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.

Review: “The United States of Cryptids”

At first glance, J.W. Ocker’s The United States of Cryptids: A Tour of American Myths and Monsters (Quirk Books; 2002) looks similar to other surveys of American monsters, with Jason Offut’s Chasing American Monsters, Scott Francis’ Monster Spotter’s Guide to North America and W. Haden Blackman’s Field Guide to North American Monsters all coming most immediately to mind. As in those works, Ocker takes readers on a tour of the country, stopping at each monster to tell its story.

What differentiates Ocker’s work, however, is he’s not merely telling the stories of monsters, but he’s laying out a guide of sorts to monster tourism (or what might be considered a form of legend tripping). When discussing the monsters he does, Ocker pays special attention to how the creatures are recognized by the people who can lay claim their stories, noting statues, museums, plaques, festivals and the like…or the lack of them, and why he thinks they should be celebrated.

If you have a monster legend, the logic goes, you might as well take advantage of it.

“But if you’re the town that found a giant turtle living in your local pond in the 1970s or were attacked by a vampire cat in the 1950s?”Ocker writes in his introduction, “That’s yours alone to own, and you can name a park after it, theme a business around it, build a museum or a statue honoring it, and propose legislation to protect it and its habitat.”

It’s certainly worked for places like Point Pleasant, a small West Virginia town of just 4,000 that brings in thousands of visitors each year to see the Mothman Museum and Mothman statue during their annual Mothman Festival.

Ocker’s specific approach informs some of the cryptids included in his book.

Several belong the world of UFOlogy more than cryptozoology, like the Hopkinsville Goblin and the Grey Alien (not to mention the Pascagoula Elephant Man), but they are included because of the former’s recognition during Kelly, Kentucky Little Green Men Days and the latter at Roswell, New Mexico’s annual festival and general embrace of aliens and UFOs as a source of civic identity.

Additionally some of the monsters included aren’t ones that were actually seen by anyone in a particular locale, they were just embraced by city leaders as a way to promote the town, as in the Norfolk, Virginia mermaids, the Dawson, Minnesota gnomes and the Mount Horeb, Wisconsin trolls.

One entry is for a “monster” that no one has ever claimed to see anywhere or believed in at all, The Rhinelapus. This “sculptural” monster is a found object that was so weird-looking it was painted and put on display as a strange, three-legged monster sculpture in front of first a bar, and then a park. It was originally just a crazy-looking tree stump. 

In other words, it’s not the sort of creature you’d find an entry for in any other bestiary, but it makes a sort of perfect sense for Ocker’s, which is as much about monsters you can visit as it is creatures of folklore or cryptozoology.

Part travel guide and part legend survey, Ocker’s United States of Cryptids should be a particularly pleasurable read for fans of cryptids regardless of their level of enthusiasm (or should that be fanaticism?); whether you’re the sort who likes to encounter monsters from your couch at home with a book on your lap, or the sort who would rather buy monster merch in a small town after a long drive, the book is for your.

Ocker adopts a sly, conversational tone throughout the book, intimating stories of his own travels and opinions about the creatures within without ever appearing too credulous about the reality of such creatures as undiscovered animals. “I sometimes joke that when I say I’m hunting cryptids,” he writes, “What I mean is that I’m driving to a town to drink a craft beer named after one.”

Still, he regards cryptids in general as” real,” through various levels of reality. They’re real as real stories, they’re real as the source of various celebrations, ranging fromsouveneirs to festivals to the those craft beers, and they are real “more as symbols of the natural world than as secrets of i.t”  

Writes Ocker:

Cryptids are hopeful concepts: hope that the world is still a diverse place full of discovery. Hope that humankind hasn’t zoned every square inch of the planet for McDonald’s franchises. Hope that we haven’t grown bored with our mother planet, that she still harbors wonders for us. Cryptids exist: As stories, as monuments, as symbols. Maybe even as more than that. But those three ways already make them as much a part of this planet as any officially acknowledged creature in a zoology textbook. 

Divided into four sections by rough geographical region, the book is occasionally interrupted by brief, witty one-page articles on some aspect of cryptozoology and illustrations by artist Derek Quinlan, of which, frankly, I could have used more (But then, I am particularly obsessed with seeing the various ways different artists try to draw cryptid creatures like, say, Mothman, whose vague, otherworldly descriptions make him a particularly difficult creature for an artist to try and capture; for the record, Quinlan leans heavily into the “moth” part of the name, in contrast with actual witness reports, giving him two feathery antennae and a furry ruff around his neck). 

Two figures appear throughout the book, both giants of cryptozoology in their own way. The first is Loren Coleman, who wrote a nice introduction, is visited in an entry on the International Cryptozoology Museum and appears now and again as an investigator of some monsters  (like the Dover Demon) or merely being quoted for some bit of wisdom. (Two of Coleman’s books are among the 15 titles offered for “Further Reading” in the back of the book.) 

The other is literal giant Bigfoot, who Ocker has a somewhat frustrated relationship within the book. Bigfoot sightings are so common that each region could have a dozen or so entries on one Bigfoot or another, and so many different places celebrate the big guy in various ways that Ocker has to actually hold back on detailing Bigfoot encounters in real life and in merch form. He limits himself to a few genuinely big places in Bigfoot history and or Bigfootanalia. 

But what about Ohio? 

There are three Ohio entries on three particular creatures, two of which I covered in my own book, the third of which I shied away from as I didn’t want to include creatures from Native American legend: The Loveland Frogman, The Peninsula Python and The Underwater Panther.

Ocker’s Loveland Frogs recount begins with the first police officer sighting, Ray Shockey’s March 3, 1972 encounter, and then flashes back to the 1955 story of an unnamed man seeing a handful of deformed, frog-faced creatures by the side of the road, one of which held a glowing wand. From there he continues with police officer Mark Matthews St. Patrick’s Day 1972 sighting.

Ocker continues with information I didn’t have. He writes that coverage of a 2016 sighting brought officer Matthews, now retired in Florida, to offer commentary: 

He said that most of his story was true, except for how it ended. He had actually shot the creatures, which he said was already half dead from the cold. When he retrieved the corpse, he found it to be a large iguana with its tail missing. He showed its body to Shockey, who agreed that it was what he had seen, relieved that he wouldn’t be going down in the books as the crazy Loveland Frogman cop (oops). Matthews believed the creature to be an escaped pet that had kept warm by sticking around the outlet pipes from the nearby Totes boot factory. According to Matthews, he had told the whole story to an author putting together a book of Ohio legends, but that author had omitted the big reveal.

(Wasn’t me! Maybe James Renner, whose 2012 It Came From Ohio has the Loveland Frog on the cover? Or Michael Newton, who wrote 2013 book Strange Ohio Monsters?)

Ocker notes the Loveland Frogman triathlon and the Cincinnati musical, but notes Loveland is still statue-less and festival-free. I guess the community deserves a C+ for legend-embracing.

A higher grade would go to Peninsula, which threw annual parades for its cryptid, which Ocker notes is an example of an OOPS (Out-Of-Place Species). Ocker quickly recounts some of the sightings in the 1944 flap, and while he doesn’t mention Helltown specifically, he does mention the rumor that the snake  had something to do with mutating toxic waste, writing, “Another theory held that the python was a mutant from the Krejci Dump, which opened four years earlier a few miles south of town…Nobody knew it then, but four decades later, the discovery that its owners were accepting illicit chemical waste would cause the land to be classified as a Superfund site.”

Finally, the Underwater Panther, a “Suburban Mound Monster” is covered in a chapter on the Alligator Mound in Granville, Ohio, seemingly related to The Great Serpent Mound in Peebles, which is the largest effigy mound in the country. 

Ocker notes Alligator Mound isn’t shaped like an alligator, having a small round head and relatively long legs.

Researchers believe that when European explorers were first shown the mound by Native Americans, they mistranslated the Native American name for it. The builders of the mound may have described a water monster, which the Europeans assumed to be an alligator. But alligators aren’t native to Ohio: the underwater panther is.

Review: “Beyond Bigfoot & Nessie”

One generally hears the term “charismatic megafauna” in relation to conservation. The public at large is usually more open to calls to protect endangered species if they are larger, likable animals they are already familiar with, animals like tigers, elephants and giant pandas, as opposed to, say, various species of insects, fish or frogs. 

One also finds the idea of charismatic megafauna in the world of cryptozoology. Readers might be more interested in big, compelling animals they have previously heard of, like Bigfoot, the Yeti or the Loch Ness Monster.

Kate Shaw seems well aware of this bias, and eschews the most well-known cryptids for lesser-known maybe-they-exist-maybe-they-don’t creatures in her book Beyond Bigfoot & Nessie: Lesser-Known Mystery Animals From Around the World, (Katherine Shaw; 2022), which puts its focus on what we might consider more minor cryptids right in its title.

Obviously you won’t find Bigfoot or Nessie in these pages, nor will you find Yetis, Mothman or The Jersey Devil, but you will find animals commonly covered in the literature of the weird (winged cats, “the devil’s footprints”, the Dover Demon)  or works of cryptozoology (the the Mongolian Death Worm, Nandi Bear, Steller’s Sea-Ape, the Minnesota Iceman, DeLoy’s Ape, The Tatzelwurm).. You’ll also find real animals they may have gone extinct, giant versions of real animals, strange prehistoric creatures, animals in unusual places and animals that are still being debated scientifically.

It’s a really quite marvelous mystery menagerie she’s put together. 

Shaw breaks her book up into ten parts, each concerning itself with a certain sort of animal: Mystery Mammals, Strange Birds, Freshwater Monsters, Sea Monsters and so on. Within each are articles of several pages in length devoted to each entry of her worldwide survey, running a wide gamut of nature, from size and shape to reality (The on sea monsters for example, includes not only the famous sightings of the Daedalus and Gloucester Sea Serpents, but also an entry on the very real Oarsfish, and “Beebe’s Deep-Sea Mystery Fish”, fish sighted by a scientist exploring the deep but never seen again). 

There are some sections on the more peculiar of animal mysteries, including Out of Place Animals (Alien Big Cats, Phantom Kangaroos), Mystery Primates (the Chinese Ink Monkey, Orang Pendek), Dragons and Dinosaurs (Mini Rex, the Sirrush), Mystery Carcasses (Globsters, the Montauk Monster) and Demons and Specters (the Ahool, Beast of Bungay).

Shaw, whose book spins out of her Strange Animals podcast, writes with authority, sensitivity and a palpably burning sense of curiosity about the strange world filled with strange creatures we all live in. The great thing about the book, aside from Shaw’s strong writing and fresh perspective, of course, is its focus on more out of the way cryptids. It helps redefine, or at least underscore, cryptozoology as more than just the stereotypical search for Bigfoot and sea monsters, and seems to welcome it back into the fold of the more “respectable” scenes, too. After all, while the potential existence of, say, freshwater sea horses don’t sell as many books as the idea that there may be a large, undiscovered ape lurking in America’s northwest, it would still be a major scientific breakthrough if they were discovered to exist. 


Ohio makes only a single, unexpected appearances in the book. In the chapter on Phantom Kangaroos, Shaw mentions the Buckeye State in passing: “So let’s get back to more modern sightings of phantom kangaroos. There are a lot of reports from the United States and a few from Canada, including a 1949 sighting in Ohio, a 1958 sighting in Nebraska, the ‘Big Bunny’ kangaroo sightings in Minnesota that persisted for a decades between 1957 and 1967, and many more.”

Shaw theorizes that these sightings are all of escaped pet kangaroos and wallabies, which is, after all, the most rational explanation. I’m still reminded of something Loren Coleman, who has collected plenty of phantom kangaroo sightings, has said, though. And that is that perhaps some phantom kangaroo sightings are really sightings of “devil monkeys,” occasionally seen, ill-tempered creatures that are described as something of a cross between a baboon and a kangaroo, as unlikely a creature as that might be. These have been seen in Ohio over the  years, specifically one case in Dunkinsville in Adams County. In 1997, a woman reported seeing an animal meeting the description of the devil monkey after being alerted to its presence by her dogs. Coleman writes about the sighting in his 1983 book, Mysterious America.

Review: “Adventures in Cryptozoology”

adventures in crytpozoologyRichard Freeman’s Adventures in Cryptozoology: Hunting for Yetis, Mongolian Deathworms, and Other Not-So-Mythical Monsters (Mango; 2019) takes the familiar, survey-like approach to the undiscovered animals that make up the world of cryptozoology, not unlike Bernard Heuvelmans did in his landmark 1955 book On The Track of Unknown Animals.

In five of his six chapters, Freeman breaks up the mystery menagerie into several broad categories—Dragons, Lake Monsters, Sea Monsters, Giant Apes and Hominins and  the intriguingly-named “The Magic Zoo”—and he then details sightings and examines evidence of each in a region by region tour of the subject. As for the other chapter, that is the first in the book, and it details the history of cryptozoology, including a generous section devoted to many of the field’s leading lights and lesser-known participants throughout that history.

The discussions of water monsters and giant apes and hominins will include many instances and anecdotes familiar to readers of past cryptozoological works, but the dragons section is particularly interesting. Freeman’s definition of a dragon is a wide one, and while there are a few sightings of animals that seem straight out of medieval legend, complete with fire breath, there are also discussions of outsized lizards and what might be relict Pterosaurs…anything that might be mistaken for a dragon, basically.

In “The Magic Zoo” chapter, Freeman explores various legendary animals once thought to exist—unicorns, griffons, basilisks, the fire-resistant salamander—and a couple of famous creatures of cryptozoology, the colorfully-named Mongolian deathworm and the tatzelwurm. He also tackles the 18th century mystery killer known as “The Beast of Gévaudan,” which he quite confidently identifies as a sub-adult male lion, likely escaped from a wealthy person’s personal menagerie.

The first installment of a two-volume series—the second volume, In Search of Real Monsters, was just released this January—Freeman’s Adventures in Cryptozoology is a great first book on the subject, mixing a voraciously wide set of examples with reasonable, rather convincing deductions regarding the possible reality and identify of the cryptids under discussion.

The Lake Erie Monster

It’s also relevant to the subject of monsters in Ohio, or, at least, a part of it is. The third chapter, “Monsters of Lochs and Lakes” includes this section:

The Great Lakes of the eastern USA, and southern Canada, five linked massive bodies of water, are not without serpent reports. Samuel Rafinesque, a biologist who catalogued many North American species wrote of a thirty-five to sixty-foot serpent that had been seen on Lake Erie in July 1817. It was a foot thick, dark mahogany in colour, and had shining eyes.

He is, of course, talking about The Lake Erie Monster, and he goes on to share a dozen sightings of the monster between 1960 and 1993, including such locales as South Bass Island, Cedar Point Causeway, Huron and Kelley’s Island. Freeman closes his section on Lake Erie by saying Lake Erie has the most monster sightings of any of the Great Lakes, though not a monopoly. He also expresses his displeasure at one of the monster’s nicknames, “South Bay Bessie,” which he says “continues the slightly irritating convection of giving monsters ‘twee’ names.”

Review: “Chasing American Monsters”

There are plenty of books devoted to chronicling the monsters of a particular state, like, for example, my own book, Monsters of Ohio, or the books that inspired me to write it , Joseph A. Citro’s The Vermont Monster Guide (University Press of New England; 2009) and Rosemary Ellen Guiley’s Monsters of West Virginia (2012; Stackpole Books). Author Jason Offutt’s Chasing American Monsters: Over 250 Creatures, Crytpids and Hairy Beasts (Llewellyn Publications; 2019) is a little like 50 such books in one.

Each of the book’s 50 chapters is devoted to the monsters of a particular state, and, after a little bit of state trivia and a lavish illustration of one of the states’ monsters by artist Ty Derk, Offut writes of about a half dozen or so of each state’s most famous monstrous inhabitants. 

Because he’s covering so much ground in a relatively brief 330+ pages, the entries on each monster are generally quite short and often cursory, a few paragraphs each, but the book makes an excellent starting point for anyone curious about any particular state’s monster population. 

These include traditional crytpids, supernatural creatures, aliens, creatures from folklore and lumberjack tales, and monsters of Native American legends, plus lots of lake monsters and lots and lots of Bigfoot-like creatures—in fact, just about every state  seems to have a hairy humanoid of some sort that makes its home there.

Of greatest interest you and I, of course, is the section on Ohio, which features Derk’s interpretation of one of the Loveland Frogs (above), posed dramatically before a guard rail (By the way, you can see all of Derk’s illustrations here; if you don’t pick up a copy of this book, I would at least recommend you scan through Derk’s gallery of drawings, just to see his interesting takes on various crytpids). 

Offut includes six monsters from the Buckeye State: Ohio Grassman, Mill Lake Monster, Orange Eyes, the aforementioned Loveland Frogs, Bessie and Mothman. Of them, I featured each in a chapter of Monsters of Ohio, except for the Mill Lake Monster, which I discussed only briefly in my chapter on Orange Eyes.

In his entry on the Grassman, Offut continues the trend of using the term to refer to Bigfoot in Ohio in general. He mentions the 1869 “A Gorilla in Ohio” story from the Minnesota Weekly Record  (almost certainly a newspaper hoax) and devotes the rest of the entry to discussion of The Minerva Monster, the hairy humanoid seen in Minerva by the Cayton family, which he misspells as “Clayton” throughout, and others in 1978. He also notes that Bigfoot investigators found “grassy nests where they said the creature bedded down, giving the legendary creature the name Grassman.”

As for the Mill Lake Monster, that was a particularly weird monster supposedly seen by three teenagers rising out of the water at Charles Mill Lake in Richland and Ashland Counties. The creature was described as seven-feet-tall, arm-less and with glowing green eyes, and leaving tracks like those of swim fins.

And as for Orange Eyes, Offut’s source for Ohio’s monster of lovers’ lane seems to be W. Haden Blackman’s The Field Guide To North American Monsters (Three Rivers Press; 1998), as it similarly conflates several unrelated monster stories into the Orange Eyes legend. 

Despite my couple of quibbles with Ohio’s delegation though, I thought the book was an awful lot of fun, and would recommend it to anyone interested in the subject of monsters. 

Review: “Monsters In Print: A Collection of Creatures Known Mostly From Newspapers”

There’s a pretty great idea for a book behind Monsters In Print: A Collection of Creatures Known Mostly from Newspapers (Independently published; 2019), and I’m glad someone compiled and published it. That someone was Adam Benedict of the Pine Barrens Institute.

Scouring historical newspaper archives, he’s gathered articles about monsters from the 1820s through the 1940s, and presents them here in chronological order, making no attempts to edit them, for the sake of veracity, nor any attempts to contextualize or explain them, for the sake of objectivity. The result is a book that can be difficult to read straight-through for pleasure, but also a valuable book, for anyone particularly interested in the subject matter…like, say, someone who was writing their own book on monsters. 

Benedict’s decision to use time as the organizing principle for his book, rather than geography or type of creature, means one can see how much some things change over the decades, and how little other things change. It does make it a little difficult to navigate, though, if someone is reading for monster stories based on a criteria other than the order in which they appeared (There is an index of “source newspapers by location,” although I’ve noticed both in reading this book and in my own research that the location of the home newspaper doesn’t always match up to the setting of the monster sighting, as we’ll discuss below and we examine the particular Ohio content of Monsters In Print).

The book collects about 160 articles about monsters in total, filling its first 400 or so pages of the book (after which point there is a “bonus” section on mystery airships, featuring ten articles from 1896-1915 about the occasional sightings or even flaps of sightings regarding flying machines of various sorts that are often considered forerunners to UFO sightings; here, only one of the articles seems to suggest an interplanetary source of the ships, though). 

Of those 160 articles, it will probably come as no surprise that the vast majority of them, almost 70, are of the sea serpent or sea monster variety, although when I say “seas monster” I’m here counting large fish, reptile or amalgamated mystery creatures seen not only in the ocean, but also in lakes and occasionally even in rivers.

Stories about wildmen of various types account for the next biggest category, with 23 articles, while eagles or giant birds accounted for eight articles and giant snakes for seven.

Following sea monsters, the next biggest category is what I would consider miscellaneous monsters, of which very few appear more than twice in the book. These 50 creatures include a pig-headed woman, a vampire, a mermaid, a couple of mer-men, a centaur, a banshee, man-eating plants, a giant turtle, a giant lizard, a giant spider, a giant frog, a frog man, mammoths and mastodons, several chimerical creatures like “a cross between a lion and a bull,” the Hodag and some monsters so strange that it would take too long to try to explain them in this space.

While many of these articles I read for the first time in this book, there are some classic stories that should be familiar to most readers interested in the subject of cryptozoology, and these are always fun to run across, as the realization dawns that one knows this monster, it’s a little like running into a friend or an acquaintance unexpectedly.  

These include The Van Meter Monster, a winged creature seen around the small Iowa town in 1903 that bore a light on its head, and is sometimes written of in the context of pterodactyls, or visitors akin to the Mothman or even as an American answer to Spring-Heeled Jack;  The Partridge Creek Monster, the relict “Keratosaurus” that was said to be seen in the not-terribly-dinosaur-friendly area of Alaska in 1908;  and several stories of the Jersey Devil from the 1909 flap that helped solidify that particular American monster’s place in legend and culture.

As for the Ohio content, there are six entries in the index, but, remember, that’s for the place of origin of the newspaper an article comes from, not the pace where the monster featured in the article hails from. 

The first tale is from an 1855 issue of the Carroll Free Press, “The Monster Snake Taken,” and it rather breathlessly chronicles the capture of a serpentine lake monster from an unnamed body of water that empties into the Genesee River. The creature was captured by one Daniel Smith, “an old whaleman,” with his harpoons, strong whaleline and his experience of hunting whales; the article claims the monster was taken alive, essentially leashed to the shore with a harpoon and wire, and was measured to be 59-feet, five-inches long. That’s pretty precise, given that it was still alive and thrashing when the measurements were taken!

Next comes an 1876 story from the Cincinnati Daily Star. Headlined “Vampirism in Servia,” the four-page article tells the story of a young girl killed by a vampire in Servia, where “as in the most Slavonic countries, exists a popular belief in vampires, dead folk who quit their graves at night to torment the living.”

The Cincinnati Daily Star also published the next article from an Ohio paper, 1879’s “Two Terrified Hunters: Chased by an Enraged Maniac on Whom They Fired.” Said maniac is a wildman, which cryptozoology enthusiasts will recognize as a precursor to the modern Bigfoot stories. In Vermont, a pair of hunters saw “a huge, hairy object…spring from behind the cliff and start for the woods, running with the speed of the wind.” Thinking it an animal, the hunteres fired and grazed its arm, at which point it turned and resumed running with the speed of the wind, right at them. 

As wildman/Bigfoot stories go, this one is interesting, as it seems to be a bit of both:

The hunter’s story revives a long-forgotten but now distinctly recalled yarn to the effect that many years ago a lunatic, then a young man, escaped from his keepers somewhere near the New York State line, and gained the mountain fastnesses, where he evaded pursuit, and, it is thought, subsisted on berries and the flesh of animals killed through some means best known to himself.

The hunters’ description doesn’t match a regular human being who ran into the wilderness, not unless a reader believes in some sort of rapid devolution or magical transformation, brought on by environment and diet (and, apparently, many did thing such transformations possible back then).

“The hunters say that they are positive that it was no optical illusion, but a genuine wild man,” the article says, “The creature’s arms, they say, were long and hairy, and looked very much like a full-grown gorilla.” (I should note here that several lines of this story seem taken directly from those an 1883 article from the Fort Wayne, Indiana Gazette, which I only know because Chad Arment included the Gazette article in his 2006 book, The Historical Bigfoot. That article sets the action in New Lisbon, Ohio, names the hunters as two Columbiana county men, Bob Bradley and Henry Raush, and describes the wild man simply as “covered with hair and looking like a bear.” This doesn’t instill great confidence in the veracity of either of these stories.)

The next story from an Ohio source, an 1889 issue of the Enterprise (perhaps from Wellington, Ohio?), was also of a wildman. This “monster animal” was over seven feet tall, walked erect like a man, was hairy all over, “and its mouth was in the chin and great claws on the fingers and toes.” This was in South Carolina. The creature was apparently stealing a hunting party’s kills from their campsite at night, and one night when they stayed up to see who was stealing from them, they saw the creature and shot at it, chasing it into the woods. The interesting bit here is that the animals cry was apparently “Yaho, yaho, yaho!” Some Bigfoot-like creatures go by the name Yahoo, based on their cry.

Finally, there are a pair of July 1890 articles from a paper called  Democratic Northwest. The first tells briefly of a giant snake travelling through the air on a cloud in India (no mention of wings, just that “he kept continually rolling over and darting out his head in a genuine snake fashion”), while the second of a whole school of bizarre sea monsters sighted by a sea captain twenty miles off Cape Hatteras near North Carolina.

These creatures were ten feet long, and each had four long arms, “on the end of which were claws that resembled the hands of an ape.” These arms they used to grab onto the ship and in defense, taking hooks and other implements from the sailors and trying to rescue their fellow monsters whenever one would be caught.

The lake monster and the wild men seem to fit pretty neatly into pre-existing categories of cryptids, and even the vampire fits into folklore, but these last two are certainly some doozies. You’ve probably read of a flying snakes of various sizes before, but I’m hard-pressed to think of any animal, living, extinct or even reported that could account for the four-armed fish, which we’re told were “covered with thick scales, resembling the scales of a drumfish, while the belly resembled the hid [sic] of a porpoise.”

So, out of all these monster reports that fill this book, are none actually set within the state of Ohio? There are two, both from 1887, one of which I included in my own book, Monsters of Ohio.

The first of these articles comes from Maryland’s The Midland Journal: “The Wild Man of Ohio: A Curious Creature Seen Among the Hills of Holmes County.” A party of four hunters were beating the brush for pheasants near the Wayne County line when they spooked an entirely different kind of animal: “[A] man, entirely nude but covered with what appeared to them to be matted hair.” He or it ran at them, “giving forth queer guttural sounds,” and they retreated. When they reached a public highway, the wild man turned back “and was seen to enter Killbuck Creek, which he swam, and then disappeared in the brush again.”

The article ends with “they are of the impression that he is no relative of the famous wild man of Rockaway.”

This particular article was also among those included in the Ohio chapter of the previously mentioned The Historical Bigfoot, although in that book the source is he Indiana, Pennsylvania Progress, and the year was 1886.

So here there seems to be what we might consider a 19th century Bigfoot sighting, even if it’s not the most spectacular story. Other than the fact that includes a wild man/Bigfoot at all, of course. 

The Omaha Daily Bee story is of another popular Ohio monster, the Lake Erie Monster, although this particular iteration of the monster is unlike the more typical, large, serpentine appearance.

With a dateline of “Toledo. O., May 13”, this is the story of the “two French fishermen named Dusseau.” Returning from fishing on the lake late at night, they noticed a phosphorescent monster between twenty and thirty feet long on the beach. “It was shaped like a sturgeon, but had arms which were thrown wildly into the air.” (Well, I suppose those weird fish off the coast of North Carolina weren’t the only fish with arms after all). As you likely know, both brothers rushed off to get ropes and help in order to catch “the submarine monster,” but when they returned it was gone, only “a half dozen scales as large as silver dollars” and tracks on the beach to show that it was ever there. 

Finally of possible interest to Ohioans, there’s an extremely strange story from a 1915 edition of Iowa’s Webster City Freeman set in Geneva, Ohio, which sets up a disagreement between two local men over what is causing cellars throughout the city to clog, some sort of tentacled sewer monster referred to as a “Zippotherantheus,” or simple tree roots. You can probably solve this mystery yourself, although the writer seems to have had great fun writing of the conflict. 

Review: “Evergreen Ape: The Story of Bigfoot”

David Norman Lewis’ Evergreen Ape: The Story of Bigfoot (Microcosm Publishing; 2021) is a small book in all ways but one. At 5-by-7-inches, it’s practically pocket-sized, and at just 126 heavily-spaced pages, it’s a quick read that can easily be accomplished in a single sitting. It’s subject matter, however, is big. Lewis tackles not only Bigfoot, but why it is that so many people seem so obsessed with the cryptid, and the fact that throughout human history there has always been a cultural tradition of big hairy wild men helping, hurting or at just living beside us.

Indeed, Lewis writes early in his introductory chapter that “Why the idea of an undiscovered species of ape living in the Northwest wilderness is appealing to so many people is a bigger mystery than whether or not the creature exists.” It’s that mystery he focuses on more so than relitigating arguments about the creatures’ existence as a real flesh-and-blood species of aniimal.

In eight fleet chapters—the ninth is a “Bigfoot Hiking Guide” suggesting a quartet of West Coast routes that will be accessible to Lewis’ Pacific Northwest target audience—the writer covers some well-trod ground, but he doesn’t dwell too long on the specifics of various cases or areas of argumentation. Rather, he seems most interested in the ideas that Bigfoot suggests, and what thinking about, and looking for, Bigfoot reveals about humanity in general…but  particularly modern humanity. And, particular among that group, white Baby Boomers, the audience that Bigfoot seems to appeal to the most (“Dr. Robert Michael Pyle, an American lepidopterist who attended a similar Bigfoot convention, famously noted about the attendees ‘these guys don’t want to find Bigfoot—they want to be Bigfoot,” Lewis writes). 

His conclusions tend to be pretty interesting, making this a book a rather compelling entry into a crowded genre.

Lewis covers, at least in passing, the 1924 Ape Canyon incident, Albert Ostman’s abduction story, the careers of Rene Dahinden and Grover Krantz, the case of “Cripple Foot” and the Patterson-Gimlin film controversy, but in all cases he does so in such a way that the stories won’t feel tedious or repetitive, no matter how many other books you’ve read that have covered the same subjects.

Lewis also discusses the story of John Tornow, who escaped an Oregon insane asylum and hiked back to the Olympic Peninsula, where he took the woods and became semi-feral, murdering anyone who came into the woods to try and drag him out…eventually becoming something of a folk hero, or at least folk character, despite all the murders. It’s a story that will have particular resonance for readers in Portland-based publisher Microcosm’s region of the country, an audience Lewis’ book seems to keep focus on, although it’s worth noting the proceedings should prove of interest to anyone interested in Bigfoot, whatever part of the country—heck, whatever country—they live in.

He also tells the story of several real apes that definitely lived in the area, Bobo and Kiki, gorillas at the Seattle zoo, and he addresses at some length  the pre-Bigfoot concept of the “Wild Man” in America among white folks (that is, the idea that a man could become bestial by renouncing society and living in the woods like an animal), the cultural traditions of wild man as symbolic  helpmate and adversary in European as well as in Native American traditions (and the ancient Middle East, if you want to count the discussion of Gilgamesh) and 18th century philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s thinking on the “noble savage.”

The conclusions he comes to are not entirely unique.

The interest in Bigfoot is, essentially, an interest in nature and, more specifically, a need or desire to reconnect to nature, or the idea of nature, even if a bridge in the form of a mythic animal-human hybrid must be invented to get there. Even the way people regard these “wild men” shift over the years, as Lewis points out the 19th century wild men weren’t regarded by white people in America as a separate species, but simply one of their own that had gone wild, and could be tamed and returned to civilization. Not so after the frontier had been closed and conquered, and nature essentially tamed. Then wild men seemed to become a definitive “other”, one that people, as the late Krantz articulates in Lewis’ chapter on him, seemed to  have strong opinions over the existence of or non-existence of, despite knowing very little about the subject. 

Bigfoot gradually began to represent an idealized, unconquerable, forever wild version of nature, one that stubbornly—thankfully—continues to exist, no matter how out of whack the ratio civilization and the wild grew over the course of the 19th and 20th century and into the 21st century. 

Personally, I don’t know if we’ll ever actually find Bigfoot, or any sort of North American ape, alive or extinct, but I remain fascinated by the search, and by stories of that search, like that told in Lewis’ engaging and insightful little volume.  


I was a little surprised to find that Lewis singles out Dr. Robert Michal Pyle’s 1997 Where Bigfoot Walks: Crossing The Dark Divide for derision, calling it “unreadably flowery” and saying that “Most of his book on Bigfoot is just him jerking off about the beauty of trees.”

I was surprised because it seems an uncharacteristically harsh assessment from Lewis, whose argumentation throughout the rest of the short book is pretty even-tempered, and it is the only instance where he really goes out of his way to take something down (although I suppose he gets close in his discussion of Fred Beck’s I Fought The Apemen of Mount St. Helens). 

And I was surprised because I liked Pyle’s book. In fact, if you were to ask me to suggest three Bigfoot books off the top of my head, chances are that would be one of them (The others? John Zada’s 2020 In the Valleys of the Nobel Beyond: In Search of The Sasquatch and Joshua Blu Buhs’ 2009 Bigfoot: The Life and Times of a Legend. Or maybe Loren Coleman’s 2003 Bigfoot! The True Story of Apes in America. Although I might also recommend Coleman and Patrick Huyghe’s 2006 The Field Guide to Bigfoot and Other Mystery Primates or T.S. Mart and Mel Cabre’s 2020 The Legend of Bigfoot: Leaving His Mark on the World, depending on who’s asking for the recommendation and what their level of interest is).

Granted, it’s been a good ten years since I read Pyle’s book. Maybe I would like it less if I re-read it today, especially with Lewis’ criticism fresh in my mind…?


The other moment in Lewis’ book that surprised me was his introduction’s passage about Bigfoot movies, which he makes in relation to Seattle’s Scarecrow Video, “America’s largest surviving video rental store” which also happens to have a Bigfoot section.

Lewis writes that “just by looking at the covers it is clear that somebody will find Bigfoot before anybody makes a watchable movie about them.”

Now, I’ve seen a lot of Bigfoot movies, and yes, a lot of them have been pretty terrible, a few of them almost unwatchably so, although I persevered through until the credits of even the worst of them (of which I think may be 1983’s Night of The Demon). But while maybe there’s no masterpiece of filmmaking that includes Bigfoot in its plot, there are some damn well-made films. The two that leap most immediately to mind are 2006’s Abominable (which Lewis mentions in a different context later in the book), a sort of Rear Window remake mixed into a Bigfoot horror film, and 2013’s Willow Creek, a rare post-Blair Witch found footage film that I found devastatingly effective.

I’d be happy to hear any suggestions of great, or even just pretty damn good, Bigfoot movies, though. 

As to why Bigfoot movies in general are no good, Lewis has an interesting theory:

Bigfoot is hard to dramatize because he doesn’t do anything. Aliens abduct farmers, vampires suck blood, the chupacabra sucks goat blood, the Mongolian Death Worm electrocutes people, but all Bigfoot does is exist, and existing is all he has to do for people to devote their lives to looking for him.

Well, he might not even need to actually exist, of course, for people to be fascinated with him. 

Review: “Mystery Stalks The Prairie”

Mystery Stalks The Prairie (Riverbend Publishing; 2021) was originally published in 1976, and the fact that it is being republished in 2021 should speak to the interest it generated over the decades, as well as the influence it has had on discussion of its subject matter: Cattle mutilations. A collaboration between Keith Wolverton, who was then a sheriff’s deputy in Cascade County, Montana, and writer Roberta Donovan, it’s a book-length exploration of Wolverton and his fellow officers’ investigation of a series of cattle mutilations in and around his county in the 1970s. 

As to what, exactly, was responsible for the mutilations, Wolverton did not, in the original book, come to any conclusions, but he was open to any and all possible explanations, no matter how out there those explanations might seem. These included that perhaps some sort of devil-worshipping cult was killing cattle and taking pieces of them to use in occult rituals, that perhaps people were using helicopters to capture and cut-up cows for even more mysterious reasons and, of course, that it was all the work of aliens, or whoever it was exactly that rides around in UFOs. 

There was— perhaps coincidentally, perhaps not—a lot of UFO activity in the area at the time, and entire chapters are devoted to Wolverton and his fellow officers chasing down UFOs. And he meant, I should perhaps note, UFOs in the in the truest sense of the term—rather than flying saucers or strange vehicles, the flying objects were completely unidentified. Sometimes they were no more than mysterious lights in the sky, other times they seemed to be helicopters or other conventional aircraft, but not ones that anyone in a position to know could identify. 

The 2021 publication includes the entire 1976 original book, plus several new features. There’s a new introduction by Montana UFOs and Extraterrestrials author Joan Bird (which includes the revelation of a 1947 cattle mutilation on a Blackfeet reservation in Montana, one linked pretty directly to extraterrestrials), a new epilogue written by Wolverton in 2019, and the transcript of a 2016 interview of Wolverton and Pete Howard, a retired sheriff of Teton County in Montana who, like Wolverton, was involved in the original investigation.

So, as interesting as UFOs may be, what makes this a book to discuss on a blog devoted to monsters and cryptozoology? Well, among all the other strangeness Wolverton and company were investigating in the seventies, there were also sightings of large, hairy humanoid creatures of the Bigfoot variety—although, curiously enough, in the 1976 text, Wolverton never uses the word “Bigfoot: or “Sasquatch,” but continually refers to them as “the creature” or “creatures.” 

The eleventh chapter of the book is “Hairy Creatures, Eight Feet Tall” and, begins:

Law officers have been unable so far to find an explanation for the sequence in which the strange events have occurred.

First there was the rash of cattle mutilations, then the many sightings of unidentified helicopters, followed by numerous UFO sightings and—more recently—the reports of people who saw one or more strange hairy creatures that walked upright like a man.

There was overlapping, but one type of activity seemed to decline as another started.

There was a December 1974 sighting by a man who said he saw a creature between seven and eight feet tall that looked like a grizzly bear; he fired his gun at it three times to no effect, and then retreated to his car as it kept coming toward him.

There was a December 26, 1975 sighting by two junior high girls of a creature between seven and seven and a half feet tall and twice as wide as a man, with a face that was “dark and awful looking and not like a human’s.”

One of the girls’ father said he heard “a sound that he could only describe as like a human dying an agonizing death” that he attributed to one of the creatures. Such cries were heard by others in the area, and was among the circumstantial evidence relating to the creatures that Wolverton found when he investigated.

The most dramatic sighting was that of a 16-year-old boy who saw a tall, hairy creature walking in the pasture outside of his home on the morning of April 4, 1976. Like many Bigfoot sightings, this creature appeared not to have a neck, and was further described as being entirely covered with dark hair about an inch long, save for his face. The boy thought the creature, which walked smoothly with long strides and didn’t seem to bend its knees much, was about eight feet tall. It met another creature. The witness provided sketches of the creature, which are reproduced in the book.

There is a bit of follow-up regarding the creatures in the next chapter, as Wolverton wrote of his interaction with groups studying them in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The unnamed spokesmen for one of the groups that Wolverton spoke to at the time told him there was “no doubt the things are real” and that there is some sort of link between the cattle mutilations and the “strange hairy creatures.”

Wolverton further reported that there may be a link between the creatures and UFOs, and notes some ways in which the creatures don’t behave like real flesh and blood animals, like their being seemingly impervious to gunfire, disappearing suddenly, having glowing eyes and so on. 

“One theory being studied by those at the Pennsylvania center is that the creatures may be a psychic phenomenon, visible to some and not to others and possibly non-physical,” Wolverton wrote.

In the context of the book, however, they are just one more sort of strangeness that seemed to plague Wolverton’s beat, and which he investigated but could come to no conclusions regarding.

In the 2019 epilogue to the updated edition that Wolverton wrote, he notes some post-retirement investigations he conducted, at which time he seemed more open to embracing more outre explanations for some of the mysteries he wrote about in the 1970s. 

“After retiring, I knew I was never going to solve the cattle mutilations, so I decided to investigate the possibility of finding Bigfoot,” Wolverton wrote.

He did not, but tells a bit about he and a fellow researcher went on trips to California, Washington, Oregon, British Columbia and Alaska, and talks in detail about some of the investigations, sharing witness reports.

One of particular interest to readers of Monsters of Ohio may be that a man reported finding “a large woven nest among a group of trees” in Alaska, similar, perhaps to the nest Bigfoot investigators found in the Akron area in the 1990s and attributed to the Grassman. 

“The nest appeared to be five feet by four feet,” Wolverton wrote. “It was interesting because it seemed to be woven into an oval shape by grass and twigs.” 

Hair samples found in the nest were tested, and turned out to belong to a bear. That trip concluded Wolverton’s search for Bigfoot, a term he used freely in his 2019 epilogue, even if he seemed to carefully avoid using it in the original text of Mystery Stalks the Prairie.

Because so much of the book reads exactly like what it is—a law enforcement officer uncommitted to a particular theory investigating strange happenings—there’s a certain dryness to the proceedings that might make it a difficult read for some readers, despite the relative brevity of the book. It’s nevertheless an interesting work, mostly because it is the work of an open-minded public servant trying to make some sense out of what seems to be completely senseless.