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Archive for December, 2012

Mike Agrusa in Ghillie Suit copyright Linda Godfrey

Mike Agrusa in Ghillie Suit copyright Linda Godfrey

First there was the infamous “Gable film” video that purported to show the Michigan Dogman in attack mode, and then we had the tragic case of the Montana man fatally struck by two vehicles while dressed in what he hoped looked like a Sasquatch costume. Both of these rather bad ideas had one thing in common – – the perpetrators wore ghillie suits.

The ghillie suit, common wardrobe gear for hunters, is a ragged, head to toe covering made of camouflage fabric. It seems to be the latest fashion of choice for anyone seeking to hoax large cryptid sightings – – and has also now provided one Wisconsin law enforcement agency a possible explanation for an otherwise unexplainable encounter.

An incident in Vernon County, Wisconsin, in late August 2012 was widely reported in early September of that year as a Bigfoot sighting. Milwaukeean Rich Heiden follows news about the paranormal, UFOs and cryptids, on a state-wide basis. He found about 20 newspaper articles on this topic but noticed that dates given for the incident were either inconsistent or totally missing from the stories. After he investigated these discrepancies, he received a message from the Vernon County Sheriff’s Department blaming the encounter on a ginseng thief in a ghillie suit. The sheriff’s administrative assistant, Carol Oliver, wrote,”Sighting was August 29, 2012, at 5:00 p.m.  Called in the next day.  Later believed to be an illegal harvester of Ginseng, dressed in a camouflage ghillie suit.  The camouflaged person had been seen earlier on the 29th on the Reserve land, carrying two bags.”

The reserve land she refers to is the Kickapoo Valley Reserve. This area encompasses nearly 8600 acres and is indeed rich in ginseng, which has become a hot commodity for thieves. I have no doubt that illegal harvesters abound at that time of year and that it would be very logical for thieves to camouflage themselves in ghillie suits. However, the eyewitness account describes something that doesn’t really sound like a camo-clad human.

According to the La Crosse Tribune, Sept. 5, 2012 edition, the witness called Sheriff John Spears after his sighting near South Jug Creek Road. Reporter Matt Johnson said the sheriff told him, “they saw what they described as a dark-haired … Sasquatch. It looked like it was hiding in the ditch line. When they went by, it jumped.”

The sheriff said the witness described the figure as large, dark black/brown in color, with no clothing. The witness added that the creature appeared to be covered only in fur and told the sheriff there was no way that it could have been a wolf. If he indeed saw the creature at 5 PM there also would have been ample daylight at that time of year in Wisconsin to distinguish between nearly black fur and the tousled, green/brown strips on a ghillie suit. I assume that the creature was fairly close to the observer since this was a narrow back road and it leaped up just as the car passed. I also wonder why a thief attempting to hide himself would jump up as the car went by.

It may also seem odd that a Bigfoot would expose himself to view, but reports of a noelcard3 001Sasquatch running or walking in a ditch or crossing the road in full view of a driver are fairly common. I might add that there have been many sightings of Bigfoot in this area of Wisconsin which is a well-watered terrain of sandstone outcroppings and deep valleys –the type of land many Sasquatch researchers consider perfect Bigfoot habitat.

Could it have been a hoaxer? The “jumping” behavior does suggest that possibility, but hoaxers usually choose better traveled roads since their main goal is to be seen. This was very remote location on a hot August Thursday at 5 PM.

Another relevant detail I’d like to know is where in that vast reserve the ginseng thief was spotted. I made my own call to the Vernon County Sheriff’s Department and their records did not show the location of the alleged poacher. They also would not release the name of the creature witness.

The sheriff sent a squad car to the sighting location but the dispatched deputy found nothing. Yes, it could have been a ginseng poacher or a thrill hoaxer, but until the sheriff finds the suit wearer (unlikely) and determines this person jumped up at a driver on S. Jug Creek Rd., I believe this case should remain open.

And I proclaim Richard Heiden Digger of the Month!

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Bald Bluff star, courtesy of and copyright Ronald Kurowski

Bald Bluff star, courtesy of and copyright Ronald Kurowski

Bigfoot and the Christmas Star sounds like the title of a children’s book, I know. Far from it! As soon as I started looking into tales of unknown upright canids 20 years ago, people also began reporting other creatures to me. I’ve received sightings of everything from giant birds to flying Batman to small green humanoids. But chief among those other sightings, especially in Wisconsin, are encounters with Bigfoot.

The sightings date back to at least the early 60s, and I’ve collected 15 or 16 very credible Sasquatch reports from a certain section of Southeast Wisconsin alone. This area stretches from Delavan north toward Eastern Rock County, southwestern Jefferson County and Northern Walworth County. There are plenty of other sightings all around Wisconsin but this area is very close to where I live – – in fact, you could say I’m in the thick of it. That comes in very handy for study purposes.

I’ve been revisiting some of the older sightings in this area to compare with newer incidents, and one that comes to mind every Christmas is the one I call Bigfoot and the Christmas star. I covered it more thoroughly in Hunting the American Werewolf, but here’s a brief recap:

Every December for many years, a Palmyra inventor and philanthropist named Irvin Young and his wife, Fern, lit a giant, electric Christmas star on the Kettle Moraine hill known as Bald Bluff. Locals also referred to it as Young Hill since the star was then on property owned by the Youngs. Area resident Judy Wallerman told me that as a teenager in  1970, she often sat on a nearby hillside and watched the star through binoculars just to see the bright lights.

Judy was watching one winter evening after a fresh snow that made the star’s surroundings easier to see, when she noticed a shadow- like figure darting about beneath it. The figure was near human in shape and covered with shaggy brown fur!

Eye witness sketch by Judy Wallerman for Hunting the American Werewolf by Linda S Godfrey

Eye witness sketch by Judy Wallerman for Hunting the American Werewolf by Linda S Godfrey

“It seemed to be focused on something,” said Judy.” It didn’t stand fully upright and it had a lumbering gait, it was slightly stooped but definitely on two legs.” She witnessed the creature running around the star on several other occasions, and when she told her friends about it she learned at least four or five others had seen it, too. The creature even had a nickname, Bluff Man or Bluff Monster. Her friend Rochelle Klemp was willing to speak to me about it and said, “It seemed human because it was upright, but size wise, it was taller than an average human.”

I have included Wallerman’s witness sketch. I’d have to say it’s a classic rendering of a Bigfoot.

The star was taken down in 2003 after Fern Young passed away. She had ceded the land to the state of Wisconsin years earlier but had stipulated the star must remain standing and lit every December for as long as she lived. (You can read more about the Youngs and Irvin’s strange sculptures on the site in my book, Strange Wisconsin; More Badger State Weirdness.)

Bald Bluff boasts a half-mile hiking trail and is part of the Kettle Moraine State Forest Southern Unit. The Kettle Moraine is comprised of plunging, bowl shaped depressions left by the last glacier. Most of it is heavily forested and teems with deer, wild turkey and other game perfect for a large predator. Hiking and biking trails wind along the ridges between the kettles, leaving plenty of space for a large creature to get around in between them. Bald Bluff is also very close to Blue Spring Lake, marshes and other water sources. And as I mentioned earlier there are plenty of other sightings of Bigfoot – – not to mention dog men, as well – –here to establish this was not a fluke incident.

I like to think perhaps that star-struck Bigfoot was doing a Christmas dance. But even if he was only chasing a deer or a rabbit, I love the mental image and hope it brings joy to you all.

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