The Fouke Monster remains famous to this day.
Everyone loves a good mystery and a spooky tale to tell around a campfire on a cool night. When it comes to fun outdoor tales, it's hard to beat a good bigfoot story. Whether you believe the legends of this large, man-like cryptid running around the wild areas of the United States and Canada or not, bigfoot has seeped into our popular culture.
Perhaps no bigfoot story is more famous than the stories that came out of Southern Arkansas in the late early 1970s from the small town of Fouke. These alleged sightings of a "monster" running through the area attracted tourists, led a cult classic low-budget horror film/docu-drama and effectively made a generation frightened of entering the woods.
Skeptics and believers alike have debated the mysterious creature for years. Was it real? Or all part of an elaborate hoax? Well, let's look at the history of this case of "southern sasquatch" a little more in depth and then you can decide for yourself.
We should probably set the stage for this story before we go any further. The town of Fouke is situated in southwest Arkansas in Miller County. It's about 150 miles southwest from Little Rock and 50 miles north of Shreveport, Louisiana. The population is only around 800 and the nearest major city is Texarkana which sits right on the border of Arkansas and Texas.
It's truly a blip on the map that most people probably wouldn't look twice at as they drove through. It's a typical small town. The local high school's mascot evokes "Panther Pride." There's only a handful of businesses that dot the main road through town.
One of those businesses stands out from the crowd, the "Monster Mart." It's one of the only things that immediately indicates the strange events that put this sleepy southern community on the map. Outside of town is the Sulphur River Bottoms, a largely wet and swampy area filled with a bevy of wild game. As you'll learn later, most of the sightings came from the area's hunters and fishermen who spent more time in these areas than anyone else. It's a spooky area. One that was ripe for a creature legend.
Depending on who you ask, the descriptions of the large, hairy man-like creature vary slightly. Some of the first reports said it was a bipedal animal with hair that was a reddish-brown color. Later reports said the hair was much darker. The creature also allegedly had long arms and was quite muscular. Most eyewitnesses also reported the creature smelled horrible.
The creature's height and estimated weight varied. The sightings that made the animal famous in the 1970s had the creature's height around seven feet tall and an estimated 300 pounds. Large footprints measuring 17 inches, or more were later found in several locations. The most unusual feature of these tracks being that they only had three toes. One last usual feature of the creature was the eyes. Many of the eyewitnesses described them as being bright red, almost glowing in the darkness of the swampy areas the creature called home.
Sighting reports of this mystery of cryptozoology date back to the 1940s and 50s. Some stories come even earlier than that. Author Lyle Blackburn notes in his book: "The Beast of Boggy Creek: The True Story of the Fouke Monster," that there are old records of sightings in this part of Arkansas dating back to the 1850s. Most of the early sightings seem to have flown under the radar until later when the monster gained in popularity. The stories of the creature finally hit the big time in 1971 with an incident that was later re-created for the hit film "The Legend of Boggy Creek." It involved Bobby Ford, his wife Elizabeth, brother Don Ford and another man, Charles Taylor.
The story goes that Elizabeth and Patricia Ford were the first to experience the creature. They heard it walking on the porch one evening. The following night, it reached a hand in through an open window. The Texarkana Gazette quoted Elizabeth on that terrifying experience a few days later.
"I saw the curtain moving on the front window. At first, I thought it was a bear's paw, but it didn't look like that. It had heavy hair all over it and it had claws. I could see its eyes. They looked like coals of fire...real red," she told the paper.
Bobby and Don chased the unknown creature to the back of the house, where they shot at it several times, but it vanished into the night. The sheriff was called in after that, but he could find no evidence of the encounter. Still, he left the young families with an extra shotgun just in case. A little later, the monster allegedly returned. The men shot at it again from the porch, and this time they thought they managed to kill it. Bobby, Don and Charles left the porch to investigate. Bobby headed back to the house after they heard screaming coming from the women inside the house. Right before he got on the porch is when the creature allegedly attacked. Ford claimed the creature grabbed him and they wrestled around on the ground before he got free. In terror, Ford ran through the front door of the house as the creature vanished back into the woods.
The two families had only been living in the house for only about a week when this incident occurred. They immediately moved out and did not return. Authorities found a few three-toed tracks near the scene, but no other signs of the creature. After the story was published in the Texarkana Gazette, it spread like wildfire and soon the whole country was talking about what was going on in this small Arkansas town.
More sightings come pouring in.
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After the incident at the Ford household, suddenly everyone was interested in the Fouke monster. The sightings soon started pouring in. The creature allegedly showed great interest in a few homes in the area, terrorizing the residents with its high-pitched screams. Several hunters came forward with stories about encountering the beast during their wilderness adventures. The accounts of the creature's behavior varied. In some of them, the monster acted aggressively. In others, it showed no interest in humans. At least two of those sightings from the Crabtree family reflected the latter.
Many of the reported sightings were from people who spotted it crossing the main road through Fouke, U.S. 71. Even a Sheriff's deputy reported a sighting in this fashion. The monster gained so much attention that a radio station in Little Rock even offered a $1,000 bounty for the beast. In the meantime, hunting parties who went out after the creature came up empty-handed and local police officers were baffled as to what to do next.
It is worth noting there were also a few hoaxes around this time. In one incident, three men claimed the creature attacked them and they had evidence in the form of scratch marks. However, the Sheriff who heard the story didn't buy it after noticing the men had blood under their fingernails. They ended up getting fined for making a false report. There was also the matter of those three-toed tracks that were found in several locations. Local law enforcement and at least one archaeologist labeled them as fakes.
Still, the sightings persisted and Fouke would never be the same. Especially not after filmmaker Charles B. Pierce came to town to make a film about the creature.
The Legend of Boggy Creek
As people across the country followed the events going on in Fouke through the news, the stories caught the eye of filmmaker Charles Bryant Pierce. Realizing this was an ideal money-making opportunity, Pierce headed to Fouke as soon as possible where he began interviewing eyewitnesses. It only confirmed what he already suspected, there was potential for a horror film/pseudo documentary with this story.
He managed to scrounge together some financers and some gear and began filming on location soon after. Because was a low budget production, Pierce hired locals, some of whom played themselves for many of the actors. He also hired locals like Smokey Crabtree as a guide. The Crabtree name will forever be tied to this film and the Fouke legend both for the re-enacted encounters between the creature and various family members in the film, but also for the earworm "Travis Crabtree" song that plays about halfway through the film.
Pierce re-enacted the Ford family incident in the film as well as several other high-profile encounters including one where the creature allegedly ran off with two hogs belonging to a local farmer. One of Pierce's better decisions was to show very little of the creature in the re-enactments throughout the film. It ended up making the film more tense and the monster that much more mysterious.
The film was finally released in August of 1972 and became an immediate hit in the drive-in movie circuit. By the time all was said and done, the film grossed around $25 million at the box office on a $100,000 budget. Not a bad return on investment at all. It also propelled the legend of the Fouke Monster in the public limelight forever.
Boggy Creek today
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Whether you believe the story was real or a hoax, it still resonates with people. Especially those who saw the film in the theater as a child. The film does have a creepy tone, whether you believe the legends or not. Most sasquatch enthusiasts agree, this film still stands alone as the best bigfoot movie ever made. Even given the campy quality of it when watching it today. Sometimes new investigations re-visit the legend, like the TV show "Finding Bigfoot." Despite the latest investigations, the monster remains a mystery to this day.
In Fouke, the one ever-present sign of the town's storied history with this bigfoot legend in the Monster Mart that stands on U.S. 71. It's hard to miss with the giant monster head above the entrance and murals of the beast on the walls outside. Indoors, you can find a variety of monster souvenirs to take home to show your friends.
Since the movie was filmed, sightings still trickle every so often. Sometimes they are single sightings and other times they are flurries of sightings like in 1971. Is it a real creature? Bored townsfolk pranking the city dwellers? Who knows for sure? We do know one thing, this is one legend that will likely live on for some time to come.