Friday, October 26, 2001
It came from the Big Muddy
Local reports claim monster inhabits Muddy River region
By Mark Lambird
Many people are familiar with the Loch Ness Monster and the Bigfoots of the Northwest, but few realize one of the most infamous monsters of the last century roamed the banks of the Big Muddy River.
The river was the namesake of the Muddy River Monster. It was first sighted along the banks of the river in Murphysboro nearly three decades ago.
On June 25, 1973 Randy Needham and Judy Johnson were parked by the boat ramp at Riverside Park in Murphysboro. Randy and Judy both heard the piercing cry of the creature coming from the nearby woods,
“I heard a loud shrill scream and then saw an outline of something pretty big in the woods,” Randy said.
The couple took off and went to the local Murphysboro Police Department to report the strange sighting.
When Randy returned with a Murphysboro police officer and a Jackson County Sheriffs deputy, the creature had slipped off into the forest along the bank of the river, or so they thought.
“When we went back we saw the footprints and then we heard the scream again,” Randy said. “When those officers hear the scream, they ran just as fast as I did.”
The footprints that the trio discovered were large, but had begun to lose shape in the soft mud of the river bottoms.
“They were long and wide, but you really couldn’t tell if they looked like human prints because water had began to fill them.” Randy said.
After almost 30 years, Randy said he still remembers that loud cry from the woods.
“At the time people wanted me to make the sound that I heard, but it is something a human couldn’t do,” Randy said.
He said the shadowy figure he saw moving among the trees was larger than a man, but that was about all he could remember.
“When you see something like that you just don’t stand there and stare,” Randy said.
The sightings continued into the summer. On July 4th, workers with a carnival that had made a stop in Murphysboro reported a strange animal in Riverside Park. the workers said the monster had been looking at the Shetland ponies. The workers did not report the sighting until later, because they thought it would hurt attendance at the carnival.
Three nights later, the monster was heard from again, this time the blood-curdling scream came from a barn owned by Nedra Green, but she left the monster to itself.
After that, summer sightings grew less regular and the monster faded from the newspapers. At the height of the sightings the monster drew headlines from newspapers across the country, including The New York Times.
The last major sighting was in 1988, when Bob Reinman, who owned a salvage yard in Murphysboro and now lives in Alton, and Charlie Straub, former police chief of Ava, saw the monster.
“It was about 1:30 in the morning when I got a call that someone was in my salvage yard,” Bob said. “So I called three other guys and we went down there to check it out.”
He said when they got to the yard they expected to find some teenagers in the yard stealing stuff from the old cars.
“Me and Charlie started into the yard with our flashlights,” Bob said. “It wasn’t until we heard this strange grunt that we saw the thing.”
He said they shined their lights on the monster and saw that it was about eight feet tall, had long brown hair with silver streaks and he said its eyes glowed in the light, like a deer.
When the two encountered the beast there was almost a confrontation, but Bob decide the sheer size of the beast made it too dangerous to risk an attack.
“Charlie wanted to shoot it but I told him something that big could rip us apart, so we started running,” Bob said. “When I turned around it looked like it was running after us, but we made it back to the shop.”
He said it stayed around the lot for awhile, he even called some of his family to come and see the beast.
“I called my mother and got her out of bed to come down and see it,” Bob said.
Reports still are made, but few are explained. In 1989 some campers were attacked at Rend Lake in a tent. The “monster” that tore a hole in their tent later turned out to be a do.
Reporter Mark Lambird can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org