The Tatzelwurm, German for claw worm, has been reported in the Alps of Austria and Switzerland for hundreds of years. The Tatzelwurm is known by a host of regional names such as the Stollenwurm, which means tunnel worm, the Bergstutzen, which means mountain stump, and the Springwurm, which means jumping worm. Descriptions of the creature vary some what but all seem to describe a stumpy lizard like creature between 2 to 6 feet long.
In some cases the Tatzelwurm has two legs in the front of its body, in other cases it has four legs, all are said to have three toes with sharp claws.
The earliest documented encounter with a Tatzelwurm took place in 1779 when two of these creatures appeared in front of a man named Hans Fuchs. Badly frightened by his encounter Hans suffered a fatal heart attack as he ran back to his home; however before he died was able to tell his family of his encounter. According to cryptozoologist Loren Coleman’s book, Cryptozoology A to Z, a painting by a relative commemorated Hans Fucks’ death; it depicted two large, lizard like creatures lurking in the background. According to German cryptozoologist Ulrich Magin, this depiction of the two lizard like creatures is the best evidence we have of the Tatzelwurm’s existence.
Two other illustrations of the Tatzelwurm are known to exist; the first of which appeared in a Bavarian hunting manual called New Pocket Guild of the Year 1836 for Nature, Forest and Hunting Enthusiasts. This manual contains what Bernard Heuvelmans describes as a curious picture of a sort of scaly cigar, with formidable teeth and wretched little stumps of feet. The second of these illustrations appeared in the Swiss almanac Alpenrosen published in 1841, and took the form of a drawling which shows a long scaly creature with two tiny front legs.
In late 1954, a Swiss photographer by the name of Balkin claimed to have photographed a Tatzelwurm. The level of interest produced by the photograph’s publication led the Berliner Illustrierte, a weekly illustrated magazine in Germany, to sponsor an expedition in search of the Tatzelwurm, however the results of this winter expedition were disappointing and interest in the creature all but disappeared. Today the majority of cryptozoologists view the photograph taken by Balkin as almost certainly a hoax.
Another piece of evidence now considered to be a hoax was the discovery of a Tatzelwurm skeleton, said to have been mysteriously donated to the Geneva Institute of Science sometime in the 1900’s. The skeleton, only known by a single photograph, appears to be that of a long snake like creature with two clawed arms and a larger than normal head. It is not certain who donated the skeleton or if it was ever donated to anyone at all. The majority of researchers believe the photograph, and the story behind it, to be a hoax.
The question still remains what is or was the Tatzelwurm, Bernard Heuvelmans, considered by many to be the father of modern Cryptozoology, believe that the Tatzelwurm may be related to the Gila monster of the American Southwest. Other researchers believe that it could be some sort of amphibian, possibly an unknown European relative to Megalobatrachus, the Giant Salamander of China and Japan. There are even a handful of investigators who believe the Tatzelwurm to be an unrecognized variety of otter, though descriptions of the creature do not seem to indicate this to be the case. Sadly we may never know what the Tatzelwurm is as reports of the creature have all but ceased, leaving some to speculate that it may now be extinct, if it ever existed at all that is.