by | Feb 3, 2014 | Outdoors

Cryptozoology is the study of animals living on the rim of reality. Most scientists consider “study” a very loose usage of the word in this context. There is, however, just enough evidence for some of these animals to give you pause. To make you question that sound you heard but couldn’t quite identify. To make you think about those times in the woods when you saw movement out of the corner of your eye, but could never find the source of that movement. I know of three cryptozoological critters (whew, that’s a mouthful) talked about in hushed tones around Arkansas. Maybe you’ve heard of them, too.
First is the legendary catfish found near the lock and dam at Russellville, or I guess anywhere on any river. There are different versions of this story from folks around the country. I first heard it back when I was a tow-headed boy. A friend told me about his cousin who had a friend who had a sister who had a boyfriend who had an uncle that was a scuba diver. Apparently, this scuba diver was doing some work on the dam and came face to face with a catfish big as a mule. The poor guy nearly stroked out and barely made it to safety, all the while swearing he would never dive again. This legend persists because it’s fueled by the whopper catfish they DO pull out of the river. Fifty pounders and up are common. Experienced anglers tell of hooked fish that they could do nothing with; fish that promptly broke the line or straightened the hook.
Number two on the list is the black panther. Who among us has not sat with mouths agape as grandpa told of hearing the blood-curdling scream of a panther. I have long suspected that Arkansas has cougars, but not black panthers. Then one night, while traveling north of Dover, the headlights of my truck caught something unidentifiable crossing the lonely mountain road. A shadowy feline shape with a long tail glided into the underbrush. I stopped the truck and had to really think about what I saw. I’m an open-minded guy, but also a realist. The picture in my mind just did not make sense. Since that night I’ve done a little research and am left with the conclusion there is indeed a high probability that wild black cats prowl Arkansas. I would love to tell you more, but I’m working on an article dealing with those cats in detail. I’ll keep you posted.
Last on the list is my favorite. He’s better known in the Pacific Northwest, but he seems to pop up everywhere at one time or another. I’m talking about ol’ Bigfoot. If there was ever a place in Arkansas tailor made for Sasquatch it’s the Ozark Mountains. The Ozarks are where the wild things are in Arkansas and I believe he could be out there. The mountains are a rugged place. I’d wager not even a third of that country sees a human being most years. Why couldn’t he be out there?
I visited with a genuine Arkansas Bigfoot researcher last year looking for tips on how to find sign. This fellow said that sign is everywhere; you just need to open your eyes. Those broken saplings too big for a buck to break, the tree knocking that sounds too heavy and slow for a woodpecker, the barred owl hooting in the hollow that sounds just a little too much like a primate. Yep, Bigfoot.
The mysterious pile of rocks randomly stacked in the woods ain’t from the Blair Witch. The scream on the ridge-top wasn’t a woman. The splash that sounds like a pig dropped in the water as you’re fishing at night on the sandbar; when you know good and well pigs don’t randomly drop from the sky. All of this is evidence. And it could be from something more flesh and blood than we want to admit; but still on the rim of our reality.

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