TOOL NEWSLETTER
OCTOBER 2012, E.V.


FUMBLING IN THE DARK WITH THE LEGENDARY TEXAS SNORKWHOMPER

You might say that it’s the ‘house specialty’ of Texas monster folklore. The spooky story that never dims in its re-telling – itself being the terrifying saga of the legendary Texas “Snorkwhomper” - an elusive creature that allegedly haunts the thickly-forested Southern and Eastern regions of the Lone Star State. And after a few years of relatively few sightings, the famed cryptid nicknamed by locals as “Muddy Buddy” and “Grubby Bubby” would appear to be once again roaming the wooden trails and stagnant marshes of “Baghdad on the Bayou.”

For decades the spine-chilling tale has been recounted among dyed-in-the-wool Texans (those with peanuts in their Dr. Pepper and jalapeño peppers on the side), with those unfortunate witnesses of this particular devil describing a scaly, grayish-skinned monstrosity with intensely glowing red eyes as brilliant as “the taillights on a 57 Ford Thunderbird.” When the nocturnal insect shrill suddenly ceases to an oppressive silence, the creature often emits an unmistakable, blood-curdling high-pitched screech sounding like “JEET!!!” While to some the persistent tales of the Snorkwhomper are appreciated as a tourist boon, to other Texans the thing is about as welcome as a layered lettuce salad or doing the dreaded double nickel! However, one thing that all those with jeweled cowboy boots can agree on is that this hideous creature (“uglier than a bucket full of armpits” according to one Houstonian) is NO “Bigfoot”-like hairy costume legerdemain. “Like a huge booger that you can’t thump off your finger is this damn thing.”

Imagine you are at a sleepover with some of you junior-high friends on a humid autumn night – seated in a typical den in Houston, Texas – with a pine couch draped with a “Lone Star” granny quilt, polished indoor gun-rack, stuffed ibex, framed cow-patty, oil painting of blue bonnets, Indian pottery with a trail of ants, and a hat stand laden with colorful Stetsons. By the faint glow of a wagon wheel chandelier, while having a midnight snack of leftover Frito Pie and cold Orange Crush, one of the older teens repeats the oft-told yarn of the devilish creature with eyes like the fiery coals of hell, that terrorizes those in the mist-enshrouded swamps and shadowy deep pines, but also sometimes intrudes upon the city, even having been sighted in well-lit suburban neighborhoods (just like the one you’re currently living in).

Continuing with the frightening story, the boy tells how, in fact, a few years ago during the holiday season the dead body of a big toot-the-horn Texas lawyer named Gaspur McNeer was found sprawled amongst the azalea bushes in his front yard on River Oaks Boulevard. Although his face had been slashed to pieces, with it later determined that his brain had been somehow sucked through his nostrils as if by some hellish ant-eater, the man’s wallet and calfskin briefcase were both untouched. On the front door of the house, a barbed wire Christmas wreath still hung straight, while inside, stuffed cowboy boot stockings were undisturbed, with no valuables also missing from an antique pie-safe.

Stranger still, later that evening, a man fitting Gaspur’s description was seen running naked – though covered almost completely in a sheen of glistening mud in the neon glare of the plethora of fast food chuckwagons along Westheimer. Those who saw him swore to any God in a ten-gallon hat that it was the lawyer Gaspur McNeer, himself. With Houston police units now searching him, he finally disappeared near a Valero gas station, only to be seen the following morning around noon at both his office and at the “Heroic Butchery Sandwich Emporium.” Only now, he was cleaned up and well shaven, wearing the same two-piece pinstripe suit and black wing-tips that he had on when found dead, and holding the same calfskin briefcase. But here’s the kicker. There were muddy footprints on the Spic ‘N Span scrubbed floors! Shortly after, he was never seen again (other than his embalmed corpse). To some this seemed funnier than socks on a rooster, but to others it was further evidence of a shape-shifting demonic creature – the famed Snorkwhomper. Now, if this story wasn’t enough to scare the pants off one, then other stories involving chance encounters with the thing often amounted to trouser-chili in one’s Wranglers (though in these parts without beans of course!)

The following tale gained a greater notoriety after being published in the October 1992 issue of “Texas Highways” magazine. In the article, the Pulitzer-prize winning reporter recalled the testimony of several other seemingly credible eyewitnesses who had brushes with death when they chanced upon the creature. These included wildcatters, roughnecks, barrel racers, beauty queens and an astronaut. Even a black indoor rodeo star. Deaths possibly attributed to the Snorkwhomper also run the gambit – from a wealthy socialite (foundations, art patroness, indoor tennis courts and mink tortilla warmer) to a sunburned janitor who was found with blood gushing out of him like “a tumped over longneck on a glowing jukebox.” By the time the authorities arrived on the scene there was little left of him other than a blood-stained Mexican wedding shirt, bolo and onyx slider, and soiled gimme cap with a popular feed store logo. It appeared as if he had attempted to fight off something with only cellophane-wrapped stick of beef jerky. Like the others, no cash was taken from his palomino-colored imitation steerhide wallet.

Although the magazine feature sanitized it, the latest victim was a daddy’s little princess-type-turned-high school cheerleader STD/hub-turned-tequila-soaked honky-tonk angel – turned Meth-head stripper/cum-dumpster, whose partially-clad dead body was found near a spring-fed creek just a short yonder from “The Church of the Extreme ATV Park.” Evidently she was in the middle of giving a “Texas Breathalyzer” when her and her ‘friend’ were interrupted by something “god-awful.” (Note: the ‘breathalyzer’ part, whatever it might refer to, was glossed over in the magazine article, although at the funeral the girl’s father gloated that his precious little girl was once “hotter than a jalapeno lollipop and two-dollar pistol”).

And then there were the turned over Winnebagos and mysterious abandoned campsites found near recreational places like Splendora (home of the world’s largest bowl of salsa), Wicked Oaks, Hidden Falls, and Texas Hogwallow. All this was enough to rouse the suspicions of some of the strongest arms of the law. As one Texas Ranger put it, “Well butter my ears with Smuckers and lay me next to an anthill. This Snorker hoopla is nothing to guffaw at.” When asked to give people advice, from behind his mirror Ray-Bans he replied, “When you’re in the woods, don’t squat with your spurs on, and if you gotta visit the peesplasher, take more than a damn fly-swatter with you.”

The article in the October issue of “Texas Highways” magazine assured its readers that the stories involving the Snorkwhomper weren’t just further examples of a whopper of a Texas tall tale, but, rather than slinging the bull, they were based on the “dead-right facts.” Granted, my blue jeans might be more than a few rivets short from being essential, but I personally thought the whole thing was bullshit piled on top of bullshit. The Snorkwhomper was just a more modern addition to the fantastic menagerie of “fearsome critters” or imaginary backwoods creatures spoken about around campfires in the boonies and in smelly poduck taverns. A scarier version of the Jackalope, was all this seemed to be. Case closed…

That was until I heard about what happened to Tool bassist Justin Chancellor and his wife Shelee during a recent trip to Houston, Texas. Having attended the wedding of good friends on October 7th, the following morning they were invited by some other good friends (all being members of Texas law enforcement) for a day of Texas-style recreational activities, and not just lawnmower racing and paintball fields! After a late breakfast of saddle-sized chicken-fried steak, and then some fancy shootin’ of snakes with AR-15s, they headed out of H-Town for a “mudding” trail adventure at an ATV park (which I will not disclose at this time). Though I initially had a hard time stringing together the sequence of events, I was able to gather that shortly after the evening rainfall, while riding their quads on the primitive dirt roads winding through dense woods, strange things began to happen.

With his Polaris stuck in a mud bog on one of the forest’s surrounding trails, Justin got a whiff of a terrible odor before catching sight of a pair of eyes that were glowing a fierce reddish color. So bright were they, in fact, that at first he thought they were an ATV’s brake lights, or possibly a bicycle reflector. But then he saw what appeared to be a strangely shaped animal of sorts – a hideously adorned, grey-skinned form watching him from behind some rustling foliage. When the thing crept a little closer with its menacing red eyes now clearly visible, for whatever reason – not knowing what else to do – Justin tossed an un-eaten, still paper-wrapped hamburger at it, which the misshapen creature quickly grasped from the damp ground before disappearing back into the trees. (Note: Having moments before stopped at a “Whataburger” drive-thru on one of the dirt trails, Justin purchased one of the Texas chain’s smaller “Justaburger” in order to get some small condiment tubs as new additions for his prized ketchup collection.)

When Shelee and the others arrived at that particular spot on the trail, they found Justin completely covered with mud and talking excitedly about something that he’d just seen amongst the trees. After having a can of beer to help calm him down, the group drove their ATVs to the park’s spray-wash area where Justin also hosed the mud off his clothes. It was there that Shelee noticed that his recently acquired Jimi Hendrix necklace was missing (described to me as a unique pendant with Jimi’s famous image laser cut out of black acrylic on a black finished delicate cable chain). Although Justin claimed that he’d left it back at the hotel, Shelee felt certain (she later told me) that he’d been wearing it while at breakfast, and even at the beginning of the mudding trail adventure…

Intrigued by Justin’s story, and thinking that it might make for a good newsletter , I flew to Houston to do some first-hand investigating (besides, I could use a tax write off, and a Whataburger didn’t sound too bad). It wasn’t long after arriving that I found myself in a dive called “Tell Her I Ain’t Here, Boys”, where I had arranged a meeting with a local cryptid hunter named Culp Castlebury. A native Texan, Castlebury was an experienced cryptozoologist, who in the past had chased after the skunk-ape, giant catfish, and even leathery-winged pterodactyls. More recently, he was on the trail of capturing one of those peculiar mangy blue dogs that many believe to be goat-sucking chupacabras. Before answering any of my questions, the beer-bellied right friendly fellow suggested that we first rustled up some huevos and Carta Blanca, with an amuse-bouche of stale saltines drenched with Tabasco. Accompanying us was a Hollywood producer from the Nat Geo channel, who, dressed in floral calico, preferred that we meet at the Hafbrau House, but who was all white creamy gravy about turning the Snorkwhomper legend into a new cable television series.

With cracker crumbs dotting his beard, Culp finally started laying out some details about the Snorker. Seems that the creature’s diet consists mainly of cow patties (“Eats those there meadow muffins like they’re pecan pancakes!), beetles, and buffalo clover. However, what really excites its culinary palette is Lance (not Nabisco!) Toasty peanut butter-and-cheese crackers purchased at a Valero gas station. These salted orange squares have been used with much success to bait the creature. Which is why in close proximity, its breath is said to be able knock a buzzard off a shit wagon! As the lady producer began taking notes, the cryptid hunter continued with a few other little known oddities about the elusive critter. Turns out that it acts rather oddly when someone litters. Whether a praline wax paper or Styrofoam cup from James Coney Island, when it sees anyone messing with Texas it becomes either extremely agitated or distracted, as if compelled to quickly pick up the discarded material (this brought to mind Justin’s Justaburger wrapper). It also doesn’t like – nay - is repelled by those armadillo-shaped car air-fresheners which could explain why there are so many dangling from mirror brackets in pickup trucks around these parts.

Far from being a modern phenomenon, according to Castlebury, sightings of the Snorker were reported as far back as the days of cattle rustlers and the Chisholm Trail. He then got a little paranormal, much to the lady producer’s delight. The Snorkwhomper, it turned out, was a shape-shifter, with the ability to assume the form of its victims, right down to skoal-scented breath, and the pearl snap closings on a red cotton chambray shirt. In fact, if we were sitting in a Taco Cabana right now, gnawing on a brisket and egg breakfast burrito, you’d be hard pressed to tell that those exotic-skinned boots tapping the floor were being worn by a shape-shifted Snorker. Your only clue might be muddy footprints on the floor – the telltale signs of Grubby-Bubby before the transformation is completed.

Though I was growing weary of listening to old hits by the “Light Crust Doughboys” on the barkeep’s I-Pod, as well as hearing comparisons between the Snorker and other Texas swamp beasts (including the Fouke Monster of Southern Arkansas) when the crytozoologist started telling me about certain theories of his pertaining to the creature, I was ready to order another round of beers. It wasn’t the possible throwback to a Glyptodon or Panocthus (prehistoric armadillos) that caused me to raise a brow – it was his mentioning of the famous Cash-Landrum UFO encounter.

The story goes like this: Back on a December night in 1980, while driving home to Dayton Texas (or looking for a bingo game in the woods!), two women and one’s grandson were startled by a large radiantly glowing diamond-shaped object that was hovering at treetop level above the road. As the ponderous metallic-silver thing emitted brilliant flares that caused a tremendous heating of the asphalt below, one of the women interpreted the object to be none other than Jesus during the Second Coming. Soon, however, besides the anomalous craft, he sky was filled with what appeared to be CH-47 Chinook helicopters. But while the women were transfixed on the aerial spectacle (grandson Colby, too), their skin began to get hot and blister, and they later felt quite nauseous. Not long after the event they would suffer symptoms similar to radiation poisoning, and hence sued the country for damages. Could it be, wondered the cryptozoologist, that a certain level of residual gamma radiation from the object – itself possibly a military experiment involving a dirty nuclear powered propulsion system, was responsible for the latest incarnation of the Snorker? Was the creature some kind of horribly mutated armadillo? And then there was the 1948 Laredo Texas crash whose dead alien pilot was dubbed “Tomato Man.” But, seeing how the photos of the incinerated E.T. also show a pair of decidedly terrestrial wire frame glasses, we should probably rule that one out as having anything to do with any of Texas’s legendary monsters.

Having listened to Culp’s theories, and having viewed old newspaper clippings and Xeroxed copies of police reports in his possession, I decided to have him take me to the exact location at the ATV park where Justin might have encountered something just a trifle unusual.

That night out at the ATV park, in the dense woods where the silvery gleams of the Autumn moon were reflected in the eyes of wolf spiders and other nocturnal hunters, there was plenty of strange activity to be sure. First, we heard what sounded like something knocking repeatedly on wood. “Wood knocking communication”, Castlebury whispered enthusiastically.

Suddenly we both saw some weird lights darting about through a thicket of trees.

Ghostlights?

Through my borrowed night-vision scope I could make out a portly, spectral green figure who was attempting to attach what appeared to be a candy bar on a string to a tree limb. As he struggled to do so, a woman repelled down from the same tree, wearing all kinds of technological gear, including a face-mounted FLIR camera. This seemingly caused the large man to have an intestinal transfer in his khaki shorts.

WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!

IT’S A FUCKING SQUATCH!!!

“He’s got a pretty big hole in his screen door, don’t he?”, Castlebury uttered to me.

Soon a group of Bigfoot field researchers had gathered around the two, with the woman, as it turned out, being part of a crack team of UFO Chasers who had picked up a heat blip of the rotund squatch hunter acting rather strangely through her thermal imaging camera.

“These squatch hunters and UFO chasers frightened away the damn snorker! I’ll bet none of them could find their own asshole with a search warrant and a flashlight”, the cryptid hunter said. “Might as well go rustle up some doughnuts from the closet Shippley’s.”

While leaving the park, taking a final scan with the night-vision scope, I couldn’t believe what I saw. It was definitely him. The Bug Man. Rance Q. Spartley, the maverick entomologist. He was only yards away, kneeling down while examining something on the forest loam. “Professor”, I shouted. “It’s Blair. What are you doing here?” After staring at me for a few seconds, the bespeckeled fellow replied, “Looking for a rare type of longhorn beetle whose pinchers aren’t just for show. But it’s not easy with all this commotion” he added while standing up and offering me a retro Necco candy wafer by lifting one of the pastel confections with his dirt-encrusted thumb. “Who’s that freaky thing with gizmo on her face? Take a thermal image of this!, he said while pointing to his groin area. "Tell her that I can drive friendly. By the way, whatever happened to your friends playing those big shows in South America in the fall?”

“Not sure, but it probably wasn’t due to any concerns about extremely venomous Wandering Spiders winding up in dressing room bananas. Even so, they might need to call upon your expertise again for something also a bit exotic.”

“Well, give a holler if so, as they say in Delaware.”

As the entomologist stepped back, I saw something sticking out of the mud.

It was kind of shiny.

“DAMN.”

(NO CLIFF HANGERS HERE)

It was a Jimi Hendrix necklace with the guitarist’s famous image laser cut out of what appeared to be black acrylic… on a black finished delicate cable chain.

HAPPY TRAILS

BLAIR
JUSTIN
DANNY
MAYNARD
ADAM


 
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