The search for the fabled shaggy, seven-foot-tall, yetish, yowling, howling, discombobulating Mogollon Monster will hit Payson on Thursday at a “town hall” hosted by the Animal Planet television network, seeking locals with a link to the legend.
The show’s producers say they’ve already talked to 20 people who have had close encounters with Arizona’s version of the Abominable Snowman — and hope to collect more anecdotes at the 7 p.m. Thursday session in the Oxbow Saloon.
Presumably, the proceedings will at least entertain the ghost of the long-dead madam said to haunt the dark corners of the Oxbow.
“We do our research before we come,” said one of the show’s producers who insisted her name remain mysterious. “We wouldn’t come here if we didn’t know there were a lot of sightings.”
She said the 20 people they’ve already talked to have had close encounters with the beast between the early 1970s and “a few weeks ago.” The sightings are scattered from Payson and Strawberry past Show Low and into the White Mountains.
“Some people have videos,” said the producer, “some people have photographs. Some have recordings of howls.”
She said the show will probably not actually air until next year — or maybe in “a few months.”
Better hurry: We need help with the tourist season this year. Picture the banner outside town: Payson, home of the Tonto Natural Bridge and the Mogollon Monster.
Although scientists doubt its existence, the creature did make it into a 1966 song written by Arizona’s official balladeer Dolan Ellis as part of an anti-littering campaign.
Sightings have persisted for years, but no one has ever produced hard evidence to convince the many skeptics, who insist a giant, nocturnal, omnivorous, hominid could have escaped notice, even in the wilds of Rim Country. In the Wikipedia entry on the Mogollon Monster, Northern Arizona University Professor Stan Lindstedt said, “I put that in the category of mythology that can certainly make our culture interesting, but has nothing to do with science.”
However, one of the “consultants” on the video search for Rim Country’s very own Bigfoot, is self-declared Arizona Cryptozoologist Alex Hearn, says he’s seen the beast twice during an obsessive, six-year search.
Hearn says he moved to Arizona in part in hopes of finding the Mogollon Monster. The Gilbert father of six maintains a Web site (AZCRO.net) with accounts of his expeditions in search of supposedly mythological monsters.
In 2008, Hearn said he came eyeball to eyeball with a maybe seven-foot-tall Mogollon Monster just off Highway 288 about 20 miles south of Young.
“He had reddish brown hair — the most unique thing that I saw. I don’t know if this means it’s a female,” he said. “It was very upright: I looked to my left and there was this brown head and shoulder, raising its arm up in almost a swimming motion, lifting the branches out of the way.”
Hearn insisted: “It had human-looking eyes — very dark and big. It did have a huge, huge brow — that seemed to be more brownish skin. The eyes were deep and stared right at me: I was caught in this glance. It didn’t look away. Its eyebrows went up.”
He said on that trip he also made a plaster cast of a footprint and got a hair sample by hanging a trout about 15 feet up in a tree next to an arrangement of duct tape. He said he’d submitted the hair sample to a group of Bigfoot researchers for DNA analysis, but couldn’t yet release the results.
Hearn said he saw another monster in May of 2008, while investigating a cluster of sightings on the White Mountain Apache Reservation.
He was heading for a campground with a caravan of vehicles when he heard screams. They fanned out, moving toward the sound. The group included several people with thermal imagers. Hearn said he was equipped with a night vision scope.
Hearn caught a glimpse of something standing behind a tree. The creature stepped out from behind the tree at a distance of about 20 feet, said Hearn. He said the creature was much thinner — about six feet tall.
At that moment, the team with a thermal imager warned him on the radio that something was approaching him from behind, said Hearn. “I heard some twigs break. I just didn’t know what to do, but I started running towards what I heard — and whatever it was went the other way. I don’t know what made me think that way: I’m certainly not brave enough to chase one of these things if I think about it.”
Hearn said that despite the close encounters, they collected no physical evidence.