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Stories from the Historic Madison County Newsletter

It’s Huge Tusks

From the Democrat News, August 1949

By Dorothy Ross Schrader

Pardon me Suh, if I stutter and don’t mind my teeth chattering but I’ve just come through a most harassing experience and as yet have not sufficiently recovered my Brenda Starr composure. Remember the hair tingling story the three local shoe factory employees brought back a couple of weeks ago about seeing an ape-like animal in the woods not too far from Fredericktown? Sounded pretty fantastic, didn’t it? Seriously I wondered if they had been sampling “home brew” or if the rum was too aged when I heard how frightened they had been by something they had fantastically called a gorilla.

Brother, I am now thoroughly convinced that there not only was, but still is just such a “thing” on the lose in “them thar hills.” My hair fairly stood on ends and not just at half mast the other day when into our office walked a gentleman, who when questioned in the professional manner, produced an innocent appearing box from which he drew a plastic footprint of a baby gorilla. Baby my eye, looked like a monster!

The noble man was George Slocum who studied music at the college here from 1919 until 1926 under the direction of Professor William E. Roller and now is a piano tuner by trade. He and his family, which includes six little Slocums, three of whom are married make their home about seven miles southwest of Fredericktown on 280 acres of the roughest land Teddy Roosevelt could have imagined. When asked what crops he raised, George gave with the old he-haw and said he guessed we could say rocks, sprouts and persimmons. In his own confession he said his land was so hilly that you would have to grab onto bushes and sprouts and pull yourself up those St. Francis River hills. As if 16 years in such a disagreeable layout wouldn’t be discouraging enough then in 1946 along came the gorilla and since then there has been a regular war between George and the unexplainable beasts.

In the spring of 1946, Mr. Slocum’s eleven-year-old daughter, Agnus Ann, saw the huge upright hairy beast coming up behind her and when a dog barked a warning, she ran into the family dwelling. Mrs. Slocum has seen the atrocious gorilla a number of times and once as she was going through the woods to the home of a neighbor, she heard its uncanny breathing close behind her. Thank heavens she was calm enough not to run or chances are the Slocum children would today be motherless. Gruesome, isn’t it?

In Chicken Yard

At another time one of the gorillas was seen walking through the Slocum chicken yard towards the woods with its head, the size of a large water bucket, held proud and high. Mr. Slocum is certain there are three of the animals in the woods near his home because one night as he was sitting with his gun, he heard three calls from three different directions calling and answering back and forth. They make at least a dozen noises some sound like a man, others are more like screams, whistles or a hideous bark of the wild.

The plastic footprint which Mr. Slocum made from a track on the creek bank in front of his home is the foot of the baby gorilla and is much smaller than other tracks found at other times and at different places. The print is now on display in the window of the Cape News, 418 Broadway.

Although no one knows from where the strange foreign animals may have come, Mr. Slocum has a theory which may or may not be the answer to the puzzle. He believes the two large gorillas may have been placed here by the (Japanese) during or prior to the war. The pair mated and that accounts for the smaller animal which leaves its tracks in many accessible places.

Such animals are not kept by traveling shows and none have ever been known to escape from zoos where they are sometimes kept. They weigh approximately 500 pounds and could make short work of several men with one destructive blow with a mighty hand or paw.

Gets Armed

Mr. Slocum purchased a 30-30 rifle soon after the gorilla was first seen by his daughter and keeps it loaded and handy at all times. Many a night he has kept a stealthy vigil for the peach-stealing monster and has found its trail in the morning nearby. He explains this by the fact that it is probably afraid of light and keeps outside the range of his flashlight.

One night he sat with his trusty rifle, in his auto in front of his house awaiting his “friend.” He expected the barking of the dogs to awaken him, but the canines like to keep their distance and the next morning a muddy track was found on a foot bridge across the creek only a few feet away. Those dogs aren’t so dumb.

Personally, I wouldn’t have barked or peeped a sound either…. (smart dog, Fido!) One little dog who couldn’t curb his instinct and yelped at the big hairy critter with Caesar Romero sideburns ended in dog heaven after one mighty slap from “his honor.”

Drank Milk

A milk pail which had been purposely placed on one side of the Slocum porch full of milk was found the next morning on the other side empty…and spooks just don’t live in the Fredericktown woods. The liquid must have gone by way of the hungry mouth of the vegetable, fruit and nut eating monster.

Neighbors and friends make fun of the Slocum’s for their story about the gorillas and scoff at them for putting out banana peelings and other bait but if they could see the tracks, feel the presence of the unseen danger, or hear the actual breathing of the man-like ape nearby maybe they’d turn their heads in shame and fear for George Slocum and his family.

An animal described as similar to the one seen by George and others in the area, was known to have killed a couple of persons at or near Belleville, Illinois.

John Lutz of Fredericktown, a shoe factory workman, shot at the “thing” with a shotgun at a spot about 20 miles from where Statler, Templeton and Propst said such an animal took their sausage. Lutz estimated it would have weighed 500 pounds, had gleaming tusks and hairy sideburns of hair.

Runs Fast As A Horse

All who have seen it say it walks upright as a man and can run as fast as a horse. Its front limbs are long and where tracks are found there are usually knuckle prints as well. Coarse hair completely covers its body.

Fox hunters report hearing its repeated breathing but have failed to see it. This is explainable by the fact that they usually have lights. Numerous dog owners have promised to bring their fierce dogs to hunt it, or them, but according to Slocum they never have gotten around to it…and my guess is that if they are smart, they never will!

Some hunters from Moberly who were looking for the atrocious beast were in the Slocum house when they felt its eyes burning at them through a window. They were equipped to kill it but wouldn’t fire their guns after seeing how closely it resembled a human.

Such are the weird tales which come from the wooded hills in which the pair of gorillas and their offspring continue to live in frightening reality. George Slocum and his family hope that someday the mysterious animals may be captured or killed, and they can once again return to normal living they knew some four years ago before their unwanted “guests” arrived to leave their trail of danger and despair.

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