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).
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.
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.