Chronicle of the Lizard Man (Book Review)

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I really enjoyed Lyle Blackburn’s previous book, The Legend of Boggy Creek (reviewed here), so I had to get my hands on his next one about the Lizard Man of Lee County, South Carolina. I knew of the legend and had recently researched it because of continued reports of car damage in various places. (The Lizard Man was known for attacking cars.) What attacks cars but giant lizard men? Well, read to the end…

As with his last book, Blackburn does not attempt to speak on the actual existence of a local swamp monster he is investigating. He aims, and succeeds, to “provide an entertaining and comprehensive account of the creature”. Once again, he gives us a must-have guide to a particular cryptid.

However, there is a lot less meat to this book than what was available for the Fouke monster. The Fouke monster had his own movie; the Lizard Man was likely spawned from the movies. The core of the evidence is, unfortunately, unverifiable eyewitness reports. While some people may take these stories at face value, skeptics are right to be skeptical. It is clear that there is considerable fantasy and funny stuff working in Lee County.

The Lizard Man story begins in 1988 when the sheriff is called regarding damage to the exterior of a car parked near a home in a rural area of Browntown, South Carolina. The damage appeared to be due to teeth marks. There was also hair and footprints on the vehicle. These remnants were later found to be attributable to a fox. But a legend was born – as people reported seeing a seven-foot tall green or brown bipedal creature with red eyes roaming the area. The sheriff related that these witnesses suggested the creature was responsible for the car. One witness, Chris Davis, gained notoriety for his encounter at 2:30 AM on a back road as he described a monster attacking him and his car. The creature was said to be upright with three fingers on its hand. The story took off from there.

The town experienced Lizard Man mania. Any noises or anomalies might be the Lizard Man. People carried guns, hopeful for a reward. It was chaos, especially for Sheriff Truesdale, who is painted as a genuine, helpful, and dedicated public servant in Blackburn’s book. The creature was reportedly sighted around the Scape Ore swamp area. Very questionable foot prints were cast. These have obviously been hoaxed.
lizardman
Ideas of what the Lizard Man could be goes off too far into the murky mud. A lizard-like man or a man-like lizard is absurd (as is noted) and exists only in the movies. In fact, the reports tended to mimic the movie encounters with monsters.

The Lizard Man lives on, feeding a need, Blackburn notes, to “a public that had grown up with monster movies.” He admits, “Pop culture […] helped pave the way for LIzardmania.

The evidence for the Lizard man screams misidentifications and hoaxes. There just is nothing solid here. Yet, what of the car damage most associated with the creature?

Blackburn briefly mentions what is almost certainly the answer to these mysterious auto assaults. I get the impression he glosses over it in an attempt to avoid passing judgement on people who wish to retain their monster. But, there is certainly a better answer for what’s biting through car parts than a mythical Lizard Man.

There are many documented accounts of such car damage done by dogs. When motivated, the dogs will chew through tough stuff to get at their quarry. It may be difficult to believe but it IS true. A likely scenario that would explain the vehicle damage could be roaming dogs who chased a cat into hiding in the wheel well of the car. Here are some references for such events: BMW chewed, cars as chew toys, Pit Bull mauls minivan.

Here is yet another incident of a mangled car that was initially assumed to be mountain lion. However, it left paw prints behind that revealed it was certainly a dog.

An example from 2008 actually in Lee County connected a dead cow, a dead coyote and car damage to the Lizard Man. The state officials believe that it was indeed a dog trying to get at the resident cats (which were missing).

I can not conclude that there is anything monstrous about the events in Lee County. There is NO Lizard Man.

Blackburn is an excellent writer and tells the story in a way that most will find nearly perfect. While I would have preferred more emphasis on the likely explanations, with a bigger dose of skepticism (basing explanations on solid evidence), that was not his goal. I enjoyed the human interest angles, the historical context and the local feel of the town he brings to the tale. I hope he keeps writing about monsters. I will continue reading.

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6 thoughts on “Chronicle of the Lizard Man (Book Review)

  1. spookyparadigm

    Is there discussion of the other cryptid lizard/fish-man sightings (Thetis Lake, Loveland, that one in California)?

    Also, do you get the feeling, either from Blackburn’s book or anything else, that this was largely locally shaped? In other words, were there any cryptozoologists or Mystery Gangers on the case when it was going on, and did they shape it (like the ufologists who turned Chupacabra into something looking like a gray alien at first)? I ask because this seems a lot like a bigfoot case that “went off-script” and I know some cryptos treat it that way.

    • idoubtit

      There are brief descriptions of other lizard-man-type sightings. There was short shrift given to Loxton’s account of the Thetis Lake monster. And a drawing of the Loveland frog. These sightings are so absurd that they do nothing to bolster the LizardMan credibility but add to the idea that it is pop culture contagion.

      Yes, it does seem local, influenced by pop culture. And it does veer into Bigfoot territory which muddles the idea but how can the explanation NOT be muddled? A real creature as described to account for this makes no sense to me. But the emphasis is mostly on how the press and locals portrayed it which was (marketable) as a Lizard Man.

  2. spookyparadigm

    Of course it can’t be a real creature as described, at least in the ecosystem/laws-of-physics/etc. we’re familiar with. But then, neither can a Bigfoot seen as often as it is and leaving a total lack of remains as it does. So that’s kind of a throwaway question.

    The more interesting issue to me at least, is the creation and propagation of the story. I suspect in the internet era, the Scape Ore monster would either

    - be turned into a Bigfoot

    or

    - be more outlandish than it already is.

    I suspect that because of the paranormal subculture, local legends are more likely to either be promoted into something more sensational, or they get subsumed by puzzle-piecers into already existing categories.

  3. Chris Barber

    Sharon,
    I have direct knowledge about the Lizard Man in South Carolina. Very LONG story, however, two weeks ago I spoke on a local radio station regarding our own local legend, The Belt Road Booger. They also had on the show a gentleman who had photos and direct knowledge that both, The Belt Road Booger of Newnan, Georgia AND the Lizard Man of Scape Ore Swamp, South Carolina were indeed his older brother! His brother (Mr. Orr) had a thing for creating local pranks of monstrous creatures.
    As far as the car. . . what had happened was a young man, Christopher Davis, was driving home late a night. Unfortunately, he got a flat tire in the middle of nowhere and pulled over to fix it. Mr. Orr was driving home from work (military) when he drove past young Christopher. Mr. Orr couldn’t resist the wonderful set up for the prank, so he parked up the road, tossed on a costume mask (again, he was a collector and LOVED to play pranks), and crept up upon Christopher who just finished changing his tire. When Christopher saw The Lizard Man, he screamed and jumped into his car. The car was still on the jack, but he floored the vehicle in hopes to get away from the creature. At that point, the Lizard Man was hitting the sides of the car. Finally, the tires caught traction and off Christopher went! Christopher told his story – of how a lizard man, 6ft. tall, red eyes, had grabbed his car and lifted it off the ground!
    So, that’s the story as I heard it. He had photos as well as some other interesting stories of things that occurred surrounding these stories and how his brother came to be both creatures. Most interesting to me, is that this older brother has not been in touch with the family as of late – so honestly, we don’t know if he is directly responsible for further ‘creature’ sightings elsewhere.
    Thanks for posting this story. I hadn’t heard about the book, but would have LOVED to have brought a copy when I went to the radio station to discuss these creatures!

    Christina Barber

  4. Whether Davis witnessed an unknown creature or whether he was hoaxed, I just don’t see how “Mr. Orr” could have been responsible. First, I’m assuming that Mr. Orr is Kenneth B. Orr. Orr was an airman assigned to Shaw Air Force Base located 30 miles south of Bishopville. It matches up with the “military” work you mention, however, Orr lived in Florence at the time, therefore he would never have reason to pass anywhere near Browntown Road (Scape Ore Swamp) when going to and from work.

    That being said, Orr was indeed busted for purporting a Lizard Man hoax in which he said he “shot” the creature on August 5, 1988. (Long after Davis had his encounter on June 29, 1988.) Orr was interviewed at length by Sheriff Truesdale, who never believed his silly story in the first place. Orr admitted that he fabricated the whole thing for the purpose of perpetuating the mystery. He did not claim to have hoaxed Davis at any point, nor did the police find any such “costume mask” in his car (he owned a Toyota truck). And they did search his truck where they found an illegal handgun. I can verify all of this since I have a copy of the police report confession which Orr wrote and signed on August 12, 1988.

    But just for grins, let’s say that Orr drove 30 miles out of his way to go home from work, taking a remote rural route through a swamp. If he did, Davis would have easily seen his car headlights, yet Davis never said that he saw another car out there that night. I’ve been to the exact spot where Davis had his flat and there would have been no way for a person to pass by in a car without Davis seeing them. A detail he would have assuredly told Truesdale during his interviews or polygraph exams.

    I don’t have absolute proof that Orr didn’t do this, and it’s hard to contradict the guy’s own brother, but I just don’t see how Kenneth could have been responsible for Davis’ strange encounter. Sounds to me like he was trying to take credit for more than he actually did.

    • First, let me say that I find this story fascinating in how it evolved throughout the years and is still around.

      Unfortunately I’ve never been to see the actual site, and can only comment based on the story that Kenneth’s brother told us. He said that once he passed Davis, he parked the truck in the woods adjacent to the road – and came up through the woods (again, since I’ve never been I have NO idea if this is even possible). I’m guessing on the timing of this – that Orr passed by Davis just at the flat happened. Certainly IF that were the case Davis wouldn’t have thought about telling the police that someone had passed him just as the flat occurred (he would have been focused on getting the car under control and not if there was a car passing by).

      I am certain that Orr did perpetuate the story! He even sent home a newspaper article in which they had a parade and celebrated Davis and the lizard man (I saw a copy of that article and written notes from Orr). I am also guessing that Orr made up the ‘shot’ the lizard man story 1) to keep the story alive (maybe it was starting to cool down) and 2) because in similar suit his first hoax creature, the Belt Road Booger (in Newnan, GA) had been shot at and wounded. Orr had to go to the hospital (obviously) to get the bullet removed and stitches. That is when the police became involved and hence the end of the Booger.

      It’s no surprise they wouldn’t have found a mask in the car, but yet found an illegal gun. Orr had been in trouble with the law many times and this is only one instance.

      Of course with all of this information, I can’t prove or disprove Orr was indeed both ‘creatures’, nor can anyone else at this point. He certainly did gloat of his ‘adventure’ of that night – did he do it, or just take the credit, again, we’ll never know for certain. There is s saying that a lawyer once told me regarding witness testimony – “There’s the story from witness A, and story from Witness B. The truth lies somewhere in between.” And that’s what I think we have here.

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