The Carlsbad Creature
In the late 1940s, the Carlsbad Daily Current-Argus urged readers to send in letters telling of strange occurrences. A few had written in accounts of a headless horseman in the area, and some had also jokingly written in about a “horseless headman” in turn. Printed in the July 6, 1948, issue of the Carlsbad Daily Current-Argus, Fowler Merritt wrote about a much more original account: seeing a dinosaur rather than a ghost. He stated his encounter took place in the late 1930s. With no further ado, Fowler’s letter:
“I do not want to alarm anyone or to cause undue apprehension, but I honestly think there is a real menace in the hills west of Carlsbad. About ten years ago I was out in the flats at the base of the hills west of Happy Valley. I had my little son and a dog with me. I had a .12 gauge shotgun, pump, and a .45 Colt automatic.
“Just before dark a horrible thing rushed out of a deep canyon toward the boy and the dog who had strayed off to one side as boys do. I was almost paralyzed but the boy streaked toward me.
“The dog stood his ground but his terror was pitiful. This apparition, or whatever, had the body of a good-sized horse and the head of a snake on a long neck. The head was stretched out toward my boy and the drumming of the animal’s feet and the screams of the boy and the frantic barking of the dog kept me frozen.
“I did manage to pump several loads of bird shot into the thing at rather long range and it slowed down. My boy got to me and behind me and then the thing seemed to notice the dog. Its long neck stretched out with this nasty head on the end of it and the jaws grabbed the dog. As it wheeled and started back into the canyon I grabbed the .45 and emptied it at the thing’s head. I know some of the shots took effect but some missed. Our heroic dog was carried away before our eyes and we were afraid to follow. I was thankful that the boy escaped, but he was sick with brain fever for weeks. Even now, a grown man with the battles of the Pacific behind him, he won’t talk of this and he refuses to go past Happy Valley.
“You may laugh at the Headless Horseman or the Horseless Headsman if you wish; it is no joke to me, I assure you.”
I inquired as to the identity of Fowler Merrit and could find no record of him living in Carlsbad. This proves nothing one way or the other, of course, but it’s discouraging, nonetheless. Was Fowler serious in his closing statement about this being a true encounter, or was it merely a wink and a nod at the reader along with his mention of the Horseless Headsman? We will likely never know.