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PCR #100 (Vol. 3, No. 8) This edition is for the week of February 18--24, 2002.

La Floridiana by Will Moriaty
There's A Monster on the Beach (alternative title: "Here Comes OLE' Three Toes")

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The First Sighting:
It is a starry February night in 1948. At about 3:30 A.M. on this night, a couple making kissy-face in their car out on Clearwater Beach get the fright of their lives. Some "thing" breaks out of the surf of the Gulf of Mexico and walks several hundred yards along the beach in the inky blackness. Nearly hysterical, they flag down a policeman. By the break of daylight the officer and local residents see tracks along the same stretch of beach, the likes of which no one had ever seen before. By day's end the tides had washed the mystery tracks away, but by the end of the next night, the tracks appeared again. This incident would be the beginning of a monster spotting hysteria that swept the Gulf coast of Florida from Indian Rocks Beach north to the Suwannee River.

The Next Occurrences:
March 6th: 100 yards of tracks appeared at Big Pass about a mile and a half north of where the first incident occurred on Clearwater Beach.
March 20th: Tracks appear on the island immediately south of Clearwater Beach (a part of Sand Key known as Dan's Island).
April 3rd: 350 yards of tracks appear at Indian Rocks Beach, some ten miles south of Clearwater Beach.
April 8th: A mile of tracks discovered on an uninhabited coast three miles south of Indian Rocks Beach.
"Some time later": Tracks appeared along the shoreline of Phillip's Hammock (Phillipi Park).
July 25th: The "monster" was spotted by two fliers, George Orfanides and John Milner, with the Dunedin Flying Company, swimming about 200' off the shore of Hog Island in clear water about 8' deep.
August: A couple visiting from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, spotted the "monster" waddle into the water from the beach of a deserted island just north of Tarpon Springs.
October: After about a two month absence along the Pinellas County coast, the same tracks appeared forty miles up the Suwannee River at a place called Suwannee Gables. The tracks left the River went over a low bank into an adjacent forest, into a lily pond, then out again, and into a slough, which connected with the Suwannee River. These tracks approximated 200 yards in length comprising 240 paces.

The Tracks:
In all instances a bi-pedal, three-toed creature made the tracks. Imprints of the tip of the claw on a middle toe to the back of the heel measured 13.41" for the left foot, and 13.50" for the right. The stride was approximately 5'. A cast of the imprints was taken at the Suwannee River site in October 1948 by cryptozoologist Ivan Sanderson.

The Monster:
The monster or creature was described by pilots of the Dunedin Flying Company as having "a very hairy body, a heavy blunt head, and back legs like an alligator but much heavier. The tail was long and blunt." The couple from Milwaukee described the monster as "having a head like a rhinoceros but with no neck. It sort of flowed into its narrow shoulders. It was gray and covered with thick fur. It had short, very thick legs and huge feet, and from its shoulders hung two flippers. It didn't run into the water or dive in; it sort of slid in sideways."

National News:
Stories of the monster on the beach initially appeared in the July 26, 1948 editions of the St. Petersburg Times and the Clearwater Sun. These articles made their way to the NBC network where the sightings were brought to the attention of consulting cryptozoologist Ivan Sanderson, founder of the Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained, or "S.I.T.U." Sanderson initially did the bulk of his investigations at the Suwannee River sites, which he stated in the January 1968 edition of Fate Magazine ("The Forgotten Monster--Old Three Toes"), as "one of the most convincing cases of monster hunting that I know of." I will personally vouch, based on my own experience in working with Florida's native and introduced flora and fauna, that the research that Sanderson did on this case was painstakingly above board and on the up and up.

The One that Got Away:
One of if not the most frustrating moments in Ivan Sanderson's life is when he was flying about 500' above the Suwannee River in an airplane owned by the Herald-Tribune. He spotted a dirty-yellow color creature rolling around on the surface of the water, making a huge lozenge shaped patch of foam on the waters around it. Sanderson estimated the creature to be 12' long and four feet wide. Due to the meandering path of the river, the bush pilot ferrying Sanderson over this uninhabited area half way between Suwannee Gables and the Gulf could not safely position the aircraft in a manner where the creature could be seen again. Several attempts to spot the creature after circling were fruitless.

The Monster Becomes History:
The last sighting of the monster was on November 14, 1948 in Dunedin, two days before Sanderson returned back to New Jersey. It had also previously left tracks along the banks of Suwannee near Old Town and along a river between Chiefland and Gainesville.

What Was It?
This is impossible to determine. It may well have been an elaborate hoax, but if so, someone probably executed it with a thorough knowledge of biology due to the nature of how the tracks reflected animal-like reactions when confronted by obstacles such as trees or brush. It could have been mistaken identity--West Indian Manatees or Sea Cows frequent this same area, but are not, however, land adapted creatures, and they only have two flippers and a fan like tail, no legs or feet like the monster described by eyewitnesses. Sanderson believes that the tracks and the descriptions best profile what could have been an aquatic bird such as a Cassowary, a Moa, or a large Penguin! Even though he himself seemed dumbfounded at that conclusion, it was the best that he could produce based on the evidence left by the "Monster on the Beach"!

In Rememberance
Kitty Bitts
Kitty Bitts
"The World's Most Wonderful Cat"
1984/85 -- February 18, 2002

Kitty Bitts Cashon-Moriaty: A True Feline Florida Folk Hero

Not long after I got married on May 14, 1988, my wife, Karen Cashon and I, moved from Clearwater up to Gainesville, Florida. It was our first time away from our hometown for any extended period of time. The purpose was so that my wife could complete her education in landscape architecture.

Karen became extremely homesick for a Himalayan cat she had had since being in her late teens. So, against the rules of the townhouse we lived in at that time we adopted, for only $30.00, a Tortoise Seal Point Himalayan Rag Doll cat ("Turtle Cat" as Nolan nicknamed her) at the Alachua County Animal Control Center on the last week of December 1988. It would be the best $30.00 investment I ever made as this incredibly lovingly creature would repay us daily for almost 14 years for saving her from a certain premature death at the pound.

The cat was very malnourished when we found her at the pound, and I suspect it was her previous owner as there was plenty of food and water in sight at all of the kennels. She was between 3 and 4 years old at that time and named "Booger Bear" by her previous owner. I was fearful the first evening we had her that she wouldn't make it through the night due to her starved condition, but as my wife fed her, she never stopped eating, and within one to two weeks was an absolutely gorgeous creature. Karen originally named her "Pyewacket" from Kim Novack's Siamese "familiar" in the 1950's movie with Jimmy Stewart, "Bell, Book and Candle."

In her time with us she had lived through the Reagan, Bush, Clinton, and G.W. Bush Presidential administrations. She lived through the fall of the Soviet Union, the Persian Gulf War,the advent of the computer revolution, and the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. She "outlived" two of aunts, one of my uncles, my older sister, my wife's father and mother, and three younger cats that we had over the years, and lived at five different places with us-- in Gainesville, Clearwater, St. Petersburg, and finally in 1995, Plant City.Through all of our rewards, losses, and life almost since we were married, she was always there, always non conditional love to us.

Kitty Bitts was very atypical as a cat. She followed you everywhere like a dog, and would not stop until you payed attention to her. She lived to be held and petted. If you walked too far away from her she would make the most pathetic and woeful sound until you waited for her. While in Gainesville, when my wife visited her folks for a summer internship and the Holidays in Clearwater, she would bring Kitty Bitts with her. Once relocated at a mother in law's house with me, my sister in law would take Kitty Bitts to the elderly in "Project PUP (Pets Uplifting People)". Bitts was a hit with the geriatric crowd!

On Monday February 18, 2002, Kitty Bitts had not run to greet me as I pulled in to the back yard. Initially I was not too concerned as sometimes she would be waiting inside the house. As I approached the back porch I saw her lying along our west garden path. I could tell by her lack of response that something was wrong. It did not take me long to find out that she had passed away at that spot. She simply went to lie down and never awoke again.

It was a beautiful cool, clear blue afternoon with the Azaleas blooming near her. She was as gracefully taken from the earth as she had lived in it. I did not have to shovel her off of the street in front of our yard like I did for one of our cats, nor did she die from a predating dog, or die a slow and horrible death from a dread disease-- just peacefully in her sleep in the garden. I buried her near our herb garden and planted poppies over her gravesite. Tough... Later that night the constellation Orion was glimmering beautifully upon her resting place-- I knew then she would be alright.

Several years before her passing, my wife was sweet enough to create and deicate a web page in her honor. It can be found at www.kittybitts.com

Kitty Bitts was the finest pet (or animal companion) that I'd ever had, and will probably ever have.I can not thank God enough for providing with so great a gift for so many years.

"La Floridiana" is ©2002 by William Moriaty. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2002 by Nolan B. Canova. Webpage design and all graphics herein are creations of Nolan B. Canova