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April 14, 2022

Ep. 80: Fresno Nightcrawlers

Ep. 80: Fresno Nightcrawlers
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After a long month of axe-murder mayhem, Carrie takes a break from the grim and gory to tell a strange tale about what may be the most adorable cryptids of all time!

The Fresno Nightcrawlers first came on the scene in security camera footage from 2007, when a California homeowner named José checked his tape from the night before only to find one of the strangest pieces of video evidence the world has ever seen.

On the tape was 2 creatures, which almost resembled sentient pants with a head, walking across his backyard in the dead of night. José had never seen anything like it before...and he never would again. However, a couple more video clips have turned up in the years after the footage became public that suggest these strange creatures may not be a singular incident.

Are they cryptids? Aliens? Hoaxers on stilts? We try and get to the bottom of the strangeness...or, at the very least, just enjoy the video of these whimsical lil' weirdos.


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It’s been quite a long time since we tackled a cryptid, so after a month of violent true crime stories, I thought we’d take a little segue into the cutest little creatures around: the Fresno Nightcrawlers.

Sean, you know my affinity for these little pants monsters, but many in our audience may not have even heard of them. So, of course, I find it my duty to inform both you and our friends of their origins, theories, and mythology relating to what they might possibly be.

As far as I can tell, the story legend of the Fresno Nightcrawlers began more recently than most cryptid stories - 2010. I was actually “on the ground” for this, so to speak, because I caught the episode of Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files that the footage first reached mass viewing on while on summer break from college right after it aired. 

The conceit of Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files was a demi-TMZ-esque show on Syfy that aired from 2010 to 2012. A group of paranormal researchers would bring video or photographic footage to the table for everyone to scrutinize, and then they’d pick two cases to investigate. Usually, a couple members of the group would head to the area where the video or photographic evidence was captured and try to recreate it themselves - aka, seeing if the evidence was real, or easily faked. The Fresno Nightcrawlers footage aired on the second episode of the series.

The backstory is this: footage of the strange creature was first recorded in 2007 by a homeowner named José in a Fresno, California neighborhood who set up a security camera after hearing his dogs barking through the night. José was fearing an intruder, but what he found was something much, much…stranger.

The footage is in grainy black and white nightvision, but the weirdness is clear enough. Aorund the 12:47 AM mark of the footage, an odd object - or creature - begins to make its way across José’s backyard. It’s solid, white or light colored and…well, look. It looks like a sentient pair of pants, alright? Like a loose pair of pants with a little ball for the head at the top. If you can picture those old school clothespins with the bulb at the top, it’s kind of like that. But it’s walking…across the yard, all the way, until it goes off frame. 

Now Sean, I don’t love a long skinny - those creatures who are long and fragile, something about them gives me the creeps. Maybe it’s because I’m so short and stout. But there’s just something about these little guys, I dunno…they seem so harmless. So adorable! They walk kind of teeter-tottery, like toddlers who are still figuring it all out and a little off-balance and top heavy. But it seems clear that these are no toddlers.

After the first creature crosses the yard, a second follows in the same direction, faster and with a wider stride. After that, nothing else odd transpired that night. But when Josè woke up and saw whatever the hell had been captured on his camera, he recorded it off of the playback using a camcorder, since I assume he wasn’t sure how to get the footage off the recorder as it would just continuously record over itself. So it’s already worse quality than it would’ve been, and then add to that that it’s 2007 and nighttime. He wasn’t going to get much more detail than he did, but it appears that he may not have needed more - the creatures didn’t seem to have many other distinguishing features about them. Once it hit the paranormal community, the creatures eventually got their own cryptid legend-ready name: the Fresno Nightcrawlers.

So, Paranormal: Fact or Faked heads to Fresno, and one of the team members offers to translate for homeowner José, who only speaks Spanish. Some parts of this story are already speaking to credibility for me: José does not seem to want fame, precisely, from what he’s captured. I can’t get his last name anywhere online and it is not disclosed in this episode, either. According to the show Paranormal: Caught on Camera, which is yes, another paranormal footage show, the footage made its way to Univision’s local TV station, who contacted radio host Victor Camacho, who then extended it to the greater paranormal community and is also present with José when the team arrives. Also, I don’t know, why would José fake something like this for fame if he wouldn’t be able to undertake many interviews about it from English-speaking investigators? That’s saying nothing against José, it just seems to me that those seeking attention would be looking to speak about the situation at any chance they get.

José explains further that the gate was closed in the direction where the creatures entered the frame, so they had to either squeeze through the bars - picture your typical metal gate with very thin openings - or maybe hop the fence, which has points on top. You can’t see them enter, though, as it’s too dark. 

The Fact or Faked team tries to recreate the footage in every way they can think. Many thought that the footage was faked, because it’s just so weird and otherworldly. First, a child is placed in white clothing and made to walk the same path the creatures did, with the Faked or Faked camera set up in the same area as Josè’s security camera. But the kid looks clearly like a kid. He has arms and a normal head, for one, whereas the creatures just have a little white ball on top of long, stilt-like white pant-looking legs. And it’s just easy to tell it’s a person. Even if he had something over his head and his arms enclosed, he would still be too thick and human-like to be this reedy, wispy creature.

Next, they try a pulley experiment. A line is set up crossing the yard, with a Nightcrawler-looking puppet attached to be towed across. At first this seems promising, because the creatures are so inhuman-seeming, so maybe it is something weird and uncanny valley-esque like a puppet. The problem is it’s SO wobbly, due to the pulley, which the Nightcrawlers weren’t, really. Their movement was more graceful in its awkwardness, rather than herky-jerkyish. They try the puppet with a sheet over it so it looks more like the original creatures, but it’s still swinging and clearly being propelled by hanging from something above, which the creatures don’t appear to.

Still liking the puppet, they attach it to hang from a bar to be walked across the lawn by one of the team members, who then removes himself from the footage with editing software. The movement is still incorrect, and it’s still swinging and swaying like a ghost decoration on a windy Halloween night. The team, not getting anything quite similar enough in the yard, head to a nearby wooded area to see if maybe these are creatures that would be native to the area. A lot of weird things happen - technology continually fails, cameras are knocked over, 2 small thin blips are seen on the thermo cameras which just disappear. But, nothing conclusive.

At the end of the investigation, voice analysis is run on José’s interview to look for signs of stress, deception, stuff like that. He comes out clean - excited and freaked out, but truthful. So they conclude that if it was a hoax, he wasn’t in on it. But they couldn’t figure out how it could be hoaxed, especially since José wasn’t known to have any digital editing capabilities, it was 2007 where those capabilities were far less common, and if he was being truthful in his interview - how did this get on his security camera to hoax without his knowledge? It just seems convoluted to think it’s a hoax unless José is expertly deceptive.

Going back to Victor Camacho, he is a host of the radio program Los Desvelados, aka The Sleepless, which is pretty much a general-interest show for Mexico and the US that also seems to be kind of a Spanish-speaking Coast to Coast AM. So it’s kind of like that original TV news station contacted Spanish Art Bell for his thoughts on the footage. He was invited to do his own investigation of the home by José, and he too couldn’t explain the strange creatures and couldn’t recreate their bodies and movements himself with a dummy, a child, things like that. Camacho said, “The first thing that goes through your mind is that this is some kind of alien thing, you know…I talked to the neighbors and they mentioned the night that happened, the dogs were barking…they felt really strange during the night.” Further attesting to the trustworthiness of José, Camacho told the Fresno Bee that Jose - who has sadly since died - was initially filmed talking about it without showing his face because he was so scared. “He didn’t even want to go out of the house,” Camacho said. “He stayed home for a couple weeks … It wasn’t possible that someone tried to make this video just to fool you or the TV station.”

So what were the Fresno Nightcrawlers? Were they cryptids? Extraterrestrials, perhaps? And would they ever be seen again outside of José’s backyard? More answers…after the break.


Sean, I’m happy to tell you that these spooky lil’ sentient pants were seen again, and were captured on camera. I’ve seen two sources of this footage - Youtube tells me it came from a retired couple that were having trouble with break-ins at their private property in Yosemite National Park in 2011, and aimed their security camera out to video visitors. The TV show Paranormal: Caught on Camera, however, states it was Yosemite National Park officials who set up the camera to try and capture a group of vandals on the property. I’m inclined to believe that the TV show hopefully did their due diligence, but who knows. Either way, no one was supposed to be in the area the night the footage was filmed.

Again, one larger figure comes into frame with a smaller one behind, and we can see they both appear to be fully white, with no facial or other distinguishing features. Their legs, if that’s what they are, are almost parachute-pant like, and there might be little knobs on the bottom that function as feet. They walk in the same awkwardly graceful gait - it seems like an oxymoron, but look at the footage and you’ll get it - and appear to be quite light on their feet rather than restricted by gravity like the average person. It’s possible these are CGI, and honestly I don’t have enough experience with CG to decide one way or another, but as they came after the first footage, they were always going to receive greater scrutiny.

To explain what we don’t understand, many reach for an easy option: Native American folklore. But, as with our werewolf episode and the idea of skinwalkers, I want to be cautious here because this is not my background nor do I have particular knowledge of Native American mythology. Oftentimes this mythology gets used as a catch-all by many who don’t bother to actually, y’know, look it up, and I don’t want to do that here. As far as I can tell in my research, there is no mythology relating to skinny, long-legged-with-a-head-on-top creatures in the Yokuts tradition, which is the ribe local to the Fresno area. All of their legends had to do with known creatures, such as coyotes. This seems to be based on photos of some source-less wooden statues that resemble the Nightcrawlers making their way around the internet claiming to be attached to a Native American legend explaining the creatures, but if you stumble upon this story, it’s pretty much bogus. They’re real statues, but you know, just weird art stuff.

ParaBreakdown on Youtube also tried to replicate José’s video with the use of a puppet and fishing line in his backyard, and while he feels this vindicates his belief that this was hoaxed - and by the way, I used some of ParaBreakdown’s research here and want to give credit, so I’m in no way denigrating him - I just feel like it’s not quite right. It doesn’t have the same otherworldly look of the original. And it just seems like such a weird thing to hoax…why not Bigfoot or something that’s already a “known entity”, so to speak? Why come up with an entire new creature when it would be easier to convince people of something that already has legends and mythology to back it up? 

But maybe it’s not a cryptid. Maybe it’s something more…extraterrestrial.

Because maybe it’s on the move! It may not be tied to Fresno at all, because other footage has turned up, too - from Montana.

We’re back to Paranormal: Caught on Camera! According to the show, in Billings Montana in April 2020, a man named Sean Ragan was taking out the trash when he sees a dead deer near his propane tank, a deer he had seen alive on the property that morning. But when he gets closer to the deer he finds a large, precisely-cut hole in the deer carcass, like an incision - not like a mountain lion attack. He photographed the deer and then checked the footage from his security camera the night before, to see if any animals had been prowling. He is stunned to see, just near the edge of the frame, what appears to be a good-ol Fresno Nightcrawler pop out, then retreat back to off-camera. This camera, being much newer, also had sound capabilities, and there is a grunting at this time caught on camera that almost sounds piglike. 

A dead animal with precise incisions sure sounds like reports of cattle mutilations by extraterrestrials. 

How can that sweet pair of pants kill a deer!! you may angrily question. Multiple investigators on both episodes of Paranormal: Caught on Camera stated they believed that the Nightcrawlers were benevolent creatures that were protectors of nature and animals, but aside from them being super cute and silly I’m not sure where this belief comes from, unless they’re basing it off of some kind of modified Native American folklore. There is also mention that if there is some sort of extraterrestrial/interdimensional being that comes to harm wildlife, they think that the Nightcrawler might have come to the scene to try and protect it. But it’s a bit of Occam’s Razor to me - why the extra step? 

So, if you’re not as hip to the world of cattle mutilation as I am, here’s a short lil’ rundown. This phenomena is defined as the killing and mutilation of cattle under unusual and usually bloodless circumstances. Often an ear, eyeball, tongue, genitals, etc. are removed, and usually precisely enough that it seems impossible for another wild animal to have done it. According to History.com, between April and October of 1975, nearly 200 cases of cattle mutilation were reported in the state of Colorado alone, and that year the Colorado Associated Press voted it as the state’s number one news story. Theories for the cause range from Satanic cults - of course - to the oft-cited extraterrestrials. Also re: History - “One particularly compelling case linking animal mutilation and aliens involved "Lady," a horse found dead and partially skinned at a ranch in Alamosa, Colorado in September 1967. Within 24 hours of the incident, in which the animal’s brain, lungs, heart and thyroid were cleanly cut out, local superior court judge Charles Bennett witnessed three orange rings in the sky, flying in triangular formation at incredible speeds. Two sheriff's deputies, meanwhile, reported being followed around by a floating orange globe.”

Why would an alien do this? Seems to be for much the same reason as why it’s said humans are abducted and probed: to scientifically study the species. Perhaps we should be glad that they aren’t testing this form of research out on humans, at the very least.

As Weird Fresno blogger Michael Banti told the Fresno Bee: “There’s like a dictionary of different cryptids, or strange creatures — like there’s Bigfoot and the Chupacabra — there’s never been this before…And no one has really been able to determine what it is.”

For now, this spooky sisterhood of the traveling pants will remain…a mystery. 


Apt for this episode, it’s Poe’s Cryptid Corner!

Speaking of strange videos, a weird bit of footage has been circulating the past week or so that purports to contain a recording of a mermaid - yes, mermaid - that washed ashore onto either a South African or Kenyan beach. I personally saw this video first on TikTok, but it’s been making the rounds just about everywhere…so of course, it landed on Snopes.

The earliest version of the video they were able to find was indeed a TikTok from April 6th claiming that a “real mermaid” had been captured in Muizenberg, South Africa. The video shows a beachfront by an ocean and pans over to a large fish-like looking creature’s tail area…then up to what looks like the top of a human child with long hair. The fish part and the human part are seemingly joined in the middle, just like - you guessed it - a mermaid. 

Snopes reached out to Muizenberg’s South African Police Service for more information on the video and also asked if there had been any reports of a child who had died or nearly died in a fish attack, since some were speculating that perhaps what had been recorded in the video was just that. The spokesperson responded, “Please note that Muizenberg SAPS has no reports of a mermaid that was washed by the beach nor reports of a child bitten by a fish.”

According to Snopes, here is their conclusion thus far: “While we have not been able to determine exactly what this video shows, it does not show a mermaid. In all likelihood, this video is a digitally altered composite featuring genuine footage of a dying fish and digitally added images of a child or doll. In fact, upon close examination of this footage, you can see that the sand loses texture as the ‘mermaid’s’ arms move across the beach. At one point, the fingers even disappear, indicating that the ‘mermaid’s body’ was digitally inserted into this footage.” Since both Kenyan and South African officials have disputed the report and there seems to be signs the video was edited, Snopes has declared the footage as “miscaptioned.”

But don’t worry, if this Ariel-loving lady ever hears tell of a real mermaid, our listeners will be the first to know!