The Sooner State is a mid-sized state nestled in the center of the U.S. It got the nickname “Sooner” because some early residents cheated on land claims when they settled in prime spots sooner than they were supposed to. Not sure I would have gone with that moniker, Oklahoma. The name Oklahoma comes from two Choctaw Indian words okla (red) and humma (people). Although a large part of Oklahoma is covered in red dirt prairies, the state is also home to mesas and forests. Famous residents include astronaut Gordon Cooper, actors Brad Pitt and Chuck Norris, singer Garth Brooks, baseball greats Mickey Mantle and Johnny Bench, movie director Ron Howard, and humorist Will Rogers. Oh, and a deadly freshwater octopus.
The octopus is not a freshwater creature, but since before the white man settled Oklahoma, there have been legends of deadly monsters the size of a horse living in Oklahoma waters. Although the native Indians thought this monster to be more akin to a giant leach, over the decades it’s become associated with an octopus.
The octopi are said to inhabit Lake Thunderbird, Lake Oolagah and Lake Tenkiller. People who’ve claimed to see the octopus say it is as big as a Jeep with reddish-brown skin – some witnesses say it looks like a shark with tentacles. The legend of the octopus has grown in Oklahoma due to an increased rate of unexplained drownings, according to Scientific American Magazine. The octopus reportedly “drags swimmers down with its many strong arms.” Although intrigued with the idea, the magazine maintains that an octopus simply couldn’t adapt to a freshwater environment. Scientists are no fun.
El Reno Chicken Man
In December 1970, near the town of El Reno just west of Oklahoma City, a farmer walked out to his chicken coop, and found the door lying on the ground, ripped off its hinges. The door, and the interior of the chicken coop, were covered in human-like handprints – about seven inches long and five inches wide. The farmer called the game warden, and the warden, not knowing what to make of the scene, called the Oklahoma City Zoo.
Zoo director Lawrence Curtis said the prints (with an obviously deformed thumb) were definitely primate. “It resembles a gorilla,” Curtis told the Associated Press. “It appears that whatever was making these prints was walking on all fours. There were some footprints outside.”
Bare footprints – in December.
Various reports of similar prints were received throughout the state that year. The prints were shown to various wildlife experts who all agreed they were left by a primate, but what primate left them remains a mystery. However, reports of big hairy primates (Bigfoot) abound in Oklahoma to this day.
Photographer Kyle Heying and a friend visited the 59,000-acre Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge just west of Lawton in 2012 when they saw something they wished they hadn’t. Around 10 p.m., while taking photographs of stars, they noticed the wildlife began to move. Coyotes, American bison, and a herd of elk trotted past Heying and his friend. The beasts walked past the men, some as close as five feet. Then came dangerous feral hogs, which ran by seemingly oblivious to the humans.
“It became deathly silent, and the air became ominous, and we felt an odd pressure; we started packing everything into my trunk quickly,” Heying said.
The men got in the car, and started to pull out, when they saw what had caused the animals to spook. “My headlights lighted up a human figure with a head I can not easily describe.”
The creature didn’t look human. “It was as though it had the head of a buffalo or an elk, while standing upright with two legs and two arms that were human,” he said. But the eyes were what terrified him. “The eyes were a dark red.”
Terror consumed Heying, and he didn’t know if he were looking at a beast, or a man in a mask. As the car’s headlights moved over the creature, it jerked as if hit. Heying punched the accelerator and tore away from this red-eyed monster.
In the early 1970s, Lawton residents witnessed a slew of werewolf sightings in the heart of winter. It started with one man who had a heart attack when he saw a bipedal wolf at his fishpond. The sightings escalated with reports of the creature stalking the town, leaping from bushes, and chasing cars.
A police officer answered the call of a witness who claimed to get a close look at the creature. It sat on a railing outside his apartment seventeen feet off the ground. The beast’s face looked as if it had been burned. The beast leapt from the railing and dashed away. In line with the Lon Chaney Jr. “Wolf Man” movies of the 1940s, this creature wore the torn remains of clothing.
Next up: Oregon.