Arkansas Alligator Farm sits right outside the entrance to Hot Springs National Park. It fulfills a vital role in the
Hot Springs tourism cluster.
The Merman has been a resident of this gator farm for fifty years. The owner has fought off repeated
offers of cash by entertainment franchises like Ripley's. They don't want the farm -- just the Merman, who is at least
95 years old.
We've noted on visits over the last ten years this place has become more inert, like a gator baking
senseless in the humid, hundred degree Arkansas air. The Merman is displayed indoors, in a glass-sided box among a sprinkling
of mounted deer heads and stuffed sea turtles. A lone squirrel monkey bathes in an orange heat lamp, scampering up and back
on a tree limb. He is the only living thing in this room of empty cages and pits.
AAF used to sell spun glass mermen,
but not anymore. It's always worth a stop, though, along with its neighbors, Educated Animals and Tiny Town.
Where Did the Merman Come From?
The first "merman" known in America was purchased from Japanese sailors
in 1822 (mermen were apparently "ritualistic objects" of Japanese and Indonesian origin). P.T. Barnum purchased
his first merman in 1842 and put it on exhibit as the "Feejee Mermaid." It was an immediate sensation. Other mermen
quickly emigrated to America
The Legend of Boggy Creek is a 1972 documentary-style
film dealing with an alleged creature known as the "Fouke Monster", a Bigfoot-like being seen in and around Fouke,
Arkansas since the 1940s. The film mixes interviews with local residents who claim to have had encountered the creature with
dramatic/fictitious reenactments of said encounters.
In the film, the creature is reportedly seen mainly
by hunters and ranchers. It is over 6 feet tall with a slender build and long legs and arms. It is completely covered in hair
and has three toes on its feet, as indicated by tracks seen in a creek bank. In one scene, a police officer states that it
crossed a road in front of him at 30-35 mph, in another, the creature attacks some people in a house; they fire on it, but
it sends one of them to the hospital. In another scene, hunters attempt to chase the creature with dogs, but the dogs refuse
to go after it. In the end, the creature escapes all attempts to hunt it, and locals debate over whether it is dead, or still
out there. Charles B. Pierce, an ad salesman from Texarkana on the Arkansas/Texas border, borrowed $160,000 from a local
trucking company, used an old movie camera, and hired locals, mainly high school and college students, to make the 87 minute
long film in 1972. It generated $20 million in revenue, and is now on DVD.
A sequel, Return to Boggy Creek, came
out in 1977, but the original director Charles B. Pierce was not involved and the new film carries over none of the docudrama
elements. It stars Dawn Wells of Gilligan's Island fame as a mother of three children (daughter played by Dana Plato)
who get lost in the swamp with two other men until the "monster" comes to their aid. A third film, this one
involving Pierce, was made with the title The Barbaric Beast of Boggy Creek, Part II. This movie follows the adventures of
a University of Arkansas professor and his students on their trip to Fouke, Arkansas to find and study the monster. A few
scenes in the beginning of the movie were shot at the university, including an Arkansas Razorbacks football game. The movie
was lampooned in an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 under the title Boggy Creek II: The Legend Continues.
Equipped with a 16mm hand-held Kodak movie camera,
the two searchers set out on horseback in October, 1967 and explored the wilderness regions in northern California. They concentrated
their search in the area near Bluff Creek which is in the Six Rivers National Forest. Bluff Creek itself, is about 38 air
miles south of the California/Oregon border and 18 air miles inland from the Pacific Ocean. This region was selected because
Bigfoot footprints had been found there in prior years. A road was constructed into Bluff Creek in 1957, opening the area,
which up to that time had been remote wilderness. Road construction workers noticed large human-like footprints in the soft
soil which were reported to the press by Jerry Crew in October, 1958. The word "Bigfoot" was used in the press release
and has now become a common name for the creature. Subsequent investigations at that time revealed tracks of six different
sizes, indicating that a number of creatures frequented the area. Footprint sizes ranged from 12¼ inches to 17 inches
In the early afternoon of October 20, 1967 Patterson and Gimlin spotted a female Bigfoot down on
the creek gravel sandbar. Patterson's horse reared in alarm at the sight of the creature, bringing both horse and rider
to the ground, Patterson pinned below. Being an experienced horseman, he quickly disengaged himself and grabbed his camera.
While running toward the creature, Patterson took 24 feet of colour film footage. During this time, the creature quickly but
calmly walked away across the sandbar into the woods. In the meantime, Gimlin observed the whole scene, rifle in hand, in
case his friend was attacked by the creature. The men had previously agreed that under no circumstances would they shoot a
Bigfoot unless in self-protection. The creature, estimated to be 7 feet 3½ inches in height and weighing 700 pounds,
left footprints 14½ inches long by 6 inches wide. In that part of Bluff Creek, there is a sandy clay soil with a blue-gray
tinge. This type of soil holds footprints remarkably well for a long period of time
Fearing a possible confrontation
with the creature and perhaps others of its kind, the two men decided not to pursue their prey into the forest. They reasoned
that they had photographic evidence of its existence and did not want to put the creature or themselves in jeopardy. The
film has been studied by many scientists throughout the world who continue to remain divided on the authenticity of the sighting.
Roger Patterson died in January, 1972 steadfast in his belief in the creature's existence. Robert Gimlin, who now resides
in Yakima, also continues to maintain that what he saw was the elusive North American Bigfoot. To this time, no firm evidence
has surfaced to cast a doubt on this truly amazing discovery.
Texas Blood Sucker
Is a local Texas television station desperate
for ratings or is there something behind the legend of the Chupacabra?
recent home video of an unidentified animal has Texas residents again pointing fingers at the famed Mexican folklore creature.
WOAI Channel 4 in San Antonio broadcast the sighting in June. This isn't the first or even second time this suspected
"blood-sucking thing from beyond" has claimed fame in the Lonestar State.
WOAI Channel 4 first broadcast the discovery of the Texas Chupacabra in July 2004. A rancher in Elmendorf shot and
killed the creature after it attacked his chickens. The animal was hairless, except for a strip going down its back, with
blue-grey skin, a long, rat-like tail, a serious overbite with large canine teeth, and appeared to be suffering from mange,
a chronic skin disease of mammals cause by parasitic mites and characterized by skin lesions and loss of hair.
Several months later in October, another animal resembling the "Elmendorf Beast" was shot and killed and
several sightings were reported in Lufkin stirring another wave of WOAI Channel 4 chupacabra broadcasts.
Honestly, are people buying this?
Before its latest northern migration,
alleged attacks of the Chupacabra, or "the Goat Sucker," first appeared in the 1960s in Mexico and Puerto Rico.
An impressive series of attacks plagued the Mexican livestock in the 1990s and the Chupacabra was termed "the single
most notable cryptozoological phenomenon of the past decade" by America's leading cryptozoologist Loren Coleman.
The beast preyed on livestock, usually goats and chickens, and killed the animals vampire-style, draining the blood
completely through the animal's neck and leaving the meat intact. Consequently, there is some controversy surrounding
the idea that the Chupacabra attacks humans. A homeowner caught a glimpse of the creature after the Chupacabra allegedly broke
into the house through a window, tore apart a child's Teddy bear, and left a pile of slime and a piece of rotten meat
on the windowsill. One woman claimed she was attacked by a beast with horns and wings. From the bite marks on her neck she
believed the beast was a Chupacabra. Another physical attack was reported in Guanica, Puerto Rico. Osvaldo Claudio Rosado
claimed he was grabbed from behind by a gorilla. He was later treated for cuts and scratches on his torso. What makes this
attack so mysterious is that Puerto Rico doesn't have gorillas.
eyewitness accounts vary, the Mexican Chupacabra towers at a ferocious 3 to 5 feet, with bulging, red eyes, a snake-like tongue,
gray skin, long, spinal quills, and a sulfur-like stench. The Chupacabra also boasts multiple talents such as the ability
to fly or bound like a kangaroo.
Clearly, the descriptions for the cross-cultural
bloodsucker don't add up, but who's to say that evolution doesn't work at top speed. Still, the Texas Chupacabra
phenomenon has sparked an intense debate among scientists, zoologists, and residents. Though DNA tests were run on the "Elmendorf
Beast", the rancher won't release the results because he was not satisfied and wants a second opinion. He's absolutely
right, a folklore creature bound for infamy is much more intriguing than any sensible answer, and the six o'clock news
would not get nearly as much attention.
So whether it's a dog having
a bad hair day, a mangy coyote, a mangy coyote, a Muntjac deer, or the legendary Chupacabra, watch your goat's back and
stay tuned to your local Texas news source