A few years ago, fantasy writer Stephen D Sullivan a.k.a. “Manwolf,” and yours truly cohosted our own weekly radio show called Uncanny Radio. My friend Cass recently reminded me that those podcasts are still up and available, so for those of you who have asked me to post a list of online recorded radio shows, this could be a start. Just click http://www.blogtalkradio.com/uncannyradio and listen away! Topics include everything from strange creatures to ghosts to UFOs to all things uncanny.
Posts Tagged ‘cryptozoology’
Partly because it’s National Poetry Month and partly because a fan sent me some surprising poetry centered around unknown creatures, I give you a sample of the work of Jacob Gene Lenhardt of Menasha. This is not sweet or sentimental work, nor is it some sort of disguised sighting report. It is dark, a tad disturbing and I think it comes from some interior place that witnesses occasionally hint at but seldom know how to express. I found myself responding to these lines on a visceral level, and thought some of you might appreciate the chance to do so as well.
Poetry, I remind you again, is the most personal and subjective form of writing and not everyone’s cup of Starbuck’s. But if you’re game for a quick alternate look at the unknown, read on:
While waiting along with everyone else to see whether Dr. Melba Ketchum’s DNA study and/or the allegedly captured Bigfoot code-named Daisy hold any water worth wading into, I have been looking back at some of the better ‘Squatch reports I’ve received and collected from SE Wisconsin over the years. One of my favorites is the so-called “Bad Hair Day Bigfoot” observed by Matt Wakely in September 2005 SE of Lake Geneva, near the WI-IL border.
The incident is described in full in my book Hunting the American Werewolf, and Wakely passed a polygraph exam of his story on the Monsterquest “American Werewolf ” episode. (The show didn’t mention he saw a Bigfoot rather than a dog man). This was a daylight sighting where the witness had a good long look at the creature. He called his mother and told her he had just seen a caveman, naked and covered with fur. The creature seemed totally unafraid of Matt, and its most unusual feature may have been its rather wild hairdo. My best guess is that it was perhaps an adolescent that had just risen from a midday nap in the cemetery, where it stood with 1 foot on a head stone.
It also had less facial hair, according to Matt’s description, than any other Bigfoot ever reported to me. This also suggests an adolescent age group, but more importantly, it gave Matt an unusually clear look at facial features.
Matt drew his own sketches ( below) and then worked with me to achieve what he agreed looked a pretty fair facsimile of what he saw. At that time, I privately thought the face seemed a bit too human, but my job is to draw and report what the witness saw without projecting my own biases.
Over the past year, as I had my own encounter and gathered more local evidence, it’s occurred to me that if Ketchum’s study proves valid and Sasquatch is indeed genetically part human , then this drawing may be a closer stab at a real portrait than I previously believed. And Matt’s tag of “caveman” may have been very accurate!
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 Sasquatch 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!
If a tree branch falls in the forest …
Sunday, July 8, 2012, at about 7:30 PM, I decided to take a short hike in a little area of southern Wisconsin’s Kettle Moraine area that I’ve walked for about 19 years without incident. While strolling along next to a deep kettle, a huge bowl-shaped depression left by the last glacier, I noticed three young saplings had been bent over by someone or something to form a perfect rainbow-styled arch. I know this sort of formation can happen naturally, but some people believe Bigfoot creates these tree sculptures for various reasons. Anyway, it made me start wondering if this could be a good habitat for a Sasquatch.
That gave me the idea to pick up a stick and bang on a nearby tree a few times, just as a lark. I’ve never been sure about the efficacy of having a crowd of Bigfoot hunters pounding trees en masse, but I think it might not seem so much of a threatening invasion if there are only one or two people hitting a tree – keeping in mind that we still don’t know for sure what such knocks might mean to a ‘Squatch.
I knocked three times. Nothing. I tried several more rounds of three knocks each and then suddenly I heard what sounded like a return knock coming from down in the kettle. I knocked several more times and received responses. While there are homes dotted around this area of the Kettle Moraine, there was absolutely no one else around and the kettle was on private land too overgrown for even diehard hikers. The slopes of many of the kettles are also very steep and quite treacherous for humans to navigate, so I thought it unlikely some jokester was down there.
After a few more knocks I heard the unmistakable sound of something very loud crashing through the underbrush toward me. I couldn’t see anything, however, and the sound then stopped at least 50 feet away from the ridge where I was standing. I probably should have run but I was in denial that it could be anything dangerous and instead I whacked the tree again. I heard another crashing charge toward me. Again – idiotically — I hit the tree. There was a period of silence accompanied by muted scuffling sounds that seem to be getting farther away from me, and then I heard another knock from down in the kettle. I answered and it did too, except this one was accompanied by what sounded like wood tearing. I thought that was strange but I answered anyway and then there were two knocks again accompanied by the sharp sound of splitting wood. I gave my tree two sharp thwacks, reasoning that I was still close enough to the public pathway that I was probably safe, and then it happened.
I heard a deafening crack and watched in disbelief as a huge branch that I later measured to be over 20 feet long and at least 8 inches in diameter seemed to tear itself free from a giant old oak tree rooted in to the bottom of the kettle. The branch was at least 30 feet above the base of the tree but because I stood on a ridge it was directly at my eye level. I could not see anything moving the branch before it fell horizontally and thudded on the forest floor below. One end of the branch was covered with fresh green leaves and there was fresh wood on the tree where the branch of cracked off so I knew this was not a dead or hollow tree ready to shed its limbs. There was almost no wind and it was a blue-sky-white- cloud kind of day with great visibility, about 80 degrees Fahrenheit. I could think of no plausible reason for that healthy limb to have cracked off the tree at that moment, and that’s when I realized that only some truly massive force could have done it. That’s also when I dropped the stick and ran.
I wanted to go back before dark to have a look at the tree limb and reassure myself that it really happened but I was not going in there by myself. I called my friend Sandra Schwab, an experienced investigator, and she immediately grabbed her 21-year old daughter, Natalie, and drove to meet me. Although I was still in shock, the three of us plunged in and made our way down to the bottom of the kettle where it was easy to find the torn branch. We were astounded by the size of it and by its obvious freshness. We confirmed it was easily 8 to 10 inches in diameter and over 20 feet long, counting the smaller branches at the end of it. We peered up at the tree and could see a freshly broken spur where the branch had been only a half-hour earlier. It was at least 30 feet above the ground.
The tree split into a fork about halfway between the ground and where the branch had been, but it still looked like a really tough climb even for Bigfoot. But when we walked around behind the tree, we saw a pile of logs and small branches that seemed to have been deliberately collected on the ground to use as a stepping stone to a higher perch where it could’ve sat unobserved to tear the branch away from behind.
As it happened, we found an oval patch of bark that had been rubbed off the branch leaving very fresh wood underneath. It was about the size that I imagine a Bigfoot hand would be based on many witness observations. Moreover, Natalie found the piece of bark that had been rubbed off lying not far from the branch. It was buckled in two places and had shred marks as if something with very strong nails had dug in and applied great force to it. It also stank strongly of musk. Since Natalie had already handled it and there did not appear to be any skin shreds or hair that would be useful for DNA, we each inspected it in turn; I smelled that musk odor on my own hands the rest of the night. We also found bare spots of ground that reeked of musky urine. Whatever the massive force was, it was rank.
The ground was too hard for tracks but we saw various places where the wild ginger and other plants were strangely flattened. And our adventure was not over.
We climbed the ridge behind the tree and looked down into the adjoining kettle. Suddenly, Natalie gasped that she saw it! Sandra and I both turned toward where she was pointing. But it was too late — it was out of our view. Natalie did not see the entire body but said she saw what looked like a tall biped covered in tan fur that was lighter than the numerous deer in this area. She said it was moving quickly but not running and not walking like a human exactly, either. The word she finally settled on was “striding,” in very long strides, as it disappeared into the brush. I should add that Natalie had been a skeptic on the idea of Bigfoot, but is no longer.
We stood there staring and hoping to get a glimpse of it again when we heard a very menacing growl from somewhere in the kettle below us that was like nothing any of us could recall. If only I would have turned my camera on and switched the dial to video I could’ve recorded it, but the sound was over before I could come to my senses and make my move. (If I had been smart, I also would’ve brought my digital audio recorder.) We all felt that the growling was a warning to leave and decided that was the prudent thing to do since it was fast getting dark and we did not want to be lost in those woods with a creature strong enough to tear an 8 inch branch off a live oak tree.
We returned the next day to have a better peek at the back of that tree. I was looking for fur tufts or other clues that we might have missed. We didn’t see any but did notice much of the top surface of the branches piled behind the tree had been rubbed smooth on top as if it had been used often. There were no other sounds or incidents, and the musky smell was gone.
Ironically, my plan for Sunday evening had been to take a drive over to Rock County to some other active sites. Instead I ended up being where – and when — something was actually happening. This illustrates the point I often make that both Bigfoot and the Dogman have large territories to roam and are just as likely to be seen in any favorable habitat — whether someone else has seen them there already or not. The key is to know what kind of places they prefer and to be alert to subtle clues. And then it still takes luck.
Because Natalie actually saw some kind of tall, furry creature and the three of us heard that strange growling, I feel a lot more confident thinking that this may have been a Bigfoot rather than some other unknown phenomenon. I don’t believe it was a Dogman because I think that a canine would have a very difficult time scaling a tree like that much less use its canine arm structure to tear off a giant branch. Bears can climb but can’t knock on trees with sticks. And it would’ve been next to impossible for most any human to have done what I witnessed without using an axe or other equipment.
And I may have had a previous glimpse. In May of this year, I was walking in the same area when I heard a medium-sized branch crack off a tree at the top of a kettle just behind the side yard of a nearby home. I looked just in time to see it drop as something very long and covered in light tan fur also descended quickly into foliage below. The only thing I could think of at the time was that it might have been the tail of a mountain lion that had just alighted from its perch, breaking the limb as it did so – rather a stretch in itself. Now I wonder if it was the arm of a Bigfoot that had just snapped off a tree branch while standing hidden below! There just aren’t many critters around here with light-colored fur.
I’m still rather in awe of the experience and I think that I will see and hear that giant branch falling off the oak tree for the rest of my life. Was it Bigfoot? I can’t prove it, but I can’t come up with any other explanation other than that it was the most extreme coincidence imaginable, considering the way everything happened. And Natalie did see something. I will let you all know if there’s more to the story!
(Location must remain confidential since the kettle itself is on private land and owner does not want disclosure of the site)