The Ozarks Howler
The Ozark Mountains are part of one of the oldest geologic formations on the planet, the St. Francois Mountains, which date back to the Protozoic age. Over the ages, these mountains have eroded and shifted, leaving little of what they once were. What remains is scattered sections of highlands that range from Ohio to Texas. A large section of this extinct mountain range is the Ozark Mountains or Ozarks Highlands. Ranging from just south of St. Louis, they run through Missouri, Arkansas, and parts of Kansas and Oklahoma. By extension, they join with the Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas and Oklahoma, offering a vast area of heavy forests, waterways, lakes, rivers, valleys, caves, and thick brush. This provides the perfect backdrop for all sorts of legends, tales, and cryptids. But every legend has its roots in the truth.
Since the settlement of the Ozarks Region by European settlers, there have been strange tales of creatures in the woods. The entire area is rich with folklore, legends, stories, and myth. Stories of creatures like the Missouri Wildman, MoMo the Monster, ghostly apparitions, strange creatures, hauntings, and the Ozarks Howler. These stories date back to the early 1800s, long before stories of Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster were ever heard reported. Some of these stories even predate European settlers, coming from the Native American tribes that lived in the area for centuries before the first explorers arrived in the area. Even in modern times, sightings are still being reported. Out of the dozens of eyewitness reports, many more go unreported. In some cases, hundreds of accounts go unreported because of the insular and untrusting nature of the people who live in remote areas.
Dozens of blog entries could be written, just focusing on the Ozarks. More will undoubtedly come from that area, but this article will focus on one, the Ozarks Howler. If you’ve never heard of the Ozark’s Howler, then you’re not alone. Many people outside the Ozarks haven’t. As legends go, it’s very localized and seldom reported. The origins of the legend are lost to antiquity but easily trace back to the first settlers in the area.
The Ozarks Howler is also known as the Ozarks Black Howler, the Black Howler, Devil Cat, the HooHoo, and the Nightshade Bear. Eyewitness accounts of the Ozarks Howler describe a massive predator, roughly the size of a bear. Descriptions mention glowing red eyes that can be seen from a distance. Witnesses also describe a creature with a body of a bear or large dog. Some accounts say it’s a large cat, bigger than a mountain lion. They all describe the coat as being black with thick, shaggy fur. Accounts also describe the creature as having horns. Descriptions vary, calling them deer-like or like the horns of a ram. Then there is the howl, which is said to sound like a mixture of a wolf’s howl and the bugling of an elk. A blood-curdling scream that is said to turn the blood to ice in your veins.
Accounts of the Howler range from sightings to animal attacks and mutilations, to missing people. People who have had a face-to-face encounter describe the feeling of fear and pure evil. Undoubtedly, whatever they saw frightened them deeply. Having spoken to several witnesses personally, I have found their accounts to be credible and the fear in their eyes told me that they weren’t lying. Over the years, I have developed a good sense of when someone is making up a story and there are always inconsistencies. Unfortunately, some people seem to delight in hoaxing or making up stories, which is terrible. Hoaxes and lies only serve to discredit actual accounts, making it harder for the truth to be found. Due to the negativity in the press and stigma placed on people who have had encounters, many true accounts are never reported.
One of the earliest accounts of the Ozarks Howler was from Daniel Boone, who claimed to have wounded one and later to have encountered it again new Cuba, Missouri, where he was able to kill it. Allegedly, he had the animal stuffed and added to the collection of trophies he kept in his home. This can be verified by a letter written by Boone, himself, to his sister.
During my research, I have found several similar legends that range across the United States and beyond. The legend of the Shunka Warakin is remarkably like the Howler. As are the Black Dogs of Death from English Folklore. The legend of the Black Dog is an omen of death and misfortune. There are other similarities to the Cù-Sìth of Scottish folklore, the Barghest of Northern England, the Black Shuck of East Anglia, and most notably, the Hellhound. This could be due to overlapping of the legends or, possibly, that they were all describing the same creature.
Whatever the origins of the legend, it has been part of the local folklore for over two hundred years. Despite claims of hoaxes and false stories, there are still sightings happening all over the Ozarks. There are numerous similarities to the appearance of these creatures as well as the behaviors exhibited. Far too many similarities to dismiss them outright. Add to that the fact that many eyewitnesses are telling the truth, then we start seeing a pattern. Say there are a thousand reports. Tossing out 90 percent of those reports as false would still leave you with one hundred reports that aren’t false. If even one report is true, then that means the creature must exist. Now, I know from experience, the percentage of false or hoax reports is much smaller than the percentage of honest accounts. That’s very telling.
Some accounts could be a simple misidentification. Many accounts are from experienced hunters and woodsmen who know the animals in their area. I cannot accept that every account is a simple misidentification of a known animal. I once read that “Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbably, must be the truth.”
I submit to you that it is impossible to dismiss all these reports as either a hoax or misidentification of a known animal. I’ve interviewed too many people personally to ever believe that they’re all making it up. Too many people have seen something in those dark Ozarks woods, things that they know shouldn’t exist. Yet, saw them, they did. The experience haunts them to this day, casting doubt on every odd sound they hear in the night or outside their own homes. Fear like that leaves a stain that you carry with you for the rest of your life. You can’t fake that kind of fear. That’s how I know they weren’t lying.
So, the next time you find yourself walking alone in those deep, dark Ozarks hills and you see glowing red eyes followed by a blood-curdling howl, try telling yourself it’s just a wolf. It’s just a cougar or something similar. Convince yourself that those glowing red eyes aren’t following you. Try not to run, because that’s the worst thing you can do. It triggers the hunting response in predators. They will chase you and you will not escape.
The Ozarks Howler is out there. It’s very real to the people who have experienced it, firsthand. Sightings have been around since the early 1800s and continue to this day. It’s easy to sit behind your computer or television and dismiss these creatures as pure myth, as a hoax, or just as the imaginings of a scared person. It’s quite another to be out in the deep woods at night when the howling starts, and you can see the red eyes in the distance. The old expression “there are no atheists in foxholes” comes to mind. Don’t believe me? I can give you a few places to go and see for yourself. Don’t forget to take a good flashlight.
There are many strange things in the world that we don’t fully understand. Science discovers new species every day. Most are just insects, but sometimes they find something big. We’re fooling ourselves by saying that we know everything there is to know about this planet. There are places in those Ozarks woods, and in many places in the world, where man either has never been or rarely goes. Those woods are dark, deep, and mysterious. They have yet to reveal to us all that they know.
I believe that the Ozarks Howler is out there. Much like Bigfoot or the Dogman, I do believe they exist. We cannot, in our hubris, dismiss the legends and folklore of the Native Americans. All three of those creatures were known to them. We’re fools to ignore their wisdom. You do so at your peril.
I am the Nightmare Hunter. This is what I do. Join me as I search for the truth. Be safe, be careful, take precautions, and do not go alone. The Nightmares are real.
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