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Chasing Monsters: Big Muddy Monster still has Murphysboro Woundering

Chasing Monsters: Big Muddy Monster still has Murphysboro residents wondering

Wednesday, October 26, 2005 7:01 AM CDT MURPHYSBORO - There are two dates from 1973 in Murphysboro that still leave some haunted - or at least curious.

The two police reports dated June 25 and June 26 relate the sighting of an unknown creature.

It was in those two evenings that reports came in of a loud, tall, white-haired creature caked with mud being spotted in the woods on the outskirts of town near the Big Muddy River.

It was later dubbed the Big Muddy Monster because of its indefinable features and mysterious presence. It set off a media frenzy after the initial reports on those two days, said former patrolman and retired Murphysboro police chief Ron Manwaring.

"(Those) are the most copied, most looked-at reports in the history of the department," he said.

Letters came streaming in from those as far away as California and New York wanting a piece of information or a piece of the prize.

But the prize is still elusive.

There are only two cases that remain unsolved in Murphysboro, Manwaring said, but after 32 years the case on the Big Muddy Monster still remains open.

"It's an unsolved case because I can't tell you what it was," he said.

Having retired three years ago and having not seen the Big Muddy Monster police reports in years, Manwaring is still able to recount those haunting evenings as if they had happened just yesterday.

And he recounts the stories as he would if writing the police report all over again.

"There were numerous sightings and people interviewed," he began.

The first report came in just before midnight on June 25. A couple had been "parked" near the boat dock on the southwestern edge of Riverside Park, next to the woods.

The two, who were not married, said they were in the car when they heard a loud screaming sound in the wooded area and observed a "large creature approximately 7 feet tall. The creature appeared to have light-colored hair matted with mud. The creature appeared to be walking on two legs and was proceeding toward his car" according to the report.

Manwaring said the two came to the police department and risked exposing their indiscretions because they were so frightened by what they saw.

"There was no advantage for them to come up and report this," he said.

Police searched the area with flashlights and spotted tracks in the mud approximately 3 to 4 inches deep, 10 to 12 inches long, and 3 inches wide. While officers were searching the area they reported hearing another scream coming from the woods.

But nothing could be found.

The next evening Manwaring said he was an officer on duty when a call came in from the Westwood Hills subdivision that two teenagers were sitting on the back porch when they spotted a tall, white-haired, hairy creature in a field just to the edge of the woods.

Manwaring said officers responded and while they were at the scene, a neighbor said his 5-year-old son had just come in 10 minutes earlier saying he had seen something on the edge of the woods.

"My partner and I decided to go down to the area where they saw this thing," Manwaring said.

He started traveling a footpath through the bushes and noticed a stench and a slimy film on the tree branches.

"I saw this substance and smelled the smell myself," he said.

Jerry Nellis, an officer with the Carbondale Police Department at the time and a trained dog-handler, was called to the scene. The dog tracked the scent all the way to a barn, but once it got to the barn, the dog refused to go inside.

Nellis said in his humble opinion it was a bear.

"We never got a good view of any tracks," Nellis said. "Is there a Sasquatch? I don't know - it makes for a good story, though."

Loren Coleman, a cryptozoologist who studied the Big Muddy Monster in the 70s, believes that it wasn't an animal in the woods.

"I think it's within the context of other reports of a Bigfoot," he said.

Like West Coast Bigfoot reports, Coleman said this creature was hairy, but differs in the fact that nobody was able to see any distinguishing characteristics in the facial area. He said this creature also seems more aggressive than those supposedly spotted in the West.

"There's something very unique about this eastern-midwestern Bigfoot," Coleman said. "From the reports from the Mud Monster it seemed to frighten people the way it didn't in the west."

Manwaring said people initially thought it was a prank, but after all this time no one has come forward to say so. And after the hype and hysteria was over with, he said he heard two more reports that seemed similar to those in June of 1973. One came in early July of that same year.

But what haunts him more is a report he heard from a man who lived in the Westwood Hills area before it was developed into a neighborhood in the 1950s. Manwaring said the man told him he was out working in his garden one evening when he spotted a creature that was similar to later reports of the Big Muddy Monster.

"I never did see it; but in my mind I feel those people really did see something," Manwaring said. "I guess it just remains a mystery."

        Illinois Bigfoot History: TRUE OR FAKE......

For more than a century, reports have filtered out of rural and southern Illinois about strange, man-like beasts that resemble a cross between man and ape. Most witnesses talk of their odd appearance and the horrible odor that seems to accompany them. They are a dark side to the state of Illinois that few of us understand and they lend an air of mystery to the Prairie State that is unrivaled by any other region of the Midwest.

The stories of Bigfoot have been passed along from generation to generation and have long been chronicled by both professional and amateur researchers. According to hundreds of reports, the creatures average between 7-8 feet in height. Hair covers most of their bodies, they appear to be proportioned and move like large men, not apes, and have broad shoulders and very little neck. Their faces are normally flattened, they have a heavy jaw and as mentioned, a strong smell seems to emanate from them.

While the most famous Bigfoot sightings have taken place in the Pacific Northwest, such creatures do occasionally turn up in Illinois. The earliest sighting that I could find from our region occurred around 1912. A woman named Beaulah Schroat reported that her and her brothers often spotted huge, hairy creatures near their home in Effingham. This may have been the first sighting in Illinois, but it was not the first one in the Great Lakes region. As far back as 1839, witnesses in Michigan City, Indiana were reporting a "wild child" near Fish Lake. Today, we would call such a creature "Bigfoot".

Another report comes from the early part of the last century. In this brief snippet, we find that a "huge gorilla" was seen in the woods near Elizabeth in July 1929. Then, in 1941, the Reverend Lepton Harpole was hunting squirrels near Mt. Vernon and encountered a large creature that "looked something like a baboon". He struck it with his rifle and fired a warning shot that sent it scurrying back into the underbrush. More sightings of the same creature occurred the next year.

Jumping ahead, a grayish-colored creature was spotted by Steven Collins and Robert Earle in 1962. It was standing in a riverbed east of Decatur, just off of East Williams Street Road. The monster was standing upright in the water, looking straight at them. At first, they thought they were seeing a bear, until they noticed its strange, human-like features. The creature vanished into the woods and the witnesses told the local newspaper that it was "like no other animal we had ever seen before."

In May 1963, another strange creature reared its ugly head in Centreville, Illinois and just across the Mississippi in St. Louis. The initial reports came in from St. Louis when several children reported a "half man, half woman with a half bald head and a half head of hair". It was said to have been seen lurking around the Ninth Street housing project and often disappeared into the an old tunnel around Twelfth Street. The sightings were taken quite seriously by the police and during interviews with researcher Loren Coleman, Patrolman Bill Conreux of the St. Louis Police Department noted that "Those kids were sincere. They saw something." He added that "Supposedly it scuffled with a man near the Patrick Henry School."

The sighting began on May 9 and by the 18th, had moved east across the river to Centreville, Illinois, which is located near East St. Louis and Cahokia. One man, James McKinney, who saw the creature here described it as being "half man and half horse". It made an appearance just in front of his house and he summoned the police, who never managed to catch up with this mysterious figure. According to Loren Coleman, the authorities received over 50 calls in a single night about this creature. The sightings eventually dropped off and by May 23, the monster was apparently gone.

In September 1965, four young people were parked in a car near an undeveloped area outside of Decatur called Montezuma Hills. The area would later become a housing addition but at that time, it was a secluded "lover’s lane". The young couples were sitting in the car when a black, man-like shape approached the vehicle. The creature seemed massive and frightened the teenagers badly. They drove off in a panic but after dropping off their dates at home, the two young men returned to the area for another look. They once again saw the monster and it walked up to their car as though it were curious. The boys were too scared to get out, but even with the windows rolled up, they could smell the monster’s terrible stench. They quickly summoned the police to the site and with several officers as support, they made a thorough, but fruitless, search of the woods. The police officers on the scene said they had no idea what the young people had witnessed, but they were obviously very frightened by whatever it had been.

Another creature was encountered near Chittyville in August 1968. Two young people, Tim Bullock and Barbara Smith,  were driving north of town on August 11 when they spotted a 10-foot tall monster that was covered with black hair and had a round face. It threw dirt at their car and they left to summon the police. When the authorities returned, they found a large depression in the grass that was apparently a nest. Local residents claimed that their dogs had been "carrying on" for the two weeks before the encounter.

One of the strangest Illinois incidents took place in July 1970, near Farmer City. Early that spring, three sheep had been killed near town by local officials dismissed it as the work of wild dogs, which have been known to roam the area. Outside of the small town, near Salt Creek, was a ten-acre section of woods and fields that was a popular parking spot for teenagers.

Three teenagers decided to camp out there one night. Very late in the evening, they reported hearing something approaching their campsite in the tall grass. They turned a light in that direction and saw a huge, black shape crouching near the tent. The shape had a pair of gleaming, yellow eyes, a color that would be repeated in every account to follow. The terrified screams of the teenagers also scared the creature and all of them ran off in different directions.

Stories about the "Farmer City Monster" quickly spread. Dozens of people reported seeing the creature over the next several days and all of the sightings took place near the wooded area outside of town. Robert Hayslip, a Farmer City police officer who investigated the scene, reported his own encounter. In the early morning hours of July 15, he saw the broad back of the creature moving along the trees. The creature turned in his direction and Hayslip also noted its yellow eyes. The local police chief, who until that point had been skeptical about the sightings, decided to close of the area. But the creature was soon to move on.

On July 24, a couple driving near Weldon Springs State Park, outside of Clinton, saw what looked like a huge "bear" in the river. Later, a policeman and a conservation officer found tracks along the water‘s edge that definitely did not belong to a bear. They were reportedly very large and human-like.

A few days later, further north, a woman caught the reflection of eyes with her car headlights as she was traveling outside of Bloomington. She thought the eyes might belong to a dog that had been injured by a passing car, so she stopped and approached the ditch where she had seen something. Suddenly, a large creature jumped out of the ditch and ran away on two legs. She was unsure about what she had seen, but whatever it was, it seemed ape-like. Later that same week, another witness reported an identical creature near Heyworth.

On August 11, three young men reported seeing a large, dark-haired creature near Waynesville and five days later, construction workers saw the creature near the same location. It ran across the highway in front of their truck and disappeared into the forest. That was the last reported of the so-called "Farmer City Monster" and one can’t help but wonder if it continued its strange journey northwest across Central Illinois. If it did, it was never reported again.

In May 1972, there were new reports coming in from the Pekin and Peoria areas. In late May, a young man named Randy Emmert, and some friends, reported a large, hairy creature near Cole Hollow Road. This monster was 8-10 feet tall and whitish in color. The witnesses stated that it made a loud, screeching sound and they suspected that it was living in a hole beneath an abandoned house. It also left very unusual tracks, having only three toes on each foot. Soon, others were reporting the same monster and it became known as "Cohomo", short for the "Cole Hollow Road Monster".

On May 25, local police logged more than 200 calls about the monster, including one where the creature destroyed a fence. The police departments were naturally skeptical, but the calls kept coming in. By July 1972, there had been so many sightings that 100 volunteers were organized to search for Cohomo. Finally, Tazewell County sheriff's officers sent the volunteers home after one of them, Carl R. Harris, accidentally shot himself in the leg with a .22 caliber pistol.

The sightings continued and they couldn't be written off to local "panic" either. One witness, from Eureka, knew nothing about the creature, yet happened to be in Fondulac Park, in East Peoria, for a birthday party. He reported the creature and strangely, a set of strange lights that seemed to descend vertically and land behind some trees. Were the two sightings connected?

Cohomo was seen again on July 27 as East Peoria Police reported that he was spotted by "two reliable citizens" swimming in the Illinois River. They got close enough to him to know that he smelled awful and looked like a "cross between an ape and a caveman". After that, he was gone.

In the summer of 1973, three men who were walking along the Sangamon River near Decatur saw a large, hairy man that walked like an ape. The creature disappeared into the underbrush. The witnesses, understandably, declined to pursue it.

Then, in 1973-1974, strange sightings occurred in southern Illinois and became some of the most famous of the Illinois monster sightings, the “Enfield Horror” and the “Murphysboro Mud Monster”.

In early summer 1979, another creature was spotted near Westchester, in Cook County. And there have been other sketchy reports from southern Illinois (especially in the Shawnee National Forest) in more recent times.

A more recent encounter with a man-like beast occurred near Essex, Illinois in July 2000. A witness named Andrew Souligne was driving into a local cemetery one night when a large, hairy shape walked out in front of the car. The creature froze in the headlights and turned towards the car, apparently stunned by the bright lights from the vehicle. Souligne (and the other passenger of the car) were pretty shocked themselves and the driver immediately put the car into reverse and back away from the monster. Moments later, the ape loped into the woods and vanished.

Since the 1970’s, Bigfoot sightings in Illinois have been infrequent, but they do occur. I have talked to a number of people over the years that have had sightings of things they couldn’t explain. Who knows just when the next one might be seen?

 New Sighting Has Blackberry Festival Members Curious...

Update on little-known Illinois Bigfoot hotspot

  Big Foot activity in the environs of the old castle grounds outside of Hartford, Illinois has not abated since my first report on some astounding sightings occurring in this area back in late June and early July of this year [see previous article]. My key correspondent is the lady who works guard duty at the gate of a large warehouse right across the road from the area adjacent to the old castle grounds.

  For a long time now she has been hearing throughout the wee hours of the night all kinds of Bigfoot related sounds and getting strong whiffs of the famous foul odor often associated with him, but now she herself has just recently had her own first ocular encounter with one of these creatures.  And this happened in broad daylight. This lady works day and night shifts, and her sighting occurred at approximately 10:30 am about three weeks ago during her morning shift.

  She was standing outside of her guard gate and happened to look across the road at the long field that extends to a wooded area that's about a couple of hundred yards southeast of the old Hartford Castle. About a hundred yards straight ahead she saw a humanoid-looking creature at the very edge of the woods standing on his or her two legs directly confronting her gaze. This "Bigfoot" was covered in gray/black hair but was mostly gray in appearance. The witness estimated he was about five and a half feet tall. A short Bigfoot! This is practically an oxymoron. But she could have been wrong about this because at that distance, it would have been hard to estimate the height of someone standing. And conceivably this could have been a young Bigfoot.  Apparently a whole family of them lives in this area.  He was not moving, just standing very still and staring back at her. Then after about a minute or two, he suddenly turned and went back into the woods.

  The exact location where he re-entered the woods just happens to harbor possibly the largest, lushest, motherload of blackberries in the world! My correspondent who had discovered huge footprints around the mote area of the old castle [see previous article] has seen this blackberry paradise with his own eyes and assures me it contains such an astonishing abundance of this sweet/tart fruit that it is no exaggeration to estimate that it exceeds the million mark in numbers.

  And it is a well-known fact that BF's are great lovers of fruits and berries. There have been numerous sightings of these big hairy fellows shaking apples out of trees and raiding people's private gardens and orchards for other fruits and vegetables. Being at the very spot he was sighted, and in the middle of the summer growing season, one has only to put two and two together here to come up with the very plausible deduction that the creature our witness saw that day was out on a picking expedition into what must be a sacred precinct for them.

 All the more reason these Bigfoots would be jealous to protect this habitat of their's. Some strong indications of their dislike of man's presence in this area will be pointed out in my next update tomorrow on the encounters with these beings, both direct and indirect, that continue to ths day in the area of the Old Harford Castle.

Researchers look for bigfoot, zoologist skeptical 2006

Tuesday February 14, 2006
By Sharon K. Wolfe

Funks Grove, Illinois -- FUNKS GROVE - Researchers have been looking for Bigfoot in Funks Grove, but a local zoologist interested in the elusive creature's lore said he would be very surprised if one is found there.

A report last fall by people who said they saw a large hairy upright creature in a ditch in rural Shirley attracted a team of researchers from Searching for Bigfoot Inc. of Menlo Park, Calif.

Angelo Capparella, a professor at Illinois State University, said he also heard the report and talked to the people at the time.

He said that if there is a Bigfoot - a big if in his book - Central Illinois is not the place to find one. Even though Funks Grove is a wooded area, there just isn't much habitat locally to support or conceal a large primate, Capparella said.

"Illinois ranks 49th out of 50 in the amount of natural vegetation left," he said. Only Iowa has less.

"As a zoologist, it's hard to give a lot of credence," he said.

The Pacific Northwest, the traditional center for Bigfoot sightings, has a lot of remote, rugged areas, he said.

"I'm a zoologist who's taken a curiosity in the Pacific Northwest," he said.

The research group from northern California has been stopping at various locations in the United States to track reports of the creature also known as sasquatch.

Team leader Tom Biscardi told a local television station he has been searching for three decades, and he estimates there are more than 3,500 Bigfoot-like animals in the United States.

Biscardi's team has focused on Texas, Oklahoma, Ohio, California, Oregon, Montana and Washington, said the group's Web site.

The professor said he talked to the people from Bloomington who claimed they saw Bigfoot last fall. The creature allegedly scratched their car.

Capparella told them to try to record noises, get hair samples and look for footprints. He said he could make nothing out of the pictures they took.

"They gave me a call," Capparella said. "They seemed sincere about seeing something."

He has not heard from them since last fall. "They apparently contacted Tom Biscardi," he said.

They told Capparella they also heard strange noises and they were able to get the creature to interact with them in some way. Capparella noted Bigfoot is supposed to be very shy so this behavior would be highly unusual.