There are few places as chillingly creepy as swamps, and these locales have managed over the ages to accrue quite their fair share of strange stories of ghosts, cryptids, and all manner of bizarre phenomena. In the U.S. state of Louisiana there are vast stretches of these dim, shadowy wetlands, and according to the lore and those who have been here these places are the stomping rounds of things from beyond our understanding. From reptilian beasts, to werewolves, to ape-like abominations, here are some of the bizarre mystery monsters said to lurk within the swamps of Louisiana.
One of the odder mystery beasts said to lurk within the steamy, muck-mired swamps of Louisiana is a creature called the Grunch, most often said to be some sort of ape-like reptilian monstrosity with glowing eyes, a goat-like head, hoofed feet, formidable fangs, wicked claws, and a bad attitude. The aggressive little monster is surrounded by a wretched stench, and has the apparent ability to instill great fear upon those who see it, and it also is known to unleash ear piercing howls or wails that invoke terror. The origins of the creature go way back to the beginnings of New Orleans, back in the 1700s when it was called La Nouvelle-Orléans, and stories began to be whispered amongst the new settlers of a strange monster living in the swamps.
What exactly it was depended on who you asked. In one tale, back in those days there was a remote road through the untamed wilderness, which rumor had it led to a forest that held a small camp of various societal outcasts, mostly people who were different or deformed somehow, such as dwarves, midgets, and albinos. It was these freaks who inbred and created the abomination that would come to be known as the Grunch, with the road being called Grunch Road. In another version of events, the notorious Voodoo priestess Marie Laveau created it when she castrated the entity called the Devil Baby, only for its detached testicles to morph into a female and male Grunch, which then attacked her and went running off into the wilderness to sow havoc. In yet another story the creatures were the result of Satan worshipers who had sold their souls to the Devil in order to conjure up the demon Grunch as a sort of protector. In some traditions a human can be turned into a Grunch by being bitten by one, similar to the werewolf legend.
Whatever its origins, the Grunch is usually described the same way, as a hodgepodge of reptilian, simian, canine, and goat-like features, standing around 4 feet in height and covered with black leathery skin or scales. It is said to be responsible for the disappearances of livestock and pets, the blood of which it is said to completely suck out through a single hole in the neck. Its favorite way of hunting is said to be to wait in tall grass or reeds for a victim, after which it will pounce and drag its prey away into the muck and gloom of the dim swamp. There have even been vanishings of people who have supposedly been taken away by the Grunch, carried off by the malevolent entity to never be seen again.
It may all sound like pure folklore, but there have actually been numerous sightings of the Grunch throughout the past centuries, going up right to the present day. More modern sightings tend to be by passing motorists along rural roads or Highway 90, who will see the creature running along the side of the road or even attacking their vehicle, and they have often been reported rummaging through trash or even attacking pets. In one report one of the creatures was witnessed to feed off of a dog and leave a blood drained carcass behind. In 2005 after Hurricane Katrina there was apparently a spate of sightings of the creatures, and they were oddly often seen prowling about at the New Orleans City Park golf course, perhaps flushed out of their normal habitat by the storm.
Considering all of the stories of people actually seeing these creatures it has been suggested that the Grunch might be some form of Louisiana Chupacabras, but it is unclear whether there is any reality to any of this or if it is all just spooky urban legend and myth. Another Louisiana swamp creature that seems rooted in lore is none other than the Rougarou, which is basically a Cajun version of the werewolf. The tales of the Rougarou have many variations, but it is mostly described as being a hulking beast, up to 10 feet tall, with the hair covered body of a human and the head of a wolf or in some cases a dog, usually dark, but also often with pale white fur, and with very prominent fangs and red eyes that are said to glow, which stalks the swamps, bayous, and fields of Louisiana. Other tales say it is a more decidedly ghostly or spectral apparition which glows in the night, or a beast which can become immaterial or disappear at will. The mysterious beast is said to be able to change its shape back and forth, and can even take on other forms such as a werepig, werecattle, or even werecranes. The story of the Rougarou has many forms, with the most common being that it is a curse that has to be transferred to another by drawing blood within 101 days, and which can only be broken through passing it on to others. This is usually done by either viciously attacking someone or in other versions simply gazing into another’s eyes. In the past, it was common for people to look upon strangers or particularly odd people with great suspicion, as it was thought that they may be one of the feared beasts.
According to the lore, the afflicted are supposedly faced with some alternatives. The most common way to break the curse is to remain silent about the confrontation for a whole year and a day, after which the curse will be broken for both parties. One piece of folklore related to this involves a young newlywed wife who is waiting for her husband at the edge of the swamp on the night of a full moon. The woman is then confronted with a massive, wolf-like creature which locks its gaze with hers before stalking off into the night. The woman, knowing she has been infected with the foul beast’s curse, subsequently locks herself within a shed every night of the full moon, a fact which is not noticed by her new husband as he often works late into the night. After the year and a day have passed, the cured woman, who has remained silent about the encounter, is asked by her husband if she has ever waited for him by the edge of the swamp in the moonlight. The wife lies and says she hasn’t, after which the husband admits that he was in fact the creature she had seen and been cursed by, and that her silence on the matter had saved them both. Another way to lift the curse is with the help of powerful Voodoo spells.
Other versions of the legend say that the creature takes on the form of a large dog rather than a wolf-man, which makes sense since wolves are not native to Louisiana. In another tale, a boy who was on his way home came across a huge white dog which was acting aggressively towards him. After some time of the dog biting at him and snarling at him, the boy then supposedly took out a knife he carried in his backpack and slashed at the mysterious dog. The animal then transformed into a human being, and told the boy that he had been imprisoned by the devil into this form, and that the same would befall him if he was not careful. The stranger also warned that if the boy told anyone about the encounter he would become a Rougarou too. The boy promptly told all of his friends, and it was then that he began to disappear from his room at night, only to reappear in his room the following morning with no recollection of where he had been and sometimes spattered in blood that was not his own. After a year of this, the boy was allegedly found dead in the street one morning, and the authorities deemed it a suicide, but those who knew better claimed that he had been a Rougarou. There are numerous other stories of people being confronted by a large, vicious dog only to have it turn into a man right before their eyes, often after being struck or cut. In one story a pair is pursued by such a dog under the light of a full moon, only to have it leap a fence and disappear, being instead replaced by the figure of a large man.
Another popular story is that these were-creatures have the habit of rampaging through town and the wilderness to ravage those Catholics who have not observed Lent properly, and it is said that failing to observe Lent for a full 7 years in a row is a sure way to be transformed into one of the beasts, or at the very least incur their wrath. They were also said to be drawn to those who misbehaved or committed criminal transgressions, making them a popular story to tell to children in order to keep them in line and out of trouble. It was a common thing for a child to hear something along the lines of “Come home before dark, lest the Rougarou get you!” Indeed, those unfortunate people who went missing within the swamp were often thought to have fallen victim to the Rougarou. As steeped in folklore as the stories of swamp dwelling werewolves might be, there are many reports of people actually claiming to see them to this day, or to hear their eerie howls piercing the night. Some rather dramatic reports have even told of the creatures chasing cars down the road or slaughtering cattle. Their large, hulking appearance and hair covered bodies have led to the theory that rather than werewolves, what is being seen is perhaps some Bigfoot-like creatures, yet there is very little evidence of the creatures one way or another.
Speaking of Bigfoot-like monsters roaming the swamps of Louisiana, we have the odd tale of what has come to be known as the Honey Island Swamp Monster. The mysterious creature gets its name from the stretch of untamed, nearly impassable swampland between the East Pearl and West Pearl Rivers, called the Honey Island Swamp, which encompasses around 70,000 acres of protected wetland habitat and is a remote slash of wilderness that is home to an abundant variety of life, including maybe even a monster. The creature first came to prominence in 1963, when retired air traffic controller Harlan Ford was out exploring along the Pearl River with companion Billy Mills when they claimed to have seen a hulking ape-like beast wading through the swamps there. The creature was described as around 8 feet in height, covered with matted brown hair, and as producing a prodigal, gag inducing odiferous stink.
The two made another excursion to the area in 1974, when they came across the carcasses of wild boars with their throats rudely torn out, which they surmised to be the work of the beast. Ford would even produce a cast of the thing’s footprint, which had three webbed toes and was nothing like anything else supposed to be living in the wilderness there. Another witness soon came forward as well, a man by the name of Ted Williams, who claimed to have seen it on several occasions and said of the monster:
First time I ever saw it, it was standing plum still like a stump. I stopped and realized it wasn’t a stump and it wasn’t supposed to be there. When I stopped it ran. It was dark gray, about seven foot high, it jumped a bayou, that was the first time I saw it. The next time I seen him was swimming the river [Pearl River], two of them, one was bigger than the other and faster than the other and they swam just like a human with them long overhead strokes. I tried to get one of them to look at me and the other one ran off and the other one wouldn’t look at me. I could’ve shot it but I wouldn’t on account it wouldn’t look at me. It looked too much like a human too me, broad shoulders, arms hanging down below its knees, hands looked almost like a humans.
Interestingly, there would be some Super 8 footage found among Ford’s possessions after he died in 1980, which seems to show the beast walking along behind some trees in the swamp, although why this footage was never made public is unknown. There have been sporadic sightings of the Honey Island Swamp Monster since then, and we are left to wonder whether if it is real and if so just what it could be. Is it an escaped ape? A swamp dwelling Bigfoot? Or is it just more spooky lore in this already spooky place? In all of these accounts we have looked at here there is the definite feeling that in this rugged region already steeped in legends and lore perhaps these stories have also been birthed from the creepy locale of it all. One Jonathan Foret, executive director of South Louisiana Wetlands Discovery Center, has said of this:
I think superstition runs in our veins. As young Cajun children, we grow up hearing stories about mysterious things that have happened along the bayous, and traiteurs that could heal or curse a person. These oral traditions are passed down through generations and shared with visitors. I think that has helped to create this spooky reputation for us down the bayou. It also doesn’t hurt that we’ve got lots of alligators, snakes, spiders and tons of other critters that give you the frissons … the chills. Sprinkle a little Spanish moss across all of it, and you’ve got the perfect setting for a spooky or downright scary tale.
It is hard to know what to make of these cases, whether we are supposed to be dealing with some form of undiscovered animal, ghosts, or some other supernatural entities, or merely the result of years of lore and myth infusing these forbidding-looking swamplands. Is there anything to this, and if so what are we looking at here? Whatever the answers may be, the swamps are certainly an inhospitable place full of a sense of dark forbidding, and they are the perfect habitat for such strange creatures, whether those really prowl the land or just the shadows of our imagination.