Stocking Hominid Research, Inc.
Preble County, Ohio Incident -
A Report of an Alleged Unknown Bipedal Animal
and Its Sociological Implications
By Ron Schaffner
It was 1977 "The Year of the Creature". Historians of the Bigfoot phenomenon will recall this as one of the most active years since the birth of modern day research. Reports were coming in from the west coast across mid America to east of the Appalachian Mountains. A few high profile cases during that time were the result of some outlandish hoaxes, but many submitted reports appeared to be authentic with soft evidence to back up their claims.
The basic scenario was always the same:
People reported large hairy bipedal creatures. Sometimes other people saw a similar creature in the general area around the same time frame. Often times, this generated a flap of reports. Posies were formed and the hunters attempted to track down the creature(s). Sometimes tracks were found. These flaps occurred over several days. But no creature was ever found and bagged. Hunting dogs refused to track the scent. Then, the trail went cold and it is if there wasn’t a creature there in the first place.
During April of that year, I had investigated a report in southeastern
Indiana, between Aurora and Rising Sun. It was an interesting report involving a young couple that claimed to have seen a large unknown animal at their trailer. The only piece of physical evidence was the dent in his car, which the witness claimed he hit the creature while leaving the scene. Close examination of the automobile indicated no paint or chrome, so we ruled out a wreck. Our investigation of that case was still on going through the next month.
During the third week of May, I was made aware of newspaper accounts coming from the Dayton Daily News about two 13 year old boys claiming they saw a huge, bipedal creature with dirty brown fur that smelled like rotten meat. The report was in the vicinity of Old Camden Pike near the historic Roberts Covered Bride near U.S. 127, just south of Eaton, Ohio. (1)
Figure 1: Overall Map of the Region
I contacted the Preble County Sheriff’s Department and they gave me the name andaddress of one of the witnesses. In the meantime, investigator, Betty Parks was grantedan interview with the other boy. Betty and I interviewed the boys separately to preventany possible contamination of their testimony. Since they were minors, we could notmention their names. For the sake of the incident report, we have used their initials.
Witnesses: Two 13-year-old boys whose parents requested confidentiality.
Date: May 18, 1977Time: 8:30 PM EST (DST)
Location: Old Camden Pike; Preble County, Ohio (Between Camden and Eaton)
The boys were walking their dog along the railroad tracks to the intersection of U.S. 127 and Old Camden Pike on to the historic Roberts Covered Bridge. As they proceeded along the road, the dog got excited and ran from them. When T.L. picked up the dog, they smelled this terrible odor like rotten meat and heard something walking behind them. When T.L. and D.B. turned around, they saw this large creature with dirty brown hair. They further described it as about 9 feet tall and weighing about 500 pounds. It appeared to have white eyes. They further described the animal as standing on two legs, with long arms that nearly touched the ground.
T.L. said that it looked like it had black and brown spots on it and its head was rounded with no visible neck.
I was also told that it made a sound similar to a cross between a bird and squealing tires from an automobile.
D.B told Betty Parks that at one point, the creature seemed to be jumping up and down while flapping its arms. He told her that the creature looked similar to an ape.
“It chased us down by the bridge, across a soybean field towards my home. It seemed like it was right behind us, as it took very large steps. When we reached the railroad tracks and the highway, it vanished from our view into some nearby woods." said T.L. in a personal interview.
Figure 2: Roberts Covered Bridge
Photo by Ron Schaffner May 1977
When the boys arrived home, they told Mrs. L. what had happened. She immediately notified the Preble County Sheriff's Department and two deputies responded. The boys accompanied the Officers to the scene. They refused to get out of the cruiser while the deputies searched the area. Mrs. L. told us that for the next week, her son would not let anyone open his bedroom window, even though it was hot and humid.
I was impressed with T.L.'s testimony. The boy was really scared during our interview. The description of white eyes seemed odd, so I questioned him very carefully on this matter, but he stuck to his story. Something had frightened him, which he perceived as some kind of “hairy monster.”
Meanwhile, investigator, Betty Parks was interviewing the other boy, D.B. at his home with the parents present. He relayed the same story. Betty would later tell me that he showed signs of extreme fright as he recounted the story. (2)
Possible Physical Evidence
A local farmer and a police officer contacted Richard Hoffman in Dayton, Ohio concerning two unusual prints on his property. His farm is located about 1/2 mile northeast of the reported encounter. Hoffman notified us and we went to investigate. Two prints were discovered along Seven Mile Creek. One was in good shape, while the other was severely weathered. We estimated them to be about a week old. They had five toes and measured 14 inches long, by 7 inches wide. The stride was roughly 6 1/2 feet.
Figure 3: Possible Print: Photo by Ron Schaffner May 1977
The print was caste and taken to the home of Charles Wilhelm for further study. We were able to determine that the track showed all indications of normal slippage and mud pushups that are consistent with something walking downwards into a creek bed.
However, we could not find any evidence of a trail due to the amount of foliage on the ground and the hard clay up the slope away from the creek bed.
Unfortunately, there is no evidence to connect this unusual track find to the report given by the two boys. If we allow for witness misinterpretation of the creature’s size and weight, this print could be the product of the thing they allegedly saw. There is always the probability that these tracks were the result of a hoax or misinterpretation by a walking human. We could not eliminate that possibility due to the size of the prints and the factoring of weathering.
As with many Bigfoot reports during 1977, ‘monster mania’ swept through the county. The ‘vigilante factor’ was in full swing after the newspapers picked up the story. Suddenly, Preble County and the area of Roberts Bridge became a local hangout for the younger citizens and local hunters who wanted to bag, or at least see this unusual animal.
This year was also noted for the height of the C.B. craze. (Citizen’s Band Radio) During our frequent trips to the area, we constantly heard references to the ‘Preble County Sasquatch’ and discussions about where the creature was last seen. The scenario was very frustrating for our investigations. Everywhere was signs of partygoers. We found fake footprints underneath the bridge with discarded beer cans. We even found a cardboard box hanging on an old fence saying: “Bigfoot Drinks Beer Here”. Monitoring our radio did produce some local folklore, rumors and some substantiated reports of other strange occurrences.
Figure 4: Human Print Found Underneath the Bridge
Photo by Ron Schaffner May 1977
A deputy (who asked to remain anonymous) told us of some past events that happened in the vicinity of the covered bridge.“I haven’t seen a deer in these parts lately. It just doesn’t seem right, as they are usually plentiful in these parts. We’ve also had reports of a wild goat or something roaming about. A couple of years ago, a young man hanged himself in a tree, he said.”
Mr. L thought that maybe his son saw this wild goat up against a tree, but later dismissed that notion. The boy told me that he had seen this goat in the past and it was not the same thing he saw on the night in question.
Mrs. L told us that there were some rumors circulating the area about dead livestock. She was also aware of the local C.B.’ers claiming to have seen a hairy monster.
A month later, a cattle mutilation had taken place in West Alexandra, Ohio, just east of Eaton.
Investigators talked with a local cattle breeder who was to produce Beefalo- a cross breed of cow and buffalo. The first birth of a calf was very exciting. Unfortunately, one morning, he found the calf dead in the barn. There was a hole in its chest and the heart had been removed. Whoever or whatever did this with surgical precision. The carcass showed the classic examples of the cattle mutilations that had been occurring in the western states.
Authorities hypothesized that there could be a devil cult in the area, but could not find any evidence. When the idea of a UFO connection crossed their mind, they contacted theOhio UFO Investigators League. The group didn’t have any UFO reports from the area even though they canvassed the town and put ads in the local newspapers. Often times,strange lights have been reported, but this could be the result of nearby Wright-Patterson AFB. The case remains a mystery.
We found no evidence to suggest a connection to the purported sighting of a strange creature in Eaton. I only mention it here to show that this region has had some bizarre events.
Figure 5: Sign Posted by unknown locals
"Bigfoot drink beer here."
Local History and Folklore
On old S.R. 725, just east of Camden is a summit along Paint Creek that is called the “Devil’s Backbone”. The steep gorge has several sharp turns, hence the name it receives. The area is engulfed with mystery and legends. There have been some strange, documented murders occurring during the 1800’s. Local legend has it that Miami Indian Chief Red Turtle cursed the area when driven west by the white men. According to the story:
“The bones of Native American royalty reposed on Devil’s Backbone and the white men were urged not to touch these bones. If they did, swift and merciless retribution would be forth coming. Ghost scouts are said to patrol the area.”
Since many reports of this type occur near historical places, it is noteworthy to mention the Roberts Covered Bridge.
In 1829 after obtaining a contract from the U.S. government, Orlistus Roberts began building the bridge where the turnpike from Rossville crossed Seven Mile Creek on his property, in Section 14 of Gasper Township about 2.5 miles south of Eaton. For nearly 160 years, Roberts Bridge remained in its original location. Many modifications and repairs were made, especially in 1962 and 1974.
On August 5, 1986, the bridge was vandalized and set on fire. Soon afterwards, a group of concerned citizens began restoration of the landmark. It was moved to Crystal Lake in Eaton in 1990. It is Ohio’s oldest covered bridge and one of only six double- barreled bridges in the U.S. (3)
In geological terms, western Ohio is referred to as Glaciated Central Interior. The terraforming was the result of a glacier that came down towards the Ohio Valley. This end result caused much of this region to become flat with little rolling hills, much like the plains states.
The majority of Preble County is farming. During the summer, one can see corn and soybean fields for miles. There are small amounts of wooded terrain usually within the creeks, nature preserves and state parks, such as Hueston Woods.
There are many thriving businesses in the larger towns, such as Eaton - the county seat. As a matter of fact, there is a fertilizing plant just outside the city limits. Some major highways and railroads surround the county, as well as Dayton Ohio; just to the east in Montgomery County. (4)
The region is not consistent with somewhere you would expect to produce Bigfoot reports, but there is access to other regions to the south with more foliage and less human population and development.
Conclusions and Opinion
This unusual report has many similarities to other so-called monster reports of the 70’s. There is an abundance of reading material to educate interested parties with the subject. I have presented all the facts regarding the description and movements this entity reportedly did. The reader can except the testimony as valid or choose toignore it.
I have often said, “We investigate the reports of Bigfoot, not the creatures themselves.”
We can only speculate on the particulars until we have a specimen for scientific scrutiny. For the sake of this report and the many others of that time frame, it is imperative that we look into the sociological paradox that often encompasses the actual event.
Betty Parks and I compared notes on our separate interviews of the teens. Their stories seemed to coincide with just a few variations in their reporting. This is to be expected, as witness interpretation may vary with individuals. We felt the boys were telling the truth and believed they saw something strange and could not identify it, other than to say it was an ape.
Based upon our interviews, it became evident that the only preconceived notion was from the T.V. series, "The Six Million Dollar Man.” Other than that, they had no prior interest on the subject. There were no signs of any related paraphernalia in their homes. The Sheriff’s Department believed the boy’s testimony as well as other prominent citizens.
As far as we could be certain, there was no publicity or rumors on the subject prior to the evening in question other than rumors about mutilated livestock. Local law enforcement had no records of devil cults within the county. The recent suicide of a man had no bearing on anything other than it just being strange because of the location.
The days after the report was made public, the community caught ‘monster fever.’ This was fueled by the newspaper accounts. It wasn’t long before the account became the talk of the town and turned the local population into ‘monster hunters.’ The local C.B.channels sounded like military bands. It was almost to the point where one would think a local militia was being deployed.
This scenario would occur during the entire year in other sections of North America.
It was an investigative tragedy. With all the off-road vehicles, hikers and sightseers, if any hard evidence was there, it surely could have been destroyed. As I previously mentioned their signs were clearly visible. I found bogus footprints drawn into the creekbed sand, beer and soft drink cans and tire tracks all over the scene. Property owners told me of vandalism and damaged crops. Everybody was looking for Bigfoot. It did not matter if they believed the story or not. It was a great excuse to have something to do in their spare time. Suddenly, Bigfoot was in the subconscious of the community.
The only physical evidence we tagged were the two footprints found the following week.We could not locate any more prints or a trail. This could have been the result of the terrain, but it still has similarities to other reports of that year. I cannot even say with any accuracy that these prints were from the same individual that the two boys saw.
My dog did not act erratic when we found the tracks. As a matter of fact, D.B.’s dog was not excitable during the encounter. It just ran away from them before the sighting. T.L. told me that she always had a habit of running off. Historical accounts indicate that canines have an extreme fright of the creatures. In fact, none of the local domestic animals showed any unusual effects.
The greatest dilemma with this episode is the geographical location. This portion of
Ohio is mainly farmland with some mild rolling hills. There are many tree lines and small wooded areas along the creeks. But, basically, the terrain is similar to the plains states.
This is not the type of environment one would expect to see an unknown hominid of the reported weight and height. As a general rule, the majority of reports originating in Ohio occur in the eastern portion of the state. That region is Appalachian foothills with an abundance of forested areas.
As far back as 1977, the region was surrounded by major highways, railroads and urban development. If a large creature, such as the one reported, wondered into Preble County, surely there would have been more reports come through. One could feasibly argue that some sightings went un-reported because of the ridicule factor. However, that is pure speculation. Therefore, this cannot be considered for evaluation of this report.
To familiarize the reader with the topography of land in question, please refer to figures 6 and 7.
The possibility of a hoax is something that can’t be ignored. One has to remember that May is close to graduation for the Preble County high schools. Not far from the area is Miami University located in Oxford. Pranks are always in abundance during this time of the year.
During my investigation, I checked the local costume shops and inquired about any ape disguises. I did not find any evidence of these types of rentals.
Figure 7: General Topographical Map
Figure 8: Close-up View
It should be mentioned that there are many landscaping firms in the area and a large fertilizer plant. During the heat and humidity of the summer, one can smell unpleasant orders, such as described by the witnesses and other residents.
It is my opinion that the boys did not perpetrate any kind of hoax. Their behavior and mannerisms to investigators, law enforcement, neighbors and parents lead me to conclude that they were being honest in what they reported. Therefore, one must conclude that they witnessed a bizarre event in which they perceived as a “bigfoot type” creature. The case remains unexplained. Since the trail went cold after the event, there is nothing more to establish at this point.
The sociological impact still haunts Preble County to this day. Follow up investigations by George Clappison in 1997 revealed that the local population still converse about reports of ‘hairy monsters.’ Many claim to have heard unusual sounds and something roaming about at night. That spring day in 1977 is still engulfed in the subconscious of the community.
Appendix: Newspaper Accounts
SOMETHING IS ROTTEN IN EATON, TWO 13-YEAR-OLDS REPORT; 'BIGFOOT' TALK START
EATON- Two 13 year-old boys walking through a Preble County woods Wednesday said they saw something that "had dirty brown fur, smelled like rotten meat, was about nine feet tall and weighed about 500 pounds."
Around the county, people have come to call the thing the Preble County Sasquatch, sheriff's dispatcher Greg Boerner said this morning.
Boerner said a small legend of a "Bigfoot" sighting is growing, although two deputies searched a thick woods about three miles south of downtown Eaton on Old Camden Pike and found nothing. The boys, whom deputies have not identified, report seeing the "thing" about 8:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Boerner said people in the county are unsure what to think about the report, but the boys are more decided. "They're scared to death," said Boerner.
"Whether they saw it or not, I don't know," he said. "Their mother called us and said they swore on a stack of Bibles that they saw it."
Source: Dayton, Ohio; Daily News; May 20, 1977
PREBLE AUTHORITIES GET REPORTS OF 'BIG FOOT'
EATON, Ohio - Preble County sheriff's deputies have received several reports of the county's own "Big Foot" apparently seen in the area of the Roberts Covered Bridge on Old Camden Pike, two miles south of here. Reports have been taken from persons who said they have seen a large, shaggy, foul-smelling creature. No one has obtained any photographs to substantiate the reports.
Source: Richmond, Indiana; Palladium-Item; May 25, 1977
NO "BIGFOOT," AUTHORITIES SAY
Two claimed sightings of the legend "Bigfoot" near the Roberts Covered Bridge have proven unfounded.
The first sighting came last Wednesday when two 13-year-old boys told sheriff's deputies they saw something that "had dirty brown fur, smelled like rotten meat, was about nine feet tall and weighed 500 pounds."
Deputies conducted a through search of the area and I "couldn't find a thing," according to Ron Hayes. He admitted, however, that the boys who reported the sightings "were really scared."
Another unconfirmed sighting was reported Saturday by some Eaton High School students. The Register-Herald has learned that some youths were putting masks on Sunday and Monday and walking the area, three miles south of Eaton near Old Camden Pike.
"Somebody could get hurt by doing that kind of thing," a sheriff's deputy said.
Deputies have stepped up patrolling in the area, not because of the sighting but because youths are trespassing and walking on newly planted crops.
Source: Eaton, Ohio; Register-Herald; May 25, 1977
1.) The Robert’s Covered Bridge was moved from its original location in 1990. It is now located in the southern portion of the Eaton city limits.
2.) Taped interviews with witness T.L and Betty Parks interviewing D.B. Recordings are on file.
3.) Email from Preble County historian Polly Kronenberger on 2/07/2001
4.) Preble County.com home page.