“Goggle-Eye Gobbledygook”

“Ozark Howler Apocrypha”


by Mark Spitzer

Note: Page numbers from the print version are indicated in brackets and should not be considered part of the text.

[page 119] Abstract: “Goggle-Eye Gobbledygook,” “Ozark Howler Apocrypha,” and “Howladdendum” are excerpts from Cryptozarkia, a bestiary of freaky Ozark hybrid studies forthcoming from Cornerstone Press in West Plains, Missouri. The cast includes hoop snakes, wampus cats, man-eating gator gars, bogus Ozark howlers, the mythical blue humans of Blowing Cave lore, the last rampaging American wild man, the notorious marauding Mexican crab tick, and much, much more. Via the avant-garde approach of investigative poetics, monster-spelunker Mark Spitzer hunts these enigmas down, interviews authorities, cites folklore and history, and boils down fact and fiction for the amusement of both skeptics and true believers. The result is a vivid, scholarly mosaic of how and why imaginations create mashups of the natural world gone crypto.

Keywords: cryptozoology, folklore, Ozark howler, fish tales, apocrypha, Ozarks

Goggle-Eye Gobbledygook

According to Rayburn’s Ozark Guide

a publication that used to print

“tall tales, or other bits of lore”1

there was this professor from Kansas

who went fishing on the Buffalo River

circa 1917

now this old boy

had mongo “shell rim spectacles”

and he hooked himself “a fish so large

that he could not land it”

so he hung on and it

pulled him in

Yep even to this day

folks have seen the professor

being dragged up and down the river

still clinging to his fishing pole

but wait there’s more

because suddenly there was

a new fish in town:

Ambloplites rupestris

a non-native member of

the sunfish family

built like a cross between

a bream and a bass

with one distinguishing

notable feature:

big ol’ bubble eyes

just like that missing professor

with his thicker than baloney


and refusal to let go [page 121]

so now his spirit inhabits the streams

of northeast Arkansas

where an introduced species

commonly known as “goggle-eye”

and/or “red eye”

is believed to exist because

“all such fish

had seen the professor”2

in an area by the way

that just happened to be stocked

with this specific

northern rock bass

(which differs from the Ozark

and shadow bass)

spawned in a hatchery

“established in Neosho, Missouri”3

à la 1888

So is it a coincidence

that most federal stocking activities

take decades for breeding

populations to take

or is it a fact that

“great numbers of fish

soon appeared in the river . . .

with protruding eyes,

resembling . . . the Kansas professor”?4

Well Will Rice of St. Joe would know

because he’s the reporter

who recorded the legend of this fish

among other




“a turtle killed in the Buffalo River . . .

which ‘made a meal for forty families,

with two barrels of soup left over”5 [page 122]


the killer turnips that erupted from a shed

murdering a herd of cows6

or get this

“a man on [the] Buffalo River

who ‘grabbed a big frog by the leg.

[which] jumped clear across the river

with him hanging on’”7

Let it be known however

that Will Rice “was best known . . . for his sly humor.

He didn’t think of his yarns as tall tales,

but liked to consider them

‘things that are always possible—

but not always very probable’”8

in his own words

Will Rice of St. Joe wrote

“I always enjoyed seeing the town’s name . . .

so I began sending items from here

just to see ‘St. Joe’ in print”


“Sometimes, perhaps,

I would help the item out . . .

to make it more entertaining

and to insure a wider circulation”9

So no wonder a year

after documenting this rise

in goggle-eyes

Rice recycled his own

fishy fish story

“about the phantom fisherman . . .

a determined looking professor from Kansas

with . . . horn-rimmed glasses”

who hooked a catfish in Arkansas

weighing 400 pounds

et cetera

et cetera [page 123]

so now his ghost sits fishing there

and they say that during electrical storms

“the haunted fisherman throws

fish over his shoulder

and the person who happens to be there

can fill a basket”10


that’s the news from St. Joe

where the apparitions of imaginations

still hold to claims made

by dubious Ozark storytellers

like those who spin yarns

of goggle-eyed perch

infused with the spirit

of a stubborn professor

still being towed

up and down the Buffalo River

an unlikely story

that keeps getting told

one way

or another.


1. Rayburn, Otto Ernest, ed. “Folklore Nonsense.” Rayburn’s Ozark Guide, Spring 1951, p. 48.

2. Rice, Will. “Goggle Eyes.” Rayburn’s Ozark Guide, Spring 1947, p. 87.

3. Cashner, Robert C., and Royal D. Suttkus. The Southwestern Naturalist, vol. 23, no. 3, 10 Aug. 1978, p. 464.

4. Rice, p. 87.

5. Randolph, Vance. We Always Lie to Strangers: Tall Tales from the Ozarks. Columbia UP, 1951, p. 69.

6. Ibid., p. 90.

7. Ibid., p. 71.

8. Gazette State News Service. “Death Comes to Will Rice, 73, Prominent Man of Damascus.” Arkansas Gazette, 6 Apr. 1953, p. 2A.

9. Sherwood, Diana. “The Beloved ‘Sage of St. Joe.’” Arkansas Democrat Sunday Magazine, 18 July 1948.

10. Rice, Will. “Fish Stories Are Stranger Than Fiction.” Arkansas Democrat Sunday Magazine, 11 Apr. 1948, p. 3. [page 124]

Ozark Howler Apocrypha

With all its snawfuses


and random snickelhoopuses

you’d think Arkansas would have enough

fictitious creatures in its cache

of debatable obscurities

but then here comes the Ozark Howler

known for its plasma-curdling scream

sometimes described as “somewhere between

a wolf’s howl and an elk’s bugle”1


as described in Tales

of the Ozark Howler (no credible listings anywhere)

“It had a kind of voice to it,

but another tone as well,

one that was practically mineral.

It sounded like the screech of an animal,

but also like a metal blade

being scraped over an unmoving stone”2

This description comes from a book

allegedly “published in 1936

by a small, local printer

shortly before the death of its author”

Saul Ashton (no info on him either)

who supposedly collected

“folktales, eyewitness accounts,

[and] archival documents”3

in a study pulled from distribution

by scandalized family members

who couldn’t condone

such an unchristian

abomination [page 125]

Then came editor Hawthorne Cornus

an identity just as bogus

who reprinted Ashton in 2019

in a self-published paperback

that’s been effective

in continuing conspiracy

of a hard to identify

cross betwixt a large cat and bear

with a side of canine,

red “glowing eyes and horns”

and a shaggy form

that “most agree . . .

is black”4

But seriously folks

the Nightshade Bear as it’s also known

was inspired by tales from the 1800s

of Daniel Boone shooting some sort

of unknown hybrid

that later merged with English hellhounds

all mixed up with wampus cats

and a dash of Native

American lore

until “journalist Lisa Leigh exposed a double hoax . . .

when rumors were spread . . . by Bigfoot enthusiasts,

seeking to portray the Ozark Howler as . . .

invented by a student at

the University of Arkansas”

in 1994 [page 126]

according to Leigh

“This student was said to have made a bet with

members of a rival fraternity that he could convince

the local NBC affiliate to run a story . . .

[but the] student was never identified . . .

[and] in the classic style of urban legends . . .

the name of the fraternity . . .

was never specified”5


the sketchy student story took off

just like the Internet

“early in 1998”

when an alias named Jonathan Cook

began a sham email campaign,

infiltrated chatroom chatter

and set up deceptive

web pages

before confessing to cryptozoologist Loren Coleman

that he “wondered what would happen

if he created a ‘new cryptid’”6

After that

a few more sightings were reported

in Rolla MO and Springdale AR

but the one that stuck

came from Devil’s Den State Park

on the outskirts of Fayetteville

in 2015

seems electrician John Meyers

was camping when he witnessed

some mutt with antlers and an extra long tail

so took a series of photographs

that had no trouble

going viral

[page 127]

the state game and fish commish however

declared this howler a Photoshopped hoax

even though Meyers swore on the Lord

that his pics were legit7

I therefore recruited

two local monster hunters

nieces Annalee and Eleanor

and we hit the Yellow Rock Trail

because that’s where it

was last spotted

it didn’t take long

to find a murdered bird

next to a tree with three


claw marks in it

hardly evidence enough

to stake a solid claim

but then we heard a high faint wail

coming from the valley below

where Meyers had taken


and I kid you not

that scream sounded

like two




as in the Hoo-Hoo

another name

for the Howler

in fact [page 128]

down in Gurdon Arkansas

just south of the Ouachitas

there’s the International

Hoo-Hoo Headquarters and Museum

“founded in 1892

[by] the Concatenated Order of Hoo-Hoo . . .

[a] fraternal organization of lumbermen

and those in trades related

to the lumber industry”8


as noted by Vance Randolph

lumberjacks were “vulnerable to attack . . .

working . . . smack dab in the middle

of Ozark Howler habitat”


a “secret society” was created

to protect “lumbermen

all over America”9


the girls and I

began hooooing back

and we received

a few hooos

in response

it must be remembered though

that the campsites below were full of families

hiking and swimming and retelling stories

of wampus cats

and bigfoots and

howlers howling

in the night

but it wasn’t night

it was the morning

and the mournful wails we heard that day

were coming from a community

where a certain headline

must be considered: [page 129]

“Howls Heard Around Fayetteville

During Quarantine Trend”

followed by

the following sentence:

“People are walking out the door each night at 8 p.m.

to give a howl and feel a sense of togetherness.”10


this population

had been preconditioned

to hooooo and howl

like Hoo-Hoos do

and that fellow monster enthusiasts

is the no fun but

objective truth

in a who’s who

of Hoo-Hoo



1. Admin. “Living Legend: The Ozark Howler.” Escape Artist, Escape Artist, 1 Jan. 2020, 417escapeartist.com/living-legend-the-ozark-howler/.

2. Ashton, Saul. Tales of the Ozark Howler. No publisher, no city; self-published through KDP (Amazon), p. 19.

3. Cornus, Hawthorne, ed. “Tales of the Ozark Howler.” AbeBooks, Abe Books, www.abebooks.com/servlet/BookDetailsPL?bi=30374899449&searchurl=ds%3D20%26kn%3Dtales%2Bof%2Bthe%2Bozark%2Bhowler%26sortby%3D17&cm_sp=snippet-_-srp1-_-title1.

Incidentally, this information comes from a publisher’s description which is typically provided by the seller. This information appears on Amazon as well as all online bookstores that sell this product.

4. “The Ozark Howler - Arkansas, Missouri & Oklahoma: Cat Monster of the Mountains!” Explore Southern History, Old Country Media, exploresouthernhistory.com/ozarkhowler.html.

5. “The Double Hoax.” Ozark Howler Network, WordPress, ozark


6. Coleman, Loren. “Ozark Howler: Faux Cryptozoologie.” Cryptomundo, WordPress, 16 Nov. 2006, ozarkhowler.net/index.php/the-


7. Johnson, Wes. “Johnson: Do You Believe in the Ozark Howler?” Springfield News-Leader, USA Today Network, 15 Dec. 2015, [page 130] www.news-leader.com/story/sports/outdoors/2015/12/15/johnson-do-you-believe-ozark-howler/77357078/.

8. “International Hoo-Hoo Headquarters and Museum.” Arkansas: The Natural State, Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage, and Tourism, www.arkansas.com/gurdon/attractions-culture/international-hoo-hoo-headquarters-and-museum.

9. “A Secret Society to Battle the Ozark Howler.” Ozark Howlers, WordPress, 26 Feb. 2019, ozarkhowlers.com/index.php/2019/02/26/a-secret-society-to-battle-the-ozark-howler/.

10. Clipson, Julianna. “Howls Heard Around Fayetteville During Quarantine Trend.” 5 News, KFSM-TV, 3 April 2020, www.5newsonline.com/article/news/community/howls-heard-around-fayetteville-during-quarantine-trend/527-c93be299-39a6-4110-8509-7e167169328c. [page 131]


While investigating Ozark Howler Verse:

Poems of the Dark Beast

the only full length collection of poetry

focused on this mythic cryptid

I suddenly saw

some curious


First of all

this book was self-published in 2019

by the exact same

print on demand company

(KDP in South Carolina)

that put out Ashton’s fraudulent

Tales of the Ozark Howler

in the exact same Times Roman

on the covers and in the text


it’s obvious that one of these books

served as a template for the other

the prelim and copyright pages

table of contents and author’s bio

all set up in the same order

with the same conventions

for headers and page numbering

not only that

but the bios take the same approach

for framing and phrasing

using humor and innuendo to mask

a lack of traceable information

Ergo it can be established

that the pseudonym of Rufus Grey

(two names, two colors; rufus being red in Latin)

is actually Hawthorne Cornus

(two names, two trees;

meaning there’s a pattern here) [page 132]

So no wonder in his intro

Cornus provides a shout-out to Grey

an optometrist living in Missouri

my ass

for no such eye

doc exists

in fact

Rufus Grey of Kansas City

(aka Rufus Gray with an A)

also bills himself as

“a fantasy fiction writer

[who’s] . . . written about Asian mythology

and European legends”1

but good luck finding any other publications

by the penname of “Rufus Grey”

or “Hawthorne Cornus” for that matter

whose scholarship is just as elusive

as the fabled Ozark Howler


the anonymous host of ozarkhowlers.com

claims to have met Grey at a bookstore

thereby leading to

the only known interview

with this alleged author

Speaking of that website

you’ll also find some promo for it

along with OzarkHowler.net

and OzarkHowler.info

at the very end

of Rufus’s book

and if you visit those WordPress sites

you’ll clearly see

they’re designed the same

stylistically: [page 133]

the same font

the same layout

the same art

and the same links harking back

to the work of said


But back the idea

of a poet optometrist

also practicing

fantasy fiction

which begs the question:

What do fantasy writers do?

the answer being:

They create fictions

based on fantasies

and not always

on the page

Just like “Jonathan Cook”

of the 1994 U of A howler hoax

who confessed that he had manufactured

“free web pages and e-mail accounts”

to see if “people would fall for it”2

which apparently

has become a trend

in worldbuilding fantasies

for personal



as in the pompous


pseudo intellectual tone

of the first and last lines

of rhymester Rufus’s

“Resource” page:

“Still here? Seriously, don’t you have anything

better to do? . . . . The truth is not out there”3 [page 134]

which might be true

depending how you look at it

but one truth I will declare

is that Rufus Grey

is Hawthorne Cornus

is Saul Ashton

is OzarkHowlers




and he’s yucking it up right now

because anyone who fancies a howler

has fallen into an elaborate trap

crafted by a failed

fantasy hack

But sometimes admittedly

this prankster hits on something

and that’s what

pisses me off

as in his poem “Hainted”

where he criticizes those who seek the truth

when they know they’re chasing make-believe:

“We always lie to strangers

but we never used

to play such fools

the butt of our own pranks

dishonoring our inherited hills.”4

which is exactly what

fifty shades of Grey has done

by disgracing the spirit

of Ozark folklore

a tradition meant to fascinate

rather than deceive [page 135]

through servers

and software

and digital platforms

with no safeguards

for mis and dis


that’s how a subpar poet

with nothing else better to do

and the means to do it

created a bunch of bunk

which folks are still

eating up

and that

is definitely



1. Auxarks. “The Hoggish Holwer of Rufus Grey.” Ozark Howlers, WordPress, 23 Feb. 2019, ozarkhowlers.com/index.php/2019/02/23/the-hoggish-howler-of-rufus-grey/.

2. Coleman, Loren. “Ozark Howler: Faux Cryptozoologie.” Cryptomundo, WordPress, 16 Nov. 2006, ozarkhowler.net/index.php/the-double-hoax/.

3. Grey, Rufus. Ozark Howler Verse: Poems of the Dark Beast. No publisher, no city; self-published through KDP (Amazon), p. 78.

4. Ibid., p. 55.

Mark Spitzer is the author of more than thirty-one books ranging from environmental nonfiction to novels to literary translations to collections of poetry to writing pedagogy. Publications include Crypto-Arkansas (Spuyten Duyvil, 2013), GLURK! A Hellbender Odyssey (Anaphora Press, 2016), In Search of Monster Fish: Angling for a More Sustainable Planet (U of Nebraska P, 2019), and Investigative Creative Writing: Teaching and Practice (Equinox Publishing, 2020). Spitzer is currently a professor of creative writing at the University of Central Arkansas who lives a dual life searching for amphibians and wild fungi in the mountains of New York's Mid-Hudson Valley. For more info, visit sptzr.net.

MLA citation (print):

Spitzer, Mark. '"Goggle-Eyed Gobbledygook,' 'Ozark Howler Apocrypha,' and 'Howladdendum.'" Supernatural Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Art, Media, and Culture, vol. 8, no. 1, 2022, pp. 119-135.