The vast reaches of forest and open fields of southern Illinois, combined with the sparse population in some areas, seem to invite weirdness that might not occur in cities and more crowded locales. In the most southern portions of the region, the Shawnee National Forest covers miles and miles of territory. The acres of forest seem almost untouched by man and some believe that strange things occasionally pass through here, unseen by human eyes.
This southern portion of the state is sometimes referred to as the “Devil’s Kitchen,” a designation left behind by the Native Americans and the early settlers to explain strange sights and sounds like unexplained balls of light, apparitions, screams in the night and various other unsettling types of phenomena. The Native Americans often considered such sites as “sacred” but the settlers usually believed them to be “cursed,” or at least well avoided. The idea that such locations were linked to the “Devil” was the first thought that crossed the minds of the bible-reading, god-fearing folks and they promptly set about to do two things. They learned to avoid these strange and haunted places and secondly, they gave names to the spots to alert other visitors and settlers of the dangers of the area. In the case of the Devil’s Kitchen, just about anything is possible, from ghosts reports to mystery animals and weird monster sightings.
Perhaps the strangest monster reports to ever take place in Illinois began 46 years ago in April 1973 in the small town of Enfield. This tiny community in southeastern Illinois became the scene of bizarre happenings for a short period of time. and while the case has largely been forgotten today, it remains a part of the high strangeness of the region.
Henry McDaniel of Enfield almost became the first man to be arrested because of the Enfield Horror. White County Sheriff Roy Poshard Jr. threatened to lock McDaniel up for telling folks about the weird events that took place at his home in April 1973, but McDaniel stuck by his story and his initial report would begin what became a nightmare for the small town. According to McDaniel, he was at home on the evening of April 25 when he heard a scratching on his door. When he opened it, he couldn’t believe his eyes! “It had three legs on it,” McDaniel swore,” a short body, two little short arms coming out of its breast area and two pink eyes as big as flashlights. It stood four and a half to five feet tall and was grayish-colored. It was trying to get into the house.”
Needless to say, McDaniel was not letting it in and he quickly retrieved a pistol. He kicked open the door and opened fire. After his first shot, McDaniel knew that he had hit it. The creature “hissed like a wildcat” and scampered away, covering 75 feet in three jumps. It disappeared into the brush along a railroad embankment near the house.
McDaniel quickly called the police and Illinois state troopers who responded to the call found tracks “like those of a dog, except they had six toe pads.” The tracks were measured, and two of them were four inches across and the third was slightly smaller.
Investigators soon learned that a young boy, Greg Garrett, who lived just behind McDaniel, had been playing in his yard about a half-hour before. Suddenly, the creature had appeared and attacked him. Apparently though, it just stepped on his feet, but this was enough to tear the boy’s tennis shoes to shreds. Greg had run into the house, crying hysterically.
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 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.
A short time later, the sightings ended as abruptly as they began. No explanation was ever given as to what this bizarre monster may have been, where it may have come from, or where it disappeared to. Some had surmised that perhaps it was connected to UFO activity that was also reported in the general area at the time, but we will never really know for sure!
Sources & Bibliography:
Blackman, W. Haden - Field Guide to North
American Monsters (1998)
Clark, Jerome & Loren Coleman - Swamp Slobs
Invade Illinois (Fate Magazine / July 1974)
Coleman, Loren - Curious Encounters (1985)
Coleman, Loren - Mysterious America
Coleman, Loren - Mystery Animals Invade Illinois
(Fate Magazine / March 1971)
Rath, Jay - I-Files (1999)
Taylor, Troy - Haunted Illinois (2001)
Personal Interviews Writings & Correspondence
(C) Copyright 2002 by Troy Taylor. All Rights