Deep in the murky swamplands of Central South Carolina, it is rumored that a reptilian humanoid has made its home beneath the Spanish Moss draped canopy. The monster stands at least seven feet tall with green, scaly skin, red eyes, and three toes on each foot. Often mistaken for an alligator as it slithers toward the bank, the massive creature then finds its feet and reaches a reported sprinting speed nearing 40 mph. With dozens of sightings and bizarre incidents over the years, it sits among some of the most intimidating creatures ever encountered. While the Lizard Man of Scape Ore Swamp has become something of a mascot for the nearby town of Bishopville, it is spoken of in tones of fear and reverence to this day. Those who have witnessed the creature’s ferocity are all too aware of how serious the danger it poses is.
The first reported sighting was in the fall of 1987. 20-year-old George Hallman Jr was riding his bike home from work. As he passed near Scape Ore Swamp, he stopped to take a smoke break on the side of the road. While sitting next to his bike, he spotted what he thought was an oddly colored tree stump. He stood and began walking toward it to get a closer look. When he was just under 30 yards from the figure, it stood up. He froze immediately as he realized its size. Suddenly he was not 30 yards from an odd tree stump. He was less than 30 yards from a seven-foot-tall creature covered in green scales. As the creature began to bristle, a car approached from the north. As the headlights caught the creature, George saw its glowing red eyes and large tail for the first time. It spun away from the approaching vehicle and ran on two legs into the trees.
The following summer on June 29, 1988, a 17-year-old boy named Christopher Davis was driving home from a late shift at work around 2 a.m. Though it was a drive he likely made often, tonight’s drive held a surprise that he would never have expected. After his tire blew out, he stopped on the side of the road near the local Scape Ore Swamp to change it before finishing his trip back home, and that’s when his encounter with the Lizard Man occurred.
According to Davis, he had nearly finished changing the flat tire when he suddenly heard a strange thumping sound coming from behind him. What he saw when he turned around was the most terrifying image he had ever experienced.
“I looked back and saw something running across the field towards me,” Davis said of that night. “It was about 25 yards away and I saw red eyes glowing. I ran into the car and as I locked it, the thing grabbed the door handle. I could see him from the neck down – the three big fingers, long black nails, and green rough skin. It was strong and angry. I looked in my mirror and saw a blur of green running. I could see his toes and then he jumped on the roof of my car. I thought I heard a grunt and then I could see his fingers through the front windshield, where they curled around on the roof. I sped up and swerved to shake the creature off. I didn’t know what else to do. I thought I was being attacked by the devil himself.”
Though Davis was not hurt during his encounter with the Lizard Man, he got home and found that his car was not so lucky. His side-view mirror was unusable after what happened, and there were numerous scratch marks on the roof of his vehicle. Davis then told his father about what happened, though it’s not clear whether he believed his son’s story or not. Regardless, Davis’ father did finally share the incident with the police after reading a story in the local paper about a car that had been mauled in a similar fashion to his son’s.
On July 14, 1988, just a few weeks after the experience that Davis had while driving home from work, a couple named Tom and Mary Waye called the police to their home in Bishopville to report a bizarre incident involving their vehicle. Unbeknownst to them, something had come along during the night and ripped the chrome fender from their car, broken its hood ornament, scratched its sides, bent the antenna, and even ripped out some of the motor wires.
Even more strange was that police noticed that the fender looked as if it had been chewed on—as if an animal had used its teeth to rip it off the car. The Wayes also discovered several muddy footprints all over the car, as well as clumps of red hair nearby.
One of the main investigators for this incident, Sheriff Truesdale, spoke to several locals who gave him their theories on what happened to the Waye’s car. Their reports were eerily similar to what Davis said he saw.
“We learned that people in the Bishopville community had been seeing a strange creature about seven feet tall with red eyes,” Truesdale said. “Some of them described it as green, but some of them as brown. They thought it might be responsible for what happened [to the car].”
Within a month of Davis’ encounter with the Lizard Man, multiple people in the Bishopville area claimed they saw him or woke up to unexpected damage to their cars. In fact, twelve more people claimed to see the Lizard Man of Scape Ore Swamp that year. Some people were chased by the creature and others were slowly being followed until the creature was spotted and ran away. There were also more reports of damaged cars. On July 24, four teenagers on a double date saw a massive-looking thing run across the road about 20 feet in front of them. Though law enforcement officers were skeptical, they were still concerned that the tales could be real, as people they knew to be trustworthy were among those who said they have had encounters. Still, they responded with skepticism and told the concerned townspeople that the creature was more likely to be a bear than a giant lizard.
That is until they made a plaster cast of its footprints. The footprints had three toes that were approximately 14 inches long, and local biologists deemed them as unclassifiable. Johnny Evans, a spokesperson for the South Carolina Marine Resources Department at that time, said that the tracks did not match those of any animal that had been previously recorded, and they couldn’t be mistaken for the track of any other animal, either. He also expressed doubt that the prints could’ve come from a known animal that had some sort of mutation.
Shortly after receiving this initial report, the police received several more reports of howling and screeching coming from the same area. Officers were dispatched to the area and discovered three 40-gallon cardboard drums smashed and scattered all over the road. Several trees also had their tops torn off about 8 feet off the ground. There were also more three-toed footprints measuring 14 inches long by 7 inches wide that followed a trail almost 900 feet into the swamp itself.
While reports of the Lizard Man began to taper off by the early 90s, the early 2000s saw another rise in incidents. A woman in Newberry, South Carolina, reported in October 2005 that she had seen not one, but two Lizard Man creatures outside of her home. She stood behind the back screen door of her house and watched as they ripped through the roof of her small chicken coop and reached in for a bit of a midnight snack. The creature nearest to her shoved one chicken into its mouth and carried another away as they made their way back into the trees that bordered her backyard. Three years later, a Bishopville couple named Bob and Dixie Rawson discovered that their car had been damaged overnight and that a few of their cats had gone missing. To add to their fears, they also noticed patches of blood on their car, which an examination determined came from a dog. A sheriff later discovered a dead coyote and a dead cow in the field next to their home.
In August 2015, a woman named Sarah Berra snapped a photo of the Lizard Man after she stepped outside of church for a moment. It’s one that would make most people laugh, with its bulging muscles, fake-looking red eyes, and plasticky appearance. However, the photo she shared later encouraged an anonymous man to share video footage he had taken of the creature in May of that year.
“‘I saw a lizard man story on the news, and it’s given me the courage to send out a video I took in early May,” the man wrote to a local news station. “Though my wife believes me that it’s real, she said she would be embarrassed that everyone would think I was a loon, so I kept it a secret.” His 24-second video shows a tall figure darting in and out of the trees in a patch of woods, though it doesn’t get close enough to show any real physical details.
Shortly after that video was released, in June of 2015, another local man named Bob Tilly had a run-in with the Lizard Man that topped them all. He had spent the day hunting alligator with his partner, William Spencer. Exhausted from their nearly fruitless efforts, the two men were loading equipment and their one kill for the day into Tilly’s truck when they were struck by a screech from the tree line behind them as they had never heard. According to their report, the creature was on Tilly before they understood what was happening. The hulking beast latched its jaw around his forearm and dragged the man to the ground, snarling and wrapping its claws around his torso. Thinking quickly, Spencer pulled a 357 magnum from a bucket in the back of the truck and fired into the air. In response, the creature looked up locking his glowing red eyes on Spencer before beginning to drag Tilly toward the tree line. Spencer fired once again, this time just over the creature’s head, and it released Tilly from its grip. Spencer claims that it then hissed the way he had heard so many gators warding off potential danger and ran on two feet back into the swamps. Spencer helped his severely injured friend into the truck and drove him to a nearby hospital. He was treated for deep lacerations and puncture wounds on his right arm, shoulder, and back. The local police took this incident very seriously. They sent deputies into the swamp where this occurred and spent two afternoons searching, but found little more than the same three-toed footprints and broken trees long associated with the Lizard Man. While many were quick to write this incident off as a couple of hunters who had too much to drink and underestimated the attack power of their prey, both men are known teetotalers and upstanding members of the local Baptist church. Hospital records confirmed that Bob Tilly had zero alcohol in his system at the time of the attack. Not much has been seen of the Lizard Man in recent years, but as with so many of these unclassified creature sightings, it’s only a matter of time before it makes itself known once again. So, if you ever find yourself near the swamps of South Carolina, be sure to keep one eye on the water: and not just for gators.