Appalachian Not Deer, Rowan Bagley
This is the first post in my (hopefully) ongoing blog series about cryptids*. I'll be posting once or twice a week about a cryptid or strange phenomenon. Hope you enjoy!
This being my first blog post, I decided to have the focus be around the cryptid our magazine is named after. The Appalachian Not Deer is a folk cryptid with sightings common in the foothills of Virginia, but they aren’t bound to a specific location. Unlike Mothman or the Jersey Devil, Not Deer seem to be a phenomenon rather than one creature. Sightings typically occur at night or in the early evening/morning when visibility is low. Most people describe the Not Deer’s appearance to be uncomfortable because it so closely resembles a deer but, well, not. Each sighting is different, but some have described them as having forward-facing eyes, elongated mouths like dogs or coyotes, claws or hands instead of hooves, or they’ve stood on two legs as well as four. But the most unsettling thing about them is that they aren’t afraid of humans. Wild deer will actively avoid humans and run away immediately if they ever cross paths with a person, but Not Deer don’t exhibit the fear that is so integral to how we understand deer behavior. They’re also said to make clicking noises and move with uncomfortable jerking motions, which adds to the uncanny behavior.
The lack of fear, clicking, and jerking movements have a scientific explanation that is, unfortunately (or fortunately, if you’re like me and eat this creepy shit with a spoon), no less terrifying. Deer and other members of the deer family like elk or moose can be affected by Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), an illness similar to “mad cow” disease, that attacks the central nervous system and causes the animal to become emaciated and eventually die. Symptoms of CWD are stumbling, listlessness, drooling, aggression, and a total lack of fear of people. What’s also worth noting is that other deer won’t notice or react when another deer shows symptoms of CWD, similarly to how Not Deer are described as being part of a herd of deer as if those deer don’t notice that it isn’t like them. No one has ever been attacked by a deer suffering from CWD but encounters with them are unsettling and it’s not difficult to see how they could be mistaken for some kind of deer-like monster.
There isn’t much written information on Not Deer because so many stories about them have been passed down orally or through folklore, the details of which vary. I think the possibility of them is fascinating, even more so because there’s a real-world explanation for their existence. Regardless, Not Deer have had an influence on my writing as well as on the naming of this magazine.
*Cryptids are creatures who may or may not exist, but there's no definitive proof either way. Creatures like Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster are examples of cryptids because they theoretically could exist, but lack sufficient scientific proof. Vampires, werewolves, or your run-of-the-mill monster aren't cryptids because there's no possible way they could exist.