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Monday, December 2, 2019

Decemystery (2019) 2: The Awful

Due to a lack of sketches, I'm forced to use a generic image of a gryphon.

I was a bit torn on whether I should really dedicate an entry to this alleged beast or not. At first glance, it may seem like something that could be seen as something like a Thunderbird. Apply any sort of analytical eye however and all signs will immediately point towards a fabrication or—if you want to be optimistic—an urban legend. However, I want to cover it both as a jab at a friend of mine (hi, Jim!) and because it’s something quicker to write. I did have plans to cover other gryphon-based cryptids, but those are also really short and manage to be even less compelling than the creature that’s known as The Awful. That said, let’s begin.



Awful Itemization: The Mystery of The Awful


To give you an idea as to how sparse information is on this cryptid, I recommend you click here. There’s so little on this cryptid that I’m certain nobody would know of it outside of those that live in the general location it sighted had it not been for H.P. Lovecraft (more on this later). I digress though. The Awful is described as resembling the mythological creature known as the gryphon, a creature with the body of a lion and the head of an eagle. A quadruped like the aforementioned king of the jungle, the creature was sighted in the Vermont, specifically the towns of Richford and Berkshire back in 1925 with the first sighting being from two sawmill workers. The creature, which they saw as they crossed a bridge, stood atop a roof and glared down at them. This caused one of the men to suffer a heart attack.


If you decided to click the link above, you’d know that that’s all there is to The Awful as a whole. Appearance wise, the creature was said to resemble, well, a gryphon. It was said to have grey wings that were  between 10–20 feet. It also had a tail of equal length and claws that could “easily grip a milk can’s girth”. This presumably means grip a cow and carry it off, but I don’t speak farmer.


After that one documented—or what I assume was documented—sighting, there’s nothing else about The Awful. The two sawmill workers saw it, one had a heart attack, and that’s all she wrote. That is, until 2006, when a man by the name of H.P. Albarelli Jr. published an article in a paper called The County Courier about The Awful. It was in this publication that one can learn a lot more about the cryptid. If you want a link to this story, there isn’t one. The article itself isn’t on the Courier’s website anymore and all that exist are reposts on a few websites. If you want to read it, click here.


The first thing of note is that Albarelli either contradicts or gives the real account of the sawmill story. He claims that there were three sawmill workers that first saw The Awful and not two. He also stated that the man who had suffered the heart attack was carried home. He then goes on to state that the man would wake his wife and kids during the night screaming. For what reason, I don’t know. It’s possible he suffered nightmares of the creature it was staring into the  bedroom menacingly, just as it had stared at him and the other two sawmill workers from the roof. Either way, he presumably stopped after some time.


The first additional sighting that Albarelli presents occurred two weeks after the sawmill worker’s encounter. In Berkshire, The Awful was spotted above flying roughly 50-feet over a field near Lost Nation road. The wailing of what’s claimed by some to have been an infant (though some say it was young animal) filled the air. This infant or animal wasn’t saved, which leads me to question the veracity of it given this should’ve been state-wide news.


As is the case with any cryptid like this, the majority of sightings were reported by farmers, who stated that the beast was flying around or over their land. These sightings occurred in and presumably only in Richford and Berkshire. I decided to use Google Maps to see how far these two towns are and it’s apparently a mere nine minute drive; the distance being 5.9 miles. Given this thing had wings, one can assume it’s an even shorter trip.


I digress though. This next part intrigues me immensely because it’s the one and only instance that I can find a witness who actually has a name. A farmer’s wife by the name of Oella Hopkins was outside washing and drying laundry when she heard her dog barking. When she looked to see why, she saw The Awful, perched atop her porch roof. Just like in the case of the sawmill workers, it was glaring down at her, presumably menacingly. Terrified, Oella rushed into her home and hid under her bed for hours. I have no idea if she left her dog outside with the creature or not.


From here, Albarelli says that after a year of sightings, reports of The Awful declined. After three years, they stopped entirely.


That is, until 2006, when Albarelli published his article. A Richford man—who Albarelli claims is “one of Richford’s more solid citizens” and wished to remain anonymous for fear of being mocked by his fellow peers—came forward to say he saw “an unbelievable looking winged monster”. The man claimed that the monster “swooped down from nowhere and plucked a huge black cow” from the upper portion of a pine tree before it circled his house. The man went on to claim that his grandfather told him stories of The Awful, but he dismissed them as urban legends, but believes what he saw was the creature he was told about.


That’s the end to Albarelli’s story. Some have said that he fabricated the entire thing while others believe it’s true. It’s quite fantastical though and I can’t help but be skeptical. One would think this would be much more well known since it caused a man to have a heart attack and some say it carried off an infant. I digress though, one man took notice of the story and that man is one of the world’s most famous authors.


Dead Cthulhu Waits Dreaming: An Inspiration For H.P. Lovecraft?


This probably doesn’t deserve its own little dedicated portion, but given the prominence of Lovecraft in the world of literature, I figured I’d be doing an injustice to the man if I attached his story to the actual Awful’s story. In 1925, Lovecraft traveled to Richford and Berkshire to visit some friends. Upon learning about the creature known as The Awful himself, he opted to investigate the beast for himself. Ultimately, he came to the conclusion that the creature was indeed real. There’s also a claim that he was so marveled by the stories that some of his stories were inspired by it. Don’t take my word for it though, here’s what the man himself said.


The Awful became ample sustenance for my imagination.


I got this from another blogspot that covered Lovecraft specifically. If you wish to visit it, click here; this link also contains the Albarelli article too. That said, I’d like to state that I’ve never read any of Lovecraft’s works for myself. What I do know of them doesn’t make me think that he in any way, shape, or form was inspired by something like The Awful. The creature’s extremely simplistic look and its actions don’t strike me as something that’d inspire a man who created the likes of Cthulhu or Yog-Soggoth. Nevertheless, it’s something that I think is interesting on its own merits. Inspiration can come from the oddest of places after all and it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Lovecraft was inspired by the stories of The Awful. Should this be false though, do notify me.


Theories


1. It was a real gryphon


The first and most obvious theory is that it was a real life gryphon. At the start, I mentioned I was going to cover other sightings of gryphons. There’s one that comes out of Brentwood in the United Kingdom. Per Michael Newton—who I cited in my write-up on The 3X Killer—it was here that a man claimed to have seen a gryphon flying—twice. Then another person said they saw one.


These sightings are generally regarded as being hoaxes. Should you wish to read the entire story, click here. It’s about as long as the wiki that covers The Awful. As for the idea of it being a real gryphon, I’m as doubtful as can be without being Cole Phelps.


2. It was a case of mistaken identity


The idea of misidentifying something like a gryphon for another bird is quite peculiar. Though it bears mentioning that there are those who claim Mothman was an owl, the Flatwoods Monster was a barn owl, and the Dover Demon was a foal or moose calf. So the idea that  people claimed they saw a gryphon when in reality was an eagle, falcon, or some other predatory bird isn’t too far fetched.


Moments of intense fear and stress can often lead to people thinking they see one thing when in reality it’s something else. When your brain isn’t stable or focused on something, even the most mundane and benign of animals or objects can seem a lot more fantastical. The idea of The Awful being an eagle is also one of the most plausible explanations given the myth of the gryphon is that it’s partially an eagle. Whether or not one believes this is up for debate however, since eagles don’t have 10–20 foot long wings, with tails of equal length.


3. It was a Thunderbird


Thunderbirds are something I intend on covering in much greater detail next December. For now, the name comes from the Native American legend of monstrous birds that flew with the currents that cause thunderstorms to maintain flight. Nowadays, the name is applied to birds that are simply claimed to be extremely large.


The Awful could, in theory, fall into this category by default. Pterosaurs are often classified as Thunderbirds after all, so it stands to reason that a gryphon would be classified as one too. However, due to the information on this creature being limited to one article and websites that parrot said article, I cannot say that this particular cryptid is truly a Thunderbird. Should it be classified as one, does that make it a gryphon first or a Thunderbird?


4. It was a fabrication


This is the theory I abide by, though I’m also open to the idea of it being mistaken identity. However, I can’t find a single thing that points to any sort of credible evidence, reports, or anything of that nature. Everything about The Awful personally points to it not existing outside of stories that fall in line with something out of a book like Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark.


My Take


I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I think that legends have to originate from somewhere. In the case of the gryphon, I’m not sure where it was birthed, but I’m extremely doubtful that it is—or was—a real creature. There’s only one article I can find that’s ever cited by the very few sites that I used as sources for this entry with nothing else being known about it. Whether or not Albarelli’s story is legitimate is up for debate, but I personally doubt it. Likewise, I doubt the existence of The Awful the same way I doubt the story of The Soda Pop Slasher.


Conclusion


The gryphon is a creature of magnificence for sure, but the odds of it having existed are as slim as the Awful having been a reality. It’s entirely possible that my assumption of this creature is wrong and it truly does exist. If it should, then that’s an amazing discovery and I’d love to own one as a pet so I can fly around and conquer my fear of heights. At the same time, the odds of that being the case—on both fronts—are next to none. Of this, I am adamant. That’s merely my opinion though. I'd love to hear yours.


If I presented any misinformation whatsoever, that's because I'm really The Awful. M.O.N.A.R.C.H is on my trail and I had to throw them off. Don't tell them. I’ll correct whatever misinformation was given though if you point it out to me though!

1 comment:

  1. *4. It was a fabrication


    This is the theory I abide by, though I’m also open to the idea of it being mistaken identity. However, I can’t find a single thing that points to any sort of credible evidence, reports, or anything of that nature. Everything about The Awful personally points to it not existing outside of stories that fall in line with something out of a book like Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark.*


    I'm going to have to go with this theory, frankly, because of just how little information there is to go off here.

    I mean, one or two stories is all we have, and that's about it.

    It's one of those small town things, maybe drummed up for attention and to put the town on the map. Like the Popobawa or the Lagarflj├│t Worm or something like that.

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