Monster Festival – a pilgrimage to a small town in America

Monster Festival – a pilgrimage to a small town in America
26 March 2024 J.W.H

One of my hobbies is dragging my long-suffering wife to small towns to review the beliefs and practices related to them cryptozoology – hunting creatures, from Bigfoot to the Loch Ness Monster, whose existence has not been scientifically proven.

In 2018, our summer “vacation” included a stop in Bishopville, South Carolina to attend the primary annual Lizard Man Festival. The lizardman from Ruda Swamp terrorized Lee County in 1988 – i in keeping with somehe still does it.

Bishopville isn't the one town that turns local reports of terrifying paranormal activity into annual festivals. This is the case in Point Pleasant, West Virginia Mothman festivalwhile in Flatwoods, West Virginia, a festival is held in honor The Braxton County Monster. Every 12 months you possibly can go to Fouke, Arkansas to have fun The Beast of Boggy Creek.

Cryptozoology shouldn’t be a faith. But in his book “Haunted Land: Journeys Through Paranormal America” Darryl Caterine argues that certain “paranormal hot spots” function like American sacred spaces – at the very least for some people.

As a professor of spiritual studiesI’m fascinated by the individuals who visit these small communities looking for unfamiliar beings and why a lot of these small towns have grow to be places of pilgrimage.

The Legend of the Lizard Man

Cryptid researcher Lyle Blackburn probably best describes the Lizardman saga in his book “The Lizard Man: The True Story of the Bishopville Monster

In July 1988, the Lee County Sheriff's Office received a call from a resident of a small community called Browntown who complained that their automotive had been “ravaged” overnight, most certainly by an animal.

When Sheriff Liston Truesdale began interviewing Browntown residents, several of whom described seeing a 2-foot-tall creature with red eyes – something someone eventually dubbed the “Lizard Man.” Truesdale sent out a message saying if anyone knew anything concerning the damaged automotive or strange creature to contact him.

On July 16, resident Tommy Davis brought his 17-year-old son, Chris, to the sheriff's office. Chris Davis explained that while driving home from his overnight shift at McDonald's, he took a shortcut down a rustic road and got a flat tire. When he finished changing it, he saw a 7-foot-tall green creature with three fingers on each hand and red eyes. When Davis tried to drive away, he jumped on the roof of his '76 Celica. Rocking backwards and forwards, Davis pushed him out and fled. Truesdale – who had asked the community for information concerning the unfamiliar beings – believed Davis was telling the reality. Chris even took a polygraph test and passed it.

Author on the road where Chris Davis claims to have met the Lizard Man.
Joseph P. Laycock, The writer provided

After Davis' story became public, more sightings were reported, some probable, others clearly fabricated. Soon, armed groups were exploring the swamps. The media focused on Bishopville. Locals began selling Lizard Man T-shirts and other merchandise. Sheriff Truesdale was interviewed by Good Morning America and CBS' Dan Rather, and Lizard Man made headlines across South Korea.

The mystery has not been solved to at the present time, including: alleged sightings as recently as 2015. But the chain of events – a wierd sighting, media attention, more sightings, after which visits from curious tourists and monster hunters – took place in cities across the country, from Point Pleasant to Roswell, New Mexico.

A mystery that terrifies and fascinates

If you believed the monster was real, why would you travel to its supposed lair?

Many find legends just like the Lizard Man fascinating. But some grow to be obsessed, wanting to know more about something each mysterious and terrifying. I see elements of faith in these monster hunters.

Theologian Rudolf Otto believed that religion had its own essence, which he called “numinous”.

– said Otto that religion is best understood by observing distant cultures where “its original characteristics of impulses and instincts” remain intact. For Otto, the numinous is experienced as admiration and a mysterious look – a mystery that terrifies and fascinates. This feeling is born from an encounter with the “completely different”, that’s, what we’re unable to know.

Listening to a lecture in Bishopville by Matthew Delph from Cryptid research organization of the Mountain Empire, I considered Otto. Delph described his encounter with Bigfoot while hunting in Indiana, when the creature threw a log that narrowly missed his head. (Some consider that the Lizardman was a misidentified Bigfoot.)

Delph recalls, “I saw something that shouldn't exist.” He was terrified but additionally haunted by the experience. He explained that his research was not a lot about proving the existence of Bigfoot, but fairly about his personal must “face that fear.”

Other festival-goers sought less direct connections with mystery use of fabric objects and rituals. One researcher explained why he took some bricks and wood from the famous “butter bean shack” near Davis' alleged meeting, adding, “You want to take something tangible with you because the secret is elusive.”

While exploring the Scape Ore marshes, I heard one anecdote concerning the Boggy Creek Festival in Fouke. Someone said he was an enormous fan the legend of Boggy Creek they desired to be “baptized” within the swamp. The comment was tongue-in-cheek, however it betrayed a desire for something to be more closely tied to the mystery.

Cryptozoology will not be a faith, but the primary stages of ancient religions may not have been much different from the practices that arose around these mysterious legends.

Misfits and locals mingle

For me, what makes monster festivals strange shouldn’t be the creatures they have fun, but fairly the way in which they facilitate the blending of cultures which have traditionally defined themselves in opposition to one another.

The conventional wisdom is that struggling small towns should hark back to a nostalgic time when America was more conservative, more Christian, and simpler – not alien. It's true that monster festivals at all times attract local families with smiling children. But to draw tourism dollars, they have to pull in other elements that should not easily reconciled with what architecture professor Kirin J. Maker calls “the parable of the high street

There is definitely what could possibly be called a “cryptozoology tribe” that shows up at these festivals – mystery fan culture overlaps heavily with horror fans, conspiracy theorists, and “psychobilly” aesthetic. Lots of black T-shirts, tattoos and “The Misfits” patches.

These eccentric tastes could also be one reason why small towns normally don't put money into monster festivals unless they need to. The mutation of monsters from bizarre police reports into community emblems seems to go hand in hand with the forces destroying the economies of small towns. globalization and urbanization.

Plaster Lizard Man prints and t-shirts on display on the South Carolina Cotton Museum.
Joseph P. Laycock, The writer provided

John Stamey, creator of the Lizard Man festival, he modeled it directly on the Mothman Festival in Point Pleasant, West Virginia. Like Point Pleasant, Bishopville has a difficult-to-navigate fundamental street with empty storefronts.

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I see one other reference to religious traditions here. Pilgrimage has at all times been an economic phenomenon and many medieval cities attracting pilgrims relied on stories of local miracles. By inviting a tribe of cryptozoologists, today's small towns have fun facets of local culture that were once relegated to the periphery or ridiculed. But just like the medieval towns of the past, their local economies are also getting a small boost.

At the identical time, these festivals attract middle-class urbanites like me who wish to learn more about places that many Americans have forgotten or not understand.

Certainly some in Bishopville would like to forget concerning the Lizard Man, while some Americans won’t care to find out about Bishopville. But America's strange pilgrims proceed to attract our attention to the fringes.

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  • J.W.H

    About John:

    John Williams is a Reincarnationist paranormal Intuitive freelance writer...he is living proof of reincarnation existence, through his personal exploration, he has confirmed its authenticity through visits to the very lands where these events transpired.

    Through guided meditation/s using hemi-sync technology he has managed to recollect 3 previous lives to his own, that go back to the Mid to Late 19th century.

    JWH - "You are the GODS! - Inclusion of the Eternal Light of Love and you shall never die”.

    “Death is Just the Beginning of Life”