It was 30 years ago this fall when the first sightings of the Belt Road Booger were reported in a series of Times-Herald front-page articles that captivated the community for weeks.
The headline of the Aug. 9, 1979, issue read, “Strange Creature Seen Here.”
“Move over, Sasquatch, Bigfoot, the Abominable Snowman and the Loch Ness Monster — make room for the Belt Road Booger!” the story announced.
Several sightings of a “monster” sighted on Belt Road near the intersection of West Washington Street were reported that week.
“It was dark. It stands about five feet tall. It’s big across the chest. Its eyes look like diamonds at night when you shine a light on them,” was how one local woman described the “monster.”
The creature was reported to have “a face like a monkey and a long bushy tail.”
The Newnan Police Department investigated the incident but found nothing.
The creature was “alleged to have eaten the inside of an apple, leaving only the peeling, and to have bitten a hunk out of an ear of corn.” It was also supposed to have climbed into a barn in the neighborhood, and some local children speculated that he slept in some junked cars in the woods near Belt Road.
The Belt Road Booger was spotted again in the Meadowview subdivision near Arnco, described by one local resident as “the ugliest looking thing I’ve ever seen.”
She described the animal as standing between 4 and 5 feet tall, and it was covered with black hair and a tail “like a beaver’s, but it’s bushy,” with “a face like a dog.”
She said the creature dug into her flowers and tried to kill her calladiums.
Sightings were reported in the following weeks in the Smokey Road and Ishman Ballard Road areas, and then later at Sargent. Then reports began to become less frequent, and the Belt Road Booger was seemingly forgotten.
Forgotten, that is, until April 2005, when the first sightings of the “Happy Valley Horror” began to pour in.
“Has the nightmare returned?” trumpeted the Times-Herald newspaper.
“More than two decades ago, Cowetans quaked in fear, praying they wouldn’t be visited by a hairy, night-walking creature whose true identity still remains a mystery. If a recent tip to The Times-Herald is correct, more sleepless nights could be on the way. Move over, Belt Road Booger, here comes the Happy Valley Horror.”
The first known sighting of the creature was reported in spring 2005 in a letter to The Times-Herald. In a printed scrawl, the writer qualified himself as an avid hunter and outdoorsman, very familiar with local wildlife. Then he described “an enormous … very hairy” beast walking upright in a field on Happy Valley Circle.
The letter said, “It scared me to death!” and concluded by asking if anyone else had reported seeing something resembling … “a Bigfoot.”
In August 2005, the Happy Valley Horror struck again.
Happy Valley Circle resident Donna Robards, a lifelong Coweta resident, remembered laughing about earlier reports of the creature.
But she stopped laughing after almost almost running over two of the creatures in late August 2005.
“I thought it was funny before,” she says. “Now I’m not so sure.”
Robards’ thinking about the possibility of strange, hairy critters in north Coweta began to change on Aug. 22, when her son Jeff, 18, had a strange encounter while returning to the Happy Valley home he shares with his folks.
He had just dropped his sister off at her east Coweta home and was heading west on Cedar Creek Road near its intersection with Happy Valley Road just after 2:30 a.m. As he approached the stop sign, Jeff was startled to see a huge, hairy creature strolling down the middle of Cedar Creek Road toward his vehicle, according to Donna Robards.
“He said it was big and hairy and walking upright,” said Donna Robards. “At first, he thought it might have been a bear, but he didn’t stick around to see. When I asked him about it later, he said it couldn’t have been a bear because the face was flat and didn’t have a snout like a bear. He didn’t know what it was, and I didn’t either,” says Donna Robards.
Three nights later, on Aug. 25, just before midnight, Donna Robards got to see just what her son had described. She had worked late in LaGrange and was heading north on Happy Valley Circle toward her home. When she reached the Cedar Creek Road intersection, she saw not one, but two of the creatures standing in the road just yards ahead.
She slammed on the brakes and skidded to a stop within 20 feet of the hairy pair.
She said the larger of the two creatures was 8 feet tall and covered with coarse black hair. The other was a foot shorter and its hair was reddish-brown in color, Robards says.
When Robards screeched to a stop, she says the smaller one ambled into the woods west of Happy Valley Circle. The big one, however, turned and started right at her.
“I thought oh, dear God, that thing is going to come in the car after me,” she says. “And I was scared to death.”
After what seemed like an eternity the larger creature followed the first one into the woods and Robards headed home as fast as she could, an awful image imprinted on her memory forever.
“It wasn’t human, but you could call it ape-like,” Robards says. “It stood upright but the hair on its face was shorter than on the rest of its body. And the eyes didn’t bulge like an ape’s. They were set back like human eyes.”
When Robards told her husband, Michael, his response wasn’t what she expected.
“We’d both been laughing since the first Happy Valley Horror was sighted,” she says, “and he still didn’t believe what might be going on. He thinks I’ve lost my mind,” she says with a laugh. “But I know what I saw, and I don’t want to see it again.”