Ted Sallis was an old Seminole tribal chieftain and shaman living in Bywater, New Orleans, and a personal acquaintance of Pete Horn, another old Seminole shaman from the same tribe. As the leader of the tribe, he was in charge of the ancient tribal lands, including the sacred area known as the Dark Waters, in a local swamp. The Native Americans believed that those lands were full magic and were home to their old guardian spirit, who protected the Nexus of All Realities. Sallis' tribe was scarce in money, but it owned the land, and Sallis was its manager.
Native mestizo scoundrel Rene LaRoque convinced local oil tycoon Fred Schist to buy the tribal lands for oil drilling, believing that the money would help the tribe. However, Sallis refused to sell the ancestral land, something that was not surprising to people who knew Sallis personally. Schist greedily murdered Sallis in the Dark Waters, with the expressed intent to bury him there. Sallis used his last breaths to tell Schist that Schist was liberating Sallis, something that Schist found ludicrous. Sallis believed that, by being murdered in that exact place, he would reincarnate in the guardian spirit until the moment Schist stopped desecrating the sacred land. Schist then buried Sallis and raised a drilling tower in the sacred place, on Sallis' unmarked grave.
However, the official version was that Schist had legally bought the land, but Sallis took the money and ran away. Sallis' friends, including Horn, did not believe that Sallis would have sold the sacred lands, but most of Bywater did - including people who opposed Schist's drilling, such as schoolteacher Teri Richards. Even facing public discontent, Schist started his endeavor, staffing a lot of people including his own son Jake as the foreman and Steve Gerber as a security guard.
Sallis then came back from the grave as the monstrous Man-Thing, eager to get revenge and ready to murder anyone and everyone so that Schist would stop spoiling the sacred soil. In the following months, the Man-Thing brutally murdered at least forty-five locals in a few months using its newfound powers of creating and controlling plant life. The victims were considered officially missing - and Sallis was deemed the first missing person of that series. Bywater Sheriff Jim Corley believed that Sallis had cursed Bywater and that he was personally behind the series of crimes, which was true to an extent. He also believed that LaRoque, then living in the swamp, was Sallis' accomplice, which was false - LaRoque believed that Sallis had disappeared and that the spiritual guardian was behind the murders; however, as LaRoque had a bad reputation, he went into hiding in the swamp, lest he'd be formally accused.
When a number of corpses appeared with plants growing from their insides, medical examiner Val Mayerik told Corely about the unusual situation which he could not explain. However, Corely refused to believe that. He forbade Mayerik to write that in his reports and insisted that he file the deaths as alligator attacks.
Finally, Corely discovered that Sallis had not escaped with the money, but had been murdered by Schist. Corely confronted Schist about this, but Schist murdered Corely shooting him at point-blank, and threw the body to the swamp, hoping that the local fauna would get rid of it. Schist then tried to blame LaRoque and Horn of that murder - especially because LaRoque was the only person who knew about Schist murdering Corely. Teri Richards trusted her friend LaRoque and did not reveal his secret hiding place; and Horn was never formally accused. Even then, LaRoque felt guilty about the situation and tried to scare away Schist by sabotaging the facilities.
Horn discovered the nature of the guardian through drug-induced visions, but he felt powerless to stop the murderer. Horn vainly tried to stop Schist through praying, knowing that, without Schist, the deaths would stop. As irony goes, no Native had ever seen the guardian spirit, but others had: Mike Ploog, a photographer, came to Bywater to research local legends and became fascinated with the guardian spirit. He managed to catch a glimpse of the Man-Thing, but was unable to photograph it at that point. Ploog decided to live in the swamp and looked for a new chance.
New sheriff in town
Replacement sheriff Kyle Williams reached Bywater and started investigating the deaths, discovering the local situation. The Man-Thing had just murdered a new victim, teenager Billy James who had gone into the swamp for a good time with girlfriend Sarah: James had been brutally killed, and Sarah had witnessed it all but had gone into a shock. James' corpse reached Mayerik's lab and the examiner determined that only an alligator could have done it, although Williams believed that James had too much plant life within its body to have spent only one night there.
That night, the Man-Thing attacked Schist's watchtower. To do so, it made noises and attracted Jake Schist to the swamp, leaving Gerber alone in the tower. Then, the Man-Thing attacked Gerber and killed him by growing plants from inside his throat.
Meanwhile, Williams found Corley's body and sent it to Mayerik, who also autopsied Gerber. Mayerik admitted to Williams that the situation had precedents and revealed he had hidden information on Corley's orders, but still Mayerik did not understand what could have caused that. Williams happened to have seen LaRoque two miles from Gerber's death place, so he decided to track LaRoque. Schist, also blaming LaRoque, hired two local thugs, brothers Wayne and Rodney Thibadeaux, to find and get rid of the mestizo; discovering this, Richards told Williams about it.
Williams and deputy sheriff Eric Fraser sailed to the swamp in a canoe, while the Thibadeauxs did the same in secret. The Man-Thing found the bullies getting ready for the night and separating for a moment. When Wayne Thibadeaux was alone, the monster showed itself and trapped his prey in mire. Moving branches pierced his chest from behind, and then moved to enter again toward the throat. The monster then hid underwater. Rodney came later and to his surprise found his brother's corpse. Man-Thing's huge hand surfaced behind Rodney, grabbing him and raising him in the air, while new branches moved as tentacles to attack the last Thibadeaux.
Fraser and Williams also separated. Williams was captured by a trap laid by LaRoque, and the rogue told the sheriff what he knew. Williams freed himself just when Fraser reached him for reinforcement but, before they could go after LaRoque, the Man-Thing appeared and murdered Fraser from behind using his piercing branches. LaRoque knocked Williams down, reasoning that the monster would not attack an unmoving person, and then he himself escaped. Meanwhile, Fraser died screaming.
Ploog came in time to take some blurry pictures of the escaping monster, but stayed to photograph the maimed remains of Fraser. Williams woke up and threatened to arrest Ploog. Ploog proudly showed Williams the photographs of the monster but, to his disappointment, Williams seized the images as proofs and forbid Ploog to return to the swamp.
Williams returned to Bywater and asked Richards to take him to Horn, looking for help. Horn told Williams about the guardian spirit of Dark Waters. Skeptical, Williams believed that Sallis was alive, something that Horn could not confirm or refute. Williams also tried to intimidate Schist, which prompted Schist to schedule with his son to murder LaRoque, and Williams if he tried to intervene, that same night. Williams, reasoning that Schist would do so, decided to track LaRoque that night too, as the FBI would be unreachable in time. Horn also decided to go to the swamp too and try to stop the Man-Thing with magic, or sacrificing his own life if needed. Lastly, Ploog challenged Williams' orders and went to the swamp, anxious to photograph the creature.
The final night
Horn was the first to find the Man-Thing and, trembling tried to use his prayers against it. The huge Man-Thing grabbed and raised Horn, who claimed to give his life willingly if it was useful to stop the killings. The Man-Thing shook Horn and pierced him with its branches, causing its body to turn plant-like, with greenish skin and red eyes.
Mayerik's autopsy of Corley found Schist's bullet. Mayerik tried to tell Williams, but he could only contact Richards. She agreed to go to the swamp and tell the sheriff.
Ploog excitedly trotted through the swamp, looking for a chance to photograph the Man-Thing. He ran into Williams, who reprimanded him for not staying safe, but he escaped from the sheriff. Soon afterward, Ploog saw a moving shadow and, believing it to be the Man-Thing, took a flash-enabled photograph. His prey was not the Man-Thing, but Fred Schist, who was startled at the glitter and reacted by shooting that way. Schist accidentally murdered Ploog but, when he saw the corpse, he felt no regret. LaRoque then ambushed Jake Schist and knocked him down. Williams found Ploog later and quickly reasoned that Schist, not Sallis, had murdered him.
The Man-Thing saw Richards entering the swamp and stealthily followed her. She met Williams and told him about Corley's autopsy; he told her about Ploog's death in turn. Williams theorized that Schist murdered Sallis and was trying to incriminate LaRoque; hearing this, Richards revealed that she knew LaRoque's hiding place and would take Williams there. However, the Man-Thing started chasing them actively and was seen and heard. Williams and Richards tried to run from him.
Meanwhile, LaRoque was placing dynamite in Schist's tower at Dark Waters, but Schist found him and aimed his rifle at him. LaRoque said that, even if he failed, the swamp (meaning the Man-Thing) would eventually take care of Schist. Schist mocked at LaRoque's statement, keeping him on his sight. But then, Richards and Williams noisily approached, and Schist hid, still leveling his weapon at LaRoque and forcing him to stay in sight. When Williams and Richards arrived, LaRoque insisted on detonating his bomb, so Schist shot him, wounding the saboteur and revealing his own hiding spot. Williams moved, but Schist was faster and wounded Williams with a bullet, aiming at Richards then.
Richards warned Schist that someone or something was chasing them, but Schist disregarded that. Williams, seeing the Man-Thing coming, gave a final threat to Schist.
When the Man-Thing reached the area, Schist was the closest man to its position. Schist shot the Man-Thing point-blank, but the monster withstood the impact. The huge Man-Thing hit Schist with a bare hand, as big as Schist's torso, and then it pierced his chest with branch-like fingers, while LaRoque, Richards and Williams witnessed the event. Williams tried to aim at the Man-Thing, but it ignored him. The Man-Thing opened Schist's oil cans, absorbed their contents within its body and then expelled it in Schist's body. Then, the Man-Thing threw Schist to the tower and moved toward Williams.
Williams tried to protect Richards by making her go and attracting the monster's attention by shooting. Although the bullet holes were insufficient to stop the Man-Thing, it did notice them.
Meanwhile, Laroque tried to detonate his bomb again, and shouted so that Williams and Richards would escape and so that the monster turned to LaRoque. Williams and Richards dove to avoid the fire, but the monster merely approached LaRoque, who exploded the tower saying that he would liberate the Man-Thing.
The roaring inferno completely caught the Man-Thing, but the monster endured it without problem. However, once the flames subsided, the Nexus of All Realities claimed the Man-Thing back - the monster was raising his arms and screaming, maybe even asking for release once its job was complete. The land where Sallis had been buried grew tentacles that took the Man-Thing underground under the astonished eyes of Williams and Richards.
Powers and Abilities
- Growth: The Man-Thing can change its own size, going from the size of a big human to something much bigger, with a hand as big as a grown man's torso.
- Necessity: The Man-Thing only appears if the Nexus of All Realities is threatened. Once the danger is over, the Nexus will claim the Man-Thing again, literally dragging it back to the land.
- Night vision: The Man-Thing can see in darkness, but only in red shades, which suggests infrared and thus heat detection. Its sight is different to a human's in aspects that have not been studied yet.
- Resistances: The Man-Thing is immune to traditional forms of damage, including a point-blank shotgun: Worst case scenario, the bullet opens a hole in the Man-Thing's body, but the Man-Thing simply generates new plant life to close it in the following seconds. The Man-Thing is also invulnerable to fire, even to the blaze caused by several oil cans exploding; it simply stands still while the flames rage around it, unable to consume its body. The Man-Thing can withstand oil going through its body, and it can even absorb it and re-direct it to a different place using its body as a gateway. Lastly, the Man-Thing proved to be unaffected by Pete Horn's shamanic magic.
- Spines: The Man-Thing can generate spine-like branches on its body, especially on the back and the arms.
- Stealth: The Man-Thing can go unnoticed in its swamp; sometimes simply by remaining still, but it can also move inconspicuously.
- Vegetation control: The Man-Thing can control plant life in its swamp, specifically using flora as a weapon: It can create branches from almost nothing, and then use the branches as a piercing weapon. It can even generate a plant inside the body of a human being and make it grow, so that the branches would kill the person while going out. The Man-Thing can kill more brutally, holding a person in its hand and turning its body into a vegetable-like thing.
- Before his death, Sallis said that, by being murdered in the Dark Waters, he was being "liberated." This suggests that Sallis was familiar with his people's traditions to a great detail.
- The Man-Thing cannot speak, but only bellow.
- The Man-Thing seems to be a victim of a homicidal rage, murdering not only those people involved in the desecration of its sacred land, but also innocent people who happen to be near it.
- Sallis was not a great financier, as his tribe was lacking money.
- In the film Man-Thing, the Man-Thing was played by actor Mark Stevens. While Sallis is mentioned, he does not appear.