The Enfield Monster: Alien, Cryptid, or Incident of Mass Hysteria?

You never know what's lurking just beyond your door.

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  • Photo Credit: Neil Rosenstech/Unsplash

On April 25th, 1973, Henry McDaniel was inside his home in Enfield, Illinois when he heard a strange scratching at his door. It was late at night—around 10 o'clock—and when McDaniel looked out, he saw what he thought was a bear. Arming himself with a flashlight and a gun, he stepped outside into wild winds. There, he saw a creature standing between two rose bushes. But it was no bear.

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McDaniel described the creature as having three legs and two short arms. Its body was also short, but near human. It was around four and a half feet tall with a grayish color and sported two big, pink eyes the size of flashlights.

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Upon seeing this uncanny creature, McDaniel fired off four shots. One of the rounds allegedly hit it, drawing a hiss he compared to that of a wildcat. The creature is said to have then made a run for it toward a railway embankment, spanning 50 feet with three jumps.

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When McDaniel called the local authorities to investigate this incident, they found footprints near his home. McDaniel described these prints as doglike, having six toe pads. At the time of his report, the police found McDaniel to be fully rational and sober.

As the investigators branched out to questioning neighbors, 10-year-old Greg Garrett seemed to corroborate McDaniel's story. Garrett said he saw the beast just 30 minutes before McDaniels did, and that it shredded his sneaker as it stepped on his foot. However, Garrett later came out saying his report was phony, meant only to tease McDaniels and the newsman.

As the story picked up attention, news outlets speculated that perhaps the creature was just a wild ape or escaped kangaroo. McDaniel dismissed these explanations. He asserted that if the creature was ever again seen, it would be with a group of similar creatures. Creatures he believed were not of this planet.

On May 6th, just two weeks after the initial incident, McDaniel reported to the WWKI radio station that he saw the creature yet again at 3 am that morning. He spotted it carefully padding its way across the railroad tracks by his house. He didn't shoot at it, and it didn't seem to be in a hurry. A search party including WWKI news director Rick Rainbow went out later that day to see if they could catch sight of it, and returned with reports of an apelike creature lingering by an abandoned building close to McDaniel's home. They claimed to catch a recording of its cries before they shot at it and scared it away. While cryptozoologist Loren Coleman investigated the recording and the case, nothing solid has seemed to come of it.

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Amateur hunting parties set out to take this beast down. A group of gentlemen reported seeing the ghastly creature, but added on to the eerie description, calling the beast "hairy." They fired upon the creature but failed to hit it. The men, who the local sheriff described as "out drinking and raising hell," rather than truly monster hunting, had the men charged with hunting violations.

In 1978, five years after these reports, sociologists cited this episode for a paper on social contagion. They used the incident to exemplify collective behavior, in which a large group was affected by panic, hysteria, collective visions, or other extreme suggestibility because of the spread of intense emotion. Their research found that, in actuality, there were no more than three firsthand accounts of this beast which seemed to grip the town in fear. Beyond that, these reports had been subsequently exaggerated by the news and the local gossip mill, turning a baffling incident into a horrifying legend.

The paper highlights that many reports admitted there was some validity to the belief that people had seen an array of animals, rather than a beast. Further research into the subject found others admitting that Henry McDaniel had a notoriously overactive imagination. Throughout the course of the study, only one person the sociologists interviewed held firm in agreeing with McDaniel's assessment that he had encountered a being from outer space.

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So what do you believe? Was this little town too ready for a bit of excitement that they created a horror out of common wildlife? Or were these sociologists too keen to find reason in the unnatural that they brushed aside evidence of life beyond our understanding?

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Featured image: Neil Rosenstech/Unsplash.