Illustration, credit American Monsters.
May 6th is one of those anniversaries that creeps into our consciousness, as it is mainly recalled as the peak date of the Enfield Monster mania. It was the second and last time that Henry McDaniel saw the thing that haunted that southern Illinois town many, many springtime days ago.
I was reminded of this recently by an old MacArthur High School classmate Dave Wooten, who only lately discovered I was the guy behind the initial investigations of that drama in southern Illinois. That he had some personal and physical links to the memories of the events back then surprised me.
Dave writes: “Do you know I was there and didn’t know you were ‘on the case’! My uncle Cash Wooten was for a time game warden and county commissioner [there]. Cousin Ron Wooten is now commissioner. My grandpa Garwood lived in Enfield, just up from the tracks. I remember my aunt would not leave her windows open at night!”
(Dave is a photographer of some note, and took a series of images in Enfield recently and will be forwarding some over this summer. I will display them in the museum. It is a small world.)
The Enfield Monster period was during the time of “High Strangeness” sweeping the USA in the 1970s. At the time, I was a recent anthropology student at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, but living back in central Illinois again, taking anthropology/zoology courses at the University of Illinois. Naturally, when reports of an unknown creature was registered deeper in the bottomlands at the other end of the state, I traveled there to investigate.
The facts of the case are well-known. On April 25, 1973, Mr. and Mrs. Henry McDaniel returned to their home and Henry had an encounter with a thing that looked like it had three legs, two pink eyes as big as flashlights, and short arms on a four-and-a-half-feet tall and grayish-colored body, along the L&N railroad tracks, in front of his house.
Photo, credit American Monsters.
A young man, Greg Garrett, had the incredible distinction of having his tennis shoe covered foot stepped on by the sort of kangaroo-like, apelike thing.
Illinois investigator Troy Taylor, years later, would summarize, online, what happened next, this way, for that final encounter of Henry’s:
On May 6, Henry McDaniel was awakened in the middle of the night by howling neighborhood dogs. He looked out his front door and saw the monster again. It was standing out near the railroad tracks. “I didn’t shoot at it or anything,” McDaniel reported. “It started on down the railroad track. It wasn’t in a hurry or anything.”
McDaniel’s reports soon brought publicity to Enfield and prompted the threats from the county sheriff, but it was too late. Soon, hordes of curiosity-seekers, reporters and researchers descended on the town. Among the “monster hunters” were five young men who were arrested by Deputy Sheriff Jim Clark as “threats to public safety” and for hunting violations. This was after they had opened fire on a gray, hairy thing that they had seen in some underbrush on May 8. Two of the men thought they had hit it, but it sped off, moving faster than a man could.
One more credible witness to the monster was Rick Rainbow, who was then the news director of radio station WWKI in Kokomo, Indiana. He and three other persons spotted the monster near an abandoned house, just a short distance from McDaniel’s place. They didn’t get much of a look at it as it was running away from them, but they later described it as about five feet tall, gray and stooped over. Rainbow did manage to tape record its cry. The wailing was also heard by eminent researcher Loren Coleman, who also came to try and track down the creature. He also heard the sound while searching an area near the McDaniel home. ~ in The Enfield Horror: The Strangest Monster Sighting in Illinois.
I did travel to Enfield. I interviewed the witnesses, looked at the siding and air conditioner damage of the house the Enfield Monster had attacked, heard some strange screeching banshee-like sounds, and walked away bewildered.
I wrote up my notes on the accounts for articles like “Swamp Slobs Invade Illinois” in Fate Magazine, July 1974, and in my subsequent books. Within the context of the Mysterious America name game, the family McDaniel would be highlighted two years later in John A. Keel’s The Mothman Prophecies. The McDaniels would be one of the focal points of the Mothman stories, as you will recall.
But maybe I should have noticed all the Wootens around Enfield too, and discovered the landscape for monsters, indeed, is a tiny one.
BREAKING NEWS update has arrived, a historical note:
Dave Wooten’s 80 year old aunt is still alive. When asked today by Dave, “Where is Greg Garrett these days?”, she answered:
“Greg Garrett is dead.”
As it turns out, Garrett was killed when he was shot in the back by his wife, as he was sitting on his front porch in Enfield, Illinois, several years ago. Garrett’s wife was later acquitted of any homicide charges, as her “self-defense” arguments held up in court.
Wooten did some more checking. He talked to Bob Duckworth, the White County Sheriff at the time, and verified that Garrett was the kid that saw the Enfield monster, which also McDaniel reported seeing. Duckworth said that indeed Garrett was killed by his wife Rosie about 25 years ago.
My book Creatures of the Outer Edge, first appearing in 1978, gave some national expose to the Enfield Thing. Today it is found as the second part of this recent reprint, The Unidentified and Creatures of the Outer Edge: The Early Works of Jerome Clark and Loren Coleman