Saturday, December 07, 1985
Reliving the tale of the Big Muddy Monster
By Ann Schottman Knol
The huge creature was the stuff of nightmares.
July 16, 1972: A jogger reported seeing something like the Big Muddy Monstrer near the Ohio River levee at Cairo. (Alexander County)
June 26 – July 1973: Nine people reported seeing it in four separate incidents in Murphysboro. (Jackson County).
Sept. 2, 1974: Three Anna youths reported seeing it in the Beach Grove area near Wolf Lake. (Union County).
Jan. 26 1975: Four truckers, traveling separately, radioed in reports of seeing a “bear-like” creature along Illinois 3, near the Illinois 149 junction west of Murphysboro. (Jackson County)
July 7, 1975: Two Murphysboro men reported something they thought my have been the Big Muddy Monster near a pond in the Harrison community, north of Murphysboro. (Jackson County)
June 19, 1976: Three youths said they saw “something” near the Westwood Hills Subdivision – the area of two previous sightings. (Jackson County)
They said it came walking out of the shadows and muck around the Big Muddy, stinking of the dank river. The massive bulk of its eight-foot frame struck terror in those who reported it.
But, like a curious child, it only stared at the people who came across its path. Or, sometimes, it screamed – a shrill, unearthly cry.
At least 21 people reported seeing what was called the Big Muddy Monster in 12 separate incidents between Jul 26, 1972 and June 19, 1976. Seven reports came from in or near Murphysboro, one from Cairo and one from near Wolf Lake.
There have been no reported sightings in the past nine years. But the people who saw it still swear by their sightings.
Randy Creath is now a minister at the First Baptish Church in Sheffield, Iowa. He was a 17-year-old out on a date with Murphysboro Township High School classmate Cheryl Ray when the couple spotted the Big Muddy Monster in the Westwood Hills subdivision of Murphysboro.
It was about 10 p.m. on June 26, 1973. Ray, now Cheryl Rath, a Coco Beach, Fla. housewife and mother of two, remembers the scene vividly.
“Randy and I were sitting in my parents’ breezeway when we heard something in the woods,” Mrs. Rath said. “We both went down, but Randy was walking a little bit ahead. Then he said ‘Come here,’ and there it was. We stood there looking
Creath said “The thing I remember was the bulk of it, the shape, the human form, and the stench of the river slime it apparently had on it. It was about eight feet tall, and at least as stocky as ny football player.
“We were within 15 feet of it, close enough to see the body, the texture of the fur, long and hairy, like an English sheepdog,” Creath continued.
Monster? Sketch from description by Creath.
Its eyes reflected red from the glow of a distant streetlight. It stood more erect than an ape but didn’t have human features.
“It was real tall, hairy,” Mrs. Rath said, “I think it was white, but it was dirty, matted. It had a real bad odor. It was really rank. I never smelled anything like it. It seemed like an
eternity we stood there, and then it just turned around and walked off into the woods. We could hear it trampling through the woods.”
Murphysboro Police Officer Ron Manwaring investigated.
“I heard some unusual shrieks, smelled the foul smell, and saw the ground trampled down in the area, where they said this thing was standing,” he recalled.
Another investigator, Jerry Nellis, brought in his dog, trained as both an attack and tracking dog. The dog took a path down the hill, stopping periodically to sniff at a slimy substance on the weeds. At an abandoned barn,
the dog refused to enter. It ran back outside when pushed inside. Nellis said his dog never had backed down from anything. Officers searched the barn but found nothing.
Minutes before the sighting at the Rays’ house, 4-year-old Chrisian Baril, who lived nearby, told his partents he saw a large ghost in his back yard.
The night before, another couple had reported seeing the monster at the Big Muddy River boat ramp at Lindell street in Murphysboro.
According to the police report, they heard a loud screaming sound and saw a seven-foot-tall creature with light colored, mud-matted hair walking on two legs toward the car.
When police investigated, they found erratic footprints in the mud and then heard a “loud shrill scream” from a wooded area about 100 feet away, the police report stated. The officers quickly left the area – one of the officers droppping his gun in the haste.
Eleven days later, four workers from a carnival that had been set up at Riverside Park in Murphysboro told police they had twice seen a 300-pound, eight-foot-tall creature covered with light-brown hair. Both times the creature approached carnival
ponies. The creature seemed curious about the ponies, but not belligerent, the carnival workers said.
A crowd of local residents, many toting guns, gathered in Riverside Park the night after the carnies sighted the monster, current Police Chief Larry Tincher said.
Mrs. Rath remembers they had to close off the park and send people home for fear “there would be a big riot if somebody said ‘Boo!'”
A group of five men – reporters from the Kansas City Star, a lawyer, and an insurance man – camping out near Murphysboro in the fall of 1973 in an effort to find the Big
Muddy Monster. One of them, Harlan Sorkin, an insurance agent, has made a hobby of studying creatures commonly called Sasquatch, Big Foot, or Yeti.
Sorkin said they came armed with a stun gun for a 500-pound animal, and chocolate and banana to pacify the creature while the stun gun worked. They also had
loaded shotguns, to be used only if their safety was threatened. They had made arrangements for a cage to be flown in by helicopter and they had zoos standing by on
Private groups had offered as much as $2.5 million for the creature’s capture, Sorkin said.
The five didn’t see the creature, but they heard “a very loud yell or gutteral sound, between a roar and a bellow, saw huge footprints and found two-inch saplings pulled out of the ground, Sorken said.
Many experts – like mammologist George Feldhamer of the Southern Illinois University-Carbondale zoology department and archeologist John Muller – said it’s likely that people mistook a wild animal or a dressed-up prankster for a monster.
Tincher, the police chief, isn’t so sure.
“I’m confident these people saw something,” he said. “These people were too frightened. What makes it hard to believe it was some man in costume is knowing about all the hunters around here with rifles. It would really be taking a big chance.”
Those who say they saw the Big Muddy Monster are stubborn in their belief.
“I wasn’t going to make up anything like that,” Mrs. Rath said. “I got a lot of kidding, but I know what I saw.”
Some who saw it flinch from the memory, particularly from the ridicule that followed it. One man, who said he doesn’t want his children mocked in school as he was mocked, refused to talk about what he saw. But the creature still haunts him in his dreamss, his wife said.
Another man, Eddie Pitts, who reported seeing the thing near Wolf Lake (Jackson County), also declined to be iinterviewed.
“It was there, but nobody believed us then and nobody will believe us now. We were made out at the time to be fools,” he said.
Others said they fell peculiarly blessed. They occasionally tell their friends, their spouses and their children about their adventure. Some kept scrapbooks.
“Right afterwards it gave me a funny feeling, but now I don’t feel bad about it,” Mrs. Rath said.
Creath said he hardly ever talks about the monster, but he feels his life was changed by what he saw.
“It reinforced my belief that humanity is not nearly as intelligent as we think,” Creath said. “Our system of natural laws is not really as fixed as we would like to believe. We don’t know nearly as much about the world as we pretend.”