Thursday, March 18, 1976
Moro ‘ape” added to area’s list of animalistic spooks
By Dennis McMurray
An “ape” near Moro Sunday was the latest of a menagerie of monsters and beasts reported in the Telegraph area over the years, including the famous “Gooseville Bear,” which has never been captured.
Other cryptic-creatures mysteriously congregating in this area but never nabbed include a “great snake” in East Alton which, legend has it, could swallow and entire calf, and a seven-foot-tall man-beast with long white shaggy hair periodically reported between Marine and Edwardsville.
But the “Gooseville Bear” was the beast that most befuddled area residents because so far, anyway, it is the only one of the creatures for which there was a serious search.
The great hunt for the “Gooseville Bear” on August 10, 1949, drew attention from the press, including a photographer for (now deceased) “Life” magazine.
According to front page, Telegraph accounts, which treated the event, though somewhat tongue-in-cheek, as only slightly less important that the invasion of Normandy, a posse of around 100 men, led by the then Mayor of Bethalto, and armed to the teeth with shotguns and hunting rifles, gathered to track down the “Gooseville Bear”.
Fear of the bear has held the Gooseville residents in the grip of night terror for three weeks and children and livestock are guarded with extra precautions. The telegraph dramatically reported on August 10, 1949.
The posse formed into seven squads to comb dense brush in the area called “Gooseville” about 9 miles east of Alton.
The “bear” or whatever it was, was blamed for killing and mangling a bull calf, and apparently hundreds of residents claimed to have heard frightening screams and growls. One resident even claimed to have seen the “wicked eyes of a beast of prey staring from the darkness near a garage.”
Nor everyone took it seriously, though. A Bethalto grocer posted a sign in his window inviting people to “leave orders for bear steaks.” The Canadian Fur Corp, of New York offered $350 for the “bear’s” pelt.
The day of the great hunt, a state trooper claimed to have a corpse of a creature that had the body of a hound and the head of a bear. He offered to show it to anyone who was interested, but there were no takers, the Telegraph reported.
The posse roamed the brush for several hours the night of August 10, 1949. In the morning one of the squads reported they had seen bear tracks along Indian Creek. But otherwise, the item reported, “everyone had a good time and no one was hurt – not even the alleged bear.”
The posse disbanded but then two nights later, a farmer on the edge of Alton, accompanied by a pet monkey named “Chico” claimed to have confronted a furry beast and fired two shots at it. But since his ancient .22 pistol frequently misfired, the farmer decided then that discretion was the better part of valor and beat a hasty retreat back to his farmhouse to call up reinforcements from the Alton police and Madison County sheriff’s departments. The monkey had previously hightailed it back.
“Gooseville Bear” fever then apparently calmed down for several years later there would be occasional that it had been sighted or heard again. Such reports seemed to pop up whenever there was an extremely slow news day at the Telegraph, a veteran staff reporter observed.
At the time of the famous bear hunt, a lengendary [sic] “great snake” that inhabited a pasture in East Alton was recalled by older area residents.
An East Alton man, with a reputation as a raconteur claimed to have watched the serpent swallow an entire calf. The story spread and was solemnly related by newspapers all over the nation.
The Telegraph speculated, though, that the story of the snake, might somehow be related to the fact that the farmer who owned the pasture was unhappy over pawpaw [sic]pickers who damaged his fences and encouraged the tales of the snake.
The Telegraph area has also had its own version of “Bigfoot”, the giant hairy creature reported in such diverse places as the American northwest and the Asian Himalayas.
The local version, periodically reported over a period of several years by motorists driving between Marine and Edwardsville has been described as around 7 feet tall with long shaggy white hair, apparently one of the more elderly of that breed of beasts.
There is one instance, though, of the identify of a monster or beast being solved. A pin setter at an East Alton bowling alley around 20 years ago reported seeing a strange grayish creature crouched on the side of the road.
The creature was soon dubbed “The Thing” but an investigation finally disclosed that it was actually a deer who had roamed into the city.