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Late Night Animal Planet Rocks My World…and Creeps Me Out

Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

I have inadvertently developed a late-night ritual. It’s called Animal Planet. Yeah, it’s been there for a while, but when I’m winding down, it’s the only channel that makes me put down the remote control. Whether it’s a show about mysterious and dangerous creatures that exist on our planet, mysterious and dangerous creatures that exist in this country but shouldn’t, or mythical and dangerous creatures that are rumored to exist but probably really don’t, I have become a huge fan of not-ready-for-prime-time Animal Planet.

The carnivorous pacu (Photo by flickr user spencer77)

River Monsters

Let’s start with River Monsters. Host Jeremy Wade travels the globe in search of exotic and, well, monstrous inhabitants of the world’s rivers. It is amazing to me what lives in fresh water on this planet. Wade has tangled with the red-belled pacu–it’s like a piranha times one hundred. He’s encountered giant salamanders, man-eating longfin eels, sawfish–the list goes on and on. In fact, it’s a little too long for my comfort. But the show never ceases to fascinate.

Lost Tapes

Do any of you remember the classic horror series from the 1970s, Kolchak: the Night Stalker? It was about a Chicago newspaper reporter who always found himself in the middle of supernatural goings-on in the Windy City. He would cross paths with witches, werewolves, vampires, demons–all kinds of good, creepy stuff. Well, Animal Planet’s Lost Tapes plays like its pseudo-documentary cousin.

Statue of the Mothman in Point Pleasant, WV (Photo by flickr user Fokket)

Lost Tapes gives the audience re-enactments of encounters people have had with creatures long rumored to be non-existent. Just the other night, I saw two actors portraying folks who were trapped in the hull of a ship by a Yeti. In reality, these people–and there was a third guy–had gone searching for “the abominable snowman” only to never be seen again. Another episode detailed one horrific night spent by four twenty-somethings who had gone swimming in a lake in Oklahoma and had gotten stranded on a floating dock out in the middle of the water. As they tried to swim back to shore, they were, one by one, picked off by what is known as the Oklahoma Octopus. I’ve also seen an episode about the legendary Mothman which, supposedly, terrorizes just prior to the occurrence of a nearby major disaster.  It’s a really interesting show and the narrator admits there’s no real proof of the existence of any of the “monsters” that appear on any given episode. But the actual people who’ve gone looking have never been seen again. It’s up to us to make the call.

Swamp Wars

The Argentine black and white tegu (Photo by flickr user Mike Baird)

I’ve saved the best for last. And the creepiest. And the most disturbing. But, again, the best. Swamp Wars is my favorite show on Animal Planet. It details the daily responsibilities of a special division of Miami-Dade Fire and Rescue. These men and women are called upon to remove deadly reptiles that have invaded the property or residences of the suburban denizens of southern Florida. Now, I can’t stand snakes, so it’s actually a little difficult to watch some of these episodes. But I can’t take my eyes off of it. These dedicated servants of the people are sent to homes that have been invaded by water moccasins, coral snakes, Eastern diamondback rattlesnakes, and alligators. But that’s not all. Non-native reptiles like the South American tegu (with its razor sharp teeth and jaws of steel) and various species of pythons (which need to be avoided if they’re hungry) have been released into the wild for a number of reasons–the main one being that the animals become too difficult to own as pets. Ya think?!? Last night, I was chatting with a friend of mine on Facebook while watching Swamp Wars. I mentioned how disturbing I thought the show was and that my throat was closing.

Now that’s good television!

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