Monday, November 3, 2014

South Alabama's "Pig Man"

Perhaps more myth than reality, the legend of the Alabama Pig Man is a popular one in South Alabama.
Historically, ghost stories and legends are either truths or partial truths based on real people and events. Tall tales can be the most ridiculous, but often, the most mysterious stories too good to be true. Or are they? Listening to ghostly stories and legends around the camp fire, most have heard the tales of woodland devils, vengeful and romantic spirits who seek out the living, Indian folklore of unusual earth bound entities, ax wielding mad men, neurotic ghosts and blood thirsty creatures that are part of the strange backwoods stories told in the rural South. But there is another, one that was generally thought to just be a story until recent sightings of the creature began to make people in southeast Alabama rethink the possibility that the legend of “Pig Man” was more than a story.

The name, “Pig Man”, in regards to tall tales, is often associated with killers and flesh eating cannibals in horror movies. Just the mention of such a creature in a normal conversation seems to strike up terrible images of slaughtered animals, hybrid beings who are part human and part swine, and chainsaw wielding maniacs who wear the flesh of dead things. However, the legend associated with Alabama’s Pig Man is a little different but perhaps, a whole lot scarier.

Pigs were brought to America by Spanish explorers long before the days of the first settlers. After the American Revolution, English colonist began to branch out in search of their own lands and since the frontier days of Alabama, the South has always had a high population of farmers. These generations of southern farmers, traditionally raise crops. Plants such as peanuts, cotton, soy beans, corn and sweet potatoes are major staples in the agricultural history of Alabama. However, cattle, sheep, chickens and pigs are also part of the animal trade and mass meat industries that still exist in the southern states of America. Early settlers in Alabama butchered hogs that were raised on farms for their meat. Entire communities gathered for “Hog Killing Days” (typically in the fall). Depending on the population of the town or settlement, 5-10 hogs would be slaughtered and the meat prepared for community barbecues.

Sometime in the 1960’s a rural pig farmer in south east Alabama, (the actual location is perhaps lost to history), was taking a truckload of hogs to a local butcher for processing. There was an accident on the road and the truck overturned, killing the driver and several of the hogs. A few pigs survived and scattered into the nearby forest.

Several years later, a similar accident happened but with a minor twist. A couple was driving home from their beach vacation in Florida and took the scenic route through the back roads of South Alabama. It was getting late and the driver turned on the headlights of the car as they approached a dark country road that led through miles and miles of Alabama farm land. As they traveled further into the country side, the foul odor of pigs overwhelmed them and they quickly rolled up the windows. When the driver reached down to maneuver the manual window lever on the door, he propped his knee under the steering wheel to use both hands when the window got stuck. This wasn't a very safe method of unhinging a tricky window while driving and it distracted him from the road for a few seconds.

As he struggled with the window lever and juggling his coordination to drive with his knee, he glanced down toward the door just as the passenger screamed, “look out!” When he regained control of the car, he looked up and saw a man standing in the middle of the road with what looked like a pig’s head. As he slammed on his breaks, screeching tires and leaving a trail of burning rubber down the asphalt, the strange animal head man walked in an awkward but calm manner to the other side of the road. It didn't seem to faze the stranger one bit that the couple almost hit him. In fact, when he reached the other side of the road, he turned to look at the car and watched the couple while they sped off, terrified by what they had just witnessed.

The story evolved over the years that a hybrid pig-man was roaming the area. The creature was rumored to be responsible for a rash of sightings that people were reporting to local authorities. Game wardens and law enforcement agencies eventually began to take the reports seriously. The reports grew and lingered for a time but eventually died out. It wasn't until new sightings began happening several years later in other parts of South Alabama that more people came forward with Pig Man sightings.

The stories of Pig Man have taken an even stranger twist today. With new technology, like game cameras and surveillance used by wild life officers, sighting of all kinds of illusive beasts are becoming more and more popular. For a few years, hunters were reporting feral hogs that were making dens big enough for ten farm pigs to live in. It was unclear at the time what type of animal would dig out such a large den until they finally started showing up on game cameras. Pictures of enormous hogs began circulating the internet. For a while, the images were dismissed as fake photos and hoaxes until game wardens all over the state started getting bombarded with information and reports of massive hogs and property damage due to the beasts.
Feral hogs in Alabama are overpopulated and reproduce quickly.
They can weigh as much as 500 pounds and are very territorial.
They can be extremely dangerous when approached in the wild. 
In 2007, near Anniston, Alabama, an 11 year old boy killed a wild hog that weighed an astonishing 1,051 pounds. The monster pig measured 9 feet, 4 inches from its snout to its tail, shattering the previous state record for largest hog killed. After it was killed, the head was mounted and the meat processed, which totaled about 700 pounds. According to debunkers of the Pigzilla sensation, the bones of the animal were unearthed and experts suggested it only weighed about 800 to 900 pounds but this didn't stop locals from talking about it or for the media that sent it surging all over the world.
Jamison Stone was 11 when he killed this massive 1000 pound hog
near Anniston, Alabama. 

Today, the animal is still debated as to how big it actually was. It’s no mystery that in some parts of Alabama, there is a serious feral pig problem. Wild hogs can grow to astonishing sizes, some weighing as much as 500 pounds. Photos of Pigzilla can still be found all over the internet. As for the Pig Man, it’s hard to say if he truly exist. Then again, how does a 1000 pound hog go unnoticed for so long? Maybe it’s the fact that neither were believed to exist until someone killed Pigzilla and showed the world. A more intelligent animal, like a human hybrid creature, would definitely be more elusive.  Pig organs and flesh are nearly identical to humans. 

The close genetic relationship between humans and pigs may be an unusual concept to understand, but doctors have figured out ways to use pig lungs and even pig hearts as temporary transplants in humans. Today, geneticist are working to cure diseases in humans by studying pigs and finding out more about their genetic codes. 

So with all the similarities between humans and pigs, what are the odds that a pig-human hybrid could actually exist? It definitely sounds crazy. More like a mad-scientist story to be perfectly honest, but that’s only until someone actually finds a Pig Man and brings him home for all the world to see. 

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