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 footprints were cast. These have obviously been hoaxed.
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 judgment 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 a 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.