The Wild Man of Woodhull Woods, New York – 1869


The Wild Man of New York

An article from July of 1869 describes a hunt for a Wild Man “in the neighborhood of Woodhull and Troupsburg.” Both Woodhull and Troupsburg were (and are) small towns in Steuben County, New York. The article asserts that hundreds of locals had been having sightings of the Wild Man over the course of a month, and the entire county was uneasy over its presence. On Saturday, June 12*, a group of 200 men set out to find the creature.

The article, primarily told from the perspective of a member of the hunting party, illustrates the ambiguity typical of Wild Man articles of its day – neither the reader, nor, in this case, the man relaying the story, is quite sure what the Wild Man is. Assuming the article isn’t complete fiction for a slow news day, was the author seeing a human being or some type of animal? The creature was naked except for a pair of pants, but as the witness says, he had never before seen “anything in the human form one half as hideous as the wild man of Woodhull Woods,” due in part, I’m sure, to his bulging, bloodshot eyeballs. Check out the full article for a full description of the man-beast:

A wild man.

A hideous monster roaming about in the neighborhood of
Woodhull and Troupsburg, N.Y.

A correspondent of a Hornersville paper tells the following veracious story:

For the very strange story I am about to relate I scarcely expect, nor do I solicit, belief. Indeed, were it not that hundreds of reliable men and women in the county of Steuben are ready and willing to vouch for its truthfulness, I would never ask you to put it in print. The facts are as follows:

During the four weeks last past a wild man has been prowling around the woods in the towns of Woodhull and Troupsburg, in the southern part of this county, coming frequently into the highways and cleared fields, to the intense terror of women and children, and even strongmen. So great is the excitement and some of the towns mentioned, the schools have been broken up – parents not daring to send their little ones along the public highways to the schoolhouses. At first, the whole thing was considered by most people as a hoax, intended merely to frighten old women and children; but as many of the most prominent citizens vouch for the actual existence of the wild man, and the disturbance of the schools was making it a matter of public importance, the people of Woodhull and Troupsburg determined to do all in their power to ferret out to ferret the matter out.

Accordingly, on the 12th inst., About 200 men assembled at the residence of Mr. S.G. Brown, and proceeded to search the woods in that immediate locality. Under the leadership of Captain J.J. Buchanan and the writer of this article, crowds searched the woods for hours, but with no success, further than the finding of a campfire and the track of a barefooted man imprinted in the soft soil in the marshy part of the forest, and the whole party, about 3:00 PM, return to Mr. Brown’s house, and getting ready their teams, started back for Woodhull Village. The party had proceeded scarcely 50 rods from Mr. Brown’s, when on the outskirts of a wood, and within 20 rods of the band of searchers, appeared the veritable wild man of the woods! Myself, Captain Buchanan, and others immediately started in full pursuit. We approached within six or eight rods of the strange being without attracting his notice, when suddenly, with a wild, unearthly shriek, he notified us that we were perceived. I drew my rifle, intending to hold him or send a bullet crashing through his skull. I ordered him to halt, when he sprang with the agility of a deer, toward the woods. I did not fire because on second thought I doubted my right to take the life of any human being, however wild until he had at least violated some law.

So far I have related facts, which will be vouched for by at least 100 persons. I will now give you a perfect description of this wild man – poor animal – or ‘what is it’ – as he, she, or it appeared to me. He was barefooted, bareheaded and wore no clothing, except a pair of soldier’s pants, his hair which was black, sprinkled with gray, was from 2 to 3 feet long, frizzly , and matted, hanging over his neck, face, shoulders, and back, reaching half way to the ground, his beard reached to the waistband of his pants, and was jet black, this, together with the springing, jerking hitch in his gate, gave him more the appearance of a wild animal than human being. And, though I am not of the nervous temperaments may all the saints in heaven shield and defend me from ever meeting such a fiendish looking being face-to-face again. The long, matted hair; the thick black uncombed beard; the wild, glaring, bloodshot eyeballs, which seemed bursting from their sockets; the savage , unearthly, haggard countenance, the wild beastly appearance of this thing, whether man or animal, has haunted me continually by day and night; and I do not wonder that when the strange being rapped on the schoolhouse windows, children were frightened half out of their senses and refused to be pacified. For although I have seen the chiefs of 50 different tribes of Rocky Mountain Indians, painted for the warpath, and have looked with wonder on the stuffed gorilla, Barnum’s “what-is-it”, the man monkey, etc., I never beheld anything in the human form one half as hideous as the wild man of Woodhull Woods.

I will close by saying that 25 years ago, a man named Wm. Little suddenly disappeared from Woodhull, and has never been heard of since; and as the farm on which the wild man spends most of his time was formerly owned by the absentee, it is supposed by some that the wild man is none other than Wm. Little himself, returned in this disguise to the home of his youth. But I hardly think this theory the true one. I do believe, however, that a woman and baby are somewhat mixed up in the matter.**


* Assumed date, given the source’s published date and the content of the article.

** Are you as confused by this last sentence as I am?

source: The Cincinnati Enquirer. Cincinnati, Ohio. July, 8 1869