Exploring American Monsters: Arkansas

The state of Arkansas in the southern U.S. is known for its lush green mountains, roaring rivers, and University of Arkansas football. It’s the headquarters of the world’s number one retailer, Wal-Mart, and is the birthplace of musician Johnny Cash, and former U.S. President Bill Clinton. It’s also the home of monsters. The most famous of these is the Fouke Monster, a sasquatch-type creature immortalized in the 1972 movie “The Legend of Boggy Creek.” But this series, “Exploring American Monsters,” isn’t about well-known beasts, it’s about the lesser-known creatures the world sees from the corner of its eye, like the Ozark Howler.

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The Ozark Mountains in north central Arkansas are covered in pine trees, hickory, and several species of oak. A number of endangered species live in these forests, and so does the Ozark Howler.

The Howler has been reported to be a great cat, or dog, or bear-like beast with eyes that glow red from behind a black pelt. The monster stands four-feet-tall at the shoulder, and some witnesses say the beast has horns.

But the one aspect every witness agrees upon is the Ozark Howler’s piercing, terrifying cry, described as everything from the bugling of a bull elk, to the laughter of a hyena (more on that later).

Many people have dismissed the Ozark Howler as a hoax, a college student’s idea of a joke, but Howler sightings stretch back to the early 1800s. A number of residents of Red Oak, Arkansas, reported seeing the Howler in 1846, as well as those in nearby Branson, Missouri, in 1998, and in Jasper, Arkansas, in 2011. Is the Howler a hoax? Witnesses don’t think so.

Gowrow

This twenty-foot-long lizard with jutting tusks reportedly lurks in dark, dank caverns in northern Arkansas. The earliest report of the Gowrow was in the 31 January 1897 edition of the Arkansas Gazette detailing a man’s claim of killing one of the monsters near Marshall, Arkansas, and sending the remains to the Smithsonian Institution, although there are no records of it.

The man, William Miller of Little Rock, gathered a group of hunters to track down the beast that had been feasting off local livestock. They tracked the Gowrow to its lair where it charged them, shaking the ground, and felling trees before they shot it to death. Other reports of Gowrow encounters scatter northern Arkansas.

Hyenas

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The hyena of North America, Chasmaporthetes, lived during the Plio-Pleistocene era, 4.9 million to 780,000 years ago. It was lean limbed, and sprinted like a cheetah. Have a smattering of American hyenas survived until this modern age? Some residents of Arkansas think so.

According to a post at arkansashunting.net, a hunter in Izard County claims a man saw a hyena cross the road in front of him. He didn’t believe the man until others came forward reporting to have seen the same animal.

Similar stories are posted on the topix.com. A woman says she was scouting deer with her ex-husband “years ago” on Lost Mountain in northern Arkansas, when they saw a strange animal with a band of coyotes. “Running with this pack I noticed an animal that wasn’t anything like them,” the woman wrote. “It had a large hump on its back, legs were sorta low to the ground, and the color was way off. I’d seen them on Discovery Channel enough to know what it was so I started freaking out screaming, ‘Oh my God, it’s an honest to God hyena.’”

White River Monster

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Named Whitey for its home in the White River, this gray-skinned river monster first appeared in 1915. A local plantation owner who saw Whitey in 1937 said it looked about five feet wide, twelve feet long, and had the face of a catfish. The White River, that’s flood stage is twenty-six feet, doesn’t seem deep enough to be the home of a monster that large. But reports of Whitey continue.

Witnesses saw a twenty-foot-long gray monster with a horn and spiny back in the river in 1971. Investigators discovered fourteen-inch, three-toed tracks of a large animal that apparently emerged from the river, and walked on the shore, crushing brush, and breaking small trees.

Hundreds of people have claimed to see Whitey over the years.

Since 1973, Whitey has been protected by law.

Pterosaur

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According to science, these flying reptiles lived from the late Triassic Period to the end of the Cretaceous Period, which would make the creature extinct for at least 66 million years. However, people have reported seeing these winged monsters all over the world, including Arkansas.

A group of people saw a large flying creature near Texarkana, Arkansas, in 1982 that was featherless, had a pointed beak, and a head crest. When they got home they looked up the monster in a book; it was a pterosaur.

According to the Christian County Headliner News, a woman named Laura Dean was driving to the grocery store when a large creature with gray, leathery skin, and a head crest appeared from beneath a bridge and flew within six feet of her car. The wings were bat-like with claws at the tips, and the tail was tipped with a diamond-shaped flap. What terrified her was the size of the beast. It was larger than the Chevrolet S-10 pickup she drove.