Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The leaping monsters of the Brandywine Valley

On January 21, 1932 James McCandless, walking near the town of Eagle in Chester County, Pennsylvania, saw a "hideous form, half-man, half-beast, on all fours, and covered with dirt or hair". A short time later, two employees of a nursery near Dorlan reported that they were frightened by a monstrous leaping thing, "neither man nor beast", which approached them. A McCandless and a hunting party canvassed the Dorlan area but found no sign of the creature - nary a track, nor any sign of exactly where it came from, or went.

I cannot tell whether the McCandless sighting, recounted by Loren Coleman in Mysterious America, and the Dorlan sightings, from Ghost Stories of Chester County by Charles Adams III refer to two separate incidents or one. But as Coleman notes that others reported sighting the creature before McCandless organized the hunting party, I have assumed the were different ones.

The "Dorlan Devil", as it was known, vanished for a few years before reappearing to be witnessed by Cydney Ladley, a Downingtown man who was travelling to Milford Mills. Ladley reported that the creature was similar to "an oversized kangaroo with long black hair and eyes like red saucers" and a passenger in his car confirmed his sighting. Ladley reported that the animal leaped across the road in a single bound and vanished into some marshland. Like McCandless, Ladley organized a party to search for the beast but came up empty-handed. The site of Ladley's sighting is now submerged beneath the waters of Marsh Creek Lake.

(The red eyes are a typical feature of Pennsylvania Bigfoot reports, and a high degree of agility is also reported on occasion. The Bigfoot seen at Latrobe, in Westmoreland County near Pittsburgh, in August of 1973 was reported to take enormous leaps.)

But these were not the only sightings of leaping monstrosities in Chester County and surrounding areas. On February 15, 1939, Sylvester Scott reported seeing a creature which leapt like a deer and made horrible wailing sounds from nearby Coatesville, and another wailing creature haunted the Sheep's Hill neighborhood near Pottstown, in Montgomery County ("Montie the Monster" may have been a black panther) in November, 1945. The Pennsylvania Bigfoot Society recorded that eerie screams, assumed to be those of a Bigfoot, were heard near Schwenksville in the 1990s. As Schwenksville is near Pottstown, perhaps they weren't.

In the southern portions of Chester County, near the Delaware state line, a dense forest called the Devil's Woods in urban legend stretches off of Cossart Road. Behind the typical urban legend standbys of Satanic ritual, inbreeding and phantom pick-up trucks are traditions of humanoid creatures haunting the woods - possibly yet another link in the riddle of the leaping monstrosities of the Brandywine Valley.

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