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Wild Man Attacks Train Near Morgantown

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Opekiska Locks and Dam

Last December,  I had the opportunity to head up to Sutton, WV and attend the Yeti Festival, hosted by the West Virginia Bigfoot Museum! While I was there, I purchased a copy of Louis R. Petolicchio’s awesome book, The Wild Man of North America: Historic Newspaper Accounts About Encounters with Wild Men, Feral Humans and Other Curiosities. I was pleasantly surprised to see the following account from March 3, 1905 included in the book. The Daily Telegram, a newspaper based in Clarksburg, WV, reported that passenger trains coming through Opekiska, a small community in Monongalia County, located along the Monongahela River between Fairmont and Morgantown, were being attacked by a wild man! After one man was arrested, the attacks continued, scaring both train personnel and passengers so badly that they refused to go after the wild man themselves. 

I think this is a really interesting story in the annals of wild man lore, because to me, there is no mistaking this wild man as anything other than a normal human, possibly suffering with a mental illness. Despite being described as a ‘giant,’ by today’s standards, his estimated height of 6′ is about average for a man, and the fact that he was able to shoot a gun (given that it was the same ‘wild man’ in each encounter) would be more indicative of a human being than something more…animalistic. But, that does bring up a fascinating point…was this Lynch fellow involved in the first incident, and a separate ‘man’ involved later on? If so, why was Lynch trying to flag down the train? Was he trying to escape the true wild man? And just where did this wild man come from? In many stories where the wild man is clearly a human being, it is suspected that he is an escaped inmate, of either the prison system or the insane asylum, or has otherwise witnessed something so horrible that he takes to the wilderness and becomes feral, slowly losing his human identity which is replaced with more animalistic characteristics. I’ll be completely honest: while I love this story as another one of WV’s oddities, I’m a little disappointed that this is not an example of a wild man story that is clearly an early sighting of what we’d call a Bigfoot or Sasquatch today.  Anyway, I’ll get more into my theories of Wild Men, both from a historical perspective AND a modern one, in another blog, so until then, enjoy this strange and fascinating tale from right here in the Mountain State. 


Giant Creature in Human Form with Bristles on Face Is at Large Near Morgantown

03 March 1905

The Daily Telegram (Clarksburg, WV)

The citizens of Monongalia County are thoroughly aroused over the strange and murderous actions of a man in that country, whose identity has not been established so far and whose capture seems a remote possibility, unless the state authorities organize a posse and force him to surrender.

Only a few days ago as chronicled, a man was seen standing on the track in front of a passenger train nearing Morgantown.  He was violently waving his hands.  The train did not stop and he was compelled to step aside to save himself. As the train was passing he fired several shots at it.

Later a fellow Lynch was arrested suspected of the deed and is yet held. But after his arrest the matter of trying to hold up passenger trains continued and Thursday afternoon at Opakeiski* as the passenger train was coming toward Fairmont a strange looking man stoned it.  The train stopped after having run him and the brakeman went back to arrest the fellow, but as he approached him the fellow showed fight and the trainman grew so nervous over the man’s strange appearance that he returned to the train.

By the time he boarded the train, it had started again, but the brakeman called upon the passengers to volunteer to go with him and capture the giant–as he was at least six feet tall and wore a beard all over his face which looked more like a mass of bristles than whiskers. 

The passengers were not sufficiently alarmed over the attempt made by the fellow on their lives to organize themselves into a posse and pursue him. 

*You can read the original newspaper article as it appears in the Daily Telegram on the Chronicling America website, located at THIS LINK.


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