Fouke Monster: Arkansas' Most Notorious Bigfoot or Wild Campfire Story TAP TO GET PODCAST
As we journey down south, keep your eyes peeled as we might just run into Arkansas’ most legendary cryptid of all. But be warned, this swampy, southern Sasquatch isn’t your run-of-the-mill Bigfoot encounter story.
It was like any other mid-July afternoon in the beaming, humid southern heat of 1946. About a 30-minute drive from the Texarkana border, Jonesville was a small, sleepy town that didn’t have much to write home about. Other than your everyday small-town necessities like a school, a post office, the local church, or a mom-and-pop convenience store, there wasn’t much else unless you count the several acres of farmland. If we’re being honest, nothing exciting ever happened in small-town Jonesville. But that would all change soon.
With school out for summer break, the two young boys were off wandering about, probably trying to catch a few fish, climb a couple of trees, or whatever other grand adventures little boys could get themselves into during that time. Like every Monday through Friday, from sun up to sun down, Father was away for the day, out traveling to other farmland in the nearby city. And for Mother? She, too, had her hands full with her daily chores of sweeping the porch, hanging the laundry, washing the freshly picked produce from their farm out back, and making pies for the congregation for their annual church potluck later that weekend.
Around mid-afternoon, just a few hours before her husband came home from work, it was finally time to prepare dinner. As she began washing the pots and pans sitting in the sink, she looked out her big kitchen window to see her two boys running around and chasing each other, both giggling with joy. She loved that they were able to bond and spend quality time together outside of regular school hours.
Smiling down at the big pot in her hand, she then turned on the faucet to rinse the soap off and turned to grab a new rag to dry it off with. Although she could still hear her boys laughing from afar, when she turned around, she no longer had a clear view of her two boys running around the yard. But rather, what she did see was a strange figure lurking about out in the field.
Panicked with fear, she quickly threw the rag on the counter and ran for the telephone. Dialing 911, she called for a police officer to come to check out the parameter and ensure there was nothing sinister coming for her two boys. As she put the phone back on the receiver, not wanting to frighten them, she called out to her two sons to go inside and get washed up for dinner. When the officer pulled up, he spoke with the woman again and asked her to restate what she saw. Thanking her for her statement, he walked around the farm, searching high and low for the mysterious figure.
But he searched to no avail, he didn’t see anything that remotely sounded as she had earlier described. There was simply nothing there. But whatever she claimed she saw, it definitely spooked her, as she was still shaken up when she thanked the sheriff for coming out. But whether it was pure imagination from the full day of cleaning or the summer heat that had gotten to her, she could have sworn that what she saw was a monster. And when asked by local news what she might have seen, the sheriff said, “It looked kind of like a man and walked like a man, but she didn’t think it was a man.”
Shortly after, 911 calls from other families in town started pouring in, keeping the line busy as they shared similar experiences. Not long after, the being, whatever it might have been, was officially dubbed the “Jonesville Monster.” But you and I might know it as something else entirely. While our friends up north may call it the Southern Sasquatch, those from the southern states, specifically Arkansas, know it as the “Fouke Monster.”
If you’re from Arkansas, then you’re probably familiar with our various Cryptids. From the White River Monster, the Heber Springs Water Panther, Hogzilla, or even the Ozark Howler we covered a couple of weeks ago, we definitely don’t come up short when it comes to spooky folklore. But perhaps the most famous of all may just be the Fouke Monster. What’s wild is that the story I just shared about a woman in 1946 who saw a strange figure walking across her field that was neither man nor animal isn’t even the first alleged sighting of the monster. One of the first possible sightings dates all the way back to 1851.
Out on a hunting trip with his friend in Greene County, about a 5-hour drive cross-state from Fouke, Hamilton was eager to spend some quality time out in the woods. Legend has it that while out shooting game, Hamilton and his friend heard something stirring off in the distance, followed by cows mooing in annoyance. Thinking they’d score a large buck nearby, Hamilton grabbed his binoculars to see if he could catch a glimpse of a large rack off in the distance. But once he looked through the lens, what he saw was no buck nor doe. Lowering his binoculars and rapidly blinking, trying to make sure his eyes weren’t deceiving him, Hamilton looked through the binoculars once more.
Upon a better look, this wild beast resembled more of an “oversized, hairy, apelike creature” and was seemingly chasing a herd of domestic cattle. Riddled with fear, he slowly handed the binoculars to his friend with one hand and raised a finger from his other hand to his lips in a “shh” motion. But before he could determine what he was looking at, the creature knew it was spotted. After what felt like a forever staring match, the creature ran back off into the wilderness. When they talked with local police, there was no sign of evidence the animal had even been there except for the 13-inch long tracks left behind. This creature, whatever it was, was then dubbed as the Arkansas “Wild Man” and was later featured in the Memphis Enquirer and the Caddo Gazette.
So, call it the Arkansas Wild Man, the Southern Sasquatch, the Swamp Stalker, the Jonesville Monster, or the Fouke Monster, take your pick. Whatever you want to call it, stories of strange, apelike creatures roaming the backroads of Arkansas have all been passed down from decade after decade and what seems like centuries.
But perhaps the most famous story, the story that completely put Fouke on the map in terms of tourism and the tale that officially coined The Fouke Monster, happened in 1971.
Only this time, nearly 30 years later, after the woman saw a strange creature creeping through her field, came a more sinister story. One that, rather than stalking cows in the forest like Hamilton and his friend saw in the 1800s, quite possibly left a crimson stain on one family’s history book.
In May of 1971, at 25, Bobby Ford and his family bought a new house about four miles north of Fouke. Excited to start a quiet life together in this small town of less than 400, they quickly moved in, unpacked boxes, and settled into their new home with the help of Bobby’s brother Don and family friend Charles Taylor. But this excitement wouldn’t last long. And neither would their stay.
On Wednesday evening, after a long day of deep cleaning the house and unpacking boxes, the men’s wives started to hear something walking around on the porch. Curious to know what was making all the racket, Bobby and the other two men walked around the perimeter, shining their flashlights with one hand and holding shotguns in the other, but to their surprise, they didn’t find anything lurking about. So, they returned to the house to finish unpacking for the night.
A couple of nights later, Elizabeth Ford was sleeping in the front room of the frame house when she saw a large shadow loom over her. Before she could determine what she was seeing, the creature stuck its arm through the window and tried to swipe at her face. In Elizabeth’s words, “I saw the curtain moving on the front window and a hand sticking through the 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. It didn’t make any noise. Except you could hear it breathing.”
Once they spotted the creature trying to break into the house, the men grabbed their flashlights and shotguns once more and aimed. After firing several rounds, they called Ernest Walraven, Fouke Constable, and shortly after, he brought another shotgun and an even stronger flashlight. After Walraven was called to the scene at about 12:35 a.m., the men searched high and low through the surrounding fields and woods for about an hour. According to Don Ford, “We waited on the porch and then saw the thing closer to the house. We shot again, saw it fall, and Bobby, Charles, and myself started walking [towards it]”. And that’s when they heard the women’s screams coming from the house.
Rushing towards the house, Bobby felt a hairy arm grab his shoulder and pull him to the ground. In his words, “The only thing I could think about was to get out of there. The thing was a huge, hairy 7-foot tall monster with red eyes about the size of a half-dollar and breathing real hard. I finally broke away and ran around the house and through the front door. I don’t know where he went [after that].” Apparently, Bobby was so frightened that he ended up running right through the front door without ever even opening it.
Obviously shaken up at the multiple attempts of intrusion from this hairy beast, Bobby and his wife quickly grabbed their wallet and keys, bolted out the door, and drove straight to St. Michael Hospital, where he was treated for his scratch marks and was later released after the initial shock wore off. According to Bobby, “At first I thought it was a bear, but it [ran] upright on two legs and move[d] real fast.”
That very next morning, when getting a better look at their newly purchased house in broad daylight, they noticed several strange tracks, appearing to be left behind by a creature with three toes. Not only were there strange tracks on the ground but there were also several scratch marks on the front porch that seemed to have been left by the same three-toed creature. But that wasn’t the only trace left behind. According to Bobby, several pieces of tin that had been nailed around the bottom of the house had been ripped away. And yet another window had been damaged, similarly to the one Elizabeth was sleeping under not long before. That’s when Bobby decided to pack up their belongings and move to Ashdown, about 30 minutes north of Fouke.
The following week, the Ford family made headlines. When Texarkana Gazette and Texarkana Daily News caught wind of this story, it spread like wildfire. But while the Texarkana Gazette’s headline read, “Fouke Fields Combed in Search of Monster,” the Texarkana Daily News headline opted for a less menacing story of a monstrous beast and more along the lines of a more believable story. The headline? “Monster May Be Mountain Lion.” And although Don Ford and his brother Bobby had previously been on the hunt to chase the monster that attacked Bobby’s house, when asked his thoughts on the monster, he replied, “We think now it might have been a big cat, like a mountain lion or a puma.”
But whether the Fouke Monster was a more menacing cryptid or just a hungry mountain lion, this didn’t stop people from the thrill of the hunt. Locals would stop at nothing to chase down the terrorizing beast and quench their fear once and for all.
One short month later, in June of 1971, there was even a monetary award for finding the monster alive and well. The first award that was offered was from former Fouke resident and soybean farmer Ray Scoggins. If someone could find the Fouke Monster alive and healthy by December 31st later that same year, he’d award them $200. The only “catch” was that it had to be verified by 3 Fouke officials before handing over the money. To Ray, not only did he believe in the monster, but he also wanted to protect it at all costs. In his words, “I believe in the monster. I want to preserve it in a zoo or wherever it belongs. And I want to discourage the killing of it.”
But there was yet another monetary award soon after. Radio Station KAAY – Little Rock posted a couple of days later that they’d award anyone who found the monster $1,090. According to Jack W. Lee of New York, the Executive Vice President of KAAY- Owner of Lin Broadcasting Corporation, “the Fouke Monster has proven to be a source of mental anguish for the people of Arkansas. KAAY sees it as a public service to the state to do all it can to alleviate this problem. The reward will go to anyone who turns in a legitimate and valid monster whose authenticity will be well-known by authorities. The creature must be alive and in good health at the time of delivery and will become the property of the station.”
It seems the growing popularity of The Fouke Monster wouldn’t be nearing an end anytime soon. Bobby Ford wouldn’t be the last of various stories coming from residents claiming their own versions of seeing The Fouke Monster.
But as the monster’s popularity grew, so did the uneasiness of this usually small, quaint town. While it seemed half the population was growing with rage and wanting to track down the monster, waiving shotguns in the air, the other half of the population seemed to be growing wearier of the mob-like mentality more than the creature itself. People even went out of their way to travel to Fouke from afar to see if they could catch the monster themselves. According to Ernest Walraven, he believed that the hunters were more dangerous than the monster after having seen “500 [hunters] in one afternoon”.
Not only were hunters using their dogs to track the monster, but they were also quick to fire their guns aimlessly at any strange sight or sound. With the small town getting out of hand and becoming a hazard for local families, something had to give. That’s when Miller County Sheriff Leslie Greer was forced to enact a temporary gun ban to help preserve public safety. But even though there was a no-gun policy, people still found a way to rile up the small town. As the rise of monetary awards only increased, so did phony accusations. However, there was a slight decline in alleged sightings after three different people were fined $59 for filing a fraudulent monster report later that same year.
But again, we know this isn’t where the story ends. This wouldn’t be the last of the Fouke Monster or the various sightings to come decades after. And we know this to be true because just a year later, after the Ford incident, it invoked an entire film around the infamous monster titled, The Legend of Boggy Creek.
Debuting in August of 1972, Charles B. Pierce, Director and Producer, created the American Horror Docudrama, The Legend of Boggy Creek. This film highlighted the Fouke Monster that had supposedly been lurking in and around Fouke, Arkansas, since the 1940s. With only a budget of $160,000 and using real-time Fouke residents, the film made a whopping $20,000,000 at the box office. Throughout the film, we see a mixture of staged interviews with residents sharing their encounters and reenactments of some of the more terrifying run-ins with the creature. One of the cast members and local Fouke residents included Julius E. “Smokey” Crabtree and other members of his family.
Prior to the film, “Smokey” lived a full, busy life. From his service as a welder for the U.S. Navy to his time as a boxer, fighting in the Golden Gloves tournament in San Francisco in 1944, and serving as a volunteer for the Merchant Marines at the age of 19, he had quite the adventurous spirit. Once he got married and had three kids by age 23, he finally settled down, moved back to his hometown in Fouke, Arkansas, and built a country home where he continued to work as a pipeline welder. Being a country boy at heart, Smokey also loved to trap, hunt, and fish around the Sulphur River in his spare time.
When approached by Charles Pierce, asking if he and his family wanted to be featured in his new movie, he quickly took on the role of playing none other than himself. Moreover, Smokey served as a wildlife guide consultant for The Legend of Boggy Creek and even went on to write and publish various books, including Smokey and the Fouke Monster. Being a local resident and growing up in this part of Arkansas definitely had its perks. But perhaps Smokey wasn’t the only one in his family who knew a thing or two about the surrounding area and quite possibly had a bit more story to add to the legendary Fouke Monster.
Flashback to the year 1965. James Lynn Crabtree, Smokey’s second eldest son who went by Lynn, shared an experience growing up where he swore he had a firsthand encounter with the Fouke Monster. Like his father, Lynn loved to hunt. Squirrel hunting was one of his favorite pastimes as a teenager. While out getting a little target practice, Lynn noticed horses running toward his family lake. Only, they weren’t running towards the lake to catch a few sips of water. No, it looked as if they were running away from something. And that’s when Lynn noticed a large creature practically chasing the horses from outside the trees.
But just as Lynn had spotted this creature, it quickly shot him a glance and started charging right toward him instead. Panic-stricken and holding tightly to his shotgun, he took off running towards his house and continued to shoot three consecutive shots until he got back safely inside. It seems like the reenactments from The Legend of Boggy Creek was based on more truth than the director had even realized.
Following the widely growing popularity of this film seemed only to increase the sparked interest in this mysterious cryptid. In fact, the Legend of Boggy Creek even got a sequel later in 1984 titled Boggy Creek II: The Legend Continues. In this creature feature, the plot follows an Anthropology Professor (played by Charles B. Pierce himself) who recruits a few of his students to track down the elusive beast.
Unfortunately, this film was largely met with criticism and didn’t have the same appeal as the first film. But even though it didn’t get the same applause as the first, and the mob-like mentality may have slowly dissolved along the way, the reports still continued to pour in.
Upon viewing Legend of Boggy Creek, even more, Fouke residents opened up about their strange encounters over the years. In the early ’70s, local farmer, Willie Smith, shared that while he was walking through his soybean field, he noticed a trail of three-toed tracks. According to Willie, these tracks seemed like they had been made by a bipedal creature walking upright. Soon after, he made a mold of the footprint and later made copies and sold them as souvenirs. Unfortunately, the original cast was destroyed in a fire.
When asked if he thought it was the Fouke Monster, he shared that his sister claimed she saw the creature dating back to 1908 at the south end of Mercer Bayou when she was just ten years old. While we don’t know if she told many people or if people shrugged her off as having a wild imagination, it’s not lost that several decades later, more and more reports of the beast came out. And once again, shortly after Willie first noticed the 3-toed tracks, another local resident claims that she saw a 6-foot tall, hairy creature walking through the woods right near Willie’s soybean field late one night.
Throughout the 1970s, 80’s, 90’s, and 2000s, men, women, and children all reported seeing similar versions of a 6-foot tall, hairy, apelike creature lurking in the area. While most encounters share similar qualities, a few discrepancies stick out. One family shared that they heard strange howls from around Mercer Bayou. As they were about to go boating, they claimed to see a “Sasquatch” creature walking from the woods. When three nearby campers also heard the howls, they quickly got out their shotguns. But before they could shoot it, the creature seemingly vanished into the woodline.
What’s more, the Fouke Monster has been reportedly spotted outside of its hometown in Arkansas, supposedly making it to Texas, Oklahoma, and even Kansas. According to two Kansas residents, as they were driving by, they saw a 2-foot creature standing on the side of the road that somewhat resembled a hairy, apelike creature, only a lot smaller than other descriptions. And several other people even claimed they saw red glowing eyes that matched the earlier descriptions from the Ford family.
Apparently, in 1990, two men from Oklahoma reported smelling a horrendous odor while driving out on Highway 71. While getting whiffs of odd smells driving backroads and old highways isn’t surprising given dead animals on the road or spooked-spraying skunks, this was much more unusual. Pulling over to see where this foul odor was coming from, they claimed to see a tall, man-like creature covered in shaggy, black hair running toward the south bank of the Sulphur River. The men said it was “walking upright just like a human, not like a bear or gorilla.”
Again in 1991, about an hour outside of Fouke, two local hunters discovered a large skeleton in Karnak, Texas. Upon further investigation, it looked completely intact, except for its missing head and possibly its claws or tail. Hearing stories of the legendary Fouke Monster, they decided to pick up the bones, load them in the back of their truck, and take a backroads detour to hand them directly to the author, actor, and Fouke resident, Smokey Crabtree.
If you type in Fouke Monster in Google, you’ll instantly be bombarded with several different articles about what might be Arkansas’ most notorious cryptid. Do a little digging around, and you’ll most likely find information about the annual Fouke Monster Festival that hosts local vendors, guided bus tours, and presentations by well-known Bigfoot researchers, where proceeds go to raise funds to award scholarships for students at Fouke High School.
Or suppose you decide to take a road trip to see where the legend started. In that case, you’ll eventually find roadside attractions like the Fouke “Monster Mart” convenience store/museum featuring novelty gifts and information on the legendary Fouke Monster, where you’ll be greeted by the owner, Denny Roberts.
Whether or not the Fouke Monster is all one big hoax or if there really is a monstrous beast hiding in Arkansas’ swamps, there’s one thing we can be sure of. It’s great for tourism.
Looking back on the 50th anniversary in 2021, the local news station, THV11, asked Mayor Terry Purvis his thoughts on how the Fouke Monster has contributed to the small town; he shared, “Oh yeah, we love it, it’s great for tourism. [although] I haven’t had any sightings yet, I’d love to sit down and have a beer with the guy and thank him.”
If we’re being honest, I could spend hours and hours sharing all the Fouke Monster accounts, but there’s simply not enough time. Out of all the cryptids I’ve researched to date, this cryptid has had the most extensive list. While it’s exciting to me that this much coverage has come out of my home state, I don’t want to bore you with all the details—some stories you just have to read for yourself. And if you’re interested, you can find all the links to the various research materials for all of our episodes, including this one, on our website, The Cryptid Atlas .com.
But if you stay with me just a few moments longer, I have one more sighting to share with you, one that just might give another possible explanation for this longtime cryptid, one that’s less feline and one with possibly more humanlike qualities.
If you’ve lived in Arkansas for any significant amount of time, then you’re probably familiar with our winding backroads that often lead to infinite dirt roads, seemingly leading to nowhere. For me, I love hopping into the car and hitting the road with no real destination in mind. It’s actually one of my and my husband’s favorite ways to pass the time. Throw on a spooky podcast, swing through one of our favorite local coffee shops, and call it a date.
So when a local Arkansan was out taking a scenic drive, crossing county lines, it was like any other afternoon drive. Windows rolled down, music cranked all the way up, and cruising down the backroads, it was the perfect way to spend a few hours before heading back home. That is until he saw a strange-looking figure off in the distance.
Since there wasn’t much traffic, he decided to slow down from the 50 mph speed limit to about 25 to get a better look. But upon a closer investigation, he couldn’t ultimately determine what he was looking at. To him, it looked like an orangutan with reddish hair just chilling out on the woodline. But when he tried to get his phone out to take a quick picture, there was nothing there.
Oddly enough, a few days after this initial sighting, a researcher was hanging around the Mercer Bayou, not far from the previous witness encounter. When the researcher looked up from his phone, he saw what appeared to be a large, red animal move through the woods in broad daylight. The appearance? Similar to the red-haired orangutan-looking creature just a day before.
So I’ll let you be the judge. When the Ford family encountered the wild beast, was it just a bear or mountain lion looking for food? Did the researcher actually see a wild orangutan in the Arkansas backwoods? Or, with all of the ongoing sightings, research, and never-ending stories, could the Fouke Monster be something else entirely? They say the truth is out there. And if there’s one thing we can be sure of, it’s that sometimes the truth is often stranger than fiction.
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Thanks for touring Cryptids Across the Atlas. Until next time, keep your eyes open. You never know what you might see just on the edge of the road.