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SKUNK APES: HAIRY HUMANOIDS OF NORTH AMERICA'S SOUTHERN SWAMPS AND ELSEWHERE - PART 2

Posted on July 4, 2011 at 2:53 PM


 

 





SKUNK APES: HAIRY HUMANOIDS OF NORTH AMERICA'S SOUTHERN SWAMPS AND ELSEWHERE - PART 2

THE FAUKE MONSTER...A HOAX?

One month after the Ford sighting, Southern State College archaeologist Dr. Frank Schambach determined that "There is a 99 percent chance the tracks are a hoax." According to Schambach, the tracks could not be from a species of ape, or ape man, as claimed by witnesses, because they were from a three-toed creature, whereas all primates and hominids (both modern and historical) have five toes. In addition to the number of toes, Dr. Schambach cited several other anomalies as part of his conclusion. He noted that the region had no history of primate activity, ruling out the possibility of the creature being the remnants of an indigenous species. He also argued that while all primates are diurnal, the Fouke Monster appeared to be nocturnal. "Residents would have proof by now if the creature existed," Schamback said. "There are people down there with dogs who would have run it down in two days" if it existed.

A number of Dr. Schambach's critics say that he did not take into account inbreeding as a possibility for physical abnormalities, or the creature's nasty disposition. Three-toed footprints of possible sasquatch sightings have been found from Florida to Texas and Oklahoma. A number of face-to-face encounters have been reported, with most saying that the creature was not scared or shy, but instead somewhat aggressive. Schambach's critics also state that for he, or any other scientist, to simply disregard people's sightings as "mass hysteria" or "mistaken identity", is both foolhardy and disrespectful.

June 12, 1971—Local tracker Chip Walker from nearby Lewisville, examined the tracks and reported, the tracks have clean gator markings, if these were made at the time of the May sighting as the newspaper reported, it must have been a pretty big gator to look four feet tall on a highway.

"These here are not monkey tracks, Arkansas has no monkeys living here, Walker said. The front two feet and over here are the hind two legs of a gator. Dogs should have been able to follow that trail, if there was one. If there weren't no trail of prints coming into the area and none going out, chances are these tracks were planted or a gator was dumped from the back end of a truck."

OTHER

Today there are only a few remnants of the monster in Fouke. The Monster Mart sells several items such as photos and other souvenirs. It's worth a stop inside to fill up with gas, grab a snack and a postcard, and talk to the people about the latest sightings.








Rickie Roberts' wife, Beverly, said too many credible people have seen what they described as the monster for her not to believe it exists. "I've got family members who firmly believe they've seen it," she said, noting that they moved away shortly after the experience. "Whatever it is, there is something." Tracy Nichols and Sue Page, who work at City Hall, said they have heard scores of monster tales over the years.

Nichols, noting that the creature is generally associated with "a bad odor," said a local man recently saw the monster twice, "but he won't talk about it. He's afraid of being ridiculed." Although uncertain of her own beliefs, she said, "I've heard credible people come through here who said they've seen it." Nichols admitted that the legend is fun.

"We went hunting for it the weekend before last," she said. Page, whose constable father appeared as himself in the Legend of Boggy Creek, said, "I don't know if it's true or not." "We have calls from way off [from people] wanting to know about it," she said. Fouke resident Lavelle Brune said she thought she saw the monster recently. "We saw it" while driving out of town, she said, but "we got to looking, and it was just a bush."

CONCLUSIONS

So, are the Skunk Apes or for that matter any Bigfoot real? There are many who will scoff at the very idea of such a creature. After all, there is no conclusive proof to its existence. Not once has a Bigfoot been caught or trapped. People can easily dismiss the footprints that have been found as a hoax, claim the "supposed" videos of them as "just a man in a monkey suit." But for those who have come face to face with a Sasquatch, for them there is no denying its reality.

It is so easy to say you can't believe in what you don't see, yet we survive each day on an invisible, life sustaining thing called "air." We can't "see" the wind, but this invisible force has the capability of destroying entire towns in a matter of minutes.

Even today there are thousands of acres of yet to be explored in our country or on our planet. Who's to say what lives among its terrain?




I'm not saying that Bigfoot exists, nor do I deny the possibility it does. What I am saying is that a closed mind works both ways. It will shut out the things you wish, but it also keeps many potential truths out. If we closed our eyes and never explored the world around us, then the new type of animal discovered on October 13, 2000, by a group of Danish scientists, would never have been discovered.

These little freshwater organisms named "Limnognathia Maerski" were discovered living, feeding, and reproducing among the icy waters of a Greenland well. They seem to share some similarities with certain seawater life-forms, yet don't fit the mold of any known animal family. It has a distinctive set of highly complex jaws which work well to scrape its food off the mossy growths that cling to Arctic wells.

So if, as recently as October of 2000, a new form of life was found, then what hidden truths might 2001 have in store for us? Only time will unveil the answers. In the meantime, the next time you hear an eerie howl like scream in the woods, just remember those little life-forms in the Arctic. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction!

MOVIES AND OTHER PUBLICITY

The Fouke Monster was also covered by the state desk headed by Norman L. Richardson of the Shreveport Times. It has been the subject of several films and a number of books.

The Legend of Boggy Creek

In 1973, the story of Bobby Ford's encounter with the Fouke Monster was turned into a semi-factual, documentary-style horror feature, The Legend of Boggy Creek, (initially titled "Tracking the Fouke Monster") which played in drive-in theaters around the country. It was written by Earl E. Smith and directed by Charles B. Pierce. The part of Bobby Ford was played by Glenn Carruth and the part of Elizabeth Ford was played by Bunny Dees. Fouke Garage owner Willie E. Smith, on whose land three toed footprints were found, starred as himself. Many characters were named after the people who played them.


 

 



Much of the film was shot on location in Fouke and nearby Texarkana, though some scenes also were filmed in Shreveport, Louisiana. Most of the cast were local people or Texarkana college students. It ran for 87 minutes (90 on DVD) and is believed to have cost $165,000 to make. It grossed $22 million, making it the 7th highest grossing movie of the year.

Return to Boggy Creek

A second Fouke Monster film, Return to Boggy Creek (also known as Boggy Creek II: The Legend Continues), was filmed and released in 1977. The movie had an entirely fictional plot and was not intended to be a sequel. It was written by Tom Moore, was directed by John David Woody, and starred Dawn Wells as the mother of three children who become lost in the swamp. Some of the film's scenes were shot on location in Fouke; others were filmed in Dallas, Texas, and Loreauville and Iberia Parish, Louisiana.

The Barbaric Beast of Boggy Creek, Part II

In 1985, a third Fouke Monster film was released. It was titled The Barbaric Beast of Boggy Creek, Part II and written as a sequel to the original film. Charles B. Pierce wrote, directed, and starred in it as Brian Lockart, a University of Arkansas professor who leads a group of students into the swamps around Fouke. It was shot on location in Fouke but included some scenes shot at the University of Arkansas.

In 1999, The Barbaric Beast of Boggy Creek was used by Mystery Science Theater 3000 to produce Boggy Creek II: The Legend Continues. It aired on May 9, 1999 (Episode 6, Season 10).

THE HONEY ISLAND SWAMP MONSTER

Bigfoot's Southern cousins seem to roam as far west as Galveston Island, Texas, to Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Florida. These truculent crypto-swamp beasts seem to be very well adapted to the wet bottom-lands terrain, just as Sasquatch is acclimated to the high-mountain states and territories of the North West.

These creatures are usually named with respect to the terrain or area they live in. For example, the cryptid which frequents the area of Galveston, Texas is called the MONSTER OF GALVESTON ISLAND, or the GALVESTON or TEXAS SAND MAN; the scary creature sighted around Fouke, Arkansas is referred to as the LEGENDARY MONSTER OF BOGGY CREEK, or the FOUKE MONSTER; the Mississippi coasts' creature is called THE MISSISSIPPI MUD MAN; and let's not forget the foul smelling FLORIDA SKUNK APE or the LOUISIANA LOUPE GAROU!. But so far, few of the southern kind compare with each other unless new information surfaces from future sightings.

If you take a journey into the alligator infested swamplands of Louisiana, you might just find a real monster hiding among the tall palmettos. Sometimes called the "smaller" cousin of bigfoot, this local Louisiana legend has haunted the Honey Island Swamp for many years. This huge creature, which lives in the deep cypress-filled shadows of the dark Louisiana bayou, has been referred to as THE HONEY ISLAND SWAMP MONSTER, THE SWAMP THING, TAINTED KEITRE, ST. TAMANNY PARISH BIGFOOT, MARSH MAN, and SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI RIVER SASQUATCH, and is as elusive as the North American Bigfoot. Some say it's real, others say it's just a myth.


 



HONEY ISLAND SWAMP

Honey Island swamp is unique because it's one of the least-altered river swamps in the country. It's pretty much in its original condition, almost a pristine wilderness. A portion of the Honey Island Swamp is under the protection of the Bogue Chitto National Wildlife Refuge, and the other part is managed by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. Take a personalized narrated nature tour into the 250-square-mile Honey Island Swamp. Nearly 70,000 acres of it is a permanently-protected wildlife area—the Nature Conservancy's First Louisiana Nature Preserve. People from all over the world now explore this wildlife sanctuary annually.









Honey Island earned its name because of the honeybees once commonly seen on a nearby island. A tract of bottomland timber lying between the East Pearl and West Pearl rivers, Honey Island is between three and seven miles wide and 15 to 20 miles long. It is located 50 minutes from New Orleans in Southeast Louisiana.









Honey Island has become one of the most well-known swamps because of the real or imagined presence of a creature similar to what others have called Bigfoot. It was during the 1960s, as the human population started to encroach upon the swamplands that sightings of a tall, wooly, bipedal mammal were reported. The first accounts of the Honey Island Swamp Monster were those of Harlan Ford.

DESCRIPTION OF THE CREATURE

The Honey Island Swamp Monster has been described as a huge, wooly, bipedal mammal, which usually walks upright, but occasionally goes down on all fours, and has a horrific stench "like the smell of death". It is said to have long to short hair on its head, with shorter hair all over its body, the color of which is dingy-gray, orange-brown-gray or black. At times, the head hair is said to form "bangs" that hang over the eyes, somewhat like an English Sheepdog. These animals have also been described as having a "mane" of hair. The animal is said to be large and broad-shouldered, standing between 5 ft and 8 ft tall (on two legs), and weighing between 300 and 500 pounds. It's most distinguishing feature, as noted by Ford and others, is the size and color of the eyes, which appear to be disproportionately large, wide-set and of an amber or orange-amber color. Mr. Ford stated, "That thing stood eye level with me. The thing that startled me the most were it's large amber eyes." He also said that this gave the animal a "sinister" look.




Harlan was later interviewed in a documentary called In Search Of which still airs periodically on The Discovery Channel and other television networks. Harlan's own personal sighting has been documented in a book, Monsters of North America.

TRACKS, HAIR AND OTHER EVIDENCE

The tracks left by the animal appear to be somewhat similar to an Alligator's rear foot. Upon close examination, however, it becomes clear that this is something different.

In 1974, zoologists from Louisiana State University (LSU) met with Harlan Ford to study the plaster casts of the creature's four-toed footprints. Crypotozoologist from Washington also arrived in Louisiana to inspect the unusual casts. Upon examination, they concluded that the prints were genuine, not manmade.

This is a plaster copy of one of several track casts owned by Dana Holyfield, granddaugher of Harlan E. Ford, the hunter who found and cast the tracks. He was the first man to report a sighting of the creature and is also the first and only man known to have poured plaster-of-paris casts of it's tracks found deep in the swamp. It is clearly not the track of a stereotypical Bigfoot (or sasquatch) whose footprints are "roughly human in design," according to anthropologist and pro-Bigfoot theorist Grover Krantz. Instead, Ford's monster tracks are web-toed imprints that appear to be "a cross between a primate and a large alligator". The track is also surprisingly small: only about nine and three-fourths inches long compared to Bigfoot tracks which average about fourteen to sixteen inches, with tracks of twenty inches and more reported.




There are four toes visible. Three are heavily-clawed toes, with prominent knuckles and underneath the foot. Then... there is the bizarre thumb-like small toe, about an inch and a half on at least one of the casts. These toes show clearly that this animal can grasp with the toes. The three large toes are long and slender, with tendons visible in the prints. The claws are turned down and backwards to grip the loose soil, sand and mud. This is characteristic of a cat-like trait. The skin appears to be thin on the bottom of the foot, with tendons showing. In the hostile environment of the island, thin skin under the foot would indicate that it didn't spend a lot of time on the ground.









Footprints and other specific details aside, some researchers classify the Honey Island Swamp Monster as part of a genre of mythic swamp-dwelling "beastmen" or "manimals." These include the smelly SKUNK APE and the hybrid GATORMAN of the Florida Everglades and other southern swamps; the SCAPE ORE SWAMP LIZARDMAN of South Carolina; MOMO, the MISSOURI MONSTER; and, among others, the FOUKE MONSTER, which peeked in the window of a home in Fouke, Arkansas, one night in 1971 and set off a rash of monster sightings.

Note: Although Harlan Ford obtained tracks of various sizes, a photo of his mounted casts makes it possible to compare them with his open hand, which touches the display and thus gives an approximate scale. This shows all are relatively small.

ENCOUNTERS

[Cryptozoologist's Note: A special "Thank You" to Dana Holyfield for clarification of several key points!]

Harlan Ford was the first man to report sightings of the Honey Island Swamp Monster. He is also one of the very first people to be able to retrieve tracks the monster left. He saw the monster for the first time in 1963, when he and his friend Billy Mills were in the swamp lands looking for an abandoned camp that they had spotted from the air. They came into a clearing and were surprised to see in front of them a massive creature that was down on all fours. Mills asked Ford what the creature was. It supposedly heard them and faced the two men. After a while it stood up and ran back into the bush. The two men ran after the creature in an attempt to get a better look at it, but all they found were its tracks.




Ford and Mills, both of whom worked as air-traffic controllers, went home and shared the experience with family and friends. They described the creature they'd seen as standing seven feet tall, being covered with grayish hair, and having large amber-colored eyes. Unfortunately, they said, the monster promptly ran away, and an afternoon rainstorm obliterated its tracks. At that time, the men did not report their sighting to the authorities.

On a different occasion, Billy and another friend heard a commotion across the river on the opposite bank. The disturbance sounded to them like a wild boar being beaten to death against a tree—like a drum being beaten by something very large. Once again, the men beat a hasty retreat and did not report their encounter to the authorities.




It wasn't until 1974, when Ford and Billy returned to the Honey Island Swamp to hunt for ducks, that they again saw signs of the monster. This time, although the friends did not see the creature itself, they came across a dead wild boar that was freshly killed by a water hole. Beside it, they found tracks similar to the ones they had seen in 1963. Not wanting to risk their necks, the friends left the Honey Island Swamp. It was only later that night that Harlan Ford returned alone to create a cast of the prints they had found beside the boar. It wasn't until then that the outside world learned about what would come to be known as Louisiana's HONEY ISLAND SWAMP MONSTER. Ford later told his story on an episode of the 1970s television series In Search of.

Harlan Ford continued to search for the monster until his death in 1980. His granddaughter, Dana Holyfield, recalls how he once took a goat into the swamp to use as bait, hoping to lure the creature to a tree blind where Ford waited—uneventfully, as it happened—with gun and camera. He did supposedly find several different-sized tracks on one hunting trip. He also claimed to have seen the monster on another occasion during a fishing trip with Mills and some of their friends from work. One of the men reportedly then went searching for the creature with a rifle and fired two shots at it before returning to tell his story to the others around the campfire.

The original plaster casts remain to this day and have helped dispute claims that the wild boar killings were only those of an alligator.




SIGHTINGS IN GENERAL

Ever since Harlan Ford and Robert Mills initially saw the creature in 1963, and the presentation of a footprint cast in 1974, there have been various reported sightings of the Honey Island Swamp Creature. These sightings include those of Ted Williams (not the famous ballplayer) who claimed to have seen the creature numerous times and is noted to have said that there is more than just one of the creatures in Honey Island Swamp. Williams used to say that he had never attempted to shoot any of the creatures, because they did not seem to want to harm him either. At present, there has been no news on Ted Williams since he was reported to have disappeared one day when he took his boat into the deeper part of the Honey Island Swamp.

RECENT RESEARCH/EXPEDITIONS

The Searching for Bigfoot Team (www.searchingforbigfoot.com), visited Slidell, Louisiana to investigate reports of The Honey Island Swamp Monster in early December 2007. The Team traveled inland on Honey Island for about a mile, after which they tried some tree knocking and vocalizations and received a single shrieking vocalization in return. More recently, in January 2008, they revisited Honey Island. Here is a summary of their experience in their own words:


"We spent the next two days searching the bayous for any signs of the creature, and talking to as many locals as possible. We found that a few locals were not comfortable with the story of the "Honey Island Swamp Monster", but those same people spoke to us very matter-of-factly about "Bigfoot". They told us that many of them had seen the creature and the tracks that it left, but usually only during the months of October, November, and December, when it was migrating through....They also told us that the creature they had seen was smaller than the ones they can find on the web from the Pacific North West....Most of the eyewitnesses also talked about a reddish color. There was even a credible sounding story about a woman who shot some kind of animal that appeared to her to be a type of monkey. When she called the Fish and Game department to come and identify it, they confiscated the body and never got back to her about it! The stories we heard were all very similar and consistent enough for us to suspect that there must be something to them. It became clear to us that there must be something in these swamps but we were probably not there at the right time."

MOVIES AND OTHER PUBLICITY

Dana Holyfield, granddaughter of Harlan Ford, has made a documentary film about the Honey Island Swamp Monster. The documentary also includes footage of a swamp trek that Dana took into an area where there had been sightings of the creature. She found tracks, and shot video of the tracks. Also included in the documentary is footage shot by Harlan Ford years ago in the swamp. There are a few seconds of footage of a bipedal, hairy being that is walking behind some trees.









Dana Holyfield says the following about her documentary on her site:


"My documentary was featured on FOX NEWS with Sean Hannity. Footage was also featured on the Animal Planet in a show called LOST TAPES episode, "Swamp Creature." You will also see footage from my film on a cable TV SHOW called American Monsters."

Copies of the documentary as well as posters of the Honey Island Swamp Monster can be ordered from Dana Holyfield's site at: http://www.angelfire.com/la2/SwampMonster/




THE HONEY ISLAND SWAMP MONSTER: JUST ANOTHER HOAX?

While swamp monsters and other man-beasts are not proven to exist, hoaxers certainly are. Take, for example, Bigfoot tracks reported by berry pickers near Mount St. Helens, Washington, in 1930. Nearly half a century later, a retired logger came forward to pose with a set of "bigfeet" that he had carved and that a friend had worn to produce the fake monster tracks.





Among many similar hoaxes were at least seven perpetrated in the early 1970s by one Ray Pickens of Chehalis, Washington. He carved primitive seven-by-eighteen-inch feet and attached them to hiking boots. Pickens said he was motivated "not to fool the scientists, but to fool the monster-hunters" whom he felt regarded people like him as "hicks." Other motivation, according to monster hunter Peter Byrne (1975), stems from the "extraordinary psychology of people wanting to get their names in the paper, people wanting a little publicity, wanting to be noticed."

Were Harlan Ford's and Billy Mills's monster claims similarly motivated? Dana Holyfield says of her grandfather:


"Harlan wasn't a man to make up something like that. He was down to earth and honest and told it the way it was and didn't care if people believed him or not."

Some skeptics still think the evidence indicates that Ford and Mills perpetrated a hoax. To support their supposition, they cite the men's suspiciously repeated sighting reports and alleged track discoveries, together with the incongruent mixing of a Bigfoot-type creature with most un-Bigfoot-like feet, plus the fact that the proffered evidence is not only of a type that could easily be faked, but often has been. In addition, the men's claims exist in a context of swamp-manimal mythology that has numerous antecedent elements in folklore and fiction. Taken together, they feel the evidence suggests a common hoax.

Certainly, in the wake of the monster mania that followed Ford's sightings, much hoaxing resulted. But to these accusations, Dana Holyfield had this to say:


"Then there were the monster impersonators who made fake bigfoot shoes and tromped through the swamp. This went on for years. Harlan didn't worry about the jokers because he knew the difference."

[Cryptozoologist's Note: It is my belief that the character and personal integrity of both Harlan Ford and Billy Mills, together with the physical evidence Ford gathered and his life-long dedication to proving the existence of the Honey Island Swamp Monster, rules out any question of his veracity as a witness to the events he reported.]

However, swamp-monster hoaxes—and apparent hoaxes—by others continue.

Two loggers, Earl Whitstine and Carl Dubois, reported sighting a hairy man-beast in a cypress swamp called Boggy Bayou in the central part of the state. Giant four-toed tracks and hair samples were discovered at the site, and soon others came forward to say they too had seen a similar creature. However, there were grounds for suspicion: twenty-five years earlier (i.e., not long after the 1974 Honey Island Swamp Monster reports), Whitstine's father and some friends had sawed giant foot shapes from plywood and produced fake monster tracks in the woods of a nearby parish.

On September 13, 2000, laboratory tests of the hair from the Boggy Bayou creature revealed that it was not Gigantopithecus blacki (the scientific name for a large, extinct hominid, which some have conjectured may be the source of sasquatch sightings), but much closer to Booger louisiani (a recent researcher's term for the legendary swamp bogeyman). It proved actually to be from Equus caballus (a horse), whereupon the local sheriff's department promptly ended its investigation.

CONCLUSIONS

The Wagners are ambivalent about the supposed swamp monster's existence. They have seen alligators, deer, otters, bobcats, and numerous other species, but not a trace of the legendary creature. The same is true of the Wagners' Cajun guide, Captain Robbie Charbonnet. Since he was eight years old, he has had forty-five years' experience—eighteen as a guide—in the Honey Island Swamp. He told me he had "never seen or heard" something he could not identify, certainly nothing that could be attributed to a monster.

While leading a recent tour, Charbonnet repeatedly identified species after species in the remote swampland as he skillfully threaded his boat through the cypresses and tupelos hung with Spanish moss. Although the cool weather had pushed 'gators to the depths, he recognized turtles, great blue herons, and other wildlife. From only a glimpse of its silhouetted form he spotted a barred owl, then carefully maneuvered for a closer view. He called attention to the singing of robins, who were gathering there for the winter, and pointed to signs of other creatures, including freshly cut branches produced by beavers and, in the mud, tracks left by a wild boar. But there was no trace of the swamp monster.

Another who is skeptical of monster claims is naturalist John V. Dennis. In his comprehensive book The Great Cypress Swamps (1988), he writes: "Honey Island has achieved fame of sorts because of the real or imagined presence of a creature that fits the description of the Big Foot of movie renown. Known as the THING, the creature is sometimes seen by fishermen." However, he says, "For my part, let me say that in my many years of visiting swamps, many of them as wild or wilder than Honey Island, I have never obtained a glimpse of anything vaguely resembling Big Foot, nor have I ever seen suspicious-looking footprints." He concludes, "Honey Island, in my experience, does not live up to its reputation as a scary place."

In contrast to the lack of monster experiences involving swamp "experts" are the encounters reported by Harlan Ford and Billy Mills. Those eyewitnesses are, in investigators' parlance, "repeaters"—people who claim unusual experiences on multiple occasions. (Take Bigfoot hunter Roger Patterson for example. Before shooting his controversial film sequence of a hairy man-beast in 1967, Patterson was a longtime Bigfoot buff who had "discovered" the alleged creature's tracks on several occasions.) To some skeptics, Ford's and Mills's multiple sightings and discoveries seem suspiciously lucky, and suspicions are increased by other evidence, including the tracks.

[Cryptozoologist's Note: There seems to be a certain degree of prejudice and jealousy behind these accusations. These skeptics seem to deliberately overlook the obvious, which is that Ford's and Mills' multiple sightings and discoveries may quite logically be the result of their persistence and the fact that they lived within close proximity to the creature's habitat!]

Clearly, the Honey Island Swamp Monster is not a Bigfoot, a fact that, in the eyes of some critics, robs Ford's and Mills's story of any credibility it might have had from that association.


Monster "popularizers" instead equate the Honey Island reports with other North American "Creatures from the Black Lagoon" cases, purported evidence of cryptozoological entities dubbed "freshwater Merbeings". These are supposedly linked by tracks with three toes, although Ford's casts actually exhibit four. In short, the alleged monster is unique, rare even among creatures whose existence is unproven and unlikely.

[Cryptozoologist's Note: As someone who has researched in depth the Lizardman of Scape Ore Swamp and other creatures labeled by the "monster popularizers" as "freshwater merbeings", etc., I find absolutely no significant points of comparison between those beings and the Honey Island Swamp Monster, as described by Harlan Ford and other eyewitnesses or as recorded by him in his 8mm film.]

Like any such bogeyman, the Honey Island Swamp Monster is also good for gratuitous campfire chills. "A group of men were sitting around the campfire along the edge of the Pearl River," begins one narrative, "telling stories about that thing in the swamp . . ." A song, "The Honey Island Swamp Monster" (written by Perry Ford), is in a similar vein: "Late at night by a dim fire light, / You people best beware. / He's standing in the shadows, / Lurking around out there. . . ." The monster has even been referred to specifically as "The boogie man" and "that booger". "Booger" is a dialect form of bogey, and deliberately scary stories are sometimes known as "booger tales".

MOMO: THE MISSOURI BIGFOOT MONSTER

Does a real-life monster roam the wilderness of Eastern Missouri? Witnesses claim to have seen a huge, hairy, hulking creature stalking the woods, swamps and lonely country roads. The creature is similar to the well-known Bigfoot of the Pacific Northwest, only more otherworldly. It has glowing orange eyes, a pumpkin-shaped head, three-fingered hands and leaves three-toed footprints. Unlike the shy Bigfoot, this aggressive creature is known to kill animals and antagonize humans. Its name is MOMO—the Missouri Monster.

DESCRIPTION OF THE CREATURE

Although similar to Bigfoot, the Momo is not a Bigfoot. Momo tracks show only three toes as opposed to Bigfoot's five. Momo's coat is also reported to be thicker and darker and some have even reported a tail. The Momo is also known as a carnivore. The swamps in the area provide plenty of game, but many encounters have been caused by the Momo's hunting of domestic dogs, cats and small farm animals. Another common characteristic listed in nearly every report is the foul stench the Momo carries. Some compare it to rotting flesh, but most say the odor is so unique and disturbing that is causes almost instant nausea.








MOMO SIGHTINGS

Momo sightings have been reported throughout Missouri, even in St. Charles County. But the most famous sightings have occurred in Louisiana, Missouri, a town of fewer than 4,000 people located in Pike County. Louisiana lies 75 miles northwest of St. Charles County. Bigfoot-like creatures have been reported in the Louisiana area since the 1940s, but it was not until the early 1970s that Momo attracted serious interest.




The first reported encounter with Momo, the Missouri monster, took place in July of 1971. It all started when two women, out for a picnic, witnessed a "half ape half man" creature that reportedly had an awful smell to it. The pair said the monster walked out of a thicket and then started to come towards them. They ran to their car, jumped in and locked the doors. The women said the creature ate the peanut butter sandwich they left behind when they ran to the car. After eating the sandwhich, the creature went back into the wooded area. The two women reported their encounter to the police, but the police did not share the news with the public. It wasn't until a year later, after more reports came in of the Momo monster, that police finally released information on the 1971 event to the public.

The most notorious sighting took place one year later. At 3:30 p.m. on July 11, 1972, 8-year-old Terry Harrison and his 5-year-old brother, Wally, were playing in their backyard at the foot of Marzolf Hill on the outskirts of Louisiana, Missouri. Their older sister, Doris, was inside the house. Doris heard her brothers scream. She looked out the bathroom window and saw a tall, black, hairy manlike creature, standing by a tree in a ditch. The thing appeared to be six or seven feet tall. Its head sat directly atop its shoulders, with no visible neck. The face was likewise invisible, completely covered by a mass of hair. The youths reported a chilling detail—the creature, streaked with blood, carried a dead dog under its arm. She locked the doors and called her mother.

At 4:00 p.m. her father Edgar Harrison, the children's father, arrived home and found no trace of the monster. But he said the brush was beaten down where the creature supposedly had been, and there were some faint footprints in the dust with black hairs around them. A local farmer reported his dog had disappeared. A neighbor reported hearing terrible growling sounds that afternoon. Edgar Harrison, also heard loud growls the evening of July 14. He and several other people smelled a strong, unpleasant odor as they investigated the area around Marzolf Hill. Investigators later reported smelling a similar stench, like rotting flesh.

In the days that followed, this quiet Mississippi River town of 4,600 became alive with reports of the monster on Marzolf Hill. At city hall, the town bars and the A&W root beer stand, people were buzzing with tales of "it," "the beast," "the creature" or, as they later nicknamed it, "Momo"—Missouri monster.




Three days after Terry first said he saw the monster, it was church night at the Harrison house. The family was showing more than 30 persons out at 9:45 p.m. "About 12 of us were left when balls of light, moving east to west, fell over the trees in the next yard," Harrison said. "Two more came over Lincoln School. One was white, the other green, both about a foot in diameter. "Then there was a loud growling sound, getting louder and louder, closer and closer. My family jumped into the car and began urging me to drive off," he said. "Over 40 (people) were coming toward my house, some carrying guns. They had heard the same noise we did," he continued. "I stopped the car and my wife told them: 'Here it comes,' and those 40 people turned around and ran down the street."

Harrison, who had worked 21 years for the city's Board of Public Works, said his wife and daughter moved out of the house and said they were not coming back. Harrison said he spent his noon hours with some of the fellas looking in the woods. He added that he'd "look under every piece of brush, every piece of rock" and wouldn't stop until he found out what it was. The city had declared Marzolf Hill "off limits" because of the newsmen and trigger-happy adventurers who flocked to the heavily wooded hill. The city owned 40 acres of the hill, which was better known as "Star Hill" because town elders put a star on its summit every Christmas. But Edgar Harrison owned six acres and said, "nobody's gonna keep me off."

Ellis Minor was a grizzled, toothless fisherman who spent summers trying to catch catfish near his cabin on the river. "I'm 63 and lived here since I was 6," Minor said. He stopped cleaning fish long enough to describe in a slow drawl what he saw about 8:30 p.m. on July 21. "I was sitting right here in front of the house; the rest of the family were at a fair at Pleasant Hill," he said. My white bird dog started to growl; he's usually quiet. And I shone a light, right there about 20 feet up the road. "It was standing there, hair black as coal. I couldn't see it's eyes or face—it had hair nearly down to it's chest. As soon as I threw the light on it, it whirled and took off thataway. It's the first time I ever seen an ugly looking thing like that," Minor said. If that dog hadn't growled, it might have walked right down into my yard. It was headed for the water. I don't know which would've run faster—me or the dog."

"We tried to track it the next day, but couldn't 'cause it's so dry," Minor said. "Besides, a person would be a damn fool to try to catch that ugly thing. He's absolutely the damndest looking thing I've ever seen in my life." Patrolman John Whitaker, an easygoing man who had been patient but amused at the flock of newsmen and sightseers, listened carefully to Minor's account. "I've known Ellis Minor all my life and I've never known him to make anything up," Walker said later. "Something just might be up in these hills.

About 11 miles southeast of Bowling Green, Missouri, a young, pregnant housewife stood angered and embarrassed in front of a small, two story frame house. She had been harrassed by skeptical neighbors, and her landlord threatened to throw out her family because of her report of what she saw in a field the night before. She refused to give her name, although it was stenciled neatly on the mailbox in front. "We're church-going people," she said. "We got no need to lie. I'm not crazy and I'm not afraid of those who'll say I am. I know what I saw." She said she had been washing the dishes the night of July 22 and smelled "something dead." She said she went outside where she saw two balls of fire and thought one of them landed in the cow pasture. "Then we heard grunts and like a scream," she said. "We've got coyotes around here and I've heard wild hogs but never anything like that."

Jerry Floyd was a painter and assistant chief of the town's six-man police force. He said he'd be happy to dump the whole monster business into the lap of Police Chief Shelby Ward when Ward returned from his Michigan vacation. Dutifully, Floyd investigated the various reports—that a shaggy beast was seen running across a road with a dog in it's mouth, or lifting the rear end of a foreign car containing two frightened teenagers.

"We've investigated in hopes of ending the rumors," Floyd said. "I walked up and down Marzolf Hill with a flashlight and found nothing but three carloads of kids looking for the monster. I think I'm open-minded about this thing, but I've investigated everything and haven't found any substantial evidence," he said. "It could be a combination of things. People don't have much to do in the summertime. They might let their imaginations run away with them. Or it could be kid's. Most of the people are disgusted with the whole thing. They think it's ridiculous." Asked whether there had been other sightings by persons who didn't want the publicity, Floyd replied, "In all fairness, we have had other people say they've seen this thing. Most at a distance of about 20 feet and at night. Some good, reliable citizens. I just don't know."




According to a July 23, 1972 story in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, police sealed off a 200-acre wooded area while a team of 25 hunters searched for the creature, which many believed to be a black bear. Police received reports of a creature crossing the highway with a dog or sheep in its mouth. Another witness told police that the creature lifted the back of his automobile.

Not all hunters used guns. Many used pencil and paper.

Bigfoot investigators swarmed Louisiana, interviewing witnesses and taking plaster casts of the creature's unusual three-toed footprints. One of the preeminent researchers was Hayden Hewes, director of the Oklahoma City-based Sasquatch Investigations of Mid America.

"What impressed me was the willingness of people to talk to us. Normally people are reluctant to talk about these things," said Hewes, 61. "This was not just one person spitting in a can, saying ..yes sir, I saw it right over there.' These were good quality people who were enthusiastic about what was going on."

Hewes said he was impressed with the witnesses' sincerity.

"These people didn't want to sell something. They didn't want publicity. They just wanted to share their stories. I never got any inkling that there was a hoax."

The Momo scare lasted only two weeks, but it triggered a media frenzy. Television and newspaper journalists from across the nation descended on the small town.

"I did close to 75 television and newspaper interviews," Hewes said. "They flew me to Chicago to do some television there. There were people around us shooting documentaries. We haven't had a case that well-documented since."

Sasquatch Investigations of Mid America is an offshoot of the International UFO Bureau, an organization Hewes founded in 1957.

"We researched Bigfoot sightings in eight states, mainly to see if there was any connection with UFO sightings," he said. "With Momo, we found there was no correlation whatsoever with UFOs."

Hewes said his investigations suggest there are families of nocturnal Bigfoot creatures that continuously migrate across the nation from the Pacific Northwest to the southeast.




"The path begins around Oregon and Washington state," he said. "It crosses Oklahoma around the first week of September, then finishes in Florida."

When he is not conducting paranormal investigations, Hewes runs a talent agency and works in warehouse distribution in Oklahoma City. Hewes has a degree in aeronautical and space engineering from the University of Oklahoma.

While Hewes and other researchers concentrated on the town of Louisiana, one team of investigators focused on sightings in the St. Charles County vicinity.

John Schuessler was living in O'Fallon during the Momo scare. Schuessler worked for McDonnell Douglas as a group engineer for life support systems on the Sky Lab space station, then later as director of flight operations for the Johnson Space center in Houston. In 1969, Schuessler helped establish the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON), an international collective of UFO researchers. The 71-year-old Schuessler still directs the organization from its headquarters in Colorado. The Momo scare coincided with a rash of UFO sightings, including reports near his home in O'Fallon. The possible UFO connection intrigued Schuessler, so he joined the Momo investigation. Schuessler found no connection between Momo and UFO activity, but he did investigate two incidents that corroborated the presence of Bigfoot creatures in the region.

On June 30, 1972, a month before the Harrison sighting in Louisiana, two young men from Troy were fishing on a secluded bank of the Cuivre River near Cuivre River State Park in Lincoln County. The fishermen, named Vaughn and Tim, stood atop a high bank overlooking an unusually low bank on the river's opposite side.

According to Schuessler, Vaughn noticed a splash and looked up.

"They said they saw something wading across the river—a big, hairy thing. They didn't know what it was," Schuessler said. "Vaughn said, ..Hey Tim, look at that silly hippie wading across the river.' Then they realized it was not a hippie."

The men described the creature as standing taller than a normal man and hairy all over, Schuessler said. Like the Louisiana creature, the Troy monster's hair completely covered its face. Its head looked like a dome resting on its shoulders.

Tim scrambled up a hillside while Vaughn held his ground. The creature continued its deliberate march toward him. Vaughn finally panicked and ran. The men found a conservation officer and returned to the scene.

"All they found were fresh, three-toed footprints where the creature came out of the water," Schuessler said.

Schuessler inspected the area the next day and found the prints.

"They were large prints, but I couldn't tell what made them," he said. "We looked for hair, but found nothing but tracks."

Schuessler said Vaughn and Tim seemed honest and genuinely frightened. Schuessler also interviewed the conservation officer.

"He said he'd gotten a lot of weird reports out of the park, but he didn't pay attention to them. I think he wanted to stay at arm's length from it all," he said.

Another Momo sighting took place July 24 near O'Fallon, just after the final Louisiana sighting. Two teenage girls reported seeing a hairy creature at sunset walking along the edge of a wooded area. The O'Fallon incident is mentioned in The Bigfoot Casebook by Janet and Colin Bord, but Schuessler does not remember the details.

"It was not as vivid as the Troy sighting," he said.

Momo must have enjoyed his sojourn in St. Charles County, because the creature apparently passed through town again four years later.

The "Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization" Web site lists Momo sightings in 29 Missouri counties, including a 1976 report from St. Charles County. According to the report, two people were in a boat on the Missouri River near Highway 40-61 when they saw what appeared to be a 6-to-7-foot tall creature covered in dark brown hair. The creature was drinking from the river. When it saw the boat it stood up and ran into the trees.




Another local story is posted on the "Bigfoot Encounters" Web site. Mark Richardson, of Modesto, California, claims to have seen the creature in 1979 when he was living in St. Peters. According to Richardson, he and a friend were on a railroad bridge over Dardenne Creek one night. Richardson saw shadows moving and assumed it was his friend. To his shock, he discovered it was an 8-to-9-foot-tall creature with long, matted brown hair covering its body and face. Its shoulders were five feet wide. Its three-fingered hands hung below its knees. The creature smelled like rotting hair and screamed like a panther. Richardson claims it lifted the railroad timbers and tried to grab his friend. The two escaped and ran home. Richardson claims he knows other people who saw the St. Peters creature. He could not be reached for comment.

So is Momo real? Investigators like Schuessler say the sincere testimony of eyewitnesses cannot be dismissed.

"There is definitely something going on," Schuessler said. "I just don't know what it is."

One man who thought he might know what was haunting Marzolf Hill was Hayden C. Hewes, founder of International Unidentified Flying Object Bureau based in Oklahoma City, Okla. Hewes and an assistant camped out a night on the hill hoping to record the growls of Momo. However, the next morning he said, "We did not see or smell or hear anything. But from the several reports, it's apparent that something has been sighted."

Hewes said the descriptions match those given in nearly 300 other sightings, including two in 1971 in the Florida Everglades and Washington, of a "giant hairy biped." The hairy biped was said to have a large pumpkin-shaped head, glowing orange eyes and an ape-like growth of hair. It walked upright, had clawed hands and arms that reached to the knees and the intelligence of a chimpanzee. According to Hewes, hairy bipeds emit an odor like sulphur and react violently if disturbed by humans. He added that if Momo was not a biped it might be a troglodyte. A troglodyte is an ancient cave-dwelling creature which, some believe, is the missing link. Hewes said the abominable snowman of the Himalayas was said to be a troglodyte.

[Cryptozoologist's Note: How does one evaluate the intelligence of an unidentified creature that has never been captured or observed for any extended length of time?]

Bear, beast or shadow, Momo had given citizens of Mark Twain country something to talk about other than the weather. Some were amused. One resident cracked, "From the description, I'd say it was the guy dating my oldest daughter." Another, dubious about the national publicity, muttered, "They probably think we're just a bunch of country bumpkins.

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