Top 10 Most Mysterious Creatures in Illinois

At Mysterious Heartland, we are familiar with the haunted and legendary places of Illinois, but did you know this state was also home to a wide variety of mysterious creatures? From the Lake Michigan Monster, to thunderbirds, to hairy bipeds, and the Enfield Horror, which one will prove to be the most unusual and terrifying of them all?

10. The Gooseville Bear

Bethalto, Illinois

The Gooseville Bear was a creature known only by what it left behind. For nearly three decades, from about 1940 to the late 1960s, residents of the Gooseville area near Bethalto, Illinois discovered large animal tracks along Indian Creek. The tracks resembled those of a bear, although no bears are known to live in the area. No witnesses ever came forward claiming to have seen the beast, and after many years, the Gooseville Bear vanished as mysteriously as it had appeared.

9. Black Panthers


Panther is the popular name given to the North American Cougar, which was once prevalent all over the continent, but was hunted virtually to extinction in the eastern half of the United States. Recently, it has made a comeback into its old habitat. In 2008, a cougar was shot and killed near the Chicago River in the Chicago neighborhood of Roscoe Village. Most mysterious of all, however, are sightings of black panthers. It is a genetic anomaly for a wild cat to be jet black in color, and no black cougars have ever been captured or photographed (most “black panthers” are actually jaguars or leopards). Never-the-less, several have been spotted in Illinois. In 2001, a black panther was seen on three separate occasions in Monroe County and as recently as 2007, a black panther was seen around Bloomington. Are these mysterious animals myth or real? Until one is captured or photographed in the wild, we will never know for sure.

8. Giant Snake

Champaign County, IL

On June 6, 1896, a farmer named Carl Smithson discovered a giant snake (about 18 feet in length) in his barn. It was in the process of swallowing the leg of his Jersey calf. Evidently the snake, which had been spotted by several other farmers, fled before Smithson could return with help. A posse was formed to search for the creature, but it is unknown whether they succeeded.

7. Stump Pond Serpent

Pyramid State Park, Perry County

Between 1879 and 1968, nearly a 90-year period, fishermen in Perry County spun yarns about a serpent that dwelled in the murky waters of Stump Pond. The creature was described as having a thick, green body with black fins. It was large enough to rock boats. Some fishermen encountered it more than once, and speculated that there must be a breeding population. When the lake was partially drained in 1968, locals discovered catfish that weighed over 30 pounds, so it is possible that the “Stump Pond Serpent” was a giant catfish. In 2005 Tim Pruitt of Alton caught a 124 pound blue catfish in the Mississippi River. Today, Stump Pond is a part of Pyramid State Recreation Area, which consists of land formerly owned by a coal strip-mining company.

6. Farmer City Monster

Farmer City, Illinois

With its hulking shape and bright yellow eyes, the Farmer City Monster was one of the oddest creatures to lumber across Illinois during the summer of 1970. This beast was more credible than most, since eyewitnesses included the Farmer City police officer tasked with tracking it down. Sightings began in early July, when three teens encountered it at their campsite in a field near Salt Creek, and spread to Bloomington, Heyworth, and Waynesville. Everyone who saw it noted its glowing eyes, but it was not an aggressive creature. At each encounter, the Farmer City Monster fled as soon as it had been spotted. It was last seen on August 16, 1970, when it ran across the road in front of a truck near Waynesville.

Check out these stories and more in Michael Kleen’s
Haunting Illinois: A Tourist’s Guide to the Weird and Wild Places of the Prairie State!

5. Thunderbirds


It is difficult to believe that a species of giant birds could be living in the wilds of Illinois, but numerous eyewitnesses have attested to just such a creature. At least one eyewitness, a man named Texas John Huffer, filmed a group of the birds at Lake Shelbyville in 1977. He estimated that they possessed wingspans of at least 12 feet—much larger than the California Condor, the largest bird in North America. In 1948, locals around Alton, Illinois reported seeing a bird that was “bigger than an airplane.” On July 25, 1977, two such birds attacked a group of children in Lawndale, Illinois. One of the children, Marlon Lowe, was carried about 35 feet before being dropped when his mother scared the birds away.

4. Cole Hollow Road Monster

Creve Coeur, Illinois

During the 1970s, the Illinois River Valley was abuzz with sightings of the Cole Hollow Road Monster, or Cohomo, for short. It was first sighted along Cole Hollow Road, just outside of Creve Coeur, south of Peoria. It was described as a three-toed beast, eight to ten feet tall, with a coat of thick white fur. There were so many sightings in the summer of 1972 that the Tazewell County Sheriff’s Department organized a search party to hunt for the creature. Encounters with Cohomo tapered off after that, but one man believed he caught a glimpse of it in the headlights of his car one night in July 2000, further north up the Illinois River near Essex, Illinois.

3. Murphysboro Mud Monster

Murphysboro, Illinois

The wilds of Southern Illinois have long produced tales of strange creatures, and the Mud Monster (or “Big Muddy”) is no exception. This hairy, smelly biped was seen several times in the summer of 1973 lurking near Murphysboro along the banks of the Big Muddy River. Like Peoria’s Cole Hollow Road Monster, the Murphysboro creature was described as being seven feet tall and covered in matted, white fur. Police officers found several tracks at the scene of the first sighting, and even heard its “inhuman” cry. The next night, a young boy and two of his neighbors saw the creature when it wandered through their backyards. After a few weeks of intense scrutiny, the Murphysboro Mud Monster disappeared as mysteriously as it arrived.

2. Lake Michigan Monster

Lake Michigan

Between 1867 and 1890, newspapers reported numerous encounters with a sea serpent just off shore in Lake Michigan. Sightings ranged from Evanston down to Hyde Park, and the creature was described as bluish black with a grayish white underbelly, long neck, head about the same size as a human’s, with visible scales. It was between 40 and 50 feet in length. On several occasions, it was heard bellowing “like a bull.” In 1867, a fisherman named Joseph Muhlke encountered the Lake Michigan Monster a mile and a half from shore near Chicago’s south side. He was able to provide a very detailed description and claimed that its head came within 20 feet of his boat.

1. The Enfield Horror

Enfield, Illinois

In the spring of 1973, a bizarre and deformed creature terrorized the community of Enfield. Eyewitnesses described it as short, with small arms like a T-Rex, broad, pink eyes, grayish skin, and three legs. On April 25, 1973, it attacked a young boy who was playing in his yard, then attempted to break into a nearby home. The homeowner shot the monster, and it fled. Rick Rainbow, an Indiana resident and news director for WWKI Radio, managed to record its cries. One common element in all the sightings was that they occurred near railroad tracks. By June, sightings stopped, and this creature vanished without a trace.


Haunting Illinois by Michael KleenCheck out these places and more in Michael Kleen’s Haunting Illinois: A Tourist’s Guide to the Weird and Wild Places of the Prairie State! Three years in the making, the 3rd edition of Hunting Illinois is your ticket to adventure in your own backyard. This edition contains 60 new listings and 35 new pictures, for a total of 260 haunted or mysterious locations and more than 120 photos and illustrations. Divided into eight distinct regions and listed by county and town or neighborhood, each location features a description, directions, and sources from a wide variety of books, articles, and websites. Haunting Illinois challenges you to get off the couch and start exploring our wonderful State of Illinois. Go here to order!

Sorry guys, this page is copyright Black Oak Media, 2011. You do not have permission to copy this for any reason. Please learn how to cite your work.



  1. Sarah says:

    I actually saw the farmer city monster a few years back and also heard it killing something in a field behind my friends house. A bunch of us went looking for it and about 6 of us saw it in the woods down behind deeters trailor park. it looked like a cougar


  2. Laura Mauk says:

    Regarding black panthers, about 10 years ago, one mile south of the town of Greenfield, IL, about 10:00 p.m., my father was walking his dog one last time before going to bed. He lived next to the highway and had a country(rock) road he would turn onto so he could then maka a left into his driveway. While walking the dog next to that rock road, the dog just stopped and froze. Just as he was about to say something to the dog, he looked up and saw a black panther walking down the road, only a couple of feet from him and the dog. It made no noise at all. Dad figured the thing knew they were there and did not care because it had probably just eaten. At that time he had a lot of baby pigs and a couple would go missing every now and then. He also figured that the black panther he had just seen was the culprit.

    This is not the first black panther seen in the area. Several years before that, he was called to a home just north of where we lived, again on the highway. But, this home sat back from the highway, it was vintage civil war era, and was surrounded by corn fields at that time. The corn was still green and very tall. The people that lived in that house heard screaming and since dad was a policeman, he was called. Before this was over, there were several police and others there that night, going through the cornfield. They were making a lot of noise, trying to find out what was in this field. They found out when a hugh black panther jumped up, higher than the corn, and took off. There were a lot of witnesses to this. They found huge paw prints and took plaster casts of them. Dad said that one of the foot prints was bigger than his hand and he was not a small person.

    Then, about a year ago, I was on my way to work when I saw a black panther. I live near Girard, IL and take the back roads behind Girard and Virden and come up Cemetery road on the north side of Virden to Rt 4, then turn left and head for Springfield. I was about half way to Cemetery road, and since I leave very early in the morning, it was very, very dark outside. There are not a lot of lights on that road, but my headlights were on bright and stretch very far. I am always on the lookout for deer, so when I saw movement in a field to my right, I automatically slowed down. Unbelievably, on my right, about 20 yards in front of me, and crossing from the right to the left, field to field, there was a huge black panther. My headlights were on it and I was not traveling very fast so I got a really good look. It was black and it had a long tail that trailed straight behind it. It was not in a really big hurry and never even looked my way. I was glad I was in the car with the windows up. I knew there were panther sightings at the lake where I live, but they always described a tan cat, with a black tip on its tail. I never expected to see a black one. Yes, panthers, cougars, puma, whatever you want to call it, they are back in Illinois. No kidding!


  3. Jennifer Adamski says:

    I live on the Southside of Chicago near Midway. About a year ago, I was out walking my dog. It was 12:30am and our last walk of the night. We were passing an alley way and I was busy looking at my phone and my dog stopped and froze at the mouth of the alley…staring at something in the alley. I had already passed the alley and attempted to tug her along. She would not budge an inch. Jokingly, I said to her, “Oh, SaraBella, do you see a Serial Killer?” as I walked back to see what had caught her attention. What I saw in that alley is nothing I have ever seen before. It was a HUGE BLACK DOG-ISH thing. My mind raced as I tried to make what I was seeing fit into something I am familiar with…wolf, cow, coyote, calf…Nothing fit. It was the BLACKEST thing I have ever seen and it was hunched over at a very odd angle and HUGE. It’s paws were unique and kind of monster-like in size. As I stood, frozen, looking at this thing…I said to SaraBella, “Mama has absolutely NO IDEA what that is so let’s just be on our way.” I quickly walked away, not sure if this thing would follow and when I got back around to the other end of the alley near my door, it was gone.


  4. I have witnessed a large hawk that swooped down about 20 to about 25 feet
    from me . While walking to work on North ave near Harlem it perched on
    the Iron gate and stared at me as if I had startled its prey . I found that
    strange cause the Sears store is right there and so close . It was about
    3 and a half to about close to 4 feet tall , wingspan about 6 to 6 and a half
    feet . Don’t Know how many pounds it was . But it was kind of tall for a hawk .
    It’s feathers colors were like that of wild rabbits tanish , gray , and white .
    I walked across away from it taking a good long look . I was awe struck .


  5. Someone actually got a video of a black panther in Vienna, IL back in 2010. I just tried to find the video again but all that’s left on the news page is the article.
    I remember watching the video and thinking that tail could not belong to a house cat and I still don’t. My family has always had a lot of cats, and their tails are not long enough to move the way the big cat in the video did.


  6. I saw a huge black panther walking on the railroad tracks in Woodford County alongside Hwy 24 between Secor and Eureka in the summer of 2000 around 5PM. Ironically, this is near Panther Creek. Perhaps there is a reason for the name given to this waterway!


    • My daughters were riding along Sun Foundation road several years ago West of Washburn, IL, and spotted a very large black cat like animal along side the road. They called it a black panther and were frightened by it. They claimed it was bigger than a large dog with cat features.


  7. Black Panther, you will end up on camera someday.


  8. I saw a white smooth animal wit white teeth lookin exactly lyk human pink lips small grey white eyes n web feet lyk a duck but its much more clean it as a snake shape no scales feathers nothin its very smooth I saw it once in front of a cemetery I would lyk an help about this creature I was lyk abt mayb 3 yeras old wen I saw that please help out someone………I’m only 14 years old now n dese stuff bother me wen I told people bat these tings they tink I’m crzy they say its satan n it as no animal lookin lyk that bcuz I drew it


  9. Amanda says:
  10. patricia garrison graham says:

    Sounds like the black panther that I saw — yes — larger than a black lab which is the kind of dog we had at the time.


  11. I remember a story my grandmother told about my grandfather when he was a young man living in Coal City, Illinois. He was walking home just as dusk was setting in. He noticed what at first looked like a man running down the railroad tracks just a short distance from him. Then all of a sudden it opened up a huge set of wings and flew for a little ways, landed on the tracks again and kept on going. He was so shocked and scared that he ran home as fast as he could. This would have been in the early 1900’s. I’ve never heard of any others seeing anything like this in that area.


    • I live I gooselake outside of coal city. While driving down coal city road at night I saw this exact creature in 2005. It was in the middle of the road. I hit my brakes so I wouldnt hit it and it just leaped into the air spread its wings and flew into a tree. I was so scared I drove home and ran inside.


  12. Matt Tegeler says:

    In 2001, while residing in the Dennison,il area One late evening I saw what I thought at first was one of my dogs walking on the road in front of my house. But when I called out for the dog I quickly realized mine were in their kennels, I quickly turned back toward the road only to see the creature turn calmly and walk into the adjoining bean field. Now my driveway was about 400ft to the road from where I stood, but I ran as swiftly as I could in the direction the cat had went. But after walking about 30 ft into the field a odd feeling came over me as I realized that as I walked further into the field there was no movement in the field as though it was either remaining motionless out of fear or lying in wait, waiting to defend itself or attack me a potential threat. It was them that I chose to exit the field as quick as I had entered it. Never saw it again. Since then I’ve had several
    Other residents in the area share accounts of similar run-ins in the area.


  13. jennifer wood says:

    ok so i know this is going to sound crazy and i cant believe i’m actually typing this out cause no matter how many people i tell they wont believe me….but maybe over a year ago me and my friend decided to go outside and build a fire( now just to let you know our small dog ran out in the yard before we got out the door ) and well we had just walked outside and were heading towards the fire pit when right on our dirt road right behind our trailer we heard a really loud scream we didn’t know what to think we just ran inside ( making sure our dog was in as well) well ever since that night and it seems like it happens more in the winter that thing whatever you want to call it a black mountain lion, black puma whatever its been by our home and it shows up around 12 to 1 sometimes 2 every night and believe it or not its gotten on top of our trailer its so heavy that you can hear the tin on the roof bend when it walks. i mean there’s dents and everything we’ve all seen it that huge black cat and we’ve called to get help cause were worried about letting our dogs out at night dang we don’t even go outside at night that’s how terrified we are. they don’t believe us they say its a coyote ok well tell me how is it getting on our roof . they want us to get a picture of it ya i’m gonna wait outside in my yard till i see it and take a picture. what other proof can we give beside all the witnesses that have seen it also. I live in west virginia. and i know you guys probably don’t believe me but oh well i thought id ask what we can do.


  14. daphne says:

    I bought 10 acres property in north Florida back in 2005 from a man who had spent 2 years, winters included, there living in a couple of haystacks…if you met him you would believe that. He told me that there was a black panther that frequented the property which I didn’t believe. I was scoffing about no such thing as a black panther to a friend in central florida, but he quickly corrected me saying there was one in that very neighborhood and he was backed up by his neighbor. My brother also insisted he has seen a black panther a number of times in Cape Canaveral Florida. I never saw any panther on that north florida property but I heard one screaming on it a couple of times, color unknown.


  15. John C says:

    I just saw what I would describe as a black panther today on my way into work. At the north-west corner of Bloomingdale Rd and North Ave in Glendale Heights. Solid black animal, about the size of a black lab or so. The hair on my arms stood up when I saw it I think due to the sheer size of it. Seeing a cat that large outside of a zoo environment is a little unnerving.

    I ended up calling animal control, but I’m doubtful they will find anything as it went off into a field of tall grass.

    I will definitely be keeping a better eye on my dogs when I let them out.


    • Bill Ross says:

      I lived in Paris Illinois for 48 years. It’s just about 8 miles north of Dennison Illinois. As a coon hunter I’ve seen a black leopard in the woods South of town. There was a rumor that a lawyer who had exotic animals. When he found out he would have to pay 100 times as much to keep his permit to keep his black leopard, he turned it loose. There was a black leopard in Edgar county Illinois.


  16. John Gruels says:

    I saw a 200lb mostly black timber wolf on Belmont and Forest Preserve Drive while I was jogging along the forest across from the Indian Boundary golf course. The wolf was hunting and moved very fast along the edge of the forest.


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