Centaurs, or creatures with the torso and head of a human and the lower part of a horse, occur in art and literature from very ancient times, but are today most commonly associated with Greek and Roman mythology. Nonetheless, I received a report this week from a woman whose co-worker urged her to call me after she told him about the encounter she and a friend and their siblings had as children. It occurred on the outskirts of southern Richmond, Virginia, in 1966 when she was 8. The now 54-year old former IRS employee and Greyhound bus driver spoke by phone with me on Sept. 1, and she seemed as serious and credible as any eyewitness I’ve ever talked to.
“I remember the sighting vividly,” she said. She and her friend, along with a few younger siblings, had sneaked out to play in a nearby four-acre park and rec area at dusk one summer night. A creek ran through the acreage, and the group followed a path from their apartment buildings through a tree line that opened onto the play area. The children had been there only a short time, however, when they heard a familiar sound that the writer described as between a movie-style, ghost-like moan and the whinny of a horse. They’d often heard the same thing from inside their apartment. Her parents always tried to blame it on a nearby trucking company, but the trucks were most active in the daytime, she said, and the weird moan was only heard at dusk and night time.
She looked around and saw a tall, dark figure watching her from about a block away. It looked human from the top of its head to the bottom of the torso, she said, but the rest of it resembled the bottom part of a horse — horse legs, hooves, tail and all. It was too dark to see its face, she said, but there were no ears and the head area looked much more hairy and shaggy than the smoothly furred remainder, but she knew at once that no human could imitate the thin legs with hooves. “This was not someone dressed in a costume, this thing was real. It was a creature. It was alive,” she said.
As soon as the beast noticed she was watching it, it began to run toward her, the human-like “arm” limbs being held in a bent position with elbows slightly to the side. She shrieked, grabbed her four-year old brother, and the whole group began running for the tree line with the creature in pursuit. It sounded like the beat of horse hooves even on the grass, she said. When they reached the tree-line that marked the edge of the park, she turned around to see where the creature was. It stopped too, about half a block away, its rear end and haunches partially turned as the torso and head twisted to watch her. She estimated it stood about seven to eight feet tall. The small group continued beating a hurried path to their home. Their parents, naturally, did not believe them but she says her friend and brother still talk about it with her to this day. She added that she was not one to believe in ghosts and never had any other weird or paranormal incidents.
Jacob Jordaens [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Half man, half horse? The creature the children saw in Richmond reminded me of classic depictions of a satyr, or goat man, although those are always two-legged. And satyr reports are a bit more frequent. Many parts of the US have their own goat man legends. I also receive an occasional deer man report. In both types, it sometimes happens that the witness will see one of my sketches of the upright wolf-like creatures I more often investigate, and will say, yes, that’s it! So perhaps some cases are examples of mistaken perception, but this writer was quite sure there was a total of six limbs.
So what, then, to make of a centaur report I received last May? This incident happened around 1970 in Arizona, between Sierra Vista and Benson, as two young men drove along Hwy. 90. They were forced to stop when their car’s engine suddenly stalled, and got out to take a look. They couldn’t figure out what was wrong, so they got back in and were sitting there when they heard the sound of hooves running right at them. They turned to look out the rear window, and there saw a “half man, half horse creature rear up and start smashing in the back end of the car with its front hooves.” There was no mention of separate arms, so I’m not sure about that point. His friend began screaming to get them out of there, and the driver’s frantic efforts to restart the engine somehow worked and they sped away. The driver told his parents when he finally reached home, and recalled that his mother said, “What were you doing that caused the devil to show you that demon?” One family member added they remembered that the back of the car was deeply dented all over as if someone had been banging it with rocks.
One more came to me yesterday, except this was from a woman who was driving with her son on a mountain pass in the western US eight years ago. She wrote: This happened on the summit of Bridge Creek between Inchelium and Nespelem, Washington. It is on the Colville (Arrow-Lakes tribe) reservation. I was told by some of the elders that there has been sightings of a “deerman” who has been seen near Nespelem. The elders say that when he is seen, it’s a sign that the person is going to die. I don’t know anyone who has seen him, but I’ve heard stories. I’ve never heard of an elk man before. What my son and I saw was a herd of elk, and in the middle of them was one that from the neck up was a man. He was reaching up into a tree. There was no way it was a costume. He was ugly and had ratty black hair and a bare chest. It was only for a brief second that we saw it but it was long enough that we both looked at each other and said, “Did you just see what I saw?”
I agree that her sighting is different than a “deer man.” Elk are MUCH larger, and it’s unusual to hear of such a creature traveling with a group of ordinary animals.
Perhaps I’ll hear more from others. Do these sightings relate in any way to those of dogmen? Perhaps. Centaurs, elk men and dogmen — none of these seem like normal animals, or even aberrations of natural animals. There are many speculative possibilities. For now, I’d simply like to thank those who shared these sightings for giving us the opportunity to ponder them.
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