Riverside Bridge Monster
Perhaps Tim Burton had heard of this story when he designed the “Jack Skellington” character for The Nightmare Before Christmas. Charles Wetzel was just trying to get home, but he never bargained for what happened to him on the night of November 8, 1958. As he neared the point where North Main Street crosses the Santa Ana River he found that the river was overflowing the road and slowed down. Suddenly, he noticed that the radio signal was drowned out by static. Almost simultaneously, something leapt out of the underbrush and landed right in front of his car. “It had a round, scarecrowish head,” he said, “like something out of Halloween. It wasn’t human. It had longer arms than anything I’d ever seen. When it saw me in the car it reached all the way back to the windshield and began clawing me. It didn’t have any ears. The face was all round. The eyes were shining like something fluorescent, and it had a protruberant mouth.” He later recalled that the thing’s legs stuck out sideways from the “body” and the skin looked “scaly, like leaves.”
As the lanky hoobajoob clawed at his windshield and “screeched like a fucker,”1 Wetzel reached for a .22 caliber pistol he kept under the seat. Quickly changing his mind about opening the window or shooting through the one thing that separated him from the monster, he floored it. The thing tumbled off the hood to the ground. Not caring what the thing was, or particularly concerned for its safety, Wetzel ran it over. He felt the scraping underneath, and heard more screaming and gurgling from the creature. He hightailed it to the nearest Riverside Police station.
Officers noted scratches on the hood and windshield, and smears along the oil-covered underside, but retuning later to the scene with bloodhounds, they found nothing. The next night, another spooked driver reported a similar experience. If anyone else saw the pumpkin-headed ghoul, they kept it to themselves, and the Santa Ana river basin has been quiet since then—except in the 1970s when bigfoot-like tracks were discovered nearby.
In his book Mysterious America, researcher Loren Coleman has pointed out the preponderance of weird things associated with place and personal names. “Wetzel” was high on the list, along with Fayette, Hobbs, and of course, anything associated with the Devil. Coleman also discovered that another Charles Wetzel, this one in Nebraska, had seen something that resembled a kangaroo hopping around his farm in July of the same year.