Once a territory of France, Missouri is dotted with French names we consistently mispronounce, like the city of Versailles. Yes, it’s pronounced Ver-Sales, not ver-sahy. I’m from Missouri and even I have a hard time with this. Missouri is known for jazz, barbecue, cattle, baseball, and outlaw Jesse James. It’s a mid-sized state, and has the eighteenth densest population. Famous residents include President Harry Truman, journalist Walter Cronkite, actors Don Cheadle and Brad Pitt, musician Chuck Berry, baseball great Yogi Berra, Casey Jones (yeah, the railroad guy), General John “Blackjack” Pershing, botanist George Washington Carver, astronomer Edwin Hubble, and authors T.S. Eliot, and Mark freaking Twain. Covered by plains, hills, forests, and river bottoms, Missouri is as diverse with its geography as it is with culture. From the arts in Kansas City (yes, it’s in Missouri) to the food in St. Louis, and all the rural tractor shows in between, Missouri is home to all types of polite people (this is the Midwest, after all), and to some monsters, like space penguins. We can’t forget space penguins.
The mushroom was out of place. It was also green, metal, and enormous. Farmer Claude Edwards found the metallic mushroom in a field on St. Valentine’s Day 1967, and went to investigate. At the base of the structure were a number of creatures, about three feet tall, that resembled green waddling penguins with large, black eyes.
Acting like any rational, evolved human, he armed himself with rocks and heaved the Stone Age tools toward the ship.
However, Edwards and his rocks ran into a force field about fifteen feet from the craft that kept him away from the penguins. “The whole thing took over five minutes, maybe ten,” Edwards told the press about his encounter with the mushroom. “I have never seen anything like it. It looked like shiny silk or something. Couldn’t tell. I was going to tell though if I could have hit it with that rock.”
Apparently agitated by Edwards’ aggressive behaviour, the penguins floated into their mushroom, and took off into the sky.
Sightings of the Missouri Monster (Momo for short) began near the small town of Louisiana, Missouri, in the mid-1900s, but it wasn’t until a spate of encounters in the early 1970s that this seven-foot-tall, hairy biped got national attention.
The first major sighting occurred in 1971 when Joan Mills and Mary Ryan were picnicking north of town and smelled something awful. "We were eating lunch," Ryan told the press. “We both wrinkled up our noses at the same time. I never smelled anything as bad in my life." Thinking they’d roused a family of skunks, the young women considered abandoning their picnic. What they saw next made them sure of it. A monster was watching them. “It had hair over the body as if it was an ape,” Ryan told the press. “Yet, the face was definitely human. It was more like a hairy human.”
The beast lurched from the bushes, and stepped toward the women. They screamed, ran to their car, and locked the doors. As the monster tried to get into the car, the women realized the extent of the danger they were in – Mills’ keys were in her purse that sat on their picnic blanket down the hill. Sitting in the car in a panic, Mills accidentally bumped the car horn, and the monster ran off – but not before eating their sandwiches.
The next Momo sighting occurred on 11 July 1972. As eight-year-old Terry Harrison and is five-year-old brother Walley played outside their home below Marzolf Hill, the boys felt something wasn’t right. Terry looked toward the trees and saw an enormous creature covered in long black hair staring at them. He screamed, and his sister Doris, 15, who was inside the house, looked out the window to see something out of a nightmare. “It was … six or seven feet tall, black and hairy. It stood like a man, but it didn't look like one to me,” she told newspaper reporters, according to the St. Louis Riverfront Times. The creature, that seemed to have no neck, fled from the screaming child, carrying a bloody dog in the crook of a muscular, hairy arm. When their father Edgar returned home, the monster was long gone, but he found giant footprints, and strange black hairs stuck to the tree where his children had seen the creature.
The encounters at the Harrison house continued. Three days later during a prayer meeting, the prayer group heard unearthly howls, and growls in the darkness, forcing the members to flee in terror.
By now stories of the creature had spread over town. According to the Riverfront Times, Louisiana man Pat Howard saw the creature running across the road near the Harrison property. Soon after, Ellis Minor, who lived north of Louisiana, shined a flashlight into the trees surrounding his home after his dog started barking. He saw the monster. "I couldn't see its eyes or face. It had hair down 'bout to its hind parts,” Minor told a UPI reporter. “As soon as I threw the light on it, it whirled and took off that-a-way."
Sightings continued, and posses were formed to hunt the creature, but to no avail. The Missouri Monster remains a mystery.
Serpent of Mud Lake
Newspapers in the 1800s were rife with fanciful stories of giants and monsters, such as this creature story from the 19 September 1895 edition of the Hawarden Independent, of Hawarden, Iowa, describing a monster in a lake near St. Joseph, Missouri:
Wild Story From Western Missouri Started by a Fisherman.
The serpent in Mud Lake, south of this city, has been seen again, this time by Anderson McCoy, a brother of Policeman McCoy. The serpent has been seen a number of times during the past summer and several times it has been caught in nets by fishermen, but broke through the nets, leaving a hole large enough for a horse to pass through. The fishermen have never been able to land it.
McCoy has a strong boat which he uses to hunt ducks on the lake in the season when they are plentiful there. He was out in this boat a few days ago, when something struck it, and he declares it was knocked ten feet into the air. When the boat came down again McCoy saw the serpent swirling in the water a short distance away. He could not see its size or shape, but saw enough of it to know that it is of huge size. His brother’s boats have been struck a number of times, but no injury resulted. The fishermen at the lake are considerably excited about the presence of such a mysterious object in the water. McCoy thinks it is a large fish that got into the lake from the river when the water was high.
According to the book “Hidden Animals: A Field Guide to Batsquatch, Chupacabra, and Other Elusive Creatures,” by Michael Newton, in 1857, passengers on a steamboat traveling up the Missouri River saw a “great undulating serpent” in the sky that breathed fire. Other accounts of dragons stretch back to American Indian folklore include the Piasa “Bird" described in 1836 by Professor John Russell of Shurtleff College in Upper Alton, Illinois. According to Russell’s work, “The Tradition of The Piasa," the monster began to attack local Indians after feasting off the spoils of war had given it a taste for human flesh. The dragon was later slain by an Indian warrior.
The Piasa is a winged creature with green scales, horns, and a long tail that is said to either live in the rocky crags above the Mississippi River valley, or in a whirlpool in the river itself.
Stories of gigantic human skeletons crop up all across North America. One such giant story is from Missouri. On 9 April 1885, The New York Times published the article “Missouri’s Buried City,” that chronicled the discovery in a coalmine underneath the city of Moberly of an enormous ancient city. What thrilled the explorers was the size of the city’s former inhabitants.
Here’s an excerpt:
But the curiosity was the skeleton. … Mr. Morehouse, who had a tape line with him measured the bones of the leg. The femur measured four and a half feet, and the tibia four feet and three inches, showing that the creature, when alive, must have been endowed with both muscular power and quick action. The head bones had in two places separated the sagittal and the coronal suturis having been destroyed. The party judged, from the best information to be obtained on so a short time, that the skeleton is about three times as large as that of an average man, but they were afraid to attempt its removal this morning with the poor appliances at hand. Consequently it was left where found, to be removed at the earliest hour that the work can be done.
Unfortunately, that’s the last the world heard of the Missouri giants.
Next up: Montana.