Researcher Jerry D. Coleman has very graciously allowed me to use exercepts from his two books, Strange Highways and More Strange Highways, regarding his investigations into what he calls "Road Trolls". This is a very interesting group of reports that have not received much exposure in the literature, so if anyone has any more information, please contact either him or myself. My email address is in my profile, and Jerry's contact will be at the end of these two exercepts. I plan to have the first of a multi-part series entitled "High Strangeness and Mythology" to be up soon, so stay tuned.
"Road Trolls (From "Strange Highways")
PEGLEGGED ROAD TROLLS
Gary Durbin from Effingham, Illinois, tells of a "Peglegged" creature-man seen from Texas to Florida. I first became associated with Durbin in 1969 at the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company in Decatur, Illinois where we both worked as tire-builders. Known as a straight talker and active outdoorsmen, never were the words Durbin and tall tales used in the same sentence.
It was in 1981, Durbin had gone inside the Tyson Mountain in Arkansas for a load of chicken headed to Chicago. The loading went extremely smooth. Well rested, he figured he could make Chicago by morning easily. These were the days before cell phones, so a delay at the truck stop to phone-in was a necessity. As he drove down the mountain, with its hairpin turns, he glimpsed a peg-legged, hairy, unkempt, person (?) standing just around one of those tight curves, where trailers have even scraped the mountainside. He didn't give much thought to the fellow, only thinking, "Now that must have been a real mountain man, wanting to get really run over," and on to the truck stop he went.
Durbin ran in, phoned, used the little boy’s room, grabbed a cup of coffee to go, and left. Hammer down, he flew up the road, fuel tanks were full, and his load was light. As he crossed over into Missouri on I-55 he stopped at a rest area to catch up his logbook and refresh a bit. Only 10 or 15 minutes had passed when he got behind the wheel and pulled out. Not two miles up the road stood this same peg-legged old hairyman! This time Durbin's head turned almost as far around as Lynda Blairs' in the movie Exorcist, taking in all the details he could.
Quickly he started to reason things out, mile after mile, he thought yes, very possible he was ahead of me, I stopped at the truck stop, then the rest area, if he got picked up soon after I passed him coming off the mountain of course he should be in front of me. But it was strange he thought the peg-legged fellow just standing there not hitch hiking, no movement, just strange.
Durbin has now seen this peg-legged hairyman in central Texas, Arkansas, southern Missouri, southern Mississippi and northern Florida, five times in all with the latest encounter in 1996. By his third sighting he started carrying a camera, once again passing Peg-leg his camera couldn't be found in the cab, the next time, his camera failed to work (he said the button stuck due to soda spilled) and on his last attempt Durbin pulled the truck off the road almost causing an accident in the process. Stopping took sometime which placed him almost an eighth of a mile past his subject over a small hill and as he put it, "To beat it all, the thing was gone, by the time I got back there, he was picked-up or something?"
I should add this note here; between 1981 and 1991 Gary Durbin logged literal thousands and thousands of road miles. It was in 1981 he walked in the door of his house after a recent purchase of a brand new fancy pick-up truck where his wife greeted him with a pile of bills and statements of ridicule for his latest purchase. Durbin, not saying a word, grabbed his road bag and left, vowing to return only when all the bills were paid. Gary pretty much stuck to that promise, driving long and hard for the next ten years, only going home for a day at a time each month.
Durbin notes this about Peg-leg; "He stands a good 6'0" to 6'5", his peg is just below his right knee, made of wood it looks. Always seen by the road towards evening, just past a rest area or truck stop, leaning towards the road, only moving his head a little. Very long hair and beard, light brown in color, covering his entire face, except the eyes, old type clothes, ripped and torn, seems like the same clothes," but he couldn't swear to the clothes. Durbin continued," The creature carries a little hobo type pouch with him, always."
Other drivers I interviewed admit to seeing peg-leg as well. In a truck stop south of Dallas, Texas one driver told me of a peg-legged man he saw next to an interstate split outside of St. Louis. Another truck driver interviewed in Atlanta swears he saw a peg-legged hairy-man standing just a quarter mile from a weigh station in Florida. Is peg-leg a wildman, bigfoot, road troll, a driver's road angel or simply a traveling gent we’ve termed hoboes?
(From "More Strange Highways")
What creature lurks along our interstates, questioning our logic and testing our nerves? Could there exist an unknown 6 to 7 foot tall hairy, wild, nasty looking creature seen along our roadways many have claimed to have a wooden peg-leg? A human-like figure so disgusting that a short glimpse of its strange appearance sends the witness into an internal debate as to what they just saw.
From 1981 to 2003 Road Troll sightings have been personally acquired documenting eleven different locations throughout the southern and Midwest United States, some with multiple eyewitness testimony. In this chapter, many of the cases will be made public for the first time. Unique are these cases, urban legend some say, peg-legged Bigfoot others argue but could the Road Troll be some kind of protector, spirit or ghost?
Most sightings of Road Trolls are reported from over-the-road long haul truck drivers. Logical this is for me, since these individuals log millions of miles a year. Still yet, first out of the mouths of many hardcore skeptics are these following arguments used only to ignore and debunk the sightings of Road Trolls. Comments as: all truck drivers use "road candy", (that is to say an illegal drug called speed), then comes this generalized thought; that the long late nights of driving while deprived of sleep is the simple explanation for the encounters. These two conditions do indeed contribute to hallucinations, however as true as it may be, these assumptions demand this question; Then how is it that each professional driver tells such similar story‘s? The close-minded skeptic quickly goes to yet another popularly accepted conclusion, which is truckers love to tell a tall tale and have the time to think it up, adding the access to one another to compare notes, thus, evidently surmising a center-white-line hypnoses causes the need to make up such events. Doubtful this is true in many, if any of the cases, but I will not conclude that the hardcore skeptics are completely off base.
I've been around a lot of truckers since 1981, in fact being one myself in the early 1980's then again hitting the road in the 1990's gave proof to the fact that never did I hear stories told of tall tales used to fool a fellow trucker with make believe road monsters. When these stories were heard, it was always sincere in nature and voluntarily initiated and told privately in coffee shops or loading docks, not blasted over the C.B. radio as one may think! If these types of incredible tales got back to their dispatch that driver may be, first up for discipline via logbook violations, (driving on deprived sleep), immediately drug tested and / or simply taken off the truck. The days and laws have change tremendously since the liberal 1960's and loose 1970's, granted a few “road rebel's” still fly up and down the interstates and do tell tall tales to total strangers but these tales often refer to one or two Baywatch-like blond babes that beg our fat, bald, haven't-taken-a-shower-for-two-weeks driver for a ride and companionship or another often told tall truck driver tale that reflects a version of a short days run, which paid five times what others get and usually is but a one pallet light load! These types of fibs are spotted a mile away, lonely drivers on an ego trip, rather than a road trip. Lies of legendary road monsters by truck drivers? This just is not the answer here.
If one insists on sticking to their theory of drivers seeing Road Trolls due to hallucinations, then address this next question; how is it that even some short run drivers, drivers that have just began their trip, which are well rested and drug tested have seen and reported these Road Trolls? But more importantly how would the skeptics explain away such cases as the mother of two, headed to the mall or the pastor going to a church gathering, both who claim an encounter with a Road Troll? These latter two cases are not alleged drug-taking truck drivers, deprived of sleep and spinning yarns, they are average citizens out on a thought to be average trip.
The Green Pond Road Troll
In 1983 I interviewed a woman we can only refer to as Barb (and at her request, hold her last name for privacy). While sitting at her kitchen table in Des Plaines, Illinois she told me of a trip taken to Alabama to visit her sister. The trip by automobile went without a hitch, well rested and only excited about reminiscing with her sibling; the following day an early morning journey was underway to a Birmingham strip-mall. On their way to the mall located on I-20 and I-59 by Green Pond (mile marker 97 by a weigh station) her sister exclaimed, "What the hell is that!" Quickly Barb slowed down and followed her sister’s eyes to the roads edge in front of them. Now going just under 30 miles an hour they passed a wild looking man (?), immediately the chat in the car was replaced with total silence. Barb’s eye’s locked on the creature and her sister wore out the rearview mirror as they passed the unorthodox looking figure.
Barb told me the creature was well taller than her husband (he is 5'10"), it had hair at least a foot long covering its face and its clothes looked like what one may think someone’s clothes would look like if a car dragged them. She continued, "The man or whatever it was, just looked at us, a look of curiosity I'd call it. We both agreed it had a wooden leg or walking stick in front of its leg we were not sure.” Barb then said, “I felt guilty that we didn't call the police to check it out."
I interviewed Barb again while writing this story. Now years later, she continues to stick to her story that the ‘thing’ she and her sister saw that morning outside of Birmingham, Alabama was one of the strangest days of her life. She added, “After seeing the creature or whatever it was, it like totally changed our plans.” I asked her to elaborate, and Barb continued, “We didn’t go on to the mall as planned, instead, so shaken and concerned we stopped at a nearby coffee shop and quietly sat composing ourselves and caught up on sister talk and, never mind you’ll think I’m silly.” I insisted, “Please continue.” Barb then said, “I never told you this, never thought it was related to the sighting but when we returned home three hours earlier than we had planned, my sister’s son had fallen out of a tree he was climbing. The babysitter was getting ice when we walked in, but her son’s bone was exposed and we rushed him to the emergency room. In retrospect, I’ve always felt if we hadn’t seen that ‘thing’ and returned home, maybe her son would have laid there and bled to death.”
Truckers Road Troll’s
Professional drivers, Gary Durbin, Adam Sanders and Adam's father's sightings are well documented in my book "Strange Highways", Durbin and the Sanders encounters were years and states apart, from Florida to Texas in 1981 to 2003, yet both parties explained, almost in identical detail their Road Troll stories. So too did another truck driver I interviewed south of Dallas, Texas.
In the winter of 2000, I had the opportunity to interview a person who asked I only use his CB handle name, which was Gunslinger. Gunslinger and I were in a truck-stop just south of Dallas / Fort Worth sharing a pot of coffee as he told me tales of his road life. Gunslinger spoke of many unique and interesting experiences but one story caught my attention, a story I had heard many times before, it was an encounter of a large hairy peg-legged wild-man. (Note; Gunslinger had no clue of my connection with Cryptozoological and Paranormal research).
Gunslinger told me that on February the 27, 1998 around 4 or 4:30 p.m. he was driving on I-255 after just loading in Saint Louis and headed for Chicago. As he approached the junction of I-255 and I-270, 12 to 14 miles from Alton, Illinois and 4 miles north of the Collinsville weigh station he spotted a figure along the road. Slowing down, in fact as he put it, "I took my foot out of the carburetor and threw on the Jake-break, not knowing if the thing was going to cross the road." He recalls the date and time so well because he still carries the logbook in the sleeper of his present truck and insisted I follow him to the truck so he could show me the notes written in the margins, which confirmed the testimony. In the margin read, "Strange wild looking man seen”, on the reverse of the log book read, "This thing was big, hairy and almost looked fake until it moved!"
Gunslinger's description of the varmint was as follows; “It stood well over 6 foot tall, maybe even 7 foot tall, long hair that covered its face and arms, the creature had a peg-leg just below the right knee and was wearing very out of date, torn-up clothes.” He added these observations, “It didn't move until the truck got right up to it, I was going fairly slow and got an excellent look at it, I honestly didn't think it was real but then it turned its head and looked my way! I'm not sure what I saw, thoughts of a wild, weird creature quickly crossed my mind, I am sure it was no ordinary hitch hiking man!”
Then this report by Brad Royalty an owner/operator that on March 15, 2000 also apparently spotted a peculiar pedestrian. Royalty claims he spotted a peg-legged Road Troll standing along I-44 outside of Big Cabin, Oklahoma. Royalty stated, "The thing was tall and hairy and had a wooden leg, I first thought it was a bum but it freaked me out, it just starred".
Now this report from Doug and his wife also an owner/operator team, they too saw what sounds to be a peg-legged Road Troll sometime in the mid-summer months of 2000. It was on I-70 by Boonville, Missouri just one mile from a rest area. Doug stated, “The man or whatever it was didn't even act like he was hitch hiking or doing anything, no vehicles were broken down within miles, and to be honest it looked like a huge scarecrow, it had an artificial leg and a lot of hair!” His wife refused to comment, other than saying, “It scarred me to death!”
The Pastor’s Road Troll
Then came a sighting by Pastor Jim Washington of East Tennessee. Pastor Jim was on his way to a church function on the evening of June 4, 2003 around 7:15 p.m. The Pastor was taking an all too familiar route down I-181 south of Johnson City, Tennessee to the small town of Erwin where just outside the town of Unicoi he spied a large, hairy, crippled man (?) along the Interstates shoulder. Concerned about the individual he took the next exit and returned to the location he had seen the unkempt looking thing, but nothing was found, it had disappeared.
The Pastor stated, “I felt sorry for him and wanted to help if I could, so I turned the car around. Although it took me 2 or 3 minutes to get turned around, he was long gone. He was so wild and strange looking with an obvious disfigurement of the leg that I can't imagine anyone picking him up. Then the Pastor added this final thought, “I can’t explain it but he appeared lost.”
Further examination of this event and the location uncovered little other than a closely related report of a Bigfoot-like creature seen near Erwin, Tennessee two weeks later.
These ten witnesses with similar story’s coming from professional truck drivers, their passengers, a homemaker, her sister and pastor, spanning 22 years and covering Florida to Texas into Missouri, Illinois and Tennessee are what, coincidences? What is it these people are seeing?
One theory quietly kicked around of these big hairy, tattered old-time-clothes wearing homo anomalous' is the ancient story of protective guards. In this theory, Cortez's army while fleeing north and hiding Aztec Treasure in the Cascades left slaves behind armed with flintlock rifles to guard the treasure. This story appears to transform the wooden leg or walking stick into a musket. However, it does not explain the sightings found in the southeast and mid-western United States. Another theory, accepted by some is that these ‘Road Troll’ sightings are in truth a Peg-legged Bigfoot. In this theory the torn clothes is matted hair and the locations of some sightings coincide with other Bigfoot reports. A Bigfoot with an artificial limb? Seems very illogical!
More likely, it may be a simple case of a traveling soul, a feral human that finds the establishment an unnecessary infringement on his life, an unkempt individual only wishing to escape the taxman and the time clock. I recall in the winter of 1984 while on my way to work around 4 a.m., I would pass a secluded wooded area and notice movement around a small campfire. After days of passing this activity, curiosity got the best of me. Stopping along the shoulder of the highway (route 19 by Elgin, Illinois), I hiked back to the ‘camp’ and there sat a young man of 19 peacefully eating some cornflakes. He told me his parents had both recently died and left him a huge fortune. He said, “Family started coming out of the woodwork, lawyers had unwanted advice and neighbors that had never met my parents were now taking interest in me.” He had to get away and think things out; where to go, what to do and of course mourn in peace. I questioned his method but understood completely and later that day asked a police buddy of mine to check in on him from time to time, three months later the young man and the campsite was gone.
Are these sightings a peg-legged Bigfoot? Alternatively, loyal spirits still standing guard? Who knows, but perhaps it is an unknown entity of our mind an unexplained homo anomalous with little purpose, playing cosmic games or with a lot of purpose changing fate to those who see it? Does the witness think they see something thus stimulating or alerting these drivers back to reality where their minds may have drifted from the task at hand or as in Barb and the pastor's case an obvious detour in the direct path of travel, possible delaying them and others, avoiding an accident awaiting around the next curve of changeable fate?
1. 1981 Little Rock, Arkansas - East of Ouachita National Forest
2. 1981 Cooter, Missouri - South of Mark Twain National Forest
3. 1983 Birmingham, Alabama - West of Talladega National Forest
4. 1984 Huntsville, Texas - San Jacinto/Sam Houston National Forest
5. 1986 Natchez, Mississippi - Homochitto National Forest
6. 1991 Live Oak, Florida - Osceola National Forest
7. 1998 South of Alton, Illinois - Northwest of Shawnee National Forest / South of Mississippi River Fish & Wildlife Area.
8. 2000 Big Cabin, Oklahoma - North of Cherokee State Park
9. 2000 Boonville, Missouri - Katy Trail State Park
10.2003 Carnesville, Georgia - South of Chattahoochee National Forest
11.2003 Johnson City, Tennessee - North of Cherokee National Forest
The Amazon links for "Strange Highways" and "More Strange Highways" can be found here and here respectively.
The link for Whitechapel Press can be found here
You can reach Jerry Coleman at http://myspace.com/jerrydcoleman.