Mapinguari: Previously Extinct?

They haunt the forests of South America… and some think they’ve been spotted in New York.


According to Brazilian legend, the mapinguari was once an Amazonian shaman who discovered the secret to immortality. Angering the gods, he was cursed to spend the rest of his days as a hideous beast.

The mapinguari (also known as the juma) is described as being both sloth-like or ape-like depending on who you talk to. It’s also said to have one eye, a mouth on its stomach (some reports claim it’s instead a beating heart), long claws, and backward feet. Most people report smelling a horrific odor before spotting the creature, similar to Bigfoot encounters. It’s a carnivore that likes to dine on cattle, but if the stories are to be believed, these monsters have never eaten a human.

megatherium-sizeMany scientists believe that the stories of the mapinguari stem from the Megatherium (giant ground sloth). Their theory states that the Megatherium that was native to South America lived until about 8500BCE and went extinct because of the expanding population of humans. Perhaps the tales of the mapinguari can be traced back to some of the last encounters humans had with these creatures and the descriptions have evolved over the years with a somewhat dramatic flair.

As bizarre as it may sound, a similar creature has been spotted in Western New York, known as the Sherman Beast. Seen throughout Chautauqua County, it’s described as being white, with long claws, walking on all fours but standing on its back legs when threatened, and most people who have seen it described it as a giant sloth.

North America had its own giant ground sloth called the Megalonyx, so perhaps these previously extinct creatures are making a comeback, masquerading as cryptids.

While there is little evidence to support the existence of the mapinguari, it was featured in season 2, episode 5 of Josh Gates’s Destination Truth and it will be making an appearance in The Haunted Atlas of Western New York, coming this fall from Spook-Eats.

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