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Arkansas’s White River Monster: Very Real, but What Was It?

Joe Nickell, PhD, is CSI’s senior research fellow. For nearly fifty years, he has provided probable solutions to the world's strange mysteries.

Arkansas’s White River holds claim to a “monster” that has been said to have appeared intermittently for a century or more. reality is defended by cryptozoologists and skeptics alike (I am both), but what is the huge aquatic creature that has proven so elusive? The late cryptozoologist Roy Mackal (1980) thought he knew, but there were problems with his theory. Can we finally solve the mystery?

Monster and Lair

Sightings have been claimed from 1912 and 1917, among other years, but it was July 1937 that confirmed the existence of a great river creature— albeit one that is variously described. At some point, named for its lair, it was dubbed “Whitey,” although almost everyone agreed its color was gray. Some added that its skin was “crusty” or “peeling.”

Its size was not so certain, with estimates ranging from at least twelve feet to sixty-five feet or more—although Mackal wisely cautioned (1980, 205):

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