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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Deerman - urban legend or real monster ?

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It’s amazing how many people still live in fear of Deerman. We even heard from a Kewanee serviceman stationed in South Korea who fears the mysterious creature might track him down.

A week ago the column was devoted to recalling the legend of the half-man, half-deer who supposedly lurked in the woods north of Kewanee.

We were responding to a request from Neponset seventh grader Gus Block who asked the newspaper to “uncover the truth” in an unbiased fashion. Gus had heard some “pretty tall tales” about this Deerman from his “parents and other old people” and wondered if his leg was being pulled. We have since learned Gus overheard the adult Sunday School class at the Church of Peace reminiscing about stories of Deerman one Sunday morning and his curiosity was piqued so he penned a letter to the paper.

As we explained last week to Gus and the rest of our readers, the legend of Deerman began in the early 1960s in a column in this newspaper called “Mostly Malarkey,” written by editor and publisher Jerry Moriarity.

For several years the rumors of sightings and encounters circulated and “Deerman was here!” could be found scrawled on road signs, barns and walls throughout the Kewanee area.

Our responses revealed some of the dangers associated with Deerman, two actual “sightings.” and where he came from.


Our first response came from Kewanee native Kevin Jones, now a professor at a university in Sacramento, Calif. “As a fellow ‘old guy,’ I can attest that I saw Deerman,” Jones admits. According to the legend, he recalls, if you saw Deerman three times, you died. Jones said he saw Deerman twice and caught him with a sidelong glance the third time, narrowly avoiding the third and fatal sighting. “This is why I can never come back to Kewanee. If I see him a third time, I’m dead,” Jones revealed.

“As I recall, he walked upright, like a faun from Greek mythology, mostly anthropomorphic upper body and head with deer-like antlers, not unlike some of the paintings on the walls of caves in times even more prehistoric than ours,” our eyewitness related.

Gus, you might want to look up anthropomorphic.


Where did Kevin see Deerman? “Twice in the old cemetery behind Kewanee High School (Pleasant View).” Jones had what he now describes as a “less than stellar” high school wrestling career in which he once managed to get pinned with absolutely no time elapsed in the first period. “Coach Ken Sullens, strangely proud, told me that it was a record that could be equalled, but never broken.” So, to avoid “getting beaten up for two hours every afternoon,” Jones would tell the coach he was going out to do “road work” and while so engaged, spotted Deerman twice. “The sidelong glance? He was coming out of an outhouse. Fastidious, these local legends,” said Jones.

Galva chiropractor Dr. C. L. Cunningham told how years ago he and fellow Boy Scout leader Jim Stringer took the troop camping at Giant Goose Conservation Area and one night told them the legend of Deerman who, he claims, had a red eye that people spotted in the dark. As the tale grew scarier, Stringer slipped away into the nearby woods with a red flashlight and started “blinking” it at the Scouts who became even more terrified. Cunningham said his son, Jon, one of the boys in the group, is now a Scout leader himself in Batavia, and shares the Deerman story with wide-eyed boys around the campfire. “Doc” sent a copy of last week’s Deerman column to Jon who is sharing the origin of Deerman with another generation of Scouts.

Our third response was an e-mail that began with “Greetings from South Korea!” A Kewanee serviceman who asked to remain anonymous for his own safety read the Deerman column on our website and was amazed that the legend still exists. “The story I heard as a kid in the ‘80s was that Deerman was created by a man who earned his living skinning and tanning hides in his barn. Somehow, late one dark and stormy night, something happened and he was given two legs of a deer, a man’s torso and arms (for writing), and the gigantic head of a 10-point buck,” said our serviceman. “It’s important to note that Deerman was not a cruel freak of nature, but the result of an unholy obsession with taxidermy.”


The soldier concluded his message by asking us to please not use his name. “I wouldn’t want Deerman to come and hunt me down on the other side of the world!” he said. We’re guessing he must have already seen Deerman twice and is worried about that third and fatal encounter.

If I were him, I wouldn’t really worry, unless he sees “Deerman was here!” written in white paint on the side of his barracks.


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