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Thursday, October 21, 2021

New Kensington 'Green Thing'

 The New Kensington ‘Green Thing’

By Cole Herrold

Some cryptids are seemingly cut from the same cloth Bigfoot, Yeti, Almas, Seismite, Woodwose, for example, all are hairy hominids this indicates some close lineage or at least distant relation. Cryptids known as Reptilians are almost always indicated as the same entities and never seemingly have different features unless one branches out into the worlds of Ufology and Religious experiences, which have similar entities. Yet, in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, there was one such encounter with a juvenile creature that seemed to be totally different than the typical reptilian. The creature is often referred to as famous yet is rarely covered and is most notably referred to as the New Kensington Lizard Man, but to distinguish how bizarre and unique this creature is, I've gone back to using the original name for the creature that appeared in the Valley News Dispatch the New Kensington ‘Green Thing’.

It was a cold February 28, 1981, when 13-year-old Bill Menhart and three or four other boys aged 11-13 (some say up to 16) were out playing near the old railroad tracks by Constitution Boulevard and North Street in the middle of both New Kensington and Arnold in Westmoreland County. When they came across a slime-covered festering storm drain. Their attention was not on the drain itself, for they had seen the protruding sewage valve on more than one occasion but seemed to be something moving very close to it. The boys looked over and noticed that standing there was a creature that seemed ripped from another time. The creature in question would be described by Bill in the following way "It looked like a baby dinosaur, a lizard, about two feet. It has a big tail." This general description, however, was not the most bizarre features of this creature. The creature was dark green in color and was completely hairless. Along the top of its head was a bizarre crest or frill that seemed reminiscent of a typical shark's fin. The creature, however, while seemingly reptilian in nature and origin, seemed to share one feature, which is completely opposed to what a reptile is supposed to have with mammals. The creature's chest featured prominent nipples that would later be recounted in Rosemary Ellen Guiley’s Atlas of the Mysterious in North America. The boys noticed the bizarre beast wandering around near the drain, seemingly oblivious to their presence. Yet the boys, not scared or intimidated by the beast, did what any rambunctious children would and proceeded to pelt the bizarre creature with rocks and began to take chase after it. The creature let out slight squeals whenever it was hit and, like any startled animal, began running around looking for any way to escape a possible demise. The small creature, however, as it was scurrying away from these colossal children, would not go unscathed as one of the 11year old boys managed to grab hold of the creature attempting to capture it. The creature unleashed a high-pitched screech-like squeal and began to writhe as quickly as it could to escape the clutches of the boy. The creature eventually succeeded as it squirmed enough to the point that the boy could not keep its grip and, landing on its two feet, eventually realized the only point of escape was the sludge-infested stink cylinder. The creature running towards the drain managed to clamor in and disappear just as one of the kids once more attempted to grab the small beast.

Now while this mad dash was going on, the boys unleashed countless cries of war, and this brought the attention of several adults in the area. As these adults worked their way over, they too managed to see the trail end of this creature's escape. This led an entire group of people to lurk over the pipe, waiting just for the chance for the creature to come out. This Punxsutawney Phil-esque watch, however, would ultimately be cut short as night began to cut over the sky and the boys, each knowing the closeness to their curfew, slowly began to return home for dinner. A few days later, the group began to tell their classmates all about their encounter with the cryptozoological creature, and so word spread around the school like wildfire. This tale, however, would not be kept in the confines of the halls of learning but instead would be brought home where the parents of the students quickly hear the strange tale that their classmates had experienced a few days prior and the parents so concerned about the encounter proceeded to reach out to the Arnold Police Department. Arnold Police chief William Clark would later talk with the boys and receive a sketch which would appear in the March 5, 1981, issue of the Valley News Dispatch. Arnold, after interviewing the boys, would reassert most of the description given and would say in an official report, "The creature was described as about three feet tall with two arms and a tail and hunched over on two legs." 

Now during this time, many people had flocked to the storm drain and the railroad tracks to attempt to see the ostensibly unknown entity. The most interested in the subject of the 'Green Thing,' as the papers would call it, was Bob Goerman, a passionate UFO researcher who came down to investigate on Tuesday the 3rd and Wednesday the 4th. Goerman received the account from the Arnold Police department and proceeded to interview the kids as well as walking along the entire length of the tracks in New Kensington and Arnold for evidence of the creature. During his time, he attempted to bait the creature out with apple slices near the opening of the sewer; when asked why he said, "Because creatures like this seem to go for fruit." Yet his slices were always taken by rats and mice instead. Goerman, after his search, seemed to think that the creature was harmless but also was no longer in the area. "I think if it exists, its moving upriver." And with his final comment, so too did the tale of the creature known as the 'Green Thing.'

The 'Green Thing' is an entity that can be interpreted in a variety of ways. Most skeptics would probably say that since the witnesses were children, they were either A making it up or B misidentifying some normal member of the fauna. While it's possible that this account is nothing more than a case of childhood dreams of prehistoric life, this becomes much harder to swallow when one takes into account that adults as well saw this creature, thereby implying that lying is off the table. However, misidentification is, and there are some possibilities as to what it might be.

One of the most popular theories as to what the ‘green thing’ was is that the creature was an escaped exotic pet. Cryptozoologist Chad Armet put forward the possibility that it was specifically a plumed basilisk. The reason for this Armet would claim is that the Basilisk lizard does have a primarily significant crest much like the 'green thing,' and also, more importantly, the basilisk lizard also can run bipedally. The most incredible feature of this is that the Basilisk lizard's feet are designed so that it even can create tiny air bubbles, which cause surface tension in rivers as it runs, giving it the ability to run on water; this also gives it the name the Jesus Christ Lizard. While this is a popular theory for this case, there are some problems with it; the big problem to me is that the creature had nipples which are a mammalian trait. The eyewitness sketch that appeared in the paper also has a bizarre kind of flaps that come from the side of the head as well, which is not typical of the basilisk lizard.

This same thought process can be applied to other exotics such as Iguanas, and another sidebar possibility as to why this would be unlikely is that reptiles are genuinely sluggish in cold weather. The sighting of the 'Green Thing' took place in February, so this is still winter; if this is a reptile, it should not be roaming around the cold, windy streets of New Kensington. So there’s more indication due to the creature being seen in the winter and that it had nipples that what this creature is, is some kind of hairless mammal.

Going the hairless mammal route, it is important to say there is nothing even close to this creature from a mammalian point of view. There's no real two to three-foot tall green, tailed, bipedal creature with frills; it just doesn't exist in a known zoological realm. The closest skeptical answer for this would be if someone shaved a monkey, painted it green, but left a mohawk to give the illusion of a frill, and for some reason let it loose in New Kensington. This may seem unlikely, but someone did, in fact, do something similar in 1909 at the trail end of Phenomenon Week in New Jersey where several charlatans put fake wings on a green painted kangaroo and called it the Jersey Devil, which they after a fake capture put it on exhibition where they poked it with a nail on a stick to make the creature lunge and snarl at patrons. Again, however, in the New Kensington case, this is highly unlikely that the Jersey Devil prank was ultimately to make money at a sideshow, whereas this made no money nor benefitted anyone. So, a hoax via mammal is more than likely not as plausible.

With that said, there is a chance that this creature may be some unidentified mammal that happens to be green. It would be revolutionary if that would be true, for no mammal is naturally green. Or perhaps this creature might not be truly green; perhaps it lives in the sewer or in an environment where its natural skin tone gets tinted, sort of like how sloths have algae that grow on their backs, giving them greenish tones. The only problem with this is the creature's seemingly reptilian traits, the frills, and even the witness's description of being a baby dinosaur seems to even though it has some mammalian qualities or features that it would almost have to be a reptile.

Going the undiscovered reptile route, perhaps this creature evolved to withstand cold temperatures and can now feasibly live in Pennsylvania's harsh winters. Pennsylvania does have several species of reptiles, so it would not be surprising at all for this to be the case. There are also reports of larger reptile-like creatures that are said to roam the state, including the 30-40ft Broad Top Mountain Serpent, a black snake as big as a stovepipe, the Lapping Farm Lizard Man, and several reports of pterodactyl-like creatures. So, a small 2-3ft reptile is more reasonable not only in believability but also in finding shelter from the elements.

Now with that said, there's never been a Pennsylvania cryptid close to it. The Lapping Farm Lizard Man was very much like a typical Reptilian; however, several researchers have pointed to similar creatures in other states. The first one that some have pointed to was the Riverside It was an incredibly lanky and aggressive creature with a scarecrow-like face and scales that allegedly attacked a car when a section of road flooded in Riverside, California. Now I personally feel that this is a stretch since the Riverside creature did not have a frill and had several other bizarre features that clearly do not match the 'Green Thing.'

To me, a much closer cryptid that may or may not be a grown-up version of this species was sighted in Breckinridge, Kentucky, in 1966. The creature ran into a sleeping man's house before running off towards a nearby river. The creature was described as a 5-6ft creature covered in scales with a frill on the top of its head and webbed hands. This is almost identical to what was reported except that it did not have a long tail. I wonder if these entities could truly be aspects of this species lifecycle like a traditional frog, the 'Green Thing' being the in-between stage of a tadpole and a grown frog, and the Breckinridge creature being a full-grown adult. Another possibility is that this could be some sexual dimorphic features and that one or the other is male and female.

Another creature that is similar is the Thetis Lake Monster; it was described as a kind of fish-man with three spiky frills on its head. The creature was very similar to what was seen in Breckinridge as well and had many of the same features like webbed hands and a tailless bipedal stance. So again, there does seem to be a kind of similar yet different varieties of fishmen or lizardmen-type creatures.

This creature seems to ostensibly be a cryptid. There was no UFO reported in conjunction with the sighting; however, Westmoreland County has always been a hotbed of Fortean phenomenon so much that the whole county could be referred to as a Keelan "window area." The creature was clearly a physical entity, so we can rule out the demonological or spectral. There's no real indication that this creature is a kind of fae as there are not really any reptile-like faeries out there. The interdimensional option is always on the table as there's always the chance that this creature seemingly popped into our existence, but it again, based on what we have on this case unlikely. This creature, I think, is one of the few times that it's almost certainly a traditional cryptid.

This case has always fascinated me since I first read about it in Monsters of Pennsylvania some years ago. This case seems to indicate the more biological standpoint of a study that most seem to picture as folkloric and fantasy beasts. Many times, skeptics will ask where are the young if these creatures exist; we should have sightings of the young. Now while young bigfoot sightings are almost common whereas other juvenile cryptid sightings are practically nonexistent however if this is a baby lizardman or Fishman, this makes this case incredibly important for Fortean study. This would be the first, at least to my knowledge, juvenile lizardman or Fishman sighting and could pull a more serious study into these types of creatures and their said habitats.

Quick Facts:

Species/Potential Species: Reptile/Mammal

Location: New Kensington/Arnold, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania

Sighted: February 28, 1981

Works Cited:

Atlas of the Mysterious in North America By Rosemary Ellen Guiley

Encyclopedia of Cryptozoology By Michael Newton

Monsters of Pennsylvania By Patty A. Wilson

Mystery Animals of Pennsylvania By Andrew Gable

Strange Pennsylvania Monsters By Michael Newton

Unexplained Mysteries of the 20th Century by Janet and Colin Bord

Balser, Emily “New Kensington 'Green Thing' legend resurfaces online” TribLive. Sept. 14, 2017. Accessed December 28, 2020

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