Lizard Man, South Carolina’s own rural legend, seems to have crawled back out of the murky waters of Scape Ore Swamp near Bishopville, where it first was spotted in 1988, after a man reportedly saw the scaly creature Saturday.
Jim Wilson said he was traveling toward Camden on S.C. 34 when “something came out of the woods and ran across the Scape Ore Bridge.” As any good South Carolinian who potentially spots Lizard Man would do, Wilson got out of his car and began taking pictures.
“It was a tall, dark figure that had a tail and appeared to have scales,” Wilson said. “It was almost like an alligator with a short nose and long legs.”
Wilson said a creature heard him and turned toward him just as he snapped the last photograph. It then moved quickly into the water, he said. As Wilson returned to his vehicle, he looked back one more time only to see the creature crossing the swamp.
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“My friend told me it’s probably a pet monitor lizard,” Wilson said. “But my girlfriend thinks it’s Lizard Man.”
Wilson wasn’t the only one who allegedly spotted the scaly, 7-foot tall, red-eyed creature.
A woman who identified herself only as “Sarah” reportedly spotted Lizard Man while attending church with a friend in Bishopville, about 10 miles north of Scape Ore Swamp. “We saw Lizard Man come out of the woods and run along the tree line,” she said in an email to The State. “My hand to God, I am not making this up.”
Capt. Robert McCullough, an S.C. Department of Natural Resources spokesman, said there have been no reports filed regarding recent sightings of the creature. But he has been on several investigations linked to Lizard Man.
In February 2008, Dixie and Bob Rawson of Lee County reported something had left bite marks on the front of their vehicle. State officials tested samples of blood found on the car and said it appeared to be from a dog. A few weeks later, according to published reports, sheriff’s deputies found a dead cow and dog nearby.
“At the end of the day, there was a car that had some marks on it that (were) inconsistent with most things,” McCullough said. “It could have been a big dog. But it was the fuel that fired (Lizard Man).”
McCullough said he receives his fair share of calls about odd animal sightings. Calls about black panthers and Bengal tigers, for example, normally turn out to be large, dark-furred coyotes. “Personally, I think we plant the idea in people’s heads, and they see what they want to see,” McCullough said. “Not saying that people are wrong, but, at the end of the day, I think it’s a quick-look perception thing.”
Lee County Sheriff Daniel Simons said his department hasn’t received any official reports regarding recent sightings of Lizard Man, either. But he is not surprised the legend has resurfaced.
“You have things that pop up every couple years about something someone has seen,” Simons said. “You are talking about a small town getting national attention for it. It’s unusual for a small farming town to gain that attention. I wouldn’t say there is anything to be proud about, but it put Lee County and Bishopville on the map.
“Within the last 10 years, we have received several calls about a possible Lizard Man sighting, and we did an investigation,” Simons said. “If people call, we don’t turn them away. If somebody says they have seen something unusual, we look into it.”
State Rep. Grady Brown, D-Lee, first saw reports of Lizard Man in 1988 when he picked up a newspaper in Reno, Nev. “Was there someone dressed up like Lizard Man in 1988? Yes, I believe that,” Brown said. “The individual who we thought was Lizard Man has since passed away. Is there someone doing it again this time? I can’t say. I didn’t see it myself.”
Rudy Mancke, a naturalist in residence at the University of South Carolina who has studied the state’s animal and plant populations, said unless he is able to actually see the animal, or cryptid-like creature like Lizard Man, there is no way for him to disprove or confirm its existence. “In the human mind, and I don’t care how much education you got, there is always this wonderful feeling that there are great mysteries out there that we can’t understand,” Mancke said.
Mancke said one explanation for Lizard Man could be an escaped emu or ostrich, which trace their lineages back to bipedal dinosaurs. Like Lizard Man, emus and ostriches have a reptile-like face, scales, walk upright and have three-toed feet.
“The evidence, from what I saw years ago, looked like a dinosaur track, which is like a bird,” Mancke said. “I have never seen evidence for (Lizard Man). But does that mean I know everything about everything? Absolutely not.”