early June 1988
Within the wilderness of the Shawnee National Forest in Southern Illinois, near the sleepy little town of Murphysboro, lies the legend of The Big Muddy Monster.
A distant relative of Big Foot and the Yeti, the Big Muddy Monster is a shy, furry, man-like creature – a declining survivor of a time before modern man evolved.
For as long as the folks have gathered on the front porch in nice weather to discuss the going’s on around town, the legend of the Big Muddy Monster’s has weaved its way in and out of the folk stories of Southern Illinois.
For reasons that aren’t quite clear, a lot of things grow over-sized near the Big Muddy River in Jackson County. There are the dense growths of poison ivy vines that snared the pioneers’ wagon wheels, the 200-year-old black oaks at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, 170-pound snapping turtle which was pulled from the river, not to mention the enormous fish pulled out of Carbon Lake and the five-foot-long rattlesnake with a girth the size of a man’s hip that the farmer killed with a farm implement and a club.
These abnormalities are simply accepted as a way of life around these parts. Everything that is, except the monster.
The first sighting
Shortly before midnight, June 25, 1973, a man and woman parked in a lovers’ lane at the edge of the Big Muddy River were startled to hear a high-pitched screen [sp] coming from the river’s edge. The, something standing sever or eight feet tall and smelling extremely foul approached the open window of the car. The creature was described as hairy and covered with mud.
When the two people showed up at the Murphysboro police station a few minutes later, police were inclined to believe their monster story: the two were married, but not to each other, and nobody in their position (as the thinking went) would come forward with such a story unless it were true.
Officer Jimmie Nash and two other policemen wend down to the river to investigate. It was a little after midnight, and while Nash was shining his flashlight at some strange footprints, he was startled by what he described as “the most incredible shriek I’ve ever heard.”
The scream sent all three men hightailing it back to their vehicles, in the course of which one of the three dropped his pistol which he later retrieved.
A second search along the river bank in the early hours of June 26 yielded nothing substantive, only a sloshing sound, as if something were moving clumsily but slowly ahead of them in the shallows at the river’s edge. Nothing else came of the search, and at dawn they all went home.
Within a few hours, however at dusk on June 26, things began again. A four-year-old not otherwise known for story-telling claimed he’d seen a “big ghost” while chasing fireflies in the twilight. A housewife heard a high-pitched scream outside her house, and a 17-year-old boy went to investigate; the girl turned on a light.
Then IT stepped into view.
For a period of thirty seconds and at a distance of 15 to 30 feet, the boy and girl and a creature seven or eight feet tall confronted each other. Then it turned slowly back into the bush and walked away upright, snapping branches and ripping out small trees and bushes as it went. It had gray-white matted hair and smelled extremely foul.
Officer Nash, chief of police Tony Berger, and a dozen reinforcements with a German Shepherd named Reb converged on the house where they were confonted with two pieces of physical evidence: one was a slimy substance which shone brightly when they turned to 12 individuals. The result – he began to attract attention from outside the area. The New York Times ran a story about Big Muddy on October, 31.
He also ceased being an “it.” He had achieved an identity all his own – the Big Muddy Monster, and he was the attempted subject of scientific scrutiny; monster authorities from across the nation converged on Murphysboro.
Armed with bait (chocolate and bananas), a stun gun and shotguns, they tromped the bottoms in late 1973, but they came up with nothing but large footprints, a howl or two, and disturbed samplings.
Additional searchings in 1974 yielded nothing, although sightings continued throughout the Murphysboro area.
The second sighting.
Then in February, 1975, two truckers spotted a “bear-like animal” beside the highway just west of Murphysboro. In July, residents north of town reported a “white and shaggy-haired creature about seven feet tall.”
Numerous other sighting were reported in 1975 and 1976.
Murphysboro officer Nash, for one, believed there was something to the rumors.
“Bears were more or less killed out,” said Robert Vanhamme, Jackson County Conservation Department officer. “There have been no reports for years. It’s possible but it is very unlikely.”
Nash doesn’t buy the bear theory. “For one thing,” he said, “the tracks and sounds are not bear-like. And a bear usually really tears up things.”
Similarities have between “Big Muddy” and “Sasquatch” or “Big Foot”, the mysterious creature of the Cascade mountain ranges of Washington, Oregon and northern California.
As in virtually all “Sasquatch” reports, “Big Muddy” does not change or act ferocious in any way. The animal simply walks along or watches people until it senses it has been seen, then walks away.
Besides “Sasquatch,” a menagerie of monsters has been reported stomping and swooping across the U.S. in recent years. There’s “Momo” in Missouri, a bird with a ten-foot wing span in West Virginia and a one-horned sea monster the size of a boxcar allegedly spotted thrashing its way down the White River of Arkansas.
There is even speculation these seven-foot creatures are descendants of a presumable extinct form of giant ape known as Gigantopithecus. Fossils of this animal have been found in Asia. The theory goes that ancestors of “Biog [sp] Muddy” may have migrated across the Bering bridge from Asia to North America long before true man evolved.
Skeptics want to know why no carcasses, ore even a single bone, of these monsters have ever been discovered. Investigators say bones of any species do not last long on the forest floor. Scavengers quickly break tehm up and the acidic soil of the forest is not conducive to fossilization. They point out that even bones of deer, commonly seen in the area around Murphysboro, are seldom found.
Other missing bits of evidence are nests or signs of a home base.
For ten years, from 1976 when three individuals reported spotting the creature, there was no sign of him. Big Muddy enthusiasts insisted that the monster shows up in flood years. They claim that the monster lives in a cave somewhere downstream. When high water comes, he is forced out of his cave and instinctively turns upstream and comes to town.
Just when the legend was dying down.
Just when you thought it was safe the monster returns.
The Latest Sighting
“What was surprising to me was that it came right up behind the garage,” said Bob Reiman the witness to the latest sighting of the Big Muddy Monster on Friday, June 3, of this year.
The legendary monster reportedly made an appearance in his salvage yard on the north side of Murphysboro near the Missouri Pacific tracks just off Business Route 13.
Reiman had been called to the scene by security guard Charles Straub, who though [sp] there might be a prowler in the salvage yard. Reiman and Straub searched the yard for a
while, then came upon whatever they said was an 8 to 10-foot tall creature covered with fur.
“Its eyes were red in the beam of the flashlight,” said Reiman. “And it had lots of teeth. They weren’t like fangs, they were just teeth. You could sure tell it hadn’t been
Reiman said the first thing he and Straub noticed was a strong odor. Then they heard a rustling in the treeline on the edge of the lot and saw the creature.
“When they called us about it, we thought they were joking,” said Joyce Tindall of Royalton. Joyce, Reiman’s sister said she had loaded up some toilet paper to pull a prank
on Reiman if it turned out to be a joke.
“When we saw Bob and Charlie’s faces, we knew it wasn’t any joke.” Joyce said she, Cheryl Reiman, and the rest of the group encountered the creature in the south portion
of the salvage yard.
“When it stood up, I just couldn’t speak. Then it ducked back down and all these words just came out of my mouth.”
“It seemed to be making semi-circles around us like it was stalking us or checking us out. It seemed to be just as curious about us as we were about it.”
The night before, Mrs. Tindall said they had heard a loud slurping noise coming from the vicinity of the pan of water which the dog normally drank out of. The next morning,
the pan was dry.
Tuesday, Reiman was spending all of his time on the phone in his garage, talking to reporters and other interested people.
“We didn’t want to report it to the police, because we thought we’d be ridiculed. Folks from the newspapers haven’t been like that, though. They seem to be genuinely
interested in this thing.”
The weeds in the area show signs of being trodden down and a path leads to the low area next to the railroad embankment where what was claimed to be a footprint of the
monster has now seeped full of water.
There have been a total of 12 sightings of the monster to date, most of them near Murphysboro – all of them near the Big Muddy River.