An Awful Monster

Posted by: Craig Woolheater on October 24th, 2006

Has the Awful returned to Berkshire & Richford?
Written by H.P. Albarelli Jr.
The County Courier (VT)
Thursday, 19 October 2006

In 1925, renowned horror writer H.P. Lovecraft secretly traveled to Richford and Berkshire to investigate a strange phenomenon that was occurring in the two towns. Lovecraft had been visiting friends in southern Vermont when he first learned about odd sightings in Richford.

Locals there were terribly afraid of a beast they had dubbed "the Awful." First spotted atop the Boright building at the corner of Main and River streets early one evening around dusk, the Awful, according to records of old, was a winged creature that resembled "a very large Griffin-like creature with grayish wings that each spanned ten-feet." The creature possessed "a serpent like tail that equaled its wing length" and "huge claws that could easily grip a milk can’s girth."

Three men, workers at a local sawmill, were walking across the Main Street bridge when they spotted the Awful perched on the building’s rooftop staring menacingly down at them. One of the men was so petrified he suffered a heart attack on the spot and had to be carried home. For weeks afterward his wife and children woke up in the middle of the night to hear him screaming in his sleep.

Two weeks later the Awful was seen flying about 50-feet above a Berkshire field near Lost Nation road. The creature it was said clutched a small, wailing infant in its gnarled claws, but most likely it was a small animal of some sort, a sheep perhaps. Over the next several weeks, numerous farmers around Richford and Berkshire reported seeing the Awful flying over their fields. Farm wife Oella Hopkins was hanging wash out to dry in her yard when see looked up to see what her dog was fiercely barking at. Following the dog’s nervous glare she saw the Awful perched on her porch roof gazing down at her. Terribly frightened, she ran into her house and hid under her bed, refusing to come out for hours. A year after the Awful was first spotted, sightings dwindled to a few each month. After 3 years, they stopped completely.

When H.P. Lovecraft returned to southern Vermont from Richford he told friends he was convinced that the Richford locals he had interviewed were "not in the least mistaken about what they had witnessed." Lovecraft later wrote, "The Awful became ample sustenance for my imagination" and "over time the creature became the basis for many of my own fictional inventions." In 1927 Lovecraft wrote, "entering Vermont for the first time there is a sense of mystic revivification." He continued, "Something in the contours, something in the setting, has the power to touch deep viol-strings of feeling which are ancestral if one be young and personal if one be old."

A couple of weeks ago, one of Richford’s more solid citizens, a person who does not want to be identified in this article because "people would think I’ve gone out of my mind," reported seeing "an unbelievable looking winged monster." The "thing swooped down from nowhere and plucked a huge black crow" from the upper branches of a tall pine tree. "I didn’t believe my eyes," said this person, "but when the thing circled my house…well, then there was no denying it."

Was it the Awful? "I remember my grandfather once talking about that thing, but I thought it was just a story, a tall folk yarn," said the person. And now? "What I saw was no yarn. Yarns don’t fly and stories don’t look like that. What I saw was real. And I hope to high heaven I never see it again."

What the heck was the Awful? 


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.

26 Responses to “An Awful Monster”

  1. MrInspector responds:

    Hmmm, now there’s something you don’t see every day.

  2. fredfacker responds:

    I wonder if this is just an entertaining story for Halloween or a real report.

    Sounds like a fascinating animal though.

  3. dialthree responds:

    Jersey Devil flew North.

  4. Bennymac responds:

    maybe a ropen

  5. YourPTR! responds:

    Could this really be true? It sounds so far fetched! The eyewitnesses sound so credible though, but what they thought they saw certainly does not.

  6. One Eyed Cat responds:

    Early Mothman?

  7. Alaska-boy responds:

    Here’s a totally wild guess: Campylognathoides! It was a huge member of the Rhamphorhynchoidea (“prow beaks”) family of pterosaurs. With a 20 foot (6 meter) wingspan, hair-covered body, fanged beak, and long, serpentine tail, it could totally account for the reports. Except, of course, for the “fact” that it went extinct 65 million years ago! 🙂

    You can see an artist’s rendition at the natural history museum.

  8. Labyrinth_13 responds:

    What a great story (and one that appeals to two of my top interests: Cryptozoology and H.P. Lovecraft!)

    Sounds like an early Mothman report, to me.

  9. Mnynames responds:

    Replace the word Vermont with New Jersey and we have a pretty typical Jersey Devil account.

    I agree, Labyrinth- CZ and HPL, it doesn’t get much cooler!

  10. Sky King responds:

    “What the heck was the Awful?”

    Probably a P.R. invention of Lovecraft’s, a literary charlatan who coattailed off the reputations of truly scary authors like Algernon Blackwood and Arthur Machen.

    James Branch Cabell was another such charlatan.

  11. stompy responds:

    perhaps a flying yarwen

  12. skunkape_hunter responds:

    That sounds a good bit like the Piasas Bird, from around the St. Louis and Alton Illinois area.

  13. Mnynames responds:

    Sky King, where exactly do you get “charlatan” from? HPL never passed off any of his tales as true, with the technical exception of “Entombed With The Pharaohs”, which was a ghost-writing assignment for Harry Houdini. Although written as truth, neither HPL or HH ever claimed that it was. As for his works being derivative, of course they were, as were Blackwood’s, Machen’s, and so on. All of them were essentially trying to be Poe (Although Machen’s delved more into the fantasist aspects, and less the horror).

    Anyway, I think we’re straying from the point a bit here.

    I find this posting interesting because HPL’s claim of veracity regarding the eyewitnesses is a bit surprising, given the source. While he loved the dark and terrible atmospheres he conjured up in his stories, he was an atheistic materialist, with no belief whatsoever in the fantastic or paranormal. One would expect him to be dismissive of their claims. That he was not seems telling…providing that this story is actually true.

    Having an interest in both CZ and HPL, I have to admit I’m also a bit surprised that I’ve never heard of this little episode, although I’m certainly not an expert on either. Craig, Loren, can you provide any further background on the truth behind this story?

  14. RockerEm responds:

    Sounds like the Mothman. As most of us know, it’s been seen all over the world so I wouldn’t be surprised if that was it.

  15. Valen responds:

    This is the first I have heard of this. Is it written about anywhere else?

  16. Sky King responds:

    Mnynames, I wasn’t saying that Lovecraft was trying to pass of fiction as fact. Perhaps “charlatan” was an imprecise term.

    What I meant to convey was that, compared to Poe, Blackwood and Machen, Lovecraft was a bit of a HACK.

  17. Sharm responds:

    Why they named it Awful?

    It sounds like the Ahool of Java Island. So does the description of it.

  18. quill responds:

    Could be another Thunderbird.

  19. U.T. Raptor responds:

    “Except, of course, for the “fact” that it went extinct 65 million years ago!”
    Actually, the long-tailed group of pterosaurs died out considerably BEFORE the K/T event iirc…

  20. shumway10973 responds:

    Maybe there’s a reason some of the gargoyles in europe look like they do (that was a cool cartoon). Remember, not every animal has made it into the fossil record, most of which died out recently or is still alive today. We have some awfully big bats in the South Pacific living off fruit, there’s no reason something else couldn’t be around (ok, a bit bigger). Did anyone ever say whether it looked reptilian, mammal or bird? I see a lot of mothman commented here, but ones such as the housewife I’m sure could have IDed it as such after THE mothman event became pretty well known. Besides, I always read that the Mothman encounters were usually before tragic events. Is there any reports of something bad having happened in the area?

  21. Ohio Cryptonut responds:

    I really like the idea that less than one hundred years ago there could possibly have been a prehistoric bird flying around Vermont. This is one type of cryptid that I would like to see brought into the light! The Ivory Billed Woodpecker is a good start.

    Does sound oddly like early Mothman though.

  22. clman1 responds:

    Could this be the same dragon like creature shown on several photos I’ve seen on the internet, including one supposedly taken on 9/11?

    Jersey Devil?, Mothman?, imagination and photoshop software?

  23. CryptoInformant responds:

    The Ropen is not a U.S. beastie, though Quetzacoatalus (sic?) was one of the largest pterosaurs ever and was an American beastie. I’ll have to research Cambylognathoides and see what range comes up, as the size is certainly right, and, despite what morons may say, the Coelocanth was not a hoax.

    P.S. Photoshop, in the hands of someone with experience, can turn a plane into a treefrog, or even more amusing, a cartoon character.

  24. Mnynames responds:

    Thanks for the clarification, Sky King. Personally, I’d put them all on about the same footing (With August Derleth clearly riding Lovecraft’s coattails), just below Poe, but to each his own. HPL’s writings, like most anything else, are not for everybody, and certainly not without their flaws. So how would you rank Bacon, Marlowe, and Shakespeare? (Just kidding…enough LIT talk)

    If this represents a real sighting, my money’s on Thunderbird, which I personally think is the likely origin of most of the more reliable Jersey Devil/Mothman sightings as well.

  25. Maine Crypto responds:

    I have seen something much like the creature described here! In Maine on the coast about 6 years ago my friend and I were driving home when a creature flew out of the woods, in front of my car and back into the woods on the other side of the road. I have never seen or heard of (until now) anything like it since. It sent chills down my spine.

  26. sadisticgreen responds:

    It’s described as a “very large Griffin-like” creature. I was under the impression that Griffins possessed four legs (could be wrong mind) so does that not rule out the pterosaur/mothman theory? Brilliant story. Would love to hear more sightings of this kind of creature. Causing cardiac arrest surely ranks it as one of the scariest out there!!

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