot — "Bill's Got Boat"

An ode to the backside doesn't seem like spoofing material for a song about buoyancy, but while Sir Mix-a-Lot outed himself as a fan of female posteriors in his 1992 hit, Sure Floats-a-Lot gets "psyched" about learning how boats stay afloat in "Bill's Got Boat." The rap explains water displacement in a second-verse stanza that features some true hip-hop rhymesmithing: "Buoyancy's the name of this song / Don't even try to tell me I'm wrong / When something's placed in the water / It gets pushed down with this weight / Then gravity pulls / Science rules."

4. Momentisey — "The Faster You Push Me"

Nye's elastic sense of humor and off-the-wall personality don't exactly scream "let's parody Morrissey," but that didn't stop the Science Guy from riffing on the morose Smiths frontman's bleak "The More You Ignore Me, The Closer I Get" in an episode about momentum. Retitled "The Faster You Push Me" and shot entirely in black-and-white, and the show's Moz impersonator forces a British accent when he croons, "The faster you push me / The farther I get / You're adding velocity."

5. Steven Odd — "50 Fifty"

Having a song that teaches science students about probability through flipping coins be a "Loser" (alternative rocker Beck's 1993 hit) takeoff is a little oxymoronic—after all, there's only a 50 percent chance of being a loser when calling heads or tails in the air. But "50 Fifty" draws influence from Beck's laid-back flow and slide guitar instrumentation to inform viewers that "Probability depends on the circumstances / If I figure 'em out, then I'll know the chances."

6. Third Nye Blind — "Atoms in My Life"

Only Bill Nye could take a Third Eye Blind hit about battling a crystal meth addiction and reimagine it as a squeaky clean pop-rock romp about atoms and molecules. The Nye-ified educational revamp features lyrics like, "Those atoms are so tiny you never see them / Like hydrogen and carbon and oxygen," which are leaps and bounds more school-friendly than the original's not-so-oblique "The sky was gold, it was rose / I was taking sips of it through my nose."

7. Alice in Genes — "It's Called Genetics"

The band name spoof might be a little misguided (it riffs on Alice in Chains, though the song itself is a send-up of Rage Against the Machine's "Killing in the Name"), but Nye's musical explanation of genetics proved the show wasn't afraid to bust out some hard rock guitar licks for the elementary school crowd. Though G-rated compared to Rage Against the Machine's notoriously F-bomb laced anthem, the song finds ways to pump lines like "DNA makes you what you are / The apple from the tree doesn't fall very far" full of pre-teen venom.

8. The Bent Wavelengths — "Light and Colour"

A homage to Rage Against the Machine wasn't Nye's only foray into scholastic thrash metal, nor was it the first: the music video for the show's 16th episode ("Light and Color") paid tribute to Megadeth's "Sweating Bullets." The very Britishly-spelled "Light and Colour" (Megadeth hails from Los Angeles, oddly enough) features shredding guitar riffs and a yowling chorus of "Light, color / Talking about the spectrum, brother," sung by a wig-doffing Dave Mustaine double.

9. J.A.C.— "Water Cycle Jump"

What better way to explain the water cycle and the process of precipitation than in a goofy homage to Kriss Kross? "Water Cycle Jump" packs in some Bill Nye background dancing and zingers like "Your brain is on vacation / If you don't know about precipitation" in its minute-and-a-half run time, but Kriss Kross purists can sleep easy knowing that the original's "wiggity wiggity wack" line is well preserved. In the context of the water cycle, J.A.C. explains that when condensation falls, it's "riggida riggida riggida rain."

10. Slow Moe — "All in Motion"

Five years and 19 Emmy Awards since spoofing Nirvana, Bill Nye closed out his 100-episode run on PBS with the series finale about motion, and in it, a parody of Van Halen's "Hot For Teacher" called "All in Motion." A feature-length music video (spanning three minutes and twenty seconds), the song jumps from an acoustic guitar ballad to a squealing guitar solo voiced over by Nye. The song isn't as racy as the Van Halen original, but it does have lyrics like, "The more the mass / The more force you need / The more inertia / The more force you need."

15 of History's Greatest Mad Scientists

When it comes to scientists, brilliance and eccentricity seem to go hand in hand. Some of the most innovative minds in human history have also been the strangest. From eccentric geniuses to the downright insane, here are some of history’s greatest mad scientists.


Born in Castle Frankenstein in 1673, Johann Conrad Dippel was a theologian, alchemist, and scientist who developed a popular dye called Prussian Blue that is still used to this day. But Dippel is better remembered for his more controversial experiments. He mixed animal bones and hides together in a stew he called “Dippel’s Oil,” which he claimed was an elixir that could extend the lifespan of anyone who consumed it. He also loved dissecting animals, and some believe he even stole human bodies from Castle Frankenstein. Dippel is often cited as an inspiration for Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, though the claim remains controversial.


Another possible Frankenstein inspiration was mad scientist Giovanni Aldini, who among other strange experiments, was obsessed with the effects of electrocution. Aldini, who was something of a celebrity in the early 19th century, travelled Europe, demonstrating the powers of electricity. He was also one of the first scientists to treat mental patients with electric shocks. Though his methods were unconventional, Aldini was well respected in his time, and the emperor of Austria even made him a Knight of the Iron Crown. 


Nineteenth century theologian and paleontologist William Buckland was the first person to write a full description of a fossilized dinosaur, which he called the Megalosaurus. But though his work was admired, the early paleontologist had some pretty strange appetites: Buckland was obsessed with trying to eat his way through the entire animal kingdom. He claimed to have consumed mice, porpoises, panthers, bluebottle flies, and even the preserved heart of King Louis XIV.


Anyone who took high school math knows about the Pythagorean theorem. But they might not know that, in addition to being a brilliant mathematician, Pythagoras really hated eating beans. If that sounds more like a personal preference than a mark of madness, consider the fact that he not only avoided eating legumes, but that he went so far as to forbid his followers from eating them as well. It’s unclear where Pythagoras’s bean aversion came from, though some believe Pythagoras saw them as sacred. According to one legend, Pythagoras died when he was being pursued by a group of ruffians, but refused to seek refuge in a nearby bean field. 


Eighteenth century engineer, astronomer, and professional tinkerer Benjamin Banneker is believed to have made the first clock built entirely in America. Banneker helped survey the boundaries of the area that would become Washington D.C., charted the stars and planets every night, predicted eclipses, and was one of America’s earliest African American scientists. How did he make time to do all that? By working all night, and sleeping only in the early hours of the morning, of course. The quirky scientist was said to spend each night wrapped in a cloak, lying under a pear tree, meditating on the revolutions of heavenly bodies. Instead of in a lab or office, the astronomer dozed where he could also (potentially) do work: beneath a tree. 


One of the most influential scientists in history, Isaac Newton was also one of the quirkiest. The physicist and mathematician was known to experiment on himself while studying optics, even going so far as to poke himself in the eye with a needle. He was also obsessed with the apocalypse and believed the world would end sometime after the year 2060. 


One of England’s first female natural philosophers, Margaret Cavendish was a controversial figure in the 17th century. An outspoken intellectual and prolific writer, she ruffled a few feathers among those who believed women had no place in the scientific community. As a result, Cavendish was often called “Mad Madge.” But though Cavendish wasn’t truly insane, she was more than a little socially inept. On one occasion, Cavendish was “pondering upon the natures of Mankind,” and decided to write down all of the positive qualities possessed by one of her friends on one piece of paper, and on another, all of the woman’s negative qualities. Cavendish then decided to send her friend the list of positive qualities, which she assumed would be appreciated. Unfortunately, Cavendish accidentally sent the wrong list, and received an outraged response from her friend. Cavendish also acted as her own physician, and likely died as a result of her refusal to seek outside medical care.


One of the most renowned scholars of the Northern Song Dynasty, Shen Kuo was a master of astronomy, physics, math, and geology, arguing, among other things, that tides are caused by the moon’s gravitational pull and that the Earth and the Sun are spherical, not flat. But he’s also credited as the first writer to describe a UFO sighting. Shen documented sightings of unidentified flying objects in his writing, describing the descent of floating objects “as bright as a pearl.” Nowadays, contemporary UFO theorists have latched onto Shen’s work as the first written record of an alien spacecraft. Shen himself never made that connection: Generally speaking, he was more interested in divination and the supernatural than alien visitors. 


A great astronomer and an even greater partier, Tycho Brahe was born in Denmark in 1546, and lost his nose in a mathematical disagreement that elevated to a brawl. The scientist spent the rest of his life wearing a copper prosthetic nose. Brahe also threw elaborate parties on his own private island, had a court jester who sat under the table at banquets, and kept a pet elk who loved to imbibe just as much as he did. 


Mary Anning was a mad fossil collector: Starting at age 12, Anning became obsessed with finding fossils and piecing them together. Driven by acute intellectual curiosity as well as economic incentives (the working class Anning sold most of the fossils she discovered), Anning became famous among 19th century British scientists. So many people would travel to her home in Lyme Regis to join her on her fossil hunts that after she died locals actually noticed a drop in tourism to the region. But it’s not Anning’s passion for fossils that sets her apart as a slightly mad scientist, but rather the supposed origins of her intellectual curiosity: As an infant, the sickly young Mary was struck by lightning while watching a traveling circus. That lightning strike, according to Anning’s family, was at the root of the once-unexceptional Mary’s superior intelligence. 


Sometimes called the “Master of a Hundred Arts,” Athanasius Kircher was a polymath who studied everything from biology and medicine to religion. But Kircher didn’t just study everything, he seems to have believed in everything as well. At a time when scientists like Rene Descartes were becoming increasingly skeptical of mythological phenomena, Kircher believed strongly in the existence of fictional beasts and beings like mermaids, giants, dragons, basilisks, and gryphons.


In contrast to Anthanasius Kircher, Ancient Roman poet and scientist Lucretius spent much of his life trying to disprove the existence of mythological beasts. But he employed some truly creative logic to do so. Lucretius is best known for being one of the earliest scientists to write about atoms. But he also argued that centaurs and other mythological animal mash-ups were impossible because of the different rates at which animals aged. A centaur, for instance, could never exist according to Lucretius, because horses age much faster than humans. As a result, for much of its lifespan, a centaur would be running around with the head and torso of a human baby on top of a fully grown horse’s body. 


While training to become a doctor at the University of Pennsylvania, Stubbins Ffirth became obsessed with proving yellow fever was not contagious. In order to do so, the young researcher would expose himself to the bodily fluids of yellow fever patients. Ffirth never caught yellow fever, though contemporary scientists know that this was not because the disease isn’t contagious (it is), but because most of the patients whose samples he used were in the late stages of the disease, and thus, past the point of contagion. 


Renaissance era scientist Paracelsus is sometimes called the “father of toxicology.” But he also thought he could create a living homunculus (a living, miniature person) from the bodily fluids of full-sized people. He also believed in mythological beings like wood nymphs, giants, and succubae. 


Though he’s best known as an artist, Leonardo thought up some pretty amazing inventions. From an early version of the airplane to a primitive scuba suit, Leonardo designed technological devices that are in use to this day. But Leonardo wasn’t your average inventor: He had no formal schooling, dissected animals to learn about their anatomy, loved designing war devices, and recorded many of his best ideas backwards in mirror image cursive, possibly to protect his works from plagiarism.


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