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Bigfoot Believers and Sasquatch Skeptics

Monday, Apri1 10, 2000, Cleveland Plain Dealer

By BRIAN ALBRECHT E-mail: balbrecht@plaind. com PLAIN DEALER REPORTER

NEWCOMERSTOWN, Ohio - Bigfoot stomped through the West Elementary School gymnasium on Saturday, leaving his size 17-EEEE imprint in plaster casts and lollipops, his supposedly haunting howl on compact discs and likenesses of his furry face peering from sweatshirts, hats and fuzzy videos.

Believers were thrilled, skeptics confounded and the just plain curious were challenged there by the 12th annual Bigfoot Conference/Expo 2000. Nearly 200 people, including Sasquatch experts and eyewitnesses from across the country, gathered at the event, sponsored by the Tri-State Bigfoot Study Group. The group covers an area (Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia) that has had as many reported sightings as the Pacific Northwest of this 7-foot-tall, 900-pound, furry, ape-like creature that supposedly haunts the deep forests and remote mountains.

Don Keating, conference organizer and longtime local resident, said he had videos of two possible sightings in the dense woodlands around Newcomerstown, the birthplace of sports greats Cy Young and Woody Hayes, and the retreat home of Cleveland Mayor Michael R. White. Keating reported local Delaware 1ndians are said to have cautioned early settlers to put out food offerings for the "wild ones of the woods." Today, the legend persists, largely on faith. When Keating asked how many in the audience believed they had seen Bigfoot, only seven raised their hands. But itís a growing belief, according to Keating, who said the conference had steadily grown from the first, which attracted only 42 people. The conference, he said, is not intended to sell the idea that Bigfoot exists, but to bring investigators, eyewitnesses and enthusiasts together to share information and improve study m the field, with the eventual goal of making a proof-positive discovery.

Some conference attendees included Bigfoot as part of a general interest in the unexplained, mysteries encompassing everything from UFOs to the John F. Kennedy assassination. Brian Seech and his wife, Theresa, were among a group of conference visitors from Aliquippa, Pa. They said their interest in the paranormal was prompted by their own UFO sighting five years ago. Seech said they came to the conference to get some tips before embarking on a planned Bigfoot search this summer in West Moreland County, Pa., an area of previous Sasquatch sightings. Sue Juber, 45, of Alquippa, wasnít as ambitious - yet. "Iím not sure if I believe in Bigfoot or not," she said at the onset of the conference. "Thatís why Iím here, to find out."

But Jim Davis, 52, of Akron, said he had been a "Bigfooter" since 1967, when he lived in Streetsboro and was driving on Ohio 14 late one night and saw an elderly, panic-stricken couple running down the road. Davis said the couple had been lantern-fishing at a local lake when they encountered a creature and fled. Visiting the site, Davis said he found huge footprints and ungodly, unimaginable stench. Davis said the conference was a way he and others could "talk with other people who understand what theyíve seen or heard, and not be ridiculed."

"Itís almost like a support group, letting people know itís OK to see a Bigfoot. You donít have to be embarrassed," said Canadian wildlife ecologist John A. Bindernagel, one of the conference speakers who believes Bigfoot is North Americaís great ape.

On the frontiers of Bigfoot technology William Dranginis, of Manassas, Va., brought a prototype of a $5,000, four-camera, 360-degree video surveillance system he hopes to deploy next year in an area where he spotted an unknown creature four years ago. When triggered, the system pages Dranginis, who can then monitor and control the cameras remotely with a laptop computer.

Bob Daigle, 56, of Detroit, baits his Bigfoot video camera "traps" in northern Michigan with fish (canned and fresh), but is reluctant to meet Bigfoot, face to fur. "All reports say they tend to be benign," he said, "but theyíre still capable of killing a human being at any time."

Conference exhibits featured plaster casts of Bigfoot footprints, and Sasquatch artwork and figurines - some probably a bit too similar to Chewbacca of the "Star Wars" movies to make dedicated bebevers happy. Souvenirs included shirts, hats, bumper stickers, keychains, footprint-shaped suckers, CDs and videotapes.

Snatches of conversation swirled like markers on a trail of the bizarre: "If you ever see one, you got to stand still,ícause if you move, they move ... I shouldíve tracked it. I probably wouldíve had my arms torn out of my sockets, but at least 1 wouldíve had something."

Bigfoot fans hunted down autographs of visiting celebrities like J.E. "Smokey" Crabtree, whose Bigfoot sighting in Arkansas was the basis of the 1975 movie, "The Legend of Boggy Creek"; or Larry Lund, "The Sasquatch Sleuth," of Vancouver, Wash., who presented a session on Bigfoot video fakery. He does not include the so-called "Patterson film" among them. That grainy 1967 footage Ė the most widely aired and recognized image of the alleged creature lumbering near a forest - "is what keeps us going, makes us think weíve really got something here," Lund said.

But many at the conference said nothing less than a Bigfoot body would convince skeptics.

As the six-hour conference closed, after all the speakers and exhibits and videos, Dale Reed, 57, of Carrollon, Ohio, was still unmoved. "When I see one come through my back yard, thatís when Iíll believe it," he said. Sue Juber, however, was a converted skeptic, and plans to join her Aliquippa neighbors on their Bigfoot search this summer. "I came, reluctantly, but Iím glad 1 did," she said. "By showing how much [purported evidence] wasnít real, I was able to understand how much out there does seem real."

Bigfooters hedge their bets. Nobody at the conference said the creature absolutely, positively exists. They believe it does. And even if it doesnítÖ as Carolyn Mack of Detroit said with a shrug, "Itís a mystery. You always hope thereís something out there. But if nothing else, it sure makes life interesting. "


Sep 2000, Cleveland Scene Magazine

Wild About Hairy 

Hot on the trail of Bigfoot in eastern Ohio.

By Laura Putre, Walter Novak

Don Keating beats a path for the beast in the bushes. This season, all the well-dressed Bigfoot hunters are wearing satin blouses, rhinestone hair clips, and the ultimate wilderness accessory: a purse-sized spray can of Bear Guard, sold by the case. For Peggy Stilman and her sister, Veronica Burchette, such timely attire tells the world: I want to find Sasquatch, and I want to look good doing it. In a remote bramble favored by 'coon hunters, they listen for the rustle of the wildman in the leaves. Sunlight catches on their costume jewelry, making it sparkle like nearby Locust Lake.

For 15 years, the pair have been part of a close-knit group tracking Bigfoot in the woods near tiny Newcomerstown, Ohio. Though the monster-mammal has thus far eluded them, a good time hasn't. "It keeps you young," murmurs Peggy, the shyer sister, her fluffy hair teased into a platinum-blond halo. "We'd rather go out and look for Bigfoot than to dance."

Joining them are Don Keating, president of the Eastern Ohio Bigfoot Conference, and Marc Dewerth, 31, a Jerry Lewis look-alike who once glimpsed Bigfoot from 75 yards away. "He was trying to intimidate the shit out of me," recalls Marc. He almost got it on video, except whenever he trained his camera on Bigfoot, it mysteriously wouldn't focus.

Only 15 percent of Americans believe in Bigfoot, says Don, a fact that doesn't faze him. Nor do the 1,800 hours of "field research" video he's shot -- about 1,799 hours and 59 minutes of which capture tree bark and chirping birds, the remainder featuring a centimeter-high "albino Bigfoot" that could be mistaken for a strand of hair on the lens. No, the slippery nature of his prey just makes him look harder, under every rock and in every puddle reflection. "You can get very frustrated in this field," he sighs. "You're relying a lot on dumb luck." The 37-year-old stereo assembler has pursued Bigfoot since 1985, when he went to the Tuscarawas County Library to borrow a book on UFOs. He'd been planning to start a UFO club. But the Bigfoot book, Sasquatch, the Apes Among Us, had better pictures. So he decided to start a Bigfoot club instead. By then, Bigfoot was already a passť trend, his popularity peaking in 1976 with the seminal film The Legend of Boggy Creek, starring Smokey Crabtree. So Don had modest expectations for the club's first meeting -- maybe 15 people. But 30 came, most hailing from what paranormal insiders call "The Sasquatch Triangle" -- Guernsey, Coshocton, and Tuscarawas counties. Don's documented 228 Bigfoot sightings there, not counting "the teenage kids that ride down my street, making strange guttural noises out the car window." The meetings mushroomed into the Annual Bigfoot Conference, which Don calls "the biggest event on the face of the earth, as far as Bigfoot is concerned." This year, 225 people attended, sucking on Bigfoot suckers and seeing paw prints in the dented grass. They stayed in Newcomerstown hotels and ate Newcomerstown food.

Yet to the ungrateful leaders of Newcomerstown (population 4,012), Don is still just a balding guy who lives in his grandpa's basement. The police chief, mayor, and editor of the Newcomerstown News won't discuss him, creating a wall of silence that only a guy in a monkey suit, real or imagined, could knock down. Which is a real shame. "Newcomerstown's the hometown of Woody Hayes, the temperamental Ohio State football coach," Don laments. "They could also be known as the Eastern Ohio Capital of Bigfoot, but they just don't want to take the ball and run with it. Which is fine with me." Accounts of local sightings, transcribed in Don's "Monthly Bigfoot Report," include descriptions of a red-eyed Bigfoot eating a cow, a happy Bigfoot watching children on a swingset, and a preoccupied Bigfoot hurrying down an ATV trail.

Veronica says her five children think she's nuts. "'Specially my 36-year-old. They think Don's a lunatic. But they've never met him. "Veronica and Peggy grew up during simpler times. "Our dad raised us to believe in UFOs and everything." A hydraulic engineer who worked on the first X-16 rocket, "He was way before his time. He believed that we were brought here from another planet. So there's really nothing we wouldn't believe." Well, maybe one thing. Veronica doesn't believe in alien abduction. "I think it's too scary." But she and Peggy are firm believers in the Bigfoot-UFO connection. The sisters aren't sure what the Bigfoot-UFO connection is, exactly. Maybe Bigfoot gets dropped off on earth by UFOs, or maybe he just has a computer chip implanted in his brain that reports back to the aliens. All they know is that "people tell me [that] when they see Bigfoot, a while later there will be a UFO," says Peggy.

Don believes in aliens, having seen a UFO while scanning the skies for the space station Mir. But he doubts the Bigfoot-UFO connection. Marc is skeptical of aliens, but entertains the possibility that "flesh-and-blood creatures," like the Loch Ness Monster and Yeti -- the Abominable Snowman, could be out there. To show that there's no hard feelings between dissenting Bigfoot schools,

Peggy presented Don with an eight-foot-high Bigfoot she made out of plywood. "It was a birthday present," she beams, passing around a picture of a blond-bearded man dwarfed by the beatifically grinning likeness of the man-beast. Don keeps the giant craft in the closet, unwilling to award it a place of honor in his Bigfoot shrine, which includes the wall of research tapes, photos of him posing with various Bigfoot experts, and three Bigfoot watercolors. He's proudest, though, of the plaster of paris cast he made of Bigfoot's foot. Large as a prize watermelon, its five toes are numbered. Some researchers claim Bigfoot only has three toes. Don knows the real Bigfoot has five. "If you look at [the tracks] real close, you can see the other two digits," he says.


Published Thursday, January 18, 2001, in the Akron Beacon Journal.

Bigfoot enthusiast is true believer

The first phone call was to determine if he was crazy. How else to enter a conversation with a Teamster who claims to have a tape of a talking Bigfoot? So we chatted for a while, and he told me some of his story. I decided that Rich LaMonica is probably not crazy. Just to be sure, I asked him if he is crazy and he said he is not. I believed him. So we met for coffee. He was waiting in the lobby of the Country Kitchen, a slight man, 47 years old with blond hair past his shoulders, a beard and pale blue eyes, holding a dog-eared package containing a big plaster footprint under one arm and a briefcase full of books under the other. We got a table and almost immediately we were knee-deep into the story that, in many ways, has changed the life of this man from Firestone Park. The story of how, driving his truck late one night in 1988 down a Guernsey County back road, he caught a figure in his headlights disappearing into the woods, a creature covered in fur, broad-shouldered and definitely not human. And how four years later, he discovered an organization of Bigfoot enthusiasts and told them his story, which, being Bigfoot enthusiasts, they embraced. And how he began returning to the place where he'd seen the thing, and how one night he heard something outside his tent that turned his blood cold, a rising wail that set dogs to barking far off in the distance. And finally how, in 1994, he went back again with a voice-activated tape recorder and sometime in the night captured the few seconds of sound that he believes is the world's only recording of a speaking Bigfoot. You can hear it for yourself on LaMonica's Web site, http://www.geocities.com/ResearchTriangle/System/6591. I've listened to it. It's about three seconds of gibberish, distinct, but totally indecipherable, not unlike the rushed garble of those backward-masked subliminal messages on loopy '70s albums. Mostly, I had the same first impression that many other people (including LaMonica) have had: It sounds a lot like Yogi Bear. The sound, which LaMonica has translated phonetically to ``Etoobessielaysentoolsmit (pause) init,'' could be something. That's the best I can offer.

And having met LaMonica and listened to his story, I can't make myself believe that he's the kind of person who would be lying. He's earnest and self-educated, and, frankly (and with all due respect to truck drivers and Bigfoot enthusiasts) far more eloquent than I might have expected. He has had the tape analyzed by two professors in Kent State University's Speech Pathology and Audiology Department and by a sound engineer in Kansas. The verdict? It's in the tenor range, probably made by a creature about 6 feet tall with a large body and head. The engineer tried to duplicate the vocal tone with human subjects, but couldn't. LaMonica also played the tape for a man familiar with ancient Native American dialects. (Bigfoot experts believe the creature may have had contact with Indians.) The man said the passage could translate either to ``We are watching'' or ``We are being watched.'' If, at this point, you're trying to figure Rich LaMonica out, you should know that long before he spotted the figure on the roadside in 1988, he had an avid interest in Bigfoot, dating to his childhood. He's the kind of person who wanted to see what he saw, and wanted to hear what he heard. He is used to being doubted. It goes with the territory. He's looked for other explanations himself, but has found none. ``I am totally convinced at this juncture that what I have on this tape is nothing but articulated speech,'' he says, ``and I can't imagine it could be anything else -- Yogi Bear notwithstanding. I want to believe that the world is not totally explored. Not only do I want to believe that, I believe it.''


Special note about the below article:

The author mentions the Ohio/Pennsylvania Bigfoot Research group, but has added colorful content to our credit that we have never claimed: "Pennsylvania reports collected by the group have ranged from vocalizations described as howls or shrill screams to foul odors to sightings of family groups of bigfoots pursuing deer together. Feelings of being watched or being circled by something are common among the reports." We have never received reports of Bigfoots pursuing deer together (we would have trouble believing that anyway) and being circled or feelings of being watched in not a common thread in our reports. The author must have gotten us confused with someone else, and certainly never spoke with us. As a side note: we have received several hoax reports near the Harrisburg area and absolutely no reports from the Michaux State Forest.

Oh/Pa Bigfoot Research Group

The Patriot News, Harrisburg, PA www.pennlive.com

'The Cryptid Files'

Nature authorities debate reports of sightings in state of creatures such as mountain lions, bigfoot

Monday, October 08, 2001

By Marcus Schneck
For The Patriot-News

As "The X Files" told us, "The truth is out there." Whose truth and how definitively that truth can be proven are the real questions. And when it comes to the "there," Pennsylvania seems a prime candidate. Mountain lions in Michaux State Forest and Stony Creek Valley, bigfoot roaming Cumberland County, piranha in the Susquehanna: the Keystone State is a smorgasbord of fodder for the investigators known as cryptozoologists. Cryptozoology is the study of legendary animals to evaluate the possibility of their existence. The animals that are the focus of this area of investigation are known as cryptids, and for Pennsylvania the one most likely to have a foundation in fact appears to be the mountain lion.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission records the large felines -- at least all the native cats -- as gone from the state by the end of the 1800s, but an average of about 70 mountain lion reports have surfaced in Pennsylvania each year since 1983. Many of the reports come from the all-volunteer Eastern Puma Research Network. 

Mike Baker, a forest technician of 10 years with Michaux State Forest, and two summer interns were the sources for one of the Research Network's most recent Pennsylvania reports. Cresting a hill on state Route 233, in a remote area about eight miles north of the state forest office along U.S. Route 30, early on Aug. 2, the trio spotted something about 100 yards ahead on the road. The creature appeared to be a turkey or a vulture, then perhaps a fox, recalled Baker, "but when it jumped up on the [embankment alongside the road], we all said, "That thing has a tail." In many of the mountain lion reports, the long and slender tail of the cat figures prominently. "It was bigger than a fox," he said, "but it wasn't a coyote. It was feline. The tail was obvious." The game commission stops short of insisting people such as Baker aren't seeing something, but "we don't believe there is any wild, breeding population of native mountain lions in Pennsylvania," commission press secretary Jerry Feaser said. "If they do see something that is actually a mountain lion, the main reason is that it was something kept either legally or illegally as a pet and then released illegally, or escaped."

Nature author Scott Weidensaul reports being "more skeptical" about cryptid sightings after the 21/2 years of work he recently completed for his next book, "The Ghost with Trembling Wings," which looks at cryptozoology as part of a larger investigation of the search for animals that existed at one time but haven't been recorded for many years. Noting that no mountain lions have been killed on the roads of the state, while species as rare in Pennsylvania as lynx have been killed on roads, Weidensaul feels any mountain lions living in Pennsylvania are "the ragtag remnants of escaped and released pets." "I'm fascinated by [cryptozoology] and I always will be, but the scientist in me says, 'Show me the body, the DNA evidence,'" he said.

Another mountain lion group, the Eastern Cougar Foundation, has documented a dozen incidents involving animals or animal parts, but none of those was in Pennsylvania and none answered the question of whether the cats were native. Weidensaul, who lives in Friedensburg, believes many reports of mountain lions are the result of mistaken identify with other animals. "I've seen dogs [in the wild] that I thought at first glance were cougars," he said.

What, if anything, those who report seeing bigfoot in Pennsylvania might be mistaking for the oversized, manlike or apelike creature covered with hair is anyone's guess. An archery hunter in Michaux State Forest last fall said he saw a family of three bigfoots pursuing deer, according to Mike Kusko, forest district manager. "It seems pretty shaky to me," said Kusko of the bigfoot report, but he noted on the subject of mountain lions he has "mixed feelings. There are too many sightings for there not to be anything out there, but at the same time there isn't any hard evidence."

More than 450 bigfoot reports have emerged in Pennsylvania and Ohio in the past 50 years, according to the Kent, Ohio, group, the Ohio-Pennsylvania Bigfoot Research Group. Investigating their first bigfoot sighting in Ohio in 1978, members have yet to find proof that a bigfoot is inhabiting that state or Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania reports collected by the group have ranged from vocalizations described as howls or shrill screams to foul odors to sightings of family groups of bigfoots pursuing deer together. Feelings of being watched or being circled by something are common among the reports.

Although reports of strange fish to the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission are much rarer than those of mountain lions and bigfoot, the agency this month investigated two fish resembling piranha pulled from the Ohio River. They were determined to be nonpredatory pacu, pets that a tropical fish enthusiast had released. A similar incident occurred in the Susquehanna River, near Fort Hunter, about five years ago. That, too, was a pet, probably discarded after it had grown too large for its owner's aquarium. "The 6-foot [muskellunge] that ate the poodle, that comes up every now and then," said Del Graff, director of the Bureau of Fisheries. But, mostly, "there just are no phantom fish." With its responsibility for reptiles and amphibians in the state, the commission also investigates dead pythons and other exotics dumped by owners after the pets have died. Such was the case with a 3-foot alligator found in the mud of the Susquehanna River about five years ago.

The state also seems to pop up regularly at the heart of several cryptozoological mysteries. Such is the case of the rumored photostatic copy of a long-gone photo of the thunderbird, described as a condorlike avian with a wingspan of 36 feet. The photo reportedly showed one of the huge birds dead and nailed to the side of a barn with six men standing in front of it, arms outstretched, to demonstrate the size. Legend holds that the photostat was last known to be in the hands of a couple of young men in 1966, as they ventured into northern Pennsylvania to investigate reports of thunderbird sightings.


Published Monday, October 29, 2001, in the Akron Beacon Journal.

Jeepers creepers, he's got his eyes out for creatures

Have you seen Bigfoot? This guy wants to know

BY PAULA SCHLEIS
Beacon Journal staff writer

When things go bump in the night, Richard La Monica is more likely to reach for a camera than a baseball bat. He would like nothing more than to have a picture of one of those elusive creatures featured on his Web site -- a collection of mysterious sightings in Ohio that span two centuries. A monster python in Peninsula. A Bigfoot in Minerva. A menacing frog in Loveland. This Halloween, you can have your werewolves and vampires -- they won't compare to Kenmore's Grassman or Lake Erie's Bessie. La Monica, who lives in Akron's Firestone Park, spends his spare time combing the Internet and local libraries for newspaper reports of people who tell of unnerving encounters with spooky species. A few dozen are mentioned on his site (www.geocities.com/saqatchr) and more than 100 are still waiting to be added ``It really surprised me to find so many interesting stories in Ohio,'' he said. ``You don't have to leave the state. It's a one-tank trip to a monster.''

La Monica doesn't take all the tales at face value. Reports of a werewolf in Defiance running around knocking people in the head with a stick bring a grin to his bearded face. ``That one's funny,'' he says. But make no mistake about it, La Monica is a believer. He believes the world harbors many undiscovered animals. He believes some of them are in Ohio. And he believes he saw Bigfoot in Guernsey County.

As La Monica talks about his hobby, his voice is soft but earnest -- someone who wasn't born to the spotlight, but whose enthusiasm refuses to be stifled. The 47-year-old truck driver's blond hair is gathered neatly into a ponytail -- a 6-inch gift he is growing for the Wigs for Kids program for chemotherapy patients. He admits his wife and two teen-age children share little of his passion for the unexplained. His own fascination has roots in the childhood tales his English grandparents told him of water monsters and fairies that inhabited Cornwall and Falmouth Bay. As a teen-ager, he became fascinated with Sasquatch and the Abominable Snowman. And as a young man working for the Alaska Department of Revenue, he heard a friend's tale of seeing a kushtaka -- a legendary Tlingit ``otterman.'' ``Well, of course, being in Alaska, I wanted to see one, too,'' La Monica said. His treks into the countryside that summer of 1974 didn't turn up any unusual animals, and in time his curiosity about such creatures subsided. And then, one night in 1988 as he was driving a produce truck through Guernsey County, he was stunned to see something he couldn't explain. A large dark figure running through the woods near the side of the road. ``It was faster than any man I had ever seen in the woods moving normally. It went through everything, not around it, including the briar bushes,'' La Monica said. La Monica shared that moment only with a few close friends, expecting he'd be ridiculed if he repeated his story to anyone else. But when one of those friends called his attention to a newspaper notice about an upcoming meeting of Bigfoot enthusiasts, La Monica took a chance. ``I was excited to have the opportunity to relate what I saw and not have people look at me like I was some kind of nut,'' he said. They not only didn't think he was a nut, but told him that there had been several strange sightings in Guernsey.

So La Monica launched his own research project, taking camping trips to the area where he saw the creature. In the years that followed, he made a cast of a 13 1/2-inch-long footprint he found in the woods, heard odd ``howl-screams'' in the night, and after reviewing a voice-activated recorder he kept at his campsite, discovered what he believes to be Bigfoot's speaking voice. La Monica was emboldened by his experiences, and in 1998 he revealed his beliefs to the world when he launched his Web site, where he shares details about his research and allows visitors to hear that recording he has dubbed ``The Talker.'' He also tells stories of other creature sightings in Ohio, which he is compiling in a book he hopes to release under the title CryptOhio. (Cryptozoology is the study of mysterious creatures.)

And for those who think Bigfoot is a hoax of gargantuan proportions, La Monica invites them to simply have fun with their imaginations. Visitors can submit fictional Bigfoot tales for his annual Halloween story contest. But to the unbeliever, La Monica is quick to offer evidence of just how much of our planet remains unexplored. For starters, he points to a Federal Aviation Administration report that says since World War II, 73 aircraft remain lost in the forests of the Pacific Northwest. ``Those planes aren't going anywhere, and they still can't find them,'' La Monica said. For himself, he makes no apologies for his own beliefs. ``I have to face the real world every day,'' La Monica says, ``but I'll never stop being fascinated with the mysterious.''


Cop recalls his bagging of Bigfoot

Iain Ashley has been in law enforcement just four years. But already, the 24-year-old Stevens County sheriff's deputy owns a claim to fame that will probably stick to him for the rest of his career.

He's the cop who caught Bigfoot.

Ashley, alas, won't get the book and movie deals one might expect from such an apprehension.

Maybe if it "had been something a little more paranormal," says the officer. "But I don't think Hollywood cares about a guy catching a kid in a monkey suit."

For purposes of sheer hilarity, however, Ashley's encounter with the unknown one night in June is priceless.

The lawman's shaggy suspect turned out to be a 15-year-old prankster who, with help from several buddies, was trying to further the Bigfoot myth by prowling the shoulder of Highway 395 near Loon Lake during the dead of night.

Who says kids don't have enough to do?

"It was the real deal gorilla suit," says Ashley, "with fake fur, gorilla gloves and everything. I think they told me they'd gotten it from a cousin."

The lads had apparently pulled this stunt a number of times throughout spring and early summer. Their hard work paid off, evoking a number of reports from mystified witnesses.

Ashley took one such report during the wee hours on Easter. He was filling his patrol car at a Loon Lake gas station when the driver of another car ran up and announced: "A gorilla just tried to jump on the hood of my car."

You don't hear something like that every day Ė even in Stevens County.

"I've had calls where people see things in the sky," says Ashley, adding that one UFO he investigated turned out to be the light on top of a rock crusher.

Ashley jumped into his cruiser. He roared off to the site of the alleged gorilla sighting. He thought he spotted movement in the brush about 300 yards away, but nothing worthy of an "X-Files" episode.

In the ensuing weeks, buzz about Bigfoot continued. Ashley was curious, but he never dreamed he'd crack the case.

That happened about 2 a.m. one morning as Ashley headed home. He turned a little corner near Granite Point. There in his headlights was a sight he will not soon forget: Bigfoot, swinging his arms and shambling along the other side of the highway.

Ashley made a U-turn. He switched on his light bar and chirped his siren.

"All of sudden Bigfoot started running away," says Ashley.

The deputy followed, soon realizing that this Sasquatch was not quite in the "Harry and the Hendersons" league. Bigfoot "started running up this hill and not doing very well. That kind of gave it away."

Ashley, closing in, hollered for whatever it was to stop. It did. A few moments later, the Loon Lake Ape Boy was unmasked.

Two of the lad's accomplices eventually stumbled sheepishly from the woods. They confessed to being Bigfoot's traffic spotters. They even had a campsite. Another young man was not so brave. He "took off running towards Pend Oreille County," says Ashley. "I don't know where he stopped."

Ashley asked why. "We just thought it would be funny," answered one.

Good point. Even so, they should have known better.

Stevens County has more armed yahoos than Iraq. And every one of them would sell his remaining teeth to be the dude who bagged Bigfoot.

There was no real crime committed. Until Congress passes the Bigfoot Identity Theft bill, our hands are tied. So Ashley called for a state trooper who took the boys back home to Spokane Valley.

Because they are juveniles, Ashley would not release their names. Hopefully they will read this and give me a call. The public has a right to hear Bigfoot's side of the story.

It's not like they have anything to be ashamed about. In fact, Ashley says the bogus Bigfoot asked him for a critique of his performance. "You were very convincing," Ashley told him. "Other than the fact that you're 5-foot-8 and don't run very fast."

Special Note concerning above article: This is kind of event is suspected to be very common, it is just this time the hoaxer was caught, and a news article was written about it. It is can never be doubted that there is a never ending supply of people who will try just about anything to pull a hoax. While at a party with friends, the Bigfoot subject came up and one guy mentioned he and his friends used to dress up in a monkey suit and wait along side roads around the Akron, Ohio area. They would keep checking the police blotter and newspapers to see if someone reported them. I promptly suggested they never do that in many rural areas or they will most likely get shot at.  

 

 

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