Out in the wilds of the U.S. state of Arkansas, the vicinity of the small, rural town of Fouke, in Miller County, has long been said to be the haunt of a hulking, hairy creature very much in the vein of Bigfoot, and which has come to be called the Fouke Monster, also commonly known as “The Southern Sasquatch” or “The Beast of Boggy Creek.” Typically described as standing between 7 and 8 feet tall, with incredibly long arms, a “galloping gait,” very large eyes often said to glow, and covered with long dark to reddish hair, it is said to smell like a wet dog and to be very fast. It is also an apparently quite aggressive hairy hominid that has become entwined with local lore, and the Fouke Monster has gone on to be much discussed in cryptozoology to this day.
The creature in question has apparently been seen in the region of Jonesville and Boggy Creek, in Eastern Louisiana, since at least the 1800s, and became more well known in the 1940s, when something like it was known as the “Jonesville Monster.” In the 1950s there were several sightings, including a report given by a 14-year-old boy who said he had seen an immense bipedal creature with reddish brown hair roaming about, and another by a hunter who said that he had witnesses a large, “gorilla-like” creature washing its hands in the river. In the 1960s, in 1965 a boy named Lynn Crabtree even said that he had shot at the creature. Also in the 60s was an encounter not reported until years later, which was experienced by a teenaged William Lunsford. At the time he claims that he had been fishing when he saw something standing there looming in the shadows watching him from behind a tree up by the road. Lunsford would say of his sighting:
This thing was on the side off the road. He had squatted down, and he had a limb in front of his face. And he stands up. He lifts this limb and then he keeps standing up. And he looks at me, and he's just wobbling, but you can see his eyes. They're as black as coals. It looked like he was reading my mail, and I just thought "Oh my gosh!" I knew what I was seeing. He sits there for a minute. He teeters, and turns and just that quick. In two steps, he was in the woods.
The 1960s actually has quite a few sightings of the creature. One local named Smokey Crabtree claimed that the beast would lurk around his rural property at night, unleashing unearthly screams and scaring his dogs. The creature was also seen on several occasions prowling along Highway 71, such as one case from 1967 of a group of teenagers who saw a tall, hairy bipedal creature running along the highway and another case from 1969 when a family of four driving along 71 spotted what they at first took to be a man in a fur coat but which turned out to be some sort of ape-like beast caked in mud. The creature then apparently raised its massive arms to shield its eyes from the light of the headlights and lumbered off into the forest.
Despite these earlier sightings, the beast that would come to be known as the Fouke Monster really gained notoriety in the 1970s, with a series of high profile sightings of something very strange prowling the woods and swamps of Arkansas, and perhaps the most famous report that kicked it all off is that of a couple named Bobby and Elizabeth Ford in May of 1971. Ford claimed that they had just moved into the house in Fouke the week before, and that he and his brother Don had been out hunting in the woods surrounding the area at the time the incident started. At some point they heard a scream from the proximity of the house from Ford’s wife, and went running to investigate.
When they arrived at the house they did so to find a massive, hairy ape-like creature loitering about, and the two hunters had then actually opened fire on the mystery monster. Ford even said they had managed to hit it at least once before it went ambling off into the night. But it wasn’t done, as it would apparently rush them the following evening as Ford was standing out on his porch. Ford would claim that the beast had actually managed to grab him, after which he broke free in a panic and went dashing into the home, bursting right through the front door, after which they fired upon the creature again. Ford’s wife would claim that the reason she had screamed was that the thing had reached through her window while she was taking a nap. Authorities were notified, but a search of the area turned up no sign of blood, or indeed anything to show that what was described had ever even been there at all, except for some scratches on the porch that could have been from the monster. Ford himself was apparently admitted to the hospital with scratches or gashes along his back from the attack.
The Ford account would be picked up by the Texarkana Gazette and the Texarkana Daily News, and when reporter Jim Powell went to investigate he found that the Fords were in the process of moving out of the home, unsure of their safety in the face of this mysterious denizen of the forest. The resulting articles on the encounter were widely publicized and talked about, and before long there were all manner of rumors being whispered about the hairy giant beast lurking in the area. It is perhaps no surprise at all that in the wake of this publicity more sightings would be forthcoming, and another well-known account came forward that very same month, when on May 23, 1971, a D. C. Woods, Jr., Wilma Woods, and Mrs. R. H. Sedgass were allegedly driving along U.S. Highway 71 when they saw the abomination stride across the road in front of them. There was also the account of an archeologist named Frank Schambach, who investigated a set of three-toed footprints in the area at around the same time, and it would all get very bizarre indeed.
More reports would come in throughout the early 1970s, to the point where in 1972 it was all used as the basis for the cult favorite cryptozoology film, a pseudo-documentary horror film called The Legend of Boggy Creek, which would go on to spawn several sequels and remains a classic among Bigfoot aficionados. In the meantime, the Sheriff’s office warned potential monster hunters away, and still the weirdness continued, with many locals claiming to have either seen the creature or to have found mutilated pets or livestock that were thought to have been its victims. There were even bounties offered for the beast, much to the chagrin of law enforcement authorities trying to keep people from traipsing about with loaded weapons through the region. There were a few hoaxers arrested as well, and it was all quite the ruckus at the time. Many were crying that the whole thing was a hoax, but still the reports came in and tracks were found, many of them with oddly only three toes. However, by 1974 the sightings had died down and the “Beast of Boggy Creek” sort of faded from the public consciousness, but this was not meant to last and the beast was not done yet, it would seem.
In 1978, things got interesting again with the discovery of new tracks allegedly left by the monster in Russellville, Arkansas, and then there were several consecutive sightings of the beast in Center Ridge, Arkansas and Crossett, Arkansas, reigniting interest in the creature. Once again there were several reports of missing pets or livestock, and even attacks on dogs who were seemingly maimed by something very large and powerful. In the 1980s the encounters continued, and sporadic sightings have continued right up into more recent years, notably a sighting of the creature jumping from a bridge in 1991 and an intense spate of 40 sightings during 1997 and 1998 alone.
There have been sightings of the Fouke Monster right up into the 2000s, with some notable encounters along roads. In 2011 a married couple witnessed a stout, hairy creature with dirt and debris stuck to its hair and a horrific stench cross the road in front of their car. Also coming from 2011, is a report from a witness named Heather Owens, who was driving along at night at a place called Williams Road and saw an 8-foot tall hairy man-like figure stand up and glare at her from behind a bale of hay in a field. The following year, in September of 2012, the creature was spotted again, this time along State Highway 237 near Fouke, where it was seen crossing the road in front of a car and described as being extremely muscular and with very long legs.
Such sightings have continued on and off, with the most recent being from 2017 and 2018. In 2017 there were two notable sightings, one from a couple who were driving along a road south of Fouke near Boggy Creek at around dusk, when they saw a “real tall, hairy human-like figure” standing near some trees off to the side of the road, and in 2018 a truck driver allegedly saw it cross Highway 71 and then continue to run down one of the empty lanes before veering off into the woods to disappear. In both cases the witnesses have been absolutely sure they did not see a person or a bear.
With all of these sightings from so many different people, there has been quite a lot of speculation on what the so-called Fouke Monster or The Beast of Boggy Creek could be. Considering the three-toed tracks that often turn up it has been speculated that this could be an injured or deformed Bigfoot or an inbred population of the creatures. There is also the idea that this is just legends, hoaxes, and overactive imaginations. It certainly seems rather in the area’s best interests to keep the mystery alive, as there are signs and memorabilia dedicated to the Fouke Monster all over Fouke, and the sightings and the films featuring them have been a claim to fame for this normally quiet, nondescript town, leading to the notion that this all perhaps a publicity stunt. Whatever the case may be, the Beast of Boggy Creek has become entrenched in local lore and does not seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. For further reading on the subject, I would highly recommend the book The Beast of Boggy Creek: The True Story of the Fouke Monster, by cryptozoologist Lyle Blackburn, which contains the most comprehensive information of the creature, and you can see a timeline of most of the sightings here.