Misplaced Monster of the White River
Ritcherson and Joey Dupree were in a small boat cruising the
White River near Newport in northeastern Arkansas when it happened.
Reports two weeks earlier of strange, huge tracks
found on nearby Towhead Island had brought the two out onto
the river. The three-toed tracks, some fourteen inches in length,
lead to and from the river. In between there was evidence that
a creature of enormous size and weight had moved across the
land, bending trees and crushing bushes.
Ritcherson and Dupree hoped to see this 'Monster'
and solve the mystery that had been with the town of Newport
It was in 1915 that sightings of the White River
monster first occurred. They seemed to come sporadically and
few reports appeared again until July 1937. On July 1st of that
year, Bramblett Bateman reported that he had seen "something
appear on the surface of the water." He continued, "From
the best I could tell, from the distance, it would be twelve
feet long and four or five feet wide. I did not see the head
nor tail, but it slowly rose to the surface and stayed in this
position for some five minutes. It did not move up or down the
river at this particular time, but afterward on different occasions
I have seen it move up and down the river, but I never have,
at any time, been able to determine the full length or size
of said monster."
A County Deputy, Z. B. Reid, was with Bateman
during one of these sightings and reported, "a lot of foam
and bubbles coming up in a circle about 30 feet in diameter."
When the creature emerged, Reid said, "It looked like a
large sturgeon or cat fish." The animal was visable for
about two minutes.
In June and July 1971 sightings began again. Witnesses
told of a creature thrashing in the water that was "the
size of a boxcar" or "the length of three or four
pickup trucks. Others reported "It looked as if the thing
was peeling all over, but it was a smooth type of skin or flesh."
Another person, who saw the creature's face briefly, said the
animal had a bone protruding from its forehead. Strange noises
were attributed to the creature. It sounded like a combination
of a "cow's moo and a horse's neigh." Someone managed
to take a photo of the animal, but it came out blurry.
The reports and the tracks had led Ritcherson
and Dupree to take the small boat out into the river. They saw
nothing, but suddenly, with a thump, their boat hit something.
They and their craft seemed to move straight up. The pair realized
that they were on the back of the creature. Fortunately the
incident ended without injury to either the boaters or the monster.
Ritcherson and Dupree said they never got a clear view of the
animal, but the two had a frightening memory that neither would
forget for a long time.
So what is this mysterious creature that has occasionally
been using the White River as a home? Biologist and cryptozoologist
Roy P. Mackal looked at the evidence and decided "the White
River case is a clear-cut instance of a known aquatic animal
outside its normal habitat or range and therefore unidentified
by the observers unfamiliar with the type." Mackal thinks
the "monster" was a large male elephant
seal that wandered into the White River by coming up the
Mississippi from the ocean.
Elephant Seal can grow up to 16 feet long and weight
nearly 4 tons.
The elephant seal, which is truly a huge creature
weighing 7,500 pounds with a length of 16 feet, is the largest
member of the seal family. Many of the characteristics noted
by the observers of the White River Monster seem to fit with
this creature. The molting skin, tracks, sound and particularly
the "bone" on the forehead all seem to match the creature's
description. Elephant seals come in two types, Mirounga leonina,
which live in the southern hemisphere, and Mirounga angustirostris,
which live in the northern hemisphere. The fact that the animal
appeared to be molting during the northern summer suggests it
might have been a northern animal. Male elephant seals have
an enormous range, migrating every year some 7,000 miles. It
is certainly not impossible that one found its way to Newport,
but why? Given that elephant seals only live about 15 years,
the same creature could not account for the sightings in 1915,
1937 and 1971. Is there some special reason that several of
these animals got lost and wound up in the White River? Nobody
knows, but it seems that at least one mysterious monster has
Lee Krystek,2000. All Rights Reserved