Originally published on Nerdclave.com
Science Fact Friday champions today’s advancements that could turn yesterday’s Science Fiction into tomorrow’s science reality. Information presented here is for entertainment purposes only. We are not liable if your space elevator collapses.
Godzilla is not only king of the lizards, he’s arguably king of all monsters in film.
A few hours ago, the king returned, at least in name. Check out our review of the 2014 Godzilla by Ali Amir Mustansir to see if the big lizard’s still the same. But whether the film is a return to form or not, iconic monsters in film and literature have had several rebirths. To quote monster maestro H.P. Lovecraft, “The Old Ones were, the Old Ones are, and the Old Ones shall be. Not in the spaces we know, but between them. They walk serene and primal, undimensioned and to us unseen.”
Alright, knock it off, H.P. You’re scaring the children.
Although it’s debatable that anything so large as Godzilla ever existed, all works of fiction (excluding Giger) stem from real life. They can be assumptions or extrapolations, but it’s all about possibilities and probabilities, and that’s limited by the real world.
And sometimes, even in the case of monsters, those far out things happen to exist in ways very close to the how they were imagined. Discoveries happen every day, and sometimes the craziest of creatures are waiting in the wild. The more we explore our world, the more we’ll find, refueling the creative juices of science fiction writers everywhere–because that’s why scientists do stuff, right?
In honor of Godzilla (who didn’t make the list), enjoy being wigged out by these six real life monsters straight out of fiction.
6.) Zombies – The Last of Us
Zombies have a few of origins, be it old voodoo lore or new George A. Romero hallucinations, and certainly the idea of walking dead has become rebranded countless times. But the one common denominator is everyone losing their minds, essentially or literally becoming a human meat puppet that totes around murderous, snapping teeth.
Sometimes used to metaphorize our racial prejudices, sometimes our consumerism, zombies always speak to a universal fear. All of us have felt at one time or another like the entire world was turning against us. Just maybe not eating our faces.
In literature, movies, television, and games, a zombie apocalypse is brought about various ways. Sometimes it’s simply cast aside with a curt summation, as in 1978 Dawn of the Dead’s explanation of “no more room in hell,” which is technically the most scientific way to explain zombies, according to my personal copy of “Being a Badass in the 1970s.”
Other properties, like the 2013 Game of the Year multi-winner The Last of Us, chalk their zombies up to some kind of fungus. Yeah, right. Stick with the “hell” line, chums.
Zombies are a metaphor, like most great monsters. Certainly, they have lost their sting nowadays, growing less and less scary. Everyone knows it’s all a lot of hokum.
That, sir or madam, or cat trained to Google, is a picture of a zombie. Otherwise known as an ant infected with ophiocordyceps unilateralis.
This fungus turns carpenter ants into machines bent on finding a good place to die, or rather, a good place to spread fungus from its dead body after its death.
Ugh. Yes, that’s right, most disturbing of all is that real zombies are much closer to the kind seen in M. Knight Shyamalan The Happening, at least in terms of taking you on a kamikaze course with death instead of worrying about eating people. These ants are compelled by the fungus to find bizarrely accurate places to die, all orchestrated to spread the fungus like a trap.
Of course, this genus of fungus hasn’t infected humans. Yet. But even scientists admit that fungi have jumped the species barrier, and ophiocordyceps unilateralis could one day do the same.
Watching this thing at work is like watching The Walking Dead‘s title sequence.
5.) Tick-Tock – Peter Pan (Hook)
In 1991’s Hook, they decided to turn the crocodile from Peter Pan, Tick-Tock, into a gargantuan beast large enough that its carcass could house a clock tower. But Tick-Tock was always somewhat unsettling, even if he was filed in the “enemy of my enemy” category. We kind of wanted him to eat Captain Hook, but we’ve had nightmares about being on the receiving end.
To make things more creepy, the idea is that Tick-Tock, having started with Hook’s hand, will forever haunt the ship’s captain until it can eat the rest of his body. It acquired the taste of human flesh. Can you blame it?
Of course, in some iterations, Tick-Tock is considerably smaller. You know, normal killer crocodile size. Nothing to worry about. Much more realistic.
Lolong, because why not name a man-eating crocodile, is the largest crocodile ever held in captivity, measured in at 21 feet and weighed 2,370 pounds.
The crocodile had been spotted killing a water buffalo near the Philippines township of Bunawan, and was suspected in the murder of a fisherman who had recently gone missing. Adding to the evidence, two years prior to Lolong’s snaring, a child had been eaten by a crocodile that got away.
Sadly, Lolong died last year in captivity (not really that sad, though the villagers had come to like him). Eerily, the villages will keep his remains on display in order to promote tourism.
Lolong is not even the scariest crocodile of all-time. There are many prehistoric crocodiles who if alive today would be far worse than Tick-Tock. You wouldn’t want one of these to acquire a taste for man.
4.) The Big Ass Snake – Anaconda
“They strike, wrap around you. Hold you tighter than your true love. And you get the privilege, of hearing your bones break before the power of embrace causes your veins to explode.” – Jon Voight, in his greatest role, as snake hunter Paul Serone.
Is there really such a thing as a snake hunter, by the way? What’s a snake hunter’s business card look like? There are a lot of questions about Anaconda, many centered around snakes, and one of them is how a movie so critically panned, nominated for several Razzies no less, made so very much money–$130 million back in 1997. It had a lot of star power for the 90s, but the real power was the big ol’ snake that gave audiences a new beast to fear amid so many slasher films of the time.
They made three sequels. Because snakes-trump-critics is the code to which all hearts adhere. Reptiles, like Godzilla, have always been popular movie monsters. We just didn’t have a snake in the pantheon yet, so maybe that’s why we let mean ol’ Mr. Anacondie (they neglected to name him) take center stage for a while.
About 58-60 million years ago, in the Paleocene epoch, this snake would have absolutely loved the opportunity to swallow you whole. The fossil remains of the titanoboa cerrejonensis were discovered in a northern Colombian coal mine in 2009.
Calculations put it at about 50 feet long and more than 1,100 pounds. The longest snakes we know typically don’t exceed 20 feet. Historians think it could have easily hunted and swallowed entire crocodiles.
3.) The Kraken – 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
In one of the earliest science fiction stories ever, Jules Verne released the kraken upon Captain Nemo and the submarine Nautilus. The 1870 classic 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was made into a silent film in 1916. Then, Kirk Douglas starred as Ned Land for Disney in 1954. Then, in 2006, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest did the big squid thing with an accent. Liam Neeson officially moved for the release of the kraken in 2010’s Clash of the Titans.
Of course, sea monsters have been a thing ever since humans decided they were tired of being dry and so started to cross oceans. Heck, even the idea of a Loch Ness Monster, completely landlocked and avoidable, fascinates us because it’s big and it’s underwater.
But after years of trying, the giant squid was the giant-est thing we could find in the cephalopod department.
Until 2007, when this bad boy was found in the Ross Sea Antarctic waters, weighing half a ton. Admittedly, the image isn’t too great, but one takes what one can get with documentation of rare creatures.
The colossal squid maxes out as a species at 46 feet, judging by samples, of which there are only a handful. That’s exactly six Shaqs tall.
Even though this is ginormous by any normal standard, it’s not quite as big as the Disney version of big ol’ squids. Still, considering that before the 1900s (and really the 2000s), the largest squids we thought existed were giant squids, we can’t be sure there’s not something even bigger than a colossal squid waiting down below.
2.) Graboids – Tremors
Tremors is not only a fantastic monster movie, one could count it among the all-time great science fiction movies, because there are numerous attempts–from varying levels of expertise– to explain the “Graboids” scientifically. Not only that but it features great tongue-in-cheek style acting from Kevin Bacon (who is never not good) and Remo Williams himself, Fred Ward. And it’s a well executed example of what could be called a locked-room scenario. Set up a small world, set up rules, then show characters finding ways to circumnavigate those rules in order to escape the world.
Oh, and the terrifying monsters. But all that was in good fun. I mean, they were so ridiculous, really. Worms that big? Besides, name me a physically intimidating worm.
With one eye covered, allow me to introduce you to the bobbit worm, formerly known as Eunice aphroditois. These things can grow as long as 10 feet. Not quite as big as the Graboids, but way bigger than anything you’d want to get near. It burrows under rocks and gravel, hunting for prey with its five antennae. Once it feels something, it springs into action fast enough to cut fish in two, thus earning both its nickname and its home in your nightmares tonight.
Actually, it’s aquatic, so you’re okay to go outside without a rock and a stick of dynamite. Although, if you go swimming you might want to bring some kind of explosive (NOTE: not an actual tip). Personally, I’ve not left my house without an elephant gun for 25 years.
1.) Direwolf – Game of Thrones
One of my favorite parts about A Song of Ice and Fire is the direwolves, maybe because I’m a staunch Stark supporter. It’s also the clever magical thing that you forget about, other than dragons, until it pops up. All part of the show/book’s subtle fantasy approach.
The bad news is I’ll never have a pet Direwolf. This saddens almost as much as Sansa Stark.
The good news is, I could have if I lived more than 12,000 years ago, in the Pleistocene epoch, when the Dire Wolf existed.
These guys stood five feet tall and weighed between 110 and 174 pounds, and they are believed to have been running around for nearly two million years.
Its scientific name is canis dirus, or “fearsome dog,” and they are believed to be the largest canids known to have ever existed.
I’ll take the white one that no one else wants, long as it’s friendly and won’t murder me.
While we might not ever have a skyscraper-sized invasion of an upright-standing komodo dragon or, based on Godzilla’s 1998 appearance, an iguana, the Earth houses a lot of cool stuff left undiscovered. Bigger and meaner stuff than we ever thought existed, even if only evidenced in the form of fossils.
But if Lovecraft was onto anything, these monstrous creatures have a way of sticking around and striking, like the Bobbit Worm, when least expected, which is why you should sleep with a pillow between your legs every night.
Of course, there are worse things in this world than monsters like Godzilla. Things all too familiar, in places discovered and unexplored alike. Like the Bobbit worm, they lie right under our noses, waiting, watching.
Share your thoughts on the world’s real life monsters in the comments below.