Hey, y’all, and welcome to Southern Macabre! I’m Aeryn and I’m so glad you tuned in today! This episode was a lot of fun to research and write so I think you’re going to enjoy it. It may even be a little bit educational, but in a fun way.
Are cryptids paranormal? Absolutely! A cryptid is a creature whose existence has been suggested, but lacks scientific fact. The definition of paranormal is denoting events or phenomena such as telekinesis or clairvoyance that are beyond the scope of normal scientific understanding. Each of these creatures, like haints and ghosts, make amazing camping stories – especially in the south.
Before I tell you about southern cryptids, I want to point out that these creatures were often used to keep children from exploring the woods. Over time, people would tell of bloody thirsty creatures lurking just beyond their tent on camping trips.
I’m going to start with the most famous, or is it infamous?, cryptid. Bigfoot. Of course, Bigfoot sightings aren’t just in the south. There is a Bigfoot statue in Shawnee National Forest in Herod, Illinois. Lots of drunks out in the woods have seen a tall ape man with large feet all over the world. Okay, maybe not just drunks.
Bigfoot, also known as Sasquatch, has been spoken of in the United States for centuries and was a popular tale among Native Americans, loggers, miners, fur trappers, prospectors, and others far braver than I. There are even cave paintings in California resembling this biped.
Bigfoot is said to be a biped (he walks on two feet like most humans), he’s between six and nine feet tall, and is covered in black, brown, or reddish colored hair. He is typically described as broad shouldered, with no neck, and long arms.
Michael Rugg, owner of the Bigfoot Discovery Museum in Northern California, claims to have smelled Bigfoot, stating, “Imagine a skunk that had rolled around in dead animals and had hung around the garbage pits”.
I have actually had encounters with Sasquatch and asked him to be a guest, but my teenage son doesn’t think I’m funny and refused. This guy is fourteen with longish hair, a moustache, he’s 6’5” tall, and weighs 205 pounds. Also, when he’s in his, “I don’t need to shower” mood he has an odor similar to what Michael Rugg described. What does that sound like to y’all?
In all seriousness, below the Mason-Dixon line you often here Sasquatch referred to as the Skunk Ape because of that smell Mr. Rugg described. A lot of people have claimed to encounter that smell before fleeing from the area it was coming from.
Other names for Sasquatch/Bigfoot in the south are the Alabama Screamer (apparently he screams ‘round these parts), Skunk Ape (mainly in Florida and other southern states), Wood Booger in Virginia, and Honey Island Swamp Monster in Louisiana. I’ve called him Sasquatch for as long as I’ve been able to pronounce it.
The Alabama Screamer has helped us get our kids out of their swimming pool late at night more times than I can remember. For some reason if it’s completely silent they get even more scared and bolt for the house faster. Simply telling them to get out never works, but tell them you see glowing red eyes or you heard something does the trick. Even my youngest who calls my bluff and isn’t afraid of anything gets out and heads inside with the others.
Here is Alabama we have the Bankhead National Forest and it is massive! Lots of people visit to bird watch, camp, and hike the many miles of trails. My family and I wanted to camp there, but most Bigfoot sighting seem to occur in Bankhead National Forest. I’m a sceptic, but I don’t really want to be proven wrong. If that makes sense.
My husband was traveling through Bankhead National Forest at night a while back and said he saw something big and hairy. He hit the gas and sped out of there as fast as our old four-cylinder car would carry him over the hills and around curves. Having watched many YouTube videos and sightseeing there during the day, I didn’t doubt him until he started laughing at me. He said he was looking and on edge because if Sasquatch lives anywhere, it’s Bankhead.
There is even a fifty-year-old unsolved case from the Smoky Mountains National Park that mentions Sasquatch. Dennis Lloyd Martin was playing with his cousins while their fathers watched that Father’s Day weekend. It was his first overnight camping trip, but it had been a tradition in his father’s family for generations.
Then he vanished. One man heard a child’s screams and saw a disheveled, long-haired man running through the woods towards the road, hopping in a car, and speeding away. Others claim to have seen a tall, long-haired, ape-like creature in the area where Dennis disappeared. Missing 411 on YouTube covered this theory. My theory is that several people saw the disheveled man, but their brains translated what they were seeing differently.
Since I can’t find the Missing 411 video, I linked MrBallen’s video about Dennis in the credits. If you have never watched MrBallen, I’m not responsible for the hours you will lose binge-watching his channel and waiting for the next episode. Considering you’re here, you probably know him. I’m assuming all of you are fans of the strange, dark, and mysterious.
Nothing belonging to Dennis has ever been found – he literally vanished without a trace. There are many theories surrounding his disappearance, but nothing concrete. With many family members and witnesses deceased we may never know what happened to the six-year-old boy.
Now I want to tell you about a creature who came from France with the Cajuns of Louisiana. If you watched Swamp People or you’re a fan of Stalekracker then you have probably heard of the Rougarou. He’s essentially a werewolf who was born during the Medieval era in France, when people really believed in werewolves. In France he is Loup Garou, Fench for werewolf.
Loup Garou was used to keep children from exploring the woods, but he was also blamed if a child went missing. Could you imagine if you had a child missing today and the cops just said, “Ah! I bet it was that darn werewolf. Well, that kid’s gone. You can go home now.” Cause that’s basically what happened, but in a nicer accent.
In the 16th century people started to believe the loup garou was a genetic disorder verses a curse performed by a witch or the consequence of being bitten by a loup garou. According to this version, a person would live a normal life until something happened to turn on the loup garou, like a full moon. Their body would then grow larger and the person would crave raw meat. In order to complete the transformation, he or she would have to eat human flesh.
As the French settled Quebec, Canada and later, Louisiana, they brought their stories with them. Like German immigrants and Krampus.
Of course, once the story got to Louisiana, it mutated. Y’all know how we Southerners love to exaggerate, right? So, once the loup garou became the Rougarou, he was seven to eight feet tall with horrible, sharp teeth, and glowing red eyes. This is also when they began to change at the sight of full moon verses the story changing with the storyteller.
The Rougarou could be anyone. Your neighbor, a doctor, or your best friend. Pretty scary, right? Some claim that it has found its way to New Orleans because people have heard it’s howls late into the night. Cause dogs and drunks don’t howl, right?
Another article stated that because wolves are scarce in Louisiana, the Rougarou could be a pig, dog, cat, chicken, or a cow. Thank goodness it’s not an alligator. Am I right? The Rougarou will harass their chosen animal until they can get blood from it. Then they’re ready to pass on the curse to another human.
So how does one become a Rougarou? In most cases the victim knew them in their human form. Hmm, kinda sounds like true crime with the victim typically knows their attacker. Anyway, after the bloodletting, the former Rougarou tells their victim not to mention the encounter for a year and a day. If they tell anyone then they become the Rougarou.
To keep a Rougarou from attacking you and your family, you have to lay out thirteen objects outside your front door because as a Rougarou, the person can no longer count past twelve. So, it will sit outside all night trying to count the objects and have to leave when the sun starts to rise.
If you want to come face to face with a Rougarou, they have one at the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans, Louisiana. We went years ago and it was amazing! I even got a picture of the Rougarou. I’ll make sure to put it on the blog.
While researching the Rougarou I learned of another interesting cryptid I had never heard of. The hibo-garou, or were-owl. Unfortunately, the only information I could find involved role playing games and a song I had never heard of.
There is a story about a hunter who shot an owl while hunting deer. The next morning, he found a dead man with his arrow in him where the owl had fallen the night before.
Personally, if I was going to choose a were-bird it would be a vulture. How scary would that be? A bird who already eats meat, but now eats the living. Plus, in French it’s vautour-garou.
The Native Americans have their own creature similar to the Rougarou called the Wendigo. Their legend says that the monster was once human, but transformed after eating human flesh. Over time they have taken the Rougarou and transformed it into something like Bigfoot and other times as a full-blown cannibalistic Wendigo.
It is thought that French fur traders and missionaries carried their Rougarou to the far north and shared their stories with the Native Americans. The tradition of trying to scare your friends has been around long before Tik Tok.
I first heard of the Wendigo in a children’s book called Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. In the story, a hunter goes out into the woods with a Native American man. As night falls and they’re in their tent, he hears the Native American man’s name being called. Of course, he freaks out, but he runs from the tent. I don’t know about y’all, but if I hear something like that, I’m staying in the tent. Especially when there are weapons in it (remember the hunter?).
Anyway, in that story, the Native American man is taken by the Wendigo and turned into a pile of ash. I’m fairly certain the writer wasn’t following Native American folklore, because if he or she had, the man would have been eaten or become a Wendigo himself.
In case any of you are wondering why I left out Mothman, it’s because he lives in Point Pleasant, West Virginia. So, he’s a Yankee and wouldn’t fit in with Sasquatch or the Rougarou. I included the Wendigo because he has been blended with the Rougarou.
Also, I have a confession to make. I really enjoy saying Loup Garou and Rougarou. That may have become obvious to you at some point. If not, well, Loup Garou. Rougarou. I think it’s because I took French in high school for one year before taking Spanish. Not to brag, but I can say about ten words each in French, Spanish, and German.
Just remember, you don’t have to believe in any of these monsters to enjoy sharing their stories. Sasquatch, the Rougarou, and the Wendigo are rich characters in American culture and should be shared with future generations. Remember, the Victorians told ghost stories on Christmas and Grimm’s Fairy Tales were children’s bedtime stories. So, sit down with your kids and bond while you scare the fire out of them.
If you enjoyed today’s episode, be sure to like, follow, and leave us a review on Apple podcasts. Also, come back for True Crime Friday, I’m going to tell you about a few other victims who were murdered in Robeson County, including Michael Jordan’s father.
Thank y’all so much for tuning in! I hope you have a wonderful, safe week and I hope to talk to y’all again soon.
Our theme music is The Power of a Heroic Epic Story by LesFM.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz
5 STRANGEST disappearances in Forests – MrBallen