Jason Offutt is a journalist and college professor who documents personal paranormal accounts involving mythological, cryptozoological and other supernatural creatures.
Offutt doesn’t claim to know the definite truth about any of the creatures he documents.
“I’m not a paranormal investigator; I’m a journalist,” Offutt said. “I try to keep my personal opinions out of my writings.”
When asked about his personal opinion on the existence and nature of paranormal creatures, Offutt offered insight.
“Every civilization on earth that we know of historically has had ghosts and ancestor spirits as part of their religion,” Offutt said. “Every religion has gods from heavens, [and there are] Bigfoot reports on every continent except Antarctica. All these people can’t be wrong.”
When asked if he had ever encountered a monster firsthand, Offutt was quick to reply.
“Nope not a one,” he remarked. “And you know what I’m fine with that,” Offutt said laughingly, “the paranormal is fun as long as its happening to someone else.”
For his upcoming book, Chasing American Monsters, Offutt researched stories and conducted interviews with people all over the U.S.
“I went through every single state and picked out their most famous and weirdest monsters,” Offutt said, adding that “Bigfoot has been reported in every state except Hawaii.”
“The well known [monsters] are more seen than obscure ones,” Offutt said. “Lake monsters seem to be extremely popular because every state has multiple reports of lake monsters – those things are all over the place.”
Other popular creatures, like vampires and werewolves, are most commonly reported in areas where early immigrants settled, bringing with them monster legends Europe.
“Most werewolves appear in Louisiana and Quebec, where the French settled,” Offutt said.
“The Banshee is an Irish legend [that] only appears where Irish immigrants settled. They didn’t just bring a change of clothes … they brought their monsters with them.”
Not all of the accounts Offutt investigates have common monsters, and several don’t have what one would consider monsters at all.
“I would say most of the monsters are called monsters because they look strange,” Offutt said. “To me, they’re probably just animal, which doesn’t make them bad or good.”
The Squonk, the Bolter, and the Awful
Still, some monsters are deserving of the title.
“There are a number that seem to be malevolent. The Awful, Banshee, Devil Dogs, Vampires are negative. Dogman and Werewolves seem to be malevolent,” Offutt said.
Offutt described such a Monster that was repeatedly sighted in a small town. He called it “the Awful”, a horrifying beast with a lion’s body, bat wings, and a scorpion tail, and explained that HP Lovecraft used the monster as inspiration for his writings.
Britannica defines a Manticore as “a legendary animal having the head of a man (often with horns), the body of a lion, and the tail of a dragon or scorpion.” The same article continues to explain that the earliest report of a Manticore is from Greece, but that they were used in medieval art to represent the devil.
Other monsters Offutt researched include weird creatures like the Pennsylvania Squonk, a big pig-like creature with saggy skin known for constantly crying.
Another strange monster is the Slide Rock Bolter in the mountains of Colorado, a lore from the early days of mining for silver and gold according to Offutt.
“It looked like a whale, except its tail was a big hook it would use to catch humans.”
Dinosaurs and Lake Monsters
Offutt said that lake monster encounters are among some of the weirdest stories he has heard. “I’m saying weirdest because most of the lake monsters are described like dinosaurs,” Offutt explained.
Offutt then brought up the precedent for the existence of undiscovered ancient [sea] life, a fish called the Coelacanth, which was discovered in 1938 in South Africa, according to National Geographic. Prior to the discovery, scientists presumed the fish went extinct with dinosaurs 65 million years ago.
There are even several instances of so-called mythological creatures turning out to be real, and Offutt pointed to the example of the Gorilla. The evasive ape was considered by many to be a myth and was falsely described as a monster by some who witnessed it, according to Animal Planet, which contends that the subspecies Gorilla gorilla beringei remained a myth until it was discovered in 1902.
“There is a lot of forest land in the U.S. that no human has touched for hundreds of years or maybe ever,” Offutt added.
“There have been reports of therapod-type dinosaurs. The most common type of dinosaur people have reported seeing are the pterodactyl and flying dinosaurs, all over Mexico and the Southwest, Africa and New Guinea as well.”
“If any of these things exist, and I’m not claiming any of them do, they are so few and far in between those who experience them are lucky… unless they get eaten,” Offutt jokingly said.
While remaining unsure of the nature of differing beasts, Offutt said he prefers to work in the realm of flesh-and-blood, leaving the deep metaphysical theory for another to ponder.
“That’s using an unknown to explain another unknown and that gets us going in circles,” Offutt said of complex metaphysical theories linking paranormal sightings, like those about the relationship between UFOs and Bigfoot.
“Officially None of these things exist unless their body is on a lab table,” Offutt said.
Still, most of the so-called monsters are seemingly harmless beings who don’t deserve to end up on a lab table.
Offutt contended that observation would be the best way to study unharmful creatures, as abduction is cruel and photo and video evidence is questionable. Of course, he knows – as we all know – that observing these creatures is nearly impossible, and so instead Offutt acts as a different kind of researcher, a journalist – a collector of personal experiences, leaving us with detailed accounts of sightings in his books.