Small shrine set for story about monkey massacre

Q: I heard there once was a monkey massacre in the Atlanta area. Can you tell me about it?

A: Nobody really knows if there actually was a slaughter of circus monkeys.

Johns Creek, where the incident may have happened, calls it “fabled,” the AJC previously reported.

The website AtlasObscura.com, which describes itself as an online “guide to the world’s wondrous and curious places,” called it “folklore.”

It seems no one has been able to confirm the story.

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Nonetheless, there is a small shrine off a trail at the Autrey Mill Nature Preserve and Heritage Center in Johns Creek to 12 monkeys.

Walk three minutes down the Forest Trail North dirt path, past the outhouse on the right and the Tenant Farmhouse on the left, you will find 12 small statues in a seven-foot circle around a tall tree.

“We like to tell the children the monkeys have spirits and move around the park,” Lauren McDaniel, operations manager for the park, said recently. “There are times visitors move the statues and we have a hard time finding them. It could take days.”

According to McDaniel, some time near the turn of the 20th century, a train with circus animals crashed into a huge fallen tree near Duluth. Monkeys that were on the train were dazed and confused, and escaped into the woods.

Having never seen a monkey before farmers in the area were scared by these creatures climbing up trees and screeching at them.

Those farmers grabbed their guns, and shot and killed the monkeys, so the story goes.

McDaniel was quite animated telling this tale she no-doubt has told hundreds children over the past 2 1/2 years she has worked at the 46-acre park.

“We really want to get the message out from this story that you should not overreact when you see animals you aren’t familiar with,” she said. “If you see a snake, for example, back away, leave it alone and it will go away.”

According to AtlasObscura, an unknown artist wanted to create these statues to send a message that not understanding something isn’t a reason to destroy it.

The AJC previously reported, it’s unclear when exactly the memorials for the monkeys were made, but they were donated to Autrey Mill by the artist sometime during the 1990s, according to Mary Winder, the mill’s program director.

The nature preserve is located at 9770 Autrey Mill Road in Johns Creek.

Actual Factual Georgia runs on Sundays. If you’re new in town or have questions about this special place we call home, ask us. E-mail your request to atlactualfact@gmail.com.

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