5 Creepiest Cryptids from Arkansas
Storytelling is a special type of magic. Listening to or reading a good story can take you on a journey of experiences and emotions: excitement, fear, elation, curiosity and amazement. There’s nothing like a good story.
It’s even more thrilling when those stories hit close to home. When someone tells you about something that includes names, places, and faces that you know, you tend to lean in a bit closer to hear all of the details. Arkansas has a rich history of folklore, spanning centuries. The Ozarks are fertile ground for traditions, beliefs, tall tales and more that have long enthralled some renowned folklorists, such as Vance Randolph, John Quincy Wolf Jr, and W.K. McNeil who made it their life’s work to research and document such things for posterity. It’s thanks to these enthusiasts and other lovers of storytelling that we continue to pass down some of the very stories that make Arkansas unique.
Elusive creatures of lore or unique sightings of mysterious beasts? The natural landscape of Arkansas is home to many beautiful and unique animals, so is it possible that these reports of the unknown are more than tales retold? I’ll leave that up to you. Here are the 5 creepiest cryptids from Arkansas.
5. The White River Monster
This legend can be traced to Native American folklore, according to some news features about the Newport-area creature. The first recorded sighting was in 1915, followed by another report in 1924. The first national publicity about “Whitey” appeared in 1937 when farmer Bramblett Bateman reported to the media that he had watched a gigantic sea serpent-like beast frolic in the river near his home. According to the Animal Planet, one of their found “lost tapes” included this rendering of the elusive creature.
Newsreel cameramen, reporters and curiosity seekers lined the river downstream from Newport for weeks hoping to get a glimpse of the gray, slimy beast. In addition to Bateman, three other local residents signed affidavits stating they also had seen the creature. Reports of and interest in the river monster eventually subsided, and the incident was almost forgotten. Then, in 1972, several people along the White, between Jacksonport and Newport, reported sighting strange objects in the river.
“As big as a boxcar and 30 feet long…gray all over, with fins,” one excited witness reported.
4. The Fouke Monster
The most famous of monster legends in The Natural State is that of the Fouke Monster. Its fame was assured by three movies about a hairy, ape-like creature that supposedly haunts the swampy Sulphur River bottoms of Miller County. The first reported sightings of the “Boggy Creek” monster were in 1946, and it was seen again in 1965. But it was an alleged attack on a farmhouse near the Fouke community in 1971 that brought state and national attention to the region south of Texarkana.
Shaggy-haired, stinky and well over six-feet tall, the creature allegedly clawed its way through a screened window before the men of the house chased the creature back into the woods.
3. Heber Springs Water Panther
Perhaps the most overlooked monster legend in The Natural State is the Heber Springs Water Panther. A weird cross between the Bigfoot and a puma, the creature reportedly can breathe both on land and underwater. It is man-like with a covering of fur, and gives off a “hellish scream” when roaming the deep forests.
Witnesses say it can be spotted haunting the waters of Greers Ferry Lake and the Little Red River. Like the others, the Water Panther has not been seen in recent years. Perhaps fewer people are venturing through the woods and swamps at midnight in the 21st century, accounting for fewer sightings. And maybe high-tech video games and movies have obscured the legends and folktales of just a few decades ago.
2. The Gowrow
The White River Monster isn’t the only mysterious creature lurking in the folkloric history of Arkansas. The Ozarks is said to be home to a creature called the Gowrow, which is best described as a wingless dragon. Reported as having two tusks on its head, webbed feet, a spiky back, and a formidable spear at the end of its tail, the 20-foot-long nocturnal monster preys on livestock and small animals. According to a story that appeared in the Arkansas Gazette on January 31, 1897, the Gowrow is so named because of the sound that it makes.
Acclaimed folklorist, Vance Rudolph believed that if the Gowrow existed, it was not a single creature, but some unidentified species. He recounts stories from people who claim to have had encounters with Gowrows across the state, including someone who was spelunking in Devil’s Hole (Boone County) and another person who claimed to have lured one into captivity by feeding it so many apples that it got stuck in a burrow. This person then went on to charge 25 cents per person to anyone who wanted to see the Gowrow. The catch: whenever he had a crowd of paying spectators, he would put on a show of the Gowrow having gotten loose and him barely escaping with his life. So there is no documentation of there ever being an actual creature in his possession, let alone the Gowrow of legend. However, tales of this mythical beast still travel throughout the Ozarks.
1. The Ozark Howler
The Ozark Howler, also known as the Ozark Black Howler or the Devil Cat, is an urban legend not only local to Arkansas, but to Texas, Missouri, and Oklahoma as well. With a cry that has been likened to something between a wolf’s howl and an elk’s bugle, this creepy cat-like monster is said to still be roaming the Ozark Mountain region. In fact, the last sighting of this bear-sized beast was reported in last year near Lake Springdale on Pump Station Road. Locals claim this creepy, dark-haired cat has glowing eyes and horns.