Honey Island Swamp, Louisiana. 1963. Retired air traffic controller Harlan Ford was out photographing wildlife with his friend Billy Mills. As they reached a clearing in the swamp, they sighted a most foul beast. An ape-like hominid, weighing between 400 and 500 pounds, seven feet tall with grey hair and large amber-coloured eyes, accompanied by a pungent odour. Ford became obsessed with discovering the truth. In 1974, he returned with Mills to the swamp. They found a wild boar whose throat had been torn to shreds. The water was too far away for it to be an alligator attack, and soon, they suspected a monster was nearby. They found webbed three-toed footprints, but retreated in fear. Ford searched for the creature until his death in 1980, but saw it only once more. Ford, Mills and some friends were out camping one night. One of the friends went out to hunt for the monster, alone in the quiet darkness, a silence rocked by the sound of two gunshots…
The friend ran back to the camp and told them what he had seen. A monster in the swamp, one he shot at. “It was nothing like I’d ever seen before – ugly and sinister looking.” After Ford’s death in 1980, a reel of film was found amongst his belongings purporting to show the mysterious creature in the murky swamp. But others weren’t so lucky. Ted Williams was an avid fanatic of the creature. He said he saw it many times and that there was more than one. “I could have killed them,” he said, “but I didn’t ‘cause they didn’t seem to want to harm me.” One day, he went out into the swamp on his boat to set some trout lines. He was never seen again.
Ford believed the monster or monsters were on the verge of extinction, but he is one of the few believers. Paul Wagner and his wife Sue run nature tours in the area with Captain Robbie Charbonnet, a Cajun guide. None of them has seen the swamp monster, and have found no trace of such a beast. Charbonnet said, “[I have] never seen or heard of something that could be attributed to a monster.” Indeed, many point a finger of suspicion toward Ford and Mills. They’ve often been described as ‘suspiciously lucky’ regarding their numerous encounters. Could they be fanatics of the legend, propagating tales of such that never even happened? Many think the film and the footprints that they found are elaborate hoaxes. Others say that if it is a hoax, then why did Ford hide the film? Guilt, perhaps?
This monster bears many of the hallmarks of other such swamp monsters. As naturalist John V. Dennis once said, “In many cases, sightings such as this one are inspired by traditions… if a region is wild and inaccessible and has a history of encounters with strange forms of life, chances are that similar encounters will occur again or [are] at least reported.” A remote and murky swamp, isolated and surrounded by nothing but darkness. Soon a legend is born. Every unknown sighting is it. Livestock and missing people are soon blamed on it. And perhaps two men saw something strange one night and became convinced, to the point where nobody could convince them otherwise, that there was a deadly creature of despair, lurking in the dreary depths…
Many think this is little more than a campfire story, one that friends tell to one another to frighten and scare. Perhaps the greatest indicator that it was, at the very least, born from folklore, revolves around a tale of a train wreck near Pearl River in the early 20th century. It’s said that a train full of circus animals, exotic creatures from around the world, derailed. Many animals fled the disaster but soon perished in the harsh conditions. Legend tells us that a congress of chimpanzees were the hardiest of souls and not only survived, but interbred with the local alligator population. The offspring was a hideous monster, a bizarre mammal that became the Honey Island Swamp Monster.
Of course, this isn’t true, but maybe it gives us our clearest indication yet that it’s unlikely it exists. However, in the darkness and solitude of a remote swamp, with anxiety heightened and adrenaline surging, plus a chill down our spines, perhaps anything is possible…
So I’ll give this creature a 98 on my patented Cryptid-o-Meter, putting it 33rd in the list of 37, with the Basilisk still bottom and the Beast of Gévauden still holding top spot.
The Honey Island Swamp Monster. A fascinating cryptid indeed.
Image (Click on It to Enlarge)
1) The Honey Island Swamp
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