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Geographical Index > United States > Illinois > Cook County > Article # 618

Media Article # 618
Article submitted by Stan Courtney
Article prepared and posted by Stan Courtney

Wednesday, December 31, 1890


Chicago Inter Ocean

A Strange Creature Has Been Prowling Around the Desplaines River.

Those Who Have Run Across the Thing Like It to the Traditional Wild Man.

All Efforts to Hunt It to Its Haunts Have So Far Proved in Vain.


Maywood has a mystery, and through it that usually peaceful little suburb bids fair to become quite notorious. Something over a week ago a rumor was started in Maywood that a bear or some animal very much resembling one, had been seen on the Desplaines River bank, just below the village. Several times this story was repeated, and at last it was determined to organize a hunting party to search for the animal. In a day or two, as the party had not materialized, those who intended to go made up their minds that they had been hoaxed, and so the entire matter was dropped.

Christmas day the Des Plaines River was crowded with skaters. They covered the ice from Harlem to Turner Park, and were happy as they were numerous. In the crowd that kept close to the Northwestern railroad bridge, between River Forest and Maywood, was a party of young people from North Clark street. Charles Gardner, a clerk on the Board of Trade, was one of the number, and as he was anxious not to miss the next train he went ashore below the railroad bridge, removed his skates and commenced to pick his way a small path which led toward the Maywood Park. This was through a very thick undergrowth, and led directly to a small bridge on First avenue, spanning a ravine which runs the entire length of the park, running into the river about two hundred feet from the small bridge.

As Gardner approached the bridge he was startled by hearing what sounded to him like a moan or a growl. Looking up he saw at the foot of one of the piers of the bridge something which he first took to be a man. The figure was seated on a projecting rock and was partially concealed behind the thick weed that surround the spot. It was peering through the tops of the weeds, and the face, as the startled man saw it, was that of a monster. It had a low heavy brow, over which hung hair that was coarse and matted. Its eyebrows were heavy and long, and the head seemed to be set low down on the chest, so high and massive were the huge shoulders. The entire face was covered with bushy hair, and as Gardiner looked in fright and wonder, a huge arm was lifted to grasp the wall as the creature rose. That was all the young man wanted to see. He tore his way up the steep bank, rushed to the depot nearly half a mile away, and boarded his train just as it was about to leave.

Then he laughed at himself. He imagined that he had probably seen some unfortunate tramp taking a rest under the bridge and had, in the excitement of the unexpected vision, drawn for himself the vivid picture his mind so well retained. He said nothing at all about the matter until Sunday, when he was again at Maywood for a dayís skating. With a few friends he met on the ice he landed near the spot, picked his way to the bridge, and related what he had seen. Of course he was laughed at until some in the party ventured under the bridge where they saw, lying among the some small rocks, two pieces of ragged clothing. Other traces were also visible of the place having been recently visited by something, and Gardnerís story was at once believed.

In the meantime the mysterious creature had been seen and heard by other people. John Haberlein, Hans Monns, and Sam Hamburg, three Germans living near Turner Park, had heard from some boys that some wolves or bears were prowling up and down the river. Friday they started out with guns and dogs and carefully scoured both banks of the river from Turner Park almost to Harlem, but they saw nothing alive, although in the sand on the river bank, near Harlem, they ran across some strange looking footprints, which led from the ice to the bank of the river. These tracks resembled somewhat those of a bear, but the peculiar imprints of the toes at once proved that they were not made by any Bruin in existence. The hunters followed these footprints until they were lost in the weeds, and a thorough search of every nook and ravine in the vicinity failed to bring to light the object which made the marks. The hunters told their story in Maywood, and the people who had before heard of the mysterious prowling thing were now thoroughly alarmed, and in many instances parents forbade children skating on the river, so afraid were they that the animal, or man, or whatever it was, might do some injury to the little folks.

Late last Saturday night Henry Phillips and R.A. Lewis, two young me who board in River Forest, went over to Maywood to call on some young ladies. They were walking home after their visit and when on the West Lake street wagon bridge, stopped to look at a passenger train that was crossing the railroad bridge just below. They saw the train pass, and then looked up and down the river. The moon was shining brightly, and the reflected glitter from the ice made the picture a pretty one, as the two young men leaned over the railing of the bridge and discussed the possibilities of the ice losing its charm for skaters, one of them happened to look up the river. Above the bridge about a half mile is a bend in the river. It is where Mr. E.C. Wallerís beautiful home rests on the bank of the Desplaines River. The action of the current here in this bend is gradually wearing away the bank, and Mr. Waller is constructing a huge wall to protect his property. Dams are erected there, but the work on the wall has ceased for the winter months. Around these dams on the ice lie boards and barrels and pieces of stone, mixed up in the confusion in which they were left when the workmen stopped. The moonlight, shining on the ice, was broken at these dams, the shadows of the trees and rocks and boards at the bend giving a pretty contrast to the glimmer of the rest of riverís frozen surface. As the two young men watched the ice they saw a movement on the icy surface at the bend. Without being aware that the other was looking at the moving object each watched the figure until they broke out at the same instant with a remark that some fellow must like skating very well to be out alone at that time of night.

They both laughed, and as they did the figure drew away from the bend and made its way down the river toward the two watchers. It came very slowly and appeared to be carrying something. As it approached the bridge the young men could see very distinctly that it was not a skater. It took long, regular, but very slow strides, and at each step a clacking sound could be heard as is some loose shoe sole was coming in contact with the smooth ice at every step. On the shoulder of the queer looking figure was a piece of board, and as it slouched along the young men carefully watched. The moonlight was brilliant, and as the object drew nearer and nearer the bridge the general outline became more and more distinct.

The reflection from the ice threw its ray on the features of the strange looking midnight marauder, and as it came nearer and nearer to the young men they were almost horror-stricken at its appearance. The figure was that of a man, big, brawny and muscular, but whether covered with hair or clothes was hard to discern. It wore no hat, and its white hands, as one hung by its side and the other grasped the burden on its shoulder, were in great contrast to the dark face, black hair and peculiar looking body. The head seemed scarcely higher than the shoulders, and as the creature moved along, a peculiar issing sound came from it, as if it were breathing through its teeth. Both spectators were badly fightened as the fearful looking creature drew nearer. When it halted under the bridge, or a little to one side of it, and directly in full view of the watchers, it dropped its burden. It seemed to be fearful of something, and looked around in every direction. The young men crouched on the floor of the bridge and peered cautiously over the edge of rail. The Thing hissed and mumbled as it stood there, and Lewis became so badly frightened that he almost yelled outright, and was only stopped by the strong hand-clasp of his friend.

In a few moments a movement was heard on the ice. The figure had stooped down and was replacing its load on its shoulder. After having done this it remained motionless for a few seconds, and then moved under the bridge. It was lost to the sight of the two men for an instant, and then it emerged from the shadow and moved on down the river, the peculiar clacking sound being kept up. They saw it pass under the railroad bridge and watched it move on down toward Harlem until it was lost to view around the bend of
the river just below.

Just as Lewis and Phillips had reached the end of the bridge on their homeward way, and were discussing the strange sight they had seen, they were again startled by hearing a loud cry. They concluded they had seen enough for one night, and agreed that the sound they had just heard had been made by some night bird or animal. They were quite nervous, anyhow, and as Lewis was especially anxious to go to his home, it was with difficulty that his friend could persuade him to wait a few moments to see if anything would appear.

They did not wait long. From under the railroad bridge shot the same figure they had just lost sight of. It was moving rapidly, and was without the burden it had carried when last seen. It rushed to the center of the space between the two bridges and sat or crouched on a small rock that showed above the surface of the ice, where it remained for a few seconds, hissing through its teeth and waving its long arms around as if to ward off some pursuer or enemy. Only for a few seconds did the mysterious creature remain in this position. Then it rose and slowly moved toward the west bank of the river. It paused again when it reached the edge of the ice, and seemed to be looking in the direction of the two watchers, who had cautiously moved nearer the center of the bridge. It seemed to shade its eyes with a big white hand, and then, after a long pause, turned and commenced to climb up the bank. This part of the shore was in shadow, being covered with weeds and trees, and for some time the creature was lost to the view of the watching and anxious men, but when it reached the top it was again easily seen, the figure being silhouetted in bold relief against the white barn which stands near the top.

Close to the bank of the river at this are two straw stacks owned by Farmer Nicholson. They had been cut into, and both are propped up by means of long poles and beams. Going to the nearest of these the figure cautiously crawled under one of the props, arranged some straw for a pillow, and lay down. From where the two men were watching, just a dark outline of the figure could be discerned, but it was indistinct and blurred. The young men at once started for their homes, and the next morning told their story to Howard Davis, a young book agent, who lives in River Forest, who it turn recited it to a reporter for THE INNER OCEAN. Young Gardner was found by the reporter, and a visit to Maywood disclosed the fact than many prominent persons had heard of the mysterious figure, but were inclined not to place much credence in the theory that there is much of a mystery to the matter. They are inclined to think that these people have seen a big dog or some other animal, and have allowed their imagination to get away with them amid the mysterious surroundings.

Mr. William Rausch, of the Maywood pharmacy, has heard some talk about the mystery, but is inclined to think that there is nothing very dreadful about it. He does not know Lewis or Phillips, nor is acquainted with Davis, who is a reliable young businessman. Others think that there is some mystery surrounding this strange creature, and if traces of him are seen again an effort will be made to capture him. Is he one of the men who have so strangely disappeared from Chicago during the past year, or merely some able-bodied tramp fantastically arrayed is the question asked by those who have come in contact with him, directly or indirectly.

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