The Mogollon Monster (/mʌɡɪˈjoʊn/ or /moʊɡəˈjoʊn/) is a legendary creature that has been discussed in accounts from central and eastern Arizona along the Mogollon Rim. It is most often described as a Bigfoot or ape-like creature, but descriptions vary.
Reports of footprints, video, and hair samples have been documented by enthusiasts, but no conclusive evidence has been found to date. Mainstream biologists remain skeptical to the existence of such a creature.
The Mogollon Monster is reported to be a bipedal humanoid, over 7 feet tall, with inhuman strength, and large eyes that some claim to be “wild and red”. Its body is said to be covered with long black or reddish brown hair, with the exclusion of the chest, face, hands and feet. Reports claim it has a strong and pungent odor described as that of “dead fish, a skunk with bad body odor, decaying peat moss and the musk of a snapping turtle”.
Stories say the creature is nocturnal, omnivorous, very territorial and sometimes very violent. It is generally reported to: walk with wide, inhuman strides; leave behind footprints measuring 22 inches in length; mimic birds, coyotes and other wildlife; emit unusual whistle sounds; explore campsites after dark; build “nests” out of pine needles, twigs, and leaves; and hurl stones from locations that are hidden from view. The creature has also been said to decapitate deer and other wildlife prior to consumption. In numerous reports, the monster has been said to emit a “blood-curdling” scream; described as sounding like a woman in “great distress”. Accounts of the creature regularly describe an “eerie silence prior to the encounter, an appreciable stillness in the woods that commonly surrounds predatory animals.”
Reported sightings range along Arizona’s Mogollon Rim, from Prescott north to Williams, southeast to Alpine, south to Clifton, and northwest back to Prescott.
The oldest known documented sighting of the Mogollon Monster was reported in a 1903 edition of The Arizona Republican, in which I.W. Stevens described a creature seen near the Grand Canyon as having “long white hair and matted beard that reached to his knees. It wore no clothing, and upon his talon-like fingers were claws at least two inches long.” Upon further inspection he noted “a coat of gray hair nearly covered his body, with here and there a spot of dirty skin showing.” He later stated that after he discovered the creature drinking the blood of two cougars, it threatened him with a club, and “screamed the wildest, most unearthly screech”.
Another early documented sighting was recounted by cryptozoologist Don Davis. During the mid-1940s he was on a Boy Scout trip near Payson, Arizona, of which he gave the following account: “The creature was huge. Its eyes were deep set and hard to see, but they seemed expressionless. His face seemed pretty much devoid of hair, but there seemed to be hair along the sides of his face. His chest, shoulders, and arms were massive, especially the upper arms; easily upwards of 6 inches in diameter, perhaps much, much more. I could see he was pretty hairy, but didn’t observe really how thick the body hair was. The face/head was very square; square sides and squared up chin, like a box”.
Marjorie Grimes, a Whiteriver, Arizona resident, claimed to have sighted the creature a number of times between 1982 and 2004. She described the creature as black, tall, and walking in big strides. A number of people on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation also claimed to have seen the creature.
Professor emeritus of biology, Stan Lindstedt, of Northern Arizona University, dismisses the idea that a large homonid creature would remain hidden in such a large area of the country. “I put that in the category of mythology that can certainly make our culture interesting, but has nothing to do with science.”
Generally the scientific community attributes creature sightings to either hoaxes or misidentification. As recently as the early 1930s, grizzly bears roamed the forests of Arizona. These may account for the early day sightings while other large mammals such as black bears, mountain lions and elk may account for the sightings of today.
The Mogollon Monster has become an object of local campfire stories. One such story, told by Boy Scouts, involves Arizona pioneer, Sam Spade, building a log cabin on land adjacent to what is now Camp Geronimo, only to be attacked by the creature, and is mentally broken for the rest of his life. Later his son Bill Spade and his soon to be wedded wife are killed by the creature on their wedding day. The monster is said to still remain in the area, looking for its next victim. Other stories explain the origins of the Mogollon Monster implicating a tormented Indian bent on revenge, or an Indian chief transforming to scare away his former clan. Another story involves a pioneer who is attacked by Indians, escapes, but is cursed by the spirits and goes insane. Still another story describes the creature as the “phantom of a white man who, as punishment for murdering an Indian woman, was hung from a tree by his hands, stretched to a height of eight feet, then skinned alive and left to die. Damned by the spirits, his ghost continues to roam the woods as the tragically misnamed “Skinwalker””.
After the Rodeo-Chediski Fire burned 467,066 acres (1,890.15 km2) of Arizona forest land, Dolan Ellis (Arizona’s Official State Balladeer since 1966) wished to help. Years ago, Dolan used a song named after the monster in a campaign against littering, especially in the wilderness areas of Arizona. The Mogollon Monster is included in Dolan’s “Wildfire” song, as a metaphor for the raging fire.
Every September, since 2012, The “Mogollon Monster 100” trail race takes place near the town of Pine, Arizona. The event is an “advanced degree endurance race of 106 miles that navigates its way up, down, around and through the beautiful Mogollon Rim.” It is said to be a very technical course in many areas, so prior race experience is strongly recommended. The event gets its namesake from the “mystical monster” and is held in the creature’s said home territory of the Mogollon Rim.
In June 2013, Payson, Arizona held their first annual “Mogollon Monster Mudder 5K” as part of the “Mountain High Games”. This timed 5k mud run was developed using mountain trails with natural and man-made obstacles with “emphasis on FUN, TEAMWORK and helping each other finish safely”. A special prize was given out for the costume that best resembled the Mogollon Monster.