Fearsome critters is a term used to describe any mythical or folkloric creature from early lumberjack tales that were said to inhabit wilderness of North America. Fearsome critters were an integral part of oral tradition in North American lumber camps during the turn of the 20th century, and this tradition continues until nowadays.
OverviewThe character of the fearsome critters was usually more comical than frightful, because it used as a means to pass time or jest for hazing newcomers. A strange noise and sight they encountered or campers that lost in the wild usually used as inspiration for create the tales,
Lumberjacks, who regularly traveled between camps, would stop to swap stories in time spreading these myths around the continent. Many fearsome critters were simply the products of pure exaggeration; while a number however, were used either seriously or jokingly as explanations for unexplained phenomenon. For example the hidebehind served to account for loggers who failed to return to camp.
The more physically emphasized and improbable creatures seem to be distinguished by how far the storyteller could push the boundaries of biomechanics. Both the tripodero and snallygaster demonstrate facets more in common with mechanical apparatuses than animals, and the hugag and sidehill gouger seem to be more a play on applied physics than fanciful inspiration. While much of the literature that has been written on the subject echoes a naturalist's perspective, commonly specifying a range of distribution, behavioral habits, and physical appearance, it should be noted that as many of these myths were never widespread it is common to find a lack of consensus on a specific fearsome critter, if not clear contradictions. To illustrate, the wampus cat differs widely between Vance Randolph’s We Always Lie to Strangers and Henry H. Tryon’s Fearsome Critters, with Tryon describing a cat with pantographic forelimbs and Randolph portraying it as a supernatural aquatic panther.