Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Kewanee Deerman

Illinois seems to be a haven for the weird and the monstrous. Thunderbirds, the Enfield Horror, and even the Sasquatch all call Illinois home. But since the 1960s, the people in the town of Kewanee in Henry County, Illinois have told stories of a bizarre hybrid monster that is known for haunting the woods around that area. He preys on the local population, terrifying the local teenagers who dare to seek out the local "Lover's Lane" for some privacy. This local urban legend is known as the Deerman.

The Deerman has been seen by local teenagers since at least the late 1950s in the densely-wooded area surrounding Johnson Sauk Trail State Park. According to legend, the Deerman is half human and half deer, having the antlered head and the partial torso of a buck deer, the arms of a man, and the legs and the lower body of a fully-grown man. The creature is bipedal and comes out at night, where it is said to hunt human prey. It takes a perverse delight in scaring the wits out of teenagers who have come to the park for some private time with their lovers. Legends say that a person who sees the Deerman three times will die, most likely at the monster’s hands (or perhaps hooves, in this case).

It was during the late ‘50s or the early 1960s that the Deerman was first reported in Kewanee by the now-former editor of the Star Courier, Jerry Moriarity. Once the word was out, the legend began to grow considerably. Graffiti began to appear around the town, saying “Fear Deerman”, “The Deerman Lives”, “Deerman Was Here” or something of a similar nature. The legend has been kept alive by the youth of the town and the efforts of Dave Clarke, who has written a number of articles about the creature over the last few years. The most recent article appeared in March 2011 when Clarke, along with help from Kevin Jones (a Kewanee native and a 1967 graduate of Kewanee High School), reported on a possible link between the Deerman and the ancient Celtic deity known as Cernunnos in the form of a ten-and-a-half inch bronze statue of the deity. Kevin says that he found the statue in, of all places, a catalog of Celtic merchandise and novelty items. The statue was listed as costing $62.00 (if that is of any significance at all).

Cernunnos, also known as the “Horned One”, is the Celtic deity of life, animals, fertility, monetary wealth, and the underworld. He was worshipped all over Gaul, and his cult eventually crossed over into Britain as well. He is depicted as having a stag’s antlers, and is sometimes seen carrying a bag of coins. According to the ancient mythology, Cernunnos is said to have been born on the Winter Solstice (December 21st, the longest day of the year), marries the goddess of the moon on Beltane (the Gaelic May Day festival, held somewhere between the spring equinox and the Summer Solstice, between April 30th and May 1st), and he finally dies on the Summer Solstice (June 21st, the shortest day of the year). In this way, along with the goddess of the moon (no name is given), he rules over life and death. His existence is a constant cycle of birth, death, and rebirth.

Could a manifestation of this ancient mythological figure be stalking the woods of Illinois? It is said that deer are the emissaries of Cernunnos, and that they will do whatever he asks them to do. Perhaps this is merely a servant of the deity, who has gone mad in this modern era?  In any case, it is clear that something once did or perhaps still is stalking through the woods of Illinois. Nobody knows for sure, but it is likely that the truth will never be known. Perhaps the creature still walks among the trees, hunting for its next meal. Whatever this strange hybrid monster might be, it is perhaps wisest to leave the creature alone.


I would like to point out that, as a Lutheran Christian, I believe that there is only one true God, and that I do not in any way mean to suggest that there may be other deities of any kind. I mean no offense to anyone by saying this, but I just wanted to make it clear that I pray and answer to only one God.


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