Zoologist, media consultant, and science writer, Dr Karl Shuker is also one of the best known cryptozoologists in the world. He is the author of such seminal works as Mystery Cats of the World (1989), The Lost Ark: New and Rediscovered Animals of the 20th Century (1993; greatly expanded in 2012 as The Encyclopaedia of New and Rediscovered Animals), Dragons: A Natural History (1995), In Search of Prehistoric Survivors (1995), The Unexplained (1996), From Flying Toads To Snakes With Wings (1997), Mysteries of Planet Earth (1999), The Hidden Powers of Animals (2001), The Beasts That Hide From Man (2003), Extraordinary Animals Revisited (2007), Dr Shuker's Casebook (2008), Karl Shuker's Alien Zoo: From the Pages of Fortean Times (2010), Cats of Magic, Mythology, and Mystery (2012), Mirabilis: A Carnival of Cryptozoology and Unnatural History (2013), Dragons in Zoology, Cryptozoology, and Culture (2013), The Menagerie of Marvels (2014), A Manifestation of Monsters (2015), Here's Nessie! (2016), and what is widely considered to be his cryptozoological magnum opus, Still In Search Of Prehistoric Survivors (2016) - plus, very excitingly, his first two long-awaited, much-requested ShukerNature blog books (2019, 2020).

Dr Karl Shuker's Official Website - http://www.karlshuker.com/index.htm

IMPORTANT: To view a complete, regularly-updated listing of my ShukerNature blog's articles (each one instantly clickable), please click HERE!

IMPORTANT: To view a complete, regularly-updated listing of my published books (each one instantly clickable), please click HERE!

IMPORTANT: To view a complete, regularly-updated listing of my Eclectarium blog's articles (each one instantly clickable), please click HERE!

IMPORTANT: To view a complete, regularly-updated listing of my Starsteeds blog's poetry and other lyrical writings (each one instantly clickable), please click HERE!

IMPORTANT: To view a complete, regularly-updated listing of my Shuker In MovieLand blog's articles (each one instantly clickable), please click HERE!

Search This Blog



Thursday 26 June 2014


Artistic representation of the Congolese water elephant (© Markus Bühler)

Whereas the African pygmy elephant has attracted appreciable interest and even more appreciable controversy, both within and beyond the cryptozoological community, a second contentious proboscidean reported from the Dark Continent has received far less attention, but in my view is much more intriguing. This latter cryptid is the so-called water elephant.

I first read about it in Dr Bernard Heuvelmans's classic crypto-tome On the Track of Unknown Animals (1958), and following some researches of my own I subsequently documented it in various of my books. The first was In Search of Prehistoric Survivors (1995). Here is what I wrote there:

What may be the most sensational example of a proboscidean prehistoric survivor - inasmuch as this one could still exist even today, yet still be eluding scientific discovery - made its Western debut in 1912, courtesy of an article by R.J. Cuninghame that appeared in the Journal of the East Africa and Uganda Natural History Society. In this, he referred to a Mr Le Petit, lately returned to Nairobi following five years of travelling within the French Congo [now the People's Republic of the Congo] - during which period he claimed to have twice encountered an extraordinary animal known to the Babuma natives as the ndgoko na maiji, or water elephant.

His first sighting, which occurred around June 1907 while journeying down the River Congo near the River Kassai's junction with it, was brief and featured only a single animal - seen swimming with head and neck above the water surface at a considerable distance away.

In contrast, his second encounter featured five specimens seen close by, on land. This took place in an area nowadays situated within the borders of Zaire, [now the Democratic Republic of Congo] i.e. the swampy country between Lake Leopold II (since renamed Lake Mai-Ndombe) and Lake Tumba, near to where the M'fini River finds its exit from the first of these lakes. After viewing the animals through binoculars while they stood about 400 yards away amid some tall grass, he shot one of them in the shoulder, but his native companions were unable to recover its body for him.

Le Petit described the water elephants as 6-8 ft tall at the shoulder, with relatively short legs whose feet had four toes apiece, a curved back, a smooth shiny skin like that of a hippo's and hairless too but darker, an elongate neck about twice the length of the African elephant's, plus ears that were similar in shape to those of that species but smaller in size. Most distinctive of all was its head, which was conspicuously long and ovoid in shape, which, together with its short, 2-ft-long trunk and lack of tusks, resembled that of a giant tapir.

A Brazilian tapir (© Dr Karl Shuker)

According to the natives, the water elephant spends the daytime in deep water (where it is greatly feared by them, as it will sometimes rise upwards unexpectedly and capsize their canoes with its able if abbreviated trunk). Only at night does it emerge onto land, where it grazes upon rank grass. It is also very destructive to their nets and reed fish-traps, but is not a common species, and its distribution range is very restricted.

Confirming the natives' testimony, the five specimens under observation by Le Petit finally disappeared into deep water, and were not seen by him again.

If Le Petit's detailed description is accurate, the water elephant does not belong to either of today's known species of elephant. It has been likened by some to the deinotheres, an extinct proboscidean lineage whose members' diagnostic feature was a downward-curving lower jaw bearing a pair of long recurved tusks. The last known species survived until the late Pleistocene in Africa - but the water elephant bears little resemblance to these long-limbed forms with their curious lower jaw and tusks.

To my mind, it is much more similar to some of the most primitive proboscideans, such as Phiomia from Egypt's Oligocene, or even Moeritherium itself - the tiny tapir-like 'dawn elephant' from the late Eocene and early Oligocene, whose fossils are known from Egypt, Mali, and Senegal, and which is at the very base of the proboscidean evolutionary tree. Believed to have been a partially-aquatic swamp-dweller on account of its eyes' high, hippo-like position, if this beast had given rise to a dynasty of descendants that had become much larger but had retained their ancestor's lifestyle and its attendant morphological attributes, the result would most likely be an animal greatly resembling the Congolese water elephant.

The concept of such a beast persisting unknown to science in the 1990s may not find favour among many scientists, but the Congo region of tropical Africa has already unveiled more than enough major zoological surprises so far this century for anyone with a knowledge of these things to hesitate before discounting such a possibility entirely out of hand.

Recent reconstruction of Moeritherium (© Luci Betti-Nash/Stony Brook University)

In 2008, a study of the composition of the teeth of Moeritherium revealed that its diet corresponded with the diet of mammals known to be aquatic, thereby confirming that it was indeed a water-dweller (click here for further details). Consequently, if it did give rise to a reclusive, modern-day lineage of morphologically and behaviourally conservative representatives, these could constitute a very plausible water elephant.

On 25 July 2002, I received a fascinating email from Canada-based field cryptozoologist Bill Gibbons concerning what may be the mysterious water elephant, which I included in one of my Alien Zoo columns for Fortean Times and later in my book Karl Shuker's Alien Zoo: From the Pages of Fortean Times (2010). Here is what I wrote:

In mid-2003, Bill Gibbons, a veteran seeker of cryptozoological curiosities, plans to visit the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire) with a Belgian helicopter company operating there, in order to pursue claims by the company's president and CEO that a military helicopter flying over Lake Tumba spied a herd of very strange-looking elephants that the helicopter's pilots thought may be the legendary water elephants. According to Bill, the producer of a French TV documentary company is keen to film the expedition, so we wish everyone associated with this project the best of luck, and await further developments with interest.

Sadly, however, the planned expedition never took place. So the precise nature of those strange-looking elephants of Lake Tumba remains unresolved.

A second artistic representation of the Congolese water elephant (© Tim Morris)

Most recently, the water elephant saga was revisited by British cryptozoological investigator Matt Salusbury in his extremely comprehensive book Pygmy Elephants (2013). After reviewing the Le Petit sightings, he pondered whether, confronted by environmental crises within the past century or so, isolated elephant populations in Africa could have undergone dramatic and highly accelerated bouts of evolution and behavioural changes, yielding in the Congo region a much-modified nocturnal, aquatic form – the water elephant.

A fascinating concept, but if this cryptid has been described accurately in those sightings, its morphological differences from Africa's typical, predominantly terrestrial elephants are, I feel, much too profound and wide-ranging to have plausibly arisen via evolution in such a short space of time. Consequently, and always assuming of course that the water elephant really does exist, I still consider it much more likely that this distinctive creature constitutes a wholly discrete species in its own right, one that may well have diverged long ago from the lineage leading to Africa's modern-day Loxodonta species.

In his book's coverage of the water elephant, Matt also referred briefly to a perplexing tusk purchased in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (then Abyssinia), during the opening years of the 20th Century. This enigmatic but seemingly long-lost specimen, the Rothschild-Neuville mystery tusk, has fascinated me for many years. So after having researched it in considerable detail for some time, I have finally completed an extensive account of its remarkable history that I have posted exclusively here on ShukerNature – be sure to check it out!

Pygmy Elephants by Matt Salusbury (© Matt Salusbury/CFZ Press)

Wednesday 25 June 2014


The Home of the Loch Ness Monster (image supplied to me by Errol Fuller)

It was 80 years ago this year when the pamphlet pictured above in this present ShukerNature blog post was published. A humble, unassuming little offering entitled The Home of the Loch Ness Monster, just 18 pages long, containing only a single illustration, and privately published by its author, a retired British army man named Lieutenant-Colonel William Horsburgh Lane who lived in a house on the shores of Loch Ness, it documented Lane's considered belief that the Loch Ness monster (LNM) may be a giant form of salamander. This particular zoological identity would be revisited and revitalised more than four decades later by Chicago University biochemist and veteran Nessie researcher Prof. Roy P. Mackal in his own much more detailed, highly-acclaimed study, The Monsters of Loch Ness (1976), which remains a standard work on the subject.

Conversely, Lane's very modest contribution to the LNM literature is all but forgotten today and exceedingly rare, making it much sought-after by Nessie aficionados – but not only because if its scarcity. What gives his pamphlet a unique, unassailable, and truly historic place within the cryptozoological canon, and the reason why I am celebrating today its publication in that long-ago year of 1934, is that it was the very first entire, stand-alone work (i.e. book, pamphlet, magazine, as opposed to merely an article in a magazine or a report in a newspaper) devoted exclusively to the LNM.

This, therefore, is where it all began – the trickle that became a stream that became a river that became a veritable ocean of Nessie-themed books published in the 80 years that have followed in the wake of Lane's pamphlet – and what a number there have been, as I am about to reveal.

Nessie conceived as a long-necked seal (© Robert Elsmore)

I recently disclosed on Facebook that I am currently completing a compendium volume that brings together pretty well everything that I have ever written on the subject of the LNM – drawn from my books, articles, and ShukerNature blog posts, expanded and updated as required, and accompanied by a purposefully eclectic selection of illustrations, many of which have never been published before, including a number specially prepared for it by some very talented artist friends of mine.

Entitled Here's Nessie! A Monstrous Compendium From Loch Ness, it will also include what I am hoping will be the most comprehensive bibliography of Nessie-themed non-fiction books ever compiled. As with all such lists, however, no matter how comprehensive it may seem to be to its compiler, there will always be some entries that he will have overlooked, and especially so in relation to foreign–language (non-English) books.

A model of Nessie conceived in classic plesiosaur mode (© Jeff Johnson)

Consequently, in the hope of plugging as many potential gaps in this bibliography as possible, I am presenting below the version that I have compiled so far, and would very greatly welcome any suggested additions from readers (and also any info regarding the few missing places of publication in the list). Please note, however, that I am not looking for books that only contain a single chapter or two on Nessie – all books included in this bibliography must be ones that are devoted entirely to the LNM (or to any other Scottish loch monsters), and they must also be works of non-fiction, not novels or other works of fiction. Thanks very much in advance for any assistance that you may be able to offer me, and enjoy the list!

My very own tartan Nessie! (© Dr Karl Shuker)

My sincere thanks to Errol Fuller for originally bringing Lieut.-Col. Lane's pamphlet to my attention, and for very kindly supplying me with the image of its front cover that opens this ShukerNature blog post.


ANON., They Saw Nessie (Or Thought They Did!): Eye-Witness Sightings of the Monster Over the Years (Northern Books, from Famedram: Gartocharn, 1984).

ABELS, Harriette & SCHROEDER, Howard, The Loch Ness Monster (Crestwood House: New York, 1987).

AKINS, William, The Loch Ness Monster (Signet: New York, 1977).

ARMSTRONG, Edward, Sticking My Neck Out (Privately published: [no place of publication details], 1983).

BAUER, Henry H., The Enigma of Loch Ness: Making Sense of a Mystery (University of Illinois Press: Urbana, 1986).

BAUMANN, Elwood D., The Loch Ness Monster (Franklin Watts: New York, 1972).

BAXTER, Colin, The Loch Ness Monster (Colin Baxter Photography: Grantown on Spey, 2012).

BENDICK, Jeanne, The Mystery of the Loch Ness Monster (McGraw-Hill: London, 1976).

BERTON, Jean, Les Monstres du Loch Ness et d'Ailleurs (France-Empire: Paris, 1977).

BINNS, Ronald, The Loch Ness Mystery Solved (Open Books: Shepton Mallet, 1983).

BORDER, Rosemary, Loch Ness Monster (Macdonald Phoebus: London, 1979).

BRASSEY, Richard, Nessie the Loch Ness Monster (Orion: London, 2010).

BURTON, Maurice, The Elusive Monster: An Analysis of the Evidence From Loch Ness (Rupert Hart-Davis: London, 1961).

BYRNE, Gerald, Gestalt Forms of Loch Ness (JRP Ringler: Zurich, 2011).

CAMPBELL, Elizabeth M. & SOLOMON, David, The Search For Morag (Tom Stacey: London, 1972).

CAMPBELL, Steuart, The Loch Ness Monster: The Evidence (Aquarian: Wellingborough, 1986; rev. edit., Aberdeen University Press: London, 1991).

CARNEY, James, Loch Ness Monster (Colin Baxter Photography: Grantown on Spey, 2009).

CARRUTH, J.A., Loch Ness and Its Monster (Abbey Press: Fort Augustus, 1945).

CASSIE, R.L., The Monsters of Achanalt (2 vols) (D. Wyllie & Sons: Aberdeen, 1935-36).

COOK, D. & COOK, Y., The Great Monster Hunt: The Story of the Loch Ness Investigation (Grosset & Dunlap: New York, 1969).

CORNELL, James, The Monster of Loch Ness (Scholastic Book Services: New York, 1977).

DINSDALE, Angus, The Man Who Filmed Nessie (Hancock House: New York, 2013).

DINSDALE, Tim, Loch Ness Monster (Routledge & Kegan Paul: London, 1961; 4th edit., 1982).

DINSDALE, Tim, The Story of the Loch Ness Monster (Allan Wingate: London, 1973).

DINSDALE, Tim, Project Water Horse: The True Story of the Monster Quest at Loch Ness (Routledge & Kegan Paul: London, 1975).

FLITCROFT, Jean, The Loch Ness Monster [The Cryptid Files #1] (Darby Creek Publishing: Minneapolis, 2014).

GANTES, Rémy, Le Mystère du Loch Ness (Etudes Vivantes: Paris, 1979).

GIBSON, John A. & HEPPELL, David (Eds), Proceedings of the Symposium on the Loch Ness Monster: "The Search For Nessie in the 1980s" (Scottish Natural History Library: Foremount House, 1988).

GOULD, Rupert T., The Loch Ness Monster and Others (Geoffrey Bles: London, 1934).

GRIMSHAW, Roger & LESTER, Paul, The Meaning of the Loch Ness Monster (Birmingham University: Birmingham, 1976).

HAMILTON, W.D. & HUGHES, J., The Mysterious Monster of Loch Ness (Fort Augustus Abbey Press: Fort Augustus, 1934).

HANSEN, Kim M., Mysteriet om Nessie: Søslangen i Loch Ness (Gyldendal: Copenhagen, 1988).

HARMSWORTH, Tony, The Mysterious Monsters of Loch Ness (Precision Press: 1980).

HARMSWORTH, Tony, Loch Ness: The Monster (Peter Gray Ltd: Tillicoultry, 1985).

HARMSWORTH, Tony, Loch Ness, Nessie & Me: The Truth Revealed [vt Nessie Understood] (Harmsworth.net: Drumnadrochit, 2010).

HARRISON, Paul, The Encyclopedia of the Loch Ness Monster (Robert Hale: London, 1999).

HASTAIN, Ronald & WITCHELL, Nicholas, Loch Ness and the Monster: A Handbook For Tourists (J. Arthur Dixon: Inverness, 1971).

HAUF, Monika, Nessie – Das Ungeheur von Loch Ness (Bohmeier Verlag: Leipzig, 2003).

HILE, Lori, The Loch Ness Monster (Capstone Global Library: Oxford, 2013).

HOLIDAY, F.W., The Great Orm of Loch Ness: A Practical Inquiry Into the Nature and Habits of Water-Monsters (Faber & Faber: London, 1968).

JAMES, David, Loch Ness Investigation (Loch Ness Phenomena Investigation Bureau: London, 1968).

KALLEN, Stuart A., The Loch Ness Monster (Referencepoint Press: San Diego, 2008).

KIRKPATRICK, Betty, Nessie: The Legend of the Loch Ness Monster (Crombie Jardine Publishing: Cheam, 2005).

KLEIN, Martin, et al., Underwater Search at Loch Ness [Monograph No. 1] (Academy of Applied Science: Belmont, 1972).

LANE, W[illiam].H., The Home of the Loch Ness Monster (Moray Press: Edinburgh, 1934).

MacRAE, Jim, Loch Ness Monster Handbook (John G. Eccles: Inverness, 1974).

MACKAL, Roy P., The Monsters of Loch Ness (Macdonald and Janes: London, 1976).

MARTIN, David & BOYD, Alistair, Nessie: The Surgeon's Photograph Exposed (Martin and Boyd: East Burnet, 1999).

MEREDITH, Dennis L., The Search at Loch Ness: The Expedition of the New York Times and the Academy of Applied Science (Quadrangle: New York, 1977).

MILLER, Connie C., El Monstruo del Lago Ness: El Misterio Sin Resolver / The Loch Ness Monster: The Unsolved Mystery (Blazers Bilingual: North Mankato, 2009).

MUNRO, Donald J., Loch Ness Mystery (Privately published: [no place of publication details], 1937).

OUDEMANS, A.C., The Loch Ness Animal (Leyden: London, 1934).

OWEN, William, Loch Ness Revealing Its Monsters (Jarrold: Norwich, 1976).

OWEN, William, The Loch Ness Monster [vt Scotland's Loch Ness Monster] (Jarrold: Norwich, 1986).

PARKS, Peggy J., The Loch Ness Monster (KidHaven: Farmington Hills, 2006).

PERERA, Victor, The Loch Ness Monster Watchers (Capra Press: Santa Barbara, 1974).

PICKNETT, Lynn, The Loch Ness Monster (Pitkin Pictorials: Andover, 1993).

RINES, Robert H., et al., Underwater Search At Loch Ness (Academy of Applied Science: New York, 1972).

RUSSELL, Jessie & COHN, Ronald (Eds), Loch Ness Monster in Popular Culture [a hard-copy compilation of Wikipedia articles] (Bookvika Publishing: Moscow, 2012).
RUSSELL, Jessie & COHN, Ronald (Eds), Loch Ness Monster [a hard-copy compilation of Wikipedia articles] (Bookvika Publishing: Moscow, 2012).

SAN SOUCI, Robert D. (Ed.), The Loch Ness Monster: Opposing Viewpoints (Greenhaven Press: San Diego, 1989).

SCHACH, David, The Loch Ness Monster (Torque Books: Minneapolis, 2010).

SEARLE, Frank, Nessie: Seven Years in Search of the Monster (Coronet: London, 1976).

SEARLE, Frank, The Story of Loch Ness (John Eccles: Inverness, 1977).

SEARLE, Frank, Around Loch Ness: A Handbook For Nessie Hunters (John Eccles: Inverness, 1977).

SENSICAL, Benjamin, Loch Ness: An Explanation (Privately published: [no place of publication details], 1982).

SHINE, Adrian, Loch Ness? (Loch Ness Project: Drumnadrochit, 2006).

SHUKER, Karl P.N., Here's Nessie! A Monstrous Compendium From Loch Ness (CFZ Press: Bideford, 2016).

SIEVERT, Terri, The Unsolved Mystery of the Loch Ness Monster (First Fact Books: North Mankato, 2013).

SNYDER, Gerald S., Is There a Loch Ness Monster? The Search For a Legend (Julian Messner: New York, 1977).

THORNE, Ian, The Loch Ness Monster (Crestwood House: New York, 1978).

TROUPE, Thomas K., The Legend of the Loch Ness Monster (Picture Window Books: North Mankato, 2011).

VIBE, Palle, Gaden I Loch Ness (Rhodos: Copenhagen, 1970).

WALLACE, Holly, The Mystery of the Loch Ness Monster (Capstone Global Library: Oxford, 2006).

WATSON, Roland, The Water Horses of Loch Ness (CreateSpace: London, 2011).

WELSH, Lily (Ed.), Monsters and Myths: Loch Ness and the Monster [a hard-copy compilation of Wikipedia articles] (Webster's Digital Services: 2010).

WHYTE, Constance, The Loch Ness Monster (Headley Brothers: London, 1951).

WHYTE, Constance, More Than a Legend: The Story of the Loch Ness Monster (Hamish Hamilton: London, 1957; rev. 1961).

WITCHELL, Nicholas, The Loch Ness Story (Terence Dalton: Lavenham, 1974; 3rd edit., Corgi Books: London, 1989).

WITCHELL, Nicholas, Loch Ness and the Monster (J. Arthur Dixon: Newport, 1975).

My little collection of Nessie figurines (© Dr Karl Shuker)

This Loch Ness monster bibliography is excerpted from my forthcoming book, Here's Nessie! A Monstrous Compendium from Loch Ness, which will be published in 2016 by CFZ Press.

Thursday 19 June 2014


My copy of Patricia Wrightson's famous children's novel An Older Kind of Magic (1972), in which I first learnt of nyols, net-nets, and several other examples of Australia's ancient, traditional mini-humanoid entities that she incorporated into her story; its front cover illustration in this Puffin paperback edition features nyols and net-nets (cover illustration © Jack Newnham/Puffin Books)

"Beneath the earth are older things than perhaps we understand: as old as the ground in which they live, and part of it. Every so often, when the time is right, they appear again above the earth to visit the world that once was theirs alone."

Patricia Wrightson – An Older Kind of Magic

The following ShukerNature article was originally inspired in no small way by the above book, which was a favourite of mine as a youngster.

According to the traditional beliefs of the native Australian (Aboriginal) peoples, Alcheringa - the Dreamtime - was the Time of Creation. As described by Mudrooroo Nyoongah in Aboriginal Mythology (1994), it "symbolizes that all life to the aboriginal peoples is part of one interconnected system, one vast network of relationships which came into existence with the stirring of the great eternal archetypes, the spirit ancestors who emerged during the Dreamtime".

In the Dreamtime, all of today's Australian animals existed in human form, as kangaroo-men, emu-men, koala-men, even starfish-men, and so forth, only later transforming into animals. However, there were also many much stranger beings - some monstrous, some humanoid or part-humanoid. These are discounted as fictitious by westerners and are largely unknown outside Australia. However, this vast continent's indigenous nations firmly believe that they still exist even today, and can occasionally be seen - if you know where, and how, to look for them...


According to the Wiradjuri people of New South Wales's central west, the elders always tell their children to count their shadows when playing, and be sure to tell them if they count an extra one - for that will surely mean a winambuu or a yuuri is playing with them.

Roughly equivalent to the Little People elsewhere in the world, the winambuu and yuuri (pronounced ‘yawri’) resemble small dwarf-like beings, only 3 ft tall and hairy. They can be benevolent or antagonistic, depending upon their prevailing mood and the manner in which they are treated by humans, often acting as tricksters, but serving as guardians of certain localities too. Also spoken of in New South Wales, but this time by the Gumbangirr people, are the bitarr, who derive great pleasure from playing with Gumbangirr children.

An antagonistic human bamboozled by mischievous nyols, as illustrated in Patricia Wrightson's children's novel An Older Kind of Magic (illustration © Noela Young/Puffin Books)

Concealed to all but the sharpest of native eyes in the eastern Australian state of Victoria as they play amid the shadows of dusk are the nyols. These small humanoid entities have stony-grey skin, and spend their daytime underground like Antipodean gnomes, inhabiting subterranean caverns in deep rocks. According to Kurnai tradition, they can be good or evil, and will sometimes steal the memory of humans that they encounter.

The net-nets also hail from Victoria and inhabit rocky caverns, but mostly above-ground, and have brown skin with long claws instead of nails. In some ways the Australian counterpart of leprechauns, net-nets tend to make nuisances of themselves with humans – stealing things, and deceiving human hunters. Further details of nyols and net-nets can be found in Massola Aldo's book Bunjil's Cave (1968) – a fascinating collection of traditional folklore drawn from Victoria's Aboriginal nations.

Bunjil's Cave (© Massola Aldo/Lansdowne Press)

Ask any zoologist what a ningaui is, and if they are well-informed they will reply that it is a tiny shrew-like form of Australian marsupial mouse, the first known species of which were formally documented by science as recently as 1975.

To the native Australian Tiwi people, conversely, ningauis are much more ancient, familiar entities - and it is from these that the ningaui marsupial mice derive their name. In traditional Tiwi Aboriginal lore, the ningauis (‘short ghosts’) comprise a hairy race of 2-ft-tall Dreamtime beings with short feet and a passion for eating raw food, as they have no knowledge of how to make fire. They are active only at night, and inhabit dense mangrove swamps on Melville Island, off Australia's northern coast. The ningauis assisted in the earliest Kulama ceremonies, which are initiation rites into religious cults and feature the special preparation for eating of an otherwise poisonous yam known as the kulama.

A southern ningaui Ningaui yvonneae, one of three species of marsupial mouse named after the mythical humanoid ningauis (© miss.chelle.13/Wikipedia)


Some investigators claim that there are undiscovered tribes of Aboriginal pygmies inhabiting remote regions of Australia, such as the Cairns rainforest, smaller than the short-statured tribes already known to have once existed there.

Amateur historian Frank O’Rourke of Bloomfield, Queensland, has been actively researching reports of pygmies in the Cairns outback for many years, having amassed records dating back to the times of first European settlement. He has even unearthed some long-forgotten photographs from the 1880s depicting extremely small Aboriginal people little more than 3 ft tall, from the Bloomfield region, found among documents housed in Brisbane’s John Oxley Library.

Moreover, fellow Queensland investigator Grahame Walsh has long been on the prowl through the rugged bush terrain around Carnarvon Gorge  in search of junjuddis – very small ape-like entities only 3 ft or so tall, with hairy humanoid bodies but long ape-like arms, and a somewhat odiferous presence. A former Carnarvon National Parks and Wildlife officer, Walsh has no doubt that these weird mini-beings are real, and has even encountered their tracks, preserved by him afterwards as plaster casts – which he likens to the footprints that a 5-year-old child would make. During the 1970s, there was a spate of junjuddi sightings, but fewer in recent times, because people rarely traverse the wildernesses nowadays. Similar pygmies are claimed to exist in the mountains of Arnhem Land north of the Roper River in the Northern Territory, where they are called the burgingin.

A junjuddi (© Tim Morris)

In late October 2002, announcing her then-forthcoming Quest Trek 2002 expedition in search of putative surviving thylacoleonids or marsupial lions in the Flinders Range region of South Australia, Aussie cryptozoologist Debbie Hynes also referred to a much less familiar crypto-subject, the Grey People. This is the name given by Westerners here to a mysterious race of very small, furry, black-skinned humanoids, which walk upright but are only 3-4.5 ft tall, with sloping brows, pronounced eyebrow ridges, and ape-like faces. Long spoken of in the local desert Aboriginals’ legends, they also have their own Aboriginal name, and they appear in ancient rock art, but are still being reported today too.

According to Debbie, in 2001 an American back-packer startled one of these beings when he returned to his camp and discovered it stealing his belongings. Debbie’s own guide for her expedition was a trapper back in the 1950s and 1960s, who mentioned to her that on one occasion he’d been followed by some Grey People, hoping to steal rabbits from his traps, and during that trip he’d found one sprung trap containing a fresh human-like fingernail but no bigger than the nail of a young child’s little finger; he assumes that in springing it, a hand of one such entity had been caught by the trap.

How extraordinary it would be if the preternatural gnomes and dwarfs of Australia’s Dreamtime proved to be bona fide (albeit exceedingly elusive) pygmy tribes still evading formal scientific recognition. After all, certain strange Dreamtime entities, once deemed entirely fabulous, have since been shown to have been inspired by erstwhile native species of animal – so perhaps Australia’s s shadowy Little People may also have an origin in reality instead of reverie.


Stranger in form than the Aboriginal Little People are the various 'stick beings' of Dreamtime tradition. They include the desert-dwelling mimi of Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory. Said to have sported human form before the coming of the first Aboriginals, these spirit people are nowadays tall but exceptionally thin, resembling animated sticks, and are thus able to live inside the narrowest rocky crevasses and amid the densest bush or scrub. Many ancient but finely-executed rock paintings exist in this region that depict mimi, portraying them dancing, running, hunting various creatures, and are usually painted only in red ochre. According to Aboriginal lore, these are the work of the mimi themselves, i.e. self portraits. Furthermore, it is the mimi who supposedly taught the first Aboriginal people in northern Australia how to paint, as well as how to hunt and cook kangaroos and other animals.

Nevertheless, mimi are not always benevolent, and today they are feared by native people here, because their diet not only includes yams, of which they are exceedingly fond, but also any unwary humans that they may choose to seize with their skeletal hands, especially if provoked. Consequently, when passing through mimi-frequented territory, it is best to choose a windy day. This is because these weird-looking entities are frightened to venture forth in such weather, in case their fragile thread-like necks should be broken by the blustery power of the wind.

A mimi in Aboriginal art (click here for my source of this image)

An even more malevolent race of stick beings are the vampire-like gurumukas, frequenting Groote Eylandt ('Great Island') in the Gulf of Carpentaria. These spindly nocturnal spirits have long projecting teeth, and if one of them should encounter a native Australian walking alone at night, it will bite the back of his neck, causing him to die in great pain unless rescued and swiftly tended to by a medicine man.

Equally malign are the nadubi of Arnhem Land, which are equipped with barbed stingray-like spines projecting from their elbows and knees. These bizarre spirit beings also seek solitary humans, and if they should find one and succeed in stabbing a spine into his body, he will surely die unless the spine is removed immediately by a wise shaman.

A quinkin (© Tim Morris)

The largest and most famous of all spirit stick men, however, are the quinkin, from Queensland's Cape York Peninsula. These giant entities represent the embodiment of human lust - on account of their excessively large (and often grotesquely-shaped) male sexual organs. As with the mimi, there are many prehistoric cave paintings depicting the quinkin, in Cape York's Laura rock galleries.


The most frightening monsters in any culture are those that appear partly, but not entirely, human, and this is certainly true of the Australian Dreamtime beings.

The yara-ma-yha-who is a truly grotesque spirit entity, which has red hair, red skin, huge eyes, lives in fig trees, and superficially resembles a small, toothless old man. However, it is also equipped with some decidedly non-human attributes. There are suckers on the ends of its long fingers and toes through which it sucks the blood of any unsuspecting human that it can leap upon. Its incredibly flexible jaws are not hinged at the back, hence they can open so wide that it can swallow its human victim whole. And its massive stomach is so obese that it can readily hold its victim until he is totally digested! Sometimes, however, it does not digest its victim, but regurgitates him and reswallows him several times. Each time, its victim becomes smaller, and redder - until at last he has transformed into a yara-ma-yha-who.

A yara-ma-yha-who (© Tim Morris)

The Aboriginals' ancestors travelled to Australia from southern Asia, which is home to several species of small, tree-dwelling, carnivorous/insectivorous primate known as tarsiers. Although harmless to humans, tarsiers do have enormous eyes and suckers on the ends of their fingers, and can look very unnerving at times! Cryptozoologists have speculated that perhaps the yara-ma-yha-who is a distorted, much-exaggerated folk memory of a tarsier, passed down from the Australian Aboriginals' Asian ancestors.

Tarsiers can look very unnerving at times, especially when aggressive like this particular individual. So don't make them angry – you wouldn't like them when they're angry! (© Serafin "Jun" Ramos, Jr/Wikipedia)

Similarly, just as there are many reports in southern Asia of giant bat-like entities - referred to in Java, for instance, as the ahool, and in Seram as the orang bati ('flying man') - native Australian lore also contains legends of veritable 'bat-men', known as the keen-keeng. Long ago, this tribe of half-humans inhabited a huge cave on the Western Australian border, and worshipped a fire god, to whom they sacrificed living humans. In their normal state, the keen-keeng were outwardly human, which greatly assisted them when luring victims to their cave, but they could be distinguished by their hands, which lacked the first two fingers of human hands. Their greatest difference, however, was their magical aerial ability - for whenever they chose, the keen-keeng could raise their arms above their heads and instantly transform them into a pair of large, powerful wings. This talent enabled these eerie entities to travel great distances when seeking potential sacrifice victims, but they were finally destroyed by two wise medicine men known as the Winjarning brothers.

A keen-keeng abducting the Winjarning brothers, as depicted by Alice Woodward upon the front cover of the 2003 Courier Dover edition of W. Ramsay Smith's classic book Myths and Legends of the Australian Aborigines, first published in 1932 (© Alice Woodward/Courier Dover Publications)

Another semi-human monster vanquished by the Winjarnings was Cheeroonear, who lived with his wife and dogs in a dense forest near Nullarbor Plain, which overlaps the present-day Australian states of South Australia and Western Australia. According to William Ramsey Smith's Myths and Legends of the Australian Aboriginals (1930), Cheeroonear was:

"...a being with ears and face like a dog, but without a chin. From the lower jaw there hung a flesh-like bag, shaped like the pouch of a pelican, and leading into the stomach. The ribs did not join in the centre to form a chest with one cavity, but were arranged so as to make two compartments. The compartment on the left side contained the lungs, and the one on the right side held the heart and its vessels, leaving the throat like a wide sack between the two, so that when it held water or food it looked like a tube...He stood eight feet high. His arms reached below his knees to his ankles. When he stretched or opened his fingers he could touch the ground. He could pick up objects from the ground without stooping."

Responsible for the disappearance of several people from human camps around the edge of the forest, Cheeroonear was finally ambushed by the Winjarnings, with the assistance of a dense fog sent by the God of the Dewdrops, and duly slain with their warrior boomerangs.

A potkoorok (© Tim Morris)

Happily, not all semi-human Dreamtime entities are dangerous or evil. The potkoorok of Victoria, for instance, is a shy, inoffensive man-frog, resembling a small human but with a wet pear-shaped body, long mobile fingers, and huge webbed feet. Highly reclusive, it actively hides away from human eyes in deep pools and rivers.

Nyol, net-net, and ningaui, yuuri and yara-ma-yha-who, quinkin, mimi, potkoorok, and many more too - distant denizens of the Dreaming, but for whom there no longer seems to be any time in today's 'civilised', westernised world. Yet time is never still, and one day theirs too may come again.

This ShukerNature article is a greatly-expanded, updated version of a chapter section from my book Dr Shuker's Casebook: In Pursuit of Marvels and Mysteries (CFZ Press: Bideford, 2008).