The Wild, Wonderful, and Weird of West Virginia: An Introduction to Cryptids


Hannah McNemar, Staff Reporter

West Virginia is known for its crazy cryptids that live in the woods like Bigfoot, Mothman, and the Flatwoods Monster, but there are so many more cryptids and creatures that are believed to be out there. There have been over a dozen cryptids that have been spotted in West Virginia over the past few hundred years that are never talked about, and I think it is time for them to be recognized. Cryptids play a huge role in folklore, especially in Appalachia, and are fun to learn about, even if they are not real.

What is a cryptid? A cryptid is an animal or creature that is believed may exist somewhere in the wild but is not recognized by science as real. There is even a whole pseudoscience known as cryptozoology that is studied by cryptozoologists, who primarily look at anecdotal stories and other claims that are rejected by the scientific community.

One of West Virginia’s oldest cryptids is the Ogua. The Ogua was first reported in 1745 in Hoult, WV when allegedly a 12-year-old boy was pulled underwater by one while fishing and was never seen again. There have been many sightings of the creature in Marion County over the past few hundred years and was most recently sighted in 2020 in Fairmont at the West Fork River by two men who were fishing. The Ogua is described as an alligator snapping turtle-like creature that is brown, about 20 feet long, weighing approximately 500 pounds, has a long tail, and can sometimes have two heads. It lives in the water, but can roam on land, and can reportedly crush deer whole. The Ogua’s origins are believed to be from prehistoric times when giant turtles roamed the area it was sighted in.

This next cryptid is a semi-famous one, as it has led to a full-on monster hunt, has been featured in the television show Mountain Monsters in 2014, and then in the video game Fallout 76, which is set in West Virginia, in 2018.

The Grafton Monster was sighted on June 16th, 1964, by Robert Cockrell, a reporter for the Grafton Sentinel. Cockrell was driving along the Tygart River on Route 119 at around 11 pm on his way home from work when he heard a low-pitched whistling noise coming from the river and then he encountered the large, white creature on the side of the road.

When Cockrell first saw the beast, he slowed down to see what it was. After being spotted, the creature quickly ran off and he realized that it was a living thing. Cockrell saw that it was exceptionally large and muscular, and described the creature as being 9 feet tall and 4 feet wide, with seal-like skin, and oh, not having a head!

Once he realized it was alive, he immediately sped home and called his friends, Jerry Morse, and Jim Mouser. He told them about what he had seen, and he asked them to go to the road with him to look for the creature. They agreed, however, once they got there all they were able to find was flattened grass, but they heard the low-pitched whistling sound and it seemed to follow them around the site.

When Cockrell went to work the next day, he mentioned what he had seen to his editor at the Grafton Sentinel, but he was not taken seriously, and he assumed that nothing further would come to his sighting. Well, that is not what happened, because his friends were obsessed with the idea of a monster running amok in their small town and they went and told as many people as they could. Within a few days, monster-hunting parties were formed. They were mostly comprised of local teens armed with baseball bats and other weapons.

These gaggles of teens wandered around Riverside Drive, the area where Cockrell had seen the creature, and soon after there were reports of new sightings. There were more than 20 sightings reported from these monster hunts, and Robert Cockrell interviewed the teenagers in detail. Prompted by all the ruckus and reports of new sightings, the Grafton Sentinel released an article about the creature, the teens hunting it, and the reports of the alleged sightings on June 18th, 1964 titled “Teen-Age Monster Hunting Parties Latest Activity on Grafton Scene.”

The local police had to get involved and start their own investigation because of the large number of people who were hunting the monster that was bringing and carrying guns into the area. On June 19th, the Grafton Sentinel printed a second article on the subject, but this time dismissing the monster as merely being a case of “spring fever,” and that the bored locals just imagined the creature, which was really just a person pushing a cart filled with tall boxes. This article was able to calm the people of Grafton, and everything went back to normal. Everyone, especially the police, was relieved that no one had been hurt or shot during the monster hunts.

Not everyone believed that the creature was just a cart piled high with boxes, especially because there was no explanation for the low-pitched whistling sound that Cockrell and his friends had heard. This detail caught the attention of Gray Barker, a self-proclaimed ufologist, who believed that the creature was of extraterrestrial origin and that the noise was being emitted from the creature’s spaceship. There have been no reported sightings of the Grafton Monster since 1964.

A lesser-known cryptid that was spotted right here in Fairmont is the Vegetable Man, also known as Veggieman. The Vegetable Man was described as a 7-foot tall, skinny humanoid, and semi-human shaped creature that is partially plant-based, with large ears, and eyes that rapidly flashed from red to yellow. It also was described to have long fingers with suction cups that had large thorns protruding from them.

In 1968, Jennings Fredrick was in the woods hunting when he heard a high-pitched noise, so he followed the sound. Then, he claims that the creature communicated telepathically and asked him for help. Then, he claims that the creature lunged at him, picked him up, and pierced his skin with one of its thorn fingers, and drained his blood. All the while he was enthralled by the creature’s colorful flashing eyes. Then the creature released him and ran up a hill, where Fredrick heard a humming sound from the other side of the hill, which he believes was the creature’s ship taking off, implying it was an extraterrestrial being. This was the only reported sighting of the Vegetable Man.

Do you believe that cryptids and extraterrestrial beings are real? Do you have a favorite cryptid? Let us know in the comments!