Monday November 06, 2006
Did a hairy monster stalk Tazewell County, Illinois?
By Nick Vogel
Pekin Daily Times
Pekin, Illinois – Thirty-four years ago in Tazewell County, 100 armed men walked the woods around East Peoria’s Cole Hollow Road in search of a monster.
The search was called off about 7:45 p.m. when one of the men accidentally shot himself in the foot. The creature was never found.
The monster hunters were looking for was dubbed the Cohomo Monster, a beast thought to be lurking in Tazewell County in the summer of 1972.
James Donahue, Tazewell County Sheriff in 1972, still remembers the infectious hysteria of that summer.
“At the time it was a very big deal,” Donahue recently told the Pekin Daily Times. “Several people indicated they’d seen a monster up in that area. It was described as something like Bigfoot. All the neighbors showed up. We spent a lot of time up there. We never found anything to substantiate the claims. We were up there for a week or two weeks. A lot of volunteer people came out looking for this monster.”
On Tuesday, July 25, 1972, Creve Coeur authorities reported that a witness saw something big swimming in the Illinois River. The following evening, the Tazewell County Sheriffs Department received a call from a Eureka man who said he and his family were having a birthday party in Fondulac Park in East Peoria. The witness said he and his party saw strange lights come in a vertical position and go down behind some trees. The light allegedly left a vapor or smoke trail.
That same night, more than 200 phone calls about monster sightings jammed the switchboard at the East Peoria Police Department.
On July 28, a rural Pekin woman reported that she saw Cohomo while picking berries by an old coal mine. The woman told the Tazewell County Sheriff’s office she was so scared she ran off, leaving her purse behind.
That same night, East Peoria Police said two reliable citizens claimed they saw Cohomo. It was described as 10 feet tall. The creature’s face had long, gray U-shaped ears and a red mouth with sharp teeth. The reliable citizens said the creature possessed thumbs with long second joints and looked like a cross between an ape and a cave man.
Newspaper articles of the time suggest that Cohomo had a horrible smell, sometimes compared to that of a wet dog, rotten eggs, or as sulphur-like. The Cohomo craze swept over Tazewell County.
It’s hard to pin down exactly when and where all the excitement over the Cohomo monster started. Old articles found in the Daily Times archives blame a monster called Momo who was first spotted in rural northeastern Missouri a year before the Tazewell County sightings.
One of the first Illinois reports came from Randy Emert, then 18, of Peoria, who claimed he spotted some type of hairy creature in the woods near Cole Hollow Road in Tazewell County. Emert said he didn’t report seeing the monster at first because he feared people would think him crazy.
In 1991, the Peoria Journal Star received a phone call from Emert, who said that he made the whole thing up. Emert told the newspaper that he and his friends made the story up to scare another friend who worked late nights at a gas station.
But one remains. If Cohomo was the product of mass hallucination, caused by the sightings of a Missouri monster called Momo, why did only the citizens of Tazewell County invent the elusive beast?
And although he has no idea what it may have been, Donahue says he thinks somebody may have seen something.