Monsters have roamed the human consciousness as long as there has been one, from tales around the campfire, to the tomes of antiquity, to the modern cineplex. And sometimes those monsters leap off the page or the screen, and out of our imaginations. Sightings of cryptids and other frightful creatures have spanned millennia, often taking place in the darkest corners of the world. Luckily there are lots of ways to get to know these fantastical creatures—especially when enthusiasts create museums or exhibits dedicated to their lore.
In Point Pleasant, West Virginia, is a museum dedicated to the state’s most widely known cryptid: the Mothman. The only collection dedicated to the half-moth, half-man creature, the Mothman Museum celebrates this harbinger of misfortune, who has been spotted in Appalachia on and off since 1966. Much further in the past, stories of massive sea monsters off the Icelandic coast have stricken fear into the hearts of sailors. The Skrímslasetrið in Bíldudalur, Iceland, covers the history of these encounters. According to the museum, two of the monsters most endemic to Iceland’s waters are the hafmaður (Sea Man) and the skeljaskrímsli (Shell Monster), but there are more. From a four-legged beast that terrorized 18th-century France to an amphibious water demon in Japan, here are a few of our favorite places to get up close to monsters in relative safety.