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 Monsters’ documentary 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.