While most people are probably familiar with legendary creatures such as Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, the Chupacabra, and Jersey Devil, there is a myriad of weird beasts that are less known, but equally as elusive. What is surprising is that there are accounts of modern encounters with these enigmatic monsters on record, indicating that there may be a shred of truth behind the myths of these. Below are modern encounters with four mysterious creatures of which you may not be aware.
- White Bluff Screamer. In the wooded hills and hollers of central Tennessee, old-timers tell of a terrible animal whose piercing shriek echoes through the forests at night, forewarning of inevitable attacks on pet dogs or livestock. Known as the White Bluff Screamer, the hulking predator is said to display a shaggy, white pelage, to possess a long neck and flat face, and to leave behind three-toed tracks. Despite the colorful, rustic nature of these stories, I received a correspondence from a local woman that seems to corroborate the tales. According to the source, Brenda, she and her friend were camping at a remote watering hole in Williamson County when something disturbed their sleep. Because they hadn't brought a tent along, the women were sleeping in their vehicles at the time. Without hesitation, they flipped on their headlights; to their shock and surprise, they observed a group of big, hunched over, dirty white creatures shamble into the brush. Needless to say, it was a long and restless night for Brenda and her companion. It's worth noting that Williamson County has produced a fair share of Bigfoot sightings through the years, including a report of a white, apelike creature crossing in front of a moving vehicle during 2010. Bigfoot has been associated with killings of livestock, and dogs and some have described the mountain giants as emitting a cry like a woman screaming.
- Hat Man. Through the centuries, people have described all manner of ghostly activity, from disembodied voices to menacing poltergeists. Among the accounts of phantoms and apparitions are chilling encounters with so-called "shadow people," and in particular a macabre figure known as the Hat Man. According to those unfortunate enough to receive a visit from the entity, the tall, amorphous being always appears to don a vintage top hat. Quite recently I was contacted by a young lady named Stacy Alejos who recounted her chilling, childhood experience with this bogeyman. One night, Stacy awoke from a deep sleep and had an ominous feeling of dread. Looking out the window, she could make out the form of a man wearing a pork pie hat and trench coat slinking along the fence line. At first, the young girl thought she might be having a vivid, dream-like hallucination, until she could plainly discern the sound of dry, crunchy leaves underfoot. Stacy tried in vain to wake her sleeping aunt who had been sharing her bed. But, the woman seemed to be in a trancelike state and couldn't be aroused. Ultimately, the terrified girl climbed under her covers, trembling with fear until the sun came up. Fortunately for Stacy, this was her one and only sighting of the stylish specter.
- The Wilkolak. Admittedly, accounts of werewolves seem to be the fodder of Hollywood thrillers rather than real life. Surprisingly though, enduring legends of bloodthirsty, canine creatures permeate the globe. Many of these tales emanate from medieval Europe and are thus viewed as old fairy tales. Yet, occasionally reports of what seem to be modern day werewolves surface. Case in point, on the evening of June 7th, 1963, a married couple residing in the farming village of Wilczyn, Poland endured a harrowing ordeal with an aggressive monster of the werewolf variety. Initially, Josef and Sava Zbojno were alerted to the sound of their dogs barking hysterically at something in their yard. Sava decided to go out to the shed where the animals were tied up in order to see what was causing so much excitement. Because the moon was full, visibility was decent. Still, Josef left the door of their cottage ajar in order to provide more illumination. Suddenly and without warning, a snarling, wolf-like animal pounced on Sava, scratching her badly. Her husband grabbed a wooden club and bravely rushed to his wife's defense. It was then, to his horror, that he realized the "animal" was standing on its hind legs and was adorned in the torn and tattered clothing of a peasant. Josef managed to fight off the attacking Wilkolak (Polish for werewolf) and Sava was taken to a local hospital where she was treated for her wounds. Soon, other villagers began to come forward, stating that they too had seen the thing.
- Giant Centipedes. Deep in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas and Missouri, there are tales of monstrous, multi-legged insects, much larger than any accepted by modern science. American entomologists who study such creatures recognize one native species of centipede known as Scolopendra heros, also known as the giant red-headed centipede. Typically these aggressive, biting arthropods possess large mandibles and over twenty pairs of legs, but only grow to a length of about eight inches. However, in the late 19th Century, a local historian named Silas Claiborne Turnbo documented several claims of centipedes two or three times longer. On one occasion, a hunter claimed that he shot a foot-long specimen as it attempted to attack Turnbo's younger brother. Then a man by the name of William Patton killed a fourteen-inch centipede after watching it crawl into a hollow log near Powell, Missouri. However, the grandfather of all centipedes was said to have been collected at Jimmie's Creek in Marion County, Arkansas by a colorful character named Bent Music. When stretched out on a table and measured, the gargantuan bug was said to span a total of eighteen inches in length! Subsequently, the curiosity was preserved in a large jar full of alcohol and displayed in a drugstore for many years. Many townspeople who frequented the establishment remarked that to gaze upon the freakishly gargantuan centipede caused one to shudder uncontrollably. Perhaps insects of unbelievable size still inhabit the deep forests of Missouri and Arkansas to this day.