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Geographical Index > United States > Illinois > Peoria County > Article # 721

Media Article # 721


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Roar! Is Perdelwitz Monster back on the prowl?

By Phil Luciano
Peoria Journal Star


PRINCEVILLE — Zounds! After decades of peace, has the Perdelwitz Monster returned to pillage the countryside?

Maybe. Or not.

Perhaps it’s not actually a monster. Maybe just a mountain lion.

Police have heard no such freaky reports. But haven’t you ever seen monster movies? Police are the last ones to know when a monster comes to town.

A bit of local scuttlebutt says something big and scary was spotted in the Spoon River Bottoms area, just north of the Peoria-Stark county line. Plus, it’s said that one cow’s calf recently disappeared without a trace near Wyoming.

Creepy? That’s nothing compared to 1950 and the Perdelwitz Monster.

Fred Perdelwitz farmed Peoria County land between Princeville and Laura. Perdelwitz told Peoria County sheriff’s deputies that over a few weeks, a mystery marauder had snatched and gobbled 40 pigs, four cows, 26 sheep and countless chickens.

Actually, Perdelwitz hadn’t actually witnessed all that predatory poaching and feeding. But he swore to the disappearance of all that livestock. And what sort of creature could boast such an appetite, other than some sort of ravenous monster?

Yet one night, he told police, he’d set out a deer carcass as bait. In the dark, he caught a “fleeting” glimpse of the beast, which, after spotting Perdelwitz, bolted away with a loud roar.

According to a newspaper dispatch at the time, “An appeal, the sheriff said, will be made to all big-game hunters in this area to gather at the Perdelwitz farm and settle the matter once and for all.”

Two such hunters, along with Perdelwitz, mounted horses to try to nab the beast. The found tracks as large as a man’s hand — no further description ever reached the press — but found no further clues.

And as quickly as it reared its hungry head, the Perdelwitz Monster vanished. There were no further sightings.

Until recently.

Again, these are sightings. It’s not like someone has The Son of the Perdelwitz Monster locked up in his backyard shed.

Yet.

The sightings have been in the area known as the Spoon River Bottoms, in Stark County just north of the former Perdelwitz farm. Seven years before dying in 1987, Perdelwitz sold the land to a farmer named Tom McGava, who playfully dubbed the spread Cougar Ridge Farm. Though he sold the property the next decade, son Andy McGava is familiar with the territory and still lives in the area.

McGava, 51, is a former state-licensed expert in nuisance wildlife control. He says, “If you have raccoons in your attic, I’ll get ’em out.”

The other day, a friend called about nuisance wildlife, but not raccoons. Bigger. The friend and another man (McGava knows him as well) were driving in the Spoon River Bottoms one night when they stopped — and spotted a pair of bright eyes staring back at them.

“They claim they saw a mountain lion and had it in their headlights for several minutes,” McGava says. “Several minutes.”

Neither party moved before the critter darted off. But the friend, who raises livestock nearby, discovered days later that a calf had disappeared.

“Big cats hide their evidence,” McGava says. “At least, they try to cover the remains of their prey.”

Not that he is totally sold on the notion of a mountain lion or any other intruder roaming the area.

“I need some hard evidence,” he says.

Then again, he notes that predators are mixing it up with people more and more. A bobcat was killed by a car in Toulon in 2005. In 2009, a black bear was captured in Bureau County. Since the turn of this century, at least 10 wolves have been trapped or killed in northern or central Illinois, including one in Marshall County in 2002. And a cougar was killed by police in Chicago in 2008, marking perhaps Illinois’ most out-of-place wandering. Except, of course, for the legend of the Springdale pterodactyl.

So, maybe a mountain lion is slinking through Stark County?

“Anything’s possible,” McGava says.

I wanted more info, so he said he’d pass along my number to the big-cat witnesses. So far, no call-back. And they didn’t contact police.

Otherwise, the sheriff’s offices in Stark and Peoria counties have fielded no recent big-cat reports anywhere, including the Spoon River Bottoms..

“Over the years we have,” says Joe Needham, chief deputy in Peoria County. “But not recently.”

“Recently,” eh? Maybe a mountain lion has learned how to lie low near the Spoon.

Then again, maybe it’s not a big cat. Maybe it’s something else.

Like, the Perdelwitz Monster? Back and hungrier than ever?

Maybe the Perdelwitz Monster hibernates for 70 years (give or take a few) after a big feeding, then awakes to hunt anew.

Or, perhaps it got fat and lazy — it happens to the best of us — and slipped up recently, thus the eyes-in-the-headlight sighting.

Hard to say. Well, not for McGava, who announced on Facebook, “The Perdelwitz Monster has arisen! The mysterious killer seems to have migrated north and settled in the ... Spoon River Bottoms!”

Is his post serious?

“In a way, it’s serious,” he says. “In a way, it’s a gag.”

The latter partly refers to his jest about the big-cat witnesses: “It is not known if they were imbibing spirits, as they are known to partake in a social drink now and then.”

I visited the area twice this week and spotted nothing. Then again, I’m a weenie: I stayed inside my car. I’m not about to trudge along any river bottom in the hope of going toe-to-toe with a monster.

Meantime, McGava isn’t sure what to make of the reports by his pals, who are setting out trail cameras to try to grab a glimpse of the creature, whatever it might be. As for the original call to McGava regarding nuisance wildlife, he says he is ready to help in whatever way needed — monster traps? — if the cameras find anything.

He sounds pretty calm, not at all like his over-the-top (and tongue-in-cheek) warning on Facebook: “Beware, residents of the Wyoming-Toulon-Bradford area! Lock down your livestock, your pets and small children! Arm yourselves! Be prepared to protect and defend what is yours. You have been warned!

“Stay tuned for further developments as this story progresses.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Phil Luciano is a Peoria Journal Star columnist. He can be reached at pluciano@pjstar.com, facebook.com/philluciano and (309) 686-3155. Follow him on Twitter.com/LucianoPhil.



 
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