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Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Wood Eating Amish Country Goose Grabber

 The Wood Eating Amish Country Goose Grabber

By Cole Herrold

Cryptid Research, in general, can be extremely difficult for a myriad of reasons a lot of which are not too dissimilar to what biologists and zoologists experience in the field or as some archivists have trouble with when trying to find some missing piece in a grander account. Cryptozoologists have all of these issues and more as there is for those in the field equal parts of both with newer sightings the most difficult aspect would have to be the fieldwork itself but with resources the accounts are usually recorded and made readily available. When looking at older cases, though, the already established problems are doubled as witnesses either now are deceased or refuse to discuss the events due to the countless years of criticism or even the fact that to protect their identities, they chose to remain anonymous. While I understand and respect those who choose to do so, it does make it difficult for future researchers to discuss the events of their sightings in an attempt to glean more information. With cases that are older and feature anonymous witnesses, we are left entirely upon the research of those who have cataloged the accounts, which in itself can lead to problems. One of the main is the interpretation of extremely obscure cryptids. As researchers, I know we want to put things in neat little piles, but sometimes that desire for order really creates false information. This is one such case for this creature has appeared in The Bigfoot Casebook, Strange Pennsylvania Monsters, Goatman- Flesh or Folklore?, I Know What I Saw and the first book I encountered the beast in Monsters of Pennsylvania. The beast is such an enigma that it is thrown in almost every terrestrial Cryptozoological category and researchers completely aligning it to one cryptid or another. I’ve heard it referred to as a bigfoot, Goatman, horned tiger, and a totally unknown beast, and to this day, no one is sure what was lurking around the Amish homesteads. The creature I've come to dub the Wood Eating Amish Country Goose Grabber is a weird chimeral beast that, to me, does not match any known cryptid. It bears a resemblance to creatures we know like Sheepsquatch, Bigfoot, Goatmen, and even to some extent the fictitious Ozark Howler, yet there are features about it that are left up to interpretation, and because of this, the creature can appear extremely bizarre and different than all of them.

The Wood Eating Amish Country Goose Grabber is, as the name implies, reported to lurk in the fields, woodlands, and valleys of the Middle to Southern portion of Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania has Amish colonies that have, in a way, become one of the state's most notable features. The humble and hardworking societies that dot the state are mostly located in the southern portion of Lancaster County. Lancaster County is, in fact, the largest and oldest Amish community in the United States, with an approximate population of 30,000. They are mostly known for their strong Christian beliefs, salt of the earth lifestyle, simple clothes, their shunning of modern technology, which results in probably their most famous attribute, their usage of horses and buggies. They are master craftsmen and cooks and have a rich folklife and folk history that is fascinating to study.

I stated earlier that this case is very problematic in many ways. It is beyond just problematic that to the point it's a mess. The beginnings of this are even in the location of the sighting. The first article that was written on this particular beast appeared in the January 1974 edition of the Pursuit newsletter in the article "And Still the Reports Roll in". In the article, the location of the sightings is in an area known as "the Big Valley" in Lancaster, Pa. Upon doing some digging, there currently is no area in Lancaster, Pa known as "the Big Valley". However, there is an area in both Mifflin and Huntingdon County called the Kishacoquillas Valley that is referred to as “the Big Valley," and it was settled by a group of Amish around 1791. There is still a striving population of Amish in the area, which is currently around 3,000. This area is around a 2hr drive from Lancaster, and it could be possible either through the assumption that the Amish witnesses were from Lancaster or simply a misunderstanding that when the article was written up, the location was placed in the wrong area of the state. Another possibility, even though it is easy to point out this discrepancy, yet to give the writer his due, that there very well could have been an area known as "the Big Valley" in Lancaster. The sighting occurred in 1973, and if this were some locally known name for a particular stretch of farmland or some community itself, the name and location then could be accurate. It is boggling the number of businesses and places that pop up and are shut down because of one reason or another, so this could be an example of that. Trying to find information on this possible hypothesis, however, currently proves fruitless. Hence why I refer to the beast as the Amish Country Goose Grabber instead of the Lancaster Goose Grabber or the Huntingdon County Goose Grabber.

The weird case of the Wood Eating Amish Country Goose Grabber, though, would occur in the summer of 1973. The Big Valley area would be besieged over the course of three evenings by this creature's strange and unsightly rampage across the local farms resulting in the loss of both livestock and tools. The first encounter occurred one late evening when two Amish brothers on horseback were finishing their day's work by bringing into their barn a load of hay. It was just as the sun was starting to dip lower in the sky that the horses began to behave strangely. They began to buck and neigh as though some unseen predator was in their midst. The brothers searched the fields of their farm, looking for a coyote, bear, or some other possible danger. As they stared out in a particular section of the field, they noticed a strange moving figure that seemed to come near them. The brothers looked as the figure approached yet remained unalarmed since the way the figure was running made them think it was a relative or neighbor coming to tell them supper was done or possibly to come help finish the chores for the day. As the figure came closer, however, the brother's eyes widened as the gray blob became clearer to them, and they realized that this was not a human but a strange beast running like a man. They could make this strange creature out as it came closer. Adorned on the top of its heads were two long horns like a Billy goat or rams. The creature was covered in gray fur and around its neck, and possibly its head was a white mane, the creature was as big as a good size cow with long legs, its mouth had large tiger-like fangs, it came closer to the men where they noticed the beast's large hands that were tipped with grizzly claws. The horses bolted and bucked the men off, and the two fell onto the dry ground.

The men stood and waited for their inevitable end, but the creature ran past them, and some reports claim it grabbed a chicken and ran back into the woods. The men ran off to their home and proceeded to tell their family about their experience. They returned to the area where the horses were still out and had begun to calm down and searched the ground for tracks to determine what the animal was and where it could have gone to. Yet because of the lack of rain in the recent days, the ground was dry, and no tracks could be found. The men terrified by the encounter decided that this creature was not something he, his family, and his neighbors could deal with and went to the police with their encounter. Apparently, nothing was done.

The next evening at a farm about 5 miles from the initial encounter, the landowner was out cutting the ever-growing weeds on his property when he heard a loud and ferocious roar the creature in a similar fashion as what was seen at the brother's farm happened as the beast began charging towards the farmer. The farmer, in fear, raised the hand scythe he was using to remove the pesky weeds as the creature came closer to where he stood. The farmer realizing that this creature was potentially coming to end his life, took a swing at the beast with his gardening tool. Yet it was in a moment of horror that the farmer realized he was no match for this strange abomination as in one swift motion, the creature beat the tool out of the farmer's hands before it could make connection with the beast's flesh. It was in that moment that the man of the soil saw the beast and described it the same as the way the brothers did with only two differences, the first being it bore three horns as opposed to two and the second being that it had a long tail.  The man began to run away after seeing his tool now in the grizzly bear handed beast's grip. The beast did not follow, but what the beast did with this tool would not go unnoticed as it began to gnaw and chew and swallow the handle of the scythe. The next day in the spot of where the beast was seen with his scythe was the blade and bolts, all that was left of the farmer's tool. There is some issue on this part of the account as some sources say the beast did this in front of the farmer, whereas others say he simply found his tool handle gone the next day. The investigators who would later arrive on the scene would later comment that the beast's sudden wood craving was due to the fact the creature was craving salt because of the summer heatwave.

The third, final, and arguably most comical encounter with this strange beast occurred at a farm midway between the two previous farms. An Amish woman out feeding her chickens and attending to other needs of the farm was distracted by the sound of a loud cacophony of fowl noises. The sound was not the usual honking and clucking she was used to but the sound as though the animals were scared and worried. As she looked up, she saw the creature that her fowl friends and food had tried to warn her of. She saw it slinking around where her largest geese were and watched as the beast reached down and grabbed the biggest two, one in each hand/paw. The beast looked up and realized the geese's rightful owner was watching began to run away towards the woods. The Amish woman, in a moment that some could argue as brave, others as suicidal or foolish, began to then chase the beast down. She was waving her apron at the creature and yelling as she ran towards the strange beast. The animal, either annoyed by its pursuer or simply not wanting to get caught, did one of the most hilarious and frightening things it could have done. It, looking down at its hands, stopped and with what could only be a fraction of its strength threw the goose at the poor woman. The goose, assumedly dead, hit the woman with such a force that the poor woman fell on her back, and she lay on the ground as the creature made its way into the wooded terrain with one of its quarries.

That was the last known encounter of the Wood Eating Amish Country Goose Grabber.  It has since been one of the weirdest cases on record, and while it has appeared in several books on the subject of Cryptozoology, it usually is summed up in a paragraph. It is an obscure topic that terrorized an Amish Community to the point of them seeking outside help, something that tends to point to a sort of authenticity to the case. As with most cryptid cases were left with more questions than answers, and this case is one of the largest amounts of unanswered questions for me personally. This creature, for example, even with its description in regard to the mane, is it like a horse's mane or a lion's mane or something entirely different? The hands are sometimes referred to as paws like a grizzlies or long clawed hands, and upon reading all the information I've come across, it seems intermixedly in every source. I commented on the wood-eating incident and when the wood of the scythe was eaten remains a mixed mystery. Yet unfortunately, this case is almost 50 years old, so the eyewitnesses are either extremely old or deceased, and the fact that they are anonymous makes finding them impossible. So, we are unfortunately left with the material given and a vast amount of questions. With that said, there are things that we can speculate on, like, as always, what it could be.

The most skeptical possibility is of a misidentification, possibly of a gray or blonde colored black bear or a piebald bear. Black bears are reported across the United States and Canada, and while mostly reported to be black in color, there is an incredible range of colors that they can appear as from brown or blondish bears seen in the Western USA, White and light brown seen in British Columbia, bluish-gray as seen in Alaska. While there are a ton of variations in black bear color in Pennsylvania, black is the predominant color, yet we do have what is referred to as Cinnamon bears, which are of a browner color. There is the possibility that an alternative-colored bear could be the cause of this sighting, but it seems unlikely. Especially when you look at how this creature moves and behaves, it's something much less bear-like, and even its description implies that it cannot be a bear since bears do not have horns.

The next likely possibility is of a Bigfoot. A Bigfoot would match the behavior and some elements of the description reported of the Amish Country creature. Bigfoot has been reported with gray fur and is famous for disturbing horses and stealing livestock. Even during the filming of the Patterson Gimlin film, the horses behaved erratically when in the presence of a sasquatch. The fact that the creature seen also runs bipedally adds more to this hypothesis. There are, however, several features that do not seem to indicate that this creature is a bigfoot though. For one, the creature seen has horns, which is something bigfoot do not have. The fact that the creature had long claws and tiger-like fangs are also something that does not match a typical bigfoot description. Another feature is that this creature has a mane, and while it is not stated what kind of mane is represented, it's something that bigfoot does not typically own.

One of the most interesting possibilities that I’d heard proposed was by J. Nathan Couch in his book Goatman: Flesh or Folklore?  in it, he proposes that this phenomenon was actually connected to another caprine-like beast. This strange Goatman he was connecting to this case was, of course, the Sheepman of Waterford; he proposes that since the Sheepman was seen in the 70s and assumedly around the same time as when the Wood Eating Amish Country Goose Grabber. The idea that the Sheepman of Waterford basically went on vacation to the Amish Country to what it seems simply to sample that super tasty Amish cuisine is fantastic and possibly something that I honestly love the idea of it. The possibility that this is, in fact, the same species as seen in Waterford adds to the idea that there is, in fact, a breeding population of these beasts adding a more biological twist to a phenomenon often connected with the occult.

Another creature that is very similar to the creature reported in the Amish country is the infamous Sheepsquatch. I've written about this albino monstrosity, what seems to be countless times, and am surprised at how many times this creature could be behind a variety of other cryptid reports. The Sheepsquatch is about the same height and color as the creature seen in the Amish lands, as well as bearing the horns and fangs seen. The Sheepsquatch's hands are often described as resembling paws with long claws, which is interestingly not unlike what was reported in 1973. Even in the second encounter, when the witness claimed the creature had a tail is something that matches with the Sheepsquatch. Of course, the big problem with this is that Sheepsquatch is reported to live in the Appalachian mountainous areas of Kentucky and West Virginia and not the open fields of Pennsylvania.

While a Goatman or Sheepsquatch might very well be the answer to this mystery, there is also the possibility that what was seen in Pennsylvania may be a new animal yet undescribed even from a Cryptozoological standpoint. This creature is something that, while similar to a variety of the previously listed beasts, does have some features that seem to be entirely specific to it alone. If this creature, for example, eats wood not due to some lack of nourishment but as a food source, that would be something incredibly different than what has been seen in a lot of species. The creature is clearly intelligent; however, if it is a new animal for not many species would throw an object, let alone a goose, to knock down a pursuer so it can escape swiftly so it would be interesting to see what this creature could be.

Another possibility is obviously that this creature could be a demonic creature or supernatural beast. There are obviously those of a more religious mindset that would view this creature as some agent engaged in spiritual warfare against the faith-oriented community. It is also worth noting that Goatmen or goatlike creatures are constantly connected with evil or dark forces of nature, and since this creature seemed to act aggressively in two of the accounts, it is always possible that that could be the case here. It is unlikely, however, as the way the community treated this creature, they viewed it as a biological animal and, from what we can glean from the article, not some supernatural threat requiring prayer or some other dogmatic rite of exorcism to rid themselves of the bizarre aberration.

While doing research on this subject, I did come across a creature known as The Goat Baby. This creature is a supernatural beast that was birthed by an Amish woman named Ruth and a man named Ezekiel from Lancaster who had sex outside of wedlock. The case occurred on the show Amish Hauntings and featured the granddaughter of the woman who claimed to of given birth to the creature around the early 1930s. She claimed the early days of the creature’s life were cared for by the grandfather, whose sole duty was to keep the beast quiet and to stop it from escaping. The mother of the beast, however, wanted to train her child to be more like what her beliefs should be and proceeded to take the creature to church. As a baby, however, the beast cried and fussed and escaped its mother's arms revealing the hooved monster to the church congregation. This resulted in the family being shunned and the creature, after a horse and buggy chase escaping into the woods. The creature now allegedly attacks both people and livestock when winter comes, and an offering of warm food is placed out to appease the creature. The creature even has some eyewitnesses such as fellow Amish Jedediah and Mervin Troyer, who supposedly heard both the beast cries and hooves as well as experienced the loss of a prized goat, which they claim was the result of the Goat Baby.

This case, while clearly drenched in folklore and religious mythology, does have some comparisons to other cryptids. The tale instantly makes me think of the Jersey Devil and Mother Leeds and the in-between relationship they had, depending on the version of the tale. There is even a possible biological relation to an actual animal since a lot of these kills are in the winter when animals in pens would be a more available target than other species. Yet the tale of the Goat Baby seems to be a mixed case, something that could describe a child with a birth defect, folktale, and to explain some of the modern sightings a possible cryptozoological phenomenon intertwined with the story. It is interesting that Pennsylvania does seem to have horned and hoofed visitors that are in a close range from each other, so possibly the Goat Baby and the beast seen in 1973 could be related.

While there are certainly even more bizarre beasts out there plaguing and wandering throughout the United States, the Wood Eating Amish Country Goose Grabber has always been one of my favorite obscure creatures for obvious reasons. It is something that has a lot of similarities to other phenomenon but at the same time is so unique that it does not seem to fit in the natural order of things. In that way, it is a mystery that will endure until the ancestors of the witnesses or even possibly the witnesses themselves come forward with more information on what they saw and the problems that have been passed down in each retelling of the events. There may even be more creatures seen to this day that the community has not branched out to talk about yet. Maybe someday, some individuals will come forward and say that this creature did not stop its wood-eating and goose grabbing in 73' but continues to chew on tools and goose grab to this very day, and I really hope that is the case.

Quick Facts:

Species/Potential Species: Mammal, (possible Hominid according to some researchers)

Location: "Big Valley" Amish Communities either Lancaster, Mifflin, or Huntingdon Counties, Pennsylvania

Sighted: Summer 1973

Works Cited

Bord, Janet, and Colin Bord. Bigfoot Casebook Updated: Sightings and Encounters from 1818 to 2004. Pine Winds Press. 2006.

Couch, J. Nathan. Goatman: Flesh or Folklore?. CreateSpace Independent Publishing. 2014.

Flick, Warren. “Amish Country: Out and About in the Big Valley of Pennsylvania” Later Living. January 7, 2019. Accessed January 3, 2021.

Godfrey, Linda. I Know What I Saw: Modern-Day Encounters with Monsters of New Urban Legend and Ancient Lore. TarcherPerigee. 2019.

Miller, Matthew L. “When Is a Black Bear Actually a Blue Bear?” Cool Green Science. February 7, 2017. Accessed January 2, 2021.

Newton, Michael. Strange Pennsylvania Monsters. Schiffer Publishing. 2012.

Wilson, Patty A. Monsters of Pennsylvania: Mysterious Creatures in the Keystone State. Stackpole Books. 2010.

“Amish History & Beliefs” Discover Lancaster.,in%20the%20past%2020%20years. Accessed January 2, 2021.

“Kishacoquillas Valley”. Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. September 15, 2020. Accessed January 2, 2021.

Allen V. Noe "And Still the Reports Roll in". Pursuit Newsletter. Volume 1 No. 7. January 1974. 

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