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Friday, August 20, 2021

 Selbyville Swamp Monster

In the 1920's two men hunting raccoons headed into the Great Cypress Swamp with their dogs. Their day became rather frightening for them.

It was when their dogs suddenly froze and their tails  tucked in.

"They heard something screaming, and this horrible noise started coming towards them. Rather than fire on whatever it was, they backed away. Something large and heavy continued to follow them, snapping through the branches as it came." -- Author Andy Nunez in an interview to the "Coastal Point" newspaper.

The "monster" has been most often described as large and hair-covered. Walks on two legs. It has also been said to be a ghost-like image. The deaths of livestock, the disappearance of pets, frightened hunters being chased have all been attributed to the Selbyville Swamp Monster.

Unfortunately, the encounters have been dismissed for the most part by many researchers because of a newspaper editor and his youthful friend.

In 1963 or '64, Ralph Grapperhaus, the "Delmarva News" editor, wanted to find a way to increase sales of his paper. Together with Fred Stevens he concocted a plan to bring the Selbyville Swamp Monster to predictable appearances. Stevens fashioned an outfit from his Aunt Dorothy's raccoon coat and hat, found an alarming mask, grabbed a bat and added a large hooked nail and began to pretend to be a monster. He would put on the costume and hide in the trees along Rt. 54. When a lone car would come by, he would jump out and frighten the passengers.

This dramatically increased the reported sightings of the monster and with each encounter reported, newspaper sales increased. However, after about 8 months, Stevens wanted out. He stopped dressing up and frightening people.

"We just had to quit because so many people were coming back in pickup trucks and they were all about half drunk and shooting their guns. Somebody will shoot you and they really didn't mean it, so we just quit, you know." -- Fred Stevens in an 1987 interview in which he revealed the hoax.

And with that interview, the Selbyville Swamp Monster was laid to rest and is largely forgotten. But there are still unanswered questions about the reported encounters and experiences.

What were people seeing and hearing BEFORE  1964?

What are people seeing and hearing AFTER 1964?

And what tales and stories inspired these two men to create the monster ?

The two raccoon hunters whose story opening this post certainly didn't see Fred Stevens in a costume. And it wasn't a bear that screamed at the men.

The Great Cypress Swamp is also known as the Burnt Swamp, especially by the locals. There was a fire in 1930 that raged for 8 months despite attempts to put it out. It is said to have been started by a moonshiner's still that exploded. And  it is also said that an old shingle maker died in that fire. People started to say that he was haunting the edges of the swamp. An alleged ghost might explain some of the sightings that say the monster is "ghost like". But it doesn't explain what the hunters experienced a decade previous.

Although at one time there were bears in the swamp, locals say that there are none there now.

Author Denver Michaels has another suggestion for those who encounter something large and hairy walking on two feet in the swamps.


There are some sightings in the southern part of Delaware. For example:

John, a student at Delaware Technical Community College in Georgetown was driving home on  January 13, 2004. It was at night and he was on the back roads. He pulled up to the stop sign and as he turned right, he noticed a figure standing near a utility pole.

"I turned off my high beams, thinking it was a person because it was standing up. As I got closer to this being I was taken back by its size. I started to slow down not knowing it, I guess because I was puzzled and curious. As I stared I could make out its bottom side, broad shoulders, the fact that  it was standing with its back to me looking into the woods, and hair that came to a point at the top of its head. This entire figure had a thick black cover of hair, with no hair on its hands. I could not see its feet. Standing next to the utility pole gave me some reference for height. I estimate it was around 7 to 8 ft. tall. I was almost past this creature when it looked at me and then looked back to the woods as if it didn't care I was there. Once I made eye contact the hair on my arms stood up and I peeled out of the location."

John's experience was not the first occurrence in the area. After telling his story he learned of more encounters previous to his.

n August 16,  2010, , a family was returning from their vacation when Betty R. saw something that caught her eye. None of the other family members saw the figure as they were all busy reading or talking among themselves.

"We were going through farm country at the time and as we drove past one corn field [sic], something caught my eye. The thing that initially got my attention was the fact that the corn stalks[sic] were now dried and yellow and it appeared that something dark brown was standing there in the middle of the corn stalks [sic]. The roadway was slightly elevated above this particular field, so I was essentially looking down onto the tops of the cornstalks rather than them being level with the van.

John's drawing of what he saw - BFRO
"Having an interest in the subject of Bigfoot, I immediately went into observation mode and noted the following : What I saw was medium to dark brown in color, it was taller than the cornstalks, it appeared to be about 3 feet wide and I may have been looking at a head and shoulders and it definitely wasn't a piece of farm equipment, a scarecrow or a human. In fact, I noted that there were no humans around on the farm at the time. I was able to observe this for roughly 5-10 seconds as our minivan drove past this large field. The brown 'thing' was roughly 300 feet in off the road in the cornfield by itself."

Betty did have a camcorder in the car but was so stunned at seeing the figure in the field, she never thought to try to film it. She did estimate the size to be in the 7 to 8 ft. range. The profile showed her a pronounced brow ridge and the nose and mouth.

There have been other reports of sightings in this same area.

A couple had just pulled into their property returning from grocery shopping back in November 2012. The sun had set about an hour before their return so it was dark. The wife had gone into the house and the husband remained in the car listening to some music. Suddenly he  heard a tremendous scream coming from a patch of trees behind their house. This was then followed by four knocks of wood on wood. The husband shouted for his wife and she came back out. This was when there was a second series of four knocks. The two saw nothing, but the husband was  convinced that there was a bigfoot near their home. It was not mentioned if the wife still remains a skeptic.
Great Cypress Swamp

I believe that there is plenty of evidence to support the existence of the Selbyville Swamp Monster. The encounters and experiences are there through the years. One should not discount the stories entirely based on one year's worth of hoaxed "attacks". Rather, the leaping raccoon coated hoaxer who jumped out at cars along Rt. 54 during 1964 should be put to one side with a big black mark next to them. Those experiences were most likely the work of Mr. Stevens. However, reports from other years should certainly get their rightful place in research and history.


"I'll spark the thought; what you do with it is up to you."

Some sources: shorebread.com,"Mysteries of the Eastern Shore" by Andy Nunez,
"Detours into the Paranormal" by Denver Michaels,why.org,denvermichaels.net,
"Chasing American monsters" by Jason Offutt,bfro.net

This Post By TCC Team Member Nancy Marietta. Nancy has had a lifelong interest in the paranormal and cryptids. Nancy is also a published author and her book, The Price of war, has been met with great reviews.

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