June 3, 2015

From Bigfoot to big cats: What’s rumored to be hiding in Alabama’s woods?

Last week, Animal Planet aired a two-hour special about an Alabama man’s hunt for a strange creature that he said attacked him in the woods of Walker County. Spoiler: We never find out what it was, and the ending of the show left a few more questions than answers.

I Was Bitten: The Walker County Incident” may not have proven the existence of anything as-yet-undiscovered in Central Alabama, but it did raise a question: What else have people seen out in the woods?

Bigfoot and big apes

Bigfoot is, of course, the most well-known and widespread strange creature, and reported sightings of the large apelike beast aren’t unheard of in Alabama. They’re common enough that a man named Jim Smith created the Alabama Bigfoot Society, and the group’s website tracks recent sighting reports. One from January near Lake Guntersville, when a woman and her young son were reportedly trapped in a deer stand by a Bigfoot-like creature.

Slightly shorter than Bigfoot, and a good deal smellier, is the skunk ape. Skunk apes are said to be smaller than Bigfoot — five to six feet high — though they’re also apelike. The smell is what makes them distinct.

“They say you’ll smell it long before you get close to it,” said Frank Lee, the founder of the Central Alabama Society for Paranormal Investigation and Research in Pell City.

Skunk apes have been spotted all over the state. Earlier this year, some residents in the Wiregrass area of southeastern Alabama reported seeing one.

“Skunk ape is unique in that it’s got claws very much like a bear, and they’re fixed claws, anywhere from a half inch to two and a half inches in length,” Ashford resident Michael Clark told WTVY Channel 4 in Dothan in January.

In his collection of short stories, “Tome of Horror,” David Garrett writes of the Tannehill Monster, a creature often described as half man, half beast who lurks in the woods near the old Tannehill Iron Works in western Jefferson County. Sightings of the creature range from seeing him running or walking, physically confronting people, or just staring at them from a distance. The monster is described as a wild man with crazy eyes, Garrett writes.

Giant cats and other creatures

In one scene of “I Was Bitten,” Daniel references rumors from about a year ago of pets in Trussville being attacked by some kind of giant cat. Residents wondered if it was a black panther or some other kind of large cat. State wildlife officials said that’s unlikely: There are no confirmed large cats, especially panthers, in Alabama.

The cat rumors aren’t limited to Trussville. In Walker and Winston counties, there are rumors of mythical big cats, whether they go by the name of the Wampus Cat, the Swamp Cat or the Sipsey Creature.

Another creature often described as either like a big cat or a Bigfoot is the Alabama White Thing (or White Thang). The White Thing has at least been sighted near Walker County, in Winston County.

The sightings, sometime in the late ’30s, were of an animal that looked like something between a dog and a lion, with long, white hair and a slick tail, with a bush of hair at the end, Peter J. Gossett wrote on freestateofwinston.org.

Legends are full of half-human beings, and Mobile had a particularly interesting one in 1971. Dozens of peopled called the Press Register to report seeing something that looked like half woman and half wolf. The sightings all happened in April of that year, and there haven’t been reports of the Wolf Woman of Mobile since.

Big fish

Nobody has ever bothered to tell a story about a small fish, and even if they saw a normal-sized fish, it always appears to be the size of a truck in the retelling. That said, there have been some rumors of pretty big fish in Walker County and elsewhere in Alabama.

News staff writer Mike Bolton wrote in 2008 of a big fish story from Walker County Lake, a tale of a 150-pound catfish, big enough to fit a child’s head in its mouth. The man who saw it, John Beal of Sumiton, said he saw it with another catfish in its mouth.

When biologists caught the beast, it weighed in at just 55 pounds.

But monsters in the water aren’t limited to big catfish. An 1877 story from The Gadsden Times, reprinted in The New York Times, tells of a group of settlers along the Coosa River in St. Clair County in 1816 or 1817 who killed a massive snakelike creature in the river the color of a catfish but much bigger.

When they shot the creature and cut it open, they found inside it the remains of a deer, a canoe and a man.


See also:

Any Truth to The Walker County Incident?
I Was Bitten: The Walker County Incident
Bigfoot Hit By Truck in Alabama?
Exploring American Monsters: Alabama
The White Thing, Or Something Like It
Face to Face with the White Thing
The White Thing – An Albino Bigfoot?

About Craig Woolheater
Co-founder of Cryptomundo in 2005. I have appeared in or contributed to the following TV programs, documentaries and films: OLN's Mysterious Encounters: "Caddo Critter", Southern Fried Bigfoot, Travel Channel's Weird Travels: "Bigfoot", History Channel's MonsterQuest: "Swamp Stalker", The Wild Man of the Navidad, Destination America's Monsters and Mysteries in America: Texas Terror - Lake Worth Monster, Animal Planet's Finding Bigfoot: Return to Boggy Creek and Beast of the Bayou.

Filed under Bigfoot, Bigfoot Report, Cryptozoology, Evidence, Eyewitness Accounts, Folklore, Mystery Cats, Phantom Panthers, Pop Culture, Sasquatch, Skunk Apes, Television