THE BEAST OF THE LAND BETWEEN THE LAKES
There is a national recreation area in Western Kentucky (that also runs down to Tennessee) called ‘Land Between the Lakes’, or LBL for short. It is situated between the Kentucky and Barklay Lakes, consisting of more then 300 miles of shoreline, 170,000 acres of forest and over 200 miles of walking trails. It is currently a focal point for over $600 million in the tourism industry. Prior to 1959, before the Kentucky and Lake Barklay Dams were constructed, and before it was officially called LBL (in 1963 by President John F. Kennedy), and before TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority, the federal government used it’s powers of eminent domain to buy and tear down all the houses, businesses and community buildings thru out the entire area, forcing over 700 families to give up their homes.) took over the land, the area was called ‘Between the Rivers’.
There are over 228 small family cemeteries, many forgotten about and lost, dotted thru out the acres of forests as it was once used as homes to early Kentucky settlers. Some of the earliest graves date back to the early 1700’s, which include graves of white settlers, veterans from nearly every war, including the Revolutionary War, and also those of black slaves and Chinese immigrants who worked in the iron furnaces that were in the area. There was also a very high infant mortality rate and many of these children were buried right outside the cabins from where they were born so that their mother could peer out the window and see the grave. There are also numerous Native American graves scattered thru out the acres, much older then even the earliest of settler graves, some discovered, others lay in secret beneath the layers of leaves and forest ferns.
Back before the 1950’s it always had been a very rural area to live in, with farmsteads far and few between, and with no real town to speak of except up at the north end in Grand Rivers. It was in this town, back in the mid 70’s that I first heard of ‘The Beast Between the Rivers’ or known now as ‘The Beast of LBL’. Some old timers would sit on this long wooden bench outside the old IGA store, that use to be the old ‘country store’ for decades before the grocery conglomerate came to town. I used to hang around there on the weekends during the day and listen to the stories they each would tell. These old men, most of whom used to live in LBL before they were forced to move, had some very interesting stories to tell about that part of the country.
There was talk of hauntings, Indian curses, mysterious lights over gravestones at night, old hag witches that lived deep in the woods, and more importantly, several tales of a wolf like creature that stood on two legs that would come out of the thickets and attack their cattle and live stock. Day or night. A creature that was taller then an average man by well over a foot, nearly 7 foot tall, with thick long hair covering it’s body, and a stench that matched that of some of the freshly open graves that were discovered now and then. This ‘wolf man’ left tracks like a barefoot man but where the toes should have been, instead were paw prints. The head was huge and wolf like in appearance, with an extra long snout, and uncanny long sharp incisors that glistened from the moon light with saliva, along with eyes that, “Radiated red, like one of the hottest fires in Hell’, they’d say. It had long arms that ended with huge hands and long spindly fingers with long, pointed, dirt caked claws. At night they would hear it howl; un-natural guttural sounds of painful hungry agony, and at that warning, all would go out and tie up their livestock and even bring their most prized selections inside their homes with them.
The legend of the beast went back at least a hundred years, and was passed along through time from family to family and updated as new sightings occurred. One old man said that his great great grand pappy told him that the creature use to be a man, a Native American that had the ability to shape shift, a powerful shaman that had been outcast from his tribe because he used his magic for evil. The Shaman had been tracked and killed while in his wolf state by a few warriors and a couple of settlers in the area. In his dying breath he cursed them and vowed to return from the dead to haunt the forests and seek revenge on their families and all who lived there. Another man on the bench with a leathery, weathered face, said he heard from his grandma that the beast was once a settler that came over from Europe back in the early 1800’s, with a disease that made him turn into a mad man at night. The disease was eventually passed along to his children, which never went to school, but stayed hidden away from the population. Many thought the family had died off because for years they never seen or heard from them and after investigations by some brave men they discovered the homestead vacant and abandoned in the early 1900’s.
The sightings of the monster where still frequent thru out the beginning of the twentieth century, and the elderly group on the bench each told some unsettling encounters they or members of their own families had had with it. Each one told stories of finding livestock slaughtered, ripped to pieces and ate upon. Cows and pigs with their legs dismembered from the sockets. Even a few horses had met their end with savage attacks upon their bodies. A few of them described what they saw at different times when they caught glimpses of the figure by peeking out of the curtains of the windows into the night. One man said it jumped out of one of the horse stalls one evening while he was putting up some animals. It stopped in front of him, arms spread out like it was getting ready to grab him, let out a howl and then sprang past him and into the dusky shadows of the sunset. This particular man said he ‘wet his overalls’ during the episode. Another man said he never seen it, but would always hear it’s baleful wails frequently at night, not like a regular wolf or a coyote, “No,” he said, “It was more deeper, longer, stronger sounding then what would come out of any animal I ever heard.” Another old timer said his wife had seen it trying to get into the chicken coup but gave up after getting tangled in the chicken wire. They all had tales of ‘someone’s hound dog’ getting killed, ripped apart limb from limb, ‘someone’s pig or cow or chicken’ getting eaten, the mysterious footprints left in the mud, and the stench it left behind where ever it appeared. And more then one had the same story of listening to it walk across their front porches at night and scratching on the doors and walls which would leave deep gouges in the wood they would find in the morning. All of them agreed that this was not a Bigfoot or Sasquatch. It would be only another year or two after hearing about this mysterious beast that I myself would encounter it at the home of a family member that lived in the same area.
But this isn’t the story I was wanting to tell you. This was just a brief introduction to the unwritten accounts of the darker side of LBL. A prelude actually to the real story I will begin to unfold. I just wanted to lay some ground work so you could get the big picture, and form some of your own opinions and theories. Walk with me now as I take you back about twenty two years, back to the early 1980’s. Where I use to work midnights at a gas station a few miles from the Kentucky Dam, which was a few miles from the beginning of LBL in Grand Rivers. And it was on one of these midnight shifts I had two visitors that would change my outlook on the subject of ‘werewolves’. (… and make me believe in what I had seen myself a few years back in the same area but had kept it between myself and two other family members that were with me at the time….but that’s another story to be written.) This story was never in the paper, on the news, or had any media attention at all. It was kept hush hush, and a sacred silence was demanded on all those involved. It couldn’t get out, ever. It was a few weeks before the beginning of tourist season, and tourists were what the locals survived on, they were the ‘bread and butter’. A story like this would be like screaming ‘Sharks!’ at Daytona Beach, or ‘Child Molester!’ at Disneyland. The people would stop coming out of fear.
I wasn’t a witness to the fact, just a third person, making observations and having conversations with two individuals who were a part of the incident, who were involved in the whole ordeal. They had just came from the crime scene down in the middle of LBL after being there for over 8 hours. It was around three in the morning and they were taking a much needed reality break.
Two officers of the law. Two grown men who both appeared shaken beyond description. A mixture of fear and confusion, shock and disbelief emanated from them both. One was paler then the other, a deathly pallor over his skin, and it was this one (I’ll name him officer Adam, to protect their identities) that had to sit on the curb of the gas pumps, head between his legs and expel the last bit of his stomach contents. The other officer (I’ll name him officer Bill) came in for some coffee for himself and a cup of water for his partner, then rejoined Adam outside. There were no other customers so I went outside with them to see if I could offer some assistance with the ill man. He gladly took the few Rolaids I had extended in my hand, with his own shaky fingers he struggled to get them into his mouth.
For quite a long while the only thing that was heard were the crickets in the near by fields, the sounds of bugs hitting the fluorescent lights above us hanging from the gas station canopy, and the distant sound of highway traffic that was far and few between as it was in the wee hours of the morning. My mind was buzzing with various scenarios of the cause of their distress….a tragic car accident….possibly a motorcycle wreck…a boating mishap with drown victims….a murder…..a dead body discovered. (‘Curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back…that’s why the cat has nine lives.’)
I don’t remember sitting down but after about 15 minutes of this hushed stillness I found myself beside them both on the curb staring out at the darkness of the nearby corn pastures, letting my mind paint pictures of imaginary traumas. Adam spoke first, breaking the silence of obscurity, “I can’t believe it…it’s not possible…I just can’t believe it…”. In a hushed agreement, that was almost inaudible, Bill replied, “I know…it was….is….it is so unbelievable…I’ve never seen anything like this before…”, a long pause, a deep breath, and he continued, “… or even heard of anything like this before.” I looked at Bill and then at Adam, they were both gazing, open eyed, unblinking, out into the inky color of the night. Adam’s bottom lip was trembling slightly, and it wasn’t from the slight chill in the late spring air. Something, or some thing had filled them each with a congested fear.
After a few more moments of silent reserve, my patience was rewarded with some slow, fragmented descriptions of their past 8 hours. Bill turned his wide azure blue eyes towards me, they were glazed and blood shot, tired, frightened eyes. With a weary, shaken voice he began to unfold a tale that would forever be embedded within my spirit, like a nasty shadow that lingers around a corner waiting to pounce, to awaken your inner fears once again. Why he decided to tell me of all people was beyond my comprehension, maybe it was an avenue he felt safe to travel upon, to get it off his chest, off his mind. They were both frequent customers and we knew each other on first name basis, but to divulge such a torrid account of great magnitude, well, I can only say that the fear inside them both at that moment in time had to be released, eased, and extracted from their souls, or else they may have gone mad with unbalanced thoughts. Without interrupting, I sat entranced, listening to every word, absorbing them like an opiate, a spellbinding narcotic that hypnotized me into forgetting the world even existed for the next half hour or so.
They had gotten a call to help with an investigation at one of the many rural camp grounds down in LBL. The tourist season was about to start in a few weeks, so as usual there were some early arrivals that had come to claim prime camping spots before the areas were over run with tents, campers and travel trailers The sun was setting low in the sky when they arrived at the scene. Several other official vehicles were already there and there were many more to come as they would soon find out. Many coming from other counties, and a few coming all the way from another state. Several of these to come were coroners from different counties. One coroner vehicle was already present as well as an ambulance, which would prove useless, as there was no one to save. The victims were all dead. Quite dead. Completely, totally and thoroughly deceased. A young married couple that had come down to take it easy for a few days, were the first to discover the ghastly scene. Neither one of them wanted to stay behind while the other went for help, so they both nervously traveled to the nearest town, Grand Rivers, and called the authorities. They did not return to LBL, they merely gave the arriving officer directions to the area of discovery and rented a local hotel room.
With the sun going down, it got dark pretty fast, so there was a flurry of flood lights from the cruisers being pointed in all directions, along with the excited movements of fifty dollar flash lights being held by nervous, restless hands, searching the trees, the ground, the leaves, the shadows. There was a parked motor home at the site, it’s frame being lit by a campfire close by, a fire that had almost went out on it’s own, but had been rekindled by the new crowd of men in uniforms so that they could have more light. The front and back doors to the home were open, one of the doors hanging by one hinge in a crooked slant. Through the windows they could see zig zagged movements of luminosity as the beams from flashlights searched the interior. Bloody hand prints slid down the thin metal walls close to the front door and more bloody hand paintings could be seen along the length towards the back door. Their images dancing eerily in the fire light like some ancient tribal symbols .
Adam and Bill did not even want to imagine what was inside the motor home, but then again, they would soon find out, that it wasn’t what was ‘inside’ but what was ‘outside’ that would change their lives forever. There was already crime scene tape placed in numerous, scattered parts of the area, and little white flags on metal stakes stuck into the ground marking evidence. Evidence of ripped clothing, bodies and body parts, separated limbs, a pile of bowels, pieces of loose flesh clinging to muscle tissue. What use to be three bodies, that just hours before had been a happy family, on a happy vacation, to create happy memories for years to come; a father, a mother and a young son.
The happiness was gone. Destroyed by a psychotic mad man, or was it ‘men’? A murderous rage had taken place, one so abhorrently appalling that there were few witnesses to the scene that had kept their composure or held their recently eaten dinners down. At first sight, the victims appeared to be butchered by some un-nameable weapon, possibly an axe, or a chainsaw. Upon further inspection, by the first arriving coroner, the wounds on the bodies were determined not to have been caused by a sharp instrument, but rather by some piercing, well-defined claws, and other wounds by some keen, mordantly long incisors.
Wildcat, bear, wolves? The coroner shook his head in a baffled disagreement with each guess from the officers. The claw marks, for instance, on the back of the fathers corpse were distinctively made by 4 long claws with a smaller digit, like a thumb, on the side, it’s span was wider then a man’s print, wider and different then a bears mark, with deep deliberate gouges in the flesh. Rake marks from an angry unknown source trying to grab it’s prey that was no doubt trying to escape. The wildcat and wolves theory was dismissed as the open wound marks were apparently made by a more grandiose animal source. The bite marks were much larger then any mountain lion, wolf or coyote. Whatever did it had a longer snout, and more sizable teeth. There was also indications in the larger areas of the cadavers, of bite marks where the flesh, meat and bone had been yanked away from the body. Like a human who bites into an apple and leaves the impressions of his bite and teeth marks, so were the open wounds on these individuals. Bears, well, they aren’t native to the area, but who knows, maybe a grizzly did sneak in some way, but that was far fetched, he would have had to travel several states and cross several rivers to even get close to that part of Kentucky. Every one present was betting on the ‘bear’ hypothesis anyway, and no one even thought of anything else to be the cause of such a savage attack. A bear, it had to be a bear.
From the back door of the motor home, an officer stepped down slowly, holding in his hands some type of garment. A dress. A small dress, that would have fit a small girl of around five years old. He informed the on lookers that there were more ‘little girls’ clothing packed inside the coach. This meant there was a missing person, or an absent body;a member of the family. They all prayed she was still alive somehow, hiding somewhere. A new search began.
As time went by, additional law enforcement employees arrived, as well as a few volunteer rescue squad members. Groups were spread out and assigned areas to examine and explore. Another coroner arrived to assist in the identification and causes of death, and much later a third one showed up, this one from a near by state. All types of samples were placed in plastic bags, marked as evidence, and carefully stowed away. As they were packaging up what appeared to be one of the fathers arms, one of the doctors noticed something wrapped between the dead fingers. Some tweezers slowly untangled a clump of long, grey and brown hairs. This too was placed in a bag, marked and put away to be analyzed at a lab later.
From somewhere in the nearby woods, about 50 yards from the campfire, a scream was heard. A mans shriek that turned into a long wail and then to whimpering. As others arrived they could see by the gleam of several flashlights that the cop was holding his hat in one hand and his light in the other. There was blood on his face, the front of his shirt and on the brim of his hat. More blood could be seen dripping on him. It was coming from above. High in the trees the flash lights swung, searching for the source of the mysterious bleeding. A very small hand could be seen dangling down from a tree limb way up high, as well as a slender lifeless leg that still had a white sock still on the foot. The missing child had been located. It had been Adam that the blood had trickled upon, hitting his hat first, making him look up, and then feeling the thick cold fluid sprinkling his face then sliding down to his neatly buttoned shirt. It had been Adam that had screamed. The little girl had apparently been carried up the tree and leisurely eaten upon while carefully laid across a large tree branch. More of the same long gray and brown hair was found sticking in the bark of the tree near her body.
After about 7 hours most of the officers were sent away as a new team of investigators arrived. They were told not to talk to anyone of the incident, especially not the media. I am sure that besides Adam and Bill, there were others who had to confess what they saw that night, if in fact this whole event ever really happened. Witness’s that had to divulge the awful secret of that atrocious discovery at one of the campgrounds at LBL. About a month after sitting outside with Adam and Bill that night, they stopped in again during one of my midnight shifts. They were both rather quiet, more serious in nature, not like before the incident where they would kid around while drinking their sodas and eating a snack or two. They had both aged in some odd way. Streaks of gray, that had not been there before, highlighted both of their heads of hair. Their faces had lines of worry and showed signs of stress. I would see them again many times afterwards, but on this particular evening, they informed me that they got word about some of the lab tests that were taken that dreadful night. The tests, on the saliva taken from the bite marks, and from the hair found on the mans fingers and in the tree bark, came back with an unknown species origin. The closest animal that they could be compared to was that of a Canis Lupis, a wolf.
Whether Adam and Bill had played an elaborate hoax on me I’ll never really know for sure but their sincerity and fear painted a picture of truth in their eyes and actions. There are several more stories that I have heard about this ‘Werewolf’ over in LBL that have been told to me over the years after this particular incident. There were several groups of boy scouts that had seen it. Several more campers, fishermen and boaters that had seen it from the safety of of their boats, floating in some of the many bays that touched upon the shoreline. Hikers and bikers have heard its howling and have seen ‘something’ stalking them while they were on rural trails, hiding amongst the trees and foliage. Hunters have run across deer carcasses that had been brutally torn apart.
There was even a pair of curious grave stone rubbers, (those that go out in search of century or more old tombstones then make rubbings by placing paper against the coarse stones and using a piece of charcoal to rub across it thus capturing the images and dates from the stones unto the paper….similar to when as a child you use to take a pencil and rub across a piece of paper on a penny or other coin to see the image of Lincoln or Jefferson.) that had a fearful encounter with it at one of the old cemeteries. It had actually came up to the car as they were leaving and shook the back end of the vehicle up and down and left terrible scratch marks in the trunk lid as it tried to hold on to the little Toyota while the tires were spinning in the wet grass to get away. These two individuals didn’t stop driving until they were about 40 miles away, only then did they dare stop to investigate the damage done. I myself have seen those scratches. Much too wide for any man to have made them. They looked like a heavy metal garden rakes tracks.
But you will never read about it in the papers, or hear about it on the news, or get a confession from any law enforcement official or man of office. The media will say it’s a bunch of ‘Whoo Haa’, or just pranks, silly stories, urban legends, lies, tall tales and such. This is tourism country and that means millions of dollars to the area, so you can’t scare off business, can you?
But, as San says on her website, ‘You can’t tell me there’s no such thing!’, because I have my own tale to tell about this creature. That story will come soon, I promise, but this one had to be told first for it is far more scarier and full of detail than my own. And that bench, the long, sturdy, heavy oak bench, that sat in front of the old country store for decades? It is still in existence. In fact, I had the grand opportunity of acquiring it several years ago when an even newer version of an IGA store was being built upon the same grounds. The previous owners remembered my fondness for sitting with the old timers and having undying patience with their many stories and got a hold of one of my family members to ask if we would like to have it to keep in the family. The bench now sits in my front yard, by the driveway, where I sit to wave goodbye to all those who had come to visit for the day. I’ve learned to always wave goodbye, because you never know if you’ll see them again. You never know what lies in store for you or them. What lies in the shadows. Waiting. Watching. With hungry eyes and a drooling snout.