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.

14 comments:

  1. Great show tonight! Enjoyed every minute of it.

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  2. I really enjoy all you do Cliff, and thanks for posting these field notes, as it gives much more detail to things not seen during an episode. Too bad Nick Mione sighting did not make the show. Also I understand your friend Tyler Bounds had a very freaky collision in VA. in late October.

    Chuck in Ohio

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  3. There are a number of these so called "road kill" pits in Pennsylvania's rural areas (particularly near the interstates and other major thoroughfares). These areas are hotbeds for omnivores.

    I was especially happy that you mentioned the danger of eating wild mushrooms on the show. We still see some people coming into our emergency rooms every year after ingesting misidentified mushrooms.

    Again, great show

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  4. I had a feeling Rhode Island was 'squatchy-as-hell,' that's why I moved here.

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  5. Excellent blog, Cliff. It was wonderful getting to work with you and the BFRO team. Dina and I will most definitely contact you if we come across more bigfoot evidence here in Rhode Island.

    Be well and happy squatching :)

    ~Kris Stepney
    Big Rhodey Research Project

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  6. Not as Squatchy as maine is. Come up this way.

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  7. I'm new to your field notes Cliff,and I'm becoming a fan of them.
    I agree with Chuck,the notes tell us so much more than what's aired.
    Good job Cliff,keep up the awesome work!!

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  8. I really like the program-however, as an EMT, I have a concern with you guys driving around, on camera, without wearing your seatbelts. Let's say you're driving along a remote highway, and a squatch jumps out in front of your vehicle. You slam on the brakes to avoid hitting the squatch and Bobo goes flying into the windshield ! PLEASE WEAR YOUR SEATBELTS!!! Thanks! Keep up the search...

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  9. You can all laugh or shake your heads in disbelief, but, I myself saw a beast of some sort right on ten rod rd in exeter RI back in 2006-it is the strangest thing I have ever seen in all of my life, but, I would say it appeared to look more like a warewolf, whatever the beast is labeled it is quick to move-jetted from out of the swamp & took off like a bat out of hell after it bounced off the front of my van. True story but, dont believe me, go see for yourselves. Ten Rod Rd. Exeter RI just a short distance down the dirt rd. off Rte. 3

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  10. like nothing I had ever before seen-looked like wolverine from x-men but, IN THE FLESH & 4 REAL!~

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  11. This producer that thought up such an outlandish scheme with torches and the what not, seems like a genius. I would listen to every thing he says, and one day you might get a squatch on tape.

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  12. I find it highly unlikely that the show will ever get any good footage with that many people around working cameras and equipment.

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  13. I love the show. Not crazy about the format however. Before the program even gets to the point where the eye witnesses are interviewed, I can pretty well guarentee that the 3 gentlemen will say it was a sasquatch, and the lady will say probably not. If its always the same, then there's really no point in interviews in the first place.

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  14. great show, Did anyone else see the little girl between cliff and ranie when ranie sais ok lets keep movig about 20 min in
    spooky

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