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Off the Beaten Path: Weird and Strange Monster stories from across North America

| Updated Jun 16, 2023

Half the fun of camping is telling monster stories around the campfire. Off-the-beaten-path reporters Patti and Tom Burkett share tome of their favorites collected in their travels across North America.

One of the best things about sitting around a campfire, to our way of thinking, is telling stories.  

And ghost stories and other scary tales are the best!  

Most of us can recount the tale of the severed hand, or the Windigo that haunts the North Woods.  As we travel around the country, one very enjoyable pastime is finding and collecting lore about local monsters, creatures, and unknown phenomena.  

Monster Stories – Ohio's Mothman

Southwestern Ohio is a lovely area, full of interesting things to see and do.  And if you happen to be camping near the Little Miami Scenic River, you’ll want to be careful at night.  Several times over the past fifty years local police have reported seeing a strange creature on the surrounding roadways.  Like many reptiles, it sits on the tarmac at night soaking up the warmth.

RV Podcast #318: RV Questions and Monster Stories for the campfire! 2
The Mothman Museum

Said Officer Mark Matthews, “It was about sixty pounds and four feet high.  It stood up on its two hind feet, turned and looked at me with a face that looked like a frog or lizard, then hoped down the embankment and into the Little Miami River.”  In the ensuing years. there have been several reported sightings of the Loveland Frogman.  It’s even spawned a bluegrass musical.

Monster Stories – The Rhinelander, WI Hodag

An example of the “fiercest, strangest, most frightening monster ever to set razor-sharp claws on Earth” was caught and killed (using dynamite, no less) by a group of locals near the town of Rhinelander, Wisconsin in 1893. Born from the ashes of cremated oxen and driven by memories of the abuse they suffered in life, this was a Hodag, one of the few remaining in the area after its preferred food, bulldogs, became scarce.  

A second example was caught alive in 1896 and put on display by Eugene Shepherd, who showed the creature at the Oneida County Fair.  For patrons safety, the hodag was drugged into a near stupor, but its occasional movements never failed to set skittish onlookers to flight. 

Monster Stories – Illinois' Lawndale Thunderbird

On July 25, 1977, ten-year-old Martin Lowe was attacked by two large birds while he was playing in his yard.  One of them, with a wingspan of at least ten feet, picked him up and carried him two houses down the street before his mom scared it into dropping him.  Several neighbors witnessed the event and swore to its accuracy.  The Lawndale Thunderbird was never seen again, but similar birds have been reported all across the USA. 

 The name comes, most likely, from a story told by the Passamaquoddy people of Maine.  In your travels, you may have collected a thunderstone, thought to be the egg of this monstrous flying beast.

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The Hodag

Monster Stories – New Mexico's Mogollon Monster

Bigfoot, the best known cryptid in North America, has some cousins you might not know about.  When we were in New Mexico at the Gila Hot Springs campground, we were warned not to leave any food outside, and to beware of straying too far from the campsite after dark.  

There had been sightings, we were told, of the Mogollon Monster, an eight-foot tall, fantastically muscled ape man which robbed campers of their food and tore deer and bears limb from limb.  Occasional sightings, campsite destruction, hair samples, and strange nighttime noises all make it seem just possible that he’s out there, somewhere.

Monster Stories – Montana's Shunka Warak’in

And speaking of nighttime noises, the eerie calls of the Shunka Warak’in can sometimes be heard along the Madison Valley in Montana.  The only known example of the creature was shot in 1886 by an early settler and mounted by a local taxidermist.  

Twenty years ago, under dubious circumstances, the mount disappeared while under study by biologists. It is now in the care of the grandson of the man who shot it.  It’s like a curious cross between a wolf and a hyena.  Watch out for your pets, as its name in the Ioway language translates as ‘carries off dogs.’

Every part of North America has it's own Monster Stories

Whether it’s the Mothman of the Ohio River, the Jersey Devil of the Pine Barrens, the Pukwudgie of the Massachussetts woodlands, or Puerto Rico’s Chupacabra, weird things stalk the land.  And you’re no more safe in the water, be it in the rivers of Georgia where Altimaha-ha stalks its prey or Nebraska’s Walgren Lake, where the Alkali Lake Monster feeds on fishermen and cattle.  Oh yes, there are plenty of reasons to be afraid, very afraid, out here off the beaten path.


I've covered my share of Monseter Stories as a journalist, too. This report from the Burketts got me remembering some of the Bigfoot ta;es I've documented.

Here's an actual TV news story I did a long time ago when we went live from Foley Swamp in the wilds of Northern Michigan. 



Oh yeah… then there's all the Mysteries, Myths and Monster Stories told up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Check this video out.

How about you? Do you have some monster stories? Use comments below to share them.

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Mike Wendland

Published on 2020-12-18

Mike Wendland is a multiple Emmy-award-winning Journalist, Podcaster, YouTuber, and Blogger, who has traveled with his wife, Jennifer, all over North America in an RV, sharing adventures and reviewing RV, Camping, Outdoor, Travel and Tech Gear for the past 12 years. They are leading industry experts in RV living and have written 18 travel books.

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