We’ve all heard of Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster, but what about Hamilton County’s own White River Monster? Or the Pukwudjies that are said to inhabit the area around Mounds State Park? Or the Goat Man of Centenary?
A new book by Fishers artist and author Mark Randall and his co-author, Les O’Dell, explores these Indiana creatures and others whose legends have endured despite the lack of physical evidence.
“Indiana Cryptids: Mysterious Monsters in the Hoosier State” was released in early June, their second collaboration. Their first book focused on similar folklore creatures from West Virginia, where O’Dell lives.
Randall, 53, said he’s always been interested in mythical creatures. He said he remembers going to the library as a kid and finding all the books about Bigfoot, for example.
“I didn’t really get into it, I guess, until maybe 2017 or so,” he said. “I’ve been an artist my whole life, but I started experimenting with different artwork. I’ve been doing a lot of things like book covers and I’ve actually got to do some work for an independent film company called Small Town Monsters. I’ve done about 300 illustrations for their films.”
He had never focused strictly on Indiana before. Although he already knew a few of the Hoosier legends, Randall said he discovered many more through his research.
Randall said O’Dell researched stories, as well, and did much of the writing. Randall focused on the artwork to accompany each legend, although he said he wrote some of the stories that he felt closer to.
“One of the cryptids, it’s called the Goatman of Centenary, which is Centenary, Indiana,” he said, adding that he grew up just across the state line from there, in Illinois. “I spoke with some local people, and I actually asked my mother if she remembered any of these things, because it made the newspaper and she said, ‘Oh, yeah, they called it the Centenary Goatman.’ So, she was aware of it, but I had never heard of it my whole life.”
Randall said the Goatman legend started in the mid-1960s.
“There was kind of a strip mine location that these men were fishing in, and they thought they saw a sort of a large, hairy upright creature,” he said. “They actually went back to the police to report it. And so there was sort of a manhunt for this thing.”
Randall said one theory was that it was actually a goat that had reared up on its hind legs to reach leaves on a branch, but some people said they saw human footprints and that the creature was glowing.
Among Randall’s favorite Indiana cryptids are the Pukwudjies, which have been reportedly seen around Mounds State Park in Anderson. He said Pukwudjies are known elsewhere, and the stories are a little different depending on location.
“Some are identified as more troll-like, but the ones in Mounds are more human-like and they’re sort of mischievous, and they look basically like small humans,” he said. “What’s interesting is I’ve hiked Mounds quite a few times and I didn’t know about that story. The last couple of times I’ve gone, I’ve kind of been more careful.”
Randall said he hasn’t seen a legendary creature with his own eyes, but he can understand how the stories might evolve over time.
“Like the Beast of Busco (a humongous snapping turtle) — I think it’s not out of the ordinary to have a large snapping turtle be seen and then sort of blown out of proportion over time,” he said. “So, some of the things (in the book) I think are definitely more folklore oriented. But I know that there’s got to be large turtles out there somewhere. They just may not be as large as a rowboat.”
Randall said his book is a kind of history book, focusing on folklore and the stories people traditionally tell over campfires.
“I just think this history is interesting. The other thing is, we tried to cover the whole state,” he said. “Each area of the state has sometimes its own stories and folklore.”
In fact, people throughout the world have stories of mystical creatures, he said.
“Cultures have long histories of that and they strongly, strongly believe in it,” he said. “I don’t ever want to make fun of something. In my art, I don’t want it to look cartoonish or anything like that. What I like to do is listen to the person’s testimony of what they saw and try to replicate it as close as possible. It’s never going to be exactly what they saw, but that way you’re not discounting their information or trying to make it, like I said, more cartoonish.”
“Indiana Cryptids: Mysterious Monsters in the Hoosier State” was featured in the Indiana Department of Natural Resources store at the Indiana State Fair, Randall said. It also is available at Nickel Plate Arts or Noblemade in Noblesville, or on Amazon.
The Indiana creatures of legend detailed in Mark Randall’s book are:
- The Beast of Busco
- Boonville Monster
- Bremen Bridge Troll
- Cable Line Monster
- Crawfordsville Monster
- Crowley Creature
- Ghoul Snake
- Goat Man of Centenary
- Green-Clawed Monster
- Mill Race Monster
- Mud Mermaids
- Mysterious Cats
- Oil Pit Squids
- Roachdale Monster
- Spectral Hounds
- White River Monster