We’ve all heard of Sasquatch, El Chupacabra, The Abominable Snowman, and The Loch Ness Monster. But, have you heard of the most infamous cryptid of them all, The Truxton Beast?!
Location #1: Tinker Falls Trail,
This monstrous tale begins on a balmy August evening in 1940 (though sightings date back much further), with an unsuspecting berry picker forging in the steep forests surrounding Tinker Falls. Thurow Austin, enjoying a day off from the Brockway Motor Co. plant, took his wife to this scenic spot in the cool shade of the woods to hunt for berries and escape the oppressive summer heat. Leaving his wife near the car, parked at the side of the road, Austin climbed the escarpment to his favorite berry patch. Hearing a noise in the bushes, Austin tossed a few stones in the direction of the sound. According to the Cortland Standard (August 23, 1940), the terrifying encounter unfolded as thus:
“Austin worked his way about a quarter mile into the woods [when] he heard strange animal noises. Finally he came upon the animal which stood 25 feet away, bristling and pawing the ground and then admitted more terrifying cries, Austin said.
He stood still a moment, thinking the animal might run away. However, when it kept on pawing, he dropped his berry basket and fled to his car with the cries of the animal still shrieking through the woods.
Mrs. Austin, who stayed in the car, said she also heard the cries quite plainly. Her husband described the creature as being a little larger than a police dog, short haired and having a reddish brown color. He said it had a flattish head with long whiskers on its face. Its tail was long and curled over its back as it pawed and growled.
Several sportsmen and hunters were asked if they knew what kind of animal it might be, but most of them were unable to give any clue as to its identity.”
The article reports that a local, Al Snyder, had a rather humorous idea of the creature’s identity. In the same Cortland Standard article, he is quoted as stating, “Al, who has seen and hunted many a strange animals, says that a burro answers to the description that Austin gave of the animal. He also added that several wild cats had been seen in the vicinity, but they would be too small to answer to Austin’s description.” Al went on to say, “A burro is a little larger than a police dog and has a flattish head and whiskers.”
If good news travels fast, then wild news must travel at light speed because it didn’t take long for The Cortland Standard to publish the mortified retort of Thurow Austin.
On August 26, the Cortland Standard read, “Austin said that he has seen burros and knows what they look like. In announcing that he would like to find out what it really is, he is ready to lead a posse of men into the region where he saw it. He said he thought I was a panther, it being too cat like to resemble a burro.
It was suggested that the animal may have been one that escaped from some carnival or traveling menagerie. Although a number of fellow employees at Brockway Motor Company and others about the city have talked of forming a posse to search the woods, no such venture has materialized.”
If Al, the self-proclaimed serious hunter, swore it was far too large to be a cat. And Austin was entirely positive the creature was not a burro; what then was this beast that terrorized the citizens of Cortland County in 1940?!
The Cortland Democrat published similarly, “I was glad to get out of those woods,’ Mr. Austin remarked, ‘but I’ll go and show anyone where I saw the animal. I want those berry baskets too,’ he smiled.
A posse of men who said they were going to go into the area to get a look at the strange beast have all found things of greater interest to do.”
Despite their gallant promises, it would appear that all the hunters of Cortland County found this unidentified beast too terrifying to pursue after all.
Location #2: Griggs Gulf State Forest Trail
Exploring Griggs Gulf State Forest Note: Griggs Gulf is a dirt access road. Parking is available at various points along the Griggs Gulf public forest access road. Hunting is permitted in Griggs Gulf. It is recommended you wear hunter safety color from Sept-November. For more information, visit Griggs Gulf State Forest – NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation.
The Truxton Beast, not unlike other predators, appeared to migrate seasonally throughout the county in pursuit of his chosen prey. On August 29, 1940, Post Standard headlines read: Strange Animal Seen in Labrador Wilds Believed Wild Beast of Hunts Corners.
For years, citizens in Marathon & Willet had reported a creature so ferocious “…that the Hunt’s Corner’s Beast has repeatedly sent the boldest hunters of Cortland and thereabouts back to puttering in the garden; and has slit to shreds the few rash Cortland hounds which failed to heed their master’s nervous homing whistles.” (Post Standard, August 29, 30)
Indeed, the dark woods of Griggs Gulf State Forest, which encapsulates Hunt’s Corners, are so dense it is nearly impenetrable. While other state lands nearby are dotted with trails and sunny picnic spots, the 2,346 acres of dense forest are so foreboding that few have managed to discover its hidden waterfall and 100-year-old cistern. Its 3 miles of snowmobile trails make a tempting entrance into the woods, but quickly, unsuspecting hikers discover that the looming, groaning hardwoods make for the perfect hiding place for a clever beast and often report feelings of being watched.
The Post-Standard continued their August 29 article by recanting a bygone tale of just such a beast guarding treasures buried in the forested hills of Cortland County.
“This is [The Labrador Beast], the mysterious and terrifying beast that always guards such a buried treasure. The old records give many well-authenticated accounts of him. This awesome creature with a long tail curled over his back and his nine blood-curdling cries is the traditional animal.
Gold was early buried all thru Central New York. Whenever a man sought to dig it out, even when following the ritual procedure to reduce the witching spells (digging only in the dark of the moon and in deathly silence; for a single spoken word will ruin all), always when the spade touched the buried chest, then from out of the darkness leaped the beast upon the throat of the luckless digger and sucked his blood, with nine loud marrow freezing cries…
…But there is old magic which hunters must use. If the hunters of Cortland add to the silent digging by the next dark of the moon, the old trick of loading their best shot’s rifle with silver bullets, which alone will kill the guardian monster, they will get the beast and break the withering spell and have free hunting for the buried gold.”
It was going to require a mighty hunter, indeed, to bring out the big guns and slay the anachronistic Truxton Beast. As fate would have it, the call of the wild was heard by the mightiest big game hunter of them all! Luis Smith, founder of Ithaca Gun and veteran hunter and explorer, was the one to answer it.
On August 30, 1940, the Post Standard wrote, “Lou is restless once again for the trail. Deep in his trophy lined den with the head of cougar, cheetah, jaguar, lion, saladang, tiger, leopard, wild boar and bear looking down upon their conqueror, Lou is pacing back and forth, hour after hour, night after night.
Over and over he has been heard to mutter “I want the wild beast of the Labrador. I want that wild beast of the Labrador.”
Maps, charts, and graphs of the region north of Truxton clutter his tale as he plans invasion of the wilderness.
Rumor of the safari even now has reached the natives [locals] whose homes dot the valleys and slopes leading to the lair of the wild beast of the Labrador. News of this coming had brought great comfort and hope to young and old. Now, the terrible beast that makes farmers late for their milking and keeps the children indoors nights surely will be slain.
Bravest among the local hunters have failed, so they doff their coon-skin caps in a low sweeping bow to the famed disciple of Daniel Boone- Lou, the Labrador is yours.”
Location #3: Rose Hall at 19 Church Street,
Cortland, NY 13045
Exploring Dog Hollow State Forest Note: The Dog Hollow Public Forest Access Road is a rough dirt road providing recreational access to the interior of the eastern half of the forest. Parking is available at the dead end, approximately 1 mile in. Hunting is permitted in Dog Hollow. It is recommended you wear hunter safety color from Sept-November. For more information, visit Dog Hollow State Forest – NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation.
Despite the caliver promises of Ithaca Gun founder Lou Smith, the Truxton Beast continued to terrorize the fine folks of Cortland County.
Millard “Mim” Crandle was a farmer and longtime resident of Dog Hollow, an area described as a remote and wild territory. On September 7, 1940, a local paper shared his harrowing encounter with the Truxton Beast.
“Living in Dog Hollow, east of Truxton, Mr. Crandall sees or hears nothing of the beast during the spring or summer, but on frosty fall nights, a ghostly scream can be heard ringing through the valley.
‘That’s him,’ says Crandle. However, it was on a winter morning several years ago that Mr. Crandall met the beast face to face. It was completely dark when he came from his house to start work in the barn. He was followed by his son as he found his way with the aid of a lantern.
Sensing something near, Mr. Crandall looked up- and there it was, the ‘Beast of Labrador’ crouching about 12 feet in front of him. Keeping close watch of the animal, Mr. Crandall told his son to go to the house for his gun.
As he waited for the boy’s return, the man kept his eyes fastened on the beast. When it started creeping toward him, he could wait no longer. Waving his lantern in front of him, he stopped the animal, and it went bounding away out of gun range.
From what he can remember of the uncomfortable encounter, Mr. Crandall states that the animal is somewhat bigger than a Newfoundland Dog. Its fur was like that of a wolf, and its face resembled that of a cat. Its claws are about four inches long.”
In an attempt to track the animal, local farmers followed its huge, clawed prints in the snow. Often, the tracks would disappear at the foot of a tree, only to resume some distance later, deeper in the forest. It is as if the beast took flight or swung from limb to limb.
The interview with Mr. Crandall continues, “Proof of the killing power of the animal is shown by his raids on cattle. In attacking cows, the beast aims first for the throat. One of Mr. Crandall’s cows was ripped through the middle from the throat down…Like a vampire, he [Crandall] says, the beast sucks the blood of the animal he kills.”
The Beast of Truxton, it was believed, lived hidden in the hills during spring and summer, only to descend silently like the snow when the winter tightened its grip on the valley below. As autumn gave way to winter, the Cortland County beast still remained at large.
On November 8, 1940, The Cortland Democrat published, “While driving to his work at Fayetteville though a thick fog about 6 a.m. Monday, C. Leslie Moore reports that immediately after passing Tinker Falls and about on the line between Cortland and Onondaga counties, a bright green light appeared some distance ahead. Having his dim lights on, he flashed them to bright and slowed down. As he drew near, an animal, which he describes as reddish yellow in color and about the size of a large collie dog with pointed ears and a short stubby tail, sprang up from the highway up the bank on his right and into the bushes.”
The Truxton Beast sightings continued just as frequently as hunters and trappers failed to catch it.
By January 4, 1941, the Cortland Standard headline read: Labrador Beast Eludes Hunters, But Springs Trap. This time, the beast was reported to be lurking in the woods near Solon, described as more like a wild dog in appearance, though still filling the air with its blood-curdling scream. Could this mysterious beast shapeshift, explaining the green glow and varying descriptions by each witness?
Despite the valiant efforts of hunters near and far, including the famed gunman Lou Smith, the beast remained at large. And this is where the Truxton Beast’s trail turned cold.
Was the failure to catch the Truxton Beast what drove local farmers of Dog Hollow to abandon their homesteads to the forest? All that lies here now are forgotten foundations grown over with moss and shaded by spindly evergreens. While the 723 acres are open to the public, beyond this access road, there are no trails for curious hikers. Is it because the locals know that the Truxton Beast still roams here, its blood-curdling screams still echoing over these hills?
The September 7, 1940 newspaper article concludes, “Of course, there are many who will tell you that the ‘Beast of Labrador’ is a legend, nothing else-and perhaps it is a legend. However, when the Dog Hollow residents listen fearfully and hear the ghostly scream echoing over the valley through the cool air of the autumn nights, they will tell you that it is no legend which is calling.
‘No,’ claims Mim Crandall, ‘there is a strange beast here- and a mighty strange beast it is.”
1. Think Labrador “Beast” May Have Been Farmers Burro. (1940, August 23). Cortland Standard.
2. Austin Insist Beast He Saw Was No Burro. (1940, August 26) Cortland Standard.
3. Berry Picker Explores Theory Strange Animal Encountered in Labrador Woods Was Burro. Cortland County Historical Society Archives.
4. Strange Animal Seen in Labrador Wilds Believed Wild Beast of Hunt’s Corners (1940, August 29) Post Standard -CCHS Archives
5. Ithaca Hunter to Heed Call And Trail Labrador Beast (1940, August 30) Post Standard – CCHS Archives
6. Tale of Beast of Labrador Confirmed by Dog Hollow Man (1940, September 7) Cortland Standard
7. Labrador Beast Sighted Again (1940, November 8) The Cortland Democrat
8. ‘Labrador Beast’ Eludes Hunters But Springs Trap (1941, January 4) Cortland Standard