Bigfoot History: Tennessee, Illinois & Connecticut Encounters
Written by wolverat on April 11, 2020
The Bigfoot saga has been around a long time and there are hundreds of accounts to back it up. Here are 3 newspaper reports describing Bigfoot from yesteryear
Savage Attempts to Kidnap Women
McNairy County, Tennessee – April 13, 1871 — “We learn that between Sobby and Crainsville on what is called Piney, in McNairy County, TN a strange and frightful savage has been observed for several weeks.
He is said to be seven feet high and possessed of great muscular power. His eyes are unusually large and fiery red; his hair hangs in a tangle and matted mass below his waist, and his beard reaches below his middle. His entire body is covered with hair and his whole aspect is most frightful. He shuns the sight of them but approaches with wild and horrid screams of delight every woman who is unaccompanied by a man.
He sometimes with great caution, approaches houses and should he see a man he runs away with astonishing swiftness, leaping the tallest fences with the ease of a deer, defying alike the pursuit of men and dogs. He has frightened several women by attempting to carry them off, as well as by his horrid aspect and the whole country around Sobby is in consternation. The citizens are now scouring the woods and are determined either to capture or drive off the monster.” – The Jackson Tennessee Whig – April 13, 1871
Did a Hairy Monster Stalk Tazewell County, Illinois?
Monday Nov. 06, 2006 — PEKIN, Illinois – Thirty-four years ago in Tazewell County, 100 armed men walked the woods around East Peoria’s Cole Hollow Road in search of a monster.
The search was called off about 7:45 p.m. when one of the men accidentally shot himself in the foot. The creature was never found.
The monster hunters were looking for was dubbed the Cohomo Monster, a beast thought to be lurking in Tazewell County in the summer of 1972.
James Donahue, Tazewell County Sheriff in 1972, still remembers the infectious hysteria of that summer.
“At the time it was a very big deal,” Donahue recently told the Pekin Daily Times. “Several people indicated they’d seen a monster up in that area. It was described as something like Bigfoot. All the neighbors showed up. We spent a lot of time up there. We never found anything to substantiate the claims. We were up there for a week or two weeks. A lot of volunteer people came out looking for this monster.”
On Tuesday, July 25, 1972, Creve Coeur authorities reported that a witness saw something big swimming in the Illinois River. The following evening, the Tazewell County Sheriffs Department received a call from a Eureka man who said he and his family were having a birthday party in Fondulac Park in East Peoria. The witness said he and his party saw strange lights come in a vertical position and go down behind some trees. The light allegedly left a vapor or smoke trail.
That same night, more than 200 phone calls about monster sightings jammed the switchboard at the East Peoria Police Department.
On July 28, a rural Pekin woman reported that she saw Cohomo while picking berries by an old coal mine. The woman told the Tazewell County Sheriff’s office she was so scared she ran off, leaving her purse behind.
That same night, East Peoria Police said two reliable citizens claimed they saw Cohomo. It was described as 10 feet tall. The creature’s face had long, gray U-shaped ears and a red mouth with sharp teeth. The reliable citizens said the creature possessed thumbs with long second joints and looked like a cross between an ape and a cave man.
Newspaper articles of the time suggest that Cohomo had a horrible smell, sometimes compared to that of a wet dog, rotten eggs, or as sulphur-like. The Cohomo craze swept over Tazewell County.
It’s hard to pin down exactly when and where all the excitement over the Cohomo monster started. Old articles found in the Daily Times archives blame a monster called Momo who was first spotted in rural northeastern Missouri a year before the Tazewell County sightings.
One of the first Illinois reports came from Randy Emert, then 18, of Peoria, who claimed he spotted some type of hairy creature in the woods near Cole Hollow Road in Tazewell County. Emert said he didn’t report seeing the monster at first because he feared people would think him crazy.
In 1991, the Peoria Journal Star received a phone call from Emert, who said that he made the whole thing up. Emert told the newspaper that he and his friends made the story up to scare another friend who worked late nights at a gas station.
But one remains. If Cohomo was the product of mass hallucination, caused by the sightings of a Missouri monster called Momo, why did only the citizens of Tazewell County invent the elusive beast?
And although he has no idea what it may have been, Donahue says he thinks somebody may have seen something. – Nick Vogel – Pekin Daily Times
Winsted Wildman Craze of 1895 Made Things a Little Hairy
Winsted, Connecticut — Remember the Bigfoot craze of the 1970s and ‘80s? You couldn’t go anywhere without hearing about a new Bigfoot sighting or seeing a television documentary about the legend of the large, apelike man that lived in the wilderness.
‘The Six Million Dollar Man,’ portrayed by actor Lee Majors in the 1970s television series, had a run-in or two with the big fellow. Then, in 1987, Bigfoot made his big-screen debut in ‘Harry and the Hendersons.’
But, long before the hairy, 9-foot tall enigmatic beast ever hit the television screens and long before its image appeared on little boys’ tin lunchboxes, a Bigfoot-esque creature was actually spotted right here in Winsted.
“They called him the Winsted Wildman,” said Joseph Cadrain, a local historian and writer who has recounted the tale of the local Bigfoot several times. “He was seen in 1895 and the sighting caused quite a stir at the time.”
A stir, to say the least.
The initial sighting was made “on a sultry August day” recall newspaper clippings from the time.
A local town official, Selectman Riley Smith, was the first to spot the creature.
Other Winsteders later supposedly saw the creature as well, but it was Smith’s sighting that was given the most credibility.
According to Frank Wentworth’s 1929 book, ‘The Winsted Wildman and other Tales,’ Smith went up to pick berries near the Colebrook town line on Lowsaw Road in an area known then as Indian Meadow.
“While (Smith) was stooped over picking berries, his bulldog (Ned), which is noted for its pluck, ran with a whine to him and stationed itself between his legs,” accounts from the Aug. 21, 1895 Winsted Herald reported.
“A second afterward a large man, stark naked and covered with hair all over his body, ran out of a clump of bushes and, with fearful yells and cries, made for the woods at lightening [sic] speed where he soon disappeared.
“Selectman Smith is a powerful, wiry man and has a reputation for having lots of sand, and his bulldog is also noted for his pluck, but Riley admits that he was badly scared and his dog was fairly paralyzed with fear.”
Word of Smith’s tale spread throughout the little town quickly and it eventually piqued the interest of newspapers from New York and Boston.
Soon after newsmen converged on Winsted — on what was then a very active rail service — to not only write about the incident, but to try and capture the wildman and bring him back to the city on a return train trip.
According to Wentworth, the gaggle of reporters were unsuccessful and all they went home with were sunburns and hangovers from the local beer.
Townsfolk were scared, however, and a local posse was formed to find the mysterious creature. But like the reporters, the posse also was unsuccessful.
Winsted residents speculated on who, or what, the wildman was, Cadrain said. Some newspaper reports from the time even said the wildman may have been an insane artist named Arthur Beckwith.
Beckwith reportedly escaped from a New York insane asylum in 1894. But prior to that, Beckwith had escaped from a Litchfield asylum. He was found six months later in Cuba, living naked in the tropics and eating raw fruits and vegetables from the jungle.
But Benjamin Thomas, Winsted’s municipal historian, said the wildman story over the years took on a life of its own. He said most of the tale may be more fiction than fact.
“Something happened in 1895,” Thomas said. “But townspeople talked about it and added to it over the years, that’s for sure.”
Paul Rego has lived on Lowsaw Road, near Indian Meadow, for about 10 years. He said he’s never seen anything in his rural area that even remotely resembles a Bigfoot.
“Nope, never seen nothing like that up here,” Rego said recently. “We have some pretty wild-looking people in Winsted, but no wildman.”
In fact, the Web site does mention an official Bigfoot sighting in the area — in Litchfield in November of 1968, 73 years after Winsted’s event.
“Maybe that was the Winsted Wildman’s grandson,” Cadrain said with a chuckle. “Who knows? The identity of the wildman was never determined, so maybe it was a Bigfoot.” – American-Republican – July 13, 2002
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