(First things first -- not all this research is mine. In fact, very little of it is, outside of the similarities with the Maori legend. However, it's not a very well publicized idea, though it is very likely to be the case and is possibly grounds for eliminating the famous Piasa Bird from the list of cryptozoological beings and as such, really should be put out there.)
A great hero, arising in a land terrorized by a monstrous, man-eating bird, comes up with a daring plan. Using another man as bait, he lures the monster bird out from its lair, and while it is distracted by the chase, he leaps out from hiding and kills the beast. Such a story is familiar to many in the cryptozoological community as the killing of the infamous Piasa, the monstrous bird depicted on a rock painting near Alton, Illinois.
However, this story is not that of Ouatago, the Native American chief who slew the Piasa. Rather, it is the story of Pungarehu, and the bird in question was not that chimera of Illinois folklore, but the Poukai or Pouaka. The people preyed upon were not the Illini, but the Maori of New Zealand. (The Poukai, or its prototype the Haast's Eagle, has been in the news recently).
In the cryptozoological literature the Piasa story has been told and retold and likened to the more modern sightings of gigantic raptorine birds throughout Illinois, with a few researchers noting the story as somewhat dubious - but then, of course, they go on to recount it anyway.
A few years back two friends of mine, Ben Roesch and John Moore, published a small magazine called The Cryptozoology Review. Of course, I've now come to realize quite a few CFZers also wrote for the magazine; there were several contributions by Darren Naish, and Richard Muirhead wrote a few as well. I believe Jon Downes may have written some things up for it, but I could be wrong (and probably am, knowing me).
In the Summer 1998 issue John Moore wrote up an article about the Piasa. We had been talking via e-mail for quite some time, and I recall our conversations on the bird and its somewhat dubious nature. Some of the particulars are a bit fuzzy, but he sent me some of the sources he was drawing upon for the article.
Anyway, most everyone is familiar with the particulars of how the Piasa pictograms were discovered by Father Jacques Marquette in 1673. His account of the first European sighting of the paintings, as given in the Recit des Voyages et des Decouvertes du Pere Jacques Marquette reads:
'...we saw upon one of them two painted monsters which at first made us afraid, and upon which the boldest savages dare not long rest their eyes. They are large as a calf; they have horns on their heads like those of a deer, a horrible look, red eyes, a beard like a tiger's, a face somewhat like a man's, a body covered with scales, and so long a tail that it winds all around the body, passing above the head and going back between the legs, ending in a fish's tail...here is approximately the shape of these monsters, as we have faithfully copied it.
Unfortunately, Marquette's depiction no longer survives. However, John reproduced with the article a copy of a drawing originating on a French map made by Jean-Baptiste Louis Franquelin in 1678, possibly copied directly from Marquette's sketch. The drawing depicts the Piasa more or less as it appears near Alton today; however, it has no wings (note that Marquette makes no mention of wngs in his account, either). The last reliable sighting of the original paintings was reported at the end of the eighteenth century, and it was noted that they had nearly disappeared then. Moore thinks it likely that the paintings may have entirely vanished by the beginning of the 1800s.
The fact is that many of the Native American tribes believed that a manitou, or spirit, called a Water Panther inhabited many rivers and streams. The water panther in traditional depictions is a long-tailed creature with four legs, sporting deer-like antlers. It supposedly haunted rapids, which were caused by the movement of its long tail. It could also move between bodies of water in the form of a meteor, and was also believed to be responsible for eclipses.
The traditional story of Chief Ouatago and the killing of the birds, originated from the pen of a man named John Russell, and did not appear in print until 1836. In fact, Russell's own son reported that "his father at one time confessed to him that the legend of the Piasa Bird was the product of imagination coupled with Marquette's account."
The only truly mysterious part of the tale, then, seems to be the derivation of the name 'Piasa' itself. Moore feels it may have derived from the French pailissa (palisade), a word often used to describe bluffs such as the Alton rocks. I felt that the name may have derived from pesshu or bizhy (Missipesshu and Micibizhy were two names used for Water Panther spirits). Given the similarity of the above Maori tale, it may even be that the name was derived from that bird's name, Poukai (its variant Pouaka is even closer to Piasa).
Moore's thesis in the article was that the Piasa, far from being a bird as traditionally thought, was only a spiritual depiction and in all likelihood never represented a real biological entity. Personally, I find this theory to be much more tenable than the truly chimerical flying monster depicted in the minds of many.
The most distressing part in my mind is the fact that, upon reviewing the source material, we find that just such a 'Piasa-as-spirit' theory had been proposed as far back as an article by Indiana historian Jacob Dunn written in 1923 and the "Piasa Bird" fallacy has been circulated and propagated for nearly 90 years! He also noted that one specific Water Panther - called Lennipinja by the Miami tribe of Ohio - was called, tellingly, l'Homme Tyger (man-tiger, or manticore) by the French. Further, Dunn noted that the Jesuit missionaries (of which Marquette was one) often wrote on the veneration given to the Water Panthers by natives and that Marquette notes a similar veneration of the Piasa.
IMAGES: Top is the early version of the Piasa from the 1678 Franquelin Map described in the text, and below it is a depiction of the water panther.
Posted by Jon Downes Friday 25 September 2009 at 02:46
(First things first -- not all this research is mine. In fact, very little of it is, outside of the similarities with the Maori legend. However, it's not a very well publicized idea, though it is very likely to be the case and is possibly grounds for eliminating the famous Piasa Bird from the list of cryptozoological beings and as such, really should be put out there.)
Posted by Jon Downes at 02:41
It is amazing what small matters will entertain a man who is tied to his post and involved in a mind-numbingly boring activity. It fell to my lot to mow a 50 acre field of oats stubble.
For my readers who are not familiar with the process of farming and preparing land for the winter, what needs to be done to an oats field is that after the oats has been harvested in midsummer, the ground cover will return and grow, and with that comes weeds that will grow to a great height. These weeds must be cut off before they go to seed in early fall. So sitting in a tractor with circulated air conditioning, which means that if I was to try and dull my boredom by lighting up my beloved Marlboros and killing myself slowly, then the inside of the tractor would smell of the stale smoke for weeks. This would then lead to my non-tobacco-addicted relatives being very unpleasant to me for the next month or two. So in my almost suicidal boredom and homicidal withdrawals while I went from north to south and south to north mowing off the top of the green weeds, I noticed something very peculiar.
To the east of me across the blacktop road we have a large pasture with a creek running through it where half of our cattle herd is lodged in. These cattle are not exactly free range but have been exposed to predators at some points in their history. Keeping in mind that these cattle are totally domesticated, there should be nothing remarkable about their movement. I say that when you pay attention to what is going on you can see the true picture. The herd was composed of about 15 cows 17 calves and a herd bull; not a very large herd but quite sizable. I watched their movement and was amazed.
The herd formed a line with a matriarch at the front and fourteen cows walking two by two toward the creek to drink. The calves sheltered inside guarded by a full grown cow on either side with the herd bull bring up the rear. The matriarch drank first and moved to one side being watchful and the cows split off to each side and allowed the calves to drink and the bull finally drank. The herd then reversed its direction and crossed the pasture toward the feeder and moved in the same formation with the bull in the rear, head up and watching for predators.
The reason that this is so interesting is because of a theory of species memory that I have expressed in past Blogs. Domestic animals can revert to their wild habits even after they are completely domesticated and the movement of our cattle reminded me very much of an American bison herd or an African buffalo herd. It is remarkable how simple a matter will entertain a man who is tied to his post.
Domestic animals have not lost their natural instincts. When feral, dogs will form packs. As for hogs, it takes roughly a month for them to become completely wild and extremely dangerous. But if you watch a group of domesticated cattle moving in a pasture or a paddock if they have been together a reasonable time you should notice a distinct herd order, and the protective instincts of these normally docile beasts becomes very evident. The only reason that a beast can be caged is that he does not know his strength to shatter the bars with his breath.
Herd bulls remain very docile and easy to handle until they learn that they have the ability to make a man run. They are not controlled by fear or mastered by pain; they are kept such by their own ignorance but because these animals are not simple dumb creatures they become more intelligent with age and experience, and this is when they become dangerous.
It is my experience as a keeper of these creatures that the more feral a cow is during the breeding season; exposed to predators and weather and other natural influences; the better mother she will make when she calves with almost lioness-like devotion to her offspring. Much of the time have I been put up on a gate to avoid one of these massive animals in the calving barn after she has given birth and attempting to defend her calf. I have also witnessed a cow giving birth in an open field on frozen ground and then shortly after walking the calf slowly back to the rest of the remaining mothers who have not yet had calves, which makes for great difficulty in extracting this pair from the heard because of the natural protective devices put into place by their species memory and given wild behavior. It actually can be a rather dangerous affair.
I do not know if my readers will find this as fascinating as I do but it is a testament to the wonder of the natural world even in domesticated animals.
I also have some other bovine related news that may be more interesting. We own another pasture , which is much more wooded and has not only a crew but a pond and is actually at the top of a glacier-cut valley with half of the valley floor following a third of this property. The valley is full of trees, bushes and thorns; swampy parts and springs, and other valleys inside of the valley itself with a very flat portion at the top that makes up most of the pasture but along the valley walls at the foot of the plateau. Approximately a week prior to the day in question we had counted the cattle and filled the feeder with oats. Upon our return to this pasture we made a count of the cattle and found one calf to be missing. I use the word 'calf' very loosely because this one was actually 6 months old and very close to 600lbs, it could be estimated based on my father’s knowledge of his animals. So after searching the pasture from top to bottom, stumbling into a quicksand pit, being ripped apart by thorns and seeing parts of my own property that I did not even know existed, we decided that it was best to start looking for a carcass after the better part of 3 hours. We got into the pickup truck and went on the road to the lower entrance of the pasture and drove from the feeder in the valley floor to an area where the creek cut under the fence. So after going to the bend in the creek and finding nothing I looked down to my feet and found what appeared to be a bone from a large animal’s leg. And I followed the trail of bones that extended in a circle of about 20 meters in diameter until I reached a shade tree at the bend of the creek.
Here I found some ribs and a skull. In no more than 7 days a 600 lb animal had been reduced to nothing but hair in the mud, scattered bones and a pile of sour oats that once had been the contents of its stomach. I called out to my father and showed him my discovery. We deduced that the unlucky animal had over eaten of the grain in the feeder and had gone looking for water. Upon drinking the water it had began to bloat as the dry grain swelled in its stomachs and it had finally died in the place I had found the skull. This area was not remote at all and much danger and trouble could have been saved if we had looked in the most easily accessible spot. Due to the rain that had recently been had in the area I could find no sign of predation in tracts and in examining the bones I was unable to find any strange marks of predation. However, this pertains to cryptozoology in that in no more than 7 days, in a very accessible area, under less than extreme conditions, a carcass between 400 and 600lbs was reduced to nothing but scattered bones and hair in the mud, and a skull that was being eaten away by rodents for the calcium. Under these less than extreme conditions if an animal of this size can all but disappear in a time space of no more than 7 days, how quickly would such carcasses of unknown animals disappear into the earth again?
I hope than I have been able to entertain if not educate my readers on the attempts of a madly bored man attempting to maintain his sanity, finding fascination in simple things, as well as discovering proof that large animals can disappear in a very short time.
I will continue on the track of mystery animals as the CFZ Illinois Operator but I am also very excited to enjoy the natural world in the month of October from the height of a tree stand in the Deer woods of Illinois. Please get in touch with me if there is anything around the CFZ that might require my talents as a woodsman.
Posted by Jon Downes Sunday 13 September 2009 at 04:14
I hope that my readers with forgive my long absence from the CFZ bloggo.
It is amazing what turns up when you are not looking for it. My father and I were working on the family farm's well shaft, which had a broken pipe, and I saw this salamander that looked larger than any I had ever seen. So I collected it for identification. It measured 11 inches. Also what makes this discovery of mine unique is that according to the University of Illinois there has never been a tiger salamander captured, photographed or documented in away way in my county or 3 other counties in my area and 1 county to the west of mine so 5 counties in total. The max. growth of the tiger salamander is 13 inches. I must say that I find a lot of irony in that I found this beautiful creature in a well shaft much like Sir John Lampton and his famous Worm!
I am doing my best in what little I can to support the CFZ. However, when there is no news I cannot make things up. I hope that my writings will be more frequent . I have also attempted to use my YouTube channel to generate some revenue in donation to the CFZ. I am unsure if that has been at all successful but I will continue to do my level best on the track of mystery animals.
Posted by CFZ: Cryptozoology Online Friday 3 April 2009 at 03:36
Well, CFZ, as it is spring in my country it is cold and wet and dreary and cold. I have done more stomping through muddy cattle yards and carrying calves into the barn than I care to recall and I am beginning to feel a bit like James Herriot.
Also, our power has been off more than I care to remember, causing me and my family to have to manually bail water from our sump pump hole in the basement into our sink to avoid having a flooded basement. So with all of that, and my large-predator sightings currently on a dry spell, I have had no reason to write. However, I have decided to write on something that I have wanted to address for quite some time. Now I will not pretend to be a complete expert, but the idea of woodcraft on an expedition seems an important one to me.
A few rules and suggestions for anyone who is thinking of doing an excursion for cryptids.
Remember that you are hunting this creature, so act like a hunter. Only talk when it is necessary and quietly. Try as best you can to move into the wind. Most animals, mammals especially, use scent as a defense against their enemies. Also, select the correct attractant scents, such as finding big cat oestrus urine, or dominant big cat urine, for example, because a male big cat will investigate a female in heat. Also, if there is a strange cat scent in their territory they will come in to drive the other cat out. Also on the topic of scents, use cover scent such as pine and earth or acorn scent if you can aquire it.
Try and be as low-impact on the environment as you can. When walking a trail be on the look-out, watch in front, to your sides and behind you. Don’t be jaded with the forest or environment. Treat everything as if it is important because a broken branch could hold the key to finding the cryptid or leaves stripped off onto the ground as if by a hand. Remember you might be hunting something that might just be hunting you as well. If possible be prepared to defend yourself from whatever you might meet.
Back on the topic of scent: be sure to be very conscious of leaving your scent while setting a camera trap. Wear camouflage, but be sure to have radio contact to ensure that no one gets lost because if you get lost in camo you're very hard to find. But remember that you want to be invisible to all the cryptid's senses: sight, hearing, smell and you really want to make sure they never get to taste you. You can build up brush to funnel the animals in front of the camera trap along a game trail. However, be careful about leaving your scent on the brush.
Also, when setting a camera trap for, say, a big cat, use a meter stick and paint it with the scent, placing it in front of the camera, because if a big cat or any animal comes to investigate the scent it will be photographed next to or beside the stick as it smells it, that gives the picture a known item of reference so that the picture's credibility cannot be questioned. You should always have an item of known size in the picture to ensure that anything in the picture can be said to be of known size to ensure that it is not simply a house cat or something else.
I think that as I have said in other writings if the cryptozoological community acted more like hunters more success might be enjoyed. However, I will not claim to know what I am talking about.
Also, I do not think it would be a bad idea (though I do not know the legalities in other parts of the world you will forgive me for being an ignorant American) to add a predator call to the battery of arms and a hunting blind, which is basically a hide; a camo' tent that you sit in while waiting for game. A predator caller is an electronic device that projects the sounds of dying animals over great distances that is used to great affect by American hunters. So I would like to suggest perhaps, however safety might be an issue, of setting up at night inside of a hunting blind with a predator call and some lights in hopes of luring a large predator into the call with in camera range. However, camera range might be dangerously close to the animal.
So I hope that some of this information (if I dare call it wisdom) is helpful to the CFZ. I was once told that you can get smart from books, but before you can get old and wise you have to be young and stupid. And if you live through being young and stupid, and make it to being old you must have picked up some wisdom along the way.
I will be keeping my eyes and ears open for more cryptid things in Illinois but unfortunately, as I said, my sightings have died out. But I am working on building a network of informers on the cryptid and dark parts of Illinois.
But as for now I am trying to finish my schooling and make something of myself and survive.
There is a phrase that says, “never let a cowboy make the coffee” and why is that? Because I find that if you dump the grounds back into the cup and you can stand to drink it, it gives very good results. I am currently going on being awake for 42 hours as I write this and I wanted to take the opportunity to write while I still have power to run my laptop, as when the power is off and our generator is burned out and in the repair shop, we have to, as I said earlier, manually bail the water out of the sump hole into the sink. So I hope that all is well with the CFZ and I will continue on the track of mystery animals in Illinois as best I can.
Posted by CFZ: Cryptozoology Online Wednesday 25 February 2009 at 07:10
However, I feel that in the short time I have been working for the CFZ I have uncovered many more credible reports that never made it to official record. Also, in such circumstances, I feel that reports that did not make it to official record are possibly more credible because it shows that the eyewitness is not seeking fame for their sighting. According to the sightings map there is a very dense accumulation of Big Cat evidence in Missouri.
However, the article calls the range of the western U.S. the traditional range, which I take to mean the modern traditional range because until their alleged extermination on the east side of the Mississippi River, stories of Appalachian Mountain cougars were very common. So, there was an eastern U.S. range of the mountain lion. There is a dot of note on the map in southern Illinois in the region occupied by (you guessed it) the Shawnee National Forest.
So, even though the article focuses more on the expansion of the western mountain lion, as seen in the recent jaguar incidents, it is not uncommon for big cats to roam vast distances and not to be cut off by rivers. So, as the great plains and Midwest population grows, it is only a matter of time before they are crossing the Mississippi again. However, it is my belief that the mountain lions are, as I have said repeatedly, a relic population that may have occasionally been visited by members of the western mountain lion.
I was also contacted by an eyewitness who was a relation to a young man who is a recent addition to the CFZ. This sighting is about 2 years old. The man’s grandmother encountered a normal tan mountain lion while she was on a morning walk. It was watching her from the brush and, luckily for her, once she saw it, it lost interest in her and took off into the brush. I would guess that the big cat was around 100 yards away from her, which is no great distance for a big cat to cover if it had wanted to. So, this grandmother headed back to her house and was very rattled. She also told me of a sighting two miles away of a black mountain lion near a rural family farm. She said that the farmer heard something outside and went to have a look at what it was and saw this huge black cat pulling one of his hunting dogs up a treat. However, when he went in to get his gun the cat had gone, leaving the dead dog up in the crotch of the treat.
However, I mentioned the possibility of black leopards having escaped from circuses, or exotic pets released into the wild, possibly breeding with a relic population of mountain lions in the Southern part of Illinois’ more wooded areas. And as unlikely as this might be when compared with the relic population and lack of fresh genetics producing a black color to the cats. Dragging a kill into a tree is very much leopard behavior. And all of the tree kill caches that I have heard of have been black cats. So not to say that it could not be a trait of the Eastern Mountain lion because they had not been studied very much before they were to all appearances wiped out. So, I am unsure of this behavior’s roots, but it sounds very much like leopard behavior to me or even unknown unstudied mountain lion behavior. Therefore, it is unknown to me.
Even if the population of mountain lions east of the Mississippi river is displaced Black Hills cats, I think that it could be instinctive memory. Much like how elephants know where water is even if they have never been in a place before. Almost like human mythology or race memory of places and events and why we identify with our history. These animals could feel an instinct to reclaim their old home range. Not to get all New Age, but the idea of species memory in Forteana should not be a foreign concept, considering the other crazy theories put forth on a daily basis.
I am pleased to see, but not particularly shocked, that the jaguar is reclaiming its home range, as shown in a recent bloggo posting, and it is not particularly surprising that they are not seen very often. This is an intelligent animal and a predator designed to be able to keep out of sight as if invisible. Because it was hunted to the brink of extinction (not by sport hunters, but in the manner that the Tasmanian wolf was killed off) I believe that there could be a species memory of mankind and our destructive nature warning it to avoid humans. So I am not shocked at why the Northern Mexican jaguar is rarely seen and even more so rarely seen in the American South West. But because we cannot see an animal does not mean that it is not there, it could simply mean that we are out classed by the animal and it is one step ahead of us on the track of mystery animals.
So, it is not much, but it is the best I have been able to come up with recently in this dry spell of freezing weather and high winds. So thank you for reading and I will attempt to post more often as my schooling schedule allows. It almost feels as though my bloggo should be sponsored by Folgers coffee and Marlboro cigarettes. So that’s all for now from Cryptid Illinois.
Posted by CFZ: Cryptozoology Online Sunday 8 February 2009 at 11:49
I am a hunter and for right or wrong, I have had a gun in my hand from the time I was 12 and I have been trying my best to live the American dream but I have been out in the forest from as far back as I can remember. I am a conservationist but those who have read my past writings will know by now that I am an avid hunter.
- Allowing a legally and strictly controlled harvest of a small quota of animals of a population at a designated fee provides revenue for the purchase of more land for the population to grow on.
- The Jobs created by the controlled harvest of an animal provides jobs to those who might otherwise poach for a living or turn to other perhaps similarly sinister crimes against the world.
- When a sport hunter harvests an animal that he has not only paid to hunt with no guarantee of achieving his trophy, he also provides a ready source of meat for the locals, and nothing is wasted.
- The hunter him or herself might not use what is taken, but the locals do! The bone is ground into fertilizer, the meat is eaten and as I said already the other parts of the Safari provide paying work for the locals.
- A Hunter should and most due attempt to take their animal in the most humane and fair chase way that they can, and equally importantly they strive to only take animals past their breeding maturity when they are no longer contributing to the gene pool. I know personally several professional Hunters currently working in Africa and some of them are also based in America.
Sport hunting however distasteful it may appear to some, is actually not the enemy of the natural world. The Enemy of the Natural world is actually militant poachers and corporate Deforestation! Which are two things that NO hunter agrees with!
I have already mentioned Kenya, however I would also like to put forth a case study of South Africa where sport hunting, and hunting in general is legal but strictly controlled. In the country of South Africa the large and small animals are thriving because of hunter’s dollars and proper management. The White Rhino can be legally harvested at an extremely high fee with no actual guarantee of a harvest , and the white Rhino Population is not only stable but is growing because the money generated by the extremely controlled - and please let me stress again and again the harvest is extremely strictly - harvest, that provides habitat for not only the rhino but other animals who would also share that habitat.
The controlled harvest of game by sport hunters helps contribute to conservation in South Africa, Tanzania, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. In Namibia there has been an extremely controlled harvest of the lately endangered black rhino in very recent years, with a drawing, which means a hunter buys a chance and there is not only no guarantee that the animal would be harvested but there is also no guarantee that the sportsman will even be chosen for the hunt, and the revenue generated has been used to buy more habitat and contribute to more conservation efforts.
By extremely controlled in this usage I mean no more than 3 black rhino per year or less as determined by conservation officials.
Sport hunting when done correctly and ethically under legal sanction contributes to the conservation of the natural world because it provides not only a primal experience of human past as well as the knowledge that you are contributing to the active conservation of renewable natural recourses.
Now! Do not take away from this that I think sport hunting is the end all answer, I do not think this. I do not believe that we should delist critically endangered species such as the tiger. There is a difference between Conservation and Preservation, and a species must be preserved before it can be conserved.
The purpose of this article has been to explain my view which I have done to my best ability, and in truth SCI (Safari Club International), is one of the largest conservation organizations in the world. So before you totally condemn the sport hunter, understand that in their own way, they are making a contribution to the same cause.
I have written on this topic because it is one that I have had to constantly explain, and I find that very few people outside of the sporting community understand how hunting contributes to conservation. I wanted to express my view in an area that might not be friendly to the idea, but the more people can be helped to understand the more people can work together. So I hope you have read this article with an open mind, and that I will not be ostracized by the CFZ, but I do not try and force my way of life on anyone and I ask that they also respect my view in turn.
I am currently low on sightings and reports of unknown animals in Illinois and that is why this writing finds its way onto the page. But I will continue on the track of mystery animals in Illinois and around the world with the mindset of not only a Naturalist but a conservationist and a hunter. So thank you for reading and I hope the next time I write I will have something more cryptozoologically oriented.
Posted by CFZ: Cryptozoology Online Thursday 29 January 2009 at 09:45
Shortly after I entered the room I spotted a high-school friend, who - after I questioned him - gave me some interesting information. Kyle was able to tell me about not only of a mountain lion sighting but also a possible readily-available source of food for the animals. Kyle told me that he was traveling east on Illinois Route 116 late at night, and he witnessed a big cat what appeared to be a tan-coloured cougar at the side of the road. It was dragging a road-killed deer, and as he passed the mountain lion, he saw it move quickly away from the road with its food and drag the carcass across the ditch and into the woods. This brings forth the idea that in addition to plenty of land and live game, the population of large mysterious predators could easily find a food source provided by the highways with road-kill.
The next person I interviewed was a friend of my Father. His name was Dennis, and he is a farmer in the area as well as being a local deer hunter. Dennis told me of how about 15 years ago he had been hunting during shotgun season and saw a black mountain lion crossing the game trail about 50 yards down the trail from him. Dennis couldnʼt remember exactly when he saw it and unfortunately I cannot remember what part of the locality that he saw it. But he also told me about sheep that had been killed in a very particular way and partly eaten. These sheep had been killed about 25 years ago. Unfortunately the locality is still somewhat sketchy. I do not mean to taunt my readers with false hope, but Dennis did think he could possibly help provide the CFZ with credible pictures of a Mountain lion from my area.
In my area of Illinois it seems to be common wood lore that Mountain lions inhabit the state and every one I asked had 1 of 3 answers. "NO your crazy", "Yes I have seen them", or "No I have not seem them but I have heard of them all my life".
When I asked Dennis about the Shawnee Forest theory, he told me that he went to school down by there for college in his younger days, and up until as recently as 30 years ago, the Shawnee forest was totally impenetrable totally full of swamps and bottoms and glens with thick brush and tall trees. Dennis also told me about another interesting bit of information that Farrell hogs and Farrell Horses that live in the trees and bogs. So in addition to the already plentiful game there is still another food source. Dennis told me with as deep and as thick as the Shawnee forest is he sees no reason why the isolated relic population theory would not stand. He also believes that there could very well be a population of the recently rediscovered black bear.
Later that night, I spoke with another witness but his name escapes me at the moment, and he told me about seeing a pair of mountain lions while in his deer stand. And how he too could tell me where to look. He knew someone who might be able to produce credible trail camera photos. The man confided to me that he was looking for somebody to talk to because he had talked to the Illinois DNR and they told him to keep his mouth shut. The man also told me that he believed the Shawnee population theory as well. He also believed that near Henry, Illinois there was a surviving pack of great lakes wolves.
So I managed to come up with some interesting stories from the hunterʼs meal but the strange stories of uncanny carnivores seem to be common wood lore for most country folk. As I am relating interesting stories I have some more stories.
After making a post to a hunting group, no-one had any knowledge of mountain lions, but bobcats seem to be coming out of the wood work literally here with local raccoon hunters in Illinois constantly running them up trees or catching them in traps. As I have said before, the bobcats in Illinois started out as shady deer camp stories told by hunters enjoying a beer after a long day, but now they appear to have not only taken a foothold in Illinois but that they are a thriving population.
I also got a very interesting response to a video that I posted on youtube about my involvement with the CFZ. The young man Cory told me about how he was about 13 he was on an ATV on his familyʼs land near their timber when he ran something tan move out of the field toward the woodline and he thought it was a deer because of its size but then he saw the tail and knew it was a cougar when it stopped at the edge of the field about 50 feet in front of him, and he could clearly see it was a cougar. He says he turned around and rode away making sure it did not follow him away from the place. Orchardville was the place of this sighting. Cory also told me that everyone in his family had seen the cats black and tan big cats, and he may be able to get a hold of trail camera pictures of the face of a cougar. I will be reviewing any pictures with a fine tooth comb to insure their authenticity.
With what I know about predator biology and animal behavior some of these sightings could be the same animal because the Puma has a large range and could easily cover 20 miles in one day. So the actual population density is very uncertain.
Some other interesting stories to come out of my recent research also include more support for the sasquatch population that could survive in the swamps and trees of the Shawnee forest. Another cryptid that could exist in the Shawnee is escaped or released captive large snakes along with possible populations of American Alligator that may have come up the Mississippi river and survived the temperatures by hibernation in the bogs and wetland of the Shawnee forest. I have heard stories of hunting dogs being dragged under water by alligators. Though I do not have proof of the stories I would not be surprised. Also I have heard rumors of a 'gator body that was found in the swamp.
Posted by CFZ: Cryptozoology Online Sunday 25 January 2009 at 05:29
I almost feel that I am not doing my job properly, because I am merely recounting sightings and interviews made by other people and I cannot verify any measure of credibility on these stories other than the discretion of the writer whose material I am providing commentary on. But it is the best I can do for now. So I hope my readers will accept another commentary on cryptid Illinois found in a published work.
I have just recently started college again after the Christmas break, and it has been a bit of an adjustment again as I have been off school for over a month and a half. But I am still making time for my work with the CFZ.
One of the more famous flying cryptids of Illinois folklore are the piasa birds of the Alton Bluffs along the Mississippi river. The French explorer Pere Marquette in 1683 discovered Illiniwek artwork cut and painted into the bluff at Alton, Illinois where it overlooks the place where the Mississippi River and the Illinois River meet. These huge works of art depicted fierce looking creatures with four feet, wings, the faces and teeth of lions, and tails that looked like a cross between a fish and a snake with deer antlers atop the heads. This Native American art description sounds more like it would fit into a Greek or Roman fresco from Mediterranean Mythology, but it appeared at the meeting place of two great rivers in America.
The word “Piasa” bird, means “Devourer of men” in Illiniwek. However , I must admit that because these cliffs have been mined for stone long before the advent of modern technology and photography, the original works of art have been lost forever. Only reproductions of the creature paintings exist today that are based on descriptions taken from the journals of early explorers in the region. But, there is a story of these terrifying creatures carrying off humans from an Illiniwek tribe, until a chief had a dream vision of how to kill them by shooting them under the wings with arrows where the feathers seemed the thinnest. He offered himself as bait and held onto a root when the piasa came to take him away, and as it flapped its wings the others from the hunting party drew and shot their bows into the creature. The poison-coated heads went deep and the creature fell dead from the cliffs into the river below.
I must admit that, like a lot of Illinois folklore, the piasa birds are very apocryphal. Yet an explorer was shown a cavern in the bluff face before it was mined, where human bones lay feet deep on the floor and it appeared to be lived in at one time by huge birds. However , due to the loss of the site because of mining we will never know if this truly was the den place of the great creature slain by Chief Owatago of the Illiniwek tribe.
I believe that the bluff paintings of the ancient times are much like the paintings of today. The artist was attempting to get across a meaning of how fierce a foe it was that chief Owatago faced with his hunting party. But the picture might not be meant to show the animal as it would have looked in reality.
However , I have two theories for what may have caused the piasa bird legend. One of them being that it could have been a relic oral memory of huge birds that stalked the native tribes from above during the last Ice Age. Or some of the large Ice Age birds of prey still existed in the United States up until very recent times, or even until present day out of sight above the earth, and in the cliffs and bluffs along the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers. For more on the piasa birds check out Mysterious Illinois for the full story and account of the monument.
Also, I have came across some interesting and fairly recent attacks on humans by the great Illinois thunderbirds. I do not think it is entirely impossible that large Ice Age birds could have survived until recent times. However, if they still survive and have not recently gone extinct due to loss of habitat, the many cliffs along the Mississippi River would make ideal places for the large birds to live, nest and hunt. The bald eagle has recently made its stunning comeback in Illinois - what if other huge unknown eagles could still survive; it’s unlikely but not totally impossible.
The earliest official report of a thunderbird attack was made in Tippah County, Missouri just over the Mississippi river from Illinois in 1868. A child was taken from a schoolyard by, what the teacher described as, a massive eagle. The child was eight years old and assuredly not a light meal or a light carry for a modern bird. As a side note, the debate of whether or not modern, or even Ice Age, birds of prey could carry off a full sized human being reminds me of the Monty Python sketch about the swallows and the coconuts. But to return to the story. As the child was carried away the teacher and the other students cried out and alarmed the bird. More than likely rocks that had been thrown at it connected, but all things as they were, the eagle dropped the ill-fated boy and he fell to his death. However, the injuries sustained from the bird’s talons and beak would surely have killed him if the fall did not.
Bernard Heuvelmans, in the past, had remarked that “no modern bird could carry anything larger than a lamb”. However, I have no evidence to my knowledge that Heuvelmans ever said that an Ice Age bird could not carry more weight with its superior wingspan and muscular body. So I just plain do not know. Also, I am as open to possibilities as the next cryptozoologist, but we must keep in mind that when a bird is in the air, it is very hard - and damn near impossible - to correctly estimate its height in the sky, or its wingspan correctly, because there is no frame of reference. However, when it is near the ground such as in a thunderbird attack, and it is carrying - say - a child of known size, that bird will look pretty darn big next to that child close to the ground.
In the year 1948, the thunderbirds returned to Alton, Illinois and sightings began to come in a few times a month. However, no attacks were reported from these sightings. And, unfortunately, without an attack where the bird is carrying something of known size, the sizes given by witnesses cannot be verified to be correct without, at the very least, an object of known size in the background.
In Logan County, Illinois in 1977 in Lawndale, two giant birds attacked 3 young boys playing in the back yard of one of their houses. The attack was fast and almost could be said to be coordinated; because the boys were separated by the massive birds, before one was chosen for abduction and, as the adults came to see what was going on when they heard the children yelling, and the sound of screaming and flapping from the birds. One of the boys was caught up in the talons of the one of the birds and was lifted a full 3 feet above the grass and carried in the air for more than thirty five feet. The young boy managed to save himself as the bird flapped higher by striking the bird in the head when it leaned down to peck at his face to subdue him, causing it to drop him, and continue on its way with a scream. The boy was traumatized and the family was ridiculed by papers and experts of the time.
Over the course of 1977 the huge birds would be sighted in Pekin, Bloomington, Tremont, and also in rural Mclean County. Many of the huge birds would be seen looming from telephone poles or in trees alongside Illinois roads, and there was no explanation that anybody could come up with as to from where the hell these mystery birds came from , and why did they appear to be migrating around the state following alongside the Illinois River.
Near Delevan, Illinois in 1977 a thunderbird was seen to snatch a sixty pound hog from a pasture and fly with it to a telephone pole, where it proceeded to enjoy a leisurely meal leaving the body in the ditch.
Yet after the panic of 1977 and 1978 died down there was a much less steady, and much more staggered, list of reports of the thunderbird, with a report as recently as 2003. But, it is not totally impossible that large Ice Age relic birds could have survived along the Mississippi cliffs and bluffs until very recent history, but what are they, and where are they now, and why did they appear and disappear?
I do not have these answers. But , mostly cryptozoology leaves you more questions than answers and a few statements as well. So , I hope you have enjoyed this instalment of the cryptid Illinois project using some references from the Troy Taylor book Mysterious Illinois. There are more stories of thunderbirds in the pages of the book, but I wanted to give a small summary of the reported thunderbirds in recent Illinois history. I will continue on the track of mystery animals in Illinois as best I can, and write as regularly as possible but with college starting up again, I will have a fresh pool of possible witnesses, but yet, perhaps, less time to write.
Posted by CFZ: Cryptozoology Online Wednesday 21 January 2009 at 09:20
So, the question on my readers’ minds might be, "so when is he going to start talking about cryptozoology and undiscovered species, instead of relic populations and possible displaced beasts that are beginning a breeding population?" Well your answer is right here. As I currently have no new news of large unknown carnivores in Illinois, I will be discussing the shadier side of Illinois’ woods and prairies. I am currently reporting on the Sasquatch sightings in Illinois. I personally and professionally believe in the Sasquatch, but I do not think that they would be incredibly common here.
The Shawnee National forest is a huge patch of woods filled with game hills and valleys, on the south end of Illinois. It could easily hide any number of strange creatures - some natural and some darker and supernatural - but as always, I attempt to keep my commentary secular. But the Shawnee is not the only place that large hairy humanoids are seen.
Ironically enough, on the topic of the mystery primates and witnesses, I am actually personally acquainted with Peter Byrne the ex-tiger hunter turned naturalist, and as I am both a hunter and an amateur naturalist I found him to be an admirable and pleasant man.
I am currently using information that I found in the Troy Taylor book Mysterious Illinois. However, as always, some reports will be credible and some will be apocryphal so as I am writing on reports already reported, yet again I cannot say I know anything for sure. But I will do my best.
Firstly, I must address one thing in particular although professionally, as I have said, I attempt to keep my views secular and un-supernatural as I can. Personally, I believe that the beast called the Wendigo, the Windigo, and the Sasquatch are not one and the same. The Wendigo is a monster created by acts of cannibalism and if these sins are un-repented and the acts continue, the person will eventually become a monster with human intelligence and diabolic cunning, with an unquenchable hunger.
The Windigo is not exactly the same and some have wondered why it is spelt differently. The difference is that the Wendigo is a monster, but the Windigo is the evil spirit or tortured soul of a person who commits acts of cannibalism without repentance, but dies before they are totally transformed into a monster,. The Windigo is doomed to possess and waylay those who it might find in the lonely wastes of forgotten timberland and continue the curse by , once taking over the person’s faculties, committing acts of cannibalism through them in an attempt to doom them to the same fate and never-ending hunger.
All of that said, professionally I must remain secular and the CFZ does not endorse as Jon Downes calls “Hocus Pocus”. So to avoid bringing religion into the debate I will go no further with the description of the Wendigo and the Windigo or their stories. But the reason that I have even mentioned them is because the Wendigo legends have often been interpreted to exclusively mean Sasquatch. You may disagree with me, but I do not believe that this is the case. And as aforementioned, I do not believe them to be the same creature.
The Sasquatch is natural if undiscovered, and the Wendigo is a sinister figure with bad intentions that haunts the winter campfires of the north woods of America.
Now that I have covered that, I can resume my expository. The earliest officially reported sighting of a Sasquatch in Illinois dates back to 1883 in Centreville, and it was made by the wife of a respected doctor. The Sasquatch resembled a nude man with wild features and was very hairy. I do not have an exact measurement on its height and, in truth, at the time of the sighting it was called a “wild man” by the paper because most of the great apes had not been discovered by westerners. The wild man was seen by Mrs. Saltenberger while she was driving her carriage down the road past an orchard when she was attacked by it. She struck it with her whip and the horses panicked, picking up speed along the road and the wild man kept pace with the carriage and was able to jump on the back and hold on for a few moments, but soon dropped off and ran back into the trees along the side of the road. The doctor and some other young men went looking for the wild man but it was never seen again.
The report from Centreville was the first official report, but it was not, by far, the first story told of the Sasquatch in the Midwest.
A report of a more docile Sasquatch was made by another woman in 1912 outside of Effingham, Illinois. It was seen near a small creek, and it was not just one, but what appeared to be a family of Sasquatch that would play in the water by the family farm. But this report was not taken seriously until the earlier report was discovered by the woman’s family.
Other reports of Sasquatch outside of Alton, Illinois appeared in 1925 and in 1929. What was said to be an upright walking huge gorilla was sighted in the woods outside of Elizabeth, Illinois.
For a while, no other reports came to light that made public record until 1941 when a hunter was stalked by an upright huge baboon-like creature in the woods near Mount Vernon, Illinois. The hunter was actually attacked and struck the beast with the butt of his rifle and fired shots trying to discourage it, and apparently he must have missed because no blood was found, and the beast ran away and disappeared into the thick forest.
When sightings of the Sasquatch continued into the next year, hunters numbering 1,500 attempted to exterminate the beast, but it was never found. It would stalk them and seemed to delight in screaming at them like a devilish wild cat with its tail in a wine press, and several of the hunters’ dogs were killed in a strange manner during the hunt. But no body ever surfaced, and no actual trace was found afterward. This story is rather apocryphal like the others. But, there is no doubt that if these beasts do exist, which I believe they do , they could prove to be dangerous even if they are not malevolent by nature.
From 1940 to 1960 large footprints began to surface in southern Illinois without explanation near Indian Creek. Keep in mind that this is well before the Paterson footage was taken and the Sasquatch had not achieved the fame it enjoyed after the international hype caused by the footage.
However , later in 1962 a grayish upright beast was sighted by two fishermen near Decatur Illinois.
Oddly enough, another strange beast with Sasquatch-like qualities came to light in Centreville, Illinois yet again. Little has been recorded in public record about the later Centreville woods sightings because it was deemed as backwoods nonsense. Yet these sightings continued into the late 1980s.
The sightings of Sasquatch seem to be mostly based in the southern end of Illinois, not extremely far from the Shawnee forest that I mentioned earlier in this article.
Oddly enough, a Sasquatch was sighted on a notorious lovers’ lane near Decatur, Illinois in late 1965. The place was called Montezuma Hill. The witnesses’ passions where cut short when a man-like hulking beast approached the car and spoiled the fun, terrifying the lovesick teenagers. Their screams soon aroused the attention of the police who knew the reputation of Montezuma Hill and had been in the area. The teens commented about how they could smell the beast even though the windows all had been rolled up. No report of the height of this Sasquatch was made.
Yet another sighting, on still another lovers’ lane in Illinois, was made in 1968 by two more teenagers who found their passion ruined by a monstrous black hairy beast that walked upright and had a round face and wicked looking eyes set in its ape-like face. They estimated its height to be around 10feet because of the height of the tall grass that it loomed over as it tossed dirt and rocks at the car. This sighting was in Chittyville, Illinois. The police that investigated this sighting noted the mashed down grass, and that the local dogs had been reported to be barking and disturbing the peace.
I do not wish to be lewd, but I believe that Sasquatch sightings are prolific on lovers’ lanes because of the amount of pheromones that are released by the human body during romance.
A sinister encounter with an Illinois Sasquatch occurred later in 1968. Three boys in Fulton County found their friend lying beside the road knocked out cold, and when they went to investigate they also found themselves attacked by a large hairy upright beast. They managed to get back to the truck with their friend dragging one of their number, who had also been injured, and they drove away quickly fearing for their lives.
In the early 1970s, the farmer city monster came to light and even a local policemen reported a sighting.
Bloomington, Illinois also had a rash of Sasquatch sightings during the 1970s as well.
And, in 1972, along Colehollow Road in Pekin, the cohomo monster was seen, and this strange beast left three-toed tracks. I do not mean to discount any sightings, but must admit I find some of these sightings I report from the book to be very apocryphal.
More sightings of large hairy beasts persisted in 1973 in Decatur and in 1973 Edwardsville had Sasquatch sightings. The Murphysboro Mud-monster also appeared in 1973 and it was believed to be a Sasquatch.
The rash of Sasquatch sightings I am retelling I think might be a bit of mass hysteria caused by the Paterson footage, but as I have said I do not want to discount these sightings in any way because I did not interview these witnesses. And because they appear in the book I believe that Troy Taylor surely did his fact checking. There is more, but I wanted to stop for a few moments to interject this commentary and explain again, in case I forgot to say above, that I will be attempting to be in contact with Troy as soon as I can. The 1970s proved to be an epidemic of Sasquatch sightings in the Shawnee forest itself. And sightings all over Illinois have persisted on staggered occasions up until 2005.
I have attempted to give a very brief summary of Sasquatch encounters in Illinois forests and rural areas, yet I have no idea of the credibility of these sightings and, personally, I have not known any Sasquatch witnesses. I do not think it is impossible that isolated populations of the Sasquatch could exist in Illinois, but as I said much earlier in the article I do not believe that Sasquatch are very numerous in Illinois.
Though I said I would not report on the supernatural or the Wendigo anymore, as I have written this article, I have recalled something that I heard a year or two ago from a friend. This sighting is what I believe to be the Wendigo because it was hairless and beastly and upright and she said it was about 7 feet tall. She drove past it in the ditch on the country road and stopped to see what it was. When it stood up she screamed and drove away, but the beast kept pace with her car as she drove the forest lined road as it screamed at her in the winter night. She said she could see it had claws and it did not give up the chase , but it swung into the trees and followed the terrified girl screaming as it went covering the distance quickly. The chase finally ended when she left the trees and came onto open territory where she could get up sufficient speed until she reached a well lit residential area. Her last sighting of the beast was of it standing atop a street light at the edge of the residential area.
This sighting was on a winter night, and though I know that the Blackwood work, the Wendigo, is fiction I could not help but think as I heard it, that the Wendigo in the story could climb trees and swung through the branches at great speed and its victims feet would always be torn by the wicked branches. Everything in this sighting screams at me in an eerie way that it was a creature like the beast from the Blackwood story, and all the other Wendigo lore I have ever heard around the campfire.
It is very eerie how your mind draws connections between what you thought was fiction and what a witness tells you to be the fact of their sighting. She had never even heard of the Wendigo, and did not believe in Sasquatch , but did not think that what she saw looked at all like a bigfoot. It was all but hairless she said and had a bit of a snout like face and gray skin, and it reminded her of the black Spiderman. So I do not know. She is the only Wendigo witness I have ever come across but I believe her. It is hard when you are in the snowy woods alone in their desolate wastes not to get a bit paranoid with campfire lies floating around your head.
So now, I can return to my normal secular commentary again to conclude this article for the CFZ. But as always I will be continuing on the track of unknown animals in Illinois. I do not think that an expedition in search of Sasquatch in the state of Illinois would be a very successful venture because though they might not have much habitat left, if they are indeed here, they are experts in eluding verification and classification. I apologize if this article seems a bit dull, but it is more of a short history than the exciting article that I would like it to be, but I promise there will be more to come on Illinois Cryptozoology in the near future, as I attempt to track down my large mystery carnivore witnesses. But as it is winter still in Illinois, I doubt I will have any recent local reports of large mystery reptiles or exotic reptiles until things warm up again. But as I always say, I am doing my best.
Posted by CFZ: Cryptozoology Online Monday 19 January 2009 at 23:59
I had the pleasure of attending a hunter’s meal this last weekend and strangely enough it proved to be a well of Cryptozoological information, where I enjoyed American wild game, a few beers and fine fellowship with outdoorsmen of all ages. Shockingly it proved to be a good venue for me to begin questioning these people about their knowledge of Illinois’ cryptid creatures. Obviously I began the questioning early in the night before the whiskey started to flow.
The first man I interviewed was named Erick Reddigger, and the interview went very well I explained to him like all the other people that I interviewed that I was working for a zoology group interested in reports of large out of place carnivores and other strange animals in Illinois. I did say it was the Center for Fortean Zoology but to save too much explanation of our mission statement, I just saved time and just called us a zoology group.
Erick proved to be a well of information, and though I delved deep, I am sure the well has not run dry, and he told me he would let me know if anything new developed. He told me of growing up in the same area that I also have grown up in but as none of my readers will know where it is I won’t bother with naming the location. But it would be easy to find, and it’s a real location but its outside of Washburn, Illinois.
Erick told me of how when he was growing up some times he would hear a mountain lion scream in the middle of the night outside his childhood home in the woods. The scream would be not too far off, and he also found tracks. When I questioned him on the tracks, he smiled at me, and assured me that no they did not have claws in the pugmarks and that it was the size of his hand.
Erick told me also of having seen a mountain lion while deer hunting in the past two years. However, luckily for him this mountain lion passed him by, and did not stalk him like other hunters. But he told me of a threatening feeling that he got, as most witnesses seem to feel. Erick also enlightened me about how while he was running raccoons with dogs, he also found himself running bobcats up trees. But as a conservationist he always called his dogs off, and let the bobcats be on their way. But it was a fear of his that some night he would run a mountain lion up a tree and have to deal with that. He told me he would keep in touch, and that he would be willing to talk to the CFZ if and when they came to Illinois and that he would also help them as best he could and give them leave to investigate his property.
The next man I spoke with told me of also seeing a mountain lion while deer hunting, and said that it was about 100 yards from his tree, and that it was crossing an open field. However he had a laser range finder with him that is a useful tool hunters have so they can know how far away the game is. So that’s how he knows that it was about 100 yards. (I can’t say exactly 100 yards, however, because there is a plus or minus of 1.5 yards on most range finders but it gives a good ballpark idea). But he also looked at it through his shotgun scope and could clearly see its size. When I asked him, he asked me how could anybody mistake a mountain lion when it has a thick low sweeping tail?
I cannot at the moment remember this man’s name or the exact location of this sighting, but he is easy enough to find, and when the time comes I would be able to procure that information as well.
Another hunter I interviewed was an elderly man who was also a veritable well of information. This man’s name was Lynn Reddigger a relative of Erick’s who lived on Pleasant View Road, north west of Washburn. Lynn told me of five mountain lions, two of them being black. All of them within the past two years. One of the black mountain lions was seen by his son-in-law, who was also deer hunting but with archery tackle, and he was so well camouflaged that the cat passed within 15 yards of his stand and it did not look up at him, and it continued along the trail following the scent of a deer. The man then remembered that the beast could climb, and so he quickly got out of his tree-stand in case it came back to find him with only archery tackle. This Mountain lion in question that Lynn’s son-in-law saw was black.
Lynn also told me about what he has seen himself. The first Mountain lion was a plain tan one that he saw crossing his property skirting the tree line. He believes that this cat may have a den nearby but he was unsure. Lynn also said that he saw a black Mountain lion cross the road in front of him one night and appear from one side of the road, only to disappear into the corn of the other side. I know the area and I am not at all surprised.
One of Lynn’s friends overheard my interview with him and interjected that he had also seen a pair of wolves crossing a horse pasture not far from the place that the mountain lion crossed the road. I am not at all shocked about that, because that stretch of timber owned by my grandmother’s relative is substantial and could support large predators easily. So I will try to be in contact with the farmer that owns the pasture, to check with him if he had ever seen anything for his part, but his horses are very rugged mustangs and could easily take care of themselves.
Lynn also told me - as an afterthought that he had seen a black bear in the area about 8 years ago while he was plowing a field at night.
In his own words, “I was plowing this fella’s field for him because I used to make a little money on the side, and I saw something moving out in the darkness behind me and so when I got to the end of the field and turned around I hit this thing with the headlights, and I thought who the hell’s cow is out in this field, but when I got closer and saw it better it was a bear eating grubs that had gotten turned up by the cultivator. And the bear stood up on its back legs and then I know what it was and he was a big old boy, and I had never seen one that size outside of Canada. He was big and black and had a white belly for some reason, and as I got closer to him he dropped back down on all fours and run off toward the trees again. And that was about 8 years ago.”
Lastly Lynn told me of how his wife had seen a pair of tan coloured mountain lions cross the road in front of her as she drove a winding country road south of Lacon, Illinois.
Now that is a very impressive list of sightings out of one man, and when I asked him if he had seen the paper, he said “what paper?” And so I know he didn’t know about the bear that had recently been sighted in Buda. He seemed to be a very good witness and said that he would be in contact with me if anything new developed, and that he would also be in touch with the CFZ if and when they came to Illinois and would definitely work with them and open his property to an investigation.
My next man that I talked to was not an eye witness but knew of a man (who he said would not have lied) who saw a large black mountain lion while deer hunting in the 2007 shotgun season. Todd was the man I talked to, and he told me that his friend had seen the black mountain lion walk along a log about 50 yards away. I do not have many details about this sighting, but I will be trying to contact the man who saw the big cat. And Todd told me that he would also send anyone with stories to me to tell them and if anything new developed he would be in touch and also would more than likely help the CFZ expedition if he could. Todd told me that it was totally fascinating to him that they would be possibly investigating around here.
Todd also believed that it would not have been impossible that a relic population of mountain lions could have existed In Illinois. In addition Todd told me of seeing bobcat while hunting, and what he believes to be a fisher cat, which is not a cat at all, but a large mustelid.
One other local man that I talked with Scott told me he had not seen one himself but had heard of many mountain lions recently in the northern part of the state of Illinois along I-80. But there was a sighting in the past that he told me of as well, that dates back to about 15 years ago near Larose Illinois, which is one of the places that I hunt deer when they are in season. But Scott said that more than likely that big cat was now lying in front of some hunter’s fire. But that he would spread the word about the investigation as well and be in touch of anything developed.
All the hunters that I interviewed even if they had not seen them, or heard anything to report, told me about the fact that they believed the mountain lions were here and that there was possibly a pack of wolves living within the quad county area, as in Woodford, Tazewell, Marshal, and Peoria counties.
So the night was very productive and as I write this I am nursing a bit of a hangover. Luckily for me, my father drove me that night, and the local hunters were very helpful and planned to be even more helpful. I did not however take any video testimony but I will be checking back with them to be in touch, and also check their story at a later date to ensure that it did not change in the retelling.
This hunter’s meal proved to be an inexhaustible fount of information of cryptozoological interest, and proves that as I have always said that outdoorsmen and their woodcraft is a plentiful but rarely tapped source of intelligence for cryptozoloogy. I uncovered more reports of the black mountain lions, more reports of a possible breeding pair of gray wolf in the area, and another black bear and many bobcats.
I will also add as a caution do not go looking for trouble or it might find you first, I know those readers outside of the USA might not be able to enjoy the same method of self preservation as I can, (for at least the time being), with the right to bear arms. But keep in mind that these are large carnivores and we are lower than them on the food chain and would easily make a meal. The disquieting facts that I have uncovered about mountain lions stalking hunters silently like the predators they are should ring as a warning that these animals are and could prove to be very dangerous.
As a Guide to the expedition I would be totally remiss if I did not think about the safety of all parties in the cryptid hunting party. So if you do go looking for something please beware that it might just find you, and then no one else would ever find you, So be careful out there and use whatever battery would be legal in your region at your own discursion.
Most of the sightings are very current and all of them sound to me at least to be credible. As a side note the United States Federal Government is attempting to delist the gray wolf from those endangered species list, which would allow for state jurisdiction of the management of the large carnivores. So in the words of Jon Downes “Cryptozoology calls and we must obey over the hills and far away” however this is just outside my door. I will continue as always on the track of the mystery carnivores as well as other Illinois cryptids.
Posted by CFZ: Cryptozoology Online Sunday 18 January 2009 at 04:00
Firstly, I am of German and Irish heritage, but I am all-American. But, as I am of German and Irish descent as I already said, I grew up hearing fairy tale. My grandmother read me the complete Brothers Grimm stories, and not the sanitized Disney versions - Hell no! I was told the bloody and bawdy cautionary tales that they were meant to be, and when my grandmother told me to stay out of the woods at night, I stayed the hell out of the woods.
However, I can’t stay out of the woods now because as a hunter and conservationist I have a deep love for nature and a respect for all the creatures in the woods. That said, I also have respect for my well-being and you won’t find me in the woods at night without a bang-stick in my hand.
But, anyhow, moving on. I have always loved stories, though for a good part of my life I could not read them very well, shockingly enough. When I was born, I was an emergency caesarean birth because my umbilical cord was wrapped around my neck, and collapsed one of my lungs and I damn near died before I even got started in this world. So, having gotten a second chance at my life at a very early age of a little more than zero, it’s amazing to me how well I have wasted my second chance.
However, my point is due to oxygen deprivation. It’s possible that I sustained slight brain damage resulting in Attention Deficit Disorder, meaning that, although I was a gifted child - or at least my teachers said so - if you ask Jon, he will tell you I am very modest. But, although I was a gifted child I had a slight learning disability in that I could hardly sit still, let alone concentrate long enough to learn to read. I was always looking and investigating. So I had trouble learning to read. And that is why I learned to love stories my mother would read to me, and I learned by ear.
Growing up I was read,aside from the normal childhood classics, rather lofty literature, such as Count of Monte Cristo, The Lost World, Hound of the Baskervilles - which, might I add, makes a wonderful bed time story - and other works. What I am getting at is that I learned by listening because I could hardly read. However, since I was able to learn to read I have never stopped and I have never lost my thirst for knowledge. And because I learned by listening to the written word and fairy tales it should come as no shock that I would listen to old campfire stories.
These American folk tales and deer camp lies of aged hunters were heard in the coffee shop where my grandfather would take me while he saw his friends from the Korean War. These local stories can prove to be quite interesting, and a bit frightening, and although they may have been embellished along the way, I am trying to sort out the wheat from the chaff. One thing that I always said about my political science class was, I know it’s all bureaucratic rubbish, and it would be alright if you didn’t have to sift through so much horse manure to get there.
As for what I have picked up in the oral tradition tales of strange creatures, Some of them bordered on the supernatural, but for the sake of professionalism and keeping my commentary for the most part secular, I will keep to purely natural animal stories of mysterious origin.
Years back, my neighbor - who is a respected physicians’ assistant - told me of being outside on his hunting cabin porch, overlooking his back yard, enjoying a cigar and waiting for his dinner to be ready when he noticed something large and brown in the field about 100 yards away. Leaving his cigar in the ashtray, he went inside to get his field glasses and when he returned he found the shape again.
It was, what he says, a mountain lion in the field among the stalks of dead corn, and every now and then he could see its tail flick back and forth as it lay. If had not been for the flicking tail he would not have seen it at all, as the cat was so well camouflaged. He tells me of an eerie feeling that came over him when he looked at its eyes through the field glasses and saw that it was looking at him and had possibly been stalking him as he smoked. But once the cat knew it had been spotted it got up and trotted away parallel to the man’s house and disappeared into the trees, of what form a large patch of forest ground filled with game in that area. I am currently trying to contact him to check the credibility of this story to ensure he was not just telling it to see my eyes go wide as dinner plates. So take this sighting with a grain of salt and a lime - and while we are at it - a healthy shot of tequila, because a grain of salt is no good on its own.
I also know of a local gravel pit. Well to be plain, a rock quarry, where I have heard tell of large cats being sighted. In some stories they are black and in some stories they are the normal tan mountain lion coloration. But nonetheless, they are said to possibly dwell nearby this spot which is very full of game and accessible water. I also am currently trying to track down this set of stories as well and check the facts to see if it is more than just campfire lore of Woodford county.
As I said before, I am just trying to recount tales I heard in my youth, and I will be later - once I have had time to research the facts - updating the facts once I check them, but for the time being they are just stories, though thought-provoking they are at that.
My grandfather on my mother’s side told of a pack of wolves that once roamed the forests of rural Marshal county and told me of being attacked while checking his trap-line and breaking the butt stock off of a small-bore rifle across the head of one of the beasts. However, I am unsure of whether this pack ever existed, if it was populated by wolves, or whether it is more likely that they might have been coy-dogs (a coyote-dog mix which is a very dangerous beast indeed because of its unnatural lack of fear of man and its wild cunning). The Native Americans did not give koy-o-tae (coyote) the name of trickster for nothing.
However, because this is also the area where a wolf was recently shot, I do not find it impossible that there could have been a displaced population of great lake wolves that may have ended up in the area and survived. But, due to the lack of fresh genetics, it’s a bit unlikely that the pack mentioned in the story would still exist today. It’s more likely that the population is very small and split up into breeding pairs, or interbred with feral dogs. So, that is uncertain. But, as I said, it is not impossible, with wolves coming through the state regularly that new genetics could not have found the Marshal county pack, though competition for the coyote might contribute to it being small. But they definitely know how to stay hidden. So I just do not know, it is not impossible that it could be a displaced population of breeding pairs but, as I said I just don’t know. But, I think it is very likely that the pack that attacked my grandfather in his youth was more than likely coydogs. And, like all of these stories, I will be fact checking and you will know more when I do.
Ironically enough, bears haunted my dreams as a child. I would dream myself on my father’s parents’ farm where I did much of my childhood play, and I would find myself confronted by bears. I would run for my life as fast as my young legs would carry me, and slam the farmhouse gate behind me only to remember with horror that the other side of the yard was unfenced and the fence was only there to keep the chickens out of the yard. It was entirely open on the other side that overlooked the country road, and there would be a bear on this side as well. I would run for my life towards the house, and I never remember how the dreams ended, but I would awake in a cold sweat.
However, these dreams could have been fostered by stories of the bears my grandfather saw on fishing trips to Minnesota that I heard sitting on his knee as a very young man in the smoky air of a coffee shop. That is when you could still smoke in a coffee shop, imagine ashtrays at Starbucks, on a cold day in hell, what is the world coming to? However, I also heard stories of bears being kept captive in old grain silos. It’s not impossible that some may have been released or escaped, but I do think - as the reporter I spoke with before, Jeff Lampe, thinks as well - that it is highly unlikely that captive bears that have escaped could start a breeding population. And, I believe that the bear currently seen in Illinois is a displaced bear from another state. However, expanding populations may see Illinois as home to more wild black bears as time moves on.
As for other possible mystery animals that might turn up in Illinois, we move along back in time to the days of the great rail road cattle cars. Full with cattle driven by cowboys up to the Red River in Oklahoma from Texas and loaded into cattle cars headed for Chicago. Now these cattle cars coming from the south west to Chicago - the great slaughterhouse of the world for a time - might have had more than just mooing beef in them. It’s entirely likely that in the underbellies of these iron snakes that real snakes might have found shelter and unknowingly hitched a ride northward to drop off along the way. And, most railroad tracks are bedded with sand and rock so what better place for hitch hiking rattle snakes to start a den and breed.
However, I have very little proof of these stories, but the theory is very sound and I would not at all be shocked if in time it is proven right by expanding population or unfortunate human victims of snakebite.
Another possible source of mystery reptiles in Illinois, though unlikely to start a population, is still in the days of the great rail roads and the circus trains that could, and would, occasionally wreck along the tracks. My great grandfather on my mother’s side told me the story of one such wreck; however he has since died long years ago and the world is much poorer for the loss of such a man. But he told me of the wreck of a circus train that apparently lost its python, or boa, I cannot remember which, but it was a very large snake that apparently found its way into their chicken yard which would not be hard to do as the house is located not 300 yards from the tracks. To continue the story as best I can remember it, this large snake was busy with swallowing a chicken while the farm dogs were raising all hell, and my great grandmother came out to see what was going on. She apparently dropped a washbasin and went to get my great grandfather, who in turn went to fetch his shotgun to dispatch the snake. As interesting as this story is, I have no proof other than my memory of this event because I never did see the skin of the snake or have any proof of it ever even existing, let alone eating a chicken and being shot.
Yet, that said, it was always a very provocative story with touches of other possible truthful explanations for other mystery animals woven into it.
I doubt that the large black cats seen in Illinois are not color morphs of the mountain lion produced by isolation from genetics in a displaced or relic population, and are in fact the descendent of black leopard lost from circus train wrecks in the distant past of Illinois that may have interbred with a relic or displaced population of mountain lion. I do not know if the genetics are close enough to allow one of these crossbreed big cats to be fertile, and that is where the black coloration is coming from. I do not know, but nothing is impossible - only mathematically improbable. Though the idea of there possibly being black leopard genetics in a possible Illinois mountain lion population could explain why the carcass of the deer spoken of in my first posting was cached in a tree like a leopard would do, but unfortunately I have no idea. Both theories for the black coloration are debatable and even then, the fact of there being a population of mountain lions in Illinois is also highly debatable, at the very least. Though I believe there is.
I hope that my writing on this subject is captivating and at its very least mildly entertaining, if not at all a slightly bit educational.
I will soon be attending a wild game feed, which is a local celebration held at the end of hunting season in my area. It is where local hunters get together to drink, smoke, chew tobacco and feast on the harvest that Mother Earth provides us that was taken by the sweat of their brow and the keenness of their wit, but it goes without saying that we never mix guns and liquor - I figured I had better clarify. However, at this local wild game dinner, I will attempt to conduct interviews regarding large mysterious carnivores stalking the Illinois forest, and other interesting fauna of my home state, that is before the beer and fellowship goes to my head.
Thank you for reading, and I hope that I am making a small contribution to the Centre for Fortean Zoology, be it a meager one at that, seeing as this post is nothing but campfire and coffee shop stories from my youth as a very young outdoorsman at the time of hearing them.
Posted by CFZ: Cryptozoology Online Saturday 17 January 2009 at 04:00
Now, the expedition that will hopefully be heading to my neck of the woods is after proof of a mountain lion population in Illinois, and also looking to establish the theory, or even prove, that the population is a relic population of big cats that over time and isolation from new blood lines, have developed gene patterns that produce a black coat.
(Editor’s note: Check out the link in the left-hand tool bar to the CFZ investigations in Illinois during 2004)
Since 2001, 2 mountain lions have been shot and killed to date.
The idea is very provocative, but some from the newspapers outdoors column and the DNR, feel that the mountain lions being seen and Killed in Illinois are from the black hills population. It is not impossible that the animals could travel that far. Considering the amount of sightings over the years that been reported, and those which must have gone unreported, that I have come across at campfires in my life, it just do not sit well with me that they are all traveling cats.
I am in direct contact with the newspaper and many outdoorsmen So, I will know as soon as anything new comes to light.
So in my Short time as a CFZ member and in my long but short life as a woodsman, I am recording what first-hand stories have I am across, and I am trying to track down the people who told me stories when I was very young.
More recent accounts that I have just acquired of cougar and even “Black Panther” are as follows. A friend of mine who had a sighting in rural central Illinois told me of a man who was deer hunting with a bow. Ross says this man was up in his tree stand and he got the feeling he was being watched and he turned around to see a “Black Panther” on the ground. The man believed it was between 150 and 200lbs, which checks out, because as a hunter he knows how to judge animal size at distance.
The man quickly got down out of his stand, and tried to walk calmly to his truck, so as not to trigger an attack response. But as he watched his back trail he noticed he was being followed and stalked by the big cat. However it stopped at the edge of the tree line and watched him get his gun from the truck and apparently there was a standoff beside the truck, but the cat lost interest and ran off. Though the cat did not attach the hunter, it did stalk him on his way out of the woods.
I am currently in contact with Ross, trying to track down this man for more information and be sure to verify this story as it has come to me in the third person.
Ross himself is a hunter and a lifelong outdoorsman, and he thinks he had a sighting of a mountain lion. Ross, however, was reluctant to say what he saw because even though he knows what he saw he did not want to say in case it might end up false, and be a dog.
However I think his reluctance adds to his credibility because he did not want to waste anybodies time. But what he tells me is this he had just pulled into a pasture with his girlfriend Lisa, on his way to a hunting their double-seated deer stand in rural Woodford county. He says it was a 30 acre field. And this spot was on the south end of a 400 acre farm with 80 acres of forest on the property. And he was on a logging trail about 300 yards down the trail, there was something that came running out It was big and tan with a long tail, and its shoulders and head bobbed as it bounded down the trail toward the pair on the 4 wheel ATV. It however saw the oncoming vehicle, and made a sharp turn, and headed for the river bottoms away from the field. Now Ross knows it was a mountain lion, but he was trying to make totally sure it was not a yellow lab. But it was simply too big at 300 yards, and moved like a cat.
Also, I would say that as a hunter, Ross knows how to judge animal size at distance. However, Lisa says that there’s no chance it was a yellow lab, because the side view of it clearly showed the tail being very long, and keeping balance with the body. Ross said they found tracks, and after I asked him what they looked like he said they didn’t have claws in the pugmarks, which makes them a felid’s tracks. So they kept on down the trail to the deer stand and never saw a single deer in the timber that season because they all acted spooked.
Still another spooky tail of the Illinois woods, deals with what appears to be a mountain lion cashing of food. Ross says that when he was in middle-school he saw something big and black in a field on their property, and so he went to tell his father. They went with guns, as always, to check it out. And they picked up a drag trail with bits of deer hide in and hair in the field, they followed the trail back toward the river bottoms. Then the trail quit, and they couldn’t figure why.
They looked up into a busted off hollow tree, and about 6 feet up there was deer carcass cashed in the hollow, and they couldn’t figure out how it got there. That was years and years ago now. But that deer carcass is almost pure proof that it was a big cat kill. I have also heard un-verified stories about dens and cubs.
I also do not want to set you all up for disappointment but I may have a friend with trail camera pictures of a mountain lion. But I will say more when I know more.
Illinois also has a rapidly growing population of bobcats and river otter. The bobcats in Illinois (which according to Mammals of Illinois, By Donald F. Hoffmeister are almost entirely extirpated) started out like the mountain lion reports; just local legend. However the population of bobcats is growing very fast. And wild boar are also starting to show up, as the feral hog population in the southern states expands northward.
I do not know everything, but I am doing my best to report the facts I know and make sure they are credible. So that if and when the CFZ expedition does come to Illinois, I will be able to help guide them as best I can. I am working on verifying and tracking down local eyewitnesses. Also Illinois’ Shawnee Forest might hold the isolated population of bigcats but it is unknown. The DNR is not crazy about these reports, and so they have been less than helpful but as things develop more and I gain credibility and make connections.
Jeff Lampe has been very helpful and I am doing my best. I am sorry that I have had to use newspapers for so many of my sources, but I am just trying to get more information toward my investigation until I can track down the people who told me the stories.
Jeff Lampe thinks that the idea of a breeding population of mountain lions in Illinois is highly unlikely, however he does say that its not impossible that there could be breeding pairs. But as you know by now, I feel that there is a stable and growing population. I also have some very interesting reports of more sightings and possible cattle killing. But I want to make sure I can verify that before I say any more.
I have also been honored by Jon, who has put me working on the Big Cat Study Group with Neil and Max. As I have predator hunting experience I guess I am a consultant if I could give myself that much credit. I am no expert but I am an experienced outdoorsmen. So I hope I can bring something to the New Guard of the Cryptid Revolution and The CFZ.
As I am an American and a bit of a blue-collar young man, well .. fine I’ll say it - I am a redneck. But as I pride myself on being articulate. Anyhow it’s a bit of an inside joke for me to think of how I read of the great hunting expeditions in Africa and India had “White Hunters”...
Well as I am a bit of a redneck at heart and going to be helping if I am lucky with a CFZ expedition , I am the CFZs “Whitetrash Hunter”. Its kind of an inside joke. So thank you for reading and I hope you feel a bit more informed and at the very least entertained.