They have filled the lore of nearly every culture in the history of man, and they have haunted the dreams of children for centuries. The thought of what horrors might be living in the rushing waters of our rivers is a question that has fascinated humans throughout time. Stories of the Loch Ness Monster, the Matawan Maneater, and even recent pop culture like, “Anaconda” or “The Meg” have all centered around what lurks beneath our earthly waters. Some people write river monsters off as nothing but a myth, while others believe very deeply in these terrors of the deep. Whether people think they are real or not, the concept of river monsters has captured the imaginations of millions of people.
Separating fact from fiction
We don’t mean to shatter any dreams here, but the Loch Ness Monster doesn’t exist, megalodons are extinct, and Megapirhana are not swimming around in the Mississippi River. The mythic beasts of the past were made up to spin yarns and scare children. However, there really are animals in rivers all over the world that certainly qualify as monsters, like Giant fish and killer crocs with razor-sharp teeth and a taste for flesh. There doesn’t need to be prehistoric creatures or monsters made of nuclear waste for there to be monsters in the deep. Like most tall tales, the facts are a lot scarier than the fictions and though the idea of being eaten alive in the Mississippi by killer fish or a giant river-dwelling Gollum is horrifying. What is actually lurking in the running waters of Earth’s rivers is far more frightening than the myths.
Burundi’s own man-eating crocodile Gustave gets his own section because when it comes to river monsters he is the king. The 65-year-old behemoth has never been captured, so there is no exact weight or length, but he is estimated to be at least 18 feet long, and weigh a ton or more. Gustave is believed to be responsible for harming hundreds of people who dared to venture into his home in the Ruzizi River, and some of his most prominent physical characteristics are the three bullet holes in his side and his missing eye. This croc is so bad that a horror film was made with him as the main character. Imagine getting eaten by a giant crocodile, now that’s scary!
A freshwater fish found in the Congo River Basin, the Goliath Tigerfish is the stuff nightmares are made of. This particular species can grow to be nearly five feet long, weigh as much as 110 pounds, and perhaps most scarily it has one inch long teeth. That’s as long as a great white shark! There have been many documented incidents between humans and this fish that is nicknamed Mbenga for the region it comes from, and it’s enough to say the fish has always come out on top of those encounters. Hydrocynus Goliath may not have the same fearsome ring to it as “megapiranha” but it is certainly not a fish to trifle with.
While the Japanese giant salamander may not have the fearsome reputation of attacking humans like its counterparts on this list, it is still a scary-looking creature. It is one of the biggest species of salamander in the world and its combination of sharp teeth and jaw strength can bite directly through a turtle’s shell or other small animal’s bones. Attacks on humans have been known to happen, but they are generally looked at as accidental and not vicious attacks. In fact, at one point hunters used to catch them for food, but they were recently added to the federal endangered species list.
Of all the creatures on this list, the giant mottled eel is definitely the least fearsome. It is seen as a monster because of its immense size but it rarely, if ever, attacks humans and isn’t even really known to attack other animals for anything except food. The eel itself is also looked at as food and quite expensive food to boot. 25 pounds of eel meat goes for $1,000. Just because the critter is delicious and isn’t dangerous doesn’t mean you would want to encounter one in the wild because it is pretty scary looking.