Generally, a lizard isn’t something that you’d fear in the dead of night (unless, of course, their slimy, reptile skin freaks you out). However, when that lizard is 7 feet tall, standing on two legs, and coming right after you…well, that’s an entirely different story.
The Lizard Man of Scape Ore Swamp (or of Lee County, depending on who you talk to), doesn’t have his roots in the early 1700s or even the 1960s. In fact, he’s a decidedly more modern monster, having first been spotted in 1988 in South Carolina.
The original sighting was from June 29, 1988, just around 2 AM. Christopher Davis, your average 17-year-old local, was driving home from work late that evening, when his tire blew out. He stopped his car on a road boarding Scape Ore Swamp to change the flat and be on his way. Just as he was finished doing so, he heard a thumping noise behind him.
Davis turned around, only to see a creature with glowing red eyes bounding toward him. Of course, like any normal human being faced in a situation like this, he had a typical response: run like hell. Davis jumped back into his car, locked the door, and gunned the engine, only to have the creature grab his door handle.
One of the plaster castings of the footprints
It was here that Davis got a good look at the creature from the neck down; three big fingers, long black nails, and rough, green skin.
As Davis took off down the road, the creature jumped onto the roof of the car with a grunt. He claims he could see the creature’s fingers through the front windshield, curled around the roof to hang on. Davis tried to swerve side to side in order to throw the creature off, but it held on strong. Eventually, it jumped off, and Davis returned home.
Upon his arrival, his side view mirror was badly damaged, and scratch marks were found on the car’s roof. Understandably so, the boy was terrified. He told his father the tale, but refused to come forward until his father made him. He was brought to the Lee County Sheriff’s Office on July 16, 1988, where he told the tale to Sheriff Liston Truesdale.
Now, just a few days prior to Davis finally coming forward, on July 14, the sheriff’s office was called to investigate some vehicle damage in Bishopville, South Carolina. Tom and Mary Waye showed the officers the vehicle, which had its chrome molding torn off from its fenders, sidewalls scratched and dented, hood ornament broken, bent antenna, and even some wires from the motor ripped out.
When they looked a little closer, it appeared that parts of the molding have been chewed off. To further this theory, clumps of reddish hair and muddy footprints were found all over the car and scene. Others in the small community that the Waye’s living in also told Sheriff Trusedale that they had seen a strange creature roaming around lately. One that was about seven feet tall, had reddish eyes, and a greenish color to it.
These two incidents sparked something in Sheriff Truesdale, and he took it very seriously. In fact, part of the reason that the Lizard Man story is so prominent today is because of Sheriff Truesdale’s reaction to it. He never took it as a joke, and took the reports of a strange creature terrorizing his community as a real threat. He conducted an exhaustive investigation on it, because he wanted to keep the people he was charged with safe. This attracted the media to the story.
Scape Ore Swamp
After that, the flood gates opened. The next month was filled with sightings of the lizard-like creature roaming the area, with several reports being coupled with unusual bite or scratch marks on cars parked near the swamp. All of these reports took place within a 3 mile radius of the swamps of Bishopville.
By this point, enough of these sightings had come from credible witnesses, so the reports were met by concern by the police. While they did believe something tangible was being seen by all of these people, they didn’t exactly believe it was the Lizard Man. They thought the more likely culprit was a bear.
But, that didn’t stop them from investigating it. In fact, police took several plaster casts of what appeared to be three-toed foot prints from the area, some of which were 14 inches long! However, they did not send them to the FBI or any other scientific institution for analysis after a few local biologists told them that they were unclassifiable. Many local experts claimed, at the time, that the tracks did not match any recorded animal prints, nor could they be mistaken for some sort of mutated creature.
All these reports attracted the media to the town, and the local radio station, WCOS, even offered a $1 Million reward to anyone who could capture the Lizard Man alive. Of course, no one was able to claim that prize, and reports of the creature began to die out by the end of the summer.
An airman, Kenneth Orr, was stationed at Shaw Air Force Base, and filed a report that he saw the creature on Highway 15 on August 5 during that summer. He also claimed to have shot and wounded it, offering up some scales and a bit of blood as evidence. However, it was later determined that Orr made the story, and evidence, up in order to keep the legend circulating.
After 1988, the Lizard Man disappeared for a bit. His next reported sighting wasn’t until July 30, 1990, when Bertha Blythers and her five children saw him while driving home from a restaurant late at night. The Lizard Man apparently came out of nowhere, and lunged toward the passenger side of their car. Blythers described him as being tall, wide, and having two arms, much like a human. She also claimed he had brown hair covering his body, but: “It wasn’t a deer or a bear. It was definitely not a person either.”
After that, reports died out again. There may have been a sighting here or there over the years, but it wasn’t until the early 2000s that interest in the creature was renewed. A woman in Newberry, South Carolina, sighted not one, but TWO creatures resembling the Lizard Man outside her home in October 2005. In February 2008, Bob and Dixie Rawson’s car was damaged in Bishopville. Much like what happened previously, the damage was the same. They also claimed some of their cats were missing, and a dead cow and dead coyote were found near the scene.
In 2011, Leo and Ada Marshall, also of Bishopville, had their car damaged as well. Long white and brown hairs were found, and the far looked chewed upon, furthering the idea that the Lizard Man had returned.
In fact, sightings continue even today, when on August 2 2015, a woman named Sarah (no last name given) claimed to have taken a photo of the Lizard Man with her phone after stepping out of church. Though her photo clearly looks fake, it went viral.
Shortly after it did, an unnamed hunter also stepped forward, offering a short video clip he claimed to have taken in the woods near the church. While hard to see, the video shows a dark figure in the distance moving about the woods. Just as he looks toward the camera, the video ends. Despite it being shot in May 2015, the man didn’t come forward until after the photo was released, claiming he didn’t want people to think he was crazy. Both of these instances, however, did not have any formal reports with local police.
Check out his video:
Since the initial sightings, the Lizard Man has become a staple of Bishopville, and the surrounding area. They use his image to help promote the town, and he even has a section of the location South Carolina Cotton Museum dedicated to him. Shirts and other various clothing, all with his likeness, are sold practically everywhere. And he has become a sort of unofficial town mascot, helping to bring tourists in every year, hoping for a glimpse of him.
So, what’s true, and what isn’t? While a lot of the initial reports from 1988 came from credible sources, not all of them can be believed. And it seems like some of the more recent sightings, especially Sarah’s “photo,” leave a lot to be desired. That said, that video footage is intriguing, and does raise a lot of questions.
And there even more answers we don’t have about him, such as where did he come from? Why is he here? Why does he seem to attack cars? So much to learn from him, but he’s not entirely forthcoming.
At the end of the day, the legend of the Lizard Man is an interesting case that we will never know the truth about. Sometimes, these legends are better off that way. However, next time I’m in the swamps of South Carolina, I’ll be sure to keep an eye out for the Lizard Man…and make sure my GEICO insurance is up to date on my car.
Jeff Heimbuch writes. A lot. On a variety of things and in different mediums. He also created the fiction podcasts LIGHT HOUSE and RETURN HOME (of which you can find both on all podcasting platforms), loves all things horror, works in social media, and is probably writing something right now. You can find him on Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok at @jeffheimbuch.