Cute Nightcrawlers

Spanish artist Eduardo Valdes-Hevia's work includes photorealistic images that document the strange and supernatural, and in this case, the downright cute. Image via valdevia.art

published on September 15, 2022 - 12:51 PM
Written by Frank Lopez

Grainy footage that went viral of what looks like a pair of pants walking across a lawn is all it took to create a folk tale known around the world — the Fresno Nightcrawler.

The cryptid — an animal claimed but not proven to exist in the wild — has gained so much popularity online that it’s joined the ranks of Bigfoot, The Loch Ness Monster and the Mothman. While not as famous as the others, the Nightcrawler has captured the imagination of online pop culture

Artists, writers and crafters, along with fans of the supernatural and unexplained, have embraced the Fresno Nightcrawler, creating stories that add to the lore and producing stickers, plush dolls, animations, keychains and more of the creature.

Though it’s taken more than a decade for the Fresno Nightcrawler to become known even in the area where the tale was born, the local community has come to embrace the mythical resident.

Birth of a Legend

The story of the Fresno Nightcrawler starts in 2007, when a Fresnan who identified himself only as Jose brought surveillance footage of his front lawn first to the Univision television station then paranormal investigator Victor Camacho. Jose was frightened and was looking for an explanation.

Another video from 2011 captured two white figures with long legs walking across Yosemite Lakes Park.

These two videos are what sparked the rise of speculation over the cryptid — inspiring even more creators on YouTube to discuss and feature the internet-age legend.

More sightings have been claimed, but these days there is more activity with the Fresno Nightcrawler in merchandising and the art world.

Creepy Nightcrawlers
Some of Eduardo Valdes-Hevia’s art has fooled people who believe it’s real, including a mermaid image he created. Image via valdevia.art.

 

Making Modern Myths

Artists across the world have taken their own creative liberties with the Fresno Nightcrawler, depicting it in all sorts of ways — from serious and terrifying to cute and lighthearted.

Eduardo Valdés-Hevia, 25, a digital artist from Spain, has been passionate about myths and folklore since he was a child. He creates images and stories about cryptids and other mythical creatures, including the Fresno Nightcrawler.

Valdés-Hevia, a medical school graduate, uses Photoshop to combine historical photographs with monsters and creatures, resulting in photorealistic images that document the strange and supernatural. He also creates stories to add context to the images, framing it as a historical document.

Sometimes that can fool people. In May 2021, Valdés-Hevia’s image of a mermaid discovered in Nova Scotia made it to the popular fact-checking website snopes.com, which declared it false after being circulated online as proof of a mermaid.

It was actually a digitally altered image of people standing around a beached whale.

Valdés-Hevia is originally from Asturias in Northwestern Spain, which has rich culture of European folklore, sparking his enthusiasm for myths and the macabre at a young age. He was exposed to the Fresno Nightcrawler more recently, through artist friends making their own takes on the creature.

He said the Fresno Nightcrawler is unique in the world of cryptid folklore as you can trace the origins to a certain time and place, as opposed to the myths of Europe, which are hundreds or thousands of years-old and harder to trace.

“In this case, you can clearly see it started in this certain year, with this certain person, telling this story, and then it grows from that, Valdés-Hevia said. “It’s very different from the myths I’m used to.”

A big appeal of the Fresno Nightcrawler, Valdés-Hevia said, is that they are cute, which scores a lot of internet points and lends itself to be made into stickers and plush dolls. When it comes to cryptids, he can’t think of a more recent one that has reached the popularity of the Nightcrawler.

Valdés-Hevia believes the Fresno Nightcrawler is more famous outside of the Fresno area.

Since his artwork is widely circulated on the internet, which could lead to people thinking the images are real, Valdés-Hevia feels he has a part in modern mythmaking.

“I’ll make something with a mermaid, or with a Fresno Nightcrawler, and I do my own take on them — a different perspective,” he said.

Laura Splotch
Fresno resident Laura Spolotch, an artist and cryptid enthusiast, is planning a Fresno Nightcrawler theme for her Halloween decorations. Photo contributed

 

Local love

Laura Splotch is a local artist and artistic director at Storyland, a children’s theme park in Fresno. She’s also a lover of all thing’s cryptid, creepy and weird.

She features various cryptids in her artwork — with a soft spot for the Fresno Nightcrawler because of its local connection.

“These really intrigued me because they’re from Fresno,” Splotch said. “They look unique and different. It’s a weird thing to fake, but if they’re real, that’s even weirder.”

In May 2022, Splotch attended a Fresno Arthop event celebrating the local cryptid where she bought Nightcrawler earrings and stickers. The theme for her 2022 Halloween decorations will be all cryptid, and she plans on making a figure of the Fresno Nightcrawler with mannequin legs.

Splotch likens the Fresno Nightcrawler to the Chupacabra, a creature of Mexican folklore known for killing and feeding on the blood of goats. She thinks the Fresno cryptid could possibly be some type of animal — with the legend growing from there.

Even with just the few videos of supposed Fresno Nightcrawler footage, Splotch said so many people are still interested in them, and the supernatural in general.

“It’s unexplainable,” Splotch said. “A lot of people are drawn to the unexplainable. But I’d rather Fresno be known for the Nightcrawlers than some of the other stuff we are known for.”

Sinisterhood
Dallas-based comedians Christie Wallace and Heather McKinney are co-hosts of the Sinisterhood Podcast, with weekly episodes covering topics such as true crime, cults and all things creepy. Image via sinisterhood.com

 

Crawl-cast

Along with videos on YouTube exploring and analyzing the Fresno Nightcrawler, the Central Valley cryptid is also the subject of podcasts.

Dallas-based comedians Christie Wallace and Heather McKinney are co-hosts of the Sinisterhood Podcast, with weekly episodes covering topics such as true crime, cults and all things creepy.

They’ve made about 200 podcasts that have been downloaded more than 25 million times.

Listeners voted for the hosts to do an episode on the Fresno Nightcrawler that came out in June 2022.

McKinney said that when they take their show on tour in the comedy club circuit, they take a break from the darker, more serious topics, opting instead for fun, lighthearted topics such as the Fresno Nightcrawler and other cryptids.

Wallace said she wasn’t aware of the Nightcrawler when the videos first came out, but later saw them on Etsy and featured on memes.

“Even though it’s only a few years old, it has already joined the pantheon of Mothman, Nessie, Bigfoot — despite being pretty localized,” Wallace said. “We saw pictures and thought people seemed to like it, and when we did the vote, people voted resoundingly for the Nightcrawler.”

Wallace said her first reaction to the video was that the creatures looked like someone walking around in a big pair of pants, which leads to its appeal, she believes. She said because they don’t look like any other cryptid, or any animal found in nature, it’s funny and simple appearance lends itself to merchandising.

Because stories of the Nightcrawlers simply involve them lurking in the dark, and being non-threatening, there is a wider appeal, she said.

McKinney said that in their research for the Fresno Nightcrawler, they learned about the local area and the people involved in the story, giving them a deeper understanding of Fresno.

The Nightcrawler podcast was a hit with listeners.

“Anytime we cover a small lore from a specific area, listeners that are from that area get really excited, so we had a lot of the people from the Fresno area stoked that we were covering something from their neck of the woods. It seems its being embraced in the City of Fresno, but the Nightcrawlers have made a name for themselves in other states as well,” McKinney said.


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