The Ozark Howler

Imagine yourself living deep in the Ozark Mountains, over a hundred years ago…

In the vague distance an agonizing, foreboding howl can be heard. All your life, you have heard all of the sounds of the forest, and can identify any creature by its vocalizations. But this one is new, it is different, and it brings a shudder down your spine. What could it possibly be? Similar howls race through your mind, but when it howls again, you know that you have never heard anything quite like this. It sounds like a warning, like some huge beast announcing its presence or claiming its territory.

Now the howl comes more from the north, either the creature is on the move, or there is more than one! But there is no reply to the howls, and it is howling once or twice every ten minutes or so. Now it can be heard more distinctly, and has moved towards the south. It is wandering back and forth, perhaps warning others of its coming, and as the howls grow louder, you know it is coming your way. It is thoroughly scouting out the areas that it is moving into. Surely it will find your cabin. It is time to get your shotgun and to make sure it is loaded.

As you quickly check your shotgun and load in the cartridges, you hear the creature howl yet again. If you can hear it this distinctly, and inside the cabin, you know it has to be close. You quickly grab your lantern and before you can lose your nerve, you rush outside and scan the dark tree line, just a few feet behind the cabin. You put the lantern down at your feet and step back so there is no way the creature can approach without you seeing it clearly. It howls again, stopping abruptly, as it must be very close and has probably seen your lantern.

Artist’s Concept

Could this be the Ozark Howler?

As you imagine it coming closer, you can hear something cautiously approaching. That is when you notice that everything is still, all is quiet. The night forest is never quiet, not this time of year. You strain your eyes, and your ears. From time to time you think you hear some brush being pushed through, a tiny growl, and a deep huff. Is it surmising the situation, walking back and forth, just out of sight? Then you think you see something! A large shadow moved just to your left, but now you can see nothing. Was it a trick of the eye?

Whatever it is, it sounds different now, as if it is low to the ground. Could it be stalking, creeping up on you slowly? You look around quickly and nervously, your shotgun at the ready. Hearing something moving close to where you think you saw the shadow, you call out, “Hey! Is someone there? I got a gun, if you are a person, call out now so I don’t shoot you!” There is no reply, so you call out again, “I’ll use it if I have to!” You raise the shotgun, aiming the best you can at where you believe the creature to be, and you give one last warning.

Hearing movement, but no reply, you fire into the shadows and quickly reload your gun without thinking. There is a blood curdling howl, almost a scream, obviously you missed the creature or it would not sound so strong and angry, but at least you can hear that it has moved off. You can hear it now, pacing back and forth in the distance, breaking branches, crashing through the brush, clearly showing its anger and frustration. After a few minutes, you can hear it creeping up closer again.

You take aim, wait for a shadow to move and fire! Suddenly you notice that there is a foul smell in the air, and it seems to be coming from all over. Before you can pull the cartridges out of your gun, you see to your left, two large, red glowing eyes, looking at you with great contempt. It is in the shadows, perhaps only twenty feet away, yet you can see nothing but its fiery red eyes. You step back behind your lantern and fidget with your gun, trying to reload, but that’s when you can feel on the back of your neck, the hot, foul smelling breath of a very large creature.

The next day, your neighbors come out looking for whatever it was that was reeking havoc and making so much noise the night before. Many sheep and chickens are dead or missing, animal pens are torn up, there are mysterious scratches on outbuildings. They have shotguns in hand and are going from cabin to cabin, seeing the damage for themselves. Alert and worried, several come to your cabin, and seeing the door open and the cabin empty, they have a look around outside. There they find a blackened lantern, a twisted and broken shotgun, some blood on the ground, and signs of a brief struggle.

After an intense search for about an hour, they find many fresh scratches on the trees around your cabin, as if the area was being marked. They were beginning to follow what they believed was the trail of the creature when they noticed something hanging from the branch of a tree that was not there before. It is your naked arm, having been wrenched out of its socket, perversely treated and hung off a branch about eight feet from the ground. They find no teeth marks and conclude that your arm was put there as a sign for them to pursue the creature no further.

Knowing that the creature must be there watching, and seeing nothing in broad daylight, they quickly left the area, but somehow they knew that the creature would return.

To be continued…