Review: “Eerie Appalachia”

In November of 1966 Woodrow “Woody” Derenberger was pulled over by a UFO, out of which emerged a man who introduced himself as Indrid Cold. He telepathically asked Derenberger many questions for some time about life on Earth in general and the surrounding area in particular, smiling at him the entire time. 

Writer Mark Muncy, responsible for a series of books on the paranormal in Florida (Eerie Florida, Creepy Florida and Freaky Florida) knew the story of Indrid Cold, part of the Mothman saga that John A. Keel chronicled in The Mothman Prophecies. He was therefore surprised when he was researching a UFO encounter in Florida, and seemed to stumble across the name again. He got his hands on the the notes from the father of one of the childhood witnesses to the Crestview Elementary School UFO sighting in Miami, a witness who was interviewed after the incident by the government. It included the name of a “government man”: Cold.

Cold, according to the witness, didn’t say much during the questioning. He just smiled. 

Was there a connection? Maybe, maybe not, but that brought the Florida-based Muncy back to the story of Indrid Cold, the Mothman, the Appalachians and, eventually, resulted in the book Eerie Appalachia: Smiling Man Indrid Cold, The Jersey Devil, The Legend of Mothman and More (History Press; 2022).  (The book was the basis of Muncy’s talk at the Mothman Festival this year.)

Muncy is, as he writes in his introduction, no mere interloper into the area. He describes himself as “a child of The Appalachians,” having lived most of his early life in and around the Ohio and Kanawha river valleys. (And, in an appendix, he shares the weird story of his own family’s monster, which he sighted as a child: The Bench-Leg of Goeble Ridge.)

Muncy’s book, illustrated as is his Florida books by his wife Kari Schultz, is divided into six parts. The first of these is entitled “The Appalachian Triangle,” and includes a half-dozen entries of monsters that may or may not be from outer-space, including such familiar monsters as The Mothman and The Flatwoods Monster of West Virginia and  The Hopkinsville Goblins of Kentucky. 

Part II, “Pre-1900”, tells a pair of tales set in the distant past. Part III, “Haunted Hot Spots”, is just as it says. 

It’s Party IV that I was most interested in: “Every Holler Has a Creature.” This section tells the stories of over a dozen entities each associated with a particular geographic area. Some of these are quite familiar, like The Jersey Devil, while others will be familiar to readers of cryptozoology and the paranormal, like The Pope Lick Monster, The Snallygaster, The Snarly Yow, The Wampus Cat and The Lizard Man of Scape Ore Swamp. Several I heard of here for the first time, like the Devil Spiders of the Hudson Valley in New York, or The Rat Man from Jackson, Kentucky. At least one seems to be unique to Muncy, the “Bogey Men” discovered in  a mine in Olympia, Kentucky, which he discovered in an old letter from a witness to his family. 

Part V is entitled “The Sasquatch Encounters” , which tells some Appalachian Bigfoot stories, and Part VI is “Eerie Locations”, telling of Mammoth Cave and a former mine-turned-mushroom farm in Kentucky and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, here mostly for the rumors that it is where alien bodies from saucer crashes were secreted.

Muncy is a diligent researcher, and much of his information comes from his own interviews and visits to locales, rather than simply regurgitating information he read in other people’s books (um, like I did in my book). That can be somewhat frustrating, as there are no notes or bibliography to check his work or to look for more information on a particular sighting or story, but it also mean many of the tellings are fresh or unique, with their own sources, despite how often some of the entries have been written about. 

Appalachia is a big area with a lot of stories, and Eerie Appalachia seems  a decent starting point for those interested in the area and its paranormal history. 


Now, do any of Ohio’s monsters lurk within the pages of Eerie Appalachia? Indeed they do!

There are five monsters from Ohio in the book: The Loveland Frog, The Crosswick Monster, The Grassman, The Minerva Monster and Orange Eyes.

The Frog appears in the chapter “The Appalachian Triangle,,” along with such monsters as the Mothman, the Grafton Monster, the Hopkinsville Goblins and the Flatwoods Monster. Muncy’s tale of the Loveland Frogmen contains reference to the earlier 1955 sighting of weird, lop-sided, frog-faced creatures, one of whom held a wand; he references several different versions of that story in brief, before moving on to the 1972 sightings by police officers Roy Shockey and Mark Matthews. As in Jay Ocker’s account in the previously reviewed United States of Cryptids, Muncy seems to have gotten a different ending than the one I did: “[Matthews] shot the reptilian beast and put it in the trunk of his car to show Shockey. It was a large iguana with no tail. Matthews assumed it was an escaped pet. Shockey confirmed it was the same beast he had seen and could not identify it as an iguana due to the missing tail.” 

Muncy also records a 2018 sighting of a frogman reported to him by a Tim Macomber, who was in town to take a ghost tour of the Chateau Laroche. Nearby, however, he and his group saw strange lights in the sky, followed by “a pair of glowing yellow eyes watching them from the woods.” “Was this the Loveland Frogman?” Muncy quotes Meadows on the four-foot-tall creature he saw. “I had come to look for ghosts, not an urban legend. I was totally unprepared.”

The Crosswick Monster makes an appearance in the next chapter of the book, “Pre-1900,” under a section entitled “Serpent Mount, Alligator Mound and the Crosswick Serpent.” Muncy discusses the mounds at length, and, again like Ocker, notes that Alligator Mound is more likely meant to depict the Underwater Panther, or Mishipeshu.  Where does the Crosswick creature, which was almost certainly a newspaper hoax, come in?  “Did Mishipeshu and the Great Serpent exists other than in beliefs and myths?” Muncy asks. “We have one documented encounter that might bring these creatures into a more modern era.”

He then recounts the story of the Crosswick Monster, making an interesting link between it and a possible Underwater Panther: “Did they people of Crosswick have an encounter with a remaining dinosaur, or did they encounter Mishipeshu or one of the children of the Great Serpent?”

Finally, Orange Eyes, the Minerva Monster  and the Grassman make their appearances in the chapter “The Sasquatch Encounters.” 

The use of the name “Ohio Grassman” is interesting to me simply because this is yet another instance of it, as I’ve traced the term from what seems to have been a local name for a Bigfoot in the Kenmore area of Akron in the 1990s to meaning “Bigfoot in Ohio in general” by the late 2000s.

Mucny quite confidently discusses the Grassman as a sub-species of Bigfoot that lives in Eastern Ohio and Western Pennsylvania, and asserting. “Notably, the creature was documented eating tall grasses, which gave it its name.” I never found any instances to link the word “Grassman” to a diet of grasses or “cereal crops,” as Muncy does, but, again, there’s no bibliography or notes, so one can’t find the sources for such assertions. 

The Minerva Monster earns about a page of ink, in which Muncy recounts its basic story faithfully, and recommends Seth Breedlove and Small Town Monstersdocumentary on the creature (I’d second that recommendation.)

Finally, there’s the queer case of Orange Eyes. Orange Eyes, as you probably know by now, is a monster of lover’s lane from central Ohio. About all we know about the creature, from the written record anyway, comes from Daniel Cohen’s three-paragraph entry on it in his 1982 Encyclopedia of Monsters, the apparent source for W. Haden Blackman’s 1998 Field Guide To North American Monsters, which had a colorful entry that conflated the Orange Eyes legend with the Charles Mill Lake Monster and a 1968 werewolf hunt by some local teens reported in the Plain Dealer at the time ( an article that John A. Keel referenced in his Strange Creatures From Time and Space as a Bigfoot sighting).

If I had to guess, I’d guess Muncy’s main source for his entry is Blackman, as he geographically situates Orange Eyes at Mill Lake and repeats some of the details gleaned from the werewolf article that Keel used as an example of a hairy humanoid and Blackman incorporated into his entry on Orange Eyes. He also sights Blackman’s (and Cohen’s) height estimate. 

Regardless, Muncy’s description of the creature is an interesting one: “This Sasquatch is often described as being the largest creature any observer has ever seen. He has been estimated to be nearly eleven feet in height and must weigh nearly a ton. If reports are to be believed, this would make him one of the largest Bigfoot on record.”

Muncy reports a frustrating to me initial encounter with the beast by a young couple that raised a posse to search for Orange Eyes, one not mentioned by Cohen and therefore not one I can find any record of. There’s also a 1991 sighting by a pair of fishermen discussed, in which the fishermen describe Orange Eyes as “the largest ape they had ever seen.” Was it really Orange Eyes they saw, or simply another bigger-than-average specimen of Bigfoot…? Remember, “Orange Eyes” was revealed to be a fairly simple hoax way back in the 1960s…not that it stopped Cohen from writing about him years later, of course.

On Daniel Cohen’s “Monsters You Never Heard Of”

If you’ve heard my talk on my book Monsters of Ohio, you’ll know that when I trace my lifelong interest in monsters of the maybe-they-exist-maybe-they-don’t variety, I come back to two main sources.

The first is Scooby-Doo cartoons, which were among the very first media I consumed in my life, and which were concerned exclusively with monsters that may or may not be real; each episode began with a seemingly real monster or ghost of some kind, which the characters reacted to as if it was real, and each episode ended with that monster being unmasked as fake.

The other source? It was a book I had purchased at a grade school book fair about monsters I now know are called crytpids, like the Jersey Devil. I had long since forgotten the title. I had long since forgotten the author’s name (if I had ever even noticed it as a child). I didn’t remember much about the contents, aside from a chapter on the Jersey Devil and a black and white photo of policemen affixing a “The Jersey Devil Is A Hoax” sign to a tree. I didn’t even remember what became of the book or when, why and how I got rid of it, getting rid of a book being quite unlike me.

What I did remember was the cover illustration. Depicting a red-eyed, fang-mouthed Jersey Devil with huge bat-wings and a rather lion-like body perched in a tree, the cover was seared into my brain. It used to scare the hell out of me. Not so much that I didn’t read and re-read the book, of course, but enough so that I had to be very careful with how I handled the book when reading it, limiting my exposure to the cover as much as possible (I would have a similar experience with Whitley Strieber’s Communion when I attempted to read it as a young adult; the subject matter fascinated me, but I found the alien face on the cover terrifying and avoided looking at it while I read).

I forgot everything about the book, then, save that image.

And then Loren Coleman tweeted a couple of covers from the many Daniel Cohen books at the International Cryptozoology Museum, and I saw that same, scary Jersey Devil that was imprinted in my imagination and so scared me as a child: It adorned Monsters You Never Heard Of by Daniel Cohen.

The late Cohen had written over 200 books in his career, many of them targeted toward young readers and dealing with monsters, ghosts and the paranormal. Cohen’s 1991 The Encyclopedia of Monsters was a source of mine for Orange Eyes, one of the monsters in my book and, as far as I have been able to determine, Cohen was the first person to collect and share the story of Orange Eyes, outside of a few newspaper reporters (W. Haden Blackman’s 1998 Field Guide to North American Monsters, which included an entry on Orange Eyes, listed Cohen’s Encyclopedia as a source).

Interestingly, I was recently looking for a good example of writing about monsters for kids, and I thus looked to Cohen’s output. Within the last several months I read one of his books for adults (the excellent The Great Airship Mystery: A UFO of the 1890s) and several of his books for children (America’s Very Own Monsters, Phantom Animals and Supermonsters).

Finally armed with the title and author of the book with the scary cover I read as a little kid, I was able to order Monsters You Never Heard Of (Dodd, Mead & Company; 1980) from my local library.

After a very brief three-page introductory chapter, each of the book’s remaining 11 chapters deals with a particular monster. Most of these are from the world of cryptozoology and folklore and, despite the title, are hardly little-known…although given that the target audience is comprised of children, then perhaps the monsters would be “new” to readers encountering this as their first book on cryptozoology, as I first encountered it all those years ago. Cohen basically means lesser known than Bigfoot and The Loch Ness Monster:

“Creatures like Bigfoot and the Loch Ness monster are well known,” he writes. “But there are many other monsters that some people believe exist now, or have existed not too long ago. These monsters just have not received the right publicity. Here, for your education and entertainment, are accounts of a dozen of these lesser-known monsters—monsters you probably never heard of before.”

The monsters include Phantom Animals, Thunderbirds/Big Birds (here referred to as “Big-Big Bird”), The Dover Demon, the giant snakes of South America, the Tazelworm and The Goatman, Grunches and other similar monsters of lover’s lane (Of which Orange Eyes is an example, although not mentioned in this particular book). Oh, and, of course, The Jersey Devil.

There’ are also chapters devoted to British legends Spring-Heeled Jack , demon dogs and “The Hairy Hands” of Dartmoor. Finally, the chapter entitled “Invisible Killers” deals with cattle mutilations, and tells some dramatic stories of some “suspects.”

Re-reading the book as an adult, I was surprised with how familiar I was with most of the contents. I don’t think I was remembering what I was reading from 35 years ago so much as that Cohen rather competently and compellingly covers subjects I have read about time and time again in other books on cryptozoology and monsters since then, some of them as recently as this summer (The Dover Demon case, for example, was covered in North American Monsters: A Contemporary Legend Casebook).

Though written for children, I don’t think it is written in such a way to alienate adult readers, though the sentences are notably short and concise. It wouldn’t be a bad first book on cryptozoology and folklore for adults, really, although I do wish Cohen had included notes or at least a bibliography, pointing interested reader in where to go next for more information.

For children, it is, of course, a perfect first book on the subject…as long as they’re not as sensitive and imaginative as I was, anyway, as I was afraid of seeing the Jersey Devil pop up in my Ohio neighborhood for a time after reading this.

As for that cover, it’s lost its power to scare me—just as monsters like the Jersey Devil don’t scare fortysomething me the way they did grade-school me—but its still a potent image. I didn’t remember the face being quite so exaggerated. Looking at it today, it’s clearly not as realistic a portrait as I thought it was in my youth.

That said, the copy of the book that arrived from the library was a bound hardcover, having only a blank yellow cover, so I didn’t deal with the cover image directly this reading. (The image above is taken from the Internet.)

It does leave me with one mystery about this book, however; who is responsible for the compelling cover image in the first place? The book itself offered no clues.

Meet The Monsters: Orange Eyes

Norwalk, 1968—Author Daniel Cohen’s 1991 book The Encyclopedia of Monsters refers to Orange Eyes as “a central-Ohio variation” of the monster of lovers’ lane, monsters said to hang out in the same out-of-the-way  places that teenagers and young lovers tend to park. He wrote that Orange Eyes was 11-feet tall, completely orange and supposedly indestructible, frightened lovers having “stabbed, shot and driven over the creature to no effect.”

Oh, and Orange Eyes obviously had orange eyes. 

In 1968, the Norwalk Reflector ran an article headlined “‘Orange Eyes’ Mystery Solved.”

I won’t spoil the ending for you here—obviously you’ll want to read all about Orange Eyes in the pages of Monsters of Ohio first—but the solution to the mystery was apparently a simple but surprisingly effective hoax, with rumors filling in the monster behind the orange glow of its eyes.

The article pointing out that Orange Eyes was a hoax obviously didn’t dispel the legend though, as Cohen’s book was published almost 24  years after that article, and the monster later appeared in other books like W. Haden Blackman’s 1998 Field Guide To North American Monsters, Scott Weidensaul’s 2002 book The Ghost With Trembling Wings and, of course, my own book. 

Even when a monster is proven—or perhaps “proven”—to be a hoax, it can live on if its story is compelling enough. 

Illustration by Janie Walland