Cryptids have been at the core of fringe media for decades. Whether it’s farcical claims pigeonholed in unorthodox news outlets, or an online message board foaming at the mouth over a 144p photo of “Bigfoot”, hoaxes have an unmatched niche in the human brain and in human storytelling.
Whilst Mothman, Bigfoot, and the Loch Ness Monster have more or less become household names, the cryptids of Australia are often left completely without note. Whilst they may not be as legendary, if you scrounge the forums, the disrepute books and ravings, Australia has fared a share of hoaxes, doctored images, and fabricated tales, that are just as fascinating and just as absurd as anything else on the cryptozoology catalogue.
The only place to start is the Yowie, Australia’s most iconic cryptid. The mythos of the being has a long and convoluted history in Australia, drawing from thousands of years of Aboriginal storytelling across the North Coast of Queensland through to Southern New South Wales. However, despite these beginnings, the Yowie discussed in the fringe news is far removed from its Indigenous source, the creature and its mythos being a textbook victim of mass commodification.
Whilst the image of the creature varies between Aboriginal communities, the original renditions of the Yowie describe the being as a four to ten feet tall ape-like man covered in hair, with a flat nose, and long talons adorning its fingers. It’s often described traversing the planes and rainforests of the country with the creature maintaining a small presence in Indigenous dreaming to this day.
Despite these beginnings, following the centuries of colonisation after James Cook, and the subsequent mass erasure of Indigenous culture, the persona and depiction of the Yowie has been significantly warped by modern media and rural tourism. Current depictions of the cryptid that circulate online have been severely commodified, with depictions of the creature becoming directly analogous to the Western Sasquatch, losing most, if not all, of the Aboriginal aspects of its identity.
This commodification has seen the creature become a marketing tool for small-town tourism, with regions like Kilcoy Queensland and Woodenbong NSW using the Yowie’s likeness for billboards, statues, and marketing bottom lines. The most blatant example of this commodification is Cadburys line of “Yowie chocolates” through the 1990s, and the medley of nostalgia they still inspire.
Ultimately, sightings of this cryptid are far flung and prolific in fringe media with the personality of local news (rightfully) giving the being as little credence as the American Sasquatch. Bigfoot hunting has been a craze in the fringes of the world, and despite its origins, the Yowie will exist alongside the Yeti, Forest-men, and Sasquatch for the years to come.
Hook Island Sea Monster
Whilst many of the hoaxes that have gripped Australia come from these commandeered stories, even more of them have been drawn from doctored images and tall tales spun for nothing more than shock value — the Hook Island Sea Monster being no exception.
Hook Island is an islet just off the coast of Queensland, famous for its diving reefs and the wealth of tourism it attracts. However, in December of 1964, one Robert Le Serrec claimed that he encountered a gigantic tadpole-like sea serpent in the island’s waters. Le Serrec and his family immediately undertook a number of interviews talking about how the creature charged their boat before slinking into the blue lagoon below, describing the creature as 80 feet long, boasting two eyes located on the top of its head, and brown stripes traversing the sides of its slick body.
Whilst this creature from the deep didn’t impact mainstream media to the extent of the other cryptids on this list, the fringe boards I frequent have been enchanted with the beast for as long as I’ve been on them. People claiming that the creature was just a mutant swamp eel, a plastic bag, or a deflated skyhook balloon mongered with seaweed circulate to this day, with the thalassophobia the creature induces showing no sign of letting up.
Le Serrec’s photos have been circulating these boards and local news outlets for decades now, and like the rest of the cryptids on this list, it has been rightfully chalked up to another trick of the lighting and mystery of the ocean. A horrifying contribution to the cryptids of Australia.
Moving away from the traditional doctored hoaxes, we find another warped Aboriginal story that has been commodified and altered by modern media. According to the original Aboriginal descriptions, the Bunyip is a mythical being said to lurk in the swamps and billabongs of the country, designed as a forewarning against the dangers of the water.
According to the Moorundi people of the Murray River, the Bunyip is a water spirit that is said to take the form of a giant starfish in the deep, protecting the river from trespassers. The creature also appears in Ngarrindjeri Dreaming under the name Mulyawonk, a being that would ensure anyone who took more than their fair share of fish from the river would be swept away with it.
Much like the Yowie, renditions of the Bunyip have been found and recorded in a variety of Indigenous communities across Australia, with author Robert Holden claiming to have recorded at least nine regional variants of the Bunyip between different First Nations communities.
However, over the last few decades news outlets and conspiracy theorists have warped and changed the persona of the formless Bunyip away from the original water spirit, into something considerably more monstrous.
Modern “sightings” of the being often describe the creature as either a mammalian seal-dog being, or a long necked reptilian monster lurking in the swamps, hunting indiscriminately. This is an image far removed from the creatures’ beginnings, and unfortunately this is the persona that dominates to this day.
These creatures are by every stretch the most prolific hoax myths Australia has mustered in the last few decades. Despite their infame and presence in the mind of cryptozoologists everywhere, they aren’t the only hoaxes that have wracked this country.
The Booie cave monster of 1954. Thylacine sightings that have persisted ever since their extinction. The Hawkesbury River Monster. The Burrunjor. The Gippsland Phantom Cats. Cryptids and hoaxes are a thousand-fold if you know where to look for them and the absurdity they promise are always second to none.
So, the next time you’re in the bush, swimming in a river, or cruising through an Australian lagoon, know that you might just be the next person to witness a myth that (almost) nobody will believe.