The Truth Behind the Honey Island Swamp Monster
by Willie Shughart
Louisiana’s Honey Island Swamp boasts a “monster”. It is said to be some seven feet in height when standing (though it sometimes moves quadrupedally), covered in grayish hair, and to have stunning amber-glowing eyes (LaGrange 2000). While there have been eyewitness sightings of the creature, the majority of evidence comes from its tracks: strange footprints with three long, webbed toes and a fourth shorter toe on the inside of the foot, and a long, rounded heel.
Author’s sketch: A typical footprint attributed to the Honey Island Swamp Monster
The first of these tracks were found, as well as the first sightings had, by Harlan E. Ford, a hunter who had grown up in the Louisiana wilderness, and his friend, also a hunter, Billy Mills (Nickel 2001). They found a slain feral hog with the aforementioned tracks around it, and later claimed to have had several encounters with the creature itself (LaGrange 2000).
All in all this makes an interesting case for the files of Cryptozoology– that is, until one realizes that the tracks of the “monster” are actually hind-prints belonging to American Alligators, Alligator mississippiensis (Clothier, personal communication; personal observation; confirmation by a herpetologist). And, since alligators are highly common residents of Louisiana swamps, Ford and Mills certainly should have known this, and, not to make accusations, but perhaps they did. At any rate, since it can then be established that there is no actual physical evidence of the Honey Island Swamp Monster, and, in fact, eyewitness accounts come mainly from Ford and Mills, there is very little reason to consider this Swamp Monster a cryptid– certainly it becomes all the less likely.
There is then the matter of the exceptionally similar Fouke Monster, another swamp-dwelling creature native to Fouke, Arkansas, in the extreme southwest of that state. By description it would seem to be identical to the Honey Island Swamp Monster, so might this not support the existence of it? It would, but its tracks seem to be those of alligators as well. It is also worth noting, although it is more likely than not to be a coincidence, that the most important sightings of both Swamp Monsters were by men named Ford; in the case of the Fouke Monster, Bobby Ford. There was also an alleged sighting of the Honey Island Swamp Monster reported by a Harry Ford and his wife. Ford is, of course, a common enough name however.
Another question about these tracks arises when it becomes evident that there have been no fore prints of alligators found. This may be attributed to the overlapping of tracks (Clothier, personal communication), or perhaps any number of other factors. At any rate, there can be no doubt that the tracks attributed, in many cases by individuals familiar with local wildlife, to these Swamp Monsters, are those of alligators.
It is possible that the “monsters” themselves were actually another cryptid, either Napes (a term coined by Loren Coleman; semi-bipedal chimpanzee-like creatures reported from nearby regions) or the Eastern Sasquatch. Even if so, it becomes clear that the matter of the tracks, at least, are either nothing less than monstrous misidentification, or the work of a hoaxer. Either way, the existence of these so-called cryptids becomes far more dubious and greatly less likely.
LaGrange, Brad. December 2000. “A Different Look: The Honey Island Swamp Monster”. North American BioFortean Review. Vol. 2, no. 3, issue #5.
Nickel, Joe. July 2001. “Tracking the Swamp Monsters”. Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims Of the Paranormal Investigative Files. http://www.csicop.org/si/2001-07/i-files.html