Field notes from DNA collecting expeditions in 2017, as written by Ross Swofford and based on interviews with surviving lab members. We publish this guide to aid future cryptid-genomicists. Illustrations by Kathleen Morrill. See the full account in our 2017 Holiday Card.
Good luck, brave swab wielders.


a.k.a. Megarachne
Habitat: Jungles of Argentina
Size: Really big, really scary
First reported: The Late Carboniferous Period
Swabbed by: Gaurav Chauhan

Notes: There are some who may say that Megarachne wasn’t a spider at all. That, instead of being an 8-legged, fanged, land monster, it was an 8-armed, fanged, sea monster. Our happenstance encounter with the mighty Arachnoclops proves otherwise. Gaurav, with a coolness befitting the best Death Worm riders, managed to swab the 8-legged freak from atop his writhing steed. May we all show such fortitude! It remains to be seen whether the sample we obtained is saliva, or some sort of doom venom–the wafts of smoke emanating from the swab suggest the latter–but a sample is a sample.


a.k.a. Ambystoma mexicanum, Mexican walking fish
Habitat: Mexico City lakes
Size: 6 to 18 in
First reported: unknown
Swabbed by: Diane Genereux

Notes: Xolotl was an Aztec god of lightning and death. With eyeless sockets, it fell to him to shepherd the sun across the sky, guarding it from the ravages of the underworld. It is thus fitting that his name has passed on to the Axolotl, which is a fearsome, little, sort of fish-like thing, with feet. Anyway, these specimens sampled by Diane retain some of their fierce heritage, in the adorable glowing crown-like head ornamentation. Perhaps there is a gene for lightning? We hope to find out!


a.k.a. Sasquatch
Habitat: Pacific Northwest forest and mountains (US, Canada)
Size: 6 to 9 ft
First reported: American Indian archaeological description dating back to 12th century
Swabbed by: Jeremy Johnson

Notes: Following up on a large cluster of sightings reported in the bigfoot field research database, we ventured deep into the forest of the Washington Cascades, hot on the trail of the elusive ape-man. On the 6th day of our 3rd expedition, we were benighted and scrambling for shelter. Without warning, a loud crack echoes in the dark forest, and a stench reminiscent of gym musk and wet dog hits our collective olfactory receptors. The nearby brush rustles in the still air, causing us to stop in our tracks. From amongst the tree we met the gaze of a pair of eyes hanging seven feet above the forest floor, and the glow of… an Apple watch?? Startled but not stunned, Jeremy leaped into pursuit and collected the precious sample of the creature that often defies description… tall, dark, and handsome! What more can be said?

Note to self: entries may have been tampered with by Bigfoot. Description herein do not represent the views of Jeremy, the field scientist on record, or perhaps even the Karlsson group as a whole.

Black Shuck

a.k.a. Old Shuck, Old Shock, or just Shuck
Habitat: British Isles
Size: Big dog
First reported: unknown
Swabbed by: Jesse McClure

Notes: Our expedition next led us to the eastern coast of England. To a Dickensonian town along the Norfolk-Suffolk line, where, according to local townsfolk, the cemetery had long been frequented by a creature known as Black Shuck. It did not disappoint, though our collection strategy nearly did! Ol’ Shuck is a quiet one, it turns out. Something the size of a horse shouldn’t be shaped like a dog, and it certainly shouldn’t have glowing green eyes, and it most definitely shouldn’t be soft footed as a mouse. Shuck crept so close to Jesse, that Jesse’s first tell was the feeling of warm breath on exposed neck. Fortunately, and somewhat bafflingly, the creature and Jesse seemed to share an instant bond. After the initial shock of Shuck had warn off, the two became fast friends. A sample was thereafter easily obtained.


a.k.a. The Hound of Hades
Habitat: Cavern entrance to Hades, Greece
Size: Big enough to guard the gates to Hell
First reported: Ancient Greece
Swabbed by: Kathryn Lord, Elinor Karlsson, and Kathleen Morrill

Notes: At the stroke of 13, on the 13th day of the 13th month, in a very confused year, we at last came upon the entrance to Hades. From within the gates came yips and snarls and barks, and other sounds of dogs bickering. Large dogs. Very large dogs. Timidly we made our way into the tunnel, where, upon rounding the first bend, the mighty Cerberus came into view. The squabbling we had heard was a dispute between the three massive heads over what appeared to be a child’s ball. I cannot hazard a guess as to how the guardian of the underworld came to possess such a thing, but there it was. Kathryn, Elinor, and Kathleen were able to defuse the situation with the judicious application of squeaky toys, and several “Who’s a good boy? You’re a good boy!”s. Intriguingly, each head seemed to belong to a different breed, and in one case, a different gender, implying that Cerberus is likely a mutt. Three swabs should help clear up the question!

Note to self: need to get signed consent form from Hades

El Chupacabra

Habitat: Central/ South America and the Caribbean
Size: Deceptively small
First reported: March 1995
Swabbed by: Brittany Rosener and Brittney Logan

Notes: Rumored to be never far from farmlands, our team followed up on reports of exsanguinated ex-sheep in South America. We laid bait of straws and mutton, surely, an irresistible combination to the goat sucker, El Chupacabra! Late in the evening, a great “SLURP” was heard, and we knew the time for action was nigh. Brittany first sighted the creature, whose grotesque features were strangely beagle-like, and the pursuit was on! After giving chase for what felt like an eternity, our fearless scientist managed wear down the creature and collect a swab from its foaming mouth, after which she breathed a sigh of relief and muttered: “Goddamned Beaglecabra.”


a.k.a. Latimeria chalumnae
Habitat: Deep water caves off the east African coast
Size: Up to 6.5 ft long
First reported: December 23, 1938
Swabbed by: Kerstin Lindblad-Toh

Notes: Perhaps the least likely of our collected creatures is the Coelacanth. Believed extinct for sixty million years, this creature showed up in a fish market in 1938. This is somewhat akin to visiting the local deli and finding Triceratops on the menu. As unbelievable as this may seem at the time, our team of scientists have been in pursuit of a live specimen ever since. Finally, earlier this year, we were able to locate one such creature off the Comoro Islands. It is unclear to us how well saliva swabs work underwater, but as always, Kerstin is willing to go to great depths for science! (see what I did there?)


Habitat: Ireland
Size: Roughly the size of a dog, with the wingspan of an eagle
First reported: Depicted on a seal excavated from a bog in 1859 and on the crests of old Irish clans.
Swabbed by: Linda Boettger

Notes: The Enfield is a herald. Its origins may have been lost to time, but the Enfield’s form remains, as does its purpose. A herald is a messenger. A herald is a sign of something to come. Also, to herald is to acclaim. What is a pet, if not the embodiment of acclaim? They cheer our return, commend us on our every job well done, and poorly done. They are honest and whole in their acclaim, and the message they bring is always the same. Love. If an Enfield is a sign of something to come, that something is, more often than not, happiness. This Enfield, and there are many, this Enfield is Skyler, who will be missed, but never forgotten.


Habitat: South American savanna
Size: 3 ft tall
First reported: 2017, by Karlsson Lab
Swabbed by: Brittany Rosener and Brittney Logan

Notes: From Wikipedia “The word “jackalope” is a portmanteau of “jackrabbit” and “antelope”, although the jackrabbit is not a rabbit, and the pronghorn is not an antelope.”

As every school-aged child knows, the Jackalope is silly nonsense. We were, however, quite surprised when, while out hunting for Chupacabra samples, we came across a pair of very real, “Guinealopes.” Perhaps the name needs work, but as “rose” does not make the smell less sweet, our lacking vocabulary cannot diminish the grandeur of these creatures. “Majestic” comes to mind, but falls short, as all words must. Whereas the fictional Jackalope is a crude mix of jackrabbit bodies and antelope horns, these jewels appear to be guinea pig in place of jackrabbit. Perhaps a minor difference on paper, but in person, they are nothing short of inspiring. The pair we encountered might not have been long for this world, as we first saw them bursting from the bushes with the Chupacabra we had been tracking hot in pursuit. Brittney’s quick thinking and reflexes scooped them out of harm’s way in the nick of time. A saliva sample seemed a paltry ask in return for saving their lives.

Jersey Devil

a.k.a. Leeds Devil
Habitat: Pine Barrens of Southern New Jersey, USA
Size: Dragon-like
First reported: In 1740, frightened residents summoned a local minister to exorcise the “Jersey Devil”.
Collected (via bucket) by: Shirley Xue Li and Hyun Ji Noh

Notes: The devil, they say, is in the details. This is wrong. The devil is clearly in New Jersey (although we think he went down to Georgia that one time). With this knowledge in hand, Hyun Ji and Xue Li set off for sample collection. Legend has it that this particular devil was cursed into being by its mother, upon discovering that she was pregnant with her 13th child. The prospect of 13 children sounds, at the very least, tiring, so we can perhaps understand mother Leeds’ reticence, even if it may have doomed the local residents. Our data cannot corroborate this tale, but what is certainly true is that this Jersey Devil is a prodigious producer of saliva. Hyun Ji and her bucket can attest to this. Likewise, we can report that one Xue Li is definitely not enough weight to hold down one Jersey Devil, despite what can only be described as an heroic effort. While many organizations have offered a reward for the capture of the “Jersey Devil” (the Philadelphia Zoo offered $10,000 and the Hunt Brothers Circus offered $100,000), we’ll happily settle for the bucket of saliva.

Loch Ness Monster

a.k.a. Nessiteras rhombopteryx, Nessie
Habitat: Loch Ness, Scotland
Size: 12-15 meters
First reported: As early as 565 AD. Modern interest began with sighting in 1933.
Swabbed by: Jessica Hekman, with “help” from Kate Megquier

Notes: We arose early in the morning on the 75th day of our search and the weather was, for lack of a better term, Scottish. With our spirits matching the climate, we trundled down to the shoreline for another day’s efforts. Kate, alone among us, remained optimistic. As we approached the edge of the loch, unusual sounds of splashing could be heard. Closer we went, until out from the mist a hulking shape materialized into what appeared to be a plesiosaur! A plesiosaur preoccupied by piscatorial pursuits! Perhaps it was this distraction that allowed us to get so close in the first place, but what is certain is that Kate wasted no time in collecting a “selfie” with Nessie and thus recorded in the field notes as “got selfie.” Thankfully, Jessica wasted no time in collecting a saliva sample.

Note to self: “Selfies with Nessie” – possible band name.

Mongolian Death Worm

Habitat: Gobi Desert, Mongolia
Size: HUGE
First reported: 1965
Swabbed by: Michele Koltookian, Jake Alonso, and Jason Turner-Meier

Notes: Deep in the deserts of Arrakis, Muad’Dib succeeded in attracting and riding a Shai-hulud, the great sandworm, thus securing his place among the Fremen people…….. Wait….  (Note to self: we may have mixed up our giant desert worms).  Despite not finding any of the spice Melange, Michele, Jake, and Jason were able to track down the actual Mongolian Death Worm deep in the Gobi Desert. After watching a helpful TV movie and consulting with local residents, they learned that these worms can be deadly even at a distance. Although they considered going back for (much) longer swabs, they were able to successfully collect samples from what must have been a particularly good-natured worm.


(Mermen, masculine form)

Habitat: The oceans of the world

Size: 5 to 7 ft

First reported: 1000 BC in Assyria

Swabbed by: failed

Notes: We first noticed a Mermaid lurking about last October. The team was surprised that it didn’t appear startled by our presence, and darted in and out of our midsts as we worked. We have started to call it Charlie, a name befitting the quirkiness of the creature. Multiple attempts have been made by various team members to collect a sample, but to no avail – it always swims just out of reach. However, we are teaching it English, and we intend to extol the merits of our research in the hopes of convincing it to give up some DNA. We are close. We shall prevail.

Note to self: check with IRB to see if Mermaids can sign their own consent, and whether waterlogged consent forms are ok.


a.k.a. Abominable Snowman
Habitat: Himalayan region of Nepal, Bhutan, and Tibet.
Size: Abominable
First reported: pre-Buddhist
Swabbed by: failed

Notes: Team member Jeremy spotted the legendary Yeti during his successful pursuit of Bigfoot. We have yet to sample this remarkable species, regarded as no more than a mere legend by the scientific community – a misconception perpetuated by early genetic studies based on less rigorously collected DNA. Sadly, the Yeti has eluded us for now by fleeing far to the west, hiding in the remote caves of the “bay area”, but we are determined to track it to its new habitat and collect both saliva and selfies.