Mo-Mo, The Missouri Monster

Books on the Unexplained from Whitechapel Press

INTO THE SHADOWS
American Unsolved Mysteries & Tales of the Unexplained by Troy Taylor


MYSTERIOUS ILLINOIS
The History, Mystery & Unexplained of the Prairie State 


OUT PAST THE CAMPFIRE LIGHT
Hauntings, Horrors & Unsolved Mysteries of the Great Outdoors

 

MYSTERIOUS KENTUCKY
The History, Mystery & Unexplained of the Bluegrass State by B.M. Nunnelly 
 


STRANGE HIGHWAYS
A Guidebook to American Mysteries & The Unexplained  by Jerry D. Coleman


MORE STRANGE HIGHWAYS
More True Stories of America's Unknown Creatures & Mysterious Happenings  by Jerry D. Coleman

 

 

 

 

 

 

Located along a stretch of Missouri's Great River Road in Pike County is the small Mississippi River town of Louisiana. This quiet, unassuming community was vaulted into the national spotlight in July 1972 when reports emerged about a hairy monster and three-toed footprints that had been seen around town. The press humorously dubbed the strange and foul-smelling creature "Momo" for "Missouri Monster" but to the local residents, the frightening encounters were anything but amusing.

The "Missouri Monster Scare" began on July 11, 1972. The first encounter with the creature occurred on the outskirts of Louisiana, Missouri, at the base of Marzolf Hill. An eight year-old boy named Terry Harrison and his brother, Walley, 5, were playing with their dog in the woods at the edge of their yard. Suddenly, an older sister, Doris,15, who was inside of the house, heard them screaming. She ran to look out of the bathroom window and saw something standing by a tree. It was "six or seven feet tall, black and hairy," she said. "It stood like a man but it didn't look like one to me." She began crying and ran into the other room to call her mother on the telephone.

Both Doris and Terry got a good look at the monster and agreed that its face could not be seen because of the mass of hair that covered its body. The creature seemed to have no neck and it was flecked with blood, likely from the dead dog that it was carrying under its arm. The smell of the creature was said to have been horrendous and it may have been this odor that made the Harrison's dog violently sick a short time after the incident. The dog's eyes grew red and it vomited for hours afterward.

At 4:00 pm, Edgar Harrison, the children's father and a deacon in the local Pentecostal Church, returned home from his job at the town waterworks. He found no monster, but he did find that the brush was beaten down where the children said that the creature had been standing. He also found faint footprints in the dust a few black hairs scattered about.

That same afternoon, a woman who lived about three blocks away from the Harrison's, Mrs. Clarence Lee, reported that she heard animal sounds outside her home. Not long afterwards, she allegedly spoke with a local farmer whose dog had disappeared. Remembering the Harrison children's report, she wondered if the monster had taken it.
Everything was quiet until three days later, on July 14. That evening, Edgar Harrison conducted a regular prayer meeting in his home and about 45 minutes after it ended, heard ringing noises that sounded as though someone was throwing rocks into the metal water reservoir on top of Marzolf Hill. The reservoir was an attraction for neighborhood children but it was unlikely that any of them would have been playing there at that hour. As he listened closely to the sounds, he heard one especially loud ring and then an animal-like growl. The sound came closer and closer and was so loud that his family came running out of the house. They urged him to leave the neighborhood but Harrison wanted to see what was making the sound.

He finally gave in to his family's pleading and as he drove down Allen Street, he met about 40 people, some of them carrying guns, who were on their way to investigate the sounds at the reservoir. For some reason, Harrison shouted "Here it comes!" and the entire crowd turned away and ran. A number of people reported hearing the strange cries and screams that night but by the time that police officers Jerry Floyd and John Whitaker arrived on the scene to investigate, they found nothing out of the ordinary.

Later that evening, Harrison and several friends explored Marzolf Hill and found an old building from which a strong and unpleasant odor lingered. Harrison described it as a "moldy, horse smell or a strong garbage smell." In the days that followed, he and others would experience the same smell around areas where the bizarre sounds were heard.

This was not the end of the odd happenings for that night either. During the early morning hours, around 5:00 a.m., Pat Howard, who lived on Third Street, stated that he saw a "dark object" crossing the road near Marzolf Hill. He said that it was running like a man when it went across the road in front of his car.

Thanks to the publicity that the monster reports were generating, Louisiana's Police Chief, Shelby Ward, organized a 20-man search party on July 19. The group included Edgar Harrison and State Conservation Officer Gus Artus and they covered Marzolf Hill and the surrounding area using two-way radios but found nothing. Some of the local residents complained that the search should have been conducted at night because by that evening, the sounds were being heard again. Mrs. George Minor reported hearing growling sounds outside on several occasions, always between 10:00 and 10:30 in the evening. The noises began as a low-pitched growl and ended with a scream.

On July 20, more investigators joined the search and again combed the area behind the Harrison house and all along Marzolf Hill. Near the tree where Doris Harrison had originally seen the monster, they could see circular spots in the brush were leaves had been stripped from the branches of nearby bushes. They also found signs that someone had been digging in the local garbage dump and Harrison showed the searchers two recent dog graves that had been uncovered and the bones scattered about. Across the top of the hill, they came upon tracks that were some distance from one another. The first was over ten inches long and five inches wide and appeared to be a footprint, while the other was only five inches long and curved. It was believed to be the mark of a hand. The prints had been pressed into the hard, dry soil (there had been no rain since around the first of the month) and the investigators guessed that it would have taken a tremendous amount of pressure to create such impressions.

The investigators then climbed the hill to the old building where Harrison and his friends had experienced the pungent odor a few evenings before. He believed that it was a hiding place for the monster. When the group got close, Harrison's dog suddenly bolted and ran away, startling everyone. Moments later, the investigators were nearly overwhelmed by the horrible smell. "That's him, boys!" Harrison exclaimed. "He's around here somewhere!"
The investigators began sweeping the surrounding woods with their flashlights but saw nothing. In the distance they could hear dogs barking furiously and the local men explained that whenever the monster was about, the neighborhood dogs would refuse to enter the woods and instead would run up and down the streets, barking and yelping. Within about five minutes, the smell had dissipated and the investigators returned to Harrison's home.

On July 21, the monster was seen again, this time on the Great River Road, which runs along the Mississippi River. Ellis Minor, who lived on the road, was sitting in front of his home late in the evening. It was very dark and suddenly, his bird dog began to growl. Minor switched on a powerful flashlight that he used for hunting and he spotted the monster about 20 feet away from him, standing in the middle of the road. He later told reporters that it had "hair as black as coal" and that he could not see its face because the hair on its head hung down to its chest. "As soon as I threw the light on it," he recalled, "it whirled and took off thataway." He did not report the sighting to the police but he did call Gust Artus, the conservation officer.

By now, national publicity was turning Louisiana into a three-ring circus. People were driving in from surrounding states, hoping to get a look at the creature. Edgar Harrison had become obsessed with finding a solution to the monster mystery. His family refused to come home again, taking up residence in a restaurant the family owned, and so his house was turned into a "monster outpost". The phones rang constantly. Meanwhile, Harrison had taken a leave of absence from his job at the waterworks to hunt the monster full time. In the company of friends and investigators, he camped out at the foot of Marzolf Hill for 21 straight nights. And while he never saw the monster, he did hear and smell it and noted that whenever the searchers were onto something, they were overwhelmed by the terrible smell. He surmised that the smell might actually be a "stink gas" that was used to distract the investigators.

During the last week of July, a series of mysterious three-toed prints appeared on the Freddie Robbins farm, about eight miles south of Louisiana. No casts were made of the prints but they were protected until investigators were able to make diagrams of them. They would turn out to be an almost exact match of prints found a few days later. More tracks were discovered on the early morning of August 3 at the farm of Mrs. and Mrs. Bill Suddarth, who lived just northwest of town. In the middle of the night, they heard a high-pitched howling in their yard and ran outside with flashlights to see what was going on. In the middle of their garden, they found four prints from a three-toed creature.

Suddarth quickly called his hunting buddy, Clyde Penrod, who drove over and made a plaster cast of the print. Penrod, who was an avid outdoorsman, was puzzled by the whole affair. With the tracks being 20 feet away from anything else, he couldn't understand how they could have been made. They began abruptly in the center of the garden and ended just as mysteriously. It looked as of the three-toed creature had just appeared in the center of the garden and then vanished. No tracks were found anywhere else on the property and there was no sign that any prankster could have made them either. This was the last encounter with the creature and perhaps it is fitting that the "monster flap" ended on such an inexplicable note.

The discovery of the strange tracks at the Suddarth farm ended the “Momo” sightings and encounters in Louisiana and the story has become little more than a remembered curiosity in the area today. There are some though, who are likely never to forget the summer of 1972. For those people, and for those with an interest in the unexplained, those days in July will always remain a mystery.

© Copyright 2003 by Troy Taylor. All Rights Reserved.

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