Nessie, Area 51, Roswell: names like this define UFO and paranormal lore. This is not a series about them. In Distant Encounters, we tour the strangest, most isolated tales of encounters with the unknown.
One of the weirdest, most obscure cryptids of all time hails from Strange magazine’s sixth issue, an account by one Virginia Staples. Living in Washington in 1948, her apartment building’s basement was improbably large – and riddled with holes.
There were huge holes in the walls and the apartment house manager used to tell me that it was rumored there was a passage to the water.
Doing her laundry, she felt that she was not alone:
There was a washer and a washtub and a clothesline. And on this particular day I had gotten my clothes all hung up but I kept feeling someone was staring at me or looking at me. And it was such a creepy feeling I finally turned around and looked towards the back of the basement and froze. I was so scared I can still feel it. I couldn't move. In one of the huge holes in the basement there stood this thing.
According to the transcript of her phone call, she broke down here as she described what she saw.
Oh, it was horrible! I stand five foot tall and this creature was as tall as I was. It had a bright orange colored body and little spidery thin legs and antennae on its head that kept moving back and in and out.
When the bizarre creature moved towards her, the witness fled. The encounter so unnerved her that she immediately moved out of the building. Seeking answers, she tried to look for another creature like the one she saw:
I went to an aquarium to see if I could see anything that looked like what it was, and the only thing that I could find that looked anything like it was this little tiny shrimp. But it just doesn't make sense.
A couple years later, she bravely ventured back to the city she left – only to find that the building demolished, any answers truly lost.
The creature known only as the “giant shrimp in the laundry room” is a true oddity. A very-mid-00s forum thread discusses the tale:
Another poster tells of their own encounter with a scarlet frog that they never found any trace of since; others make Gary Coleman jokes. But no one reports another encounter with a giant shrimp, watching them from a hole in some dusty Washington basement – though we do, delightfully, find fan art of it. Strange magazine’s first-hand reports section includes raw, uninvestigated personal reports, and that’s what they remain: pure, unfiltered stories of the truly inexplicable. Whatever Virginia Staples really saw, she was so scared of it that she uprooted her entire life to escape it. And we’ll never know more.