by JIM HARRIS
You’ve all heard of Bigfoot, Sasquatch, the Yeti, and the Jersey Devil. Now it’s official; Northwest Philly has its very own large, hairy, unidentified bipedal humanoid roaming the woods — the “Wissahickon Freak!”
That name was given to the creature by Penn professor of Anthropology, Dr. Dirk VanDervoorn, who was the keynote speaker at a recent university forum convened to discuss the mysterious mammal.
A number of eyewitnesses were called in to testify, including Jane Goodall, who camped out in the Wissahickon Valley for eight months observing the exotic beast and taking notes. Here are excerpts from her report:
“Culturally, I believe him to be a very old ‘hippie’ from the ‘Age of Aquarius’ (1960-1970). Most likely, he hid in the park with others of his kind in the late 1960s to avoid being drafted into the Army. At some point, he probably got separated from his tribe and was unaware that the ‘60s had ended. Over the years, he turned feral and learned to live as a wild animal. As far as he knows, the Draft Board is probably still out looking for him.
“He has many camouflaged ‘nests’ scattered throughout the park, often filled with items that he has scavenged in his travels. An examination of one such underground enclave recently uncovered 900 beer cans, 57 sets of keys, a whoopee cushion, a faded copy of ‘The Evening Bulletin’ and a yo-yo.
“He appears to be a vegetarian gatherer-forager. He eats mostly indigenous plants, occasionally wandering to the borders of the park to eat flowers from residents’ gardens. This has caused consternation among some of the larger estate owners, a few of whom have collectively offered a $2 million reward for his capture.”
On several occasions, the Freak has even been seen leaping into the creek at Valley Green and wrestling bread right out of the beaks of ducks who were being fed by park visitors. “He’s frightening the children,” said a waitress at the Valley Green Inn. “This is definitely not good for business.”
According to Assistant District Attorney Prudence Evermore, the Freak has committed a number of misdemeanors, including staying in the park after curfew, disturbing the peace (he sings hits from the ‘60s all night long), and riding a deer without a permit.
“He has also been interfering with the flow of traffic along Bells Mill road,” said the D.A. “It is estimated he’s been struck by over 75 cars in the last 40 years. He apparently doesn’t see well and has also been observed walking off of cliffs on several occasions. This accounts for his uneven gait and hunched posture.
“All attempts to capture or negotiate with the creature have thus far been fruitless. Last spring, he stole a cell phone that someone left unattended on a bench. He probably didn’t know what it was. Anyway, for a few days before the battery ran out, we were able to call him, but even after he figured out how to answer, he just barked at the phone.
“The Pennsylvania Game Commission set large steel-jawed leg hold traps near his frequented locations, but all they’ve caught so far is a gnarled boot, size 16 EEE, and a strand of love beads, both of which the Freak apparently wriggled out of to escape, as well as most of the remaining deer the Fairmount Park Commission and Friends of the Wissahickon somehow haven’t managed to kill.
“We just want him out of the park,” said Evermore. “In spite of all the trouble he’s caused, we would be willing to grant him immunity if he turned himself in. We’d even give him a $95,000-a-year job as an aide to City Council. All he’d have to do is agree to wear a suit and bathe once a year.
“I would caution citizens who might be contemplating capturing the Freak for the $2 million reward — this man is wild. He may bite, and he definitely has fleas. If you see him, please call the city hotline that we have set up, 1-800-FREAK-OUT. Together, we can rid the park of this uncivilized menace. Let’s just hope there aren’t any more freaks out there in Chestnut Hill!”