Bigfoot Encounters

William Stage writes about the Missouri Momo Monster
© The River Front Times Online Archives

Louisiana, Mo., is a sleepy Mississippi River town about 25 miles southeast of Hannibal, but 26 years ago this month the town gained national attention as documented reports of a wild-and-woolly man-creature - the Midwest's answer to Bigfoot - began to surface.

The press jocularly dubbed the elusive and rank-smelling critter "Momo," for "Missouri Monster."The first sighting was on the afternoon of July 11, 1972. The Harrison boys - Terry, 8, and Walley, 5 - were playing near their home at the base of Marzolf Hill, a ridge that runs the length of the town.

At some point, Terry felt an unease. He glanced up and saw something staring at him. It was big and hulking and ominous. Its face was obscured by a mat of long hair. Terry screamed. In the house, 15-year-old sister Doris, hearing their screams, ran to the window. "It was right by the trees," she would later tell reporters, "6 or 7 feet tall, black and hairy. It stood like a man, but it didn't look like one to me."

Now, this was 1972, and, true, there were hirsute hippies roaming the forests. And at times there would be seen lumbering through town some scruffy barge hand who might prompt a double-take, but it seemed this was a new species. Both Terry and Doris said the creature seemed to have no neck, and it was carrying under its arm what looked like a dead dog flecked with blood.

Edgar Harrison came home from work and found no monster, but near the tree where his excited children said the thing had stood he found faint footprints in the dust and black hairs stuck to some twigs. Harrison tried to reassure them that what they had seen was probably a hobo who by now was long gone from the area.

Harrison was a deacon in the Pentecostal church, and that Friday, July 14, there was a prayer meeting at his home. Later, as the group socialized on the porch, they heard a series of growls and shrieks coming from the water reservoir atop Marzolf Hill. The harrowing sound got louder and louder as it drew nearer.

The neighbors, too, came out to see what manner of beast was making such a racket. One of them yelled, "Here it comes!" In a panic they one and all fled, away from the awful screams. According to the Louisiana Press-Journal, by the time police arrived on the scene, all was quiet once more.

Others began seeing Momo. About 5 the next morning, Louisiana resident Pat Howard saw a manlike creature cross the road near Marzolf Hill. He described it only as a "dark object" running like a man. On the river road that runs northward out of town, Ellis Minor, then 63, sat alone in front of his cabin. Around 10 p.m., his bird dog began to growl. Minor got his big flashlight and shined it out toward the road. "It was standing there," Minor told a UPI reporter. "I couldn't see its eyes or face - it had hair down 'bout to its hindparts.

As soon as I threw the light on it, it whirled and took off thataway."On July 19, Louisiana police chief Shelby Ward organized a 20-man posse to search Marzolf Hill. Spread out with walkie-talkies, they combed the ridge from end to end. On one of the paths they saw that an old dump had been recently disturbed, rubbish dug up and strewn about.

They also discovered two disinterred dog graves with bones scattered about. It was getting weirder and weirder.The Harrison home had become a staging area for Momo seekers.

Edgar took Richard Crowe from Chicago's Irish Times up on Marzolf Hill. Crowe would write, "As we walked up the path, we found a set of tracks. They looked like large human footprints. Even with the heel impression incomplete, it measured 10 inches long and five inches wide. There had been no rain for 10 days and we estimated that more than 200 pounds of pressure would have been necessary to make prints in the hard soil."

The intrepid party then located "a vacant shack that might serve as a sleeping place for the monster. A pile of leaves and debris in one corner may have been its bed or nest." They prowled around the shack for awhile, "then we smelled an overwhelming stench that only can be described as resembling rotten flesh or foul stagnant water. 'That's him boys,' announced Harrison. 'He's around here somewhere.'" But, again, nothing came of it.

Reporters weren't the only outside investigators converging on the town. Hayden Hewes and Daniel Garcia of the International Unidentified Flying Object Bureau in Oklahoma City arrived and camped out in Harrison's backyard. They collected statements from witnesses and made plaster casts of the two tracks on Marzolf Hill.

Hewes theorized that the monster was a "giant, hairy biped" left by a UFO. He said the descriptions matched some 300 other sightings he had collected, including two the previous year from Washington and the Florida Everglades.

Meanwhile, there were Momo sightings up and down the Mississippi, from St. Charles County to Hannibal. A DJ on a country-music station in nearby Bowling Green recorded a song, "Momo the Missouri Monster," and that did more to fuel the legend than anything else. For several years after the scare, the town of Louisiana held Momo Days, with the residents walking around wearing wigs with the tresses in front. But the bottom line is he's still out there, spooking horses, stealing dogs - just for a snack, mind you - and still smelling as funky as the river itself.

For Bigfoot Encounters courtesy Marlene Trask...

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