In the world of strange mystery beasts there are some that are certainly stranger than others, and some that are more frightening than others as well. Then there are those that are both, hitting just the right balance of the bizarre and the terrifying. This is exactly the sort of strange beast that is said to hunt the forests of a patch of wilderness in the U.S. states of Kentucky and Tennessee. It is a deeply odd case of a creature that seems to not fit into any clear classification, and is just as horrifying as it is utterly weird.
Located in rural Kentucky and Tennessee, in the United states, tucked between Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake is a national recreation area called the Land Between the Lakes, which was originally formed by President John F. Kennedy in 1963. Besides its modern designation as a recreation area, encompassing 170,000 acres of forest, over 300 miles of shoreline, and hundreds of miles of hiking trials, the area has also long been plagued by a variety of high strangeness such as roving phantoms, Indian curses, and mysterious lights, but perhaps the most bizarre is the history of strange tales of a bizarre, bipedal creature which prowls the landscape here and has been called the “The Beast Between the Rivers” as well as the “Beast of the Land Between the Lakes.”
The creature itself is typically said to look rather like a bipedal wolf, standing around 7 feet tall, and sporting clawed hands, powerful jaws with wicked teeth, glowing red eyes, and cloaked in a fetid, rotting stench. The area and its surrounding region have long held such dark legends from before the time of the first settlers to trickle into western Kentucky. Some of the first Europeans in the region were French trappers and hunters, who claimed that the forests were prowled by a massive beast, half-man and half-wolf, which would howl in the night and leave the mutilated carcasses of animals in its wake; a monstrous entity that was called the loup garou. In some instances, these hunters and trappers were said to venture into the wilderness to never be seen again, and this was blamed on the mysterious, ravenous beast. According to the native Shawnee tribe, this abomination was the spirit of a powerful shapeshifting shaman, and outsiders were frequently warned away from the area. When settlers began to come to the region, they are said to have been plagued by some large predator which lurked in the shadows killing and maiming their livestock, with witnesses saying the culprit was a hairy, wolf-like beast on two legs which unleashed bloodcurdling howls and shrieks into the night. Such incidents and sightings apparently occurred into more modern times as well, with one post on a site called DemonHuntersCompendium saying:
The sightings of the monster were still frequent throughout the beginning of the twentieth century, and the elderly group on the bench told some unsettling encounters they or members of their own families had with it. Each one told stories of finding livestock slaughtered, ripped to pieces and eaten upon. Cows and pigs with their legs dismembered from the sockets. Even a few horses had met their end with savage attacks upon their bodies. A few of them described what they saw at different times when they caught glimpses of the figure by peeking out of the curtains of the windows into the night. One man said it jumped out of one of the horse stalls one evening while he was putting up some animals. It stopped in front of him, arms spread out like it was getting ready to grab him, let out a howl and then sprang past him and into the dusky shadows of the sunset.
This particular man said he 'wet his overalls' during the episode. Another man said he never seen it, but would always hear it's baleful wails frequently at night, not like a regular wolf or a coyote, "No," he said, "It was more deeper, longer, stronger sounding then what would come out of any animal I ever heard." Another old timer said his wife had seen it trying to get into the chicken coup but gave up after getting tangled in the chicken wire. They all had tales of 'someone's hound dog' getting killed, ripped apart limb from limb, 'someone's pig or cow or chicken' getting eaten, the mysterious footprints left in the mud, and the stench it left behind where ever it appeared.
There have seemingly been quite a lot of alleged encounters with the Beast of the Land Between the Lakes even up into more modern times. In 1973, a group of students from Murray State University were purportedly camping in the area one evening and one of the group went off into the trees to relieve himself. When he came back, he was reportedly quite pale and shaking with fear, and explained that he had heard something large breathing in the darkness, and that he had had an overpowering sense of being watched, eyes heavy upon him. Not long after this, something could be heard moving and crashing through the surrounding brush, snorting and sniffing the whole time, as if circling the campsite.
The increasingly spooked campers could not actually see anything at the time, even when the light of their flashlights stabbed out into the clinging dark, but they definitely heard it, and whatever it was seemed to be quite agitated. Just as they thought things couldn’t get any more frightening, there was supposedly a sudden, deafening, and completely unearthly howl that boomed forth from the forest to shake them to the core, followed by the unmistakable sight of a pair of eyes glowing red in the night. This was enough to send the panicked group running as fast as they could to their nearby Volkswagen bus to drive off. Whatever the hulking beast was gave chase, and it reportedly actually caught up to them and grabbed the back of the vehicle with enough power to stop it in its tracks. The driver then floored it, wheels squealing defiantly, and managed to finally break free from its grip. When the students got back to their university, they claimed that there had been quite a lot of damage done to their vehicle, including gashes, gouges, and bits of missing metal.
Another account related by a frequent blogger on this phenomenon named Jan Thompson allegedly occurred to her and her cousin Joe in the summer of 1978. Joe apparently was an avid rider of dirt bikes, with which he would go tearing about over forest trails in the Land Between the Lakes, and on this day he was out as usual as Jan and her other cousin sat outside. At some point they claim that they could hear Joe’s dirt bike suddenly issue a frantic whine as it rapidly picked up speed and began racing in their direction at top speed, and he soon came bursting from the trees to make a frantic beeline towards the house, finally skidding wildly to a halt, after which the visibly shaken Joe began gazing back towards the tree line Jan would explain what happened next thus:
We followed his gaze not understanding what this escapade was all about. In silence we watched with him for a about 30 seconds and then the dogs started barking. Growling. And then whining, trying to get out of the pen in a frantic panic of digging and gnawing at the fencing.
"IT GRABBED ME!! LOOK AT MY LEG!!", Joe screamed, making us jump with alarm at the sound of his voice. We looked down at his Levi's and saw scratch marks going across his right thigh, scratches that tore through the tough denim and left small bloody marks on his skin. The marks were like a bears-claw-rake, not those caused by branches or sticky bushes, but a definite wide pattern of a paw print. "IT WALKED ON TWO LEGS!", his voice startled us again, as he was trying to tell his story in between huge gulps of air. He was frightened beyond belief, and the bits and pieces of what he was striving with extreme effort to tell us was coming out in loud syllables that filled us both with the same dread. "It was following me through the woods....along the path....from the old sawmill....hairy...it was so hairy...and it's snout was so long...and it walked on two legs....it ran on two legs...", his voice was sputtering, slowing, his eyes were still wide, and I could see the pulse of his heartbeat throbbing under the skin of his temples.
This very dramatic and impressively detailed report goes on to say that the air was then pierced by what sounded like the howl of a wolf, only with a nightmarish intensity that invoked a profoundly deep sense of heavy dread. The dogs at this time were reportedly shaking, cowering in fear and staring expectantly at the dim forest. Then, out of the trees crept a creature the likes of which none of them had never seen. It was described as being huge, hairy, and walking on two legs. The snout was long and the witness was very specific that it was much different in appearance than Bigfoot. When the security light of the driveway turned on the startled creature was illuminated, and with the darkness melted away it went from a vague shadow figure to something that was very wolf-like in appearance, with large, black eyes. The witnesses purportedly then ran into their house in a panic, grabbed kitchen knives, and then hid under a bed in terror as they listened to the beast bang around outside of the house and break one of the upstairs windows, the dogs barking viciously the whole time. It was not until the aunt came home in her car that the strange creature seemed to give up and flee away into the night.
Jan also presented another case just as terrifying, which allegedly happened in the early 1980s, when police were called to a campground in an area known for its abandoned military bunkers, where they were greeted with a rather morbid and grisly sight. There in the campsite were the badly mutilated bodies of three of the four campers, a young couple and their child, with their corpses in an appalling state. They seemed to have been ruthlessly savaged and half eaten by some powerful wild animal, with limbs missing, flesh flayed or torn from bone, organs scattered about on the ground, and deep scratches and bite marks all over them, none of which matched any animal known to inhabit the region. As authorities searched for the missing child, one police officer called Adam went up ahead to investigate, and Jan would describe what happened next:
From somewhere in the nearby woods, about 50 yards from the campfire, a scream was heard. A man’s shriek that turned into a long wail and then to whimpering. As others arrived they could see by the gleam of several flashlights that the cop was holding his hat in one hand and his light in the other. There was blood on his face, the front of his shirt and on the brim of his hat. More blood could be seen dripping on him. It was coming from above. High in the trees the flash lights swung, searching for the source of the mysterious bleeding. A very small hand could be seen dangling down from a tree limb way up high, as well as a slender lifeless leg that still had a white sock still on the foot. The missing child had been located. It had been Adam that the blood had trickled upon, hitting his hat first, making him look up, and then feeling the thick cold fluid sprinkling his face then sliding down to his neatly buttoned shirt. It had been Adam that had screamed. The little girl had apparently been carried up the tree and leisurely eaten upon while carefully laid across a large tree branch. More of the same long gray and brown hair was found sticking in the bark of the tree near her body.
Samples of saliva were supposedly sent for analysis and came back as being from an unidentified species akin to a wolf. According to Jan, this report never made it into the news or media, and was covered up by the local government as it was seen as a threat to the tourism industry if word of such a mysteriously gruesome incident got out. This lack of any concrete sources to follow up on makes it quite hard to corroborate any of this tale, making its veracity or truth uncertain. Without any evidence, coverage in the news, or known documentation of any kind, it is impossible to substantiate any of this, and it remains merely another tantalizing yet ultimately inconclusive witness account. Jan’s report apparently met with a good amount of scathing skepticism online, with many accusing it of being a fabricated urban legend, but for her part she remains adamant that it is true and has related other accounts of the Beast of the Land Between the Lakes as well, saying:
There are several more stories that I have heard about this 'Werewolf' over in LBL that have been told to me over the years after this particular incident. There were several groups of boy scouts that had seen it. Several more campers, fishermen and boaters that had seen it from the safety of of their boats, floating in some of the many bays that touched upon the shoreline. Hikers and bikers have heard its howling and have seen 'something' stalking them while they were on rural trails, hiding amongst the trees and foliage. Hunters have run across deer carcasses that had been brutally torn apart.
In the meantime, others have come forward with their own experiences with the fierce, elusive beast, and reports of a feeling of being watched, hearing howls, or coming across the badly mauled carcasses of deer and other wildlife have come in on occasion. Many experienced hunters who are aware of the spooky stories are said to avoid the cursed area altogether, and will warn others to go hunting there at their own risk. Sometimes physical evidence is claimed, such as odd footprints, tufts of hair, and dug out “nests” that appear to have been slept in by something large, but these have all remained inconclusive at best. There is simply no indication that anything is out lurking in the Land Between the Lakes other than the witness testimony, much of which is uncorroborated and can only be found floating around the Internet and repeated on various websites, meaning any truth behind it all remains murky and uncertain. The only real solid and organized chronicle of these events is presented in a documentary by Barton Nunnelly called Hunt the Dogman: High Strangeness in Western Kentucky.
What is the Beast of the Land Between the Lakes? Witnesses claim it is something other than Bigfoot, so what could it be? It is a misidentification of some other animal? Is it an actual werewolf, as some have claimed, or a variation of the various “dogman” cryptids reported from all over the United States? Could it perhaps be some sort of specter or spirit, and this is why it leaves behind little to no physical evidence and is the reason for its outlandish appearance? Or is this all just tale tales, myth, and urban legend? No one really knows, and it remains an unsettling case of what might or might not be something very strange indeed roaming about in the wilderness of the Land Between the Lakes.