Black Rock City has named its streets since 1997, when “Esplanade” first appeared on a dusty map. Our modern practice of creatively alphabetizing the annular streets has been a tradition since 2006, and since then we’ve had any number of whimsical naming schemes mapped to the year’s art theme. 2023 carries that custom forward with a cryptozoological menagerie inspired by the ANIMALIA theme.
Cryptozoology is, of course, the study of animals that may or may not actually exist in our world, such as the Yeti, the Loch Ness Monster, and the virtuous Sparklepony. While scientific evidence of their existence may be scarce, or patently absurd (see the Fiji Mermaid), they live on in popular imagination thanks to ancient myth, modern day just-so stories, or persistent sightings by people who ought to know better. You may laugh all you want at the dedicated Bigfoot hunter, but the historical record is rich with tales of supposedly fanciful creatures abruptly switching status from mythic to real. Consider the coelacanth, a fish thought to be extinct for 66 million years before one was caught off the African coast in the 1930s.
Of the many sorts of animals celebrated in this year’s theme announcement, the cryptids are nearest and dearest to our Cacophonous hearts, and as such inform our street naming for 2023. Some are more immediately recognizable than others, and a few are absolute head-scratchers. This is not to be intentionally obscure, or to mess with the serious people who have to say these names all week on the radio (though, admittedly, that is fun to think about) – but rather because it’s no easy task to pick a full set that’s alphabetically compliant, A through K, without going off-theme.
So without further rabbit-holing (or jackalope-holing), here are the street names for BRC 2023:
Afanc – a lake monster from Welsh mythology that is variously described as a crocodile, demon or beaver hybrid. Any two of which would be scary.
Bigfoot – a legendary race of ape-men found (or not found) around the world, from the Sasquatch of the Pacific Northwest to the Yeti of the Himalayas. Enkidu, from the ancient Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh (c. 2100 BCE), arguably marks the beginning of this “wild man’s” grand genealogy.
Chupacabra – the dreaded “goat sucker” of the folklore of the Americas, a meter-high reptilian monstrosity said to have greenish-gray skin, sharp spines running down its back, and a taste for goat meat. BRC has reportedly not been spared from this cryptid’s attacks (seen here in the Black Rock Gazette from August 26, 2003).
Dingbat – a fearsome critter from the tales of lumberjacks of North America from the 19th and early 20th centuries, described as a large bat or bird-like creature, with a short feathered body, large wings, and short deer-like antlers on its head. It is also described as resembling “a very fast owl.”
Encantado – pink-skinned Brazilian weredolphins (what?) that shape-shift into smartly dressed humans. In the guise of men they walk the countryside listening for the sound of beating drums to guide them to the nearest party, since they love to dance and make love to human women. Their dapper chapeaux cleverly conceal their singular un-transforming feature: the blowhole. (WHAT?!)
Frogbat – native to the Black Rock Desert and possibly a distant cousin to the dingbat, the frogbat is a large fire-breathing playaphibian with bat-like wings and explosive digestion. Not even the firing squad of a well-regulated militia has managed to put this fearsome critter down for good.
Grootslang – literally “big snake,” a legendary cryptid that is reputed to dwell in a deep cave in the Richtersveld, South Africa.
Hodag – a folkloric animal of the North American state of Wisconsin, it has “the head of a frog, the grinning face of a giant elephant, thick short legs set off by huge claws, the back of a dinosaur, and a long tail with spears at the end.”
Igopogo – not to be confused with the Ogopogo – a lake monster reported to live in Lake Okanagan in British Columbia, Canada – the Igopogo is instead a lake monster said to dwell in Lake Simcoe, Ontario, Canada.
Jackalope – or Lepus temperamentalus, is an animal of North American folklore, described as a jackrabbit with antelope horns or deer antlers and sometimes a pheasant’s tail. Not to be confused with its winged Bavarian cousin the wolpertinger.
Kraken – a colossal legendary sea monster said to dwell off the coasts of Norway and Greenland, with the unique cryptid category of “massive.”
Okay, that’s it for this year. Feel free to discover, invent or embellish your own cryptid legends for future denizens of Black Rock City. Because myths grow fast in the desert, but not without the seed of hearsay.
And thanks in advance for not stealing the street signs, trash pandas. (At least not until Exodus, okay?)
To see the complete BRC plan, head over to the 2023 Black Rock City Plan page here.
Appreciations to Retro and Playground, the unnamed co-naming the nameless, and now named
Cover image of BRC Street Signs, 2022 (Photo by Amber Skelley)