Even the smallest towns of America have local lore as intricate as the largest cities. There is a legend in Fouke, Arkansas, that is well known among the locals and cryptid enthusiasts everywhere.
The beast of Boggy Creek has spread its influence far beyond the land it’s said to inhabit.
Admirers of the story have come from afar to step foot in those infamous woods. One such traveler is Lyle Blackburn, author of various books covering the beast and other similar creatures.
As a child, Lyle Blackburn was fascinated by creatures such as Bigfoot, Yeti, and the Loch Ness Monster. His interest in them grew even more after watching The Legend of Boggy Creek. “I grew up in Fort Worth, Texas, so it wasn’t until I saw The Legend of Boggy Creek that I thought something like that might be in our own area.”
Over the course of writing about the monster, Blackburn acquainted himself with Fouke and its community. He is considered a reputable source of information regarding the legend because of his extensive research and interviews. Through his work, Blackburn can relay the story to others who have not grown up hearing the legend. This depiction gives the town a mythical status to outsiders.
“I probably romanticize the whole thing more because, when I first saw it, Fouke was a mystical place. It was a real place, but it was something shown on a movie screen,” Blackburn said. “That’s what captured people’s imaginations. It was painted in such a cool picture as this is a mysterious place, and [it told people to] beware when the sun goes down. To outsiders, it’s something larger than life. They have that sort of outsider view of ‘maybe the woods here are just a little bit different, they’re just a little bit more creepy, or there’s something about this place.’”
The release of The Legend of Boggy Creek in 1972 initially caused this widespread attention. Directed and produced by Charles B. Pierce, it has a documentary style combining real and staged interviews with fictional depictions of the events. The Legend of Boggy Creek gave the town a new level of fame, which, since its spread, has been a train that cannot be derailed.
“It’s so famous you wouldn’t even imagine that it could have happened, but it was just the right timing and the right circumstances that the movie did so well,” Blackburn said. “That made this little town famous, and for that, it’s [reached] fame that other little towns can’t compete with.”
The film used many locals in its production, often having them play themselves as they recount their personal experiences with the monster. There have been many sightings over the years, and the local newspaper recorded one account, garnering the town a lot of attention. But the movie, which made over $20 million at the box office, is what brought the masses to this rural town.
People who wouldn’t usually come to the area were interested in it after reading the story in the Texarkana Gazette in 1971. “It initially brought people in, and then, when the movie got big, it brought an even bigger wave of people down here,” said Blackburn.
The movie’s influence could easily be seen through the sudden invasion of tourists hoping to see something extraordinary. This influx of visitors had both positive and negative effects on the community.
“Small towns don’t like a lot of people tromping around and coming in. On one hand, it’s great because they’re stopping at your gas station and your convenience store and your two or three restaurants or whatever you have,” Blackburn said. “But it is kind of an invasion, because these people are used to being out here a little bit away from the hubbub and stuff.”
Along with the tourists came more zealous attempts to see the monster, such as setting up tents on private property near Boggy Creek. The town realized their situation wasn’t going away soon, and the reactions were mixed.
“Some of them found humor in that, and some of them were mad. This was an invasion of privacy, and so they had a split reaction to the movie,” Blackburn said. “Then, some people profited [with the mindset of] ‘well, let me sell some t-shirts... People are here anyway.’”
Over time, the hype slowed down to an acceptable level, and town residents slowly accepted it as part of their history. Many locals view the story in a positive light, and some even use it to make some profit. Most of the negativity surrounding the story appears to have been left in the past.
“The people who wanted to do something [with the story] and make something out of it have [done that], and the people that just kind of let it be, then they let it be. But you don’t have so much of the problem with people clamoring down here, running over fences and invading properties. That’s all in the past, and that generation is gone,” Blackburn said. “The generation now just has fond memories. They’re proud of it. So, they have a much more positive view of it.”
The Legend of Boggy Creek has undoubtedly changed the community forever without changing the town’s identity. The legend works alongside Fouke instead of overtaking it.
“It didn’t revolutionize the town in [the sense] that there’s no amusement park or anything. There are no water slides, and there are no motels and things that really exploit it. There are a few things, [for example] the Monster Mart, which has embraced it; it has a souvenir shop and a small museum,” Blackburn said. “So, it’s changed in terms of if you’re going to come here [they have] stuff to show you if you’re interested. You can also see things about the monster in that, at one time, Highway 71 was called Monster Expressway, and there are establishments like the Monster Activity Center.”
Many festivals and events have been held in the creature’s honor over the years. The Fouke Monster Festival’s most recent event was held in April 2023. It was their fifth annual meeting. These events have brought more than just publicity, though. Some funds raised at the camp-out were donated to Smith Park. Money raised at other events has gone to the local school or scholarships.
The popularity of this local legend has transformed Fouke into a landmark, and the locals have either adapted to or ignored the beast of Boggy Creek. Mysterious and widespread, this chapter of Fouke’s history is not closing any time soon.
“[It’s] this monster legend that never ceases. It kind of ebbs and flows, but it’s always getting bigger and bigger,” Blackburn said. “It’s never-ending.”