In the waning days of the summer of ’55, on a lonely stretch of road in rural Georgia, a young forestry worker was pursued and viciously mauled by a humanoid creature that seems to have leapt from the pages of H.G. Wells 1896 classic “The Island of Doctor Moreau.”
On Monday, August 1, 1955, an almost certainly sweat-soaked and bug-bitten 20 year-old by the name of Joseph Whaley, was mowing the hearty stalks of wild grass that grew on the land between the Bronwood-Smithville highway and the swampy, alligator infested Kinchafoonee Creek… and he was doing it the old fashioned way, with a scythe.
There’s no way to know if he was reveling in the peace and quiet, and the satisfaction that comes from doing a hard day’s work for fair wages, or if he — face sun scorched to match the scarlet horsefly welts on his arms and legs — rued that day that he got hired by the Georgia state forestry commission to cut the scrub down from around the street signs.
However Whaley felt that muggy August day, one can be confident that he had no idea that life as he knew it was about to take a sharp turn from the monotony of a normal working day toward the stark terror of coming face to face with the hideous unknown. The first sign that something was not quite right came when Whaley heard a:
“…Strange noise in the thicket near the creek.”
The young Dawson resident paused, straining to listen, then, tightly grasping his scythe, he began to edge his way toward a dense thicket of trees near the roiling creek. In his own words:
“I walked to the edge of the woods and heard the bushes rattle.”
Assuming that it was likely a wild pig making the racket, Whaley pushed through the thickets and took a few steps inside the canopy shrouded woodlands. It was at that moment that a huge, snarling, hair smothered monstrosity burst through the trees without warning charging directly toward the panicked youth.
Whaley later described the extraordinary entity that attacked him to the newsmen who rushed to the scene following the event. He claimed that the bizarre, tusked beast was at least 6-feet tall, weighed approximately 400 lbs. and was covered with a coat of “Shaggy grey hair.” The young forestry worker further stated that the terrifying creature was grunting like a wild pig. And that it bore:
“…tusk like teeth and pointed ears… [its’ teeth were] savage and gleaming.”
Whaley would also assert that while the thing’s arms were thickset and heavy its’ hands were not very large. He added that it was:
“…built something on the order of a man, but it reminded me of a gorilla.”
Whaley further claimed that the creature that the coarse-furred entity was:
“…hairy all over, like a wire-haired terrier dog.”
As the lumbering, growling, toothy swamp monster stepped ever closer, the armed 20 year-old tensed; terrified, but ready to do battle with this seemingly unrelenting ape-pig hybrid:
“The creature walked towards me… I still had my scythe… I took a couple of swings at him and struck him on the arms and chest. But he kept coming at me.”
Undeterred, the beast continued its’ assault on the scythe wielding human. Whaley could see that the scythe was having no effect on the brutish creature, so he dropped it and decided to make a break for his jeep which was parked on the grass down the road just a bit. The hog-like simian let out a bestial roar of rage and frustration as its prey sprinted away.
Arriving at his vehicle, the first thing Whaley attempted to do (foolishly, I might add) was radio a report of the anomalous animal attack in to the ranger tower and to try and request some backup, but he was unable to make contact.
He then hopped into the open sided jeep, inserted his key into the ignition, but just as he began to turn it the creature yanked him through the window, tearing his shirt and ripping the flesh below. In his own words:
“…something hit me on the left shoulder, tore my shirt and left three scratches on my shoulder.”
Whaley lunged away from the creature, pushed open the passenger side door and collapsed onto the asphalt. He wasted no time in getting to his feet and with a surge of terror fueled adrenaline he began running back into the woods with the now completely enraged monster in hot pursuit.
Blessed with the speed and moxy of youth, Whaley managed to lure the beast back into the dense undergrowth of its domain. Running at top speed, branches whipping against his exposed flesh, Whaley took a deep breath and suddenly turned and began to backtrack toward his jeep, praying that the keys were still in the ignition.
Whaley pushed himself as hard as he could, frightfully casting backwards glances. The thing was still chasing him. He ran harder; putting some distance between himself and the diabolical entity that seemed hell-bent on capturing him for reasons too terrifying for the young man to even contemplate.
With moments to spare, Whaley scrambled into his jeep, found his keys where he had left them and, with what most have been one of the biggest rushes of relief ever experienced by a human being, sped away mere moments before the seemingly exhausted thing stumbled onto the pavement.
Back at the ranger’s station, Whaley was treated for the scratches on his shoulder and arm. As his wounds were being tended to he dutifully reported the incident to his supervisor, forest ranger Jim Bowen, and would later repeated the same testimony under oath.
Later, as evidence of his terrifying encounter, he displayed the scratches on his left arm to news men. Ranger Bowen told United press representatives in Dawson that he had gone back to the scene of the encounter and found traces of a struggle at the site. Stating:
“Very definitely something was there that looked like a large object.”
Others claimed to have found tracks at the scene that were clawed feet the approximate size of a human hand. That fact that Whaley noticed that the creature’s hands were small relative to its overall size would seem to lend credence to the discovery of apparently tiny feet.
The local police, led by Terrell County Sheriff Zachary Taylor “Zeke” Mathews, were less impressed by the evidence at the scene as well as Whaley’s testimony. Unable to find any trace of the beast (though one must wonder how thoroughly he actually looked) Matthews unceremoniously announced that he intended to end his investigation the same day as it began; stating:
“If I believed the story, I’d be out looking for the thing.”
The final disgrace heaped upon Whaley came when on August 6, 1955, the Atlanta Constitution published an article under the lurid headline: “THE THING UNMASKED AS ‘GOBLIN’”
The report went on to state that according to the director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, one Major Delmar Jones, the snarling, toothy, hair covered swamp monster that attacked Joseph Whaley was nothing more than a south Georgia farmer who — becoming frustrated by the local fishermen trespassing on his private lake — hatched the Scooby Doo-esque scheme of donning a Halloween mask and a bed sheet in order to “haunt” the anglers off his property. According to the report, Jones laughed when he claimed:
“[The farmer] scared the pants off the trespassers, but he also fired the imagination of others until they began seeing ‘monsters’ everywhere.”
Upon further questioning even Jones had to concede that the scythe wielding forestry worker had likely not been physically attacked by a farmer in a rubber mask and sheet. Still unable to open his mind to the possibility of an unknown animal, Jones hypothesized that what Whaley had actually encountered was:
“…a hog-bear — a little black bear not as large as a grizzly.”
How it was the Whaley was unable to recognize that he was being attacked by a bear… or why he would have decided (against all apparent self-interest) to tell the world that he had been the victim of a monster rather than a hog-bear was not clarified by jones; and as this case is well-nigh 63-years old, it’s likely that that is a question that will never be satisfactorily answered.
In the end, one of the greatest mysteries surrounding this terrifying encounter is how did a clearly corporeal creature get saddled the the moniker of “Grey Ghost“?
Rob Morphy is an artist / journalist / filmmaker / graphic designer / crypto historian / podcaster / co-founder of American Monsters, Cryptopia and Cryptonaut Podcast