By Shaun Treat
One of the more unusual stories we've run across in our archival research into Denton is that of the 1963 Prairie Street Monster hunt. In July of 1963, two frightened boys reported walking upon a towering hairy “monster” stomping along a creek bed at the easternmost parts of Prairie Street, causing one terrified boy to freeze in horror while the other ran away screaming. A week later, The Denton Record-Chronicle relayed Denton County Sheriff, Andy Anderson’s, dismissal of the event as a mere prank, yet it also alludes to other reports of a black-gray “hairy eight-foot thing” lurking under bridges or around thickets and vacant houses in East Denton that had been “freezing people in fear.” Also noted was a farmer southwest of Prosper who had a run-in with a large “very scary looking” beast the month prior that had mutilated several of his cattle.
What is known for absolute certain, however, is that the very same evening the story broke, an armed mob of around 150 people began sweeping the thickets southeast of the Square, which prompted Sheriff Anderson’s intervention to confiscate weapons after panicked shots were fired at something moving through the thick brush of Pecan Creek. In response to this public hysteria and a deluge of curious voyeurs now swarming upon the area, Anderson and 16 reserve deputies launched a thorough search of a 3-mile area in East Denton the following day. “If he was out there,” the Sheriff reassured the DRC, “we scared him out.” Over the next week, newspapers reported that the creature had been spotted in Lewisville, a Sanger farmer blamed the monster for mutilating six of his hogs, then later peering into the window of a Krum farmhouse. Despite the Denton Sheriff’s dismissiveness, something clearly had a good number of residents spooked enough to mobilize their own Monster Hunt with seasoned hunters shooting wildly into the brush at… some thing.
The Pecan Creek Monster was never again reported in the city of Denton, although a few short years later the Lake Worth Monster would rattle citizens of Ft. Worth. There have also been several Bigfoot sightings over the years since around Denton County and Lake Ray Roberts, while encounters at Caddo Lake, TX go back to some of the earliest written records in Texas. Could this hulking monster still roam the rural thickets and wooded corridors of North Texas?
Since the DRC ran a story on The Campus Theater’s mischievous manager Mr. Harrison in this Halloween’s edition, I figured we’d share a rather humorous “Letter to the Editor” in reply to Nita Thurman’s article that ran in the August 6th, 2007 edition of the Denton Record-Chronicle, from former officer Dwight Crawford of Sanger. Crawford recalls how Denton Co. Sheriff’s deputies helped keep the legend alive with kids leaving the Theater Row of our Downtown Denton Square late at night during the 70s. Explains Officer Crawford:
“Jim Tom and I would drive up in our police car. We would strike up a conversation and tell them that they should not dally around and they should head straight home. We would tell them that ‘Wolf Man’ had been seen out tonight and he was on the prowl. Then we would elaborate on his evil deeds and what he looked like.
They all would usually laugh and walk off shaking their heads in disbelief. Jim Tom and I would drive off then intercept their route. We would find a wooded area, hide the police car, turn off the lights, and turn on the outside speaker.
When we saw the group approaching, one of us would howl like a wolf over the mike. They would scatter like a covey of quail. Our official police cruiser could run 140mph any day of the week, but they’d be home, in bed, with the lights out before we could get there.
Those were the days when police offices were your friend, and used their common sense to prevent crime.”
Common sense and few Andy Griffith-style shenanigans, it seems! Happy Halloween, y’all!
Shaun Treat is founder of the Denton Haunts historical ghost tour. Doc has written about numerous local places and personalities at his Denton Haunts blog and is forever indebted to the great work of the fine folks with the Denton County Office of History & Culture and local keepers of history like Mike Cochran and Laura Douglas at the Emily Fowler Library for their tireless work in helping preserve Denton’s ever intriguing past.