In a lot of ways, 1972’s cryptid horror film The Legend of Boggy Creek was a ground-breaker: a pseudo docudrama distributed by its producer and director Charles Pierce (who even sang the film’s theme song), it is considered by some people to have been one of the first indie films. Boggy Creek featured interviews with men and women who had encountered the “creature”, a Bigfoot-like monster supposed to lurk in the wilds of Arkansas. That the witnesses were amateur actors recruited from the small town in which the zero-budget movie was filmed actually filmed brought the movie a scrappy sort of authenticity. It was a scary movie, and a lot of fun, but what some of the film’s drive-in audience may not have known was that it the movie was inspired by (reputedly) true events.
Stories of a Bigfoot-like cryptid wandering the woods of Fouke, Arkansas started circulating in 1971 after local residents Bobby and Elizabeth Ford reported that a monster had attacked their home late at night on May 2. Elizabeth claimed that the monster had reached a long, hairy arm into the house’s window and grabbed her. It returned sometime after midnight. Her husband and brother, who by that time had returned from a camping trip, tried to chase it off. The monster supposedly grabbed Bobby off of the porch and slammed him onto the ground. The men fired on the creature, driving it off into the woods. Bobby was treated for scrapes and shock at a local hospital, and the next morning investigators supposedly found damage to the trailer and a series of three-toed prints around the property.
About three weeks later the creature – “reported as ape-like” – was observed by several witnesses crossing a local highway. After that, sightings exploded. More prints were found after subsequent sightings, including a series of three-toed footprints crossing through a soybean field. Meanwhile a local radio station offered a bounty on the monster. The money and fame were too good to pass up for local hunters, who switched from hunting deer to hunting monsters. Local law enforcement was forced to clamp down on monster-hunting activities for reasons of public safety. The sightings soon came to the attention of the public, attracting tourists and sight-seers. The phenomena even inspired a one-off novelty song, titled “Fouke Monster” by (appropriately enough) Billy Cole and the Fouke Monster.
While the popularity of the Fouke monster died down soon enough, it netted the small town some notability in the eyes of cryptozoologists and other seekers of mysteries. Researchers digging into the town’s history found that there had been prior sightings of the monster, some of which dated back to the thirties. In the meantime, sporadic sightings continued, and still do so, until the present day.
What about Charles Pierce and his little film? At a budget of not quite $200,000 and a gross of $25 million it did okay. It spawned two sequels (only one of which Pierce was involved with) and several movies in its spirit. The legacy of the oddball film was quite a bit more impressive: numerous filmmakers have cited it as an inspiration, including the creators of The Blair Witch Project. Further, it immortalized the Foulkes Monster in a way that no footprints, blurry camera footage or reality television program ever might. Because of this, interest in the monster has continued long past the initial flap of sightings.
This year saw the release of Lyle Blackburn’s The Beast of Boggy Creek: The True Story of the Fouke Monster, a non-fiction exploration of the monster and its legacy. Perhaps the most comprehensive look at the creature that’s been written to date, it is available now at FoukeMonster.net.
Arkansas Public Service Announcement featuring an aged Fouke Monster: