Bigfoot sightings occur all throughout the United States, and similar sightings across the seas in a variety of countries. Tales of big, hairy, humanoid creatures caught somewhere between a person and an ape crop up pretty much anywhere in the world with only minor differences. The Yowie of Australia, the silver-pelted Yeti of the Himalayan Mountains, and, of course, the American and Canadian sasquatches all have three major similarities: big feet, frightfully tall statures, and a thick, musky stench. Coincidence? How could all of these legends have all of this in common? How could the tales endure to this day? Is it all part of some worldwide government conspiracy?
Well, there is some evidence to support this school of thought. One of the most notably vague occurrences surrounds the town of Sykesville, Maryland and the areas bordering it. There are little to no official reports of the creature, but instead of being labeled as “Bigfoot” like most similar sightings, this ape-like being has been dubbed the “Sykesville Monster”.
In the early 1970’s the creature made quite an impression on the public. The first glimpses of it were merely of a massive, hairy thing that raided garden sheds or shambled about on porches in the rural areas. Of course, there were no true records of the beast. Most of the monster’s fame was borrowed from other Bigfoot sightings, which were a popular topic of the decade. Perhaps the title “monster” was merely to differentiate it from a regular ol’ sasquatch, but all we can do at this point is speculate, as the name has been cemented into place by local media.
While the media had a field day, the citizens fell into a deep pit of fear and paranoia. Every shadow might as well have been the Sykesville Monster, police were called out time and time again to investigate nothing while hysterical residents cowered behind closed doors. The rash of reports did not halt business or productivity, but it was clear that the presence of the thing was being felt all around.
In 1973 the locals’ fears were confirmed, as an out-of-state trucker came across the creature in the middle of the road. He slowed at the sight of it, getting a good view before it became aware of his presence and fled the scene. The trucker described it as being seven or eight feet tall and covered in a thick coat of brown hair. He said that the thing’s lower body seemed to be caked with mud, the fur matted down like a wet dog’s. The trucker asked to remain anonymous, but still his tale whipped the locals into a frenzy.
The final nail in the coffin before a hunting party was sent out was a massive footprint. It was long, thirteen inches, and deep enough for a decent cast to be taken. Scientists could not definitively tell what made the footprint, though their final verdict seemed to be that the print was most likely made by a men’s sandal. This satisfied many naysayers elsewhere in the country, but the locals were more reluctant to accept it. Several search and hunting parties went out, some even accompanied by police or zoologists from nearby towns hoping to capture or identify the creature.
Ultimately, these searches led to nothing, and there are no records of any sightings between the years of 1974 and 1980. That is not to say that the creature disappeared or was not seen again, because there are many tales from around that told by reminiscing locals of odd occurrences in and around the secluded areas near Sykesville. Many believe that this “lull” in activity was simply because of a government cover-up, for the FBI had become involved with the searches just before the news abruptly stopped reporting monster sightings. It wasn’t until after the 80’s that a lot of people came forth with stories of their own, most tales originating from during that decade. One man recalled being a child and hearing something big screaming loudly and tramping about in the woods beyond his rural home. He states that the morning following that terrifying encounter, the woods were marked with broken branches, trampled undergrowth, and massive footprints. But it was never reported for reasons unknown. Many had experienced similar to the trucker, where the Sykesville Monster obliviously stepped out into the street as they were driving down the road. There were even a few tales circulating about the monster raiding or tossing about camping gear while people were asleep in their campsites, and, eerily, a couple where witnesses described something “lurking” just outside of their tents all night long.
Where these events passed by unnoticed, however, one man by the name of Lon Strickler would not be content to see the unusual occurrences swept under the rug. Lon was fly fishing on the banks of the Patapsco River, one mile from Route 32 near Sykesville, when he caught sight of a stray dog. Of course, he did not pay the wild animal much mind, and the dog passed by without incident. But soon growling and snarling erupted from the brush further downstream.
Lon, curious, but not expecting anything major, moved toward the sounds, expecting to see a fox or deer that could have startled the dog. What he saw was the Sykesville Monster. The ape hoisted the dog overhead, making a clicking sound with its teeth, and slammed it down. Hard. The dog yelped and bolted, bleeding but otherwise undamaged. The monster glanced at Lon and retreated into the undergrowth, leaving behind a very shocked fisherman.
Immediately, Lon hurried back to his truck and booked it to the nearest establishment with a payphone. He was told to wait for officers to arrive at the scene, but when he got back into the area he was surprised to see someone already had a car out there. As soon as he stepped out to tell the officer what he had seen, the man interrupted him and merely stated that he needed to get back in his car and leave. Alarmed, Lon pressed the man for details, receiving only a more aggressive order to go. So Lon left.
After an hour, he came back. This time the woods were swarming with federal agents, helicopters, and baying hound dogs to aid in the search. As soon as he pulled up to the scene, he was instructed to leave. Shaken, he did so.
Days went by without another mention of the incident. Days turned into weeks, and eventually months. Mr. Strickler called the news agencies again and again trying to gather information on what it was he had seen out in the forest. At first, the people seemed intrigued, asking a lot of questions and sounding genuinely interested in what had taken place. As time went on, the news agencies would simply refuse to speak with him. Same with the police. “There is no incident on record that fits that description,” is what he was told over and over again. It was like the report had been stripped from the record, and given the hard stares he received for asking around, Lon soon realized that something big was happening, but this did not stop him from pursuing the truth. It only made it clear that he could not expect any help from government officials.
He would later hear from an ex-police officer about the incident, which was revitalizing after being informed by many that it had never happened. The officer stated that they were the first to arrive on the scene, but the matter was swiftly taken out of their hands when federal agents began swarming in, reacting with a speed and intensity that alarmed even the most experienced local officer. They were told to get into their cruisers and stay put. Being outranked, they could not argue. Afterward they were told explicitly never to speak of this incident again, which is why this particular officer never said anything to Lon before his retirement. Even after he was no longer part of the force, the officer wisely chose to remain anonymous.
Very fishy stuff.
Lon’s investigations did not stop here, of course. He got into contact with several people who claim to have seen the Sykesville Monster, most notably a man named Phil, who had an experience very similar to Lon’s.
Phil was a fisherman like Lon, and he told Lon about an experience he had while fishing around the time Lon’s encounter took place. One of Phil’s buddies brought to his attention that there was a rumor floating around about a human skeleton just off one of the footpaths along the river. Naturally curious, Phil and his friend decided to go see if this was true. It was.
The bones were very human, same shape and everything, but with one jarring difference. The bones were huge, thicker than any human skeleton. Some bones were missing, but most of it was intact. The men did the only sensible thing, contacting the authorities as quickly as they could. But, as in Lon’s story, it was not the local police who were brought in to deal with the situation. Phil and his friend never truly found out what became of the bones, but they heard through the grapevine that nobody was allowed in the area until the investigation was complete. And not a word was heard about it after that.
It is the mysterious events surrounding this elusive creature that has led many to believe that the government is hiding something right under the noses of Maryland residents. And is it so unreasonable to have these suspicions when there’s clearly been something unusual happening around Sykesville? After the Lon Strickler’s story, reduced to being passed around on vague internet forums, never received any press? After the local news agency’s unwillingness to even discuss the matter, after seeming so curious when it was first brought to their attention? Conspiracy theories like this one can seem very farfetched… but is it so far out of the realm of possibility?
And the big question is this: Which is more frightening? The thought of meeting the monster? Or the thought that the government may be hiding the monster?