Streets of BRC 2023: Cavalcade of Cryptids

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:   

Afanca lake monster from Welsh mythology that is variously described as a crocodile, demon or beaver hybrid. Any two of which would be scary.

Bigfoota 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).

Dingbata 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.

Hodaga 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)

About the author: Stuart Mangrum

Stuart Mangrum

Stuart is the director of Burning Man Project's Philosophical Center and host of the Burning Man LIVE podcast. Since his first Burn in 1993 he has participated as a theme camp organizer, artist, and year-round staff member contributing to the Project's communications, education, and storytelling efforts.

23 Comments on “Streets of BRC 2023: Cavalcade of Cryptids

  • Chris says:

    Man that’s sounds amazing. I wish I could go. One day maybe

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  • Chris says:

    Great names. Missed opportunity to include Dropbears in BRC, if you ask me.

    Perhaps it’s not too late!

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  • Dobo says:

    I love the names, but I think you meant to refer to the *circumferential* streets. The radial ones are, of course, named for times on a clock face.

    There, that’s my obligatory pedantry for the day!

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    • Seth Schrenzel says:

      There are dozens of us who would not have been able to sleep tonight had this comment not been made.

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    • Retro says:

      circumferential? · as in of, at, or near the circumference; surrounding; lying along the outskirts?
      I’ve heard “orbital” used recently, which I like.
      Our city designer preferred the term “annular”

      If you are placed in the center, among the ring of camps around Center Camp, congratulations! You are placed in an “annulus”, the region between two concentric circles.

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  • Jak from Australia says:

    Possibly a missed opportunity, but you could have had Dropbear – The drop bear (sometimes dropbear) is a hoax in contemporary Australian folklore featuring a predatory, carnivorous version of the koala. This imaginary animal is commonly spoken about in tall tales designed to scare tourists.

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  • Thomas (the Bishop) Andrejko says:

    Excellent choice of street names this year. I still miss my L street. But I have settled in to being on K street as of last year. I will continue to make my home away from home on good Ole K street now. But I think it is awesome that it is Kraken this year. Since I have always enjoyed the mystical legend of the sea monster. I feel right at home with my street name for this year ! Cheers !!! See you all on the Playa. Definitely going to miss the Mayan Warrior.

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  • HoneyBee says:

    Personally, I wish the street names were simpler. The artistry is fun, but I think these street names will be left behind in place of more familiar animals or just letters.

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  • roberto dobbisano says:

    while on all streets, beware of the playa chicken.

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  • Mikel Cirkus says:

    FWIW, ‘S’ = a Squonk, the mythical creature of The Pocono Mountains.

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  • Loren Coleman says:

    Contributions of post-Burning Man used signs to our nonprofit

    International Cryptozoology Museum
    585 Hammond Street
    Bangor ME 04401

    Would be appreciated!

    Loren Coleman

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  • Ron Lofgren says:

    Perhaps Rod’s Road could, for one year, be Unicorn Circle.

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  • CharlieWaffles says:

    BRC has created a cousin to the Igopogo that lives in Lake Simcoe. Long live the Ipogogo, may its stories grow in the dust, fed by the energies of the Playa.

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  • Sam says:

    Again bmorg won’t add more streets. Theme camps are given most of the space . The rest are shut out

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  • Tanglefoot says:

    Is the grootslang related to that tree we all know & dance with?

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  • bob aronsohn says:

    You couldn’t use “Gremlin” for “G”?

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    • Retro says:

      Nah, Larry already used Gremlin in 2008 for The American Dream theme. Of course he was referring to an automobile produced by American Motors.

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  • Andrei Alexandroae says:

    What an imaginative twist to the ANIMALIA theme! I can’t wait to navigate the streets of Black Rock City in 2023, feeling the thrill of cryptozoology at every turn.

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