The Lizard Man
of Scape Ore Swamp

Lee County’s most famous reptile is back in business!

By Gee Whetsel (Lee County Observer newspaper)

Lee  County, South Carolina. The legend and folklore of the cryptid known as the Lizard Man has existed since that first fateful sighting in the summer of 1988.

The Lizard Man is Lee County’s very own, homegrown monster—a seven foot tall, red-eyed, scaly skinned reptile that emerged from Scape Ore Swamp one dark and humid night in July 1988 to scare the living daylights out of a young Lee County kid.

Chris Davis, a Bishopville teen on his way home after his shift ended at McDonald’s, blew a tire out on his car in the Browntown area of the county, very close to the edge of Scape Ore Swamp.

The young man got out of his car and was working to change the flat when suddenly he heard a sound—almost like someone or some THING running on the asphalt. And it was coming closer and closer through the dark night towards him. When the shadowy shape slowly started to take form, Davis couldn’t believe what he was seeing. He would later describe the creature as standing about seven feet tall with green, scaly skin, red eyes, and three toes on each foot. The Lizard Man had made his first public appearance.

Davis jumped back into the safety of his car and roared away, but not before the creature attacked his car, ripping off a side mirror and jumping atop the 17-year-old’s car and viciously denting the roof.

The attack was later reported to then Sheriff Liston Truesdale, who, along with his deputies, took the incident seriously and investigated the claims, especially after Davis took, and passed, a polygraph test.

A few weeks later, several folks who lived in the vicinity of Scape Ore Swamp reported having their cars attacked by some kind of creature that ripped off, and possibly chewed, bumpers.  Deputies stayed quite busy that summer, chasing down lizard leads, even discovering enormous three-toed “footprints” left in the swamp by some type of creature and making plaster casts out of them.

At the time, it seemed the whole world went crazy for the Lizard Man--with media descending on Bishopville from literally all over the globe.

Sheriff Truesdale said the Lizard Man had become a national celebrity and “put Lee County on the map. We had newspapers, television stations from all over the globe coming here to go to Browntown and Scape Ore Swamp.”

A radio station in Columbia offered a $1 million reward for the capture of the Lizard Man but it was never claimed. The sheriff’s office stayed busy, trying to answer hundreds of calls about the creature from as far away Japan and New Zealand.

It’s been a long time since 1988 to now, but thanks to a renewed interest in the Lizard Man around 2018 and the work of some diligent citizens, the Lee County legend has been given a “rebirth,” of sorts.

In 2019, the “Friends of the Lizard Man” committee was formed. Just as they were getting on their feet, however, Covid hit and all plans to revive the legend had to be put on hold. But this little group was nothing if not tenacious. When it was considered safe to resume meeting, they came together and decided on a motto for their organization—“Preserving the legend.”

“The vision was to integrate the legend with the local community initially,” says George Roberts, who chairs the committee. “However, the outreach soon grew to a larger audience of followers.”

Well, after all, who doesn’t love a good legend involving a monster?

In 2022, the Friends of the Lizard Man hosted their first “Stomp,” so named in recognition of the Lizard Man making imprints in the swamp mud during his 1988 sighting.

The “Stomp” that first year was an outdoor duplication of the Lee County Arts Council’s popular “Taste of Lee,” with various organizations cooking and selling Lizard themed “swamp bog,” along with activities such as children’s games, live music and dancing, a car show, and sales of T-shirts and other Lizard Man related merchandise.

In 2023, the “Stomp” drew even more folks to downtown Bishopville to celebrate the Lizard Man. “We added a parade, which was really enjoyed by everyone,” Roberts said. “We expanded the event to include a food truck, a live band, more arts and crafts vendors, and more entertainment for the kids.”

Smith’s Concrete cast a 3-foot-tall statue of the Lizard Man, which sold like hotcakes and can now be seen in strategic locations around town. “A big shout out goes to Robbie Howell, artist and administrator of ‘The Lizard Man Lounge’ on Facebook, for his efforts from 1988 until now in preserving the legend,” Roberts adds. “It takes everyone working together to keep the legend alive and that is our goal. Lee County ‘owns’ the legend of the Lizard Man and we intend to keep it!”

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