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A Guide To California's Monsters And Mythical Creatures

A Guide To California's Monsters And Mythical Creatures

From serpent-like sea creatures to tall, hairy beings skulking through the forests, many monsters and mythical creatures lurk in California. Team


6 min read

April 29, 2024

When in California, don’t check for monsters under your bed — these mythical creatures roam your backyard. Sleep with one eye open, because monsters are skulking all through the night. Beware: Bigfoot prowls the forests of California; Chupacabra rushes over from the tales of Mexico; the Dark Watchers haunt the glimmering waters of Avila Beach. Ocean serpents swim from the depths of despair in the Pacific, haunting you upon reaching the majestic Malibu Beach (or so you thought it was only a beach lover's haven).

Even the best California lakes are not shy from harboring their own mythical creatures; from Cali’s own version of the Lochness monster, Tahoe Tessie to Lake Elsinore’s Elsie; these creatures continue creeping on land, in water, and in the air. California is even known for fostering mythical sea creatures dating back to prehistoric times, such as the gigantic Megalodon Shark, bathing near the California coastline. Not only is the Golden State home to these strange beings, but it also is the land of strange laws; essentially from the laws of the land to the depths of the waters, sinister obscurities make their way into the norms of everyday living. Sit back and “try” to relax, as you learn about the American mythical creatures that make their way through the Golden State.

Cool Mythical Animals

See if you can spot the mythical creatures of the Golden State. Start your adventure in Willow Creek, the "Bigfoot capital of the world."


Bigfoot, Sasquatch, Yeti, Yeren, Yowie; this creature adorns many names and an elusive history. In 1958, the legend began when journalist Andrew Genzoli featured a letter sent in from one of his readers regarding Bigfoot in the Humboldt Times. The letter clearly stated that loggers, at the time, were coming across mysteriously humongous footprints — unman-like footprints — in Northern California. Although Genzoli never gave the letter much thought, he hoped it would be a fun anecdote for his readers; however, the response from the readers was intense. Colleague and fellow journalist Betty Allen jumped on the wagon along with Genzoli, publishing another article regarding the footprint—claiming that the witnesses named it “Bigfoot”. And, so it began. Almost nine years after the first sighting of Bigfoot in Willow Creek, the footage was released that visibly showed a creature roaming the same area. The footage was subject to various tests from many experts to determine its authenticity. To this day, there's no official decision on whether the video is real or fake; thus leaving room for imagination. Nevertheless, the Bigfoot obsession grew amongst Californians and the legend strung a series of similar sightings. According to the Travel Channel, the Golden State ranked second in the states among Bigfoot sightings. With 1,697 sightings recorded, California is the place to go to connect with mythical animals like this one.

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Residents of Riverside County have claimed that hairless creatures have been eyeing their pets from the top of Box Springs Mountain.


The origins of the name are unclear to this day — Puerto Rican newspapers began officially using the term El Chupacabra in 1992 — but sources date the term going back further than that. The literal translation means “goat sucker” and that's absolutely something to be terrified of.

The mythical creatures have had many sightings in South America and California. It's often described as a lizard or dog-like animal, about three to four feet in height, with a hairless body and ridged spine. Others have referred to the creature as being kangaroo-like, due to its ability to hop about. Reports have identified the cool mythical creatures as rather large rat-like beings, while others compare them to the cousin of gargoyles with wings. The descriptions are many, but none have come to a final conclusion as to what this horrific creature who terrorizes humans and animals actually resembles. Tiny but mighty—the chupacabras have been responsible for livestock mutilation and bloody corpses in many areas in Southern California. Reports even stated sightings all the way in NorCal. Legend has it that these creatures don't bleed when shot and have a condition known as the paralytic gaze, which is mainly attributed to vampires.

The Dark Watchers

Who or what the Dark Watchers are, nobody knows. Where they originated from or why they're here is a concept as lost as Alice or as mad as the Hatter. What the Dark Watchers are looking for or watching is beyond our knowledge.

The Santa Lucia Mountains stretch from Avila Beach through San Luis Obispo to Monterey Bay — oh, if only these mountains could speak. Living on the mountainside is the bizarre and creepy Dark Watchers. They appear to be giant human-like ghosts only visible at twilight, standing high and mighty staring into the night. Witnesses have claimed that the Dark Watchers are seen to be staring at nothing visible, and often vanish right before their eyes.

The Chumash Indians first spoke of these tall giants in their legends and made sure to document their existence in cave paintings. The Dark Watchers made their way into many books; from legendary author John Steinbeck’s short story Flight to Robinson Jeffers’ poem “Such Counsels You Gave To Me”, you'll find chilling references to these creatures.

In the 1960s, a Monterey Peninsula local and past principal of the school mentioned seeing the figures on a hike. He then spent time studying the dark, tall phantoms lurking about in the majestic mountains. When the principal called out to his fellow hikers, the figures disappeared into thin air. Many sightings have then been claimed and reported, and the matter of the dark shadows still lurks amongst us. California’s weird facts are sure to capture your attention, but nothing quite gets your attention as these dreadful, empty-eyed phantoms.

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Mythical Sea Creatures 

The azure waters and breathtaking views of Lake Tahoe are said to be home for Tessie. Even the mythical creature couldn't resist.

Tahoe Tessie

The list of mythical creatures extends into the depths of California waters. A creature compared to the likes of the Loch Ness Monster, Tahoe Tessie is said to appear in public at least 12 times per year. Tessie’s claimed existence has led to the creation of a strange museum and local hotline (next time you're in Tahoe, call in case of a Tessie spotting).

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Tessie's mythology is traced back to local Indians who mentioned this monster in their legends as a sturgeon sheltered in the depths of the dark waters. Lake Tahoe’s waters run deep, reaching a depth of 1,645 feet, making it the perfect place to harbor mythical sea creatures like Tessie. Theories state the sightings of mythical sea monsters are bountiful, ranging from a 60-foot serpentine-like creature to a giant fish-like monster lurking in the waters. The Washoe and Paiute Tribes were the first to talk about the monsters, which were later mentioned by French Oceanographer Jacques Cousteau. Apparently, Cousteau said that the world was not ready to face what was under the water and refused to release his footage.

Regardless of the countless urban legends, with reports of more than a dozen sightings each year, and a famous oceanographer’s footage, Tessie has still yet to be determined as real or fake. Although the California fun facts are many, the “fun” lurking in the depths of the state’s waters could probably be more.

If you're into exploring the unknown and the supernatural, Lake Elsinore belongs on your list of must-visit destinations.


From Tessie to Elsie, California doesn't shy away from its fair share of legendary sea monsters. In 1884, the small town of Lake Elsinore was harboring a big, dark secret. Elsie resembles a combination of a plesiosaur and a sea serpent. After the famous debut, the creature went on to emerge once per decade, giving mystery to its history.

Lake Elsinore is no stranger to the creepy and gory. From ghosts, mysterious UFO sightings, vampire cults, and other supernatural creatures, this small town sure has a reputation for the unnatural. Elsie is the cornerstone of the town's culture; her mythology is even taught to children in school. Native Americans have also reported claims of witnessing Elsie chillaxing in the waters. In 1934, a man along with his wife and kids claimed to have seen this creature and described it to be 100 feet long with a 30-foot tail. According to the family, the mythological creature was causing quite the waves, which were crashing on the lakeshore. As decades went by, Elsie chose its witnesses carefully and gave them a glimpse of what the mythical sea monster is truly like. Claims were confirmed but never authenticated. In 1954, the lake was completely dried out and much to everyone’s shock there were no sea serpents lying around. Many claimed that Elsie went on to hide in one of the nearby caves on the hillside. In the 1960s, the lake was refilled and Elsie went back to being the talk of the town.

From the hidden canyons to its dark forests and deep, pitch-black lakes, the Golden State sure knows how to harbor its monsters. Travel California’s weird places for an extra dose of X-Files.

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