One thing I’ve always thought would be fun to do is to volunteer at a children’s summer camp as a camp counsellor. When I was young, I spent several summers up in the mountains of my home state of Virginia and I always had a wonderful time being out in nature and enjoying my natural surroundings. Well, one of my good friends from school does in fact volunteer at a children’s camp every summer, and I asked what it was like and if she enjoyed it. She said it was great fun and rewarding to help kids enjoy their summer and to learn all about nature. I asked her where she did her volunteering and she said at a summer camp in Roanoke, Virginia.
Now, being the sort of Crypto guy that I am I said, without even thinking, “Oh, you mean the home of the Devil Monkeys.” Naturally, she tilted her head and looked at me like had lost my mind. So, I explained to her what I meant. Some of you, like my friend, may not be too familiar with these lesser known Cryptids either, so I’ll tell you what I told her.
All across the country, there are reports of the classic Bigfoot, a huge hairy upright walking Apeman-like beast. However, in the mountains of Appalachia, there have been for decades reports of something else altogether. These reports talk about hairy Cryptic primates, but with a couple of big differences. One is, that while the superficial descriptions between them and Bigfoot are evident, when you get down to specific details, it becomes clear that you are dealing with two very different things.
These Devil Monkeys are large, but not as big as the typical Bigfoot, about four feet or so. They can stand on two legs, but more often than not move and run on all four. They, unlike Bigfoot, often have long tails and pointed snouts and those who have seen them with their mouths open often describe long sharp canine teeth. In a nutshell, they look kind of like gigantic Baboons. The second big difference and the reason they get “Devil” placed in their name is that they seem to be much more inclined to acts of violence against property, livestock, and even people. True, there are a couple of compelling incidents where Bigfoot like creatures have shown abnormal aggression towards people, but these critters seem to do it on such a frequent basis that people have seen fit to categorize them to the Devil.
The classic story revolving around these mysterious mountain monsters goes like this. Local folklorist Paulette Boyd, recalls that in 1959 her parents had a frightening encounter with a strange beast many would classify as a Devil Monkey. They owned a small restaurant and bar which would do catering events. For one such event they needed dry ice to keep perishables good, so they have had to make a late night/early morning pilgrimage to the town of Saltville.
However, along the way they wound up on a back road after getting a little lost. That’s when they noticed something moving in the headlights on the side of the road. They slowed down to get a better look. Suddenly, the animal leaped out of the darkness at their car. It landed on the passenger side. Her Mother said the beast’s face was pressed up against the window just inches away from her face. Naturally, she got the best look. She described it as; light taffy colored, with white down its neck and back, shorter front legs than back, no visible tail, and very muscular. He floored it, but the creature kept up with the car for a short distance.
Finally, they put some distance between themselves and the creature. Her Father pulled the car over and drew his pistol with the intent of killing the beast, who was still following the car, albeit from a distance now. However, his wife pleaded that he get back in the car and just keep going, so he did. After after getting the ice they returned home and looked at the car in the day light. They found three inch long claw marks in the side near which the creature had been standing. Several days later two nurses near Saltville where assaulted in their car by a similar looking beast. A posse was formed, but no creature was caught.
Years later, in 1971, her brother was telling the story to a group of co-workers when one became excited and said not only had he seen the same kind of animal only two years earlier, but it had tried to grab him. He was driving from Marion, VA to Tazewell, VA with his window open and his arm leaning out, when the same kind of creature came at him from the side of the road and attempted to pull him out via his exposed arm. The man was very frightened and seem sincere. Since then Paulette has collected numerous close encounters with similar beasts in and around her hometown. Other similar incidents have been reported elsewhere in Virginia, Maryland, Ohio, and even out in Illinois and a few other Midwest states.
Intrigued by “campfire stories” as my friend called them, she said that during her time at camp she would ask around to see if anyone up there had ever heard of such creatures. When she returned we talked d about her trip and how much fun she had working with the kids. And then I half-jokingly asked, “Well see any Devil Monkeys up there?” She didn’t laugh. In fact, she got real serious.
She told me that while she hadn’t seen anything like that, she talked to several local residents who worked at the camp who insisted that these creatures where very real and that one had been seen by a former counsellor several years prior. At first, she thought they were joking with her, but soon she could tell they were not. Furthermore, they asked her not to discuss this with any of the children or their parents to prevent unnecessary panic as they put it. Needless to say I was totally taken back by this and we have since not talked about it, I could tell it bothered her having all these people that she knew and worked with become so frightened and tightlipped over this.
All of these thoughts were going through my head this past weekend while I was going up to visit my sister, who is currently attending college in that area. All the way up I saw breathtaking sights of mountain valleys, jagged peaks and mist-covered fields and wide flowing rivers. I saw male deer fighting for mating rights out in the fields and flocks of wild turkey strut about all over town like they owned the place. And I thought, if anywhere there was a place where such fascinating, yet frightening beasts could make out a living undetected it would be here, in the wild rolling hills of Appalachia.