The Beast of the Land Between The Lakes
For hundreds of years, the area between the Tennesse and Cumberland rivers at the Westernmost edge of Kentucky has been said to be the home of a terrifying, unnatural creature. The Beast of the Land Between the Lakes is said to resemble a gigantic half man, half wolf that walks on two legs and has five-fingered human hands ending in vicious claws. The creature is said to stand over seven feet tall, with massive crushing jaws, glowing red eyes, and some even say a taste for human flesh.
The lakes themselves are a relatively recent addition to the The Land Between the Lakes. Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake were formed in the 1960s, when the Federal government completed dams on the rivers to provide both a water supply and electric power to Western Kentucky. President Kennedy designated the Land Between the Lakes as a National recreation area in 1963. But the rumors of a strange beast inhabiting the area go back to the earliest days of European incursion into Western Kentucky, and some even say back to the days when the land was Shawnee and Chickasaw territory.
Early accounts from French explorers and traders in the region speak of their being warned of the shadowy presence of a loup garou by Shawnee fur traders. A later legend claims that the monster is the spirit of a shape-changing Shawnee shaman, who was killed in wolf form by the inhabitants of his village for abusing his powers. His spirit is said to still walk the woods in search of revenge.
Accounts of the creature from the early days of American expansion into Kentucky tell of hunters disappearing in the woods, and of storage, unnatural howls that echoed through the forests at night. At this time, bison still roamed wild in Kentucky, and hunters would sometimes encounter mutilated carcasses of these massive animals, lying half-eaten in the deep grass, their throats ripped open by massive claws. Even now, with the efforts to restore the bison to Kentucky, the rangers and herd managers occasionally find calves missing. After one of the young goes missing, the herd is reputedly spooked for days, sticking together in the close formation that the animals use to protect themselves from predators.
There have been several reports of close encounters with the creature in modern times. One of the most frightening of these happened to a group of Murray State University students who were camping in the Land Between the Lakes in 1973. A group of young men were enjoying the woods on a warm spring weekend, sitting around a fire built by their VW Microbus and just generally having a fine time. As the evening began drawing in, one of the students went off into the woods to answer the call of nature. When he returned to the campsite, he told his friends that he'd felt like something was watching him and that he had "heard something sniffing" in the woods. His friends said that he'd just heard a wild hog or some other animal. The student said he'd never heard anything like it before, and he grew increasingly nervous as the darkness gathered.
As the night grew dark, the group started to hear the shuffling sound of something large moving in the fallen leaves. It seemed to be circling their campsite, moving incredibly swiftly. The boys began to become anxious. They shined their flashlights into the woods in the direction of the footsteps, but saw nothing. And then the howling began.
It was a wild, insane howling. Like a wolf, only much louder than any wolf could ever be, and with an unnatural, bloodcurdling quality that made the howling sound almost like mocking laughter. It seems to come from everywhere around them - first one side of the circle of light around the fire, and then from the other. Soon, the terrified campers began to catch glimpses of a pair of glowing red eyes as they ran past in the dark.The terrified boys retreated into their Volkswagen bus, and wisely decided not to stick around to get a better view. Tearing down the road, they soon saw they were being pursued, and that a massive, shadowy figure was racing behind them, barely visible in the bus's taillights. As the bus slowed to take a corner, they felt a massive jolt, and then it seemed s if something was holding the Volkswagen back. Giving it everything, they broke free and tore out of the forest and didn't stop until they were back on the Murray State Campus.
Back on Campus, they found four deep gashes, like claw marks, torn into the metal of the engine compartment cover at the back of the bus.
Another widely-circulated story tells of the discovery of a bloody scene inside the motor home of a family camping in the area in the 1980s. Police are said to have found the horribly mutilated bodies of a visiting family lying in their blood-soaked motor home, and the half-eaten body of the family's young daughter lodged in a nearby tree. The bodies are all said ti have borne distinctive, massive claw marks. This incident was supposedly covered up by the authorities so as not to damage the tourist industry in the then economically fragile region.
Evidence for and encounters with the Beast Between the Lakes continues to this day. Experienced hunters shy away from the area, but those sportsmen who are new enough to the area to scoff at the legends often come hime with tales of feeling as if they're being stalked in the woods. Deep holes, like nests, are often found dug in the woods, with tufts of long, coarsely-textured grayish brown fur found within them. Rangers in the park are routinely asked what the strange howling was that a camper heard during the night.
The beast seems to remain a shadowy, supernatural presence. It's been around for hundreds of years, but it doesn't seem to be getting any older. It seems like it has some kind of spectral existence, avoiding firm detection in this well-traveled area for such a long time, but that it also can be solid enough to do some very real harm.
Whatever the Beast Between the Lakes is, wherever it came from, it seems like it will remain a mysterious, threatening presence in the woods of Western Kentucky, one that you may be lucky, or unlucky, enough to encounter some dark night in the Land Between the Lakes.