As you may recall from my debut column, I have never actually had an encounter with anything esoteric. However, during the summer of 1988, I did live within minutes of one of the strangest things that may have occurred in South Carolina within the past fifty years. On June 29, 1988, a Bishopville County teenager, Christopher Davis, was coming home from work around two in the morning. As Davis went across the bridge over Scape Ore Swamp, his car got a flat tire. He got out of the car in order to change the flat. When had finished changing the tire and put the tools back in the car, he heard a noise from within the woods.
He would later be quoted as saying "I looked back and saw something running across the field towards me. It was about 25 yards away and I saw red eyes glowing. I ran into the car and as I locked it, the thing grabbed the door handle. I could see him from the neck down – the three big fingers, long black nails and green rough skin. It was strong and angry. I looked in my mirror and saw a blur of green running. I could see his toes and then he jumped on the roof of my car. I thought I heard a grunt and then I could see his fingers through the front windshield, where they curled around on the roof. I sped up and swerved to shake the creature off." Davis would later describe to investigating officers that he had seen a 7-foot tall bipedal 'lizard-man'.
The next day, when Davis inspected the damage to his car, all he could find was that his side view mirror had been badly damaged and there were scratch marks all over the roof of his car. This event would kick off a Summer long, county wide array of monster sightings. Usually, these consisted of more cars and tires being scratched and bitten if they had been parked along the Swamp. Contrary to what normally happens in these cases, the local law enforcement took the sightings that occurred quite seriously. This was most likely due to the credibility of the witnesses and that, since it was such a small town, most of the law enforcement knew the witness quite well.
About two weeks after Davis's sighting, sheriff's deputies from Bishopville had taken plaster casts of three-toed footprints that had been sighted along the edge of the swamp. The casts were never sent to be analyzed because a local biologist said that the tracks were too ambiguous to be identified. According to the SC Marine Resources Department spokesperson, Johnny Evans, the tracks could neither be matched nor mistaken for those of a known animal. Also as far as he was concerned they could not have been made by a mutated animal of any kind.
Even with the positive responses of local law enforcement officials and even some local scientists the identity of the creature could not be proved. What was thought to be the final word on the Lizard Man of Bishopville happened when an airman from the local Shaw Air Force Base by the name of Kenneth Orr came forward and filed a police report describing his encounter with the Lizard Man. Along with his testimony, Orr had skin and blood samples which were purported to be those of the Lizard Man. Not too long after this, when Orr was being arraigned for carrying an unlawful pistol, he recanted and said that he had made up the story about the blood and skin samples to keep the legend of the Lizard Man alive.
Not long after the fake lead of potential physical evidence, the sightings of the Lizard Man began to diminish. More importantly, the media attention severely dropped off. It would seem that the Lizard Man had vanished back into the swamp from where he appeared. Well that is until twenty years later in 2008, when a couple from Bishopville temporarily ignited more controversy by filing a police report about damage to their van. This damage was almost identical to the damage that the Lizard Man had inflicted upon cars back in the 1980's. The front end of the van was scratched and at some points appeared to have teeth marks in it. In addition to the damage to the van, the couple noticed that their cats were missing from the boxes they usually slept in. The only trace of them was some blood and shredded towels from inside the boxes. In addition to some other cars in the area also showing signs of damage, there were reportedly some animals that were found mutilated: the Department of Natural Resources concluded that these were most likely attacks by coyotes.
Perhaps the time wasn't right for a media comeback of the Lizard Man, or maybe he just didn't really grab people this time around. In any case, this would be the last sighting of the Lizard Man to date. So what was this mysterious creature that appeared one summer in 1988? Was it just a town gripped by hysteria? Possibly. There's an interesting footnote to all of this: while doing research for this article, I came across a local Native American tribe that had legends of a creature that they called the Inzignan. According to the descriptions of these creatures, they were 5 foot tall fish-man (i.e. scaly creatures) that had tails. It's not quite the 7 foot tall lizard man reported by witnesses, but it is interesting to note that some witnesses did see tails on the lizard men they encountered. It could be that the more modern witnesses were encountering the descendants of the Inzignan. Ultimately, we may never know ... well until they decide to start taking bites out of vehicles again.
Follow Tony on Twitter