Search This Blog

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Eerie Erie Sheepman of Waterford

 The Eerie Erie Sheepman of Waterford

By Cole Herrold

Half-human creatures are a constant occurrence in the worlds of Cryptozoology, Ufology, Demonology, and other Fortean studies. Some are constantly pegged into their appropriate categories, whereas others seem to cross the boundaries forming new and difficult to determine classifications. Bigfoot, for example, is generally accepted to be a large unknown ape that resides in the forested regions of the state, yet there are some reports where bigfoot is in fact either directly or coincidentally connected to UFOs or other anomalous phenomena. Other creatures like dogmen, frogmen, fishmen, and lizardmen are regularly reported, and some do teeter in that gray Keelian world of joint phenomenon. But of all the unknown creatures out there, there is one that has brought many to the brink of terror and, in some cases, their own demise and ventures of into both a cryptozoological, Fortean and demonological phenomenon. This unknown group of creatures is referred to as Goatmen.

Goatmen are a peculiar bunch of creatures that exist almost universally around the United States, the most famous cases being the Maryland Goatman and the Pope Lick Monster. These creatures are described as humanoid in form, typically 6-7ft tall with features reminiscent of goat-like horns and hooved feet. These creatures are a mixed bagged phenomenon as they are researched by folklorists, Cryptozoologists, and paranormal investigators. These creatures are considered extremely aggressive some varieties have supposedly been known to carry axes or lure individuals to perilous locations. These creatures are also reported to attack cars, pets, and livestock, leaving dismantled corpses or bloodless bodies behind.

While reading J. Nathan Couch’s book Goatman: Flesh or Folklore? I stumbled upon one particular beast I had never heard of and was very near in location to me. This creature was tucked away in a short chapter called "The Pennsylvania Sheepman". The creature was described in very much the same universal way as the classic Goatman type figure, yet to me, it was interesting as it added another feather in Pennsylvania's already remarkably gaudy cryptid hat.

Waterford is a small town located in Erie County, Pennsylvania. Waterford has a rich early history predating both the English and French arriving in the US. The site where Waterford now stands was at one point a Native American village. The area had some remnants of this previous civilization all the way up to the 1860s. The area was home to two forts created by the French, and a wagon road was developed that interconnected the two. This fort and roadway led to an increase in commerce, which eventually helped build the town. The area had a rich history, some violent and some peaceful between settlers and the native inhabitants. In fact, the first death that occurred on the land was of a boy by the name of Rutledge, who died of wounds from a native American skirmish in 1795.  Waterford today is a sleepy town, not unlike the vast majority of towns and boroughs that exist around the country, has a current population of 1,517 and possibly one sheepish citizen.

The Pennsylvania Sheepman or the Sheepman of Waterford is a beast that made its debut in the town in the70s. America, it seemed, was reaching an all-time high at this point in weird creature sightings, including those of Goatmen like beasts, and Pennsylvania was no stranger to such beasts. Trying to research information about this peculiar creature is very difficult as a lot of sightings were not reported to the police or any other media source. All documented knowledge of the creature comes from later accounts, particularly in October of 2012 when such tales tend to be reestablished by local sources. Before that point, however, the tales of the beast were spread orally in the town's schoolyards and playgrounds and homes, spoken only just above a whisper to keep the beast at bay.

The vast majority of this enigmatic entity's sightings occurred on what is known as the Waterford Covered Bridge or, as it's known locally, the Old Kissing Bridge, which is located on Niemeyer Road. The creature is said to frequent this location, and some of the most violent encounters have been reported to of occurred by this hoofed hooligan. The most famous being a tale told by Herb Kinney, who had a friend who would come face to face with the monster one rainy night. His account would be included in both J. Nathan Couch's Book as well as an article entitled "The Legend of the Sheepman of Waterford, PA" found on the now-defunct website. Attempting to find the original article proves impossible as the site now is linked to a website that sells concert tickets.

Herb Kinney’s friend was out one summer night enjoying a nice little drive with another individual he knew. The night was growing darker as the two traversed down the old road in his dark blue ford mustang convertible. The sky began to swarm with an amass of clouds, and as the two reached a certain point in their journey, the heavens wept. The rain was beating down on the young men's heads due to the fact that the two decided that since it was such a nice night to drive around with the top down a decision, they would most certainly regret it. Herb's friend saw the possible air of protection from the elements in the Old Kissing Bridge and proceeded to go and drive inside. Putting the car in park, the pair left the vehicle and began to lift and adjust the collapsed roof back into place.

 It was at that moment that the sounds of heavy footfalls emanated from the bridge. The two men, probably thinking it was some kind Samaritan who noticed their plight or someone who was annoyed by their halted presence on the bridge, began to turn around unperturbed by the sounds. As the men turned, they realized that this was by no means something that seemed heaven-sent but something that to them seemed to of ascended from the bowels of Old Scratch's lair. The two men stared at this strange anomaly taking in the foul apparition in every detail. The creature was a 6-7ft tall beast covered in wet, dank grayish-white hair on its body, and atop its head, the beast was adorned with large, curled horns like a goat or rams. Its maw was adorned with long sharp carnivorous fangs, and the beast walked upright on hairy goat-like haunches, and its human-like hands were adorned with long sharp claws. Before the duo could even comprehend the strange caprine creature that clambered before them, the beast began to rush toward the men. Herb's friend reached out as he was assaulted by the beast hitting and smacking the creature until it let go. The two rushed back to the safety of their car, but the creature was in hot pursuit. The creature continued its aggravated assault on the top of the vehicle beating its fists and scratching its claws on the roof of the car. The friends struggled to get the car moving, but in a quick motion, the engine roared to life, and the two sped out of the bridge, leaving their unknown attacker behind as it unleashed a series of guttural sheep like sounds.

 The two returned to town, and Herb's friend returned home. He sat in his car for a second, his eyes reeling from the ghastly horror show he was plunged into and, with a sigh of relief, got out of the car. His roof, which was the whole reason for his pause in coming home, was decimated, its frame bent, and rooftop clawed and beaten. He went inside and told his parents all about his encounter with the horned hellion on the bridge. The parents proceeded to go outside and see the carnage. When Herb's friend said about calling the police, the two adults looked down at their offspring and said that nothing of the sort would happen. The idea of their son's brush with the goateed nightmare to them would be embarrassing and not something they would want to be advertised in town. So, the story stayed quiet until Herb would recount his friends' perilous encounter with the beast some thirty-forty years later.

This account is by far the most aggressive and detailed account of the Sheepman in the very scant cases on it. In several sources, there are claims of over one hundred sightings of this creature from the sixties to at least 2012. Yet finding anything about a vast majority of these other sightings has proven fruitless. This tends to be the case with a lot of cryptid sightings, though. For everyone sighting of a strange animal, chances are there are another ten that goes unreported partially out of fear of ridicule and partially out of a lack of places to submit an encounter. While the internet now has countless sites where people can submit their reports like Phantoms and Monsters, Cryptopia, BFRO, Singular Fortean, and with us now at the New World Explorers Society. Back in the seventies and sixties, while there are countless UFO newsletters, magazines, and bulletins, monster or cryptid encounters really only got reported to individual investigators, police, or the local newspapers. These options go back to the reason’s reports went unwritten.

While cases of the Sheepman are difficult to come across, Herb's friend is not the only one to claim to come into contact with this malicious faun. A woman named Marilyn had actually seen the satyr on more than one occasion. Marilyn claimed to grow up on Baghdad Road, which is another area that is a hotspot for Sheepman sightings. Some claim the Sheepman lives in a cave located along the road. Her accounts are interesting, for while they lack the sensationalism that Herb's friend experience, these accounts point to something more biological in origin as opposed to some heinous beast. Marilyn had claimed that she had seen this allegedly horned beast crossing the road twice in her lifetime. The second and most recent sighting occurred on one dark night as she had just pulled into her long stretch of driveway when there in front of her a gray form sprinted in front of the car it looked at her as it ran and without stopping returned to the wild wilderness it called home.

In my research on the subject, I came across one other scant account that appeared on The Pennsylvania Rambler of a boy named Eric who claimed one night to of encountered a tall and hairy beast with horns under the Old Kissing Booth who the boys whom the author of the article heard the account from claimed lived under the structure to come out at night to harass those on the bridge and nearby woods. This account is probably the most recent account if authentic, but the boys who regaled the author with the story also made claim Eric was drunk at the time of his sighting.

Another witness called Sally B. said that the Sheepman had lived along an old dirt road near her family’s farm. She claimed that the creature was part man part sheep much like the other cases reported yet in a strange turn of events claimed that the beast also carried a hook that it would use to scare people out of the areas it would call home as well as presumedly kill anyone it could get its hairy hands on.

This last report tends to shred some of the authenticity of the creature. Goatmen type creatures are often discussed by folklorists for the fact that in many ways, they behave and enact in many of the same or similar manners as other urban legends such as the Hookman or Cropsy. These figures are essentially immortal serial killers rumored to come out of their wooded locals to kill and frighten teenagers stupid enough to venture or make love in their areas. The Maryland Goatman case has many of these same attributes, including coming out to accost teenagers making out in cars. The Maryland Goatman is said to attack vehicles, pets, and teens with a large hatchet or ax. The Pope Lick Monster of Louisville is another supposed ax and lantern wielding Goatman that lurks atop a train trestle. Many who have climbed the trestle either led by the siren song of the beast or by their own curiosity have actually lost their lives, making it a legend with actual danger. These ax wielders are not dissimilar to the Sheepman and his hook in this respect. In Massachusetts and New York, legends of Cropsy and the Hookman reign supreme, and in the legend of the Hookman, the story goes that he was an escaped mental patient who had a hook for a hand and would come out to attack lovers, usually scaring them by scraping his hook along the side of their car. The Pennsylvania Sheepman, in this way, seems to be a weird barrier between the two areas of legends. This makes this creature more than just a physical chimera but a folkloric one.

Another element that seems to point to something folkloric as opposed to Cryptozoological or paranormal is an anonymous email claiming to know the origin of the Sheepman. Paranormal researcher and folklorist Heidi Kirclich LaDow received this email from a local after she was investigating the legend of the beast. The email goes as follows:

“I will let you know that the Sheepman story, as far as I know, started in the vocational agriculture student's heads, and the fable grew until the general public adopted it as a local legend. I heard of Sheepman in the 1970, and as a seventh grader it awed me and others. [the story was] that a man could have sex with a sheep [and produce a sheep-man]. What started as a dirty little story grew into a small town legend. I ain’t telling no more!”

This email is not an original idea. Many times, in the world of folklore, there are countless beasts that were supposedly the offspring of man and animal. In Greek culture, for example, the god Zeus in the form of a great white bull seduced Minos's wife Europa, and the two in a union produced an offspring which would become known as the Minotaur. Many times, in folklore, the idea of two totally separate species producing an offspring is common in places where cryptids are reported. There are several ideas of separate species like alligators and a monkey crossbreeding to form the creature that is seen or terrorizing the area. While we know this is a ridiculous idea, it is not unheard of for separate species to create offspring ligers, zonkeys, and mules; for example, are some common varieties that zoos or sideshows would purposefully create. In human history, our species co-bred with other hominids like Denisovans and Neanderthals resulting in the wide genetic diversity we have today as a species. There even was an attempt at one point where a scientist had tried to create an ape-human hybrid by inseminating a woman with orangutan semen. The results were unsuccessful but possible. There are even reports of the Almas Zana who supposedly had given birth to a half-human half Almas offspring in Russia. Now a man breeding with a sheep, however, is an entirely different ballgame and not possible to occur.

While the Sally B. account does match and points towards a more folkloric kind of beast, Marilyn and Herb's friends' accounts, if authentic, definitely point to something other than the oral traditions that all cultures share. What this creature or creatures could be, those are difficult to determine. Most Cryptozoologists often lump these kinds of reports in with Bigfoot cases as bigfoot is frequently known to attack cars and the sprinting type figure is a common behavior described by witnesses. While Marilyn's account is rather vague as she described it simply as a dark gray form that streaked across the road, so there is the possibility she did see a bigfoot like creature. Herb's friend, even though it's told from a secondhand source however seems to point to something entirely different his liminal space Sleepy Hollow-esque account is something that clearly depicts a half-human half goat-like beast and not a traditional bigfoot like creature. With that said, what could this creature be?

A bear or bigfoot would be the most likely explanation for this creature seeing as the height would be about the same as the creature seen, and it wouldn't take much to think that in the darkness that a bear's ears could be in the right light look like horns. The problem with this hypothesis, though, is, of course, that while bears will walk upright if their front paws are injured, they do not have the fluid movement as seen in creatures that are described as walking bipedally. As sasquatch would be the next possibility, but again there's nothing that would appear as horns on a bigfoot, and while it may be the answer to a select amount of sightings, it cannot be the answer to the creature Herb's friend reported.

One cryptid that does bear a striking resemblance to the Goatman is the Sheepsquatch. These creatures are almost a direct match for the beast seen in Waterford. The color, height, fangs, horns, aggressive behavior are all features that are the same as the Sheepsquatch. Now one feature that is reported in some Sheepsquatch accounts is that of a possum-like tail, but a tail is something not described in any of the accounts. Another possibly misleading aspect that could point to a different kind of creature is Goatman accounts typically are described as a thin creature, not a big hulking monstrosity like what is seen typically in Sheepsquatch accounts.

The idea of a Goatman type creature as an undiscovered species is unlikely but of all the hypothetical answers seems to be one of the only possibilities that could explain biologically what this creature could be. True, there is no evidence for such a creature in the fossil record, but at one possible point in our history, the ancestors of sheep were carnivores. Andrewsarchus was a large animal found in China, which has some debate around it. This animal was at one point believed to be the ancestor of sheep, but some are thinking it could be related to whales.  If the original hypothetical origin is correct, though, it is possible that this could be the great grandfather of the Goatman. As evolution would take its course, the creature’s ability to stand upright for a short period could turn into longer and longer periods and ultimately freeing up the front paws, which could extend the phalanges to the point of fingers. Resulting in what we now know as Goatman and even possibly Sheepsquatch. Yet, as with everything when it comes to hypothesizing this kind of phenomenon, the evidence for this is basically nonexistence.

Interestingly this is not the only time PA has seen a strange goat hybrid beast. A group of sightings from late summer of 1973 of a strange creature described as a goat horned, white-maned, tiger fanged, bipedal beast was seen attacking Amish farms. This creature was seen rampaging from farm-to-farm, devouring wooden tools and grabbing geese with its hands, which it later threw at a brave Amish woman who pursued the beast. J. Nathan Couch hypothesizes in his book that this creature could very much be the same beast and that it managed to move from Erie to the southern section of the state where these sightings took place.

Another article argues that this creature might, in fact, be extinct or if it was a singular entity dead, seeing as how the average life span of a sheep is around a decade. This to the author could explain why sightings after the 1970s were essentially nonexistent. This is interesting if accurate because if this animal is advanced in every other element as it seems to be, it would be unique for it to maintain this primitive aging quality.

A demon is a common answer for this mystery for a lot of people who have researched this phenomenon. While the Sheepman of Waterford does seem to be a physical entity in many regards' creatures like the Pope Lick Monster appear as something more phantasmagorical. Supposedly many mediums have linked these creatures to the infernal realms or as negative entities whose only goal is to kill and destroy humans. I personally do not agree with this assertion into this phenomenon as a lot of our depictions of demons are the culmination of the church taking various cultures' gods and spirits and converting them into the cloven-hooved beasts we see now. While I suppose it is not outrageous for maybe if these spawns of the dark one do exist that one or a few of them could look like a Goatman.

The final possibility is that what is seen is something like a faun, Pan, or satyr. In Greece, there were several myths of half-human half-goat animal and nature spirits. These creatures were a paradox as they were loud, rowdy creatures that would have sexual encounters with humans and have drunken bouts with the god of wine Dionysus but also passive, peaceful creatures who would play music on the panpipes and walk peacefully in the woods. The leader of the satyrs and fauns was the god Pan who could create a sound that would result in humans running away in absolute terror hence the origin of the word panic. These creatures are tied into the faerie world and folklore of a variety of European cultures, and some Fortean researchers believe that some reports of cervine and caprine type humanoids could be these creatures returning to our world to either protect nature or some other as yet undetermined reason.

While I'm open to the idea for a lot of creatures to exist, the Sheepman seems to me to be a heavy mixture of folklore and some potentially real encounters with an as of yet unknown animal. Just what that animal is, is to be debated. It seems that all the answers to what this creature could be are shrouded in mystery. Unfortunately, most of the accounts we do have are from secondhand sources or from online interviews, emails, and comments, so trying to interview the witnesses even more thoroughly is almost impossible. This creature, if real, would be an evolutionary discovery that could change the fabric of what we know about the ancestry of a variety of creatures and how evolutionary change occurs. Yet there are too many folkloric variables to ignore as well and this, of course, just pushes this creature deeper into the shadows of fable and out of the light of science. But perhaps someday we will find the answer to this mystery down Baghdad Road.

 Quick Facts:

Species/Potential Species: Mammal/Hominid/Primate

Location: Waterford, Erie County, Pennsylvania

Sighted: Throughout 1970s

Works Cited

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

Styn, Rebecca. “Eerie Erie: Seven Tales to be Told After Dark” Erie Reader. October 17, 2012. Accessed December 23, 2020.

Wanna See Something Weird?. February 7th, 2019. Accessed December 22nd, 2020.

Fort LeBoeuf Historical Society. Accessed December 22nd, 2020.

“Andrewsarchus”. Accessed December 22nd, 2020.

“Weirdness in Waterford”, The Pennsylvania Rambler. August 5, 2018. Accessed December 22nd, 2020.

No comments:

Post a Comment