Flashlight & A Biscuit, No. 10: Behold the Lizard Man!

Who knows what lurks in the South Carolina swamps?

Welcome to Flashlight & A Biscuit, my Southern sports/culture/food offshoot of my work at Yahoo Sports. Thanks for reading, and why not subscribe below? It’s free and all.

You’re driving alone down a two-lane county highway. It’s late. Your air conditioning is blowing at full blast, but it’s helpless against the thick heat and humidity of a South Carolina July. Black pines loom high alongside the road. Your fragile headlights trace cracked pavement and sandy soil alongside it. Whoever made this road carved it from the swamp, threw down some asphalt, and surely vowed never to come this way again.

You feel a thump, and then the dread wells up in the pit of your gut. You hit something, and now your tire’s leaking air. Your car lists toward the edge of the road, and you know that you have no choice but to get out and fix it, here, alone, your back to the swamp.

The cross wrench shivers in your hands. The chirps, croaks and caws of the swamp — noises that would sound so cheerful during the day — now seem so much more sinister. So loud, as if they’re hiding something. The musk of stagnant water is thick enough to grab. And what happened to the moon? Wasn’t it right there just a minute ago?

It’s then you realize … you’re not alone any more.

Congratulations. You’re about to meet the Lizard Man.

damn, that scared me, and I wrote it! That fictionalized (?) tale above is a retelling of the initial story of the Lizard Man, a fearsome half-human, half-reptile cryptid that supposedly haunts the Scape Ore Swamp near Bishopville, South Carolina. Part myth, part tourist industry, the Lizard Man is a legendary figure in Palmetto State lore.

Here’s how the story goes: back in 1988, a 17-year-old kid, Christopher Davis, was driving home from work late at night along Browntown Road in Scape Ore Swamp. He got a flat tire, and as he was changing it, something came out of the swamp toward him. He ran to his car and tried to drive away, but the beast leaped on top of his car and began shredding its roof.

Davis managed to throw the beast off the roof, and got a good look at it: tall, heavily muscled, with three fingers, red eyes, a long tail, and scales all over its body. You know, a Lizard Man.

That set off a summertime frenzy of other sightings, monster hunters, tourists and the usual “look at these country-ass rubes from down South” news reports. A radio station put up a $1 million reward for capture of the Lizard Man. Others tried to keep the Lizard Man story alive with tales of scratched cars — apparently the Lizard Man has an appetite for sheet metal, or something — but it quickly vaulted to “who cares, it’s a good story” status, where the tale of the Lizard Man stands to this day.

Is the Lizard Man real? Before you brush it off, a little history lesson. Back in 2015, paleontologists discovered bones that belong to Carnufex Carolinensis — translated, “Carolina Butcher,” which is as metal a handle as it gets — a beast from 231 million years ago that was, basically, a crocodile that walked on its hind legs. Here’s an artist’s representation:

Holy crap, that thing is terrifying. Suddenly you’re not laughing, are you?

Throughout the years, artists have tried to render the Lizard Man, combining the “heavily muscled” description with their own particular ethos. This one, for instance, seems like he’s a CGI movie monster version ready to do battle with Spider-Man:

This dude is clearly on summer break from his regular job, strength coach at LSU:

And, well, there’s this guy. Seems legit:

OOOOOH YEAH! LIZARD MAN GONNA BREAK YOU DOWN, BROTHER! THURSDAY NIGHT AT TRI-CITIES MUNICIPAL ARENA! DOORS OPEN 6:30! KIDS GET IN FREE WITH PAYING ADULLLLLLT!!!!!!

So is there a Lizard Man? Who knows? He (we obviously assume it’s a he, which might be unnecessarily sexist) has been a boon to the town of Bishopville, which sells Lizard Man souvenirs, t-shirts and other assorted trinkets the way Devil’s Tower sells alien merch — sure, you out-of-towners can laugh at us all you want, but you’re leaving your money in our pockets.

South Carolina as a whole embraces the Lizard Man legend, as in this lottery ad from 2007:

And during the eclipse a couple years back, the South Carolina Emergency Management Division “warned” of possible Lizard Man-related paranormal activity:

It’s a joke, but it’s not. Scape Ore Swamp is a forbidding little scar, and Browntown Road is a lonely stretch even in broad daylight. (See the bridge over the swamp for yourself right here on Google Maps.)

So, yeah, scoff at the Lizard Man all you like. But if you’re so sure it’s a hoax, why don’t you take a little drive down to Scape Ore Swamp … by yourself … past midnight … and step out of your car … and just … wait.

See what happens.

(Sources: Haint Blues podcast, Vice)


Recipe of the Week

Hey, speaking of South Carolina … here’s a family recipe, a variant on the famous Low Country Boil, a.k.a. Frogmore Stew. This recipe is for my 22-person family, adjust accordingly for your crew:

Get a big-ass pot. Boil 3 gallons of water. Add the citrus, spices and onion. Bring to rolling boil, add potatoes. Boil for 20 minutes. Add sausage. Bring back to a rolling boil. Add corn and boil for 5 minutes. Then — this is MANDATORY — get your shrimp and begin tossing them in like this:

Boil the shrimp for 3 minutes. Dump out the water. Serve immediately atop a newsprint-covered table. Enjoy, and toast the Lizard Man with a cheap beer.


Recommended

The content I have been absorbing this week …

Run The Jewels, RTJ4: Raw, dense, propulsive protest music, so powerful it’ll blow out your speakers, so immediate it sounds like it was written yesterday. If you’ve never heard RTJ … strap in, this one starts at 200 mph and doesn’t slow down.

21-Day Racial Equity Habit Building Challenge: Sometimes, you have to speak to people in a language they’ll easily understand. The idea of turning education and awareness into a “21-Day Challenge” is a brilliant one, because there’s not a white suburbanite alive who can resist a good 21-day challenge. In all seriousness, though, this compilation of readings, videos and podcasts is an easy way into learning more about systemic injustice. Give it a run.

Middleditch & Schwartz (Netflix): And at the other end of the spectrum … three one-hour, totally improvised two-man shows that take a simple premise — a wedding, a final exam, a job interview — and spin off into absurdity. Ep. 2 is the best, but all are worth a hang.


Last Call

Good to see the Lizard Man is keeping up on current events and staying responsible:


That’ll do it for this week. Eat well, drink well, listen more than talk, and we’ll catch you back here next week. Peace!

—Jay