The Cryptid Zoo: Gigantic Octopus

This watercolor and ink drawing of a giant octopus was made by Pieere Denys de Montfort in 1810. It is old enough to be in the public domain.
For hundreds of years, sailors from all over the world have regularly made reports of a mythical creature known as the giant octopus (sometimes called the gigantic octopus, in order to distinguish it from the several known species of very large octopuses, namely the giant octopuses that are part of the genus Enteroctopus). The science of cryptozoology divides giant octopus reports into at least two different species, since these animals have been sighted in both freshwater and saltwater locations.

However, there is enough variability in the reports to suggest more than two species, especially since these reports come from across the globe, and in nature it is rare for a single species to be so widespread. The sizes reported cover a wide range, from a bit bigger than twenty-five feet (the accepted longest length of any known octopus) to ship-sized.

Some of these reports, namely those from the ocean, could be mistaken reports of the giant squid. In folklore and mythology, the giant octopus and giant squid are almost hopelessly confused. Long ago, reports of large sea monsters with tentacles were generally lumped together under the label kraken. Sometimes the two proposed species of gigantic octopus are called the "kraken octopus" (for the smaller kind) and the "colossal octopus" (for the kind big enough to threaten ships). Unproven types of gigantic octopus have also received local names in the regions where they are reported, such as rogu-tomu for the gigantic octopus of Tahiti.

In many cases, local legends stretch back into the past for as far as anyone is able to research. In other words, if you consider these legends to be evidence, then the evidence has a long history. Some of these legends cast gigantic octopuses as natural creatures, with roles similar to the roles of ordinary animals. Other times, these legends cast giant octopuses as supernatural sea monsters, or as forms taken by shapeshifting vengeful sea gods.

The Bahamas Islands, off the southeast coast of Florida, are a hot spot for encounters between divers and a mythical gigantic octopus called the lusca. It is supposed to inhabit underwater caves, especially the large, nearly-vertical underwater caves that are commonly called "blue holes."
This giant octopus is from the 1955 film 'It Came from Beneath the Sea'. The image is copyrighted to those who own the copyright to the movie.
Unlike other octopuses, the lusca is described as aggressive, with many actions that could be interpreted as threat displays, mock charges or even attacks on human beings. Reports of the lusca's size vary from 75 feet long to a staggering 200 feet long. Besides its giant size, one problem with the lusca's supposed existence is that the deeper parts of blue holes generally have no oxygen dissolved in the water, making it impossible for anything other than single-celled creatures to stay there for long (divers can enter because they have air tanks, but nothing with gills can stay there for long or it will die from asphyxiation).

The most convincing reason for believing in the gigantic octopus is the fact that some very large octopus carcasses have washed up on beaches. Unlike the recovery of giant squid carcasses, these octopus bodies have not yet converted the mainstream scientific community, and therefore they are relegated to the status of globsters. This is partly because the best and largest of them rotted badly while the scientific community ridiculed them, and were not in good enough shape to convince skeptical minds once science did take interest. Measuring invertebrates is an inexact science anyway because of how easily their bodies stretch, and a carcass that has nearly rotted away is an even worse candidate than normal. Some people think that it is only a matter of time, though, until enough really large carcasses are recovered and giant octopuses longer than 25 feet begin to appear in biology books, not just cryptozoology books.

You can find out more about the Giant Octopus from the following sources:

Clark, Jerome and Coleman, Loren. Cryptozoology A-Z. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1999. Pages 90-92, 146
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Clark, Jerome. Unexplained!. Detroit: Visible Ink Press, 1999. Pages 244-254

Griggs, Kim. Giant Octopus Puzzles Scientists.

Newton, Michael. Encyclopedia of Cryptozoology: A Global Guide to Hidden Animals and Their Pursuers. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2005. Pages 22, 175, 194, 276, 282, 296, 308, 326, 347-348, 400, 418, 495

Wikipedia, The. Gigantic Octopus

Wikipedia, The. Lusca

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