What’s so weird about Virginia?

Story by Chris Graham

Yes, Virginia, there are Bigfoot in them thar hills.
And that’s not all, to hear Loren Coleman, one of the coauthors of Weird Virginia: Your Travel Guide to Virginia’s Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets, tell it.
“In 1959 through the 1990s, in and around Saltville, there’s been these strange reports of what we call ‘devil monkeys’ – almost creatures that look like baboons or kangaroos. Then there’s the report from 1968 of a mothman-type creature – and that’s in Prince William County near a farm there near Haymarket. These creatures span the whole state,” said Coleman, a cryptozoologist by trade.

Coleman, a Virginia native, was drawn to the weird, the wild, the wacky, as a youngster.

“I saw a film in 1960 about the abominable snowman, and I went to school and asked my teachers, What is this business about the abominable snowman? And all of my teachers said, Don’t waste your time, don’t read anything about it. So what did I do? I read everything I could, and found out that there was a substantial amount of evidence here that had been ignored by science,” Coleman said.

For example, Chessie – Virginia’s very own sea monster.

Sightings of Chessie date back in one way or another to reports from the 19th century from sailors in the Atlantic who said they saw something that looked like a sea serpent.

The name Chessie came about in the 1970s – “when a CIA employee, Donald Kyker, reported that he saw four Chessies about 75 yards offshore, and his neighbors, the Smoots, also saw the creature in 1980 and in 1982, and then we started to quickly have a progression of many sightings,” Coleman said.

Chessie has been quiet in recent years – but as with Bigfoot and devil monkeys and mothmen and the rest, reporting tends to come in cycles, Coleman said.

Back to Chessie for a moment – so … what is she, exactly?

Coleman, being a cryptozoologist, has his theories.

“There seem to be some large animals out there in the ocean – almost as if they seem to be serpent-like, but they may actually be prehistoric primitive whales, ancient whales, or they could be unknown species of a giant seal that we haven’t identified,” Coleman said.

“Most of the reports say that they look reptilian – but to say that they’re serpents or reptiles is really a mistake, because what we notice is that these creatures swim in a certain way, and they have eyebrows, and they have hair on them, so we certainly know they’re mammals,” Coleman said.

So now you know.

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Chris Graham is the executive editor of The Augusta Free Press.

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