Skip to main content

The Monster of the Cheat River

A vintage postcard from Cheat Haven, not far from where the monster was sighted.

In 1893, a grotesque monster emerged from the depths of the Cheat River in Fayette County, Pennsylvania, and began a summer-long campaign of stealing livestock from local farmers, carrying away the helpless animals in its enormous mouth. The monster was seen by numerous witnesses, and hunted by dozens more, but to this very day no one has any idea of just what exactly killed hundreds of pigs, sheep, chickens and calves.

Details of the first documented sighting of the Cheat River Monster appeared in the nearby Uniontown Standard newspaper, and word of the curious cryptid soon spread throughout the state. The following story appeared in the July 31, 1893 edition of the Philadelphia Times:

For months past farmers living near the Line Ferry have been missing sheep, lambs, pigs and even young calves, to say nothing of innumerable chickens, turkeys and geese, and until a few days ago they blamed the Italians and other laborers engaged in grading the State line road with stealing the missing animals. Not a night since early last spring has passed without some farmer waked up in the morning to find that he had been robbed of a fat pig, a young calf, a sheep, two or three choice lambs, or half a dozen of his finest barnyard fowls. Effort was made to catch the thief, but every attempt proved a failure and everybody had about settled down to the belief that the laborers along the railroad were doing the stealing.

But the mystery has at last been cleared up to the minds of at least three of the most reputable farmers of the neightborhood. They will not at present allow their names to be made public, and it was only after assuring the correspondent to keep their names out of print that they told him what they knew about this "Monster of Seltzer's Hole", as it is called. They each saw the monster on different occasions, but at about the same hour in the morning, and give about the same decription of it.

"I first saw the monster,' said one of the farmers, "just at daybreak last Tuesday morning. I got up very early to go to Uniontown, and started out to the pasture field to get the horses, and just as I opened the barnyard gate I heard a terrible racket down by the calf pen, which was immediately followed by the stampede of every living object in the barnyard in the direction of the house. The chickens and turkeys flew with loud cries of distress into the trees in the yard and to the roof of the house, and the cattle and pigs crowded around me trembling with fright and uttering pitiful outcries of terror.

"Something down at the calf pen had given them a terrible fright, but what it was I could not imagine. But I resolved to find out, and pushing my way through the trembling animals I started down to the calf pen. When I got withing twenty yards of the pen the most horrible looking monster the mind could conceive clambered over the strong rail fence that surrounds the calf pen, carrying in its mouth a 3-days-old calf.

"I tried to turn and fly to the house for protection, but if the monster had been within a foot of me I could not have moved an inch. I tried to cry out, but not a sound escaped my lips. My tongue seemed to be made of lead, and my eyes were fixed on the awful-looking creature that was slowly moving off toward the river, still carrying in its mouth the calf it had stolen.

"It looked to me to be the size of an Alderney cow, although its legs were very much shorter and its body was somewhat longer. Its back was ridged and humped in the centre, and from behind each shoulder protruded something which was neither a wing, fin, arm nor claw, though it resembled each of them. Its tail was long and thick and resembled that of a crocodile, except that the end was forked, resembling that of a monstrous fish. Its feet were webbed and resebled those of a bear in outline, and were as large as a peck measure. The body was covered with big, heavy scales, which moved as the monster walked.

"But the head of the dragoon was the most fearful looking part of all. It was as large as that of a horse and covered with large warty knots. Directly in the forehead and just below the eyes was a monstrous, jagged, horn-like protuberance, and just back of the ears were two similar-looking horns, though somewhat smaller. The eyes were as large as a teacup and stuck out from their sockets at least an inch and a half. The mouth of the beast I could not see very well, for the struggling calf was in it, but it must have been exceedingly large, for the monstrous jaws reached almost across the calf's body.

"The monster had traveled at least 100 yards toward the river before I recovered sufficiently to move. I was not asleep, but as wide awake as I ever was in my life. I resolved to follow the monster at a safe distance and see where it went. Rushing into the house I seized by double-barreled shotgun, and without waking the rest of the family I started after the ugly beast and again caught sight of it just as it reached a clump of bushes on the cliff which overhangs the river near Line ferry. It was broad daylight by this time, and with both barrels of my gun cocked I followed in the monster's wake.

"When I reached the cliff I looked down over it and saw the monster just crossing the road and making for the big rock in the water's edge, alongside Seltzer's hole.  It turned around when it reached the river's bank and glared back at me, and then with something between a growl and bellow leaped into the water and disappeared from sight. I went down to the bank and watched for sight of the monster for over an hour, but as it did not again show itself I went home.

"I did not tell my folks what I had seen, but simply said that somebody or something had stolen one of the calves during the night. Neither did I say anything about it to any of the neighbors until this morning. I knew they would not believe me, and might start a report that I was going crazy.

"But this morning, Mr. --- came over to my house and after fidgeting about for an hour or two took me out to the barn and said that he was bound to tell me something. After swearing me to secrecy he told me that the monster that I had seen on Tuesday morning- for it was evidently the same one- had carried off one of his finest sheep this morning and that he had followed it to Seltzer's hole, where it disappeared in the river. Mr. --- and I then went up tp Mr. --- and told him what we had seen, and he told us that he had seen it twice last week, but was afraid to tell anyone about it for fear they would not believe him. I can't imagine what kind of animal it can be or how it came to be in Seltzer's hole. We are going to keep a lookout for the monster to-night, and if he comes out will try and give him a good dose of buckshot."

A number of people of the neighborhood have reported that they has seen a strange-looking beast at night on the hills neat Cheat Haven during the past three months, but no one paid any attention to the stories, thinking them the creature of an imaginative brain, but if the word of the three farmers referred to can be believed the reports are true.

Marlin Bressi is a freelance writer, creator of the Pennsylvania Oddities blog, and author of the book Hairy Men in Caves: True Stories of America's Most Colorful Hermits.

Popular posts from this blog

The Incest Capital of the World?

At the far eastern edge of Kentucky, nestled in Appalachia, resides Letcher County. In spite of its isolation and poverty (approximately 30% of the county's population lives below the poverty line), Letcher County has managed to grow at an impressive rate, from a population of just 9,172 in 1900 to a present-day population of nearly 25,000. However, even if Letcher County tripled or quadrupled its present population, there's still a pretty good chance that virtually all of the county's inhabitants would be related to each other-- thanks to one particularly fertile family whose astounding rate of reproduction can put even the friskiest rabbit to shame.

Around the year 1900, Letcher County was the home of a man by the name of Jason L. Webb, who made national headlines for having the one of the largest families in the world. According to newspaper reports of the era, Jason had 19 children, 175 grandchildren, and 100 great-grandchildren. Perhaps even more impressive was his b…

The Ticking Tombstone of Landenberg

If you look closely at a map of Pennsylvania, you'll see an anomalous semi-circular border at the extreme southeastern part of the state. This circle, known officially as the "Twelve Mile Circle", serves as the border between the Keystone State and Delaware. Much of the strange circle is surrounded by Chester County, one of the three original Pennsylvania counties created by William Penn in 1682. While there are many historical points of interest in Chester County, few are strange or as steeped in legend as the Ticking Tombstone.

Near the London Tract Meeting House in Landenberg is an old graveyard which contains a tombstone which is said to make eerie ticking noises, much like the ticking of a pocketwatch. Landenberg locals claim that the ticking is the result of two very famous surveyors who arrived in town during the 1760s- Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon.  A young child supposedly swallowed a valuable pocketwatch owned by Mason and later died, and the boy's head…

Jenny Hanivers, Mermaids, Devil Fish, and Sea Monks

Three centuries before P.T. Barnum attracted flocks of crowds with his mummified Fiji Mermaid (which turned out to be a papier-mâché creation featuring a monkey's head and a fish's body), sailors around the world had already began manufacturing "mermaids".  Known as Jenny Hanivers, these creations were often sold to tourists and provided sailors with an additional source of income.  These mummified creatures were produced by drying, carving, and then varnishing the carcasses of fish belonging to the order rajiformes- a group of flattened cartilaginous fish related to the shark which includes stingrays and skates.  These preserved carcasses can be made to resemble mermaids, dragons, angels, demons, and other mythical creatures.

Jenny Hanivers became popular in the mid-16th century, when sailors around the Antwerp docks began selling the novelties to tourists.  This practice was so common  in the Belgian city that it may have influenced the name; it is widely believed …