The 1967 Patterson/Gimlin Film of a large hairy bipod lumbering (no pun intended) through Bluff Creek in a Seattle area forest triggered a national wave of interest in large hairy smelly ugly creatures known as Bigfoot, Sasquatch, and Yeti (See “Bigfoot Fact or Fantasy” http://www.rfthomas.clara.net/bf_pgfilm.html ). Since that highly publicized sighting, fortune hunters, much like the character Jacques LaFleur depicted in the Bigfoot movie comedy “Harry and the Hendersons”, have been searching the wilds of the Pacific Northwest United States in vain trying to capture even a glimpse of the illusive creatures. Maybe they’ve been looking in the wrong places!
Since that movie personified the beast as a gentle herbivore (vegetarian), the public has been more inclined to report Bigfoot sightings ”“ not just in the mountains of Washington, but in almost every one of the 48 lower United States as well. (See The Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization http://www.bfro.net/). In my opinion, many of the reports are exaggerations and the usual “publicity-seekers” trying to cash-in on the latest unexplained phenomenon, but I’ve investigated two human encounters with such creatures in my home state of Ohio!
In the spring of 1978, I was working as a professional Respiratory Therapist in a small regional hospital in central Ohio when a co-worker told me that the Greenfield Times reported an unusual sighting of a large hairy bipod rummaging through garbage cans on the outskirts of this small rural town situated along Paint Creek. Although the paper buried it on the back page with no by-line and gave no credibility to the report for reasons I was never able to determine, my co-worker described the event as causing quite a stir in the community. I organized a small group and set out 2 days after the sighting to talk with the people who reportedly had direct contact with the creature and the surrounding neighborhood. (Read about Greenfield, Ohio http://www.greenfieldohio.net/)
Base on our interviews, the owner of a house on the edge of the town of roughly 4000 people, went outside to check his back yard because of the commotion his two dogs were raising one night. His doberman pincer and german shepherd were both barking viciously and he could here them straining on their chains to break free and attack whatever was invading their territory. As he approached the back door, he could hear the garbage cans clanging and suspected the local raccoons were looking for a midnight snack or just trying to harass his dogs. He flipped on the outside light to illuminate the yard and the alley that passed along the back of his property and separated the town from the open fields beyond. The fields covered several acres with tall grass and bordered the wooded area adjacent to the creek just north of the local sewage treatment facility. When the yard lit up, the sounds stopped. All of this was corroborated by interviews with neighbors.
After peering out through the door for a minute or two to see what was agitating his pets, the dogs began to growl again but now retreated to their houses as the owner stepped off his porch. Because his backyard was enclosed by a short 4 foot wire fence and because the hair on the back of his neck suddenly stood up for no discernible reason, he unfastened the chains from both dogs’ collars to free them for pursuit. In spite of their earlier anxiousness to attack, the dogs stayed by their master’s side and would not venture forward without him.
This behavior concerned him enough that the owner retreated to his house and returned with his 12 gauge shotgun that he used for hunting raccoons and other small game. He could see nothing in the alley, lit on this moonless night only by the weak streetlight about 60 yards down from his property. As he approached the large oak tree near his fence, some 40 feet from the house, the dogs began to back away and he looked up into the tree fearing that he might have cornered a raccoon ”“ which any hunter will tell you is a very dangerous thing to do and even the dogs know it.
What he saw was so shocking that he was momentarily paralyzed. A huge hairy creature was crouched on the base of a large limb about 7 feet up and peering at him with its “yellow cat-like” eyes. Before he could regain his composure, the creature leaped out of the tree, over the fence, and lit in the alley and then ran toward the field in the direction of the creek. The stunned homeowner didn’t get off a shot or even attempt to fire but he recovered and, probably wisely, chose not to pursue the creature. Using the fence as a reference, he estimated the creature to be 7 to 8 feet tall when the creature landed in the alley on both feet. He ventured forward to make sure there wasn’t another one in the tree when he noticed a fowl stench. Although he didn’t mention checking his owns shorts, he did look around the ground for feces ”“ which off course, he didn’t find.
As part of the investigation two days later, we scoured the tree and alley for hairs and tracks and ventured into the fields toward the trees and creek. In the tall grass, there was still a clear path to the trees from the alley at the point where the homeowner described the creature entering the field as it ran away. Unfortunately, there was no evidence in the tree or in the alley to support the observations. We were hoping to find footprints where the creature reportedly landed but the alley was constructed with large pebbles that didn’t show impressions of anything traversing its surface.
As we investigated the path from the alley to the tree-line in the field, about 20 yards in we found a large area of matted grass. On close inspection, we found deer tracks and assumed that the area was a resting place for those animals at some point in the near past. Also to our misfortune, it have rained heavily the entire day following the sighting which was the day before we arrived to investigate so much of the grassy ground had impressions that were obscured beyond recognition.
At the end of the trail through the field at the tree-line, in the ground where the grass gave way to the less dense foliage beneath the trees, we hit the jackpot. We found a footprint. Not just a footprint, but an impression measuring 13 Â¾ inches in length by 6 Â¾ inches in width with six toes. We pounded a 2 inch lead pipe three feet into the ground about a foot from the track to obtain a deep soil sample for analysis by a friend of mine in a university archeology program. We made a plaster impression of the track and scoured the area from that point back to the alley as well as to the creek by the apparent trail of broken foliage but could find no other evidence of any significance.
According to the soil analysis and based on the depth of the imprint, it was estimated that the creature making this imprint weighed in at about 700-740 pounds and the anthropology student working with us estimated a height of 7 ft 9 in. to 8 ft 6 in. Our findings were in line with much later estimates published by more respected sources such as “EVALUATION OF ALLEGED SASQUATCH FOOTPRINTS AND THEIR INFERRED FUNCTIONAL MORPHOLOGY” by D. JEFFREY MELDRUM, Department of Biological Sciences, Idaho State University seen at http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/dtrapp/bigfoot.htm. (See also Douglas Trapp’s “The Truth As I Know It” at http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/dtrapp/bigfoot.html )
Needless to say, none of this made the homeowner feel any better about his experience and he chose to remain anonymous rather than expose himself to the potential ridicule of a small town. He also relocated shortly after that episode.
As for me, the facts speak for themselves and made me a believer. In the course of the interviews, several of the local interviewees stated that there were many caverns along the bank of Paint Creek in that area. Some extend “miles” back underground and were reportedly not accessible during the spring rains because of high water. Although we discussed mounting an expedition to explore those caverns in search of our Bigfoot, I became romantically involved that summer and was married a year later. Our investigative group dispersed and we never pursued the expedition.
Stay tuned for my next Simply Unexplained article! I offer my own personal encounter with Harry Henderson in another rural part of Ohio in 1981!
For all you Bigfoot fanatics, the Texas Bigfoot Conference for 2005 runs Oct14-15-16. (http://www.texasbigfoot.com/events5.html)