These stories are the stuff of fact and fiction that have infiltrated the public psyche and are now solely intended to scare the living daylights out of tourists in Australia.
Many stories from Australia are surrounded in a haze of uncertainty, like any urban legend. However there are some that are completely truthful.
The Dunny-Seat Spider
Spiders, particularly 'redbacks' like to lurk under toilet seats. Of course, it's really only a problem if you have a free-standing dunny out the back. Basically, when the weather gets cold or wet or hot (which is pretty much all of the time) the spiders crawl into all the nooks and crannies they can find to escape the elements. And outback dunnies are full of nooks and crannies. So if you were in a rush (and who wouldn't be on a midnight run on a stormy night?) it is quite likely you'd be bitten on the bum by a spider who'd made its home under the toilet seat. Nowadays the spiders have unfortunately adapted to the lack of outback dunnies and moved on to cars. Two of their favourite places are the gap between the closed sun-visor and the roof, and the gap between the front doors and the console. Check these before you drive off - much safer then spotting one while in the middle of peak-hour traffic.
Another Australian animal that can be found under the toilet seat is the frog. Stories of young ladies running from bathrooms screaming because a frog has poked its head up from under the toilet rim while the aforementioned person of the female persuasion was performing her business are common, particularly in remote areas. The strange appearance of a frog in this part of the house can be explained if the residence is serviced by an outside rainwater tank1. The frogs get into the tank to avoid the hot weather, then manage to find their way into the toilet cistern, surprising users of the facilities at most inopportune occasions.
Kangaroos are as well known to anyone outside of Australia as Fosters Lager and the Australian Cricket Team. Many consider them to be the mascot of Australia, a beautiful and unique creature. However, the humble kangaroo has been known to have a dark side. The male in particular, like any wild animal, fights for his territory and right to mate with females in this territory, much like the male lion and his pride. While the lion has his roar, big teeth, claws, mane and general 'king of the beasts' air, kangaroos have their strong jumping legs for attack and defense and use them in fights with other males when defending territory or laying claim to females. Thus, if you try to corner a male kangaroo (or a female for that matter) in its territory, it will lean back onto its tail and kick you in the gut with its hind legs (or the head if you happen to be very short). This can kill you, as the sharp claws on the kangaroos toes will quite easily disembowel. Even wildlife parks throughout Australia warn of the danger amongst 'tame' or 'domesticated' kangaroos. So be careful giving Skippy your leftover picnic sandwiches.
A general rule of thumb in the Australian bush is that if you leave a snake alone, it will leave you alone. However, there are always exceptions to rules. Some varieties of snake take great pleasure in chasing you off their territory. In Australia, it is most likely the Tiger snake, a painfully venomous black and yellow ringed reptile that can not only speed across the ground at a rate of knots, but also swim rather well. Make sure you have your running shoes on if you venture into 'Tiger Territory'.
Other stories have a complex history and now have become as much a part of Australian culture as boomerangs, billy tea and the television series Neighbours.
The Yowie is basically part of Aboriginal legend and is as frightening to Australian children as the Bogeyman to other cultures. Living in the southern highlands of New South Wales for the most part, the Yowie is akin to the North American Bigfoot or Sasquatch. Campers are warned not to wander off into the bush - or else Yowies would catch them and possibly eat them, or mutilate them, or fornicate with them, or all three. Also known in some areas as Wommies, they are described as large gorilla-like creatures covered in brown fur and usually with large fangs and blood-curdling screams to boot. Some have said that you will know if a Yowie is nearby as it gives off a strange smell, almost like sparks from an electrical appliance. However, this can't be confirmed because more often than not the smell is followed closely by the screams of the Yowie's victim...
The Drop Bear
This story originated in Australia from reports of koala attacks in early settlement days. The legend is as follows: these creatures were direct descendants of ground-dwelling bears. The creatures adapted to human development by taking to the trees. They still remember the human plundering during the early years, and often take revenge. Mostly nocturnal, the dropbear attacks by suddenly dropping from a perch in an overhead gum tree onto an unsuspecting passer-by. They are rarely seen, except as occasional grey flashes when they are ripping at the faces of their victims. Descriptions are vague, but they seem to resemble the common koala with large, curving incisors and longer claws. It is lucky that the dropbear is only found in thick forested areas of Australia, such as the Blue Mountains.
The Hoop and Trip Snakes
Hoop snakes are the bane of the touring cyclist as they inhabit much of the Australian mainland. These snakes have the unique ability to coil up into a wheel or hoop shape and to roll. They have a craving for the taste of bike tyres and chase after them, totally wiping out the bike and knocking the cyclist into the bushes. A close relative is the Trip snake, so called because it lays prone upon walking tracks disguised as a stick or branch, then when a hiker looms close it bridges its back to trip the unwary person over. The creature then bites its prey with a paralysing venom so as to be able to drag its meal into the bush for later consumption. If you are lucky enough to survive an attack from either a hoop or trip snake,it is probable that while you are recovering, a drop bear will plunge from above, slashing your neck open.
Up-Stones are quite unremarkable stones that lay on walking tracks and around camp sites all around Australia. They are mostly harmless, however can catch the unwary off guard by leaping up from the ground. Particularly dangerous to the hiker, Up-Stones can jump up skirts of female walkers or into the groin of male walkers, causing painful injury and bruising.
Another creature that lives in the Australian bush is the Ombilie-Gombilie. A small non-descript animal, it will attack sleeping campers en masse and gnaw off any protruding toes and fingers that happen to have slipped from a tent or sleeping bag during the night.
This creature is perhaps not as familiar as many other Australian animals. A large flying animal with a fearsome appetite, it preys upon lost Backpackers and small children indiscriminately. Descriptions are wide and varied: some say it has the head of a crocodile, the body of a bear and the wings and talons of a large eagle, while others say it has bat-like wings with the head and body of a huge snake. The few survivors agree it has a terrifying scream which warns of its impending arrival, like that of a banshee. It is said that the only way to survive an attack from an eery-wobbler is to coat yourself in the dung of the creature - hence, it will treat you like excrement.
Perhaps the most famous of Australian 'monsters', the Bunyip is a complex creature. Living in billabongs or other waterways, its origin is most likely from Aboriginal stories that warn children of the dangers of playing near water. There is no definitive description, except to say it has a voracious appetite...