Craig Woolheater: Sept. 2009
co-founder and former chairman of the Texas Bigfoot Research Conservancy.
A common misconception among the general public is that the Bigfoot phenomenon is limited strictly to the Pacific Northwest. Many people think of Texas terrain as being nothing but prairies and deserts filled with “tumbling tumbleweeds” to quote the famous song.
However, in East Texas, which is where the majority of the reported sightings of Bigfoot occur in the state, there are approximately 12 million acres of forest land. There are four national forests and five state forests in Texas, all located in East Texas, the primary and most important forested area in Texas. The East Texas Pine Belt, or “Piney Woods” as it is commonly called, extends over forty-three counties and accounts for almost all of the state’s commercial timber.
There has been a long history of sightings in the state of Texas. Native American legends dating back hundreds of years describe tribes of hair-covered giants that lived in the forests. One of the first in the history books is the strange case of “The Wild Woman Of The Navidad.” This is a story that was recounted in The Legends of Texas published by the Texas Folklore Society in 1924. The creature was described as being extremely fast and covered in short brown hair. She eluded capture because the horses were so afraid of the strange creature that they could not be urged within reach of the lasso. Mysterious, barefoot tracks were seen frequently in the area. These events occurred in 1837 in the Texas settlements of the lower Navidad.
A report that I came across years ago was written up in a Bigfoot newsletter in 1970. It was written by a man from California who shared a barracks in the Army with two soldiers from Longview. He wrote, “In or about the year 1965, there was a rash of reports of giant hairy creatures roaming the thickets and back country between Jefferson and Longview, Texas, but nearest to Longview. A man and his little daughter reported it as being large, black and not a bear. Several head of cattle and a couple of people were supposedly killed by it. Private Jacobs was a member of a posse that hunted the creature when he was a teenager. He told me that he saw the body of one of the murdered persons and that the victim had been torn apart. At the time, he threw his gun back in the car and went home. I can’t blame him, he was only 14 or 15 at the time.”
We started investigating this case by digging through the newspaper and library archives in Marshall and Jefferson, finally finding an article dated September 1, 1965 that mentions the Marion County Monster Legend. The article was titled “Boy Says For Real Sighting of Monster Renews Marion Legend.” The story is about a 13 year old boy who was allegedly chased by an ape-like creature while walking home from a friend’s house one afternoon. Two men picked the boy up in a car and drove him home. The boy described it as “about seven feet tall with thick long black hair all over its body except for the face, stomach and palms of its hands.” Marion County Deputy Sheriff George Whatley investigated the scene, but found no evidence of a large animal having been there. A UPI clipping, dated September 20, 1965, from Jefferson, Texas, entitled “Town Fed Up With Monster Hunters” was also found concerning the incident. Sheriff Luke Walker is quoted as being upset by the Bigfoot hunters from three states who had overrun his small northeast Texas town since a thirteen-year-old boy came running out of the woods three weeks earlier telling of seeing a big, black hairy thing.
Charles DeVore of Karnack, one of our investigators at the time, started doing some follow up investigations, using the names found in the articles. Sheriff Luke Walker and Deputy George Whatley had both passed away. He went to current Jefferson law officers who were very helpful and directed him to one who worked for Sheriff Luke Walker back in the early 1970s. This officer related that he had spent many hours with Sheriff Walker back then talking over events of his career and claimed that there was no possibility that any Bigfoot killedanyone around Marion County during the 1960s or any other time in Jefferson history. This officer even called several people that he knew were around back then and none of them knew of any Bigfoot killing.
Next on the list was Dwain Dennis who owned the Jefferson Jimplecute at that time. Charles found him to be in good health and possessing a very sharp memory. He corroborated the Marshall News Messenger story about the 13-year-old kid who claimed to have been chased by a Bigfoot. He had interviewed the kid himself that day. He related that something had frightened him very badly but to this day is not sure what it was. He felt that the tracks that he found were not faked.
He and his wife spent all their spare time for about six weeks looking into that story and a few related stories that sprang up from the original. His newspaper articles generated calls from throughout the country as well as several foreign countries. Many other stories sprang up in other media and tabloids and were embellished from there. While many people did come to Jefferson to investigate, chase down inflated rumors, or hunt down the imaginary killer Bigfoot, no organized posse was ever formed. All the wild stories were generated by other outlets and were totally false. He stated that there were no killings in or around Marion County or Jefferson that could even remotely be blamed on a Bigfoot.
Possibly the most famous of the Texas reports is the case of the Lake Worth Monster. This case hit the public consciousness in the summer of 1969. While America was caught up in the moon landing hysteria, sightings of this hairy creature were being reported in the Greer Island area of Lake Worth in Fort Worth, Texas. The animal was described as being approximately seven feet tall, weighing in the neighborhood of 300 pounds, covered with white hair and walking upright like a man. It was purportedly seen repeatedly throughout the year and during July the area was packed with locals who had witnessed the beast. At one point it was said to have become annoyed by the onlookers and hurled an automobile wheel and tire at them from a distance of 500 feet. Needless to say, they leapt into their cars and departed post haste.
The last reported sighting of the creature that year was by Charles Buchanan on November 7th. He was sleeping in the open bed of his pick up truck and was awakened when his sleeping bag was suddenly grabbed by a creature and pulled from the truck. He stuffed a bag of chicken in its mouth and it shuffled off into the water and swam towards Greer Island.
This series of events was the impetus for my personal interest in this field. I was a child of nine years old that summer, and my grandparents lived in Fort Worth. They had a boat on Eagle Mountain Lake, which was separated by a dam from Lake Worth. I can still remember seeing the headlines in the Fort Worth Star Telegram about the “Goatman.” We spent many a night anchored out in the middle of the lake and my imagination ran rampant with all manner of scenarios of the monster climbing aboard our boat.
My childhood interest received a jump start on May 30, 1994, when Marci and I saw a very large, hair-covered, bipedal creature while driving on an unlit two-lane highway between New Orleans and Alexandria, Louisiana. I began researching the Bigfoot/Sasquatch subject intensely, joined several related Internet discussion groups, and then co-founded a research group in 1999.
Since its beginnings a decade ago as the Texas Bigfoot Research Center, the TBRC has grown and developed in some terrific ways. The organization takes a hard-eyed look at the Sasquatch phenomenon and has established a no-nonsense reputation that has facilitated our ability to establish working relationships with institutions and agencies. Among our various activities, the Texas Bigfoot Conference represents the TBRC’s primary educational outreach endeavor. It is open to the public and involves bringing in scholarly speakers considered among the most knowledgeable in the field. By the way, the only thing ever intended by including “Texas” in the name was to indicate location, not that everything discussed would pertain to this part of the country.