Saturday, November 3, 1990

Cole Street Monster Story Keeps Being Told

By Jill Peterson and Paula Castros

Tazewell News

Something lives deep in the thick woods which Cole Street cuts through. Sure, there’s rabbits, deer, raccoons but legend has it that something else is there, too.

Not many have actually seen it, but those who have say it’s big, hairy and has a foul odor. And it’s not something they want to see again.

Could the Cole Street Monster be lingering around the corner on Cole Hollow Road?

The Cole Street Monster.

The legend of the Cole Street Monster can be traced back many years, all the way to the late 1930s. Many people think the monster could somehow be associated with the old coal mines in the woods of Cole Street.

Cole Street was named for the numerous coal mines once operated in the area. Mining companies worked the area in the mid-30s, and most mines were abandoned by the end of that decade.

Then, rumors about the monster began to circulate.

The monster apparently kept to itself for the most part until the 1970s, when numerous sightings were reported.

Bill Beard, 38, of 1600 Bloomington Road, was born and raised in Cole Hollow, which is the section of Cole Street at the bottom of the hill. He recalled an incident when he was 16 which happened to his brother.

“My brother was in a car, and something big came out of a gully and then vanished,” Beard said. “It scared him pretty bad.”

He told of another time when a friend was walking through the woods, and saw something in a corn field. Although he didn’t know what he saw, Beard said the friend was shaken up.

“I think there’s something to it,” Beard said of the legend. “It was spotted at the bottom of the hill in Cole Hollow in 1978 or 1979 but people think it was a big trucker wearing a suit. But in the late 60s and early 70s I know it wasn’t a trucker.”

“There’s something around there in the woods,” said one long-time resident who didn’t want her name used.

She herself had an experience with the creature many years ago.

“My husband had a band at the time,” she recalled. “We came home at 4 a.m. from a club where he was playing one time, and when we pulled into the driveway I saw something drinking out of our pool in the back. It was not a bear and it was not a deer.”

The woman described what she saw as gorilla-like, standing about 7 feet tall, covered with brown hair and leaving a bad smell.

Based on friends’ descriptions, Beard also said the creature was tall and covered with hair, but he described the hair color as white.

The woman recalled another time when she was visiting a neighbor who had a vicious dog penned up outside. She said the dog barked often and was afraid of nothing. During the visit, the dog began to bark and then stopped. When the owner went to investigate, the dog was laying down and appeared to have been frightened by something.

One theory is that the monster resides in the abandoned coal mines along Cole Street.

“You always see black streaks heading down towards the woods when (the monster) appears,” she said.

“I don’t know what it is, but I believe there’s something down in the woods,” she continued. “I used to do a lot of mushrooming. One time I had been mushrooming and was sitting down in the woods, and all of a sudden I felt like something was watching me. That’s the last time I went mushrooming in those woods.”

Others have had “close encounters” with the monster while in their cars.

“In the summer of 86 a friend and I were driving up Cole Street in a little VW,” said Fran Roark of East Peoria. “The headlights went out and the car died. It wouldn’t start and although it was still in gear, the car rolled back down the hill and into the parking lot of the old brick yard.”

Roark said it was a dark night, no moonlight, drizzling, and about 11 p.m. The windows were down and the pair sat talking for awhile before trying to start the car again. The pair then noticed a foul odor engulfing the car. Roark said it smelled like a cat that had been run over three days ago.

They sat for another 15 minutes and then started hearing eerie noises coming from the woods behind the brick yard. She said the noises were a shrieking wail which became louder. Roark and her friend got out of the car and ran down the hill to a house where another friend lived.

Roark’s friend listened to what had happened and then related her experiences living near the area of the legendary Cole Street Monster. Roark said her friend had heard similar noises at night and had seen fires flame up near the woods when the sounds were being made. She also told Roark huge footprints had been found in the woods.

Roark’s uncle, an East Peoria native, told her about two of his classmates from high school who reportedly were driving up Cole Street hill and the same thing happened to them. They got out of the car, which had rolled into the brick yard, and hiked up the hill for help.

The one girl, who was mute and dumb, stopped dead in her tracks as she sighted the big hairy ape-man-like monster run across the road ahead of her. The same girl later claimed she had communicated with the monster through telepathy and the monster told her not to be afraid for he would not harm her.

Roark said one thing is for sure, there is something in the Cole Street woods, but what she just wasn’t sure.

The monster has been quiet during the last 10 years, with the last sighting occurring in 1978. But who knows when the Cole Street Monster will decide to start lurking in the woods again?