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!