The Big Muddy Monster
Of Southern Illinois
By James Donahue
Among the Bigfoot Legends
recorded throughout the United States can be found the odd story of what
folks in Southern Illinois refer to as the Big Muddy Monster.
This hairy creater, dripping
in mud, was first reported by Randy Needham, then 19, and his girlfriend, Judy Johnson, on June 25, 1979, while they were
parked together in a remote parking lot along the Big Muddy River south of Murphrysboro.
The two said the first
observed a very large creature, estimated to be seven feet high, covered with mud-matted light hair, approaching their vehicle
from a nearby woods. It was walking on its two hind legs. They said they noticed this creature because it was emitting loud
screams as it came toward them. Naturally, Needham started
his car and the two fled the area, driving right straight to the Murphrysboro Police station.
Police Chief Ron Monwaring
accompanied the couple back to the scene, but nothing was to be observed except some footprints. The police continued to patrol
the area that night, and so did Needham. At about 2 a.m.,
as the officers were probing the vicinity with flashlights, they said they heard an eerie scream from the dark forest. The
creature that made the scream was not observed again that night.
The next day, however,
an unidentified woman called police to say that she, her daughter and the daughter’s boyfriend had spotted the creature
in a field behind their house, also in the same area. Police returned to the area, this time with a trained dog that picked
up the trail. The trail led to a barn, where the dog refused to enter. Police surrounded the building, and went in with lights,
but found nothing.
The woman described the
creature as seven to eight feet tall, about 300 to 350 pounds, and with a pale-dirty white or cream-colored fur.
On July 7 a carnival
owner at Riverside Park,
also south of Murphyrysboro and along the bank of the river, reported a large hairy creature bothering the carnival ponies.
Workers said the horses were excited and trying to break loose from the trees to which they had been tethered. The creature
did not appear to be threatening the ponies, they said.
The final report came
from a trucker a few miles southwest of town, near the place where the Big Muddy joins the Mississippi
River. Authorities made plaster casts of the tracks it left. After that, the Big Muddy Monster was never seen
Was the creature real,
or was it all a hoax? We remember a similar sighting back in the same period near Dowagiac,
Michigan, when I was working as a news reporter for the nearby News Palladium in Benton Harbor. It
seems that a large hairy creature frightened a few motorists along a highway between Benton
Harbor and Dowagiac. It had a habit of stepping out in front of the headlights
as it crossed the road in front of oncoming cars in the night. Nobody ever found this creature, or proved that it really existed.
We also recall a story
of a young girl stepping into the barn on her families’ farm in Sanilac
County, groping for a light cord, and feeling something very warm and
hairy in the darkness. She went screaming back to the house. Police were called, but nothing was ever found. My story got
copied in one of the weekly tabloids sold in the local grocery about a month later.
Stories of monster sightings
always make great news articles. And this writer has penned a few of them over the years.