Author’s note: This is the first of a two-part story of Bigfoot encounters in Southeast Missouri.
Darkness engulfed the Southeast Missouri farmhouse, the air still in the January night.
Ken Mattheis knelt behind his parent’s house working, meager light illuminating a generator, the only sign of electricity for miles.
“A few years ago the power went at my parents farm house and I went out to help them set up a generator for the first time,” he said.
He’d left a tool in the van, so he walked into the darkness to retrieve it.
“It was a cold, pitch black night,” he said. “I heard footsteps on the ice-covered grass.”
He thought it was his father outside with him, but when a tree branch snap, he knew it wasn’t his father.
“I heard crunch, crunch, then limbs started breaking and falling,” he said. “I turned to see what was causing the limbs to break and saw this large black shadow standing up under a tree behind me.”
The figure knocked down more limbs, then stopped.
“It stood still as if it was waiting for me to do something,” he said. “I thought, ‘crap, you’re not my dad.’ So, calmly I walked away from it.”
Mattheis backed inside the farmhouse.
“My dad was inside the house,” he said. “I told him, ‘we have a visitor,’ and he said, ‘Who?’ I said, ‘a Bigfoot.’”
They looked out the window, but what Mattheis had seen was gone. It would be back. A few months later, Mattheis’ mother saw something strange, and telephoned him.
“She said, ‘well the other night the dog was barking out by the fence and I went out to see what it was barking at and this large black shadow stood up and walked off into the woods,’” Mattheis said. “Now my mom says the dogs are afraid to go outside at night.”
Mattheis went to the spot the next day and found large footprints in the grass. The heel of the foot had pressed deeper than the rest, the curve of the arch almost invisible.
“I have photos of the tracks,” he said. “Not great photos, but its big feet. Should have made casts of them but I didn't.”
Bigfoot sightings aren’t uncommon in Southeastern Missouri. According to reports, in the early 1980s, while camping near the Meramec River, a seven-year-old boy saw a large man-like figure covered in long, black hair near his campsite about 17 miles from the Mattheis farmhouse. In late 2000, a group of campers saw a “massive” bipedal, hairy creature walking amongst the cabins of a campsite within 20 miles from the farm. Its arms were long and swung wide as it walked; it’s head crested like a gorilla’s.
The specter of Bigfoot has been with Mattheis all his life.
“My parents owned a home by my grandparent’s farm in Crawford County and I spent summers in this home and spent a lot of time with them,” he said. “My grandmother was Native American and she would yell at me and my cousins to stay out of the creeks or the Boogey man will get ya.”
The young Mattheis thought she was just trying to keep the children away from the creek, so the warning made them want to go even more. They soon found the warning had nothing to do with the creek.
“A few times we went, we would hear something follow us and it would break tree limbs and this would scare the crap out of us kids,” he said. “We'd run home and get swatted with whatever Grandma had in her hands at the time, and she'd say, ‘keep out of the creeks.’”
Another time, the thing sent Mattheis running until he was lost and a neighbor drove him home. He didn’t see what had scared him at the creek until he was about 10 years old.
“I was sleeping in a bed with my older brother and we had the windows open,” he said. “I heard sticks breaking and I lifted the shade to look out and I saw a large, light tan, shaggy-haired animal walk by the window and I said, ‘what is that?’”
His brother jumped up, shut the shade and told him to go back to sleep, it was only a deer.
“I don't think he saw it,” Mattheis said. “It scared the crap out of me.”
A few years later, he saw it in daylight.
Next week: Daylight sightings.
Copyright 2009 by Jason Offutt
Got a scary story? Ever played with a Ouija board, heard voices, seen a ghost, UFO or a creature you couldn’t identify? Let Jason know about it: Jason Offutt, P.O. Box 501, Maryville, Mo., 64468, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Your story might make an upcoming installment of “From the Shadows.”
Jason’s books on the paranormal, “Darkness Walks: The Shadow People Among Us,” and “Haunted Missouri: A Ghostly Guide to Missouri’s Most Spirited Spots,” at Jason’s blog, from-the-shadows.blogspot.com.