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The White River monster is one of Arkansas’s premier mysteries. Since 1915, along the White River near Newport (Jackson County), the monster has appeared several times and has become a local legend.
Sightings of “Whitey” began in 1915 but were sporadic until 1937. On July 1 of that year, Bramlett Bateman, owner of a plantation near the river, saw the monster. He reported it as having gray skin and being “as wide as a car and three cars long.”
As news spread, construction of a huge rope net to capture the monster began. The monster had been seen in an eddy, so a diver was brought in to search for it. However, Whitey was not captured, and construction of the net stopped because of the lack of money and materials.
In 1971, the sightings began again when someone reported seeing a gray creature with a horn sticking out from its forehead. Other witnesses described it as having a spiny back twenty feet long. Later, a trail of three-toed, fourteen-inch prints was found in the White River area. Crushed vegetation and broken trees were evidence that something large had passed by, and it was assumed that the tracks were Whitey’s.
In 1973, the legislature signed into law a bill by state Senator Robert Harvey, creating the White River Monster Refuge along the White River. The area is located between “the southern point on the river known as Old Grand Glaize and a northern point on White River known as Rosie.” It is illegal to harm the monster inside the refuge.
While there have been no recent sightings, theories about Whitey abound. It is hypothesized to be anything from a huge fish to an elephant seal, though none of the theories fully explain Whitey.
For additional information:
Craig, Robert D. “The White River Monster.” Stream of History 45 (July 2012): 3–19.
Harris, William. “The White River Monster of Jackson County, Arkansas: A Historical Summary of Oral and Popular Growth and Change in a Legend.” Mid-South Folklore 5 (Spring 1977): 3–23Mackal, Roy P. Searching for Hidden Animals. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1980.
“The Misplaced Monster of the White River.” The UnMuseum. http://www.unmuseum.org/whiteriv.htm (accessed May 12, 2014).
Conor J. Hennelly
Last Updated 6/4/2015
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