Posted by: codsow | October 18, 2010

The White River Monster…

Keeping with the current theme of aquatic cryptids, lets turn our attention to a little known animal known to the locals of Arkansas as “Whitey.”

The town of Newport Arkansas is mostly famous for being the place where Sam Walton got his start in the “five and dime” store business. You have probably heard of his more successful business venture, Wal-Mart. Anyway, Newport is also famous for having a lesser known cryptid known as the White River Monster.

One of the earlier accounts of “Whitey” comes from the Civil War. So the story goes, Whitey sank a Confederate munitions ship. There is also a story from the Quapaw Indian tribe that has been passed down of Whitey sinking an indian’s canoe. The more recent sightings do not involve the sinking of ships, only the sightings of this mysterious creature.

The first publicized sighting was in July of 1915, when a farmer noticed the beast splashing around in the river and described it as “wide as a car and three cars long.” He also stated that the animal was gray. Whitey stayed hidden for some time, up until 1937 when two fishermen noticed the animal while having a hard time fishing. They reported the animal to the nearest land owner, who saw the creature, described it as having the skin of an elephant, being five feet wide by twelve feet long, and also having a face like a catfish. The farmer thought that this animal would destroy his crops, so he then applied with the local authorities to use T.N.T. to destroy the eddy and drive out the creature. Luckily for Whitey, the authorites denied his request, but the story brought in many people from across the USA. Many people showed up with cameras, a few brought their own explosives, and one reportedly even brought a machine gun. At this point in the story, people were starting to accuse the farmer of creating a hoax, just for tourism. But this was a highpoint in Whitey sightings, with around 100 during this short period alone.

Whitey stayed hidden for some time again, but resurfacing in June of 1971, when a few fishermen noticed a fountain of water blast from the surface of the river, with Whitey showing itself, this time with a spiky back. Luckily, one of the fishermen took a photo of the elusive creature, which was sold to the local paper. Supposedly, the photo was very blurry and many people were not impressed with it, but the newspaper has since lost the original copy of the photo.

The early 1970s brought many more sightings into the fold, many describing a long gray creature the length of a boxcar. Also noted from this era in the descriptions were a strange tusk sticking out of the animals head, and the bizarre noises that came from it, like the mixture of a cow’s moo with a horse’s neigh.

Then, in 1973, the Arkansas State Legislature created the “White River Monster Refuge,” where it is illegal to “molest, kill, trample, or harm” the White River Monster if one is discovered. I find this very interesting that the state government decided to become involved in a cryptid. It could very well be a political move to bring in tourists to a very small town, but it could be a very handy piece of legislature if people really kick up the search for this amazing animal.

One possible explanation for this unknown creature for some is that it is a male Elephant Seal. With its bizarre vocalization, it’s “tusk/bone/horn” sticking out of it’s face, like the male seal’s extended nose, and add the grayish coloration, one might think this would fit the description. Not to mention that Elephant Seals are known to migrate great distances. But in order for this to be true, it would mean that the seal would’ve had to swim through the Panama Canal to reach this area, with the closest Elephant Seal colony on the western side of North America. While possible, I find this highly unlikely.

So whether this is a hoax for tourism, a wayward Elephant Seal, or a truly unique animal, this is a creature that deserves more attention. So if you are ever in Northeastern Arkansas, take a closer look at the White River, and if nothing else, buy a T-shirt saying that you looked for Whitey.

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