Cryptid Casefile: The Awful
Updated: Apr 10, 2021
Terror from the Skies
According to local legend, in 1925, the residents of Berkshire and Richford, Vermont would brave encounters a terrifying an unknown flying beast. Located between Lake Champlain and Lake Memphremagog, these towns border the Canadian Province of Quebec paint a perfect pastoral scene - the perfect place for some rustic high strangeness. Whatever this creature was it was said to closely resemble the mythical Griffin. With a grayish color, 20 foot wingspan, serpentine tail, it had claws big enough to grasp the girth of an old style milk can with ease. With these features, it’s no wonder the people of Northern Vermont lived in terror of this menacing new neighbor who moved into town.
Allegedly, the first reported sightings came from two saw mill workers from the town of Richford. The men were crossing the main street bridge and suddenly noticed an unfathomably large beast, perched on a nearby rooftop of the Boright building just glaring at them. According to the story, one of the men was so frightened that he suffered a fear-induced heart attack. He had to be carried home and made a full recovery. However for weeks afterward the man was bedeviled with nightmares of the beast and would frequently wake his wife and children with screams echoing throughout the house throughout the night.
Over the next few months locals would continue to report seeing this mystery creature which would often intimidate residents and send them fleeing in terror. Farmers told stories of it soaring over their fields, while other residents saw it land on the rooftops of their homes. One such resident was a farm wife, named Oella Hopkins. She was hanging up laundry to dry outside one day when suddenly the family dog became perturbed at something and started barking like crazy. When she looked to see what the dog was flustered at, she saw it. As it turns out, The Awful had decided to pay Oella a visit that day, and was perched on the farmhouse roof, staring at her. Oella ran inside and hid under her bed for hours.
By the end of 1925, sightings of the creature died down and stopped almost completely by 1928. Though it was thought to be gone, some locals have reported seeing it from time to time since the 1920’s. One such person was Montgomery resident Lisa Maskell who claims she would see the beast near Trout River when she was a child. When she was a little older she said she saw an artists rendition of a pterodactyl and immediately thought about the creature she saw, and believed it resembled The Awful. As recently as 2006, it seems the Awful may have returned to Northern Vermont with a handful of new reports. Despite its fearsome appearance and menacing nature, the Awful was never reported to attack people, it just simply seemed to be observing. Though one account told of it flying over Berkshire Field near Lost Nation road and it appeared to be clutching a baby or a small animal, though it’s more likely it was an animal.
It has become a popular notion that H.P. Lovecraft took a secret trip to Vermont in 1925 to investigate stories of the Awful and interview locals about their encounters. These stories, allegedly served as inspiration for some of his writings afterwards. (Note: H.P. Lovecraft was pretty racist, so keep that in mind). This claim was originally made by an H.P. Albarelli Jr. in 2006, though most of his claims regarding Lovecraft are unsubstantiated without source. According to some researchers, it seems that Albarelli’s writings of The Awful are the earliest mention of the Awful and could be the source of the story. So far it seems, no mention of this being has ever been found in 200 years of the Burlington Free Press’ archives. Allegedly around this time a jawbone was found by a logger and sent to the University of Vermont for analysis, though it appears there was no further information regarding this and thus cannot be substantiated.
So just what was the Awful? Some have claimed it sounds like a pterosaur type creature, a Thunderbird, or something similar to the Piasa Bird of Illinois. Further theories include that it could be related to the Jersey Devil in some way while others have suggested it may have been an early Mothman sighting. Then there is the issue of The Awful simply being a hoax or misidentification. With that said however, I have personally heard of stories of unexplained and impossibly large birds, or Mothman type beings being spotted throughout Northern Vermont every once in a while, so it’s anyones best guess.