Tuesday, October 6, 1981
White River Encounters: Area Residents See “Something Big and Hairy”
By Doug Caroll
The Valley Advance
Jack Lankford is an avid fisherman and hunter who says he never left a fire unattended until the night of Aug. 22. That’s the night he saw a “creature” while fishing in the White River bottom land about six miles south of Highway 50.
Roger and Barbara Crabtree say they live in fear of a “hairy creature” they have seen twice near their Decker Chapel home in southern Knox County close to the White River.
Terry and Mary Harper haven’t seen anything, but something attacked their house at 2002 South 15th Street, Vincennes. The unknown assailant ripped and apparently chewed on aluminum siding and tore away part of the metal trim around the backdoor of the house. It left behind teeth marks, blood and tufts of white hair about two inches long.
So far the incidents are unrelated. No evidence of a creature has been found in the areas where the sightings took place. However, Lankford says what he saw was no bear, and the Crabtree’s know that people may not believe, but their fear is “very real.”
Lankford anticipated a “good bit of fishing” last Aug. 22 when he went to his favorite spot on the lower part of what is called Beaver Dam in eastern Knox County. The fisherman had built a campfire a few yards from the bank and was using a lantern to watch his lines.
The Washington, Ind., resident had been there a couple of hours when he started having an “eerie feeling” that someone was watching. About 20 minutes later Lankford looked up and saw two eyes, each about one-inch in diameter, glowing red from the lantern and nearby campfire glow and staring at him from about 50 yards away.
Lankford could see a hairy body sticking about four feet out of the water, but the light was too dim to reveal the face, he said.
Lankford said the creature looked like a well-build, big-boned man with “extra” long forearms and covered with brown, matted hair. It apparently was standing in about four feet of water.
“It just stared at me and me at it. It was trying to figure out if I was looking at what I was seeing,” he said.
The “booger,” as Lankford’s grandmother called it, appeared to study Lankford, tilting its head from side to side and making no noise, he said. After a short time, the creature turned away, reached to grab a tree limb, and pulled itself from the water.
As it walked away Lankford noticed that the arms extended to around the knees and that it had to weigh “well over 200 pounds.”
“It made a loud squeal or high-pitch shriek when it left, something like a young pig would make when you try to hold on to it.”
Lankford heard the sound again while he was hurriedly packing his fishing gear. He says he has heard the noise in that area three or four times since early spring, but didn’t think much of it.
Since seeing the creature, Lankford has not heard the noise. He said he would like to meet it again.
“The last time I didn’t think to follow it because it didn’t show any sign of wanting to harm me. I’m one person who respects other persons and beings, and I would like to see the creature captured unharmed and studied,” Lankford commented.
Lankford told only his family immediately after seeing the creature. He decided to report the incident to the Daviess County Sheriff’s Department after reading a newspaper article about the attack on the Harper house.
“I’ve talked to people who live in the area, and they said if it is someone trying to pull a hoax they are taking a big risk of getting shot. The sheriff’s deputy told me the same thing,” Lankford noted.
Terry and Mary Harper, their children and neighbors did not hear anything out of the ordinary between midnight and 6:30 a.m. on Aug. 26, but during that time about four or five feet of siding some three feet high was ripped and chewed, along with metal trim around the backdoor. One piece shows what looks like a claw mark.
“We had the house fans on all night and they can be noisy. We really didn’t hear anything,” she said.
Terry Harper was leaving for work when he saw the damaged siding. The damage amounted to about $500, Harper said, and included blood, large teeth marks and white hair. Blood was also found near the back light about six to seven feet above the ground, Mrs. Harper said.
The dog refused to come out of its house and had its paws over its eyes and whined when it was checked.
Officials from the Knox County Sheriff’s Department have told the Harpers that tests on the blood reveal that it is not human, and that a wolf or some other wild animal may have done the damage. Investigating officers told Mrs. Harper that hair taken from the scene has been lost.
“We don’t know what to be frightened of, and I can’t say that it is a ‘bigfoot’ or not,” Mrs. Harper said.
Harold Allison, an area naturalist and writer of a weekly nature column in The Valley Advance, studied pictures of the damage and believes no animal native to the area could have caused the damage.
“The only animal I can think of from my experience capable of that kind of damage would be a wolverine. But there are no wolverines within 500 miles of this part of Indiana,” Allison commented.
The incident has kept the Harpers busy on the telephone, talking with newspaper, television and radio reporters about the “house attack.” Mrs. Harper has been interviewed by radio stations from as far as Boston, Chicago, Dallas and Los Angeles. The incident received a brief mention on the ABC-TV World News program.
Through a United Press International news story, an investigator from S.I.T.U. Research Services, a private company in Little Silver, N.J., has contacted the Harpers and currently is looking into the incident.
“The investigator thinks it’s a big foot, but he can’t be sure because we didn’t have any blood stains left to send him. He said if we could get him a blood sample, he could tell us exactly what it was,” Mrs. Harper related.
S.I.T.U., which reportedly specializes in unexplained phenomena investigations, sent the family a report of a 1977 attack in New Jersey.
The New Jersey incident involved a creature like the one described by Lankford, but with a human face covered by a beard and mustache. Wood panels on a barn were ripped up and chewed at about the same height as the Harpers’ house.
The most recent sighting of what one area newspaper has called the “Knox-ness monster,” occurred Sept. 26 at about 2:30 a.m., along the Decker Chapel Road, west of Highway 41.
Crabtree was returning with his family from Princeton and was less than two miles from home when he saw “something big” walking in the road.
As Crabtree came closer he noticed fur, long arms and a “skipping walk like an ape.” The headlights appeared to startle it, Crabtree recalls, and the creature swung its arm at the car. Crabtree swerved off and back onto the road to miss the creature and stopped to watch as it continued its walk down the road.
Crabtree’s wife, Barbara, who was awakened by the quick turn, persuaded her husband not to follow and to call the Knox County Sheriff’s Department.
Mrs. Crabtree said she had seen it the day before in a cornfield near the family’s backyard, a “dirty, white-haired creature” not more than 50 feet away.
Mrs. Crabtree grabbed her two pre-school daughters and backed to the front porch, she said. The creature “took a couple of steps” toward her but stepped back when the family dog started barking and ran toward it.
She got her daughters and nine-year-old son, who was throwing rocks at it, into the house and locked all doors and windows. She tried to call the sheriff but was unable to get through because of a busy party telephone line, she said.
In her view the creature was about seven to eight feet tall and weighed around 500 pounds. It was covered with “fuzzy” dirty white hair except for its head, which was brown hair.
“It had a pinkish face and big, glassy eyes. The thing had an awful, sour smell, something like dead meat that had set out for three or four days,” she said.
The creature also made a growling noise, which the family has heard at least two times since the second sighting, Crabtree said.
The sheriff’s deputies have been unable to find any evidence of the creature and consider the case closed, Officer Jim Wilson said.
“The department is treating it as an unconfirmed sighting because the Crabtree’s were the only ones to report it,” Wilson explained.
The family is now looking for another house and has purchased a shotgun.
“I don’t care what anyone thinks. I saw what I saw and no one has to believe me,” Roger began. “When nightfall comes around here, my family is plenty scared. I don’t even go out after dark.”
The sightings and descriptions by the Crabtree’s and Lankford are similar to reports that Allison has investigated in the past three years. Allison, who has looked into about 25 sightings, began getting reports from Knox County only recently.
Numerous reports have come from near Shoals along the White River in Martin County.
“Their (Crabtree’s’) descriptions tally up with the others, and I feel they are sincere after talking with them. There is something out there, but I have no idea what it is,” Allison said.
Allison added that if such a creature is alive, he hopes it will be captures and studied and not hunted down and killed.