Scotland has the Loch Ness Monster. The Pacific northwest has the Sasquatch. Puerto Rico has the chupacabra, Nepal the yeti.
They can't hold a candle to the Lizard Man.
A denizen of the swamps surrounding Bishopville and a connoisseur of delicious chrome trim on automobiles, the Lizard Man is South Carolina's very own homegrown monster.
Imagine it, if you can: In the wee, dark hours of the morning on June 29, 1988, a teenage boy was driving home from work when he blew a tire along the edge of Scape Ore Swamp. He got out of the car to change the tire when he heard a sound, like someone running, getting louder and louder. Suddenly, from the darkness, it emerged!
Blazing red eyes, green scaly skin, long black claws on its three fingers, a staggering seven feet tall. What else could it be but a Lizard Man?!
The boy jumped into his car for safety, but the Lizard Man attacked the car, ripping off the mirror and gouging the roof of the vehicle.
Just two weeks later, police were called to the scene of some vandalism. A car, not too far from the swamp, had been attacked in the night. Fenders had been ripped off, the antenna bent, deep scratches along the body, and chrome trim had seemingly been chewed off. Could it be the monster again?
Over the course of the summer, more cars in the vicinity of Scape Ore Swamp were brutally attacked and chewed on, and more people reported seeing an enormous scaly green man lurking in the woods and swamps. The police were called out, and the sheriff made plaster casts of the enormous three-toed footprints left behind in the thick swamp mud. They considered a call to the FBI, but decided against it.
But then, as the cooler days and nights of the fall approached, the Lizard Man receded back into the swamp as suddenly as he appeared. His summertime reign of terror ended, but a legend was born.
Over the decades there have been sightings on occasion, and a smattering of automobile maulings, always within the vicinity of the swamps around Bishopville. But nothing like that summer of 1998, when the Lizard Man made his presence and appetite for cars known.
But then... Then, in the summer of 2015, something remarkable happened. The thing that had always eluded believers and authorities-evidence! Proof! A photograph of the creature, taken by a woman with her cellphone as she left church.
The photo and a subsequent video may prove Lizard Man's existence beyond a believer's doubt, but his shy nature remains unchanged. The Lizard Man remains elusive.
The South Carolina Emergency Management Division tweeted out a warning about possible Lizard Man reappearance during the Great American solar eclipse of 2017, when a total solar eclipse occurred in the state. After all, it wasn't clear if his seemingly-nocturnal nature would be befuddled when dusk arrived in the middle of a summer day. Sadly, Lizard Man didn't get the message. Perhaps he doesn't do Twitter.
Visitors to the area around Scape Ore Swamp are encouraged to remain vigilant, however, for the inevitable return of South Carolina's very own monster.
So the next time you're in Bishopville, perhaps to see Pearl Fryar's fantastical topiary gardens (http://www.pearlfryar.com), or to admire the Button King's button-covered hearse, or to see what might be the largest boll weevil in history at the Cotton Museum, (yes, these are all in one tiny small town!) keep an eye out for what is probably the quirkiest resident of what very well may be the quirkiest town in South Carolina.