By Adriana M. Chàvez
More than two years ago, Cecelia Montañez saw the creature for the first time: more than 7 feet tall, with faded dark brown fur, and standing in the desert near Eastlake Boulevard and Darrington Road.
"I saw a big gorilla-like thing walking toward the desert," Montañez said.
Montañez says she and other Horizon City residents have witnessed a large, bigfoot-type creature lurking in the desert, usually near Eastlake, and near Lake El Paso. While others, including law-enforcement officials, believe the sightings are part of a hoax, Montañez said what she and other people have witnessed is true.
The legend of the monster goes back to the early 1970s, but no actual evidence has been found, according to many longtime Horizon City residents.
Montañez, a retired secretary, moved from East El Paso to Horizon City three years ago. She said she has seen the creature on two occasions, the last sighting taking place near her home last October.
Montañez said that after the first sighting, she remembered an article that ran in the Sept. 20, 1975, edition of the El Paso Times. The article reported that three teenagers saw a gorilla-like creature near the Horizon City golf course. Bill Rutherford, a former deputy with the El Paso County Sheriff's Department, said in the article that he did see a track, but that it "appeared to have been dug."
"Someone had to have made those tracks," Rutherford said in a recent phone interview. "There's a lot of people that were very upset, but it never bothered me. I didn't think it was for real."
Rutherford was a deputy until 1979, and in 1988 became Horizon City's first police chief. He retired after 10 years, and remembers that although he didn't believe the teens' stories, he felt obligated to investigate.
"I was a deputy sheriff, so I was regulated to do something," Rutherford said. "I never saw it. I thought it was a hoax.
Horizon City Police Chief Tony Aguilar has been the town's chief for about two years, and said he doesn't recall any reports of bigfoot sightings.
"We've had reports before of meteorites landing in the desert, but nothing about bigfoots," Aguilar said.
Aguilar remembered hearing about a hermit who may have lived in the mountains near Horizon City in the early 1970's.
"He had long hair and he was unshaven," Aguilar recalled. "A lot of hunters at one point found a little cave, and found old cans, and like he had been living off the land."
Although Montañez maintains the creatures live in caverns that exist underneath Horizon City, Phil Goodell, a geology professor at the University of Texas at El Paso, said no such caverns exist.
"Large desert expanses can't have caverns," Goodell said. "You have to have limestone rock, like Carlsbad Caverns does."
Montañez said she got some of her information on the creature from at least one law-enforcement official who has investigated the creature sightings and developed a profile.
"He said the mothers go out to find food, and that they nurse their young just like we do," she said.
Aguilar said if anyone reported seeing the creature to police, "we would look into it and take it seriously, with whatever information we had to work on."
Montañez described the creatures as having red glowing eyes, "like cats," she said, and as being vegetarians. Since El Paso is mostly desert with no vegetation, Montañez said, the creatures suck the blood out of small animals and eat their organs.
Irene Scanlon, 57, said she heard about sightings of the creatures a while ago, but has never seen them.
"It sounds like they're trying to make it seem like a chupacabra," Scanlon said. "I don't believe it at all. I think it's just someone trying to get publicity."
But Montañez said she's not trying to seek publicity, and would like to see Horizon City become a tourist attraction like Roswell, which is known for being the supposed site of a UFO crash in 1947.
"My daughter didn't believe it either, but when she saw it, she changed her story," Montañez said. "They really exist."
Montañez has told of her experiences to friends and family, including two Socorro High School varsity baseball players.
"I've been looking for them around the desert," said George De La Fuente, 16, a junior at Socorro High, who has been watching for the creature along with his friend, Anthony Paez, 15, a sophomore at Socorro. "I just want to see them. I have to see one to believe it."
A closer look
Witnesses of the Horizon City creature claim it is between 7 and 8 feet tall with very broad shoulders and an elongated head.
Cecelia Montañez, who claims to have seen the creature twice, says the creatures "have very short hair and are a faded brownish-maroon color."
Montañez said the creatures also have red glowing eyes and a mouth that resembles that of a bulldog.
Many witnesses say the creatures can be seen near Lake El Paso late at night drinking water.
Others say they have heard the creatures humming as they drive through Eastlake Boulevard, or know the creatures are around because of their strong odor.
Montañez said the creatures live in caverns underneath Horizon City, but Phil Goodell, a geology professor at the University of Texas at El Paso, said there are no caverns underneath the town.
Big foot tidbits
For more than 400 years, people have reported seeing large, hair-covered, man-like animals in the wilderness areas of North America.
Sightings of these animals continue today. Real or not, these reports are often made by people of unimpeachable character.
For more than 70 years, people have been finding, photographing and casting sets of very large human-shaped tracks. Most are discovered by chance in remote areas. Tracks continue to be found.
The cultural histories of many Native American and First Nation peoples include stories and beliefs about non-human "peoples" of the wild. Many of these descriptions bear a striking resemblance to the hairy man-like creatures reported today.
This information suggests the presence of an animal, probably a primate, that exists today in very low-populated densities. If true, this species, having likely evolved alongside humans, became astonishingly adept at avoiding human contact through a process of natural selection.
To others, this information points to a cultural phenomenon kept alive today through a combination of the misidentification of known animals, wishful thinking and the deliberate fabrication of evidence.
Source: The Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization; www.bfro.net
Adriana M. Chàvez may be reached at achavezelpasotimes.com
Photo Caption:The legend of the Horizon City monster dates back more than 30 years near Lake El Paso, though there is no tangible evidence that it exists.
Photo Caption:This article about the creature was on the front page of the El Paso Times in 1975.