By Penny Cockerell
Pictures from: http://www.kxii.com/home/headlines/3439461.html
CANEY - If you live in Atoka County and haven’t seen the elusive, long-legged creature, you’ve probably heard about it, maybe as a child around a campfire on a dark night
The legend of the Boggy Bottom Monster, a swamp-dwelling, Bigfoot-like being, has been around southeastern Oklahoma for generations. Every now and then, locals catch a glimpse of the reddish-brown creature and tales of the sighting bounce around like dandelion fluff.
And while plenty of nonbelievers scoff at the sightings, others are convinced they saw the real deal. That was the case for Caney resident Jackie Marlow, whose sighting frightened her so badly she had to be taken away by ambulance.
"You can laugh if you want to, but I saw what I saw and that’s exactly what I’d seen," Marlow said of her July 18 ordeal. "I don’t know what it was, but it was a tall creature. I’m not gonna tell you I saw Bigfoot, but it was a tall, huge thing that walked."
Hospitalized with panic attack
Marlow, 52, was sitting on her porch about 7:50 a.m., smoking a cigarette and gazing at the wooded area past the road on her 2 acres of land.
Her home is near Clear Boggy Creek, which, legend has it, is where the creature resides.
Suddenly the dogs next door started barking up a storm, Marlow said. Then, out of the blue, Marlow spotted the reddish-brown stranger. Stunned, she recalled standing up and hollering "Oh, my God" a couple times. Her little dog huddled next to her, paralyzed with fear or curiosity or both.
Marlow stepped off her porch to get a better look.
"It had very long legs, and it had a head," she said. "People asked, ‘Does it have hair?’ and I don’t know. I just know that it was a big reddish-brown tall thing, and it scared the fire out of me."
Some who heard Marlow’s story suggested she saw a bear or a cow. The area has plenty of turkeys, hogs, bobcats and assorted wild animals.
"It was not no animal, it was not no cow, it had two legs," Marlow stressed. "It had the longest legs, and it walked, it took two or three steps and that’s how I could see how long the legs were."
Marlow estimated her encounter lasted a full three minutes. She recalled the creature snorting loudly before it vanished.
Marlow immediately started calling folks, and the more she talked, the more excited she got. Finally she had a panic attack and called an ambulance for help.
Police officers also arrived and rode the area on four-wheelers in search of the creature. They found nothing, but later Marlow said part of a chain-link fence was bent in a way that no human hand could have done.
Atoka County Emergency Management Director Traci Walker recalled the ordeal and said Marlow was treated and released. Walker said she’s heard of the Boggy Bottom Monster since she was a child but never heard of it sending someone to the hospital, until now.
"We pick up a lot of people for different things, some more unusual than others," Walker said. "But that’s the first for a Bigfoot sighting."
Still, Marlow isn’t the first in recent weeks to see the creature. A few days before Marlow’s sighting, two teens riding four-wheelers along Clear Boggy Creek also saw a similar "monster" lurking about.
Morgan Whatley, 13, was the first to see the fleeting furry freak. Like Marlow’s description, she said it had reddish-brown hair, with long legs and arms.
"Everybody’s calling it a Bigfoot and some people think it’s a bear. I think it was too tall to be a bear," Morgan said. "I’ve heard a bunch of stories. When we first moved here people would say, ‘Watch out for the Boggy Bottom Monster,’ and stuff like that. I thought they was just messing around trying to scare us."
By the time Morgan turned to her 12-year-old brother to point out the creature, it was gone.
Garrett Whatley didn’t believe his sister’s sighting — until he saw it himself.
"We heard more noises, so we both got scared and started to leave," Garrett Whatley said. "We started pulling off where we were parked, and off to the side was a little clearing trail and it was off running over there."
The siblings ran home scared and reported the drama. Their father didn’t believe their story, but their mother believed them.
"I don’t believe it’s a Bigfoot, but I believe there’s something out there," Tracy Whatley said. "My kids were pretty scared when they came home."
Marlow and the Whatleys are far from alone in their beliefs. Hundreds of Bigfoot-type believers have organized online to track and investigate sightings. An East Texas group known as the Texas Bigfoot Society meets annually in Jefferson, Texas, near the Oklahoma state line, and hundreds attend.
Southeastern Oklahoma and northern Texas are heavily wooded and prone to low-lying fog and swampland. It all fits the Bigfoot habitat known nationwide, from the densely wooded Washington state to places like Caney and Jefferson.
Atoka County has even capitalized on its Bigfoot legacy. Walker recalls one weekend last year when locals brought a tour bus through and had a man dressed in a Bigfoot costume appear at various stops.
"It’s a legend here like it is anywhere else. People occasionally see things that they can’t explain and a lot of times that’s what it gets chalked up to," Walker said. "Whether you thought it was true or not, if you were sitting out in the woods, it was enough to scare you."