Saturday, February 25, 2012

London, OR Footprint Find

Word of a recent and highly significant footprint find has started making the rounds in the bigfoot community.  Already some false rumors have started, so in order to stop the misinformation I wanted to clarify some things about this event.

A very good timeline has already been published by Guy Edwards of Bigfoot Lunch Club, who was also one of the track witnesses.  He and Thom Powell were at the scene the next day after my visit.

For me, the story started on Wednesday, February 14th.  Toby Johnson excitedly called me for advice on how to deal with three footprints that had been reported to him.  I gave him the appropriate advice, and later that night found out that he had located a fourth footprint at the scene.  These prints were reported to be 17 inches in length, and found just off of a logging road outside of London, OR.  Toby and a friend spent that night casting the four prints before going home early that morning.

The 17 inch print later cast by Toby Johnson.
Photo credit: Max Roy

The next day, I had a speaking engagement at the school where I used to work to kick off their science fair.  (I spoke on how I use the scientific method in my work.)  After my presentation, I checked my voice mail and found that over 100 footprints had been found nearby the other prints.  I immediately left the school and headed down to London without even going home first.

By that time, Toby had contacted Chris Minniear, a bigfooter based just east of Eugene.  I called Chris and arranged the purchase of 200 pounds of Hydrocal white, which he would transport to the scene where we would meet.

I arrived at the scene shortly after 4 pm.  I was shown where the 17 inch prints were cast the night before, and then pointed in the direction of the other footprints nearby.  I was stunned by what I saw.  There was a long line of footprints impressed into the silty shoreline of a lake.  The track line was estimated to be about 120 yards in length.  I took GPS measurements of the track way and carefully counted all of the visible tracks.  There were 122 in all.

A still from the daytime video.

I started video taping the tracks when I received a phone call from Chris.  Apparently, the bigfooting Murphy's Law had struck again, because I learned that Chris' car inexplicably broke down about 35 minutes to the north.  I finished filming the track way and headed out to pick up my friend and the casting material he was transporting.

When I returned to the tracks, it was after dark.  Chris and I again videoed the track way and took detailed measurements of the perhaps the first dozen or two tracks.  Each track varied slightly from the last, but in general we were finding the measurements to be very consistent in that they were right around 14 inches for the length, with a ball width of six inches, and a heel width of four inches.  The step length (not stride, which would be two steps) was right around 41 or 42 inches each time.  Knowing that we had a very long night ahead of us, we started casting the prints.

Cliff Barackman measuring the step length
between two tracks

I first chose a couple of interesting sections of prints here and there to cast.  I think I cast a couple in a row at one point, and then six in a row at another, but I'd have to check my notes to be sure.  The hunter who was with Toby when he cast his larger prints nearby had been on the scene earlier in the day and cast four prints at one point in the track way.  Starting immediately after this man's castings, Chris and I cast 64 consecutive footprints in a row until we ran out of plaster. In all, we cast 72 footprints that night.

Two other local bigfooters found us on the shoreline that night, having heard about the event from their cousin, the hunter who accompanied Toby the previous night.  They helped Chris and I pull the casts and gently load them into my vehicle for the ride back to Portland.  I dropped Chris off at his home, and made my way north to arrive back at my house at 5:20 am.

The casts have not been cleaned as of this writing.  One should not clean fresh casts for about two weeks after they are poured because they continuously leech out water until they are bone dry and rock hard, but this takes some time.  Cleaning casts off before this means that you run the risk of either damaging the cast, or accidentally introducing artifacts, such as scrape marks or brush marks, into the casts.  I will not be able to clean the casts off until April, as I am leaving very soon to film season three of Finding Bigfoot.  In the meantime, the casts have been moved off-site to a private and secure location to keep them safe.

The floor of my garage before moving
the prints to a secure location

In April, I will clean the casts and start the documentation process of these interesting pieces of data.  I plan to pair up the photographs of the casts with the pictures and video stills of the prints in the ground.  All of my data will eventually be made public for peer review.

Other bigfooters also have bits and pieces of data taken from this important find.  Thom Powell and Guy Edwards cast between 25 and 30 prints, and have agreed to share their data for my report.  Toby Johnson has four casts of a larger individual found at the location, and his partner has four casts of the smaller individual.  I will try to get copies, or at least photographs, of these prints.

Autumn Williams was at the scene on Friday morning and cast one footprint.  Interestingly, she found large impressions coming down an embankment on the other side of the nearby road leading to the place where the larger individual was standing.  These impressions discovered by Autumn matched the size and shape of the larger prints, but lacked any detail, such as toe imprints.

I have been in ongoing and close contact with Dr. Jeff Meldrum of Idaho State University about this track find.  He has agreed to assist me in writing up my report, and we currently have plans to have him study the casts first hand upon my return from filming season three of Finding Bigfoot.

Video of the footprints, as well as video of actually casting many of them with Chris Minniear, will be released later this year, probably towards the end of summer.  It will be one of the segments in a collection of bigfooty things I have been working on that will make up a collaborative DVD release filmed and edited by Craig Flipy and I.  More information on that will be forthcoming.

The ever-heroic Craig Flipy

In the meantime, I think it's probably safe to say that the London Footprints are the most significant footprint find in the last 40 years.  They certainly represent the largest collection of data ever retrieved from any single bigfoot site, ever.  To my knowledge, over 100 footprints were cast representing two individuals, at least three videos were taken, scores of photographs, and dozens of measurements were obtained.  All of this will take some time to be collected and put together, and in the meantime I have to hit the road for a while to film a TV show.  Please be patient with me regarding this most important event.  All of my information will be made public in time.

For now, allow me to leave you with this thought...  To my knowledge, over 12 bigfooters and several laymen were involved in this event to varying degrees.  Those bigfooters represent a wide array of perspectives on the nature of sasquatches, from the "ape" camp to the "human" camp, and from "flesh and blood" to the so-called "paranormal."  This event would not be what it is today without all of them, despite our diverse perspectives.  Disagreeing on the nature of the phenomenon did not, and should not, preclude working together for the greater good and increased understanding of these amazing creatures.  It will be interesting to see what can be learned from this singular event, but perhaps there is another good that might emerge from it.  I hope this event stands as a symbol of what can be accomplished if we, the bigfoot community, put down our perceived differences and work collaboratively for the greater good of the species, rather than continuing the posturing and infighting that so often pollutes our dialogue.

Here are some photographs of some of the many impressions found at the scene.  No scale item happens to be in these photos because casts were made of most of the prints pictured here.  I later went back and took more photographs with scale items of the prints that were not cast by me that night.  Enjoy.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sasquatch and Suds

You probably remember "Bigfoot and Beer," right?  Well, Toby Johnson is at it again with a newly alliterated version of the same great idea called, "Sasquatch and Suds."  Sasquatch and Suds will feature a variety of presentations from a variety of bigfooters right here in my home town of Portland, OR.  The series will culminate in the third Oregon Sasquatch Symposium next October.  Toby has asked me to kick things off as the first guest speaker in this series of talks.

So if you're not busy this coming Tuesday evening, come down to Southwest Portland to the newly opened Sasquatch Brewery at 7 pm.  I will be doing a presentation featuring a photograph of a bigfoot taken in Mt. Hood National Forest, and will also be briefly touching on the ongoing efforts to document one of the most significant footprint track finds in recent history.  Both of these subjects will be explored more in depth in an upcoming DVD release I have planned for the end of 2012.

I will also be available to answer questions about Finding Bigfoot, my past and future field work, and any other topic you want to know about.  Come on down, enjoy a meal and a refreshing beverage, and perhaps even walk away with a footprint cast if you can answer some of my extremely tough bigfoot trivia questions (not for the average bigfoot hobbyist, but rather the hard-core bigfoot nerds...).  It'll be a night you won't soon forget!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Finding Bigfoot - Virginia Field Notes

Even before going to Virginia, I knew the state had a lot of excellent bigfoot habitat.  Between the various online databases, there are over 70 reported bigfoot sightings on record.  It is my guess that less than one percent of sightings ever get reported to anyone, so that means there is probably quite a bit of activity in the area.  I wanted to check it out for myself, firsthand.

The evidence that brought us to Virginia was a video obtained by a man named Chuck Newton.  The video is called, “The Beast of Gum Hill” because of a nearby topographical landmark.  It shows Chuck riding an ATV up a river bed when a dark, upright figure walks across the river a ways ahead of him.  Chuck stops his ATV and points at it while looking back at the camera.  In an authentically startled voice, Eric, the videographer, asks, “What was that?!”  The two men immediately turned around and rode out of the area, according to the witness.

The original "Best of Gum Hill" video.  Note that the word "wood booger"
 is in the YouTube title.  Read on to find why this is interesting.

While our recreation indicated that the figure was smaller than Bobo, it is interesting to note that we could clearly see that Bobo was wearing clothing as he clumsily strode across the creek.  His “Gone ‘Squatchin’” hat was also obvious.  The figure in the film was uniformly colored from head to foot, with no visible skin on the hands nor face.  Interestingly, Chuck told us that even though he couldn’t tell if it was hairy or not, he does remember that the figure was uniformly colored from head to toe. 

On the ATV ride out to the site, we rode right by a deer hunter who was clothed in a camouflaged-colored gillie suit. It is at least possible that Chuck ran across a hunter who walked across the knee-deep creek.  However, as I noted in the episode, I think it's strange human behavior to not acknowledge the ATV riders with a friendly wave or a "hello."  That just isn't what I find humans do out in the woods.  Generally speaking, I find that people make some sort of contact, even if it's just a nod, because out in the wilds, one never knows who might save someone's life.  I've stumbled across people in all sorts of dire circumstances while I was out bigfooting. Helping change tires, or even helping to drag cars out of snowdrifts isn't exactly rare in the back woods.  It's always a good idea to at least wave to strangers out there.  This figure did not even look at Chuck and his friend.

Chuck shared with us a story told to him by his friend’s grandfather about the Gum Hill area.  Growing up, Chuck’s friend had been repeatedly warned by his grandfather to not walk the woods at night, or the “wood booger” would get him.  Had this old man seen something himself, or was it just a persistent rumor about the area?  Either way, it was an excellent location for a night investigation.

Prepping the ATV's for the ride in.

The first night investigation was a bit frustrating, though interesting at the same time.  Early on, Ranae and I heard something moving below us only to find that it was a crew member who had hiked up the trail to make a campsite for Matt’s solo investigation.  Ranae and I then moved a good distance away to the pass between two valleys, both to avoid hearing any of the crew, as well as to investigate an obvious travel route and choke point between two river systems.  While at the high ground, we again heard something large moving around below us.  This was no crew member, though we never found out what exactly it was.

Another high point of the Virginia expedition was visiting with Debbie and Kirsten.  Kirsten saw a bigfoot while retrieving the mail on her property one morning, but this was not the only thing that has happened on their homestead.  There have been multiple sightings, including at least two daylight observations of the creatures.  Their home has often been hit by projectiles from the woods, or seemingly been slapped by open hands from the outside.  On one occasion, a pile of rocks appeared with a “gift” laid on top (a rotten old Nerf football). 

The rock pile (more than a year old) and the football
that was left on it, possibly by a bigfoot.

Just as in the case of the Bridges is Florida, Debbie and Kirsten’s home was recently built (in 2007, I believe) and as long as they have lived there, bigfoots have been making their presence known.  The humans are again the intruders on bigfoot territory, which probably accounts for the rocks being thrown at their house.  Interestingly, the rocks aren’t thrown as much anymore compared to when they first moved in.  Also of note is that both Debbie and Kirsten have seen the sasquatches on the property, but Debbie’s husband (Kirsten’s father) has not. 

One witness at the town hall meeting presented a sighting report with several very interesting details, and I was chosen to look into it with the help of Ranae.  A man named Anthony saw a bigfoot from below and the other side of a waterfall.

Abram Falls, near Gum Hill, was the location of the sighting, but not of our recreation.  Abram Falls is on private land.  The area is frequented by teenagers during the summer, and like many teenagers, they party and go swimming at the swimming hole.  One person had recently fallen from above the waterfall and either got seriously hurt or died in the fall.  We could not get a permit to film at the location because of some sort of litigation (I’m thankfully left out of the pre-production part of the show, and details such as these are not known to me).  The recreation site was found by a producer with the help of Anthony himself so as to best approximate the location.  I was shown photographs of Abram Falls, and I have to say that they did an excellent job choosing an appropriate spot.  The resemblance was uncanny.

Besides the amazing athleticism shown by the bigfoot (clearing such a distance in three bounding leaps), there were a couple other interesting details from Anthony’s account that did not make the final edit of the show.  Above the falls, he found a tiered area where it seemed that wild, edible plants had been encouraged to grow, or perhaps even purposefully planted.  One tier had ginseng, the second had berries, and a third level had touch-me-nots.  All three of these plants are edible at various times throughout the year, and each tier seemed to contain the specified plant almost exclusively.

Though there is no clear connection between this area and the sasquatch that was observed nearby.  Perhaps there is no connection at all, and it’s all coincidence.  However, could it be that sasquatches have some level of awareness of agriculture?  I do not know, but it is an intriguing avenue of thought to travel down.  After all, sasquatches are undoubtedly our closest genetic relative, so perhaps it’s not too big a logical leap to think that some bigfoot somewhere might have figured out how to transplant wild herbs to specific locations for ease of gathering.  For now, I'll just be aware of this detail and look for patterns in the coming years that might support this possibility.  

(It should be noted that since this detail has come out, I have contacted two trusted long-term witnesses and asked if any such behavior has ever been noted on their properties.  No behavior like this had been.  However, in one case the local sasquatches had cleared away brush from where they were routinely fed, but for an unknown reason, and certainly not for agricultural use.)

The site of Anthony's sighting recreation.

Another intriguing aspect to Anthony’s encounter was not mentioned in the show.  Anthony found a number of deer carcasses at the base of the falls, twisted and broken from an obvious fall from the cliffs above.  Several of these carcasses had their hind legs ripped, not cut, from the torso, and also had the shoulder strips removed.  Could it be that the sasquatches in the area had run panicked deer off the dangerous waterfall to their deaths, much like Plains Indians did with the buffalo?

I heard another report of this behavior from one of the long-term witnesses mentioned above.  The long-term witness' aunt was smoking a cigarette on the porch at midnight and saw three or four large, upright figures chasing deer in the woods in the direction of the cliff that leads down to the creek behind their house.  In the morning, the woman told the property owner that her neighbors were weird because they were hunting deer without guns, trying to chase deer off of the cliff, running at full speed at night without lights on in the woods.  Weird neighbors, indeed!  Big, weird, hairy neighbors!

The last night investigations was at High Knob, a hill with a history of bigfoot encounters.  In fact, the place where we parked the cars for base camp was the very site of a bigfoot encounter from several years ago.  While we were out fooling around with iridescent powder and UV flashlights, some stealthy visitors came by base camp and made their presence known. 

The crew and various producers spend their night investigation time reading, watching movies on their computers, or just hanging out, all the while monitoring their radios in case the away teams (us in the woods) need something like fresh batteries, or first aid.  On this occasion, base camp was visited by unseen guests who threw several large rocks at the U-Haul truck that was rented to haul gear.  The rocks hit the “cube truck” with such force that the producers actually stopped their movies and came out of the truck to look around.  Several of the PA’s ("production assistants," who are essentially there to do whatever is needed) heard these unseen stalkers in the woods, but thought it was the producer (who was in the cube truck) messing with them. None of these people thought much about the possibility that bigfoots might be the culprits.  Hopefully, on next season's shows we can monitor base camp a bit better to gather some interesting data from there!

It just goes to show, you can’t really out-bigfoot a bigfoot.  They’re better at this than we ever will be. 

Other cool things that didn’t make the cut happened on the shoot as well.  This was the episode when bigfoot-production-assistant, and friend of the sasquatch, Tyler Bounds hit amysterious figure on the road one night.  While Tyler’s story is detailed by Tyler himself elsewhere, here is my side of the story.

I was asleep, and at 2:24 in the morning my phone rang.  Seeing it was Tyler Bounds, I knew it was important, so I picked up.  Tyler, in a panicked voice, told me that he had either just hit a person or a bigfoot with his car.  He was speeding up through fog banks to get on the freeway at the base of High Knob when he looked up too late and collided with a tall, upright figure standing on the left hand side of the road.  Whatever he hit was far taller than his car (later measured to be five feet, five inches tall) and seemingly just standing there.  Tyler stopped his car, got out, and ran back to where he hit the figure, but found nobody.  He called out to the darkness saying he was just there to help.  He told me that at that point he was thinking he hit somebody’s grandfather who had dementia or something.  Nobody answered, so Tyler freaked out a little harder and continued to call out while searching the area.  Nothing was found.

The dent on the front quarter panel
from whatever-it-was that Tyler hit.

A close up of the rear view mirror (that was pushed in).
Note the dirty marks that seem to indicate hair.

The next day, Tyler returned to the spot to search the area in daylight.  No dead bodies were found in the brush, so the adjacent meadows were also scoured.  There was a deer herd nearby, and it is possible that Tyler hit a deer.

I have to wonder what Tyler collided with, though.  He is no camping newbie, and when I spoke to him that night in the wee hours, it was clear that at that point he thought he probably hit a person.  He was absolutely sober that night, and had his head about him.  At the time, I even suggested to him that it could have been a deer, and he admitted that it was a possibility.  He just said that it looked like a man at the time.

Bobo and I made a fuss about this possibility with the producers.  They eventually let us swab the car for DNA, and they filmed us doing so.  It is part of our contract that any evidence gathered belongs to the powers-that-be, so the sample is in the hands of Ping Pong Productions at the moment.  I no longer have control over it, but I did my part by gathering it.  I don’t think that any testing will be done on it.  DNA testing is quite expensive, especially when there is a possibility that it could be a deer. 

Another highlight of the Virginia expedition was what I did on our off-night.  Bobo, and I, along with the sound technician went to the birth place of country music, the CarterFamily Fold.  Every weekend for as long as anyone remembers (well, you know what I mean), the Carter Family Fold has been having mountain music concerts for the locals.  I was lucky enough to attend that night.

The band was smoking, the people were super friendly (even coaxing Bobo into attending church the next day), and the venue was perfect for some good old fashioned country music dancing and fun.  It was not only a highlight of the trip, it was a highlight of my life.  It was not a concert, but a romp in a living museum on the earliest moments of American country music.  I danced my butt off at the foot of the last stage Johnny Cash ever performed on.  I hung out with June Carter's granddaughter.  I partook in a small bit of history.

And I have bigfoot to thank for it. 

More from behind the scenes:

Iridescent powder got all over my face.

The spirit of the Revolutionary War is still alive
in Virginia, but I'm not Tory!

One of the many signs at the Carter Family Fold.
Go there if you can, you won't regret it.


Friday, February 10, 2012

Bay Area Bigfoot Meeting

This just came in from friend of the sasquatch, Tom Yamarone:

First Monthly Meeting of Bay Area Bigfoot Research Organization

Location: Round Table Pizza, 61 43rd Avenue, San Mateo, CA
(may actually be Belmont, CA)
Date/Time: Sunday, February 12, 2012 4:00 – 7:00 p.m.

If you are interested in bigfoot, please join us as we discuss the bigfoot/sasquatch topic
with other enthusiasts. We’ll introduce ourselves, present an overview of the best
evidence and, if time allows, watch a short documentary. Dinner and drinks will be
available at the restaurant. We’ll have the private banquet room for our meeting.

Who are we? Bay Area Bigfoot Research was started by 3 individuals who have been
involved in bigfoot research for many years. There was a research group in the San
Francisco Bay Area in the 1970s and we wanted to create another Bay Area group that
would bring together like-minded people to learn more about this subject, discuss current
bigfoot research topics, solicit eyewitness accounts and organize group outings to the
Sierras and other areas in Northern California.

Agenda: Welcome and Introductions (Joyce Kearney, Jerry Hein & Tom Yamarone)

Joyce Kearney and Tom Yamarone

Jerry Hein

Discussion of our reasons for meeting each month. Also what we hope to accomplish with
these meetings. (for example, discuss recent “hot topics” in bigfoot research, solicit and discuss
bigfoot sighting reports, etc.)

Short Presentation: “A Review of the Most Compelling Evidence for the Existence of Bigfoot/
Sasquatch” (Tom Yamarone)

Tom will bring 3 or 4 bigfoot footprint casts, several books he would recommend as references
for research, photographs of some Native American stone heads, totems and masks and print outs
of archival newspaper articles. Joyce will bring a Native American mask that she has to share
with the group.

Afterwards, we’ll have a discussion of bigfoot evidence.


Viewing of bigfoot documentary (will have several to choose from… 30 – 45 mins)

Discussion of ideas for future meetings.

Craig Flipy, Tom Yamarone,
Cliff Barackman, and Terry Smith