Ronny LeBlanc's 2016 book Monsterland discusses legends, paranormal phenomena, and general weirdness in Leominster, Massachusetts. As you can tell by the title, it also includes some monster sightings, and here's a particularly creepy story that appears in it.
Way back in the 1950s, a man entered a Leominster bar on a warm summer night. He was visibly agitated, and when the manager asked him why the man said he had just seen a "terrifying monster" on the Old Mill Road near the railroad bridge. He asked the manager to call the police to investigate.
|Image from the 2018 film Primal Rage: Bigfoot Reborn.|
He rushed out of the bar. When the police arrived the manager told them the man had gone to find the monster on his own. The officers drove down to Old Mill Road and found the man's car parked by the side of the road with its lights on. No one was inside. The woods were very dark, so rather than risk getting lost they decided to wait for the man to return. They waited. They waited longer. They waited and waited.
But the man never came back.
After this incident that part of Leominster was nicknamed Monsterland. People reported seeing apelike creatures and finding large humanoid footprints in the ground. Others said their car engines would mysteriously die in the area. Teenagers partied at the railroad bridge party and tried to see the monster. You can see a 2009 video of Old Mill Road and the railroad bridge here.
One way to determine if a story is legend is by how vague the details are. Legends take place on "warm summer night," not on a specific day. Their protagonists are identified generically, like "the man" in the Leominster monster story. They don't have specific names. Legends are vague and archetypal: a warm summer night, a monster, and a man who never came back.
But is there ever any truth behind legends like this one? On June 27, 2010, Bill and Julie Penning took hike in the Leominster woods. As they walked towards their destination (a local reservoir) they heard something moving around in the trees near the trail. Branches crunched. It sounded like a large animal. They assumed it was a deer, but both got a "weird feeling." They kept hiking until the realized they were lost and decided to turn back.
When they got back to area where they heard the animal they got a big surprise:
“We had just been there, and when we came back there were footprints, with five toes, and at least three and a half inches deep in the mud, they were some serious tracks,” Bill said.
The Pennings both experienced an eerie feeling and decided they wanted to get out of the area.
“Where it was early spring there was a lot of brush and berries around us, but not a sound could be heard by anything, no birds, or other animals, just a weird feeling,” Julie said.
Bill said he felt disorientated, and they both spent more time trying to find a way out due to the feelings they had. ("A Sighting Unseen," Leominster Champion, January 13, 2012)The Pennings contacted LeBlanc, and they returned to the woods to make a plaster cast of the footprints. The foot prints were about ten inches long and much wider than a normal human foot. The depth of the prints indicated they were made by a very heavy creature and the gait was not like that of a human.
|Ronny LeBlanc (left), with Bill and Julie Penning in Leominster.|
So is there really a monster living in the forests of Leominster? Scientists would tell us no, and it's important to listen to scientists (particularly right now during this pandemic). There's no conclusive evidence indicating large hominids are living in New England.
However, people have been seeing large hairy monsters in this area for centuries, and I think the Pennings did encounter something. I just don't know what it was. Personally, I don't think Bigfoot (or whatever the Leominster monster is) is an animal. Maybe he's some weird manifestation of our subconscious, maybe he's the spirit of the landscape, or maybe he's visiting from another dimension. And maybe, when I get my courage up, I'll visit Monsterland and find out.