Lizard Man of Scape Ore Swamp
The Lizard Man of Scape Ore Swamp is a cryptid from the folklore of South Carolina.
The alleged creature lives in the swamps around Bishopville in Lee County and the neighboring Sumter County.
Media coverage of Lizard Man sightings in the late 1980s brought Lee County to national attention, and now South Carolina holds an annual festival commemorating the first sighting of the Lizard Man.
It was teenager Chris Davis who first reported a sighting of the creature and he said it was about 7 feet tall, with wet and green, scaly reptilian skin. It also had three fingers ending in claws and searing red eyes, which glowed in the dark.
Davis said the encounter felt like being pursued by the Devil himself.
Eyewitness reports suggested the creature was aggressive and destructive, often targeting parked vehicles.
The Lizard Man is also said to have left three-toed footprints measuring 14 inches by 7 inches at the scene of its crimes. One of the footprint trails reportedly led more than 900 meters into the swamp.
Sightings and Tales
Some say the legends of a strange creature in the swamps originate in old Native American tales from the surrounding area.
However, the earliest report dates back to the summer of 1988.
A couple contacted police in mid-July that year to tell them that an intruder had damaged their 1985 Ford vehicle while it was parked overnight in front of their home near the Scape Ore Swamp in the Browntown neighborhood of Bishopville.
County Sheriff Liston Truesdale told The State newspaper reporter Jan Easterling that the couple said a creature from the swamp mauled their Ford vehicle overnight while they slept.
It ripped off the fenders, dented the sides, chewed on the chrome trims, and even left claw and tooth marks on the car.
It also left strands of hair and muddy footprints around the vehicle. The footprints suggested the creature came from the swamp.
Chris Davis, July 1988
Christopher Davis, a local teenager, also reported sighting a strange monster near the Scape Ore Swamp.
The 17-year-old said a green reptilian monster attacked him two weeks before Tom and Mary Waye filed the report regards their damaged vehicle.
Davis, who worked nightshift in a local fast food restaurant, encountered the creature while driving home in late June (some sources said early July) of 1988.
On his way home, he stopped at about 2 a.m. in a dark, thickly wooded area near the swamp to fix a flat tire. He had finished fixing the tire and was returning the jack to the trunk when he heard heavy footsteps approaching.
He looked round and saw a reptilian creature emerging from the dark shadows. Frightened, he scrambled into his car and tried to speed away. But the creature caught up with him at about 40 mph and jumped on his car!
It allegedly tore off his car’s side mirror and dented the roof. It eventually fell off after Davis slammed on his brakes.
[Note: Davis died tragically in 2009 at the age of 37. Police charged two men, Lakiem Davar Butler, 19, and Anogory Santrell Slater, 22, for shooting him in his home.]
Davis’s report made him an overnight media star and secured Lizard Man’s position in South Carolina folklore. Local and national newspapers sought him out for interviews.
The attention he and the Lizard Man enjoyed motivated other people in Lee County to come forward with new claims.
Kenneth Orr, August 1988
Some weeks after Davis’s report, Kenneth Orr, a member of the Air Force stationed at the Shaw Air Force Base near Sumter, South Carolina, told local police that he sighted the Lizard Man while driving on I-20 to this air base.
Orr claimed he shot the creature in the neck with his handgun and wounded it. He also claimed to have collected scales and a blood sample from the monster.
However, after careful police interrogation, he admitted he had made it up. Sheriff Truesdale charged him with unlawful possession of a pistol and filing a false report.
More Lizard Man sightings
There were several other claims of a creature damaging parked cars in Lee County.
According to media reports, more than twelve people saw the Lizard Man in the summer of 1988.
For instance, two men told Lee County deputies they saw the Lizard Man while drawing water from a spring, with the creature acting aggressively and then chasing them.
Some told tales of a strange creature trailing them in the woods and swamps. A group of teenagers reported that while driving, they saw a monster crossing the road ahead of their vehicle.
Others said they had heard eerie howls and loud screeching coming from the swamps. Reports circulated that police investigators had found many three-toed footprints left by the monster.
One story claimed that officers investigating a wooded area saw several trees damaged at the top. They also saw smashed drums. But some locals said the drums belonged to moonshiners operating in the area and were unrelated.
Moonshiners are pretty common in the area around Bishopville, and the locals say Sheriff Truesdale once got stuck in quicksand while chasing moonshiners across the swamp, all very Dukes of Hazzard!
The Lizard Man boosted tourism
As a result of all the commotion, the previously sleepy rural communities, especially Bishopville, became the focus of media attention. The coverage helped attract thousands of curious sightseers and monster hunters.
Local authorities actively promoted the legend to boost tourism.
Entrepreneurs did a brisk business selling Lizard Man souvenirs: Lizard Man T-shirts, hats, lizard juice (lemonade with green colorants), and lizard eggs made from watermelons.
Local radio stations gave eyewitness reports intensive coverage. One station, WCOS, announced a $1 million reward to anyone who could capture the creature.
The tongue-in-cheek bounty only served to increase tourist traffic to the area.
After the Orr debacle, people grew more skeptical about Lizard Man reports, and claims dwindled.
The police authorities became wary of eyewitness claims and attributed some to bears. Some independent investigators also expressed disbelief. They argued there was no evidence of the creature.
Skeptical inquirer Benjamin Radford listed some inconsistencies in Davis’s story and concluded that his account was unconvincing. The skeptic claimed that the details of Davis’s report changed over time. He also alleged that the teenager gave contradictory accounts about the creature’s appearance.
Radford argued it was unlikely that Davis would have noticed details about the creature’s features in the dark. He said that Davis’s accounts about the creature attacking his car also had contradictions.
He concluded that the teenager’s claims were likely a publicity stunt organized by a company that reportedly arranged and managed his public appearances.
In 2011, a couple in Bishopville reported damage to their vehicle parked outside their home. They also claimed the attacker left traces of blood on their car.
Police investigators concluded that the blood was likely from a dog, wolf, or coyote.
In 2015, local TV station WCIV aired an iPhone video of the Lizard Man captured by a resident. The Lee County local said he took the 20-second video at the Swamp near Camden Highway, Bishopville.
The video showed a dark figure with a long tail walking past about 40 yards away.
Sarah, a Sumter resident, also reported capturing photographs of the creature on her cellphone outside her church. However, many people dismissed the photo, saying it only showed someone wearing a rubber suit.
Stephen Colbert aired the photo on his late-night show.
The Emergency Department issued a Lizard Man advisory
The Lizard Man was in the news again in 2017.
Ahead of the August 2017 total eclipse of the sun, the South Carolina Emergency Management playfully shared a tweet that included a map. The map showed places where residents would likely see the Lizard Man due to the paranormal effects of the eclipse.
As an addendum, after we published the article on the Lizard Man a Paranormal Papers subscriber piped up to say that he came from the area and knew the true story.
Don told us that people were out picking a local farmer’s butterbeans under a full moon to avoid evasion. However, the wily farmer borrowed his son’s Halloween mask and then chased the cheeky chancers off his land. This incident is what he says gave birth to the legend.
He goes on to say that the locals made a small fortune from all the visitors, with one man selling over 10,000 t-shirts! That just goes to prove where there is muck, there is brass.
|Other Name/s||Lizard Man of Lee County, Lizardman, Lizard Man of Bishopville, Lizard Man, Bishopville Monster|
|Type||Humanoid, Hybrid, Monster|
|Habitat||Countryside, Forest, Swamp|
Where to find
Lizard Man: The True Story of the Bishopville monster by Lyle Blackburn (2015).
https://archive.org/details/Fortean_Times_November_2015/page/n27/mode/2up, “Fortean Times, November 2015: The Lizard Man of Scape Ore Swamp,” accessed on March 28, 2023.
https://squaringthestrange.libsyn.com/episode-16-the-lizard-man-of-scape-ore, “Squaring the Strange: Episode 16 – The Lizard Man of Scape Ore,” accessed on March 28, 2023.
https://www.postandcourier.com/lizardman/return-of-the-lizard-man-bishopvilles-journey-to-reclaim-the-sc-monster/article_b2ba81e2-fe4b-11ec-be8f-c350d7fbfa69.html, “Return of the Lizard Man,” accessed on March 28, 2023.
https://www.live5news.com/story/29699211/new-photos-video-spark-new-interest-in-lizard-man-legend/, “New photos, video spark new interest in ‘Lizard Man’ legend,” accessed on March 28, 2023.
https://discoversouthcarolina.com/articles/beware-the-lizard-man, “Beware the Lizard Man!” accessed on March 28, 2023.
https://abcnews4.com/archive/has-bishopvilles-lizard-man-returned-photo-apparently-shows-fabled-sc-creature, “Has Bishopville’s ‘lizard man’ returned? New video surfaces in case,” accessed on March 28, 2023.
https://www.southcarolinapublicradio.org/sc-news/2018-06-15/30-years-later-the-legend-of-the-lizard-man-lives-on-in-bishopville, “30 Years Later, the Legend of the Lizard Man Lives on in Bishopville,” accessed on March 28, 2023.
https://www.wyff4.com/article/people-still-talking-about-south-carolinas-weirdest-legend-festival-held-3-decades-later/27703855, “People still talking about South Carolina’s weirdest legend; festival held 3 decades later,” accessed on March 28, 2023.
Featured Image: The Lizard Man of Scape Ore Swamp is a reptilian cryptid native to Lee County, South Carolina. Pic credit: Pixabay
Last modified on July 12th, 2023 at 1:56 pm