by Michael Banti
Given the popularity of the last article I wrote, I thought I’d share some more weird stories from around the Fresno area—just in time for Halloween.
One of my favorite things about Halloween is watching horror movies, and my favorite kind are ones that feature a monster or strange creature of sorts. So that got me thinking on some of the strange creature stories I’ve written about on Weird Fresno over the last several years.
Here are five of my favorite local creature stories.
1. The Wolf Ape of Watts Valley
This was one of the earliest stories I wrote about shortly after I heard it mentioned on KRZR (R.I.P. The Front Row). Two men who were gem hunting near the Watts Valley Road saw something coming out of the bushes that they described as a mangy, grey-haired creature, about six feet long, that had a face similar to a baboon. It made a sort of coughing sound as it opened its mouth.
Terrified (and who wouldn’t be), both men ran from the creature as it began to chase after them. They ran for several miles, hopping fences and dodging bewildered cows, until they finally found themselves in the Watts Valley Cemetery in Tollhouse, CA. They were able to distract the beast until a caretaker pulled up and offered to give the two men a ride back to their car. The three watched as the creature then skulked away silently.
No one knows what the creature is, but its legend has been around for at least a century. Ansel Adams supposedly came across a pack of these creatures on one of his many trips to Yosemite, and another story tells of one terrorizing a school house full of children. One story has the creature being seen at Bass Lake sometime in the 1980s.
Failed genetic experiment, an offspring of Bigfoot, or something else completely, no one really knows what the creature is.
Read more about the Watts Valley Wolf Ape here: http://www.weirdfresno.com/2008/09/watts-valley-wolf-ape.html
2. The Lost Lake Creature
In my previous article for FresYes, I mentioned that Lost Lake is haunted but also that it has a creature story attached to it. Interestingly, the creature sighting was by the same witnesses that saw the ghost.
While fishing late one night at Lost Lake, the two witnesses cast their lines into the water and were talking when they both looked toward the water—something moving had caught their attention. They noticed a large figure swimming towards the shore. There, it beached itself and stayed motionless for several minutes. What happened next terrified both of the witnesses.
Whatever this creature was, it stood up on two legs and began to walk around. It looked as if it was searching for something. The witnesses weren’t able to make out much detail given how dark it was, but they noted that it was bipedal and about five feet tall.
After several minutes of searching, the creature got down on all fours before laying on its belly and slithering back into the water, where it disappeared. Not surprisingly, both witnesses decided they had seen enough, reeled in their lines, and got out of there.
What’s most interesting about this story is that this incident and the reported ghost sighting aren’t the only weird things to happen at Lost Lake. Multiple people have contacted me saying they’ve seen a ghost there or witnessed something else strange. Folks in the Hmong community have told me the creature described is called a dragon in their culture. Needless to say, I’ve been researching Hmong culture and folklore hoping to learn something more.
Original story can be found here: http://www.weirdfresno.com/2010/09/strage-things-going-on-at-lost-lake.html
3. The Porterville Gnome
One of my favorite stories, this one involves two different families living in a small farmhouse on the Tule River near Porterville. The first incident involves a woman named Tammy who moved into the house with her children. Right away they felt as if something was watching them, especially over by an old barn on the property.
Coming back from the store one night, Tammy heard what she described as a “very freaky, very evil-sounding chuckle” and looked to see where it was coming from. The source of the noise was from a small humanoid figure about 50 or so yards from her. The way Tammy described it was that it was about three feet in height and wore baggy black pants, a gold colored shirt, and a red pointed hat. The creature had a long grey beard, a large bulbous nose, and deep-set eyes—like a gnome, as Tammy would say later. But this wasn’t cute little David the Gnome— it had brown, pointed teeth and was grinning from ear to ear.
Tammy quickly ran into the house and locked the door before the creature could get her. She was telling her two daughters what she had seen when she saw movement outside and the tip of the pointed red hat moving outside the kitchen window, as if trying to find a way into the house. After what must have seemed like an eternity, the creature left. This was the only time Tammy saw it, but until the day she moved out she would sometimes hear that same creepy laugh coming from the barn.
In March of 2010, a woman named Charlie moved into the same farmhouse with her husband and family. They were particularly fond of a pond on the property and the husband decorated it with fairy, gnome, and toadstool ornaments, and stocked it with koi fish. Like Tammy before them, they also had an eerie feeling about the old barn on the property and stayed away from it as much as possible.
Late one night both Charlie and her husband were awoken by the oddest of sounds, which they described as a “raspy, gurgling singing.” The couple looked out of their bedroom window and were shocked by what they saw.
Standing by the pond was a humanoid figure about three feet tall wearing maroon pants and a yellow shirt with a brown vest. It had a long, grey beard and small beady eyes, and was wearing a reddish brown hat. The worse part, as Charlie described it, was the creature’s teeth, which were jagged and pointed.
The creature realized it was being watched. It reached into the pond, grabbed a koi, then dropped it into its mouth and swallowed it. Furious, Charlie’s husband opened the window and started yelling at the figure, threatening to call the police. In response, the figure grinned, laughed, and flipped off the couple before running off and disappearing. The police were called and told of an intruder on the property, but the only evidence they found were small footprints by the pond similar to ones that would have been left by a small child.
The creature terrorized the pond so much that Charlie and her husband finally removed all of the decorations and got rid of the fish. It seems this did not have the intended effect as the gnome was royally pissed when it saw this and began running around yelling in some unknown language until finally it went away.
Whether this creature still terrorizes the small farmhouse is unknown. I do know the old barn was torn down and nothing has been reported since.
Original story can be found here: http://www.weirdfresno.com/2014/05/an-evil-gnome-like-creature-terrorizes.html
4. The Orange Cove Creature
This story happened in the small farming community of Orange Cove late one night, around 2 a.m. The witness was leaving a friend’s house, heading south on 10th Street towards Sheridan Elementary School, when they saw strange movement in a driveway.
They saw a figure step into the porch light and then instantly leap onto the roof of the house. Curious, the witness slowed down. The figure itself wasn’t that big; its size was estimated to be between that of a cat and a dog.
Deciding it was nothing, the witness continued to drive down 10th Street. They looked into their rear view mirror and saw to their surprise the creature had jumped back off the roof and was now moving towards them. Concerned, they locked their car doors and began to drive faster.
Glimpsing into the mirror again, they noticed the creature was chasing them. It now appeared to be about four feet in height and had long, spindly legs—like what a toad would look like if it was moving upright on its legs. Whatever it was, it didn’t appear to be human, and it frightened the driver enough to make them increase their speed in the hope of getting away.
The witness reached the end of 10th Street and headed west onto J Street. Curious to see if the creature was still following them, they stopped at the intersection of 9th and J. For a moment they didn’t see anything. Then the creature suddenly came into view, moving south along the elementary school’s grounds, avoiding lights so it wouldn’t be seen. It easily jumped a chain link fence.
Feeling brave with the car doors locked, the witness turned along 9th Street and tried to follow the creature. They were able to follow it for a bit but lost sight of the creature when it turned west onto South Street.
This was the only night this witness encountered the creature, though their friend, the one whose house they had left that night, said they heard something running up and down the street late at night.
Original story can be found here: http://www.weirdfresno.com/2009/09/strange-creature-chases-witness-in.html
5. The Fresno Nightcrawlers
One of the first things I wrote about when I started Weird Fresno was the story of what’s called the Fresno Nightcrawlers. A home owner in south Fresno had neighborhood dogs tearing up his front yard and decided to install surveillance cameras to try to catch them in the act. What he recorded was far from what he expected.
One night, he recorded what appears to be two small bipedal figures moving across his lawn. In relation to a nearby tree, which is about 5 feet in height, the figures are maybe 12 inches tall. Both figures move slowly across the lawn, either unaware or unconcerned that they are being filmed. The video was uploaded to YouTube and can be seen below. The footage of the figures starts around at around the 2-minute mark.
To this day, I still have no idea what these things are. I’ve heard theories ranging from birds to aliens to even faerie folk. All I know is there are some weird things wandering around Fresno.
Original story can be found here: http://www.weirdfresno.com/2008/09/strange-images-captured-on-surveillance.html
If you see something strange in and around the Fresno area, make sure to contact Weird Fresno on Facebook. This story originally published in 2017.