Okay, kiddies. I think we’ve already established that Uncle Rex is not a spring chicken. A lot of you may remember the first time you saw Jaws – TV, DVD, or Blu-Ray.
Me? I was at Danny Fremont’s birthday party and he made us all sit on the front row of the dinky little theater in our hometown. The minute that music started, I knew I was in trouble.
That movie – and the idea that something that big could be swimming around in the ocean — scared me enough I almost needed to go home for clean shorts.
Never mind that Benchley later said he was sorry he gave sharks a bad rap. You can go swim with the big sweet toothy minnows if you want to. I’m staying on dry land.
Not that I necessarily think dry land is any safer, but at least I won’t go out whining that all we needed was a bigger boat. But I digress.
Turn the clock back three years from my Jaws experience. Same crappy little theater. But this time the movie was The Legend of Boggy Creek and it was so much worse than Jaws in terms of scaring the bejeebers out of me, I had nightmares for months.
That was 1972 and I’ve never forgotten walking out of that movie house onto a dark street and sprinting to jump into my Mom’s Chevy Malibu before any “thing” lurking in any shadow jumped out and dragged me off. A damned alley cat would have given me a heart attack that night.
When I sat down to start writing this book, I went over to YouTube and watched the Boggy Creek trailer. Rated G? Are you freaking kidding me?
Yeah, yeah. The acting was like sub-Tremors bad, the “special” effects are ridiculous, and it was nothing but a horror movie trying to pass as a documentary.
But here’s the thing that did me in and changed my life when I saw that movie for the first time. I wasn’t interested in playing film critic back then. The fact that the movie, bad though it might have been, was based on a true cryptid, pretty much blew me away.
That’s why we’re starting this discussion with the Fouke Monster, also known as the Southern Sasquatch.
Now, let’s get one thing straight. This is not one of those books that will claim to offer any evidence for or against the existence of a single critter mentioned in these pages. I don’t go running around out there looking for any of these cryptids. This is my armchair hobby.
Cryptozoology is the kind of topic that gets me to stop and watch something when I’m channel surfing. Reading books and articles about the subject and watching documentaries about these “mythic” beasts is fun for me. I thought everybody was interested in the same thing until I had lunch with my buddy Pete a few months back and got his standard, “are you fricking kidding me? line.
Turns out he’d never heard of half of these animals, and even though he was skeptical as hell, we talked about them all afternoon while steadily killing one pot of coffee after another in the little rat trap diner we favor for our more intellectual discussions.
At some point Pete said, “You ought to write this stuff down.” I was like, “Pete, man, it’s all over the Internet.” And he said, “Yeah, but I wouldn’t have ever paid any attention to any of it if you hadn’t made it sound interesting.”
I really don’t care what you do to pass your time, but for me, cryptozoology is better than stamp collecting or chainsaw art. Well, okay, I tried chainsaw art and just wound up with a lot of sawdust.
Everybody has to have something to do to kick back and this particular hobby is just a shade off conspiracy theories, which I also enjoy. I’m just here to tell some stories and lay out the framework for the “facts” behind some of my favorite cryptids. What you do with it is up to you.
Me? I’m not looking for Bigfoot, but if I run into him, I’ll buy him a beer, ‘cause that’s just how ole Rex rolls.
Now, back to Boggy Creek. From 1971 to 1974 eyewitness reports cropped up describing a seven-foot / 2.13 meters creature living in Miller County in southwestern Arkansas.
(And no, I’m not going to start in with the Arkansas inbreeding jokes. Even I won’t go for fruit hanging that low.)
The unidentified animal was seen on Boggy Creek north and east of a tiny town of less than a thousand souls, which bears the unfortunate name “Fouke.”
The area is certainly prime country for monster sighting. If you drive through there, you’re going to find a lot of flat land crisscrossed with rivers and creeks and covered in dense forests.
You can get lost back in there pretty fast, and if something didn’t want to be found, that would be pretty easy to pull off.
Common Factoid: One thing you’re going to find that a lot of these cryptid stories have in common is that the creatures live in dense or inaccessible environments.
That can be a deep lake, a swamp, a forest, or a frozen mountaintop. It doesn’t really matter. The underlying idea is always the same.
The setting is one that’s a good hiding place, adding some creditability to the notion that a big creature could be living close to human habitation and never be spotted.
Some people said they saw the creature running like a monkey and described the beast as having long shaggy hair and a foul odor — kind of like a wet dog that just got sprayed by a very ticked off skunk.
And, of course, the thing had red eyes.
Common Factoid: The more you study cryptozoology, the more red eyes you’re going to run into. Get used to it.
Personally, I think a lot of it has to do with flashbulbs and flash lights at night. You know? How Fido or Fluffy go all laser eyes when you take a picture?
I’m almost more shocked to hear a cryptid story that leaves out the red eyes.
Tracks were found in the area around Fouke. Some were said to be 17 inches / 43.18 cm long and 7 inches / 17.78 cm wide with just three toes.
I’m sure you’ll be shocked to learn there’s a website. Heck, there’s a website for everything. At your leisure, trot on over and enjoy The Beast of Boggy Creek at www.foukemonster.net.
If nothing else, you’ll get a kick out of the stills from the movie. Personally, I feel for the actor who must have been dying in that suit.
I especially like the shot of the good ole Arkansas boys in their white Hanes undershirts out on the front porch with a 12-gauge, ‘cause there’s nothing in the world you can’t fix with a 12-gauge and/or duct tape.
(Which actually may be true. See my previous book Zombie Apocalypse: A Survival Guide.)
According to the website, “Over the years, the creature has been seen by countless people, including respected citizens, experienced hunters, famous musicians, and even a police officer.”
Well, there you go. A famous musician tells me he’s seen a seven-foot-tall, hairy creature, I am going to believe him because no musician has ever been under the influence of anything mind altering at any time.
But the Fouke monster didn’t just magically appear in the Seventies. The sightings originally began in 1908. Between then and the rash of accounts that inspired the film that scarred me for life, a lot of folks saw the creature, and a goodly number took shots at it.
They all missed, because if you think buck fever will throw your aim off, wait until you get an attack of what-the-hell-is-that ebola. Even with a 12-gauge you’re not going to hit much when you’re running as fast as you can in the opposite direction.
As for the “musical” connection, that was from a sighting in 1967. Again quoting from FoukeMonster.net:
“While driving late one night, a teenager (who later became a Grammy-award winning musician) and his cousin see a hair-covered, bipedal creature running along Highway 71. They were residents of Texarkana and had never heard of the Fouke Monster or Bigfoot. The teenager didn’t realize what he seen [sic] until years later when he saw The Legend of Boggy Creek.”
But here’s the account of the story that really touched off the hysteria in 1971 as it was written by reporter Jim Powell for the Texarkana Gazette:
Elizabeth Ford said she was sleeping in the front room of the frame house [she and her husband and another couple were renting] when, “I saw the curtain moving on the front window and a hand sticking through the window. At first I thought it was a bear’s paw but it didn’t look like that. It had heavy hair all over it and it had claws. I could see its eyes. They looked like coals of fire … real red,” she said. “It didn’t make any noise. Except you could hear it breathing.”
Ford said they spotted the creature in back of the house with the aid of a flashlight. “We shot several times at it then and then called Ernest Walraven, constable of Fouke. He brought us another shotgun and a stronger light. We waited on the porch and then saw the thing closer to the house. We shot again and thought we saw it fall. Bobby, Charles and myself started walking to where we saw it fall,” he said.
About that time, according to Don Ford, they heard the women in the house screaming and Bobby went back. “I was walking the rungs of a ladder to get up on the porch when the thing grabbed me.”
. . . The “creature” was described by Ford as being about seven feet tall and about three feet wide across the chest. “At first I thought it was a bear but it runs upright and moves real fast. It is covered with hair,” he said.
See what I mean? They’re hell on shotguns in those Arkansas swamps. Heck, if you’re short a scatter gun, the local authorities will bring you an extra!
What I didn’t remember until I started writing this book is that a lot of Fouke locals appear in the 1973 film. Let me just say that explains a lot.
If you want to read what is considered to be the most thorough account of the whole history of the monster, take a look at The Beast of Boggy Creek by Lyle Blackburn (2012), available at that online bookstore named after a big river.
There are plenty of reasons to be skeptical about the Fouke Monster, but here’s why the beast is important to me and my association with cryptozoology.
I had never even heard of Bigfoot when I saw that movie. When my Dad, in an effort to get me to quit sleeping with the light on — because everybody knows that seven-foot swamp monsters are scared of 60-watt bulbs — told me there were all kinds of legendary creatures around the world, a racehorse couldn’t have beat me down to the library.
Yeah, remember, this was all pre-Internet, but I was hooked. Fast forward to 1981. Even though it’s spelled a lot of different ways — thank you Ellis Island — my Cutty ancestors are all Scots and I had always wanted to see the old homeland.
Just after I got out of high school, and with a little help from my folks, I scraped together the money to go to Scotland.
And that’s where it happened. On a perfectly clear, perfectly sober day in May, I saw my first and only cryptid — but I hope not my last, because I don’t have any plans to be dead any time soon. Yeah, I know you’re already ahead of me. I saw the Loch Ness Monster.
The Loch Ness Monster
If there’s any unknown creature you can count on people knowing about, it’s Nessie, although, there’s no accounting for ignorance.
When the movie Titanic came out in 1997, I was sitting in a coffee shop eavesdropping on a genius and his significantly smarter girlfriend.