EAST PEORIA, Ill. — The legend of the Cole Hollow Monster has fascinated central Illinois since the 1970s.

The creature was first reported by Randall Emert, which caused a large group of people to begin hunting through the woods for the Bigfoot-like monster. Emert had said he spotted it in the woods near Cole Hollow Road, thus the creature became known as the Cole Hollow Monster, or “Cohomo” for short.

It was described as white, hairy and 12 feet tall. Several people believed the monster was able to get around through abandoned coal mines.

“It was in ’72,” Emert said. “[My friend] had a friend that lived [on Cole Hollow Road] at the top of the hill, and he had car problems one night when he got off work. And he decided he’ll just walk up Cole Hollow Road. He claims he saw something white and hairy, standing there and staring at him.”

Emert said his friend told him and their other friends about it the next night, and they decided they wanted to prank him and say they saw the creature as well. While his friend did not believe them, Emert said they stuck to their story.

Eventually, Emert called a local radio station to say they saw “a big hairy monster” on Cole Hollow Road. This led to more and more people wanting to look for the creature.

One day, there were around 100 people looking for the monster in the area.

Peoria Journal Star, 1972

Emert told a Peoria Journal Star reporter he saw the monster in the woods, and showed her and a photographer what he claimed was a footprint.

Years later, Emert said he wants to put the story to rest.

“It was a hoax, we never saw anything,” he said. “I know what we did, and we didn’t see nothing.”

Regardless of Emert’s history, the Cole Hollow Monster has become a famous local myth.

“The story kind of became a legend for East Peoria,” Robert Cole, president of the East Peoria Historical Society said. “There were multiple sightings, to the point where a search team was put together to go find the Cole Hollow Monster. Someone got hurt, [they] shot themselves in the foot, and the search was called off after that.”

“I think the community in itself pulled together to try to figure out what the Cole Hollow Monster was about, and try to find it,” he said. “It became part of our history. […] Some people still believe that the Cole Hollow Monster still exists in East Peoria.”

Next week: Take a trip to one of the most haunted hospitals in Illinois.