In 1972, the town of Louisiana, Missouri was home to many alleged sightings of a large, Bigfoot-like creature. The story goes that two young boys and their sister first spotted the 7-foot-tall, hairy beast on the edge of the woods just outside of town. Emanating a foul odor, the creature was carrying a dead dog, according to the folklore.
Sightings of the Missouri Monster, or “Momo," exploded that year, and the town experienced monster fever. At one point, a twenty-person posse was put together to kill the beast, but the creature was never found.
One of the few surviving Momo witnesses, Richard Alan Murry, told Motherboard that he was driving near Louisiana’s “Town Branch,” a small creek that runs through the middle of the town, at around 11 p.m.
As he was passing a small hill, he noticed something moving. Turning his truck towards the hill, his headlights illuminated a strange, upright figure covered in brown hair. Murry guessed the creature was about 20 feet away, and when it realized he was there, it quickly hurried over the hill and disappeared.
Murry, a lifelong local who has served as the town’s fire chief and sat on the city council, was surprised by his sighting. “I was amazed to see something. I thought it was a bunch of nonsense, but then I saw something,” Murry said.
In hindsight, Murry admitted that his sighting could have been nothing more than a bear, but at the time, the supposed monster was on everyone’s brain.
Nearly 50 years after those initial Momo sightings, indie filmmaker Seth Breedlove has released his latest film, MOMO: The Missouri Monster. In the film, Breedlove weaves together a documentary format with fake 1970s B-movie vignettes to tell the little known story. It’s a cool, campy movie destined to become a cult classic, but it also explores an often ignored aspect of cryptid mythology: What creature sightings reflect about our world.
“Monsters are a reflection of where we are in history, as much as they are a spooky tale to tell around the campfire,” Breedlove said. “Monster stories tend to change and evolve with time, matching where we are scientifically, artistically, or as a society and in the long term they act as a window into our own past.”
Some monsters, like the Mothman of West Virginia, have a huge following and even a yearly festival in their honour. Momo just never made it to the big leagues, and was left in the dustbin of history as the world moved on. It didn’t help that the reportedly hairy, lumbering creature was similar in description to the iconic Bigfoot.
“I believe Louisiana tried to have Momo festivals, but the townspeople never really cared that much,” Jason Offutt, author of several books on America’s cryptids, said. “The big difference between Mothman and Momo is that Mothman, at least at the time of the Silver Bridge collapse, was a unique monster. I hate to put it this way, but as much as I love a good Bigfoot story, the big guy has become too common in popular culture to attract that much attention.”
According to Murry, most people in Louisiana just don’t care anymore. “There were people that were afraid...but it's not something that has had a tremendous lasting effect,” he said. “Most of the young people don’t know anything about it.”
Momo, and many cryptids, are indicative of a broader issue. Once-bustling rural communities with booming populations and industries are slowly decaying. With younger populations moving to cities, many small towns are fading away, much like their monster legends.
Point Pleasant, West Virginia, the home of the Mothman, has pivoted to turn its strange past into a successful economic venture. Other towns, and their monsters, aren’t so lucky. But for a brief moment in time, Louisiana, Missouri caught the wave.
“This is a really small intimate story about this tiny town that was dramatically affected by the sightings," Breedlove explained. "I’ll always jump at any opportunity I can find to tell stories in a way that challenges us."
As our world changes, so too will our monsters.