Thursday, October 29, 2009
The White River Monster - Arkansas
One of the strangest and most enduring tales involves claims that a giant monster of some sort inhabits the White River in Arkansas.
The White River Monster first appeared in the press in 1912, when a party of timber workers spotted what they described as a giant 300 pound turtle on the bottom of the river downstream from Branson, Missouri. The claim led to considerable excitement in Branson and a party of sportsmen set out with ropes and other gear to try to capture the creature. The results of their expedition are not known.
The monster surfaced again 12 years later, near the town of Newport, Arkansas, but it was not until 1937 that it made its first huge splash. Hundreds of people flooded to the community in hopes of catching a glimpse of the monster after it was seen by Bramlett Bateman and workers on his farm in a deep eddy of the White River six miles below Newport. The local Chamber of Commerce made the most of the opportunity, spreading the news to newspapers far and wide, placing signs on highways and charging people 25 cents a head to look for the monster.
A former navy diver went into the river three times looking for the monster, joined once by a local resident who donned homemade diving gear made from an old gas tank, a rubber hose and a bicycle pump. The monster was not found.
Another major burst of publicity was generated in 1971 when sightings of the monster surged following a spell of high water.
What could it be? Theories range from a giant catfish to some kind of ocean creature that wandered off course to a prehistoric monster. Others less inclined to believe it is alive have suggested logs, masses of vegetation or a sunken boat that sometimes rises to the surface.
One thing is certain, over the last 100 years, the White River Monster has become an important part of the folklore and tradition of northeastern Arkansas. To learn more and see a possible photograph of the monster, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/whiteriver1.