Saturday, August 28, 2010

THE BEAST OF WHITEHALL

Marty Paddock and Paul Gosselin were driving through the isolated and swampy woods near Whitehall, NY in late August 1976 when they heard a chilling scream burst from the forest around them. The men stopped suddenly, thinking someone might be in distress. However, when the got out of the truck all was quiet.

The two men drove on a few more minutes before deciding to turn around and go back to that spot for another look. By this time night had fallen. Among the gathered shadows something large moved along the barbed wire fence flanking the road. To the men's recollection, it seemed to tower nearly 7 or 8 feet on two legs.

Suddenly the creature began slowly coming their way.

Gosselin yelled at Paddock, urging him to floor the old truck. The men sped away into the night, leaving a wake of tire tracks and fumes. In short order they arrived a the Whitehall police stataion where they were met with the sort of reticence to investigate one might expect.

Undaunted, the men enlisted the aid of another friend and returned to the site. The trio didn't have long to wait before the creature again emerged in the distance. Now Gosselin and Paddock had another witness and so returned to the police station.

As luck would have it, Paul Gosselin's brother, Officer Brian Gosselin, was on duty when the men returned to the station. This fraternal link, coupled with the fact that theirs was not the first such report, prompted the officer to take the men's story more seriously. His first inclination, as a rational man of the law, was to believe the men either misidentified something more common or were the victims of a prank.

However, upon learning the location was outside Whitehall jurisdiction, Officer Gosselin sent the information along to the State Police who converged at the site and began scouring the locale for clues. He was unable to go himself and regretted this fact later.

One officer's tense words suddenly erupted from the crowd, "What the hell was that?"

All eyes followed his toward the heart-stopping sight of a strange, bipedal form as it sauntered back into the dense brush. Larger than any local bear and walking on two legs, the creature vanished into the night.

The men raced to where it had stood only moments before. They were shocked to discover footprints that, despite being three times larger, were very similar to a man's.

After hearing all this, Officer Gosselin decided to return the next night with state trooper and friend, George Fox. The two scoured the area for some time before deciding on a "stake out" approach. They sat in their respective vehicles with the lights out and the engines off.

The night ticked by painfully slow, broken only by the rustle of trees and the occasional night bird. Officer Gosselin got out to stretch his legs when he heard heavy footfalls from the dark woods beyond. His partner's voice erupted from the CB radio in his car, "Brian, I hear something!"

Gosselin heard something big moving through the trees and tall grass. Gosselin grabbed his .357 Magnum and hid behind his door. Gosselin guessed the thing must have been more than 300 pounds. From head to toe, it was covered in scraggly hair. Its eyes were large and seemed to be possessed of a ruddy glow in the glare of his lamp. Gosselin knew this was no bear. It moved like a man but looked like an ape - and it was headed straight for him.

Suddenly, Gosselin bathed the night with 200,000 candlepower of light from his massively powerful spotlight. Ahead of him, perhaps 50 feet away, the lumbering giant suddenly halted, throwing its arms in front of its eyes and releasing an deafening scream.

Gosselin cocked his gun but held his fire as state trooper Fox came barreling down from the meadow beyond in his vehicle, screaming over the radio the whole time. Fox raced away into the night, leaving Gosselin to fend for himself.

His eyes turned back toward the creature. Somehow though, the officer sensed the beast wasn't intent on harming him. It was frightened by the light. He couldn't bring himself to shoot it. He had a clear shot, but simply couldn't not pull the trigger.

A moment later, the creature was racing back toward the dark woods. In the spotlight, the officer could see clearly the animal's backbone and its buttocks, caked in mud from where it had sat in the earth. Gosselin was left with the impression that he himself was the intruder in the night. That he had transgressed upon something else's turf.

Then it was gone.

Gosselin kept the light on for a bit longer, as he sat in the mud thinking over what had just happened. He pondered if he should have shot the creature; there would at least be proof. He might have been hailed a hero. Or not. If there weren't many of these creatures living in the world, he wouldn't have felt good about taking one down. He was certain of that.

In the intervening time between Fox's abrupt departure and Gosselin arriving home to a phalanx of reporters, word had spread through the area like a wildfire. He ignored the media and locked himself inside.

Later that afternoon, Officer Gosselin returned to the scene to discover many large footprints pressed deeply into the mud. There were no signs of claw marks and the stride was too enormous for a man to have hoaxed.

In the evening papers, Gosselin was made out to be foolish through quotes he had never given. The townsfolk were equally unkind and the upper echelon in the department told officers to keep their mouths shut regarding anything they may have seen.

But just because a town wants to disbelieve something doesn't make it go away. The next day, reports came in of something monstrous repeatedly crossing the nearby Poultney River, which divides New York and Vermont. From it's muddy banks, State Police were able to cast one of the giant footprints.

No conclusion could be reached. Shoddy investigation techniques, coupled with an unwillingness to pursue the truth too far, led to a case that simply dried up beneath the August sun. By September, the furor was subsiding and men like Officer Gosselin kept quiet about what transpired for decades thereafter.

With such formidble trace evidence, multiple law enforcement eyewitnesses, and a highly active site, why couldn't more have been learned from what happened in Whitehall, NY? There was no need for convenient explanations of transdimensional portals to dismiss why the beast remains elusive. This fiasco lies squarely on the shoulders of human failings.

1 comment:

Autumnforest said...

I love those kinds of tales. They give me goosebumps. I hope to witness something like that some day. I can't imagine how that changes your world overnight.