Swamp Slobs Invade Illinois
by Jerome Clark and Loren Coleman
Fate Magazine, July 1974 p. 84-88
Numerous residents throughout the state have reported seeing – and smelling –
these ape-like intruders.
Illinois harbors some strange inhabitants not mentioned in the tourist guides. In
fact, the vast majorityÂ ofÂ the state’s citizenry do not even recognize their existence
About the only ones who do are the handfulÂ who have seen them and even these
persons have a hard time talking about “them.”
Unidentied creature tried to break into the McDaniel home in Enfield.
For one thing, “they” don’t even have a name. Researcher John Keel, who has studied
their appearances and habits over the years, calls them “abominable swamp slobs”
but the monicker hasn’t caught on. Call them what you will, they’re unwelcome. Any
creature, animal or human, that prowls around scaring people – and on top of that
smells bad – isn’t likely to be loved.
They are so far beyond our understanding that it’s no wonder stories about them
excite incredulity. But the frequent reports of their appearance in the wooded and
watery areas of Illinois and other places, couple with the obvious sincerity of those
who say they have encountered them, could convince as something awfully strange
is going on in the backwaters of America.
In the summer of 1973 Murphysboro in southwestern Illinois was the scene of a
bizarre series of events involving a creature which appeared suddenly and
disappeared just as suddenly two weeks later, leaving in its wake a number of
baffled, frightened individuals who probably never again will feel completely at
ease in the woods around their hometown.
The creature was first seen shortly after midnight on June 25, 1973. Randy Needham and
Judy Johnson were parking on a boat ramp to the Big Muddy River near Murphysboro
when a cry “about three times as load as a bobcat, only deeper” sounded in the nearby
woods. The two looked up to see a huge biped lumbering toward them, still shrieking
but now in altering tones. It was not a human sound.
Randy and Judy agreed the thing was about seven feet tall, white, its short body hair
matted with river mud. They were not interested in examining it at close range and by
the time it got within 20 feet of them they were roaring away from the scene, bound
for the Murphysboro police station.
Officers Meyrl Lindsey and Jimmie Nash checked the area and found “impressions in the
mud approximately 10 to 12 inches long and approximately three inches wide,” according
to the report they filed later. To a FATE reporter, Needham later described the
impressions as “something like a man with a shoe on would make.” He suggested that
toe prints may not have registered in the mud.
At 2:00 A.M. Nash, Lindsey, Needham and Deputy Sheriff Bob Scott returned to the
scene. This time they discovered fresh tracks, similar in general appearance to those
they has seen an hour earlier, but deeper and smaller. The police report reads:
“The prints in the mud were very iratic (sic) in that no two were the same distance
apart and some were five or six feet apart. Also prints were found very close together.”
Officer Lindsey left to get a camera to take pictures of the prints and while he was
gone the other three followed the tracks. While they were bending over to examine
some of them, there came “the most incredible shriek I’ve ever heard,” Nash recalled.
Apparently the creature was hidden in the trees less than 100 yards away. The trio
didn’t stick around to find out. They beat a hasty retreat to the squad car. In the hours
that followed officers did scour the area in pursuit of an elusive splashing sound but
When daylight came things quieted down but with darkness the creature returned.
The first to see it this time was four-year-old Christian Baril who told his parents
he had seen “a big white ghost in the yard.” they didn’t believe him – but 10 minutes
later, when Randy Creath and Cheryl Ray saw something very much like that in a
neighboring yard, parents and police reconsidered the youngster’s words.
About 10:30 P.M. Randy and Cheryl were sitting on the back porch of the Ray home when
they heard something moving in the trees along the river just beyond the lawn.
They they saw the creature standing in an opening in the trees, quietly watching them
through glowing pink eyes. Cheryl insists the eyes were glowing, not reflecting – there
was no light source nearby.
The creature was either the same one the other young couple has seen the night before
or one similar to it. It was white and dirty, weighed close to 350 pounds and stood
seven feet tall; it had a large round head. Cheryl thought its arms might be
“ape-length,” although she wasn’t certain because it ws standing in waist-high grass.
Finally the thing ambled off through the trees, makin considerable noise, making
considerable noise. Later, investigtors found a trail of crushed weeds and broken
brush, as well as imprints in the ground too vague and imperfect to be cast in plaster.
Cheryl’s mother Mrs. Harry Ray called the police. While waiting for them to arrive,
they suddenly began to smell a “real strong odor – like a sewer,” Cheryl said, but
the odor lasted only a short time.
Soon Officers Nash and Ronald Manwarin pulled up in their car. What happened then is
recounnted in their report:
“Officers inspected the area where the creature was seen and found weeds broken
down and somewhat of a path where something had walked through. Jerry Nellis was
notified to bring his dog to the area to see if the dog would track the creature.
Upon arrival of Nellis and his dog (a German shepherd trained to attack, search
buildings and track) the dog was led to the area where the creature was last seen.
The dog began tracking down the hill where the creature was reported to have gone.
As the dog started down the hill it kept stopping and sniffing at a slime substance
on the weeds; the slime appeared periodically as the dog tracked the creature. Nellis
put some of the slime between his fingers, rubbed it and it left a black coloring on
his fingers. Each time the dog found amounts of it, the dog would hesitate.
“The creature was tracked down the hill to a pond, around the pond to a wooded area
south of the pond where the dog attempted to pull Nellis down a steep embarkment. The
area where the dog tracked the creature to was too thick and bushy to walk through,
so the dog was pulled off the trail and returned to the car. Officers then searched the
area with flashlights.
“Officers Nash, Nellis and the dog then proceeded to the area directly south of where the
dog was pulled off the tracks. The area was at the end of the first road to the west past
Westwood Hills turnoff. The area is approximately one-half mile south of the area of
the pond behind 37 Westwood Lane.
“Nellis and the dog again began to search the area to see if the dog could again pick up
the scent. Nellis and the dog approached the abandoned barn and Nellis called to Officer
Nash to come to the area as the dog would not enter the barn. Nellis pushed the dog
inside and the dog immediately ran out. Nash and Nellis searched the barn and found
nothing inside. Nellis stated that the dog was trained to search buildings and had never
backed down from anything. Nellis could offer no explanation as to why the dog became
scared and would not bo inside the barn. Officers continued to search the area and were
unable to locate the creature.”
The Murphysboro creature was reported two more times. During an evening July Fourth
celebration in a city park near the river, carnival workers said they they had seen it
watching the Shetland ponies. And on July 7 Mrs. Nedra Green heard a shrill piercing
scream from near the shed of her isolated farm. She did not go out to investigate.
So what was this Murphysboro creature? The authorities admit they don’t know.
“A lot of things in life are unexplained,” Police Chief Toby Berber says, “and this
is another one. We don’t knnow what the creature is. But we do believe what these
people saw was real. . . These are good, honest people. They are seeing soemthing.
And who would walk through sewage tanks for a joke?”
Unfortunately not all law enforcement officers share Chief Berger’s enlighted attitude.
Earlier in the year Sheriff Roy Poshard, Jr. of White County in southeastern Illinois,
threatened to arrest a man who reported such a creature. But the witness, Henry
McDaniel of Enfield, sticks to his story.
He says that late in the evening of April 15, 1973, he heard something scratching on
his door. Upon opening the door he did a double take, for the “something” looked as
if it had stepped out of a nightmare.
“It had three legs on it,” he said, “a short body, two little short arms coming out of
its breast area and two pink eyes as big as flashlights. It stood four and a half to
five feet tall and was grayish-colored. It was trying to get into the house.”
McDaniel, in no mood to entertain the visitor, grabbed a pistol and opened fire.
“When I fired that first shot,” he said, “I know I hit it.” The creature hissed like
a wildcat and bounded away, covering 75 feet in three jumps, and disappeared into the
bursh along a railroad embankment that runs near the McDaniel home.
State police, summoned to McDaniel’s home soon afterward, found tracks “like a dog’s
except that (they) had six toe pads.” McDaniel told FATE that two of the prints
measured four inches around while the other measured three and one quarter inches.
Investigators subsequently discovered that 10 year old Greg Garrett, who lives just
behind McDaniel, had been playing in his backyard half an hour before when the creature
approached him and stepped on his feet, tearing his tennis shoes to shreds. The boy
had run inside crying hysterically.
On May 6 at 3: A.M. McDaniel was awakened by the howling of neighborhood dogs.
Looking out his front door he saw the monster again.
“I seen something moving out on the railroad track and there it stood,” he told a
reporter. “I didn’t shoot at it or anything. It started on down the railroad track.
It wasn’t in a hurry or anything.”
Referring to one of the explanations offered for his sightings, McDaniel told us,
“I’ve been all around the world. I’ve been through Africa and I’ve had a pet kangaroo.
This was not a kangaroo. I’ve never seen this type of creature or track before.”
The publicity McDaniel’s report received brought hordes of curiousity seekers, newsmen
and serious researchers to Enfield. Among them were five young men who Deputy Sheriff
Jim Clark arrest for hunting violations after they said they had seen and shot at a
gray hairy creature in some underbrush. Two of the ment thought they had hit it but
the thing had sped off, running faster than a man. This incident is supposed to have
occurred on May 8.
Another witness is Rick Rainbow, news director of Radio Station WWKI, Kokomo, Ind. On
May 6 he and three other persons saw the thing beside an old abandoned house near
McDaniel’s place. They didn’t get a good look at it because its back was to them and
it was running in the shadows but they later described it as about five and a half
feet tall, grayish, and stooped. Rainbow taped the cry it made.
Investigators Loren Coleman and Richard Crowe did not see the creature but they did
hear a high-pitched screech while they were searching the area around McDaniel’s home.
About a month later in Edwardsville, Ill. police received and checked three reports of
a musty-smelling, red-eyed, human-sized being said to be lurking in the woods on the
eastern edge of town. The creature reportedly was more than five and a half feet tall
and broad-shouldered, with eyes that apparently were sensitive to light. It made no
sound when it walked. The witnesses said the thing chased them and one man told
police the creature ripped his shirt and clawed his chest.
In many ways these events of 1973 were a replay of similar incidents from the summer
before. The Peoria Journal-Star for July 26, 1972, printed the claims of Randy Emert,
aged 18, who purportedly saw an unusual creature on two occasions in the preceding
two months. Emert said it was bipedal, hairy and between eight and 12 feet tall. It
was “kind of white and moves quick.” It brought with it a rancid odor and seemed to
scare the animals in the woods near Cole Hollow Road. Emert said, “It lets out a long
screech – like an old steam engine whistle only more human.”
Emert asserted that a number of his friends had seen either the creature or its
footprints. “I’m kind of a spokesman for the group,” he said. “The only one who has
the guts, I guess.”
Mrs. Ann Kammerer of Peoria corroborated Emert’s story, saying that all of her children,
friends of Emert, had seen the thing. “It sounds kind of weird,” she admitted. “At first
I didn’t believe it but them my daughter-in-law saw it.”
According to Emert an old abandoned house in the nearby woods had large footprints
all around it and a hole dug under the basement.
The Peoria Journal-Star for Jul 27, 1972, announced that two days perviously
“Creve Coeur authorities said a witness reported seeing ‘something big’ swimming in the
Illinois River.” (The Illinois River flows through Peoria.) On the night of the 27th
“two reliable citizens’ told police they had seen a 10-foot-tall figure that “looked
like a cross between an ape and a caveman.” A United Press International account
described it as having “a face with long gray U-shaped ears, a red mouth with sharp
teeth (and) thumbs with long second joints.” One witness said it smelled like a “musky
wet-down dog.” The East Peoria Police Department reported receiving more than 200
calls about the monster.
Leroy Summers of Cairo saw a 10-foot-tall, white, hairy creature standing erect near
the Ohio River levee during the evenin hours July 25, 1972. When the Cairo police
came to investigate they found nothing and Police Commissioner James dale warned that
henceforth anyone who made a monster report would have his breath tested for alcohol
The rash of sightings in 1973, however, continued on into the fall. On the night of
October 16 four St. Joseph youths – Bill Duncan, Bob Summers Daryl Mowry and Craig
Flenniken – encountered a hairy “gorilla-like” creature on a road south of town.
The had stopped their car to investigate what they thought was a campfire near the
bridge on the Salt Fork. One of them lit a match and they all saw the creature,
standing five feet tall, about 15 feet away. They did not linger.
Duncan told the Champaign-Urbana Courier, “I wondered if I was nuts or something. I
thought it was a bear at first but I really couldn’t say.
This account raises two very obvious questions. What was the nature of the
mysterious light the boys took to be a campfire? And how could a match struck in an
outdoor setting generate enough light to reveal a presumably dark object 15 feet
away? Unfortunately we have no answers because our efforts to contact the witnesses
have been unsuccessful.
It is worth noting, however, that in recent years there has been a series of sightings
of “gorillas” in the area. In 1970 for example, witnesses reported such creatures at
Rantoul, Farmer City, Heyworth, Weldon and Decatur, all of the places within 50
miles of St. Joseph. In nearly every case the creature was seen in the woods near a
river or a creek and in one instance observers spotted it standing near a bridge on
As fantastic as these stories seem they do form a certain pattern. Several features
To start with, the Illinios incidents are clearly related to a growing body of reports
that come primarily from the south-central United States – Indiana, Missouri, Oklahoma,
and Arkansas (although parallel tales have been recorded from time to time as far south
as Florida and as far north as Pennsylvania). The creatures reported are almost always
bipedal, hairy and sub-hominid in general appearance. Their color is variously
described as white, gray or dark brown. Their eyes are usually pink or red and glow in
the dark. The creatures emit an extremely unpleasant odor often compared to the smell
of garbage or sewage. They run fast and leap enormous distance – even from a sitting
position, according to one report.
Estimates of height range from four and a half to 12 feet. The creature is nocturnal
in its habits and lives in wooded areas bordering streams. It emits an ear-splitting,
nerve-shattering shriek. It apparently is not afraid of human beings and has been known
to chase and attack. Seldom is it seen in the company of another of its kind.
The one inconsistency concerns its tracks. They come in all sizes, some have four toe
prints, others have five or six. (All primates and hominids are five-toed.) A weird
inconsistency in the reports hints that on occasion our abominable swamp slobs are not
quite “real” – for at times they walk through underbrush without breaking twigs or
branches, leaving tracks or making noise. On other occasions, as we have seen they are
noisey and destructive.
Another disturbing feature is that the creatures occasionally appear in the company of
that other uninvited visitor, the UFO. So far as we know, no one actually has seen such
a creature enter or emerge from a flying saucer but some kind of relationship is implied
when strange flying objects are seenlanding in the area where a creature has been sighted.
So it goes with out abominable swamp slobs. What they really are is anyone’s guess. As
Chief Berger said, “A lot of things in life are unexplained.” For now we’ll have to
leave it at that.
*See Loren Coleman’s “Mystery Animals In Illinois” March 1971 p.48-54 Fate.