Mysterious America The Ultimate Guide to the Nation’s Weirdest Wonders, Strangest Spots, and Creepiest creatures

by SHEHIRYAR AHMED

All rights reserved with the author

Contents

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Bigfoot in ILLINOIS Mothman of point pleasant The Jersey Devil Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine Mad Gasser of Mattoon

Bigfoot in ILLINOIS

Big foot is like a male gorilla in appearance. Bigfoot is commonly reported to have a strong, unpleasant smell by those who have claimed that they have seen this creature. For more than a century, reports have filtered out of rural and southern Illinois about strange, man-like beasts that resemble a cross between man and ape. The stories of Bigfoot have been passed along from generation to generation and have long been recorded by both professional and amateur researchers. The most famous Bigfoot sightings have taken place in the Pacific Northwest; such creatures do occasionally turn up in Illinois. The earliest sighting that I could find occurred around 1912. A woman named Beaulah Schroat reported that her and her brothers often spotted huge, hairy creatures near their home in Effingham. This may have been the first sighting in Illinois, but it was not the first one in the Great Lakes region. As far back as 1839, witnesses in Michigan City, Indiana were reporting a "wild child" near Fish Lake. Today, we would call such a creature "Bigfoot".

Another report comes from the early part of the last century. In this brief snippet, we find that a "huge gorilla" was seen in the woods near Elizabeth in July 1929. Then, in 1941, the Reverend Lepton Harpole was hunting squirrels near Mt. Vernon and encountered a large creature that "looked something like a baboon". He struck it with his rifle and fired a warning shot that sent it back into the bushes. More sightings of the same creature occurred the next year. Jumping ahead, a grayish-colored creature was spotted by Steven Collins and Robert Earle in 1962. It was standing in a riverbed east of Decatur, just off of East Williams Street Road. The monster was standing in the water, looking straight at them. At first, they thought they were seeing a bear, until they noticed its strange, human-like features. The creature vanished into the woods and the witnesses told the local newspaper that it was "like no other animal we had ever seen before." In May 1963, another strange creature was seen in Centreville, Illinois and just across the Mississippi in St. Louis. The initial reports came in from St. Louis when several children reported a "half man, half woman with a half bald head and a half head of hair". It was said to have been seen around the Ninth Street housing project and often disappeared into the old tunnel around Twelfth Street. The sightings were taken quite seriously by the police and during interviews with researcher Loren Coleman, Patrolman Bill Conreux of the St. Louis Police Department noted that "Those kids were sincere. They saw something." He added that "Supposedly it fought with a man near the Patrick Henry School." The sighting began on May 9 and by the 18th, had moved east across the river to Centreville, Illinois, which is located near East St. Louis and Cahokia. One man, James McKinney, who saw the creature here, described it as being "half man and half horse". It made an appearance just in front of his house and he called the police, who never managed to catch up with this mysterious figure. According to Loren Coleman, the authorities received over 50 calls in a single night about this creature. The sightings eventually dropped off and by May 23, the monster was apparently gone.

In September 1965, four young people were parked in a car near an undeveloped area outside of Decatur called Montezuma Hills. The area would later become a housing addition but at that time, it was a secluded "lover’s lane". The young couples were sitting in the car when a black, man-like shape approached the vehicle. The creature seemed massive and frightened the teenagers badly. They drove off in a panic but after dropping off their dates at home, the two young men returned to the area for another look. They once again saw the monster and it walked up to their car as though it were curious. The boys were too scared to get out, but even with the windows rolled up, they could smell the monster’s terrible smell. They quickly called the police to the site and with several officers as support; they made a thorough, but fruitless, search of the woods. The police officers on the scene said they had no idea what the young people had witnessed, but they were obviously very frightened by whatever it had been. A more recent encounter with a man-like beast occurred near Essex, Illinois in July 2000. A witness named Andrew Souligne was driving into a local cemetery one night when a large, hairy shape walked out in front of the car. The creature froze in the headlights and turned towards the car, apparently stunned by the bright lights from the vehicle. Souligne (and the other passenger of the car) were pretty shocked themselves and the driver immediately put the car into reverse and back away from the monster. Moments later, the ape moved into the woods and vanished. Since the 1970’s, Bigfoot sightings in Illinois have been infrequent, but they do occur.

Mothman of Point Pleasant

Most observers describe the Mothman as a winged man-sized creature with large reflective red eyes and large wings. The creature was sometimes reported as having no head, with its eyes set into its chest. The weird events connected to the Mothman began on November 12, 1966 near Clendenin, West Virginia. Five men were in the local cemetery that day, preparing a grave for a burial, when something that looked like a "brown human being" lifted off from some nearby trees and flew over their heads. The men were puzzled. It didn't appear to be a bird, but more like a man with wings. A few days later, more sightings would take place, electrifying the entire region. Late in the evening of November 15, a young married couple had a very strange encounter as they drove past an abandoned TNT plant near Point Pleasant, West Virginia. The couple spotted two large eyes that were attached to something that was "shaped like a man, but bigger, maybe six or seven feet tall. And it had big wings folded against its back." When the creature moved toward the plant door, the couple panicked and sped away. Moments later, they saw the same creature on a hillside near the road. It spread its wings and rose into the air, following their car, which by now was traveling at over 100 miles per hour. "That bird kept right with us," said one of the couple. They told Deputy Sheriff Miller Halstead that it followed them down Highway 62 and right to the Point Pleasant city limits. And they would not be the only ones to report the creature that night. Another group of four witnesses claimed to see the "bird" three different times. Another sighting had more bizarre results. At about 10:30 on the same evening, Newell Partridge, a local building contractor who lived in Salem, was watching television when the screen suddenly went dark. He stated that a weird pattern filled the screen and then he heard loud, humming noises from the outside that rose in pitch and then ceased. "It sounded like a generator winding up," he later stated. Partridge’s dog began to howl out on the front porch and Newell went out to see what was going on. When he walked outside, he saw Bandit (dog) facing the hay bar. About 150 yards from the house. Puzzled, Partridge turned a

flashlight in that direction and spotted two red circles that looked like eyes, he believed and the sight of them frightened him. Bandit, an experienced hunting dog, and protective of his territory, shot off across the yard in pursuit of the eyes. Partridge called for him to stop, but the dog paid no attention. His owner turned and went back into the house for his gun, but then was too scared to go back outside again. He slept that night with his gun propped up against his bed. The next morning, he realized that Bandit had disappeared. The dog had still not shown up two days later when Partridge read in the newspaper about the sightings in Point Pleasant that night. One statement that he read in the newspaper chilled him to the bone. Roger Scarberry, one member of the group who spotted the strange "bird" at the TNT plant, said that he entered the city limits of Point Pleasant; they saw the body of a large dog lying on the side of the road. A few minutes later, on the way back out of town, the dog was gone. They even stopped to look for the body, knowing they had passed it just a few minutes before. Newell Partridge immediately thought of Bandit, who was never seen again. A Mothman sighting was again reported on January 11, 1967, and several other times that same year. Fewer sightings of the Mothman were reported after the collapse of the Silver Bridge, when 46 people died. The Silver Bridge, so named for its aluminum paint, was an eye bar chain suspension bridge that connected the cities of Point Pleasant, West Virginia and Gallipolis, Ohio over the Ohio River. The bridge was built in 1928, and it collapsed on December 15, 1967. Investigation of the bridge wreckage pointed to the failure of a single eye-bar in a suspension chain due to a small manufacturing flaw. There are rumors that the Mothman appears before upcoming disasters, or that the Mothman causes disasters. Over time, many would come to believe that the sightings of Mothman, as well as UFO sightings were all related. For nearly a year, strange happenings continued in the area.

The Jersey Devil

The Jersey Devil is a legendary creature said to inhabit the Pine Barrens in southern New Jersey. The creature is often described as a flying biped with hooves, but there are many variations. And many different people have described it many different ways over the years. The historic states along America’s Atlantic Seaboard have given birth to hundreds of ghostly tales and unusual stories over the years. One of the strangest is undoubtedly that of the Jersey Devil, a creature that is believed by some to be a mythical creature and by

others, a real-life monster of flesh and blood. Its origins date back to when New Jersey was still a British colony. According to the legend, Mrs. Jane Leeds came from a poor family who eked out an existence in the Pine Barrens of Jersey, a rugged place with vast forests, sandy soil and patches of swamp. In 1735, Mrs. Leeds discovered that she was pregnant with her 13th child. She complained to her friends and relatives that the “Devil can take the next one”, and he did. When the baby was born, he was monster! He immediately took on a grotesque appearance and grew to more than 20 feet long, with a reptilian body, a horse’s head, bat wings and a long, forked tail. He thrashed about the Leeds home for a bit and then vanished up the chimney. The creature, or the “Jersey Devil” as he was dubbed, began haunting the Pine Barrens. As the story spread, even grown men declined to go out at night. It was said that the beast carried off large dogs, geese, cats, small livestock and even occasional children. The children were never seen again, but the animal remains were often found. The Devil was also said to dry up the milk of cows by breathing on them and to kill off the fish in the streams, threatening the livelihood of the entire region. In 1740, the frightened residents begged a local minister to exorcize the creature and the stories stated that the exorcism would last 100 years, however the Devil returned to the Pine Barrens on at least two occasions before the century was over. Legend has it that naval hero Commodore Stephen Decatur visited the Hanover Iron Works in the Barrens in 1800 to test the plant’s cannonballs. One day on the firing range, he noticed a strange creature winging overhead. Taking aim, he fired at the monster and while some say that his shot struck it, the Devil continued on its path. The second sighting took place a few years later and this time the Devil was seen by another respected witness. Joseph Bonaparte, the former king of Spain and the brother of Napoleon, leased a country house near Border town from 1816 to 1839. He reported seeing the Jersey Devil while hunting game one day in the Pine Barrens. In 1840, as the minister warned, the Devil returned and brought terror to the region once again. It snatched sheep from their pens and

preyed on children who lingered outside after sunset. People all across South Jersey locked their doors and hung a lantern on the doorstep, hoping to keep the creature away. Then, in 1909, the Jersey Devil returned again and literally thousands of people spotted the monster or saw his footprints. It became so bad that schools closed and people refused to go outside. A police officer named James Sackville spotted the monster while walking his beat one night. He was passing along a dark alley when a winged creature hopped into the street and let out a horrific scream. Sackville fired his revolver at the beast but it spread its wings and vanished into the air. Eyewitness accounts of the Devil filled the newspapers, as well as photos and reports of cloven footprints that had been found in yards, woods and parking lots. The Philadelphia Zoo offered a $10,000 reward for the capture of the Devil, but there were no takers. The most recent sighting of the creature was said to have been in 1993 when a forest ranger named John Irwin was driving along the Mullica River in southern New Jersey. He was startled to find the road ahead of him blocked by the Jersey Devil. He described it as being about six-feet tall with horns and matted black fur. Could this have been the reported Jersey Devil - or some other creature altogether? Irwin stated that he and the creature stared at one another for several minutes before the monster finally turned and ran into the forest. Today, there are only a few, isolated sightings of the Jersey Devil. It seems as though the paved roads, electric lights and modern conventions that have come to the region over the course of two and a half centuries have driven the monster so far into hiding that it has vanished altogether. The lack of proof of the monster’s existence in these modern times leads many to believe the Devil was nothing more than a creation of New Jersey folklore. But was it really? If it was merely a myth, then how do we explain the sightings of the creature and the witness accounts from reliable persons like businessmen, police officers and even public officials? They are not easy to dismiss as hearsay or the result of heavy drinking. Could the

Jersey Devil have been real after all? And if so, is it still out there in the remote regions of the Pine Barrens - just waiting to be found?

Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine

Located just east of Phoenix, Arizona is a rough, mountainous region where people sometimes go... only to never be seen again. It is a place of mystery, of legend and lore and it is called Superstition Mountain. According to history, both hidden and recorded, there exists a fantastic gold mine here like no other that has ever been seen. It has been dubbed the “Lost Dutchman Mine” over the years and thanks to its mysterious location, it has been the quest of many an adventurer... and a place of doom to luckless others. What strange energy lingers here? What has caused dozens of people who seek the mine to vanish without a trace? Is the answer really as the Apache Indians say? Does the “Thunder God” protect this mine... bringing death to those who attempt to steal it? Or can the deaths be linked to other causes? Are they caused, as some have claimed, by the spirits of those who have died seeking the mine before? Let’s explore all of these questions and journey back into the haunted history of the Lost Dutchman Mine... and uncover the numerous deaths and the violence that surrounds it.

Superstition Mountain Superstition Mountain is actually a collection of rough terrain that has gained the name of a single mountain. The contour of the region takes in thousands of cliffs, peaks, plateaus and mesas and even today, much of it remains largely unexplored. Despite the tendency by many to call this a range of mountains, it is in reality, only one. It is certainly not the highest mountain in the region, but it has the reputation of being the deadliest. Over the course of several centuries, it has taken the lives of many men and women and has perhaps caused a madness in them that has encouraged them to kill each other. The Apache Indians were probably the first to set eyes on the mountain, followed by the Spanish conquistadors, the first of which was Francisco Vasquez de Coronado. He came north from Mexico in 1540 seeking the legendary “Seven Golden Cities of Cibola”. When he reached the region, the local Indians told him that the mountain held much gold, although they refused to help the Spaniard explore it. They were in too much fear of the “Thunder God”, who was said to stay there, and who would destroy them if they dared to pass upon his sacred ground. When the Spaniards tried to explore the mountain on their own, they discovered that men began to vanish mysteriously. It was said that if one of them strayed more than a few feet from his companions, he was never seen alive again. The bodies of the men who were found were discovered to be damaged and with their heads cut off. The terrified survivors refused to return to the mountain and so Coronado dubbed the collection of peaks, Monte Superstition, which explains the origin of the infamous name. The Dutchman First of all, I guess we should clear up one popular misconception about Jacob Walz (or Waltz depending on the story you hear) and it’s that he was not a “Dutchman”. He was actually from Germany and born there in the early 1800’s. He came to America in 1845 and soon heard about the riches and adventure that were waiting in the frontier beyond New York. His first gold seeking took him to a strike in North Carolina and from there he traveled to Mississippi, California and

Nevada... always looking for his elusive fortune. Walz worked the gold field of the Sierra Nevada foothills for more than ten years, never getting rich, but turning up enough gold to get along. By 1868, he was in his fifties and wondering if he was ever going to find his proverbial “mother lode”. The Indians had nicknamed him “Snowbeard” because of his long, white whiskers and it isn’t hard to picture him as one of those grizzled old prospectors who were so common in western films. That same year, Walz began homesteading in the Rio Satillo Valley, which is on the northern side of Superstition Mountain. Soon after he arrived, he began to hear stories from the local Indians about supernatural doings around the mountain, about a fierce god... and about vast deposits of gold. Most stories about Jacob Walz say that he spent the next 20 years of so prospecting for gold around the Arizona Territory. He often worked for wages in other men’s mines while he searched from his own fortune. It was during one of these jobs that he met Jacob Weiser, most likely while he was working at the Vulture Mine in 1870. One version of the legend claims that Walz was fired from the mine for stealing gold and soon, the two “Dutchman” struck out on their own and vanished into the land around Superstition Mountain. Not long after, they were seen in Phoenix paying for drinks and supplies with gold nuggets. Some claimed this gold was the stolen loot from the Vulture Mine, while others said that it was of much higher quality and had to have come from somewhere else. Regardless of where it came from, the two men would spend the gold around town for the next two decades. There have been a number of stories about how the men found the “lost” mine. According to some, they stumbled upon it by accident. Others say that killed two Mexican miners, who they mistook for Indians, and then realized the men were mining gold.... but the most accepted version of the story is that they were given a map to the mine by a Mexican don whose life they saved. The man was said to have been Don Miguel Peralta, the son of a rich

landowner in Sonora, Mexico and a descendant of the original discoverer of the mine. The Dutchmen saved Peralta from certain death in a knife fight and as a reward; he gave them a look at the map to the mine. He was later said to have been bought out of the mine by Walz and Weiser. At some point in the years that followed, Jacob Weiser disappeared without a trace. Some say that the Apaches killed him, while others maintain that Walz actually did him in. (As you can see, there is a lot of speculation to the legend). But Walz was always around, at least part of the time. Long periods would go by when no one would see him and then he would show up in Phoenix again, buying drinks with gold nuggets. It was said that Walz had the richest gold ore that anyone had ever seen and for the rest of his life, he vanished back and forth to his secret mine, always bringing back saddlebags filled with gold. Whenever anyone tried to get information out of him, he would always give contradictory directions to where the mine was located. On many occasions, men tried to follow him when he left town, but Walz would always shake his pursuers in the rugged region around the mountain. By the winter of 1891, an old Mexican widow named Julia Elena Thomas, who owned a small bakery in Phoenix, befriended the aged miner. Apparently, they became romantically involved and Walz promised to take her to his secret mine “in the spring”.... but she never saw it. The Dutchman died on October 25, 1891 with a sack of rich gold ore beneath his deathbed. Immediately after word reached town about Jacob Walz’s death, a number of men who had heard the Dutchman speak of the mine over the years rode out for the mountain in search of the mystery. They never found it... and in fact, two of the prospectors, Sims Ely and Jim Bark, spent the next 25 years searching in vain for what they called “The Lost Dutchman Mine”. The search has since fueled more than a century of speculation. Theories as to the mine’s location have filled dozens of books and pamphlets. Literally hundreds of would-be prospectors have searched the Superstition Mountain region and most have come home with little more than sunburns......

But there are also many who have not come home at all. It is certainly a haunted spot. Haunted by an unknown energy that claims the lives of men? Haunted by the ghost of the Dutchman, Jacob Walz? Or haunted by the spirits of the countless men and women whose lives have been taken because of it? That answer is as mysterious as the location of the Lost Dutchman Mine itself......

Mad Gasser of Mattoon

There is no greater phantom attacker in the history of the unexplained in America than the legendary “Mad Gasser of Mattoon”, a bizarre figure who wreaked havoc in a small Illinois town in 1944. This creature turned out to be so elusive that law enforcement officials eventually declared him nonexistent, despite dozens and dozens of eyewitness reports and actual physical evidence that was left behind at the scene of some attacks. Making matters even more interesting was a series of nearly identical attacks that took place in Botetourt County, Virginia in 1933 -1934. Social scientists declared that the attacks in Mattoon had been nothing more than mass hysteria, but how could the Illinois residents

have known anything about the events in Virginia, which were barely publicized, in order to duplicate them so closely? Both of these series of attacks involved a mysterious figure (dressed in black) who came and went without warning, left little in the way of clues behind and for some reason, sprayed a paralyzing gas into the windows of unsuspecting residents. The gas was never identified in either case and both cases involved fairly isolated areas where the attacks took place. The homes that were attacked in Virginia were in a rural county and Mattoon, at that time, was a small, Central Illinois town with no large cities in the vicinity. Also, police officials were totally stumped in both cases. So, who (or what) attacked the unsuspecting citizens of Illinois and Virginia? Was it a mad scientist? A government agency? A visitor from another planet? No one will ever know for sure, but the records of the unknown are plagued with cases of mysterious attackers who appear and vanish without explanation, kill on the innocent without warning and then vanish completely, leaving no trace behind. Could such attackers come from another time and place? Another dimension? I’ll let the reader judge that for himself. Just remember though, if these attacks can happen in the places that follow - they are capable of happening anywhere… even where you live!

The Mad Gasser Strikes! In 1933, Botetourt County, Virginia was a quiet area of the state and had never really experienced much out of the ordinary. That all began to change on December 22 when the home of Mrs. and Mrs. Cal Huffman, near Haymakertown, was attacked by a mysterious figure that was unlike anything seen, or even heard of, in the region before. At around 10:00 that evening, Mrs. Huffman stated that she grew nauseated after smelling a strange gas that had been apparently sprayed into her house. She decided to go on to bed, but her husband remained awake and alert to see if the lurker who had sprayed the gas might return. A half-hour later, another wave of gas

filled the room and Huffman immediately went to the home of his landlord, K.W. Henderson. Here, Huffman telephoned the police. An Officer Lemon was dispatched to the scene and he stayed until around midnight. Immediately after he left, another gas attack was launched on the property, filling both floors of the house. All eight members of the Huffman family, along with Ashby Henderson, were affected by the gas. Ashby and Cal Huffman had been keeping watch for the return of the prowler and thought that they saw a man running away after the attack. According to reports, the gas caused the victims to become very nauseated, gave them a headache and caused the mouth and throat muscles to restrict. Alice, the Huffman’s 19 year-old daughter, was most affected by the gas and she had to be given artificial respiration in order to revive her. She was said to have experienced convulsions for some time afterward. Her doctor, Dr. S.F. Driver, later reported that while part of her condition was caused by extreme nervousness over the attack, he had no doubt that the gas attack was responsible for the fact that her condition continued. However, no one could determine what kind of gas was used (Dr. W.N. Breckinridge, who assisted with the police investigation, ruled out ether, chloroform and tear gas) or who could have sprayed it into the house. The only clue that Lemon found at the scene was the print of a woman’s shoe beneath the window the attacker was thought to have sprayed his gas through. The authorities were growing more concerned. Prior to this, they had believed the gassings had been nothing more than pranks played by some mischievous boys. Now the county sheriff’s office was forced to admit that if this had been the case, the boys would have been caught long before. They had begun to investigate the idea that a mentally deranged person might be the culprit, perhaps even an mad gas victim from World War I. The Mattoon police chief issued what he felt was the final statement on the gas attacks on September 12. He stated that large quantities of carbon tetrachloride gas were used at the local Atlas Diesel Engine Co. and that this gas must be causing the reported cases. It could be

carried throughout the town on the wind and could have left the stains that were found on the rag at one of the homes. As for the "Mad Gasser" himself, well, he was simply a figment of their imaginations. The whole case, he said “was a mistake from beginning to end.” Not surprisingly, a spokesman for the plant was quick to deny the allegations that his company had caused the concern in town, maintaining that the only use for that gas in the plant was in their fire extinguishers and any similar gases used there caused no ill effects in the air. Besides that, why hadn’t this gas ever caused problems in the city before? And how exactly was this gas cutting the window screens on Mattoon homes before causing nausea and paralysis? The official explanation also failed to cover just how so many identical descriptions of the "Gasser" had been reported to the police. It also neglected to explain how different witnesses managed to report seeing a man of the "Gasser’s" description fleeing the scene of an attack, even when the witness had no idea that an attack had taken place! The real stories of what happened in Mattoon and Botetourt County are still unknown and it is unlikely that we will ever know what was really behind these strange events. It is certain that something did take place in both locations, however strange, and theories abound as to what it may have been. Was the "Mad Gasser" real? And if he was, who was he? And if he was real, could he have been the same figure in both cases? It’s hard to ignore the similarities between the two cases, from his method of operation to the unusual form of attacks. In Virginia though, the Gasser was not always reported as being alone as he was in Mattoon, but then again, what about the identical reports of prints left by a woman’s shoe? Stories have suggested that Mattoon’s Gasser was anything from a mad scientist to an ape-man (although who knows where that came from?) and researchers today have their own theories, some of which are just as wild. Could he have been some sort of extraterrestrial visitor using some sort of paralyzing agent to further a hidden agenda? Or could the "Gasser" have been an agent of our own

government, who came to an unclear Midwestern town to test some military gas that could be used in the war effort? It might be telling that once national attention came to Mattoon, the authorities began a policy of complete denial and the attacks suddenly ceased... Whoever, or whatever, he was, the "Mad Gasser" has vanished into time and, real or imagined, is only a memory in the world of the unknown. Perhaps he was never here at all - perhaps he was, as Donald M. Johnson wrote in the 1954 issue of the Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, simply a "shadowy manifestation of some unimaginable unknown." But was he really? How do we explain the sightings of the “Mad Gasser” that were made by people who did not even know the creature was alleged to exist? Or identical sightings from independent witnesses who could not have possibly known that others had just spotted the same figure. Was the “Gasser”, as some have suggested, a visitor from a dimension outside of our own, thus explaining his ability to appear or disappear at will? Was he a creature so outside the kingdom of our imaginations that we will never be able to comprehend his motives or understand the reason why he came to Mattoon?

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