Bigfoot Encounters

Mike Conley's Tales of the Weird:
Folks were looking for Knobby back in 1979

By Mike Conley | The McDowell News, North Carolina

North Carolina, March 31, 2010 -- More than 30 years ago, folks in rural Cleveland County were talking about a strange creature that had been spotted lurking around the foothills there. It would become the most famous Bigfoot phenomenon in North Carolina's history.

Back then, people called the creature Knobby because it had been seen around Carpenter's Knob, just north of Kings Mountain. During the winter months of 1978 and 1979, folks in Cleveland County and surrounding counties were buzzing about reports of Knobby. A Charlotte TV station devoted a special program to the weird phenomenon, as I recall.

The sightings started around late December 1978 when 88-year-old Minnie Cook became the first to go public with her sighting. She had seen the black hairy creature near her house. According to one account from the time, the sighting of Knobby terrified the elderly woman so much that she would not go outside her home without her trusty rifle in hand, according to a Web site.

"People aren't just saying they saw it," said her daughter-in-law Ruby as she sat inside the store she operated with her husband. "They have seen it."

The store ran by the Cooks was located in the shadow of Carpenter's Knob. That store and nearby Mountain View Grocery became a local gathering place where folks could exchange their Knobby stories. And if you wanted to go looking for the elusive creature, those were some pretty good places to hear some first-hand accounts and get an idea of where to search.

Those who had seen Knobby described it as a 200-pound, 6-foot-tall, dark, hairy animal with a small head and flat face. One person who claimed to have seen it said it walked on four legs. Another eyewitness said it walked upright, like a man.

Back then, you might have also heard stories about the sounds that Knobby made. People who heard its lonesome cry described it as a "wailing in the night like a woman in pain," according to a Web site.

Some wildlife experts declared that what they were hearing and seeing was actually a bear. But others believed it was some kind of unknown creature that could have been both man and ape.

In January 1979, Jim Hollingsworth talked to people who claimed to have heard the strange cries in the night. He was convinced that what they had heard was not a bear or a panther.

"Their descriptions surprised me," he said to a newspaper. "They describe it as a sound that varies in pitch from a low growl to a high scream, as being like a bull bellowing, but with its own sound. They also say that after it screams for a few seconds it has a yodeling type sound."

For six years, Hollingsworth had been looking into the Bigfoot phenomenon. As an investigator for the North American Research Association in Eugene, Ore., he had spent most of his free time searching in the Green Swamp south of Wilmington, before going after Knobby. He said the descriptions of the creature's mournful cry matched the descriptions of the Sasquatch sounds from the Western states.

Meanwhile, D.H. Canipe, whose wife reported seeing the mysterious creature, believed Knobby was really a mountain panther.

From late December 1978 through January 1979, at least 16 Knobby sightings were reported in the area around Carpenter's Knob. Forest Price of Casar said he found his goat dead of a broken neck and suspected that Knobby might have been the killer. An animal den and tracks were later found about two miles from homes of Forest Price and his nearby brother. Searchers at the time said the tracks were as large as a man's hand and had a thumb-like protrusion, according to a Web site.

A radio station in Shelby put together an all-night search for Knobby and searchers soon arrived by the pickup truck load. Of course, the creature was not found and broadcasters with the station soon admitted it was a publicity stunt.

For some reason, I did not pay enough attention to tales about Knobby at the time, even though I have always been interested in Bigfoot stories and this one was happening so close to home. Like similar weird phenomenons, this one too died down and people soon started talking about other things.

But if someone has any stories about Knobby, I would like to hear about it. You can contact me at 652-3313, ext. 3422 or e-mail nconley at mcdowellnews dot com

I would also like to know if any more sightings have happened in that part of Cleveland County since then.

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