The Proctor Valley Monster seems like a tale told around a campfire, just right for a Hollywood B-movie. A teenage couple go parking in the woods off Proctor Valley Road, in the southeast corner of San Diego County in California. The car won't restart, or maybe they had a flat tire, and the boy gets out to investigate -but he doesn't come back. The girl stays inside, terrified because she hears scratching on the outside of the car. Police find her the next day, still hiding in the car. The boyfriend? He's dead, torn and bloody, dangling from a tree, while his hands brush the car, producing scratching noises. The story sometimes has mysterious huge footprints found nearby. The legend of the Proctor Valley Monster grew, and it is described as a 7-foot hairy humanoid like a  Bigfoot, or sometimes a cow-like animal with its body parts in the wrong place. The Proctor Valley Monster is assumed to be responsible for livestock mutilation that occurs every now and then. The Bonita Museum in Chula Vista has a casting of a strange footprint alleged to be that of the monster.

"'For years I've heard stories of the Proctor Valley Monster. Proctor Valley is northeast of Otay Lakes. Some say it's a deranged cow and others say it's San Diego's version of Bigfoot. Can you shed some light on this truth or legend?"

-- Roger the Inquirer, the net

La Jolla has its Munchkins, Old Town has its ghosts, and East County has its Proctor Valley Monster. The old PVM seems to be a textbook urban legend -- or rural legend, in this case. It has all the classic symptoms: teenagers, lovers' lane, mysterious deaths, and the clincher, "I never saw him, but my neighbor's babysitter's sister saw him."


PVM stories go back at least to the '60s, probably earlier. One version involves two teens who get a flat tire while driving through Proctor Valley late at night. The guy pulls to the side of the road under a tree, gets out to look at the damage, his girlfriend locks the doors, and the next thing she hears is a scraping on the roof of the car. When cops rescue her in the morning, she learns that the scraping sound was her date's fingernails. He's hanging by his feet from a tree branch, with big, animal-like footprints around the car. A thinly disguised version of the time-honored hook-on-the-door-handle story.

What the Proctor Valley Monster looks like is a matter of debate. One person claims to have seen a huge flying beast of some sort. In the 1970s, a local radio DJ organized a nighttime monster hunt; he gathered thousands of teens in the area and later reported that they had seen something like an oddly built bovine. Ensuing publicity is probably responsible for the persistence of the "disarranged cow" story.

But Bigfoot? Well, aside from the fact that every rural area seems to demand its own elusive, legendary humanoid, the Procter Valley Bigfoot story might be a combination of the PVM and Alpine's Zoobies. The Zoobie story also begins in the early '70s.

A local psychiatrist who once lived in Alpine quite seriously claims to have seen a Bigfoot-type creature in the hills near his house. The doctor has shied from publicity, saying he wants to write his own book on the events; but third-hand accounts say he described a 6- or 7-foot-tall, hairy creature accompanied by two similar critters. He made a plaster cast of a footprint 16 inches long and 8 inches wide. He also related many strange happenings and sounds around his home. Park rangers and other investigators could never confirm the sightings, but plenty of campers, area residents, and even a sheriff's deputy claim to have seen some large, hairy thing tromping the hills of Alpine. One investigator into Bigfoot phenomena notes that the nearby Viejas Indians have a legend of a similar creature that guards its burial grounds. Until the doctor writes his book, this is about all we'll know.

Whatever the Zoobies prove to be, the Proctor Valley Monster is undoubtedly just a scary fabrication. But maybe I shouldn't say that. Well-known urban legend expert Jan Harold Brunvand says myth-debunkers are very unpopular people. We don't want fathead experts spoiling our fun. The stories are great to listen to and even more fun to tell, especially with our own embellishments. And we've always loved them. Consider this ancient urban legend, presented as fact in a number of contemporary books in the time of ancient Rome. It seems a guy invented some kind of bendable, unbreakable glass. He showed it to Caesar, thinking he'd be showered with gold and maybe become assistant emperor for coming up with something that would improve everyone's life. Instead Caesar had him killed. Flexible glass would be more valuable than gold, was Caesar's reasoning; his kingdom would be worthless. Substitute the 100-mile-per-gallon carburetor for the glass and General Motors (in cahoots with the oil companies) for Caesar, and you have the popular 20th-century urban legend about the carburetor breakthrough that's being withheld from us by corporate greed. Guess we're still as suspicious of big shots as we were a couple of thousand years ago.

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