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).

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Tuesday 2 June 2015


My official model of the 'Creature from the Black Lagoon' (© Dr Karl Shuker)

The term ‘reptoid’ is most closely associated with the reptilian category of extraterrestrial aliens, but it also has a much wider yet less familiar usage, having been applied to a number of extraordinary humanoid reptilian entities reported from modern-day North America and elsewhere, as will be seen here.


When a shaking, petrified 17-year old youth called Christopher Davis arrived home in a hysterical state with his car’s roof bearing several long deep scratches, his father was naturally shocked, but was even more so when his son, after finally calming down sufficiently to speak, told him a truly incredible tale of what he claimed had happened earlier that night.

According to Christopher, at 2 am on 29 June 1988, he had pulled up near to Scape Ore Swamp, just outside the South Carolina backwater village of Bishopville in Lee County, in order to change a tyre. But as he was replacing the jack in his car’s boot afterwards, he saw something very tall, approximately 7 ft in height, racing towards him at speed across a field. As it drew nearer, Christopher was amazed and horrified to discover that it resembled a huge bipedal lizard, with humanoid form but covered in green wet scaly skin, sporting just three fingers on each hand and three toes on each foot, every one tipped with a 4-in-long black claw, and glaring at him with slanted glowing red eyes!

Artist's impression of Lizard Man (© Richard Svensson)

Terrified, Christopher jumped into his car at once, but as he tried to slam the door shut, the creature – soon to be dubbed Lizard Man by the media – grabbed its mirror in an attempt to wrench the door open. Moreover, even though Christopher accelerated and drove off, his saurian attacker was not left behind. Instead, it hurled itself onto the car roof, and tried to hold on to it as the panic-stricken teenager drove madly through the swamplands, swerving wildly at speeds of up to 40 miles/hr in a desperate attempt to dislodge it from his roof. Happily for him, however, the creature quite literally outreached itself when it stretched its arm down to grab at the windscreen, because it lost its grip on the roof and fell off the car, to be left far behind as Christopher sped on to his home.

When the story broke, Lee County’s sheriff, Liston Truesdale, interviewed Christopher and also researched his background history, subsequently confirming that he accepted his story and had found him to be a very clean-living boy never linked to drugs or drinking. Moreover, in the weeks that followed, many other sightings of Lizard Man were reported in the same area, and by people again claimed by Truesdale to be of reputable status.

Lizard Man investigator Lyle Blackburn in Scape Ore Swamp (© Lyle Blackburn)

Nevertheless, apart from some very large three-toed footprints of dubious origin turning up in the swamp and soon dismissed by police, no physical evidence for Lizard Man’s existence was forthcoming. Eventually, therefore, especially after certain more recent reports were exposed as definite hoaxes, Lizard Man faded from the headlines and into local folklore, but remains one of the most bizarre unidentified entities ever documented - a thoroughly surreal mystery that today is still resolutely unresolved. Or is it?

The most extensive modern-day investigation of the Bishopville Lizard Man is that of American cryptid researcher and author Lyle Blackburn. Lyle and his partner Cindy Lee not only visited the precise sighting locations, and interviewed those eyewitnesses still living, but also examined (and were even permitted to photograph) official eyewitness testimony records plus police documents of this extraordinary case, and thoroughly reviewed a comprehensive range of theories in their bid to provide a satisfactory explanation.

Lyle Blackburn's excellent book, Lizard Man (© Lyle Blackburn/Anomalist Books)

But what did they discover, and what were their conclusions? The answers can be found in Lyle's fascinating book, Lizard Man: The True Story of the Bishopville Monster (2013), which I thoroughly recommend to everyone wishing to examine the full history of this truly bizarre being.

Lyle Blackburn with his other cryptozoological bestseller, The Beast of Boggy Creek (© Lyle Blackburn)

Incidentally, in an example not so much of art imitating nature as body art imitating unnatural history, one of today's most memorable (and certainly most eyecatching) of freak show performers is Eric Sprague.

Aka 'The Lizardman', he sports a full-body tattoo of green lizard-like scales, a modified bifurcate tongue, sharpened teeth, and subdermal implants, thereby converting his appearance to that of a veritable reptoid.

Life-sized replica of Eric Sprague, The Lizardman, currently on display at the Ripley's Believe It Or Not! Odditorium in London, England (© Dr Karl Shuker)


One of the most famous of all movie monsters is the scaly amphibious entity that appears in the cult American sci-fi/horror flick ‘Creature from the Black Lagoon’. Directed by Jack Arnold and produced by Universal Studios, it was originally released in 1954, and went on to spawn two sequels as well as all manner of derivative films in the years to come. Yet whereas its eponymous bipedal gill-man of Devonian descent and a penchant for abducting buxom brunettes was thankfully confined to the swamplands of the silver screen, there are a number of modern-day claims on file concerning real-life encounters with mysterious amphibious beings that bear much more than a passing (not to mention alarming) resemblance to it.

Still from 'Creature from the Black Lagoon' (© Universal Studios)

Undoubtedly the most frightening of these took place on the evening of 8 November 1958, and featured Charles Wetzel, who was driving his Buick along the road bordering the Santa Ana River near Riverside, California, when someone – or something – suddenly leapt in front of his car and stood there, staring directly at him. Wetzel was astonished and terrified – for good reason. According to his subsequent testimony to the police and other investigators, the entity was bipedal and at least 7 ft tall, sported a round pumpkin-like head lacking a nose and ears but possessing a projecting beak-like mouth and a pair of bright fluorescent eyes, waved its extremely long arms so animatedly that its entire body rocked from side to side, stood on a pair of legs that splayed out from the sides of its torso like those of a reptile (rather than emerging from beneath its torso like a human’s do), and was covered in leaf-like scales.

And as if this stationary vision of horror was not enough, the reptoid then opened its beak, emitted a high-pitched gurgling scream, and raced directly towards Wetzel’s car, its long arms reaching across the bonnet and clawing madly at the windscreen as it violently strove to reach Wetzel! The petrified driver was armed with a rifle but did not dare shoot at the reptoid with it as the bullets would have destroyed the windscreen – the only barrier separating him from his frenzied saurian aggressor. Instead, he swiftly accelerated his car and ran the reptoid down, feeling its substantial body scraping the undercarriage as he drove over it and away with all speed.

A scaly green 'Creature from the Black Lagoon'-type reptoid (© Richard Svensson)

Laboratory tests later confirmed that something had indeed scraped off the grease from the undercarriage of Wetzel’s car, and several very prominent claw-marks sweeping across the windscreen were readily visible. Although a police search armed with bloodhounds failed to locate the reptoid’s body, and despite suggestions that what he really ran over was simply an uprooted tree, Wetzel never recanted or changed his story.

Almost 20 years later, in 1977, Alfred Hulstruck, a highly respected New York State Conservation naturalist made a startling announcement concerning a hitherto-unreported but highly distinctive alleged inhabitant of the Southern Tier region of New York State, stating: "A scaled, man-like creature...appears at dusk from the red, algae-ridden waters to forage among the fern and moss-covered uplands".

'Creature from the Black Lagoon' advertising poster (public domain)
Outside North America, humanoid lizard men have been reported as recently as 2003 from Italy’s River Po and River Pijava, with plaster casts of their alleged hand and footprints having been made by chemist Sebastiano di Djenaro. And similar entities have also been reported from large ponds or lakes in Poland.


The most famous case featuring a Creature of the Black Lagoon lookalike, however, has recently become the most infamous, due to a shocking yet surprisingly little-publicised revelation. It all began on 19 August 1972, at Thetis Lake, near Victoria, the capital of British Columbia, Canada. This is where two teenage youths, Gordon Pile and Robin Flewellyn, claimed to have seen emerging from the lake a bipedal reptoid covered in silver scales and bearing six razor-sharp spines comprising a central longitudinal ridge running along the top of its head. Moreover, upon seeing the youths, the reptoid lost no time in chasing after them, approaching so closely that it supposedly cut the hand of one of the youths with its head’s spines.

Four days later, during the afternoon of 23 August, a similar scenario was reported from the opposite shore of the same lake by two more teenage youths, Russell Van Nice and Michael Gold, who were able to watch the reptoid emerge but without being chased by it this time, because it simply re-entered the water a short time later and vanished. Afterwards, they provided a detailed description of it, which corroborated and added to that of the previous youths. Using this description, a sketch published the following day by a local newspaper depicted the scaly entity with a powerful muscular chest, two three-pronged flippers for feet, clawed humanoid hands, six spines on top of its head, a huge pair of pointed ears, a very large pair of flat fish-like eyes, and an equally piscean mouth.

Artist's impression of the Thetis Lake monster (© Richard Svensson)

Apart from a bizarre attempt by the area’s police to ‘identify’ this entity as nothing more startling than an escaped 1-m-long South American tegu lizard – a species notable for NOT walking bipedally, for NOT possessing ears, a spiny crest on its head, or flippers for feet, but for possessing a striped body and a very long tail (features conspicuous only by their absence from the eyewitness accounts of the Thetis Lake reptoid!) – nothing more was seen or heard of this lake-dwelling nightmare...until 2009, that is.

This was when Canadian writer-illustrator Daniel Loxton, who edits the Junior Skeptic insert section of the highly-acclaimed quarterly science-education magazine Skeptic, decided to reopen this mystifying case. What spurred him on was his discovery that the very weekend before the first alleged reptoid sighting at Thetis Lake back in August 1972, ‘Monster from the Surf’ (aka 'The Beach Girls and the Monster'), a low-budget sci-fi film distributed by U.S. Films, originally released in 1965, and featuring a scaly ‘Creature from the Black Lagoon’ type of monster, had been screened not once but twice on local television in this same area of British Columbia. Furthermore, the monster in it perfectly matched the descriptions of the Thetis Lake reptoid that had been given by the teenagers claiming to have encountered it.

Advertising poster for 'The Beach Girls and the Monster' (© U.S. Films)

Determined by now to solve this case once and for all, Loxton succeeded in contacting one of the original eyewitnesses, Russell Van Nice (the first time that any investigator had ever done this), who swiftly confessed that their story was a hoax, that they had indeed watched the film on television and had then simply pretended to have seen its monster in real life. True, the testimony of the earlier pair of teenagers has not been exposed as a hoax, but as their description of the Thetis Lake reptoid also corresponds perfectly with that of the monster in the film, it is evident that this reptoid case can no longer be taken seriously.

Yet even without the backing of its most widely-publicised case, the mystery of amphibious reptoids reported across North America remains - thanks not only to those other cases documented here but also to a number of additional ones on file. Prominent among these is an extraordinary case reported from Loveland, Ohio.


Bearing in mind that its two separate eyewitnesses were both police officers, the so-called Loveland frog man has attracted more than a little curiosity down through the years. At 1 am on 3 March 1972, as policeman Ray Schocke drove along Riverside Road towards the Ohio town of Loveland, his car’s headlights illuminated what he initially thought was a dog – until the creature stood up on its hind legs, revealing itself to be a grotesque 4-ft-tall entity with textured leathery skin, a frog-like or lizard-like face, and weighing about 60 lb. After briefly staring at him, the creature leapt away over a guard rail, and moved down an embankment into the Little Miami River. As soon as Schocke reached his station and revealed what he had encountered, fellow officer Mark Matthews drove back with him to look for evidence, but all that they found were some scrape marks leading to the river.

Artist's impression of the Loveland frog man (© Richard Svensson)

On or around 17 March, however, while driving alongside this same river just outside Loveland, Matthews himself saw something. Lying on the road ahead was what seemed to be a dead animal, but when Matthews got out of his car to pick it up and put it in the boot, the ‘carcase’ raised itself into a crouching position. Then, without taking its eyes off Matthews, it moved to the guard rail, lifted its legs over it, and vanished. Matthews attempted to shoot the creature with his gun, but missed.

Because there had been reports of weird frog-like entities here in the past, some researchers have suggested that the officers had been subconsciously influenced by these when observing whatever it was that they had seen. Also, in later years Matthews claimed that the media had distorted his account, and that he felt sure that what he had seen was merely a large lizard, possibly an escaped pet. Of course, it may be that the creature he had seen was a totally different one from the entity spied by Schocke. In any event, nothing resembling a frog man has been reported here in recent years, so whether it really was just a case of mistaken identity after all, or, alternatively, Loveland’s most mystifying visitor has simply hopped off to somewhere else, is still unknown.


Suggestions that have been proffered down through the years as to what these reptoids might be are as varied and certainly as exotic as the entities themselves – everything, in fact, from extraterrestrial or interdimensional reptilians that have either been secretly residing on planet Earth since ancient times or have reached here from the far-distant future, or Hollow Earth inhabitants that occasionally come to the surface, to evolved post-Cretaceous dinosaurian descendants, or reclusive native life-forms of undetermined taxonomic status but perhaps allied to the equally elusive merfolk and possibly even the bloodthirsty chupacabra.

Lyle Blackburn with Sheriff Liston Truesdale (© Lyle Blackburn)

Far beyond the fringes of accepted cryptozoology, these bipedal reptile-men remain an inscrutable enigma, defying all attempts at explanation or classification. Yet their very existence, if genuine, remains a highly disturbing, disconcerting thought – as eloquently summarised by veteran American cryptozoologist Loren Coleman:

"Are these beasts future time travelers lost in some time/space warp? Or infrequent visitors? Or do you feel more comfortable with the idea there is a breeding population of scaly, manlike, upright creatures lingering along the edges of some of America’s swamps? Something is out there. That’s for sure."

Amen to that!

I am extremely grateful to Richard Svensson for permitting me to utilise his wonderful artwork, and to Lyle Blackburn for permitting me to include his excellent photographs - thanks guys!

And to read about some very different humanoid reptilians - namely, Jake the Alligator Man and the mummified crocodile boy of Topkapi - be sure to click here!

Taking turns with my mother, Mary Shuker, to display another of my 'Creature from the Black Lagoon' models - click to enlarge (© Dr Karl Shuker)


  1. Here's a lizard man report I investigated in Kentucky.


    1. Thanks very much for this - most interesting!