Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Finding Bigfoot - Ohio Video Debrief

Filmed on the Olympic Peninsula and Interstate 5 Freeway, here is the video debrief of the most recent episode of Finding Bigfoot!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Finding Bigfoot - Ohio Field Notes

Ohio was a natural choice for an episode of Finding Bigfoot. There are hundreds of reports from there, and I would guess that Ohio has more bigfoot researchers there than anywhere outside of the Pacific Northwest. Matt Moneymaker lived in Ohio while he attended law school in Akron during the 1990's, and knows that area well. I had done an expedition there a few years back near Beaver Creek State Park soon after an excellent vocalization was recorded there, and indeed I heard what I believe was a sasquatch at very close range one night on that trip. I knew it was just a matter of time until we did an expedition there.

The video we came to investigate was taken by a man named Jeff Patterson at Salt Fork State Park. Jeff started calling himself the “Squatchmaster” at some point, and has since posted many short films on his Youtube channel (http://www.youtube.com/user/TheSquatchmaster ). The film shows a dark, upright figure walking through shallow snow to a tree. It then grabs the tree and starts shaking it back and forth until the video clip ends. The footage clearly shows either a bigfoot or a human.

Jeff Patterson's bigfoot video from Salt Fork State Park.

Jeff's story starts before his video does. According to Jeff, he was sledding in Salt Fork State Park with several of his children. They parked at a parking lot and Jeff and his son, Chris went towards the woods to look around for bigfoot footprints. They had run across possible prints just a few weeks before in this same area, and they wanted to see if any more had shown up.

They soon reportedly heard snapping noises in the woods, and they both followed the noises. A sasquatch was seen walking along the nearby trail, which is in a small ravine and runs through the area. They paralled it a short ways and lost sight of it, but could still hear it. Soon they saw it again a distance away as it walked out of the ditch and towards the tree. This is where the film starts, so you know the rest. After the film ends, Jeff doesn't know what the figure did because he was leaving the area.

An interesting component of the video is that one can faintly hear speaking in the background. Jeff and Chris both said they were the only ones there, but the noises can readily be heard. Jeff and Chris said that they could hear two creatures making noises to each other. When Chris was asked what they sounded like, he said the noises sounded like a sasquatch. Hmmm... a red flag had been raised.

We found the same tree that the figure was shaking in the video, but it had been knocked down and broken by the time we got there. Jeff remembered where he was standing while he filmed, and it was not difficult to find the exact camera position by aligning the numerous trees and branches visible in the footage. This would later give insight into the height of the figure as well. We were also able to do our recreation using the same camera Jeff used for the original footage.

A photo from our recreation.  Bobo is the blue blob in
the center of the photo.

Another red flag was raised while we were interviewing Jeff and his son. Being a professional educator, and having taught fourth through sixth grades for more than a decade, I was very eager to speak to Chris about the encounter. Most teachers are very good at determining when a student is telling the truth or not, or even if they are leaving out important details. I figured that my experience would give me a pretty good handle on the authenticity of Chris' version of the story.

When I asked Chris what the thing looked like, he said that he saw a large, dark figure shaking a tree. When he was asked if he could see its face, Chris answered that he saw a large, dark figure shaking a tree. When asked about if it was covered in hair, he said that he saw a large, dark figure shaking a tree. It was soon becoming pretty clear that Chris had probably been coached on what to say.

Comparing our recreation video to the original, it was obvious that whatever is in that clip is not very big. It seems to be about six to ten inches shorter than Bobo. Looking very closely at the original video, there seem to be some frames that hint at the figure wearing clothing as well, though this is less than sure.

Before we did our investigation, I received some information that the Squatchmaster video had been proven a hoax, so I did some online investigating into the work done by others on this film. I ran across a very reliable reference to a video where Jeff Patterson himself confessed that the video was a hoax, and that he did not believe that there were any bigfoots in Salt Fork State Park. At one point he said that he believes the footprints found in Salt Fork were the result of other bigfoot investigators trying to hoax him. The videos in which Jeff confessed these things had since been removed from his Youtube channel. Looking again, I found that all of the Squatchmaster videos were only a month or so old. It occurred to me that it had only been a month or so since the producers had contacted him about using his video for the show. I suspect that Jeff did a major house-cleaning on his Youtube page at about this time for obvious reasons.

At the end of every video recreation, each team member has to tell the witness to his/her face what we think of the video. Sometimes this gets a little uncomfortable, especially for Ranae when she tells them they're wrong or lying. Now it was my turn to feel a bit awkward. Jeff and Chris had been nothing but kind to us, and were enjoying their time recreating the film.

Each team member took his or her turn telling Jeff that the film probably doesn't show a sasquatch. My turn came up and I looked Jeff in the eye and told him that I did some digging on the history of this film. “Since you are on record yourself saying that the film doesn't show a sasquatch, why should I think it does?” were the words I used. Jeff agreed with me. Bobo later told me that Jeff looked like he was going to cry. I'm glad he didn't. I felt a bit bad. Jeff and his son showed up to the town hall meeting the next night and waved at us when we walked by, so I guess it didn't hurt his feelings too badly.

Typical Ohio bigfoot habitat.

That first night's investigation was done not far from Jeff's film site. Bobo and I teamed up together and hiked various horse trails through the woods for several hours. We heard strange calls on two occasions that night. The first time was when Bobo and I crested a hill and he did a call. A short reply call came from our north west. Bobo immediately thought it was a human, and it might have been. In fact, at the time, I thought it was too. Later, after looking at a map, I realized that it seemed rather unlikely that anyone was in that area. I do not know what made those sounds, honestly...

The second set of sounds came a while later after Bobo and I left the hill top and were hiking in a densely forested canyon. This call came from our south, from the direction of the road. Again, we assumed it was a person doing the noises, but the crew back at base camp later told us that almost no cars were seen driving the roads that night, and they saw no people in the area either. It's possible that both of the evening's sounds were human, but I would give either one, but the first one in particular, a fair chance of being from something else...

The town hall meeting was excellent. There were over 170 people in attendance, and many of them were bigfooters. When we asked who had seen or heard a bigfoot, a staggering number of hands shot up. We took the time to listen to each and every person's story, which took several hours. After marking them all on a map, I finally got a chance to mingle and talk to some folks. I met many people that night, but a highlight for me was to meet Don Keating. Don has been researching bigfoots in that area since the 1980's, and his name has been on my radar for a long time. I was thrilled to meet him.

Cliff Barackman and Don Keating

The next day I went to speak to Chief Little Soldier of the Munsee/Delaware Indian Reservation. Chief Little Soldier told us about the two eyewitness sightings that he had had on the property over the last three years, as well as the numerous strange sounds he had heard, and the footprints he finds while walking the land. I investigated his most recent sighting from May of 2011, but a year or two before, he saw a smaller individual running through the trees just under the ridge line above him while walking the trails.

The sighting I investigated happened while Chief Little Soldier was pounding in a trail maker. He looked up the trail to see a creature walking across the trail and into the ravine below. The creature brushed its head against a branch as it ran downwards, and took the slope and cleared the river in six or seven steps. Using the branch as a marker, we figured out that the creature stood at about 7 feet, 5 inches tall, give or take a bit.

The red arrow marks the branch that brushed
against the sasquatch's head.  The gully it ran into
is behind and down from the tree.

Chief Little Soldier had been finding footprints of three individuals in the area over the years. One individual has feet of 17 inches in length, another of 15 inches, and a smaller one a little less than 10 inches. He believes that he most recently saw the 15 inch individual.

Just a few days before, Chief Little Soldier found prints of the smallest individual on one of the trails nearby. While Chief Little Soldier was filming his recreation, I sneaked off to try to find the footprint.  Using the directions Chief Little Soldier gave me, I soon located a very faint yet obvious footprint right on the same stretch of trail I was directed to.  It had been several days, and rain had occurred, but the print was worthy of a photograph, no matter how poorly the picture turned out.

A small footprint from the Munsee/Delaware Indian Reservation.

Though I did not investigate her sighting, I would like to make a comment on Lorena's sighting report of a sasquatch watching her children play in a playground. It was a very close range, daylight sighting with no chance of mistaking a bear or deer for a bigfoot. She watched it for long enough to observe some very interesting physical details. As it turns out, there is an eyewitness drawing of this bigfoot, as well as a short description of the account on the BFRO website here.

After getting Bobo from the woods, all four of us went to meet with Tim Stover. He encountered a bigfoot on October 6, 1992 while crossbow hunting in Salt Fork State Park. Tim was perched in a tree stand watching and listening when he caught sight of a 7.5 to 8 feet tall, coyote-colored sasquatch coming up the hill towards his location. He saw it quite clearly and was only 38 yards away. Interestingly, Tim remembered that he could see no whites in its eyes at all.

Tim Stover and the gang from Finding Bigfoot

Because of the sheer number of people who are interested in bigfoot in this part of Ohio, we decided to invite the public out for another grid search, much like the one we held in North Carolina during season one. The weather was not nearly as nice that day as it was in North Carolina, but still a great many people came out to comb the forests with us. I spent much of the time walking with families and interpreting things that were pointed out to me as possible bigfoot evidence.

I did not see anything that day that I would consider bigfoot data, which probably explains my absence from that particular clip of the show. However, we did come across a strange thing that defies explanation on my part. Over the course of the day, I saw two or three small branches that were sticking out of the ground, as if pushed in the mud. They were embedded about two or three inches deep into the soft soil. No substrate nearby had been disturbed. I am guessing that these 18 to 24 inch long branches had fallen out of the trees and stuck into the ground that way, but it was a puzzling thing to see. I still had a great time meeting the local people and talking about bigfoot with fellow bigfooters.

The last night investigation was held on the fringes of the park away from any place humans might go, such as a campground or picnic area. We started in a cemetery and headed out into open fields surrounded by ravines that lead down to the reservior. These ravines are heavily treed in and very brushy. It was kind of a long night, and my team only heard coyotes until Bobo notified us that something just hit the ground nearby where he and Ranae were standing. He said it was possibly a rock, but he couldn't be sure. Matt and I went to their location to help solve the mystery. Bobo and Ranae showed us where the sound came from, and together we all four slowly searched the area. One of us ran across a walnut fruit and suggested that this might have been the source of the sound. Sure enough, there was a walnut tree not far from our location, and it was very possible that the fruit had just fallen out of the tree nearby and made the reported noise.

As a test, Matt tossed the walnut fruit into the air. We wanted to hear the noise for ourselves, and we wanted Bobo and Ranae to compare the two sounds. The walnut fruit went twenty or so feet into the air and fell directly on Ranae causing an explosion of laughter. We know Matt didn't do it on purpose, because he would have missed. It was too perfect, and a great way to end the night. We solved the mystery of the sound, and we got to witness a perfectly slapstick moment after a long night in the woods.

This was my second trip to Ohio, and I can't wait to get back out there to do some more bigfooting. The entire eastern side of the state has excellent habitat for bigfoot, which is only part of the reason there are so many reports from there. The other part is the number of bigfooters looking into the mystery from that area. By their good efforts, more information will continue to come from that region. Thank you, bigfooters in Ohio and neighboring states, for your work. Keep it up.

Enjoy some other pictures from my adventures in Ohio:

Cliff Barackman and Chief Little Soldier

In a clip that didn't make the show, I got to ride around in
this Amish buggy.  It was very cool.

"Buggy Parking Please..."

A giant cookie from the hotel staff.
Thank you!

"Dangerous Cliff"

Hosak's Cave

Salt Fork State Park is indeed a very bigfooty spot.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Western Bigfoot Society Meeting

For you long-term bigfooters out there, you probably remember Ray Crowe and the Western Bigfoot Society. The WBS published a monthly newsletter called, "The Track Record," and the group held monthly meetings featuring various guest speakers for years and years until Ray experienced some health problems and dropped from the scene.

Ray Crowe and a friend.

As of a few months ago, Ray and the WBS have now returned to the scene in that the monthly meetings are now again being hosted.  I am happy to say that at next weekend's meeting on February 4th, I will be the guest speaker.

The meeting will be at Pattie's Home Plate Cafe, which is located at 8501 N. Lombard, Portland, OR 97255.  There will be a social hour from 6 pm until 7 pm, and I will start speaking at 7 o'clock.  The cost is manageable, too: totally free.

It will be an informal affair, and there will be lots of time to just hang out and mingle.  I hope to see you there.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Monday, January 23, 2012

Finding Bigfoot - Alberta, Canada Field Notes

Looking at a map, it is clear that Canada is a really big country, but it took visiting the eastern slopes of the Canadian Rockies for its sheer vastness to really hit home with me. The terrain is so big, and vistas so grand, that describing it as awe-inspiring falls short of the real experience.

While there is more than ample room for many sasquatches in the mountains outside of Calgary, Alberta, there is not a great number of sightings on record. I think this can be attributed to not only the huge amounts of land for the bigfoots to inhabit, but also to the fairly small number of people. 

Back in the 1970's, veteran bigfooter John Green noticed the correlation between rain fall bigfoot sightings. The eastern slopes of the Canadian Rockies receives significantly less precipitation than the mountains of British Columbia to the west, and the number of sasquatch encounters reported drops in proportion. To find a bigfoot in this vast landscape would be harder than usual, and it's never an easy task.

We came to the area to investigate a video obtained by Todd Standing. I heard about Todd several years ago as a man who had supposedly obtained several pieces of footage of sasquatches at a secret spot that he called “Sylvanic.” He then put the clips together into some sort of film and was showing it in small movie theaters around Canada. Not long after, his name popped up again as a man who was lobbying the Canadian parliament for official protection of sasquatches.

Todd Standing and Cliff Barackman

Having never really taken the time to look closely at Todd's videos, I was pleased to be going to meet him. I find that so much more information comes out when speaking to the actual videographer, and it was an opportunity to come to an informed opinion on Todd's work for myself .

We met Todd on a rainy day in an empty campground where several bigfoot encounters had happended over the previous several years. He refused to take a jacket or use any rain gear, claiming it was not cold. He was soon shivering in a wet, cotton shirt, maintaining his position that it was a nice day.

Todd is a very polite and well-spoken man. I genuinely liked the guy, as well as his message regarding sasquatches: protect them, and let them be. He has taken great strides to increase the public's awareness of bigfoots through his actions. While these actions are labeled as self-serving by his critics, the fact that attention was brought to sasquatches is undeniable.

Todd currently lives in Calgary, but he lived several hundred miles away when he obtained his videos at Sylvanic. He told us that he could not take us to the actual spot because it is a three-day hike back to this secluded valley, and the last day would be spent belly crawling up a river bed in a specially designed gillie suit made by Todd himself. He went on to say that nobody wants to be back there because of the problem grizzly bears that inhabit that area. He claimed that the rangers say there is a 10% chance of being killed by a bear while in the area, and it was too dangerous to go. It seemed to me that a bunch of hurdles were put in the way of anyone wanting to see the location for themselves. Todd did offer to take anyone there who wanted to go at a later time, but it would take a week or two for the trek.

Questioning Todd, I soon learned that at this time he had five videos that had bigfoots in them. The first video is apparently only a sound recording with no images of sasquatches (I didn't get to hear the recording). We investigated video number two, with the creature quickly bending over out of sight while above Todd on a hill. His third video shows what is either a bigfoot or a man in suit running on a hillside. This creature is the same brownish orange color as the creature in video number two. Video number four is a close up of what appears to me to be a bigfoot puppet behind some branches. Its dark eyes stare unblinking off to frame right, and there is very little movement visible. The skin appears very much like felt, and its fur lacks the flow pattern that one would expect from a living creature. Video number five is a similar shot, but with a much more convincing bigfoot head. It slightly resembles Patty from the Patterson/Gimlin film, but with a rounder face and more dog-like nose. Over the last month or so, there seems to have been another still released showing this same head, but possibly from another film.

I asked Todd what was up with video number four, the one that looked like a Muppet head. He said that he does not know why it looked so bad. He suggested that the lighting might have made it appear that way.

We were to be investigating his second video, the one with a brief glimpse of a creature bending down facing away from the camera. The video is very brief, but it seemed that it showed something bipedal and hairy. An arm and even possible buttox muscles can be seen, or are at least suggested. We were to rely solely on Todd's measurements since we were unable to go to the actual film site. This would be problematic for our reconstruction, as going to the actual film site is very important for a sense of scale.  Trusting someone's measurements when you're trying to find out if their film was hoaxed makes little sense anyways, but it's all we had to go on.  

Todd claimed to have not even believed in bigfoots at the time he obtained his second video. It was his film flip that convinced him they were real. This was very peculiar to me because he claimed to have made approximately a dozen trips to the location trying to film a bigfoot by the time he got his video. He chose Sylvanic as likely bigfoot habitat, and he even developed an intricate theory of sasquatch social/family structure, all before he believed in bigfoots. I personally don't believe that griffons exist, and I don't plan expeditions based on how they would live (if they were real) to see if I'm wrong...

Questioning Todd further, we found that he was unaware of the elevation of the Sylvanic location. He said that he never paid attention. This, if true, would be a very dangerous thing to ignore, as we would soon find out during that night's investigation (it snowed on us in August). How could Todd have chosen a location, planned his hikes in (most likely using topographic maps), visited a dozen times, and not noticed the elevation? This seems very unlikely.

When investigating a film, I sometimes think of the late Rene Dahinden and his comments on the Patterson/Gimlin Film.  He said that what you need to know is in the film.  Certainly, Rene would think that the context of a film is very important, too, but I like to examine films starting with what is actually seen.  Good films stand on their own, and their context only serves to reinforce or put in doubt a clip's authenticity. 

With so little to go on for video number two, I am left with not knowing what is in it. The film looks like either a bigfoot or a guy in a suit bending over. Since there is very little information to be gleaned from the actual video, I have to rely on the context. Todd was unable or unwilling to go to the actual spot, there were inconsistencies in his story surrounding the clip, and there's that Muppet face staring, unblinking in film number four... These leave me with serious doubts about what is shown in any of his videos.

Expressing my concerns to Todd, he correctly stated that video will never be enough for proof. How true. Todd goes on to say that only a body will ever suffice. As much as I hope this isn't the case, it could very well be the grizzly truth at the end of the bigfoot mystery.

We did the first night investigation in a nearby valley. Ranae and Bobo headed up a trail while Matt and I walked up a road. It was raining, but as my team gained elevation, the precipitation quickly turned into a heavy snow. It was a dramatic change from just a few days before when we were roasting in the mosquito-filled swamps of Northern Minnesota. It was also a reminder of paying attention to your elevation. Ignoring such a detail could prove to have fatal consequences here in the Canadian Rockies, even in the middle of August.

The night investigation was relatively quiet. Our calls were magnificent, though. The rocky walls of the valley threw our vocalizations for literally miles in both direction. We counted to see how long our echoes lasted after we stopped calling: eight seconds. It was very cool.

The Canadian Rockies are amazing in their size.

The next day, we were to meet with tribal representatives from the Stoney Nakota First Nations tribe. The elders were considering helping us in our quest, but they wanted to ask us some questions before they agreed. Bobo and I met Lenny and Peter (a different Peter than the one who blessed us on camera) for breakfast. After a short meeting, they realized that we were not there with the intention to hurt sasquatches in any way. They shared that things are changing, and the elders were interested in helping raise consciousness about sasquatches. Lenny and Peter soon were comfortable that Bobo and I had good hearts, and we shared some common goals and ideas. They agreed to bless us in a smudge ceremony the following day.

Lenny is a master tracker. He has had several encounters with bigfoots on tribal lands over the years, and gave us much to think about. He reminded us that there is more to this world than what can be observed with the five senses, and he shared his tribe's belief that sasquatches walk the line between two worlds. He taught us about noticing the temperature differences at different elevations within a valley, which dramatically affect the direction of air currents at that level. He told us about the habits of the deer, elk, and moose in the neighboring valleys. He reminded us to trust our feelings and intuitions. He was obviously a master tracker, and probably part Jedi who is clearly strong in the Force.

Our town hall had a pretty good turn out, especially when considering the nasty weather that was hitting the area. Many reports surfaced from the local area and as far away as Edmonton. Lenny showed up to the meeting and addressed the crowd for a few moments with his message as well.

The next day, Ranae and I met with Tyler Huggins. Tyler saw a bigfoot while hiking with his brother and a dog. The sasquatch darted across the trail just 15 or 20 feet in front of his brother, while Tyler was a bit further back. Both witnesses got a clear view of the creature. The sasquatch ran down a very steep slope, hurdling logs and debris until it was out of sight. Tyler then observed a large tree being violently shaken, though he could only see the top of the tree, not the creature doing the shaking. While Ranae kind of came a little close to replicating the running across the path, she would not even attempt to sprint down the hill, let alone hurdle the debris in her path.

While the crew was filming the recreation of Tyler's sighting, I walked up the trail a few hundred yards and then off into the brush a ways.  Sitting in undergrowth and enjoying the quiet, I started looking around.  Just from where I was sitting, I saw no less than five types of edible plants, including raspberries and rose hips.  When you consider that I am unfamiliar with the plants of this region, there are probably many others growing nearby that are nutritious.  It is clear how so many large mammals can live in this area.  There is abundant food, at least in this time of year.

Wild roses and their seed pods called rose hips

The next day, all four of us interviewed Lonni and Donna about their encounter. They were both attendees on a BFRO expedition that lasted several days. Several occurrences hinted at sasquatches being in the area, with the strongest evidence being the rock that was thrown at the tent. The night of the rock throwing, a group of women stayed in camp and talked with each other, laughing often. I believe these sounds caught the attention of a local bigfoot and brought it in for a closer look.

Lonni shared photographs of an indistinct track way through the grass with us, and told us of his encounter the night before with something that gave him a low growl that he could “feel through his body.” While no visual sighting was had, the context strongly suggests that a bigfoot came by to see what was going on.

Our last night investigation took place a short distance away from Lonni and Donna's encounter location. We were to be using a mechanical deer to try to draw any predators (or other animals) out into the open so we could film them. The deer looked great until it was made to move by using a remote control. Its head would slowly twist right to left, and its tail would slowly flick up and down. It strongly reminded me of the Washington episode from first season with that remote control goose cam. Like the goose cam, it was clear that the technology for remote controlled deer is lacking. After a few wiggles solely for the sake of the camera, I let the deer just be still. I thought it might have a better chance to draw something out that way.

Cliff and a friend

While Ranae and I were in the hunting blind with the thermal camera, Bobo and Matt climed a nearby hill to do calls. We were hoping their calls would draw some attention to the meadows below where Ranae and I were stationed. At one point, Matt claimed to have heard a bigfoot vocalization through the parabolic dish he was using. Bobo did not hear it at the time, and the recording was faint and muddy.

Down below, Ranae and I heard a very interesting sound. It sounded like a clear, high pitched tone, almost like a bell tone, but clearly organic. We both agreed that it was unlikely to be from a coyote, and neither of us knows what made the noise.  It came from a good distance, and much further away than the coyotes we had been hearing off and on for several hours.  The call was made twice, and not heard again.

The Canadian Rockies were a challenging place to go bigfooting. The area is simply huge, and there are very few roads penetrating the higher elevations. Not a lot of sightings come out of the area were were in, but then again, there aren't a ton of people there either. What people there are stay in the cities, or on the few roads that are available. Still, the witnesses we spoke to at the meeting, the lore and knowledge shared with us by the Stoney Nakota First Nation Tribe, as well as the sightings we investigated leave little doubt that bigfoots live in the area.

On our one day off, Ranae and I went to Lake Louise
in Banff National Park. It was staggeringly beautiful, but
packed to the gills with tourists...

Feel free to make your own caption for this one.
Share it with me by leaving a comment below.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Finding Bigfoot Returns to Ohio on January 21st

The cast and crew of Finding Bigfoot will be returning to Ohio to film a special episode highlighting the events of season two on Saturday, January 21. Much like “Behind the Legend,” the seventh episode in season one, the cast will premiere clips of upcoming episodes and field questions from a live audience. These clips will be not only highlights of what will be seen in upcoming episodes, but also special behind-the-scenes clips that will not make the final edit in the regular episodes.

The event will take place at the scene of the jam-packed town hall meeting from the upcoming Ohio episode, Deerassic Park. This facility is almost literally at the door step of Salt Fork State Park, well-known bigfooting hot spot in eastern Ohio.

The filming is open to the public, and totally free. If you are interested in attending, please arrive by 11 am, as there is limited seating available. Filming starts at noon, and is expected to last several hours.

If you are able to come out, be sure to say hello to me and introduce yourself.  Perhaps I'll see you there.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Finding Bigfoot - Minnesota Video Debrief

Here is the latest installment of Craig Flipy's behind-the-scenes video debriefs with Cliff Barackman.  Craig and Cliff talk about the recently aired Minnesota episode of Finding Bigfoot on Animal Planet.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Finding Bigfoot - Minnesota Field Notes

Northern Minnesota is a rural area of forests, farmlands, and bogs. The human population is mostly in small urban areas and farms that are separated by huge tracts of nearly impassable land. Many large animals make this area their home, including deer, moose, wolves, bear, and sasquatches.

It was Andy Pieper’s interesting recordings that brought us to this location. The spot he recorded them has had bigfoot activity on or near it for many years.  Most of the sounds he recorded were clearly canines, but one or two were more ambiguous. I think it’s at least possible that those vocalizations were from a bigfoot (though it’s equally possible that they were from a wolf). 

Power lines near the recording location.

One of the highlights of this trip was driving those cool amphibious swamp vehicles manufactured by Argos. They have eight wheels, can float, and can drive over most obstacles. At first I felt a little bad about plowing through thickets of plants and trees, but an interesting feature of these peat bogs is that the trees and plants, once pushed down, pop back up.  Utilizing these amazing vehicles, we were able to access islands of dry land deep in the peat bogs that few people ever go to. The one we spent the most time on was called “The Nursery” by the local bigfooters because of the small human-like footprints found there over the years that they believe are from juvenile sasquatches. These islands certainly would be excellent places for young bigfoots to hunt and hide without having to worry about meddling humans.

An Argo vehicle.

The deer kill that Ranae and I found was the work of predators. It could have been from wolves, coyotes, or even a bigfoot, but we couldn’t tell. However, that we found the scattered bones right inside the tree line was interesting. It would be strategic for a predator to ambush any prey animals as they entered the forest after crossing the marsh.   

The night investigation yielded mixed results. At one point Ranae and I heard loud plopping noises of something dropping into water. At the time, we were utterly unaware of the pond that was on the other side of the brush.  We thought that there was no body of water other than shallow, marshy pits with reeds and grasses growing in them.  After learning that the pond was there, I changed my hypothesis from rocks being thrown to a beaver slapping its tail on the surface of the water (as they often do when disturbed).  Though it is likely that the noises were made by a beaver, Ranae insisted that she could hear something large walking through the woods between where we were standing and where the noises came from. I did not hear those walking noises, but Ranae was so insistent that I have to at least keep the possibility open that those noises were from something else.

The town hall meeting was amazing. The little building we used was packed with standing room only. We took the time to listen to each and every person who wanted to share their story with us. Even after the meeting, I had people come up to me to tell me about their bigfoot encounter that they didn’t feel comfortable sharing in front of everyone. There are indeed a lot of bigfoot encounters in this area, and there has been for decades.

The awesome people of Minnesota!

Bobo’s solo investigation would last three nights. I knew it would be a good one, even if the bigfoots weren’t around at that time of year.  I’ve been bigfooting with Bobo on many nights over the last seven years we’ve been friends, and if there’s something I know about him, it’s that he hates bugs. There have been several hot days in the woods when Bobo would not get out of the tent because of the horse flies. He would instead lie in the tent with the screen door open and lure the horseflies inside. Once the fly was in the tent, he would quickly zip up the door and engage the insect in mortal combat. “Only one of us can come out alive,” he claimed. He dubbed the tent, “The Thunderdome,” and bug gut stains still adorn the inside walls to this day (it was my tent...). He even would go as far as mounting particularly large flies that he found to be worthy opponents on small pieces of wood to decorate his trophy wall at home.

Jenna, the young jogger, saw a large bigfoot just a short distance from her home. Interestingly, there has been other activity around their property. Once, a very large and dark figure was seen walking about 200 yards away inside the wood line on the other side of a field.  An interesting fact that surfaced while spending time with Jenna is that her dog is named "Bobo."  

Bobo the Dog

The sighting at the town hall meeting that was told by Lorraine grabbed my attention. She saw a large bigfoot in broad daylight looking into an abandoned trailer only a mile or so away from where Jenna saw hers while jogging. That trailer was still there, so this was an excellent opportunity to get some decent size estimates on this big guy that was so often seen in the area.

Lorraine is a very sweet woman with a no-nonsense attitude with the charming habit of occasionally talking like a sailor. She told me that her sister didn’t believe that she saw a bigfoot, so Lorraine told her sister that she “hopes it takes a sh** on her porch!"  She said that would convince her.  I adored her.  She was so cute and so much fun to talk to.

Lorraine and Cliff, smiling together.

On April 9, 2010,  Lorraine was driving down a rural road when she found two cars stopped in the road ahead of her. Thinking that a police officer had pulled someone over, she slowed down. She saw a large dark figure next to an abandoned trailer off to her right only 90 yards away.

Including Lorraine, there were three cars stopped in the road that day with the occupants all looking at the bigfoot.  Lorraine was in the third car back. The first car had two young men wearing baseball caps in it, the second had a couple from the Pacific Northwest, and then Lorraine alone in the third car.

My field notes from Lorraine's encounter.

The bigfoot looked into the trailer window for a few moments, using its right hand to shield the glare on the window.  It then started walking down the driveway towards where everyone was stopped on the road. The young men in the first car quickly drove away in fear when they saw the creature coming their direction. The other two cars were treated to a close up view of the sasquatch as it passed only 29 yards from where Lorraine was stopped. It crossed the road (24 feet wide) and went over a 46 inch tall barbed wire fence without breaking stride in only three or four steps. After clearing the fence it disappeared into the thick woods and was not seen again.

The woods where the creature disappeared.

Lorraine spoke to the couple in the car in front of her after the event was over. They had a totally unobstructed view of the creature from quite close. They noted that they saw the hair very well, and clearly saw that this creature was a male. The creature did not look at the witnesses as it passed.

Lorraine remembered seeing where its chin was compared to the window, as well as where the crown of its head reached. The top of the creature’s head measured 108 inches off the ground, which is nine feet. The chin was at about the 89 inch level, or seven foot five inches. That makes the head of the creature 19 inches from chin to crown.  (It's not just their feet that are big.)

The window that the sasquatch was looking into.

What the bigfoot saw through the window.

At one point in our investigation, a man drove by in a truck and asked what we were doing. We told him about the bigfoot sighting, and he told us that that this particular sasquatch had been seen several times by people that he knows in the area. He even told us a nick name of this particular creature given to it by the locals: “Peek-a-Lou.” It seems that many of the local humans are aware of this creature and its affinity for looking into windows.

 The next sighting we were to investigate happened on public (and protected) land adjacent to the witness' property. Dale and Kristy’s were out ATV riding and bird hunting with their children when they saw a large bigfoot get up and immediately leave the area near the trail.  The ATV's had come to a stop, and Dale seems  to have stirred up the sasquatch from hiding as he walked through the thick forest in search of game birds.  The creature retreated back up the road, which was away from where Dale had walked.  They heard it crashing through the brush for a distance, before losing track of it.

Near where Dale and Kristy saw the creature.

Our last night investigation actually took place in two separate locations. The mobile call blasting part was overlooking a deep river gorge containing a state park. At one point, I heard a possible call back, but it was too distant to discern if it was a bigfoot or some sort of canine. Down below in the ravine, Bobo and Ranae had some bad luck. They found that humans were in the immediate area, thus increasing the likelihood of us hearing human noises instead of bigfoots if we continued.  At that point, we quickly left the area.

Luckily, Tyler Bounds had been out bigfooting with some local Minnesota bigfooters the night before and had heard knocks. We moved the production team to this new location and started the night over again. Over the next several hours we heard several things moving around in the forest, but I do not know what they were. They could have just as easily been deer or racoons as bigfoots. Unfortunately, we never got a visual on whatever it was.

Minnesota definitely has sasquatches living there. I think we were just a bit too early in the year for this spot. The hazelnuts that are in abundance when many sightings occur had not yet fruited. (There was a sighting only a couple weeks before, but perhaps this was a bigfoot scouting to see if the fruits were available…)  We certainly had our fair share of interesting witnesses to speak to! And to me, the fact that the same bigfoot (“Peek-a-Lou”) has been seen so many times in that area is very interesting.  Looking at the sightings of Peek-a-Lou might shed a little light on the habits, range, and needs of sasquatches in that area. 

Friday, January 13, 2012

Bobo Gets Heckled on The Soup

Joel McHale puts his sights on Bobo in a recent episode of The Soup.

Look for the segment around the 1 minute mark.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Finding Bigfoot - Rhode Island Video Debrief

Here's another behind-the-scenes video debrief of Finding Bigfoot's most recent episode.  Craig Flipy talks to Cliff Barackman about his experiences filming the Rhode Island episode.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Finding Bigfoot - Rhode Island Field Notes

When I first heard that we would be traveling to Rhode Island for an episode of Finding Bigfoot, I was surprised. There were very few sighting reports from Rhode Island (click for the reports on the BFRO, as well as John Green's database) and I thought that perhaps our time could be better spent elsewhere. I soon saw the video evidence that we were to investigate, and I thought to myself that perhaps there was something going on there that needed looking into. After all, some of my favorite bigfooting places have no sighting reports from them, and maybe Rhode Island was one of these.

I had never been to the Ocean State, but I knew it was the second most densely populated state in the Union. I had a preconception of Rhode Island that it was largely urbanized, or cleared for agriculture. Could there be viable habitat for sasquatches there?

As it turns out, Rhode Island is covered in thick woods. In fact, 59% of Rhode Island's land is forested, and even though it's a small state, that adds up to 393,000 acres of woods! Most of this land is the result of cultivated farms being left fallow, and the surrounding forests reclaiming the pastures and crops. Evidence of this agricultural past can be readily seen in the forests in the form of stone walls that once were property borders between farms. One of these very walls can be seen in the video we were to investigate.

The "Big Rhodey" Footage

The footage we came to Rhode Island to look into was filmed by Dina and Kris from the Beyond the Veil Paranormal Investigations Group. While I do not consider bigfoots to be paranormal, many people group them into the “paranormal” category. I consider bigfoots to be perfectly normal mammals living in North American forests. Still, since they have not been “discovered” by the academics yet, and considering all the strange stories that go along with sasquatch lore, I can see why paranormalists like to look at the bigfoot phenomenon. Besides, maybe I'm wrong, and bigfoots are super weird, paranormal things from dimensions beyond our own... I doubt it, but I'm always open to being wrong.

The “Big Rhodey” video, as it is called, was obtained while out shooting extra “B-roll” footage for a short documentary that Dina and Kris were shooting nearby on ghosts. It mostly shows a stone wall being filmed from a moving car, but at one point a seemingly human-shaped dark figure appears briefly as the vehicle drives by it. It's slightly out of focus, and it is uncertain whether the figure is moving or if it is just an illusion given by the movement of the car.

We were led to the location by the two witnesses, and soon we set out to find exactly where the figure was standing in the film. There were several trees of various sizes in the frames in which the creature is shown, and comparing the locations of trunks, stems and rocks in the walls gave us a very small area where the figure could have been standing. I am very confident that the location was determined to within a matter of a few feet, at most.

The "Big Rhodey" film site

There were many things to measure at the film site, though only some of it would be useful for determining the size of the figure. The stone wall is three feet tall, and the large tree to the right side of the figure is 32 inches in diameter. The figure is standing between a large white oak tree (behind it), and a smaller pine tree (between the figure and the camera). It is 8.5 feet between these two trees, giving a relatively small area in which to be standing. Such a small area would not give any major discrepancy in possible size, possibly an inch or two at most. The total distance from the camera to the figure is less than 33 feet.

I do not know what is shown in that footage. Whatever it is, it was not there the day we did our recreation, which indicates that it was probably an animal. We found it to be a bit shorter than Bobo, and was standing upright, thus indicating that it was either a bigfoot or a human. It's kind of a weird place for either of those things to be standing. It seems unlikely that it was a human, unless the witnesses were involved in a hoax of some sort. However, after spending time with both Dina and Kris, I do not get the impression that they were trying to pull one over on us. I am left a bit baffled.

My field notes from the film site

While the results of our recreation were ambiguous, the area was thickly wooded, and was bordering a nature preserve containing a no-hunting zone. It seemed a good spot to do a night investigation, so we set out that night to see if we might get lucky and find a bigfoot (or have one find us). My team heard nothing that night except a chorus of coyotes, but Bobo and Matt's team had better results. Bobo swears he heard a knock, which was encouraging. Later, their team also heard and recorded a whistle, but to me it sounded like some sort of bird. If any of you happen to know the bird (if it even was a bird) that makes that noise, I'd love to hear from you by contacting me at NorthAmericanBigfoot@gmail.com.

I was tapped for the solo investigation for the Rhode Island episode, and I was given a vehicle to help me get around to anywhere I needed to go in the state. After all, with so few reports, I needed to be as mobile as possible in order to get results. Finding bigfoots is never easy, and in a place like Rhode Island, it can be even more difficult. Over the next three days, my companion and friend of the 'squatch, Tyler Bounds and I would set out to the improbable: find a bigfoot in Rhode Island.

The first night came and went and no bigfoots were encountered, but the next day brought some interesting hints of possible activity in the northern part of the state. Using a local contact, we discovered that there had been a possible footprint find only a few days previously, and literally the day before a different investigator had a close encounter with a large, unseen animal barreling through thick brush. These locations were only a dozen or so miles apart, so Tyler and I headed up north near the border of Connecticut.

The footprints were discovered in an area with a prior history. The location had an extensive trail system that was mostly soft soil and sand, perfect for footprints. Previously in this area, 13 inch footprints had been discovered by local investigators, so I was encouraged that the prints found that week might have been from a bigfoot. I hiked a little less than two miles back into this swampy woodland before finding the footprints. They were in a muddy patch of trail, very near power lines.

A barefoot human print found deep in a trail system.

After closely examining the area for several minutes, I eventually found three footprints, two lefts and a right. They had a stride of 45 inches, and a step of 19 inches (remember, step is from one foot to the other foot, while stride is measured from one foot to the same foot). Measuring the three prints gave lengths of 10.5 inches, 10 inches, and 10 inches, while the ball widths were 3.5 inches, 2.75 inches, and 2.75 inches. These measurements put the size squarely within human limits, but small bigfoot prints are sometimes found. Though I think this is a very weird place for a person to be going around barefoot, I determined these prints to be human in origin, but not solely based on their size. The prints had a clear, high arch, which is a uniquely human characteristic. Also, the fourth and fifth digits (“ring” toe and “little” toe) were curled under a bit, indicating a life spent in shoes. Sasquatches (and humans that have never worn shoes) often show a wide splay to their toes, while wearing shoes trains the small digits to curl under a bit. Finally, there were domestic dog prints in this same immediate area. These were probably from the canine companion of the barefooted hiker.

While examining the footprints, I was treated to a loud vocalization of a barred owl from right overhead. I didn't hear the owl show up due to its ability to fly silently (owls' feathers have evolved to minimize in-flight sounds, thus enabling them to be better ambush predators), but I sure heard it when it screamed a mere 20 feet above my head. This is one of the many pleasures of bigfooting. Animal sounds and encounters are a special treat, whether they are from bigfoots or not. 

The possible close encounter from the day before happened very near where Tyler and I were to camp that night, so we visited the spot during the day. The area was thickly wooded, and due to the recent storm that devastated much of the Northeast, many trees had been pushed over by the high winds. Still, we made our way back to a high spot and did some knocks and calls in the waning light. No responses were heard at that time, nor that night.

Typical Rhode Island habitat

When I came out of the woods to meet up with the rest of the team, we headed off to look into an encounter had by bigfoot investigator and friend of the 'squatch, Nick Mione. The location turned out to be a spot where road workers in Rhode Island dump road kill into a ravine. In many states, road kill is simply left on the side of the road for vultures and other scavengers to dispose of, but in Rhode Island they collect the deer and dump them in various spots. (I'm not even sure if this is legal, but it's true.) Nick stumbled upon one of these spots and saw a bigfoot while there.

It is these kinds of locations where dead things are dumped that are gold mines for bigfoot investigators. During the winter months, these sites are literally refrigerators for any scavenger. The low temperatures and snow would keep the meat from spoiling for months at a time, and any bigfoot would just have to drop by and pick up his deersicle, a tasty treat, I'm sure.

The location where Nick encountered a bigfoot was a macabre scene. There were bones littering the forest floor, and if I took the time to brush away the forest litter, it was easy to find old bones decaying under the layer of leaves that had accumulated. A hillside had been reinforced with large stones, and bones could be seen poking out between the large rocks.

Our recreation indicated that the creature was about 7.5 feet tall. Being a biologist, Nick took measurements of the step length and found them to be six feet. That's a 12 foot stride, and is way outside of the stride length for a walking human. The creature went down a hillside and stood some distance away behind a tree. Nick watched it for a short while until a loud “whoop” came from the opposite direction, causing him to leave the area.

For the last night investigation, we chose an area based on a cluster of reports obtained from the town hall meeting that just so happened to align with the location of the encounter a few days before between a local bigfoot investigator and a large, unseen animal. The area in question was off-limits after 5 pm unless you were granted special permission to be there, as we were. Using the idea that sasquatches follow deer herds, we put Ranae in a gillie suit up in a tree stand with a thermal imager and a parabolic microphone. Bobo, Matt, and I were to make a lot of noise and move through the woods, hopefully flushing all the animals in the general direction of Ranae. Little did I know that we were going to be carrying lit torches for visual effect (we make TV, after all).

When I was told about the torches, I laughed, asked who thought of that brilliant idea, and requested a pitch fork to go with it. It turned out that one of the producers thought of it, and there were no pitch forks for this monster hunt. Knowing that I'd eventually catch a lot of heat for this, I left my ego behind and tried to have as much fun with it as possible. We were, after all, only trying to drive any deer (or Frankenstein monsters) towards Ranae so she could film them. I do have to admit, the producer was right. It looked pretty cool on screen.

A funny thing happened while we were prepping for that scene. Bobo, Matt, and I all had our torches lit, and we were waiting for something or other on a road at the top of a hill before we descended into the forest. We were several miles back on closed access roads, and it was well after 11 pm when we heard motors. Soon a gang of ATV riders came barreling around a corner at the base of the hill. They stopped in their tracks, gazing up at three men at the top of the hill holding lit torches, surrounded by a dozen other people in a semicircle. I heard them nervously talking to each other, not knowing what to do or think about the bizarre situation they had just stumbled across. After a few frantic moments of conversation, they flipped a quick U-turn and headed off into the night. I would have loved to see their facial expressions and heard their conversations. I'm pretty sure they had no clue what to think about the spectacle they faced ahead of them.

In case you've never tried it, walking through the woods wielding a lit torch is not an easy thing to do, especially if you're trying to not burn down the forest. We had several fire extinguishers with us, but nobody wanted to have to use them. We were also off-trail, and had to navigate some pretty steep terrain, all the while hollering and making a ruckus to drive the deer towards the waiting skeptic.

Seeing this six-toed sign assured me that 
we were getting close.

At one point, Matt and I heard a large splash/plopping noise. We rushed off to investigate, and we found a pond hidden in the woods perhaps 80 yards away. We both came to the conclusion that what we heard was most likely a beaver slapping its tail against the water. However, while we were investigating, Bobo heard what he described as a rock hitting a tree, falling through the branches, and hitting the ground. He was adamant that he heard exactly what he described, and I've learned to trust Bobo's hearing. Perhaps the crazy scheme with the torches worked.

Ranae never got a visual on anything in the woods during her time up in the tree stand. (Even if she did, I'd wonder if she'd believe it anyway...) Bobo was positive that we had a bigfoot near us, and he could very well be right. We were less than a mile away from where that encounter happened just a few days before, and were smack dab in the middle of one of the best sighting clusters discovered at the town hall meeting.

Much to my surprise, I found Rhode Island to be excellent habitat for our big furry friends. The majority of the state is heavily wooded, and some areas are virtually never penetrated by anybody. While I believe that the local sasquatches probably just wander through the various areas, there are a couple places that they might hang out in on a regular basis. If any of you live there, I would heavily recommend trying to get into the Great Swamp for a few nights. I believe that this is one of the places in which bigfoots might just take up residence. The locals all laughed at me when I spoke about getting in there, claiming it was nearly impossible. That sounds good to me... Let me know what you find by contacting me. Good luck, my East Coast friends!

This article, along with the rest of the season's field notes, will be archived on Cliff Barackman's official website.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Fox and Friends (of the Sasquatch)

This past week, I was whisked away to New York City to do a media appearance on Fox News' morning show, Fox and Friends.  Being Fox News, I got a brief heckling about how my last name resembles our President's first name, and then the interview started.  The clip is below, so enjoy!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Finding Bigfoot - NY Episode Video Debrief

This past New Years Eve, I invited a small number of bigfooters to my home in Portland, OR to preview the Season 2 premiere of Finding Bigfoot.  Among the noteworthy crowd were various friends of the 'squatch, including Craig Flipy, Guy Edwards, Thom Powell, Will Robinson, and Randee Chase.  Others that might have name recognition with you bigfooters were in attendance as well, but I'll leave that to the video.

After watching the New York episode, I let them ask me whatever question they chose, and the resulting video can be seen below.  It was a great way to usher in 2012, and I hope you had as much fun on that night as I did.  Happy New Year, everybody, and may it be a bigfooty one at that!  

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Finding Bigfoot - NY Field Notes

When I heard that we were going to do an episode in New York, I immediately assumed we'd be up in the Adirondacks, probably near White Hall, NY. Much to my surprise, we were to be further to the south in the Catskill Mountains. There are fewer reports from this area, but that doesn't necessarily mean there are few sasquatches. It could be that the bigfoots that are living in the Catskills are a bit more wary than their northern cousins, or even that there are areas in the Catskills where fewer people go. After all, you need both a bigfoot and a human in order to have a bigfoot encounter. Either way, I loved the idea of breaking new ground and doing my first expedition in this part of the state.

Our first stop was to do a recreation of the famous New York Baby Footage, taken by Doug Pridgen back on May 23, 1997. The footage shows Doug and his buddies around a campfire goofing around, but in the background one can make out an upright, bipedal figure moving along the base of a tree. At one point, a small ape jumps off the shoulders of this figure and makes its way up into the branches of the tree and swings around in a very dexterous manner. Its movements are undeniably apish, and clearly outside the abilities of any human.

The New York Baby Footage from Steve Kulls' Youtube page
Steve was the original investigator of the footage.

The footage was obtained on accident as Doug filmed his friends around a fire at a music festival on a parcel of private land. It was Friday night and Doug and his friends took a remote campsite on the other side of a large pond. As more concert-goers arrived, the campsites on the close side of the pond filled up, but only one other group was camped on the far side where Doug and his friends had set up camp, and they were the property owners. When the footage was obtained, the property owners were not in their camp, but were on the other side of the lake enjoying the concert.

Read the rest of my field notes on the NY episode of Finding Bigfoot at the Official Cliff Barackman website.