After fighting in World War II, my father returned to his family’s farm located just outside the town of Richwood in Nicholas County, near the Monongahela National Forest. What he encountered one night on the isolated farm terrified him more than anything he had witnessed when liberating prison camps in Nazi Germany.
He told me that he went to bed shortly after my grandparents had retired for the night. His bedroom was on the first floor in the rear of the house which was built on a slope, so that his window was about six feet off of the ground. His bed was right under the window, so he could lay there and look up at the sky as the full moon rose overhead.
Exhausted from a hard day’s work on the farm he started to drift off to sleep, vaguely aware that the animals were beginning to stir uneasily in the barn. Fighting sleep, yet fully aware of the noises outside, he suddenly became alert to what sounded like heavy, dragging footsteps approaching the back of the house. He told me that the heavy footsteps got closer and closer until they stopped right behind the house where his room was.
It took every ounce of courage to open his eyes and tilt his head back, knowing that whatever this was, it was looking down at him. Still laying there, feeling paralyzed and in a cold sweat, he slowly tilted his head back and there it was, whatever it was, looking down through the window right at him, shadowed by the full moon shining from behind. Even so, he could make out the outline of its large head and shoulders, covered in thick brown hair, as well as the faint glow of its eyes. It just stood there staring down at him for what seemed an eternity.
Without any further hesitation he summoned the nerve to jump out of bed and slide across the floor to the door, refusing to look back. He told me he rushed into the kitchen and grabbed a poker that was next to the coal stove, in anticipation of this creature forcing its way inside.
In the next room my grandmother Rose had been preparing for bed, practicing her usual evening ritual of braiding her long hair, like many Appalachian women of that time. She heard the commotion and called out to my father, asking him what all the noise was about. He replied that something was outside and he was going to have to deal with it. As she walked to her bedroom window her reply was “Oh there’s nothing out there, it just your….” and she let the loudest scream my dad had ever heard. Whatever this thing was, it looked right in her window as she looked out, face to face. Knowing my grandmother’s voice, I am sure that her scream sent this creature on its way. She even woke up my grandfather who was known to sleep through anything.
After the family settled down, my father remained awake until dawn, sitting next to the coal stove with loaded shotgun in hand. In the daylight they discovered huge footprints in the soft mud outside of the house, leading from one window to the other, abruptly turning and appearing farther apart as if running and even stopping at fence that was approximately four feet in height. It appeared that the creature had bounded over the fence in a single stride, it’s footprints continuing several feet beyond.
News traveled fast, and later that day. neighbors came to view the footprints before the next rain washed them away. My grandmother corroborated my father’s testimony of the events of that night back in 1945 and dad never forgot the night when an unwelcome visitor came to call.