Is there a man-eating creature of legend hunting in the forests of Kentucky?
As any place where the woods are dark and deep, Kentucky’s Land Between the Lakes is rife with stories of the strange and terrifying. Witch-cults, native curses, Confederate ghosts and extraterrestrial spacecraft are all said to populate the national park. Websites chronicling Bigfoot sightings in the Commonwealth have many reports of encounters from the area. Included among the entities said to haunt Land Between the Lakes, like some hold-over from a more superstitious era, is a werewolf. Whereas werewolves in the oldest myths are indistinguishable from mundane wolves, the monster supposedly hunting at Land Between the Lakes more resembles the image of the beast popularized by movies such as The Howling.
Stories about a werewolf stalking the Land Between the Lakes are said to stretch back to the 1800s, often blamed on the native curse. However, there is no source for these claims before 2004. That same year, the Guardian Tales website first brought the so-called “Beast of Land Between the Lakes” to the attention of paranormal and cryptozoology researchers, in a lurid report by a “Jan Thompson.” Unfortunately, the Guardian Tales website it now defunct, but several websites have republished or paraphrased the story. The report is repeated in full at the Demon Hunter’s Compendium.
According to Thompson, in brief, she was visited by two police officers while working the late shift at an IGA. The officers, who she names under the pseudonyms “Bill” and “Dave,” proceeded to tell her an incredible story. Bill and Dave had just left a crime scene at Land Between the Lakes that left them shaken. An entire family was found not murdered, but slaughtered. The scene was like that of a class werewolf film. Their motor home destroyed. Blood everywhere. Bodies dismembered. Most disturbing of all, the body of a little girl was found high on a tree limb, partially devoured. Several hours into the investigation, a new team arrived to take over, Bill, Dave and the first investigators to the crime-scene dismissed. They were instructed to never speak of what they were witness to.
Sometime later, Jan would see Bill and Dave again, both wearing the stress of that night on their faces. The officers told Jan the analysis of the hair and saliva found at the crime scene showed them belonging to canis lupus. Due to a conspiracy of silence by the authorities, the media never mentioned the murdered family.
Since 2004, various books and websites have included Thompson’s story, taking it at face-value as true. But is it?
Barton Nunnelly, who references Thompson’s story in his Mysterious Kentucky, says he “honestly felt Jan was sincere” when he interviewed her in 2007. However, he adds “There is not a shred of physical evidence to back up the story,” along with the caveat that this lack of evidence does not necessarily mean the story is a hoax.
While absence of evidence does not automatically invalidate a story, and despite Thompson’s sincerity, the “Bill and Dave” tale does not hold up under a critical reading. Thompson claims a cover-up of the murders, so to not scare away tourism in the area, to explain why the public never heard of slaughtered family. Her police officer friends were not to speak of it, yet they tell the first person they meet after leaving the crime scene. If they tell Thompson, it stands to reason Bill and Dave would tell others, such as family or close friends. Thompson also says there were dozens of police officers and other authorities investigated the murders, including officers from another state. Not a single one of the large number of people supposedly involved has come forward. Nor have any friends or family they would have told. There have seen been a few reports of a man-wolf at Land Between the Lakes, but nothing that has collaborated Thompson’s claims.
The claimed conspiracy conflicts with the climatic twist in Thompson’s story, the officers telling her the hairs belonged to a wolf. If authorities were trying to cover the incident up, rank-and-file officers would not be told the results of the analysis. Surely these would have been covered-up as well.
Seven years after Thompson made her post on Guardian Tales, she remains the sole source of a story that cannot stand up to scrutiny. It is doubtful that witnesses to such an extraordinary event would have remained silent for so long.
Just as it is doubtful those who believe in the “Beast of Land Between the Lakes” and Thompson’s story will soon be convinced otherwise. It is now part of our folklore and cultural landscape, both in the Commonwealth and the internet-at-large.