The 1974 Near Miss of a Skunk Ape on State Road 27 in Florida
In 1974, multiple news outlets were quick to cover the bizarre circumstances of a skunk ape sighting that still represents some of the best documentation of the Everglades’ resident hairy hominid.
The Miami News reported that, on January 9th, Richard Smith was driving home on State Road 27 through the Everglades just after midnight when he hit what he described as a “furry, naked black man about eight feet tall.”
“It jumped out at me,” Smith was quoted as saying later in an article for the Tallahassee Democrat. “I swerved to miss it and almost hit another car head-on. I thought it was a big black man with no clothes on. It was real hairy and looked to be about seven or eight feet tall.”
Smith told the police that the creature fled into the swamp after the accident.
Police cars, sheriff and coast guard helicopters, swamp buggies, and search teams were all brought out to look for the suspected skunk ape.
State trooper M.E. Johnson administered a sobriety test to Smith at the scene, only to say later that the startled driver was “very, very scared and very, very sober.”
About three hours later, at 3:30 a.m., the police received another report from a motorist who claimed to have seen “a large seven to eight foot hairy thing limping along U.S. Highway 27,” approximately seven miles south of the site of Smith’s accident.
Police officer Robert Holmeyer headed to the scene of the new sighting, where he said he saw something very strange.
“I saw a shadowy, dark thing crashing off into the brush,” Holmeyer said. “It looked like a man, except it was an extremely large man--about eight feet tall.”
“I didn’t want to go after it in the dark.”
The search ended the next day having failed to turn up a skunk ape specimen--living or dead--or find any physical evidence of its passing, such as footprints; although Smith did provide some two-inch long hairs that he claimed to have found lodged in his car’s fender, and had preserved by folding in a chewing tobacco wrapper.
This sighting was the beginning of a flap of sightings in Dade County, Florida, that continued into 1975.