Editor's note: The City of Oxford announced Tuesday that it will host a new team in the Sunbelt Baseball League, a summer collegiate wood bat team that will play at Choccolocco Park. The team will be called the Choccolocco Monsters.
For those wondering where the name came from, we offer the following account from 1969, when the Choccolocco Valley became famous after sightings of a large, shaggy, hump-backed creature, quickly dubbed the Choccolocco Monster.
(Spoiler alert: Thirty years later, it was revealed that the Choccolocco Monster was actually a prankster wearing a sheet and holding a cow skull.)
This story was originally published on June 8, 1969, in The Anniston Star.
There has been no peace in Choccolocco Valley since several residents reported sightings of a shaggy “monster” more than a week ago.
The valley literally has been “overrun” by hundreds of curiosity seekers and armed hunters, who one woman says are “trigger happy.” When darkness falls, residents say, the area resembles a battleground, complete with searchlights and gunfire.
It all began when Mrs. Margaret Teague called the Calhoun County Sheriff’s office May 29 and told of sightings of a large gray and black “hump-backed” animal. It reportedly was seen by at least eight persons in the area, but only two have been identified.
Although the recent sightings of the creature by Mrs. Teague and her teenage son have gained the widest publicity, at least one man reportedly saw the “thing” a year ago. There have been scattered reports of sightings as far back as 25 years, too.
However, the problem now is not the “monster” but the people it has lured into the valley.
Mrs. Bobby Murphy, who has lived in the community for more than 30 years, said there has been a large number of people visiting the site on the Choccolocco to Iron City Road.
“But,” she said, “we’ve never seen the creature or found any evidence that it even exists.” She said the sightings made by the Teague family were within one-half mile of her home.
Mrs. Murphy said she believes the people seeing the creatures actually saw a beaver, or maybe a cow or a bull. She said beavers are common in the swamp-like terrain of the area. “They (beavers) stopped up a metal drain pipe under the road on the Sunday night the Teague boy reported seeing the creature,” she said.
“If they (the Teague youth and three other boys) saw anything, it probably was a beaver. We’ve never been bothered by anything. It surely must eat, and nothing has bothered our cattle or chickens,” she said, pointing to two large chicken houses nearby.
“If you quote me, tell the folks who have been flocking in here since last Friday that they had better be careful what they shoot at,” she added. She said there has been a constant stream of cars pouring into the area every afternoon and night, many of the occupants carrying high-powered rifles.
“The shooting usually starts around 9 a.m. and sometimes as late as 11 p.m.,” she continued. “Somebody is going to get hurt if it is not stopped, because they are likely to shoot at anything that moves.”
So far, Mrs. Murphy said, no shots have been fired in the direction of her home.
“But I’ll tell you one thing, if one of our cows or bulls is shot and we can find out who did it, somebody is going to pay dear,” she warned.
“Everything was all right until last week and we found out that we have a monster out here. I’d rather have the monster than what we’ve got now … at least it was peaceful and quiet before this.”
Apparently, the monster has had enough of the notoriety, too. It has vanished without leaving a trace, not even a footprint. No one has reported seeing it since it put in its last public appearance May 20.
At present, the creature’s identity is purely guesswork, but it has been called a bear, a beaver, a wild pig, a baboon and a bull. According to Mrs. Teague it is none of these. She says it is a “booger.”
She is also skeptical about a rumor that the monster was shot last week by an unidentified hunter. When informed that the creature might be dead, Mrs. Teague, who lives just a few paces from the Choccolocco Post Office, said, “God, I wish I could believe that, but I just can’t get that picture off my mind.”
Mrs. Teague was told that it had been rumored that a man shot and killed a Brahma bull which was loose in the area, and many thought it was the creature. “I know what a cow and a bull look like,” Mrs. Teague said, “and this wasn’t either one.”
Mrs. Juanita Vise, who operates a small store at Iron City, said she had heard — but couldn’t remember the source — that someone had shot a bull, which reportedly belonged to a Doc Williams. Neither the alleged owner nor a dead bull could be located in the Choccolocco area.
After being told and retold by residents of the tiny community, eyewitness accounts have changed a bit. In the original story as told to a Star reporter, the animal was about the size of a cow, gray to black in color, humped similar to a camel, with a large head and large teeth.
‘What a head!’
Since then, the creature has grown long, stringy white and black hair which covers its body features when it sits — that’s its usual position when seen — on its haunches. Mrs. Teague said the hair obscures the rest of the animal’s body, making it impossible to determine whether the creature has paws or hoofs. “But you could see the head,” she continued, “and oh, Lordy, Lordy, what a head!” Mrs. Teague said she saw the creature shortly after 2 p.m. on May 18, while she was on her way to work at Cleburne County Hospital at Heflin. She said the “monster” was seen near the crest of a hill between the Thornburg and Murphy homes on the cutoff road from Choccolocco to Iron City.
It was sitting up on its hind quarters along the edge of the road in a wooded area, she said. “I had heard of the thing and I had this funny feeling as I drove along the road. I had to look twice when I first saw it to make sure my eyes weren’t playing tricks on me.
“And oh, Lordy, they weren’t, for I know it was the booger!” she exclaimed. “I turned the car around in the middle of the road to get another look, and it (the car) got caught in a ditch … I just knowed the booger had me for sure.”
The creature was sighted a week later by her 17-year-old son, Johnny Ray Teague, and three companions, whose car stalled on the same road around 10:30 p.m. May 25. Mrs. Teague said the boys failed to get the car going again and were just sitting in the vehicle, when one of the youths switched on the car’s lights, illuminating the creature sitting in the road, staring at them.
She said the sight so scared the teenagers that they turned off the lights, rolled up the windows and locked the doors.
“There they sat imprisoned in a locked car with the booger walking around the car a few times before it wandered away into the woods,” she said.
The boys hitched a ride home with an unidentified man, who returned through the area and reportedly shot one of the creatures, which ran into the woods “screaming like a human.”
Mrs. Teague said the boys later returned to get their car. On the way back through the area, they reportedly saw three or four more of the creatures.
“Johnny Ray asked me when he got back home which way I came home from work,” Mrs. Teague said. “I told him over the hill like I usually do.” The youth told his mother that she had better find another route because “the hill was full of boogers.”
Mrs. Teague said she guessed that the man who shot one of the animals had “stirred up a whole nest of them.”
Mrs. Teague also told of a man, whose name she didn’t know, being chased from the hill by the creature as the man was walking through the area. “He ran into my yard all out of breath and nearly scared to death,” she said. “He told me that the booger had chased him to the school (Choccolocco Elementary School).”
A Mr. Young from Centre, who farms a plot of land in the area, was asked if he thought there was anything to the whole story.
“There must be,” he said. “I’ve never seen so many people in my life. They keep the road hot. I’ve seen cars in here from Birmingham, Talladega and other places.”
Other residents say the flow of traffic along the road looks like a funeral procession. State troopers have patrolled the site along with county authorities, who have been called in by some of the people.
Mrs. Murphy said there has been shooting every night, and the area is lighted by lanterns, flashlights and spotlights.
However, the only “booger” spotted thus far has been a pair of glowing eyes in a briar patch, which turned out to be a couple of dew drops reflecting moonlight.
Calhoun County Sheriff Roy Snead said he doesn’t believe there is anything out there. As for the gunfire, he said that was not unusual in Choccolocco, because “they shoot over there every night — at deer.”