White River Monster
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|Sub grouping||River monster|
|Similar creatures||Elephant seal|
Although reported in the press as a "monster", it is reported to be deeply loved by neighborhood residents near this portion of the White River, and the monster is referred to locally as "Whitey".
Some believe the White river monster may have affected the Civil War. The river was used for transportation, and the monster was supposedly responsible for overturning a boat. Sightings of the monster began in 1915. On July 1 of that year, an owner of a plantation near the river saw the monster. He reported it having gray skin and "as wide as a car and three cars long." As the news spread construction of a rope net began, but ended due to lack of money and materials.
In the first week of 1937, recreational fishermen noticed that they were finding it hard to land many fish, and the creature was spotted again, and reported to Bramlett Bateman, a nearby plantation owner, who later confirmed the sighting, describing it as having "the skin of an elephant, four or five feet wide by twelve feet long, with the face of a catfish, . . . lolling on the surface of the water." Feeling the creature was a threat to his crops, he intended to blow up the eddy where the creature was spotted with TNT, but area authorities denied necessary permission. A minor media sensation resulted in visitors from across the nation, some bringing cameras, explosives, and a machine gun, and when no more sightings were made, when a plan to capture it with a giant net failed, and when a deep sea diver failed to find the creature, Bateman was thought to have created a hoax, despite over 100 confirmed sightings recorded during the short period of excitement.
The White River Monster was sighted again in the summer of 1971. That year, eyewitnesses who encountered the creature described it as "the size of a boxcar" with a bone protruding from its forehead. "It looked as if the thing was peeling all over, but it was a smooth type of skin or flesh," said one, and it made strange noises that sounded like a combination of a "cow's moo and a horse's neigh." Other accounts of the White River Monster described three-toed tracks, 14 inches (360 mm) in length, on Towhead Island leading down to the river through a path of bent trees and crushed bushes.
In 1973, the Arkansas State Legislature signed into law a bill by state Senator Robert Harvey, creating the White River Monster Refuge along the White River. The area is located between “the southern point on the river known as Old Grand Glaize and a northern point on White River known as Rosie.” It is illegal to harm the monster inside the refuge.
According to scientists, the White River Monster is likely a case of mistaken identity. Cryptozoologist and biologist Roy P. Mackal has suggested that the creature is "a clear-cut instance of a known aquatic animal outside its normal habitat or range and therefore unidentified by the observers unfamiliar with the type." Mackal believes that the creature is in fact a large male elephant seal that wandered up the Mississippi River into White River. Measuring an average of 5,000 pounds (2,300 kg) and 14 feet (4.3 m) in length, a male elephant seal shares many of the characteristics described by those who've encountered the "monster": gray skin, three-toed tracks, summer molting and a farm animal's call.
Mackal's hypothesis does not cover how an elephant seal might have come to be in the Mississippi via the Gulf of Mexico, as the North Atlantic has no elephant seal population, although large male hooded seals have occasionally been found as far south as Florida, California & and even the Caribbean. Furthermore, elephant seals live an average of only about fifteen years (though one could conceivably survive longer in an area free of predators) and the White River Monster sightings were reported over an excess of fifty years. Another theory is more than one has wandered up the Mississippi River as sightings continue.
- Rommel, Keith "White River Monster" Pennsylvania: Sunbury Press, 2015, pp. 22. 3 part short story series. ASIN: B012QGP8GQ
- The white river monster was featured in the 2009 Lost Tapes episode, "White River Monster".
- The white river monster features in author J.K. Rowling's writings as a magical creature whose spines are used as wand cores by American wizards.
- White River Monster from the Animal Planet website
- White River Monster from the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture
- 100 Strangest Mysteries, Matt Lamy, MetroBooks, NY NY, 2003, p 18-19.
- Rowling, J.K. (March 11, 2016). "1920s Wizarding America", "History of Magic in North America". Pottermore.