Geographical Index > United States > North Carolina > Cleveland County > Article # 290
Media Article # 290
Wednesday, January 17, 1979
Bear of Bigfoot: Knobby's Got 'Em Buzzin'
By Jennie Palmer
TOLUCA - Lewis Barts declares it's a bear. Jim Hollingsworth says not, it sounds like Big Foot. And folks around this upper Cleveland County village say whatever it is, it's striking fear in their hearts as it roams the back roads and branch banks, "wailing in the night like a woman in pain."
"All I can tell you is what I think, and I think that its a bear. There's been a bear in that area for close to a year," said Barts, a wildlife protector who lives in Shelby, the county seat.
Two weeks ago and again last week, Barts searched the woodlands around Toluca for signs of "Knobby," the mysterious and yet unidentified creature local residents have reported seeing around Carpenter's Knob since late December.
"The first time I saw bear tracks," he said. "Last week I looked again, but I didn't see anything fresh."
Hollingsworth, a park developer for the state, didn't see anything the day he drove up from Pikeville in Wayne County near Goldsboro. He did, however, talk to people who claimed to have heard strange cries in the night. And their stories were enough to convince him that the possibility of being on Big Foot's track is "good."
"I interviewed two people who heard something - not this Saturday but the Saturday before (Jan. 6)," he said. "Their descriptions surprised me."
"They describe it as a sound that varies in pitch from a low growl to a high scream, as being like a bull bellowing, but with its own sound. They also say that after it screams for a few seconds it has a yodeling type sound."
Hollingsworth has been tracking Big Foot, the supposed gigantic, hairy link between ape and man, for six years. As an investigator for the North American Research Association, based in Eugene, Ore., he has spent most of his search time in the Green Swamp south of Wilmington, where this time last year he followed "big foot" tracks along a five-mile stretch.
"Sounds from "Knobby", Hollingsworth said, are akin to "sounds made by a type of creature out west."
When he came to Cleveland County to check out recent sightings, he brought along a tape recording of sounds made in the High Sierras. After listening to descriptions of "Knobby" sounds, he said, he played the tape for Toluca residents who claim the growls were similar.
Even so, Barts says he's sticking to his theory that "Knobby" is a bear who wandered into the Smoky Mountain foothills in search of food. And he thinks area hunters may be taking advantage of "Knobby" reports to reap their own rewards, particularly since search parties have been organized to find and capture the creature.
"It could be an excuse to hunt bear out of season," he said, "or it could be folks spotlighting deer. Either way, hunting any game animal at night is illegal, and if this keeps up I may have to bring some of them in. My fear is that these hunters will get out and shoot at anything that moves. Someone could get hurt."
There's at least one other theory floating around. D.H. Canipe, whose wife claims to have seen the mysterious creature, believes "Knobby" is a mountain panther which has wandered out if its mountain habitat.
He said earlier this month he based his theory on physical and vocal descriptions. The sound, he said, "is like a woman in pain."
Saturday's icy weather forced Toluca residents to cancel their planned hunt for the creature, fist seen by 88-year-old Minnie Cook near her house on Dec. 21.
Several carloads of searchers had planned to comb the area looking for what sighters claim is a 200 pound, six-foot-tall, dark, hairy animal with a small head and flat face. One person who claims to have seen "Knobby" says the animal walks on four legs; another says it walks upright.
A search party from Casar, a community near Toluca, went looking for "Knobby" Sunday and reported finding tracks and an animal den.
Thus far, several sets of tracks have been found but none have been directly traced to the creature folks claim to have seen.
According to one newspaper report, daniel Cooke of Fallston claims to have found tracks at the mouth of a cave in a densely wooded area of Carpenter's Knob similar to those of an ape.
But reports of tracks are not the only things keeping upper Cleveland people on edge.
Last Sunday morning, Forest Price found his full-grown goat, Bill, dead of a broken neck.
"I didn't see it happen. I don't know how it happened. All I know is that something just killed the hell out of Bill and now I've got to get me another goat," he said.
A few days earlier, Price said, something frightened his animals, causing a mule to beak a rope and escape. He said he has seen tracks and heard animal screams but has not actually seen "Knobby".
But his brother, Sammy, and his wife do claim to have spotted the creature after several nights of hearing animal screams.
"I was out in the yard and heard something," sammy Price said. "It was the awfullest scream you ever heard. I looked over in yonder woods and saw him."
The tracks and animal den found by searchers from Casar are located about two miles from the Price houses. The searchers say they found animal hair on a log and tracks at least as large as a man's hand and similarly shaped, even with a thumb-like protrusion.