A small step for a Bigfoot

There’s more than deliverance in the mountains of North Georgia

I can still hear it in my mind’s ear — that ghastly roaring growl, breaking into a vaguely human but mostly beastlike bellowing shriek nearly loud enough to separate tissue — hear  it any time that I somehow feel the need to send a shiver of ice down my spine. But sometimes it just erupts unbidden, seemingly endless, and the chilling effect is the same. 

At the time, this was 1985, I was staying and working on a book project in my 17-foot house trailer, modified into a mobile office and parked beneath a big oak tree beside a creek in a vast rolling field, part of a 3,000-acre cattle ranch in Parkfield, California, which sits astride the San Andreas Fault. 

It was just after two a.m. when this creature vocally exploded, almost as if howling through a megaphone, a mere stone’s throw from my trailer door — which I immediately locked as if that would do any good — and retreated in a trembling panic to the rear of the trailer with my Luger cocked and ready to fire — as if that would do any good. But after about three or four minutes of this, the creature was gone. Though I heard it again later that night perhaps a mile away. The next day I learned that several citizens (out of a total population of 34) had both heard a loud whooping noise and seen an eight-foot, haired-over humanoid on the loose in the community.

IF YOU'VE PASSED BIGFOOT: You've gone too far (outside Expedition Bigfoot in Cherry Log, Georgia) PHOTO CREDIT: William Hedgepeth.
IF YOU’VE PASSED BIGFOOT: You’ve gone too far (outside Expedition Bigfoot in Cherry Log, Georgia) PHOTO CREDIT: William Hedgepeth.

Parkfield itself is practically cut loose from the rest of the normal world. It is in central California, equidistant from San Francisco and Los Angeles, and, lying as it does on the San Andreas Fault, there is an earthquake or major tremor of some sort practically every week. Every one of which is an unfixing experience. The entire area is fraught with spirits. Parkfield lies on an unmarked road 11 miles north off State Route 46, just a few hundred yards from the spot where Donald  Turnupseed’s pickup smashed into James Dean’s Porsche in 1955. Beheaded him actually. People still visit this spot in the spirit of a holy pilgrimage.

On top of every other feature, California ranks No. 1 in reported Bigfoot sightings, followed by Oregon, Florida, Washington and Ohio. There have been hundreds of sightings reported in Georgia but many, many more sightings than people have been willing to own up to for fear of being disbelieved or ridiculed. As one scholar of Bigfootery put it, ”To admit to such an experience is, in some areas, to risk personal reputation, social status, and professional credibility.”

TRAIL OF HORRORS: A map of local Bigfoot sightings. PHOTO CREDIT: William Hedgepeth.
TRAIL OF HORRORS: A map of local Bigfoot sightings. PHOTO CREDIT: William Hedgepeth.

To be clear, we are dealing here in the general sphere of cryptozoology, the study of legendary animals. And Bigfoot is the star attraction in this realm — a creature most commonly described as a relict hominoid standing between seven and 10 feet tall, weighing between 600 and 1,000 pounds, and covered with hair that may be black, brown, reddish-brown, auburn, blond, or white. Its ears are hidden on the side of the head, it has a flat face (that is, no muzzle), no neck, broad shoulders, and long limbs. 

Sightings of such creatures go back more than a thousand years but the term “Bigfoot” has been in colloquial use just since the early 1920s. and was first coined by the press. Originally it referred only to the legendary creatures of Northern California. To the north, in British Columbia, the common term became “Sasquatch,” derived from that used by the Salish Indians of southwest British Columbia, meaning “wild man of the woods.” The earliest record of large, mysterious footprints in North America dates back to 1811, discovered by a well-known explorer, David Thompson, who came across a track 14 X 8 inches with four toes and features unlike any bear or anything else. 

While Bigfoot clearly takes the cake for famous hairy humanoids, the most celebrated runner-up is surely the Abominable Snowman. The region where this particular monster prevails is the vast, mountainous expanse of the Himalayas that includes Tibet and Nepal, where footprints were first made public in the early 1950s. The Sherpas and general citizenry of these parts have been aware of Abominable Snowmen and Snowwomen and their Abominable Snowbabies since time immemorial, but know them as Yeti and don’t regard them as dangerous. Huge and covered in white hair, the Yeti are regarded more as a manlike beast, whereas Americans see the larger Sasquatch as a beast-like man. 

Luckily for us, whatever our taste may be in monsters of this sort, the fabulous new place to go to learn about them all, to see videos, hear lectures, attend town hall discussions, to take the kids and buy Bigfoot T-shirts, stuffed toys, books, DVDs, aprons, posters and see life-size exhibits, including authentic casts of big footprints, is EXPEDITION: BIGFOOT! The Sasquatch Museum, on Highway 515 just south of Blue Ridge, Georgia, a site that will surely more than meet all your Bigfoot needs. (If you don’t need the whole museum experience, there’s an Expedition: Bigfoot! gift shop on East Main Street in downtown Blue Ridge that does a brisk business.)

Here, standing fully upright beside some small fir trees, is a formidable shaggy black-haired Bigfoot, all of eight feet tall, holding a pine cone. This, as it turns out, is a faithful reproduction of the identical Bigfoot that Ohio police officer Darren Minge saw at the end of his driveway and spent the next two years building in his living room. And now it’s among the features here in the museum.

SIGHTING CITED: Bigfoot, as seen by a Ohio police officer. PHOTO CREDIT: William Hedgepeth.
SIGHTING CITED: Bigfoot, as seen by a Ohio police officer. PHOTO CREDIT: William Hedgepeth.

Directing my attention to this monster is David Bakara, 56, who, with his wife Malinda, is the founder and owner of Expedition: Bigfoot! which, since the attraction opened in March of 2016, has become probably the biggest tourist attraction in Fannin County, having brought in some 30,000 visitors last year with the expectation of an additional 10,000 for 2018. It is, in fact, the largest Bigfoot/Sasquatch museum and gift shop in the whole world, the next largest being all the way out in China Lake, California.

“I’ve been into this since I was 12 years old,” Bakara says. “I live it, eat it, and breath it. There are so many different aspects to it. Plus, there’s so much more to this planet than we can grasp. We’re just so under-informed as humans, even Americans, and understand so little of what’s going on in the natural world.” 

Bakara and his wife experienced their first Bigfoot sighting in Florida when they saw two of the creatures standing together behind some trees, peeking and then hiding their eyes, “almost acting like children: If I can’t see you, you can’t see me.” On another occasion in 2010, in Alva, Florida, on the edge of the Everglades, Bakara camped out and caught some fish. “They can’t resist fish,” he says, “and suddenly two came out of the swamp. I watched them for 10 minutes. I had another one chase me in a swamp in 2011 and saw another one pull a tree down in 2012.” 

TWO BELIEVERS: David Bakara (left) and Angelina Sheer at Expedition Bigfoot. PHOTO CREDIT: William Hedgepeth.
TWO BELIEVERS: David Bakara (left) and Angelina Sheer at Expedition Bigfoot. PHOTO CREDIT: William Hedgepeth.

He says there have been as many as 10,000 sightings just in America. And every continent has them. People often say if Bigfoots are real, there should be bones. “Actually, many bones have been found. Giant bones dug out of mounds. The Smithsonian routinely takes the bones. Then they deny it, like ‘We don’t know what you’re talking about.’” Bigfoot phenomena are “treated like UFOs. We’re not supposed to know about these things.”

The success of the museum suggests to Bakara that many people are already intrigued with Bigfootery — and this place just reignites their interest. “Somewhere in our psyche there’s a fascination. Is it because they’re close to us, is it that they’re so big and strong and most of them don’t hurt us?” He says there are stories of where they’ve actually rescued children who were lost in the woods while camping with their families. In one case a lawyer in Ohio, once he retired, finally admitted that this happened to him as a child: A female Bigfoot picked him up and carried him back to his campsite. The parents weren’t there so the Bigfoot placed a small log on the little boy to hold him down and then disappeared.

There’s a general consensus among those who delve into this paranormal realm: that there is definitely a Bigfoot-UFO connection. “People often report these strange orbs, balls of light dancing around, coming out of the woods before these things appear. And if these creatures don’t want you to see them, you’ll never see one,” Bakara maintains. “People call it paranormal, and there is a paranormal aspect to them, how they can be there one second and be gone another. And there are many reports, some from police officers, of these things coming from, actually being beamed out of extraterrestrial craft and beamed back up. Then you realize why we don’t find bodies, and you come to the unconventional conclusion that they are not here all the time.” 

THE PAIN WITHIN: Bigfoot misunderstood. PHOTO CREDIT: William Hedgepeth.
THE PAIN WITHIN: Bigfoot misunderstood. PHOTO CREDIT: William Hedgepeth.

A visiting paranormal authority at the museum today is Angelia Sheer, a field researcher for MUFON, the Mutual UFO Network, who has been gathering information on a UFO incident in Reliance, Tennessee, about 40 miles from Blue Ridge. She is convinced of the connection between Bigfoot sightings and UFO sightings. 

“If you’re a true researcher, everything crosses over,” she says. “People who experience either one are really traumatized. Grown men cry, even police officers. I mean, people’s whole world view can be shattered in 20 seconds. Not only are you traumatized, you usually have no one to talk to. 

“I believe a Bigfoot is some kind of protohuman that diverged from Homo sapiens. But they know their world. They don’t want to be found. They’re really intelligent and they want to stay away from us.” Sheer has evidence that Teddy Roosevelt had a Bigfoot sighting, which was part of his inspiration for creating all of our national parks and forest reserves, “as places for them to dwell in peace, since you obviously can’t arrest and jail all of them.”  
She and others in this field are well aware of the case of Chestnut Ridge, Pennsylvania, that began in December 1965 when an object shaped like a huge acorn crashed in the woods, after which multiple Bigfoot sightings began cropping up. Army scientists and NASA people responded and carried off the debris, but more incidents of a similar nature occurred in the next few years after that, culminating in the fall of 1973, with six sightings just in September, of crafts of all sizes, followed by multiple encounters of “hairy humanoids,” in some cases, according to police reports, “being beamed out of UFOs and then walking off into the woods.” These were among more than 300 sightings in America that fall.

Fact is, it was October 11, 1973, that what remains as one of the world’s most credible “close encounters of the third kind” took place in Pascagoula, Mississippi. As it happened, I wrote an extensive story about this for Southern Voices magazine in 1974, with a follow-up piece for Playboy in 1975. And the facts were these: 

ALL THAT REMAINS: Casts of Bigfoot's big feet. PHOTO CREDIT: William Hedgepeth.
ALL THAT REMAINS: Casts of Bigfoot’s big feet. PHOTO CREDIT: William Hedgepeth.

On the full moonlit night of this particular day, Charles Hickson, 42, and his friend, Calvin Parker, 19, were fishing from a deserted pier on the banks of the Pascagoula River at the site of an abandoned shipyard when a spacecraft flashing a blue light landed behind them. Three creatures who stood five feet tall with clawlike hands, wrinkled skin and pointed ears, floated out of the craft, emitting slight buzzing sounds, and took the two men aboard without force. 

Inside they were laid down and observed by “what looked like a large eye.” Then they were “sort of floated” back to the river bank by the creatures. 

“They [Hickson and Parker] are sincere,” Sheriff Fred Diamond told newsmen. “I believe their story is true.” Once they reported to the sheriff’s office, the two were placed alone in a room that was bugged. Instead of laughing over the hoax they had pulled, they were clearly in shock, with Hickson moaning and praying and Parker sobbing hysterically. A deputy added that the two “were scared almost to the point of a heart attack. I know something happened, but I don’t know just what.” Some days later, as word floated out of Mississippi, authorities of various sorts interviewed the men and subjected them to polygraph tests, hypnosis, and every other known means of determining the truth, and, as one investigator declared, “Their emotions and very strong feelings of terror are impossible to fake under hypnosis.” 

While Charles Hickson fully cooperated with all the examinations, Calvin Parker began slipping into symptoms approaching a nervous breakdown. When he reported to the sheriff’s office in a state of near shock, he told them he had become hysterical and passed out almost immediately on being touched by one of the creatures and remembered nothing beyond that point. Subsequently he was hospitalized in his parents’ hometown of Laurel, Mississippi. Hickson died just a few year ago, in 2011, still willing to recount the experience, while Parker has remained in an almost post-traumatic state.

In all the press coverage of the time, one corroborating feature that went undisclosed, until I reported it, was that a young ex-Marine named Cullen Pryor was at the site of the old shipyard at the time, rummaging through an abandoned tool shed, when he witnessed the craft descending. He didn’t see Hickson and Parker but did his best to hide beneath the debris in the shed until the craft departed about 40 minutes later. Then he immediately took off running almost 30 miles to the VA Hospital in Mobile where he turned himself in to the psychiatric unit. 

The point is, people don’t do this to themselves for the sake of perpetrating a hoax. Extraterrestrial craft and the beings that control them are real, like it or not. And this is also true of the beings we call Bigfoot or Sasquatch or similar cryptid primates.

Dee Massengale, 62, an exercise physiologist, lives with her dogs in a mountain cabin lying on a high wooded ridge outside Blue Ridge that’s reachable only by way of a twisting maze of narrow gravel roads. Only the most intelligent of animals can ever find it. And two years ago one definitely did.

“It was 3:30 in the morning,” she recalls, “when my very large dog suddenly woke up and woke me up out of a dead sleep barking violently and slamming her paws on the bedroom window, just as she does with a large bear. I jumped up to see if it was a bear or deer, and there, standing level, eyeball-to-eyeball with me at the window, which was seven feet off the ground, was the face of a fox but much larger. It had shaggy red hair. I was absolutely petrified. It was inches away. I took my hand and slapped the window. Willow was barking and pounding the window, too. Now both dogs were going apeshit. But it didn’t blink. Didn’t move. Didn’t change its expression. Never showed its teeth. Didn’t growl. Just stared at me. I turned on the floodlights and ran back to my bedroom just as the motion detector light also came on and the creature turned away and disappeared. It was a huge full moon and it just vanished into the night.

“Next morning I called my friend who has had many Bigfoot sightings and told him. He said, ‘Well, Dee, there are many creatures from other realms that are in the forest. He just came to check you out. Don’t be afraid.’”

Another friend of Massengale’s called a friend who is a Dogman investigator — the legendary Dogmen are very rare, seven-foot-tall canine-like animals with the torso of a man and a face with a doglike muzzle, who walk upright and, unlike the Bigfoot, are wont to attack and kill people — but the investigator was convinced it had to have been something else. 

Massengale also called a couple of psychic friends who investigate the paranormal things. ”They went all through my house and concluded this creature had been living multidimensionally at a spot back in the forest for hundreds of years, ever since the Native Americans inhabited these parts.” Even so, she recalls, ”I was terrified. It was not like anything I’d ever seen. But my friend Everett says, ‘He’ll be back. He has a message for you.’” 

LOOK BOTH WAYS: Seeing Bigfoot may take you to a dead end. PHOTO CREDIT: William Hedgepeth.
LOOK BOTH WAYS: Seeing Bigfoot may take you to a dead end. PHOTO CREDIT: William Hedgepeth.

Filmmaker Everett Irvine, grew up on a Texas ranch where he learned the ways of animals and has remained an avid outdoorsman: a marathon hiker, a backpacker and devotee of the wilderness in most parts of the country for most of his 63 years. “For about 35 years so far I’ve had experiences and interactions with Bigfoots. I nearly always encounter them when I’m out backpacking or even when I go out hiking in the mountains.” 

From Irvine’s perspective, “There’s a lot of ‘em out there. I’ve had well over 200 encounters with Bigfoot.” As to the question of what they are, he cites the work of a scientist friend, Dr. Melba Ketchum, who was asked by the military to do a DNA analysis of an especially huge Bigfoot-type creature who killed an American soldier in Afghanistan. Members of this soldier’s unit tracked his path to a cave from which emerged a huge red hairy nonhuman who attacked them and was shot to pieces. The remains were helicoptered to a lab where Ketchum’s DNA analysis revealed a totally different species, not remotely human.

In Ketchum’s own research, says Irvine, “she’s learned that if their eyes are a dull, glowing green, that means they’re fine with everything around them. If the green has a tinge of yellow to it, it means they are on alert. If it goes from that to being red, it means they don’t trust you and don’t trust what’s going on.”

Of the Bigfoots Irvine has encountered and has consistently been able to communicate with telepathically, “They are not at all violent and a lot more intelligent than people think. For one thing, they can move through dimensions. I’ve sat there in their presence and seen them disappear. Or reappear somewhere else.”

He says his experiences “hit high gear” when he moved to the North Georgia mountains. ”I’ve encountered them all over the place. At first they started throwing rocks at my cabin, but I’ve never been afraid of them, and I feel they have become comfortable with me.”

He doesn’t believe they are extraterrestrial but, being eight- to-10-feet tall and 50 times as strong as a man, they can move massive things like large boulders. “I’ve heard it said that extraterrestrials have used them to move cargo.”

IT'S OUT THERE: Barring Bigfoot from getting in. PHOTO CREDIT: William Hedgepeth.
IT’S OUT THERE: Barring Bigfoot from getting in. PHOTO CREDIT: William Hedgepeth.

Irvine believes Bigfoots are “way beyond us, I mean thousands of years in the future ahead of us, and have intellectual abilities we don’t have, such as being able to move in and out of other dimensions that we can’t do. But my experience is they are very, very kind. Of course, if you’re carrying a gun, they might be more aggressive. Their main power is psychological manipulation, the power to get into your mind. They can spot potential conflict and know if they should just cloak out and let you go by. Your mental state creates the state in which you interact with them or perceive them.” As for their general goals or intentions, Irvine suggests, “They are here to help maintain the environment that supports us, to help keep everything stable. And not be seen.” 

There may well be a Bigfoot out there, waiting for you.

Yea, my friends, you and I can only dream that the vast infinitude of hope, joy, and beauty in this world, which our all-too-human mental and spiritual limitations presently prevent us from being able fully to grasp, will one day be accessible to our progeny in the distant future, and that a more highly evolved humanity will join hands with our Bigfoot and Sasquatch brethren to revel forever in a whole new heaven and a new earth. Indeed, it’s one small step for a Bigfoot, but one giant leap for mankind. — CL —

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