In the fetid swamp lands of the Deep South, a stinky Sasquatch-like critter is said to terrorize locals during the dead of night. The mysterious hairy creature who roams the backwoods gives off a stench so foul, so malodorous that the few who have survived its nauseating horror speak in hushed whispers of the furtive furry fiend known as The Skunk Ape!
Is it a down-home Bigfoot or what? We hold our noses and investigate…
Much like the sightings of the Abominable Snowman, Bigfoot and other hairy hominids, hard evidence of the creature have been scarce. No dead bodies, no fossils. Many cryptozoologists believe these hairy ape-line creatures that amble through thickened glades and murky swamps may be akin to a “missing link” — a primordial ancestor of humankind.
Sightings of so-called wild beast men date back to the 1850 in Arkansas when the mountain folk of the Ozarks reported witnessing such an abomination, The Memphis Enquirer reported. Reportedly, the manimal was of “gigantic stature, hairy, and with shoulder-length hair on his head.” The mystery man-ape fled at the sight of the witnesses and leapt an astonishing 14 feet per stride. Footprints belonging to the hairy hominid were measured 14 inches long.
The Skunk Ape has also been reported foraging through garbage cans as far west as Arkansas, skulking North Carolina forests and sunning himself in Florida’s Everglades.
Reports of the cryptid began to re-surface during the turbulent years of the late 1960s and early 1970s. These sightings were given credence despite the fact that local wits suspected that they may have been overgrown hippies living off the land or simply growing marijuana. In fact, the long-haired pot farmers may have even spread tales of the Skunk Ape to keep cops away from their burgeoning hallucinogen crop.
But in 1974, the mythos took form as multiple witnesses described a large, ape-like hominid that walked on two legs that was terrorizing the suburban neighborhood of Dade County in Florida. Its eyes glowed in the dark and its stench so foul, like that of maggot-ridden rotting flesh, grown men were unable to contain their nausea.
According to the self-proclaimed “Jane Goodall of skunk apes”, Dave Shealy was out deer hunting with his brother in the Florida glades when he first beheld the furry fiend.
“It was walking across the swamp, and my brother spotted it first. But I couldn’t see it over the grass — I wasn’t tall enough,” Shealy told Smithsonian magazine.
“I saw it, about 100 yards away. It looked like a man but completely covered with hair.”
In a video he shot in 2000, Shealy claims to have lensed footage of the putrid predator. Skeptics denounced the purported cryptid as a man in a gorilla suit, charging it may have been an elaborate PR stunt to promote an ongoing tourist trap.
For nearly a year, Skunk Ape fell off the proverbial cryptozoic hot list. That is, until all hell broke loose with a bizarre case history with compelling photographic evidence that was filed in the Sarasota Florida’s Sherriff’s Office as a “Suspicious Incident” in 2001.
Submitting an official report, a law enforcement officer wrote, “I received an unusual letter addressed to the animal services of the sheriff’s office. The letter told of an encounter with a monkey or ape and contained two photos. The letter was anonymous.”
In part, the letter says: “Enclosed please find some pictures I took. My husband thinks it is an orangutan. Is someone missing an orangutan? It is in a crouching position in the middle of standing up from where it was sitting. It froze as soon as the flash went off… I heard the orangutan walk off into the brushes.
“I judge it as being about six and a half to seven feet tall. As soon as I realized how close it was, I got back to the house. It had an awful smell that lasted well after it had left my yard. The orangutan was making deep ‘woomp’ noises.
“For two nights prior, it had been taking apples that my daughter brought down from up north off our back porch. It only came back one more night after that and took some apples that my husband left out in order to get a better look at it. We got a dog back there now, and, as far as I can tell, it hasn’t been back.
“I don’t want any fuss or people with guns traipsing around behind our house. At the very least, this animal belongs in a place like Busch Gardens. Why haven’t people been told that an animal this size is loose? Please look after this situation. I don’t want my backyard to turn into someone else’s circus.”
Renowned cryptozoologist Loren Coleman, who examined the Myakka Skunk Ape photos, has said, “Florida has a rich history of reports of an animal people have dubbed ‘skunk ape’ because of the foul smell it is reported to exude. It looks like what would be expected of an unknown primate in the underbrush in Florida, if it were authentic.”
If you ask me, that’s a mighty big “if.”
More recently, in January 2015, a landscaper, Matthew McKamey, was canoeing with a friend in Lettuce Lake Park near Tampa when they both heard a weird noise and saw something moving through the trees. McKamey grabbed his phone and started recording.
“At the time, I was just thinking, ‘Holy shit, what the hell is this?’ By the time it walked off, my buddy was just like, ‘Let’s go! Let’s go now!'” McKamey recalled. “Thinking back to what we saw, I think there’s a good chance that we actually saw a Skunk Ape… It was not a bear, I know that. It wasn’t human.”
Meanwhile, the United States National Park Service categorically denies the existence of the Skunk Ape.
A word to the wise: if you should find yourself somewhere off the beaten track and become aware of a sudden nauseating stench, don’t think twice, it’s not all right… RUN!