What was the Erickson Project all about? Was it legit? Were there really Bigfoots stalking a rural property in Kentucky? Some years ago, former blogger and Bigfoot researcher David Donlon wrote an intriguing report about the initial stages of the Erickson Project which was known back then as Kentucky project. He was part of the on-site investigation team from the BFRO. “Something was going on there, as some of the facts I will detail will show, but along with whatever really was going on, there was a lot to make one suspicious about the activities there too,” he wrote in his in-depth article.
This article combines three posts that were published on David Donlon’s now defunct Blogsquatcher website in 2007. It’s Donlon’s report about the prologue to Adrian Erickson’s Bigfoot research project which was known back then as Kentucky project. Donlon investigated the initial claims as a researcher for the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization (BFRO).
The text is reposted here with Donlon’s approval.
In June of 2005, Robert Jenkins (not his real name), says he saw something near the new fish pond he had built at the back of his property. It looked like an animal that shouldn’t have been there. It had gotten the attention of the two pit bulls he kept chained behind the old trailer home that sat at the crest of the hill. The dogs were whining and crouching submissively.
An ape walking on two legs
What Robert saw made him do a double take. “I thought maybe it was an ape, maybe escaped from a zoo or somebody’s pet that got out,” he said later. But he realized it was walking on two legs, and that it was bigger than any ape he’d ever seen. He watched it for a brief time, not willing to credit what he was seeing, and then walked the short distance next door to get his neighbor. Together they approached the pond and saw that the animal was still there. It was now clearly visible, only 50 feet away. It was standing upright, in front of a large oak tree. It had frozen in place when it saw the two men. The men stared at it, unbelieving, while the creature stared back at them. To make matters even more absurd, in the woods behind the creature they thought they could see a smaller one cavorting like a monkey. Robert had one shell in a shotgun he always kept near. He aimed high in the tree and fired. The animal did not move nor flinch.
“I wanted to scare him off. I didn’t think it was real at first. I thought it was a guy in a suit, but when I pulled the trigger and it didn’t move, I knew it couldn’t be a guy in a suit. I had just the one shell with me, and when I realized it had to be some kind of animal, I got to wanting a few more shells real bad.”
The BFRO gets involved
Robert turned and walked quickly back up toward the house. He looked back to see what the animal was doing, but it was gone. By this time his neighbor had withdrawn as well. Neither of them saw it leave, or where it went.
The gunshot had brought the rest of the two families out: Robert’s wife, Suzie (not her real name), and the neighbor’s wife, son and her son’s fiancee. Though they didn’t see the creature, they did hear something loud in the woods. These events were narrated by the neighbor’s soon-to-be daughter-in-law in an email submitted to the BFRO. The writer claimed that there had been evidence of something going on for some time, and then they “heard a gun shot, and then they came back up saying something is back there.” The creature was described as a bipedal creature with “long grey hair”, with a smaller one trailing behind it. The writer claimed that one of the witnesses went down to the woods shortly after the sighting and left a tape recorder. When he went to retrieve the recorder, “you could hear brush moving, then you hear grunting and growling.” The State Police were called, according to the writer, and a trooper arrived, though he said he thought that what they had heard was a hog.
The BFRO is an all-volunteer organization. They receive many reports and comments every week, and it takes a dedicated group of folks to weed through these to find the important and time sensitive information. When the email came in on June 23, an investigator saw it and immediately forwarded it to investigator Gary Potter (no, that’s not his real name either) who lived very near the sighting location. Gary lost no time in contacting the witness and he was able to be there at the sighting location the same night we got the email. Things don’t always work so fast, but this time everything went nearly perfectly.
A clear video
That first night on the scene, Gary heard the growling for himself. He also caught a strong scent of something akin to raw sewage with hair mixed in. He observed how the dogs, two pit bulls tied behind the house plus a mastiff Robert had tied at the front of the trailer home, reacted during this time. It was a fear reaction such as he’d never seen before, cowering, groveling and howling long, plaintive howls. Also, during his initial walk-through of the area, he found “large biped foot prints around the property owner’s pond” and “partial remains of catfish.” Gary knew that he either had a sophisticated hoax going on, or there was something very interesting happening. He leaned toward the latter interpretation of events. The reactions of the dogs seemed something that would be difficult, if not impossible, to hoax. And the witnesses seemed very credible. They were frightened. They had even called the sherif.
It was when Gary returned the next night that he got the real bombshell. Robert had taken a video of the creature, and he showed it to Gary. Gary was blown away by what he saw. At first he thought it was too good to be true. It was a clear close up shot of the creature crossing from right to left. The bigfoot filled the screen, without any artifacts from zooming-in (by comparison, the creature in the Patterson-Gimlin film fills only a fraction of the screen at full resolution). It was on the screen for at least twelve seconds. The video showed details of the legs, arms, hands, the left side of the face, it’s posture and gait – in short, this video, if authentic, was the most important video evidence ever gathered in the thirty-odd years since the Patterson-Gimlin film.
Gary was understandably excited.
But much of the rest of the BFRO was not. Many of the old hands there, not being on the scene themselves, found it too incredible for belief. This had simply never happened before, and all indications in the past were that it probably wouldn’t. How could one man in the Ohio River Valley, with no prior interest in bigfoot, do something that none of the “experts” had been able to do? Thus began a division in the ranks that persisted throughout the investigation. Unfortunately, the difficulties became personal and nasty, eventually leading to Gary’s resignation from the BFRO.
As it would turn out, there were good reasons that Robert was able to get that video – that is, if he didn’t hoax it. For one thing, he shot the video from inside the old trailer home. This had stood on the same spot as a storage shed for years. By now all the local fauna were well familiar with it and would have no reason to take any special notice of it. There had been no one living in it for a very long time. From within the trailer home, Robert was able to film down the hill, past the pond and into the woods, where there was a short space along a course clear of trees, between the path the creature took and the trailer. It was on this section of path that Robert filmed the bigfoot. And there were other reasons Robert was able to film the creature so easily, too, but we’ll get to these later.
Going back to that second day, when Gary saw the video for the first time, he knew he had something important. Robert and Suzie were very reluctant to let anyone else on the property because they didn’t want to lose their privacy to a media circus, but Gary negotiated with them to allow him to bring in two more BFRO investigators to view and “authenticate” the film, as much as anyone could. Basically, he wanted others to see and judge the film. He didn’t want to go forward on his own assessment alone. When Robert and Suzie finally assented, Gary chose to bring in Stewart Cosby (yeah, that’s not his name either) and myself. Of course both of us agreed without hesitation, and it was arranged that we’d arrive at Gary’s house in the Ohio River Valley the following Tuesday.
A weird bigfoot
There was a round of discussions about how we’d approach the opportunity to check out the sighting location. We thought we needed to be prepared to take pictures and look for physical evidence. We also planned to film our own re-creation so that we could see them side by side at some point and get a better sense of the size and proportions. But most of these plans were dashed when we actually met with the Robert. While he didn’t mind any of our plans, he had explicit instructions from Suzie that we weren’t to do anything involving film, video or audio tape. We could go down to the pond and look around, but that was it. But first we were going to look at the video.
I had built up my expectations on the flight out, and through all the talk about it the night before, certainly. There was no way any real video was going to measure up to all the things I could imagine based on what I’d heard. So perhaps it is no surprise that when I saw the video I was underwhelmed. The figure, clearly visible and clearly walking on two legs, was much more prosaic than I would have thought it would be. It was walking slowly, with exaggerated arm swings, without any apparent awareness that it was under observation. It appeared to be clean, meticulously so, as if it had been groomed. There were no patches of hair loss visible as you might expect in a wild animal, and like you can see on the Patterson/Gimlin film. The hair looked to be black with silver highlights, but these were possibly due to reflection from the sun.
If this was odd, then also its general demeanor ran against all expectations. There was no sense of an animal in fear of detection. It was either oblivious or totally unconcerned. Could a creature that spent its life hiding from man really pass so close to a house, within seventy five yards, with such ease of mind in broad daylight?
The best parts of the video were missing
There were also some things that bothered me about the video. It was only 6 ½ seconds long, for one thing. For another, the creature did not have any kind of buttocks. It also didn’t move its head so that it appeared in profile the entire time, and the head was enormous in comparison to the rest of the body. The arms also did not look as long as I expected them to. I was nearly convinced I was looking at a man in a poorly designed suit. It didn’t help that we had to watch on Robert’s grainy old television with a bad connection from the video camera. I would not have been able to “authenticate” that video on the basis of what I saw on it. I leaned toward hoax, possibly without Robert’s knowledge since he did seem very convincing. Yet the video came in a context, and the supporting evidence was strong, as you will see.
Gary was immediately concerned by what he saw that afternoon, though he didn’t say anything while we were there with Robert. He told us later that when he saw the video he knew something was wrong. There was a lot of it missing, and the missing part contained all the most exciting information, including a view of more of the face, the left hand, and the left foot (never visible in what we saw). He thought he’d initially seen about twice as much footage as we were seeing now. He was worried we’d think he was crazy for calling us out to see what was left of the film.
It sounded like a grizzly bear
And we might have, if we didn’t see so much else while we were there. We also had a chance to hear a very good audio tape with the aid of Gary’s Sony headphones. Both Stewart and I, with our experience in recording, were very impressed by the quality of the tape. We were each also visibly taken aback by the resonance of the sound, which indicated to us an animal of large size. We all agreed that we did not believe even the local bears, which we had been told were very rare, could have produced the sounds as we heard them. We thought perhaps a grizzly bear could have made the sounds. Obviously, there are no grizzlies in the Ohio River Valley, but this does not rule out the possibility of hoax. It might be simply a recording of real gorillas, for instance. But it had to be something with a very large chest cavity; the sound made that much plain.
But here too there were problems. The fidelity of the recording was superb, and it wasn’t something you could have gotten with an old boombox. Those have microphones designed to reject the noise the machine makes itself, and the loss of those frequencies has an impact on the sound you get out of it. The sound we heard on the tape had a deep and full bass response, such as you’d expect from a quality microphone, and there was no noise from the machine audible. Yet Robert insisted that the tape had been made with a standard tape recorder, the brand-name of which he could not recall. I asked to see this recorder, but he declined to get it out. “It’s put away,” he would say. In truth, he was besieged by requests during this time, and he didn’t seem to think the audio tape was as important as the video and our opinion on it. No matter how many times I tried to get him to show me the recorder, and I must’ve tried at least three separate times, he always declined to get it out. Perhaps he didn’t want to leave us unattended in his house while he searched for the recorder. Or perhaps he hadn’t told the whole story insofar as the tape is concerned.
After we viewed the video and heard the audio, we took a walk down to the pond. We were allowed to go to see the area, but couldn’t take a camera or any recording gear with us. Robert had dug out the pond himself with a backhoe. It was not very big around, but deep. To account for the drop off of the land (the backyard was part of a valley down to a creek and has a fairly steep grade) Robert had built up the back side of the pond, creating a kind of crater-lip on that side, made of red mud. It was a very good surface for holding tracks.
We were excited to be checking out the location of the sighting. The first thing we looked at was the print, still visible at the edge of the water. Gary told Stewart and I that it had been under water when he first saw it, but now it was mostly dry. At first glance, it seemed less than impressive. The heel was missing, except for a very light scraping of the mud where you could make a guess about where it extended. But the toes were there and well defined. The mud had pressed up and made little caverns for each of the toes, which I though was pretty interesting. I crouched down to look inside. I could clearly see dermal ridges pressed into the mud around the toes. This was castable! I urged Robert to let us take a cast of the print, and since his wife had not expressly forbidden it, he thought that it would be alright, but he preferred that we do it and stow it away before she got home.
It could be a well-planned hoax
None of us had ever taken a cast before, but Stewart has had a long term interest in footprints and casts, so we elected him the official print-caster of our group. After only a little bit of protest, he got to work mixing the compound and pouring it in. While that was going on, Gary showed me some of the other things he’d seen earlier. There were still some fish remains at the pond, and Gary told me that he had seen a fish, uneaten, but covered with rocks, set aside near the top of the lip of the pond. I asked Robert to show me how high up on the tree he thought the head of the creature he shot at had come, and he indicated a point about five and a half feet up. I could see the mark on the tree from his shotgun blast.
All of these were bits of evidence that tended to confirm the story. But the case was not open and shut by any means. It could still be a well-planned hoax. I hoped that the footprint cast could give us some independent confirmation when it was examined by an expert. Surely the fact that the ball and toes were well defined, and that there were dermal ridges there clear to see, would be enough for someone with the requisite experience to say whether it was consistent with other suspected bigfoot casts.
A pile of bones
During this time, the neighboring property owner came over to talk about the sighting from the previous week. I asked him, out of earshot of Robert, how tall he thought the animal had been when he saw it beneath the tree by the pond. He said about 5 feet tall. This was pretty close to what Robert said. Since there was now some tension between Robert and the neighbors (having to do with Robert’s suspicion that the neighbor’s wife had been telling people about the sighting), I thought it was reasonable to assume they had not collaborated on their estimations. Both Robert and the neighbor did appear to pause and think, as if mentally measuring where the creature’s head had been against the tree, before they answered.
When Stewart had finished pouring the dental stone, he joined us at the edge of the woods. Our investigation in the woods behind the pond yielded a few good clues but nothing major. We found that down the hill a few yards there were multiple bones of various ages, some looking to be decades old. Most of them looked to be the shoulder or femur of a pig, or ham hocks. We were very surprised to find them there in a pile like that, but we knew this could not have been procured by the bigfoot and had to have been introduced by humans. We could not think why so many (we did not count them but there were easily two dozen or more there in one area) would be there.
When we mentioned it to Robert, he did not explain the bones until later. We also found a nearly complete skeleton of a deer in the same general area, but Robert told us this was probably a deer he had discarded the previous fall when it had begun rotting while he hung it. We also found where something apparently large had sat and eaten several fish. Adjacent to this was a small area that was dug up for no apparent reason. It almost looked as if something had been aimlessly digging and stirring around the dirt. There were also broken branches in the same area, but none of them very large. Altogether one couldn’t say that this was not the work of a bear, though we found no bear prints and no obvious scratch marks nor any other bear sign.
We had gone back behind the pond partly to look for bear sign in particular, but also any other sign that might indicate that the witnesses had been mistaken about what was taking their fish. While we saw sign of deer, coyote, raccoon, crayfish, and many insects, we did not find sign of any large predators known to take fish and leave them aside for a few days, as Gary had seen and Robert told us had happened on several other occasions. Bears are known to do this, but bears are not overly cautious about leaving signs of their passage. There ought to have been multiple footprints in the soft, wet, dirt around the pond, but instead there were only large human-like prints there, one of which was so good we had been able to cast it.
We returned from our foray into the woods with little to show for our intrepidity. We checked on the condition of the cast, which was still setting up. Robert then thought to invite us to come with him in his van to survey some nearby places he thought something large could be hiding and no one would necessarily see it. We agreed, and covered the print with loose clay to protect it, doing our best to hide it from prying eyes.
Our travels along the road were largely uneventful, except that we saw there was a sizable wildlife preserve with “no admittance” signs posted, very near the sighting location. (It later turned out that the signs we saw there were out of date, and there was really no preserve there anymore, but most of the locals thought it was still a posted area.) We also saw an abandoned building. Gary and I got out to investigate the building, while Stewart poked into the brush nearby, but aside from a strangely arranged deer spine, draped over a naked 2×4 in what turned out to be something like a very small old barn, there was nothing of interest in the area. But along the way, Robert let us in on some very interesting information he had just learned the previous night from Suzie. He said that she had been leaving food out for the creatures for years, and that she had learned to do this from her mother before her. Robert told us that she made pancakes for them, and that the ham hock bones we had seen were the remains of many previous meals, going back decades, that her mother had left out for them.
This was indeed a bombshell. While all of us were very surprised to learn this, we did think that it helped to explain what had been going on in the area. It is not ordinary for bigfoot to leave footprints where humans are likely to find them or to allow itself to be filmed. I don’t think bigfoot necessarily knows about cameras and film, it simply won’t get close enough for you to get a good view of it by any means. But here we’d had what appeared to us to be a young bigfoot, nonchalantly strolling in the open, leaving its prints for all to see, acting very strangely indeed so far as any of us could say. It didn’t fit the profile we had learned to expect over the years of research we relied on. But if that young bigfoot had grown up knowing the people in that house on the hill left food out for it, perhaps its behavior would be very different? This could account for Robert’s ease in filming it.
We returned to the property to extract the cast from the ground. At this point, the neighboring property owner called me over to reassure his wife that the creatures would not hurt her or her family. I had briefly discussed this with him earlier when he came over to the pond while Stewart was making the cast. I told the neighbor that bigfoot will commonly retreat rather than confront humans. When they do confront humans, it is usually with various forms of intimidation tactics. If the people withdrew immediately, they would be left alone. I also said that if the neighbor wanted to make sure the creatures would not come onto his property, he needed only install some motion activated lights. The neighbor said that what I had told him had greatly eased his mind and that he wanted his wife to hear the same information. She did seem to take comfort from what I told her. However, Gary and Robert later said that she had heard much the same from Gary the week before, and had reacted in much the same way to him. They thought she had merely wanted an opportunity to tell us that she had not been telling the neighbors about the bigfoot sighting. The tensions between the neighbors was still very evident.
While I was there, I did learn that the neighboring property owner had been with Robert while he filmed the bigfoot. Gary had not known this. Robert had told him that nobody else knew about the video, but now we knew the neighbors certainly did. This caused some concern, as Robert had been insisting that the neighbor’s wife was the local gossip. According to him, she told everyone whatever she learned. If this was the case, we saw no way we could keep the existence of the video a secret for very long.
Because of this, we discussed whether Robert should tell the neighbors that we had considered the evidence inconclusive, and could not rule out a fake with respect to the video. This was in fact the state of things, seen from a certain perspective. We had not at that point seen how the cast would come out. We had not seen the video on a better screen. We could not say that the associated events of the previous week were in fact related to bigfoot. He need not mention that we did believe that the evidence pointed strongly toward a conclusion that at least one bigfoot animal was using the nearby area as a rather regular feeding area.
Discussing the evidence
Gary, Stewart, and I left the property at this time, around 3pm, to eat dinner. We planned to call Robert and Suzie again at around 6pm. We would ask if Suzie would let us come back out to talk to her at that point. We had been given to expect that she would reject this request, but Gary thought that we could get her to agree if we approached her right.
During our dinner we discussed the video and the other bits of supporting evidence. Gary told us at this time that he was pretty sure the video had been shortened. He knew that the video he had seen before was longer, and began with the creature coming out from behind a tree. The video we saw does not begin this way. Gary speculated that as much as 10 seconds might have been removed, but he was sure at least as much as was left had been, or about 5 seconds at minimum. He said that the missing part had contained much of the most interesting content. The hand had been distinctly visible, for instance, and he believes there was at least some brief time when one or both feet were visible. We discussed whether we believed the missing parts had been erased, or whether Robert had actually made a copy with parts removed, to protect himself should something happen with this video (i.e., if we were to somehow get it from him). We thought this was unlikely.
We also discussed whether or not the audio tape began at the very beginning of the tape or not. If it had, this would suggest it was also a copy, for presumably, it would have been impossible for Robert to record the sound of the grunting and growling immediately. Or it might have suggested it was a fake. Greg’s memory of the tape he heard the first night was that Robert had to rewind, then fast forward, then rewind, to find the start of the interesting part. We were not sure about what we thought, as neither Stewart nor I were paying attention to that detail at the time, but we thought that we had rewound to the very beginning of the tape, without doing any searching for the sounds, when we wanted to hear them again. But we couldn’t now be sure. We had been too focused on what seemed to be remarkable audio of a large animal. But our suspicions were raised to a degree that either Robert was trying to protect the value of his tapes, or possibly that some of it was inauthentic. (Over time, with the addition of the other facts I’ve mentioned earlier about the quality of the recording, I came to strongly suspect that the audio tape had to be a fake, possibly simply a recording of a mountain gorilla feeding that Robert had gotten off the internet, but without having seen the original tape recorder, I can’t be sure.)
But against this were the supporting facts. For instance, there was the footprint, with visible dermal ridges, that was 5 feet across the ball of the foot, and somewhere near 12 feet long. It was larger than any of the people so far known to be involved. It could have been faked in some other way, perhaps, but if it had been, could the forgers have been sophisticated enough to know that the dimensions of the foot they created would support the size estimate of the creature they said they saw, as this cast actually did? (We used a formula we found in Chris Murphy’s Meet the Sasquatch to arrive at this conclusion.) Knowing the witnesses we felt this was unlikely. And what of the odor, sounds, and even the thrown rock that Gary told us he had experienced the first night he visited the location, while both Robert and Suzie were nearby? For this to have all turned out to be hoaxed, the perpetrators would have had to know an awful lot about the bigfoot phenomena, and have had accomplices. And the neighbors would almost certainly have to have been involved, because the BFRO would not have learned of the original sighting if it had not been for them. And if hoaxing were the case, what motive could Robert have had that did not include attempting to get money for his video, and if money were the motive, where was the best place to try to get that money? Why hadn’t he attempted to contact the BFRO? It seemed to us unlikely that these people could have pulled off a hoax without raising our suspicions about their truthfulness much more than they had.
Returning to the property
After we finished eating and talking, Gary made the call to Suzie. She wasn’t eager to let us come back to the property, but she did allow us to visit. We could talk to her and she would tell us, as Gary repeated to Stewart and I, “what she felt comfortable telling us.” We agreed to drive directly back to the property.
When we got there, Robert met us and we were introduced to Suzie. What followed, after Gary asked Suzie about her concerns, and discussed them with her, was a long conversation, at least thirty minutes, wherein Stewart and I tried to give Suzie the most reasonable arguments why she should release the evidence, at least to scientists, for the good of bigfoot all over. But she did not ever warm to this argument. It was clear from the beginning that she was taking the stance of being only interested in the welfare of the animals that she knew about.
Gary remained impartial for the most part while Stewart and I presented our arguments. Gary kept Suzie’s trust by making sure we understood her concerns, asking her to articulate them. He did not criticize them, though he did reinforce a point Stewart and I had made, which was that the location could not be guaranteed to be rural forever.
When it became obvious to him that she was not budging, he directed the conversation away from future considerations. We began talking about past events. Suzie was very interested in seeing the other images of suspected bigfoot animals that we had brought with us. She had likewise been very attentive while Robert’s video was shown several more times. She volunteered that she had often seen the creatures in silhouette when she was younger, sometimes very close to the house, but had never seen any of them clearly. She also spoke briefly about her habit of leaving food for the creatures. The only new information that she offered, however, is that she had once left them the better part of a pot roast. Robert reacted as if he had not known this and seemed somewhat annoyed. Suzie also told us that she never brought watermelon anymore because this was always left untouched.
Speaking of Robert, he appeared to be on our side throughout the conversation. He kept saying, “I’d like to be sure about what I saw.” While he spoke in Suzie’s presence, he made it seem as if his only interest was verification, but he had told us earlier that he was interested in seeing some profit from the video and audio if this could be done while keeping their location and anonymity safe. We thought therefore that Robert was allied to our cause, but we did not think that he would directly go against Suzie’s wishes.
Finally, it seemed that there was nothing more to say or do inside the house. Suzie was adamant, though she left some small hope that she might change her mind. But she could not make such a decision quickly, since she might, as she said, “regret it for the rest of my life.” Gary then asked her if she would let us stay to see what happened that night. With some evident reluctance, she agreed. At this point she got up to take the pancakes out to the feeding spot and told us she didn’t want us going any closer than the trailer home. We agreed to abide by her request.
Suzie took the pancakes down into the woods and disappeared from our view. She was gone at least five minutes, and probably more like ten. While she was away, the three investigators chatted with Robert and waited to see what would happen. We expected nothing more than to hear sounds which we might be able to associate with bigfoot activity, but we were all pretty excited. As it turned out, we did not hear anything at that time, except that the neighbor’s wife called over the fence to tell us that “that smell was back about ten minutes ago.”
When she came back, Suzie admitted that she was getting the food out later than she normally did. As it was just after 8:30pm when she made this admission, we can deduce that she had been bringing it out some time prior to 8:20pm, or thereabouts. She did not tell us exactly when she did it. We waited around perhaps 30 minutes more, but as it appeared that nothing was happening, Robert invited us to take a walk down the road with him. He appeared anxious to do something. He had told us that he hadn’t made up his mind yet what was going on. He thought the bigfoot he had seen could still be someone in a suit, but he was interested enough to want to do some more exploring, and he said all of our talk had brought him closer to believing it could be more than a guy in a suit after all. Since Suzie absolutely forbad us to go into the woods behind the house, Robert wanted to get away from there and find another area where we might have a chance to see one of the creatures. We agreed to go with him.
Gary and Stewart stopped at Stewart’s van to get out their night vision equipment – Gary’s a Russian made GenI occular, and Stewart’s a GenIII binocular – and we set off. We walked perhaps 150 yards down the road to the right of Robert’s property when he stopped and asked whether there were some way to call the bigfoot creatures in. I thought later that this was a curious question, but Gary said that he had told Robert about one of our techniques, woodknocking, and he thought Robert was trying to remember the word we used for it. In answer to his question, we told him about woodknocking and the fact that it is often answered in areas with bigfoot activity. Robert wanted to try it.
After perhaps ten seconds, he got an answer. The sound appeared to come from the area behind Robert’s house but we could not be certain of the distance. The sounds were strong enough to have been as close as that, but they could have been further if the sound had a corridor to our location that was relatively free of trees. In fact, this was the case as we were within the bounds of the telephone pole easement. But the sounds did appear to be coming from the direction of Robert’s house. After a few exchanges of knocks, we all walked up the road closer to Robert’s house. Robert tried making some more knocks closer to his house, but this time there was no response. Suzie came out of the house at this time but I didn’t talk to her. I heard from Gary later that she was staying inside because she was frightened by the bigfoot. This seems at odds with some facts later on, which we’ll touch on when we get to them. At any rate, it is important to point out that while we were hearing the answers to Robert’s sounds down the road, we did not know Suzie’s whereabouts, though it did appear she was inside.
“There it is! See it?”
We all still assumed that the bigfoot would be somewhere near the house, but we weren’t getting any activity. After some time, perhaps ten minutes, I suggested that the two with night vision stay near the house while Robert and I went back to the original place we’d first started knocking and try there again. Robert agreed to do it, though we’d have to go without any lights.
We got to within about ten feet of the spot when Robert stopped short and pointed at the tree line, saying, “There it is! Right there! See it?” At that point, he began to back pedal quickly and appeared to be about to turn and run. I saw that his eyes were wide with apparent fear. I don’t point this out to make Robert look especially fearful – in fact anyone would be afraid under the circumstances. That is the appropriate reaction. But it is another fact that falls in Robert’s favor. He did look frightened by what he thought he saw. If he was hoaxing us, he was continuing to do a masterful job.
So what did he see? I tried to look at the area Robert indicated, but my attention was drawn by a light colored stump which was visible in the moonlight. According to Robert later, this was about 8 feet to the right of, and significantly below, the top of the creature, which he saw as a silhouette of a head and shoulders, visible in a break in the trees where the starfield could be seen. We estimated the height of the creature, if Robert was accurate, would have been about 10 feet. So it appears that Robert thought he was seeing a very large bigfoot within several feet of us.
I caught the front of Robert’s shirt and said, “Don’t run, we’ll walk slowly backwards while I call to the others.” I made the call on the radio and Gary and Stewart started out for the location immediately. At about that point, or just before, while I was calling the others on the radio, I began to hear the sound of something moving away from nearby. I thought that it did sound heavy, and had a slow, deliberate tread. It did not sound like a deer, and sounded much too heavy to be a hopping rabbit. I thought it sounded bipedal. I also noticed an animal smell unlike anything I’d smelled before. While it did not smell like the classic bigfoot “stench,” there was a strong indication of urine in it, along with something like animal hair. But we later learned that the nearest house was having some trouble with its septic system, and the smell might have been from that source, or at least contaminated with that source. So perhaps I smelled nothing more than the neighbor’s overflowing septic tank. But I was sure I’d heard something large walking away, in no apparent hurry to go anywhere.
When Gary and Stewart arrived with their night vision, they went immediately into the area at a point where the barbed-wire fence had been pushed down (this appeared to have been done some time ago, not recently). Robert borrowed Gary’s flashlight and he too went into the area. I was wearing sandals at that time and waited on the road observing. Stewart rejoined me soon, as Robert’s flashlight was interfering with his night vision. Robert called out from inside the tree line that he saw some sign of something having lain in a certain area. He thought it had been something rather large. We decided to go back to Stewart’s van to get more lights so that we could thoroughly search the area there.
Armed with flashlights (and with me now re-shod and wearing more appropriate attire for bush work) we went back into the area where the large silhouette had been seen. We found several places where branches had been broken, but the branches had been dead some time and it was hard to tell just how old the breaks were. None of them looked weathered, so we thought they might have been made that night, but we could not be sure. There was a place right where Robert had seen the silhouette that was large enough for a 10 feet tall animal to stand and observe the road. It had the advantage of being behind a hemlock, which put out enough spindles to break up its outline, but which did not obscure much of the view of the road. The dirt in the area was too dry and packed to show prints, but it did look as if the area back there was receiving regular traffic, keeping the brush down. The place that Robert had thought was a location where something large had lain did not appear to have been used recently. In fact, the crushed vegetation there was of a sort that normally lays near the ground, and it may not have been crushed at all. It was very dry as well, and had something lain there recently we should have seen evidence of plant breakage which we did not observe. We walked back along the telephone easement looking for a track-way. There were tall grasses in the area, and other such vegetation, that would clearly show where we stepped. We did not find much evidence of something large moving through except along an arc between the location from which the silhouette had been seen and another location directly across from the telephone pole Robert had been woodknocking against. We did not regard the absence of a definite track-way in and out of the immediate area as evidence against the presence of a 10 feet bigfoot, because there was a slender deer trail it could have used until it got near the taller brush, which it might have simply stepped over.
We wanted to continue down the easement, but we were very near one of Robert’s neighbors whom he thought was quite likely to call the police if he observed us with our flashlights, so we called a halt at the line of thicker brush. We also mentioned to Robert at that time that we were probably still being watched if he had indeed seen a bigfoot. We did not think it likely to be dangerous, but if we got too near it, it might make noise, or cause us to. This would almost certainly wake the neighbors. With this in mind, we backed out of the area, albeit with some reluctance.
On our way back out we observed some areas with disturbed soil that struck us as odd. The soil was beaded, as from an ant mound, but there were no ants nor other insects in it. There were also large cracks in the earth in several places. We wondered if this could have been from something very heavy standing or moving in the area. (We had no explanation for either observance, and do not know whether they have anything to do with the other events of the night, but I mention them in the event they are connected and that becomes clear at a later time.)
We made our way out and back to Robert’s house. While there, we stood discussing what we had seen and heard. Robert said that, although he’d still entertained some doubts up until that night, they had been erased by his sighting of the large silhouette. Then, perhaps the strangest event of a very strange day occurred. Not long after we arrived back at Robert’s house, and while we were still talking, Robert’s dogs began to howl and whine. All three of them then laid down and groveled submissively. We could not see, hear, nor smell anything that would have caused this, except some faint brush popping back in the woods. The two dogs closest to the pond were looking past the pond into the wooded area. They howled and whined for a minute or so and then stopped as abruptly as they had begun. Because Suzie had asked us not to approach the pond, we did not move forward to investigate, but the thought did cross our minds that the timing was such that it would have coincided with something having been near the area of the telephone pole, leaving shortly after we left. This suggested that the animal had remained close enough to that area to observe us, giving credence to our earlier suspicions. And again, one would be hard pressed to figure out how Robert could have hoaxed this. He made no signal to the dogs that we could see, and one of the howling dogs was out of his sight in front of the trailer home.
The Kentucky project
Shortly after the dogs stopped yelping, as it was by now very late, we took our leave of Robert and drove back to Gary’s house. Though we hadn’t gotten any tangible evidence besides the very suggestive footprint cast out of it, the experience of that night left us feeling that this was a legitimate sighting location, with ongoing bigfoot activity.
As it turned out, that was the end of my active involvement at the site, but I did keep in touch with Gary for some time afterwards, even after he had left the BFRO. I learned a few things that I thought were interesting. Suzie described how she had spent a long time going out into the woods at night while the creatures were around. At first, they would make threatening noises until she left but at some point they stopped doing this. Though she never saw them, except as fleeting silhouettes, she was certain that they were coming near while she was there. I suppose she could hear their approach if nothing else. But if this is the case, why then did she hang back in the house that night saying that she was afraid of them? She told Gary at one point that she was sure the creatures were much more dangerous than we thought they were. I have a hard time reconciling that point of view with the behavior she described, and we actually saw – she would walk well out into the woods in pitch darkness to leave the food, and wait a few minutes before walking back.
Apparently, by Suzie’s account, our visit upset the animals, because Suzie told Gary that for three days afterward nothing touched the food she left for them, and that the plates were turned upside down on top of the food. But eventually she was forgiven and the animals began to take the food again. Later, Gary and others rigged up a night-vision camera and some infrared LEDs to shine down over the area where the creatures would take the pancakes. Using this technique another film was obtained. I’ve seen this film and I find it as ambiguous as the first film. Again, the creature’s head is very large, while the arms are much shorter than one would expect. The low light conditions make it impossible to see enough to verify whether this is indeed a bigfoot, perhaps a young one, taking the pancakes and eating them. If it is, then bigfoot do not look quite as I thought they would, given years of reports and the Patterson Gimlin film as a guide. Or at least that bigfoot doesn’t.
Then there was the possible discrepancy between the original report emailed to the BFRO and the creature we had seen on the video, which Robert maintained he believed was the same animal. The description in the email told of a bipedal creature with “long grey hair”, while the creature in the video appeared to have black hair with possible silver highlights. I would not have described the hair as “long” either. I also noted that Robert kept pointing to the screen saying, “look at the muscle movement there, right there”, while I couldn’t see any kind of muscle movement where he pointed, nor anywhere else. It struck me that the issue of apparent muscle movement was a fairly new concern among bigfoot researchers as it pertained to the Patterson/Gimlin film. It just seemed odd that Robert would hit on that particular point, stressing it like he did, only by coincidence. Yet he maintained that he’d had no interest in bigfoot, beyond hearing a story from a friend years ago. Add to these concerns the issues surrounding the audio we’d heard, and you have a lot of questions about what was really going on there.
I told Gary about my difficulty believing that the films were showing real creatures and not a guy in a suit, and he reminded me that we do not know what these things should look like. I think that was an excellent point to keep in mind. It’s the same mistake that the first scientists to view the Patterson Gimlin film made. They said the creature didn’t walk right for a female, and shouldn’t have had a sagittal crest, as this was a male trait. Actually, they were wrong on both counts. Human females walk they way they do because they need wider hips to allow the over-large heads of human babies to be born. But other animals do not have this requirement, including the other primates. If bigfoot is a primate, and we have good reason to suspect it, there is no requirement that it be born with an over-large head like humans are. And in the case of the sagittal crest, it is not a sexual characteristic, but a function of size. Primates that get large enough must develop a sagittal crest to accommodate the muscles for the very large jaws that go with a larger head. Perhaps in the same way, the films I’d seen tell us things we will later understand fit perfectly. At any rate, though I am no longer involved in the project, I am sure that we will hear much more about it in the near future.
It is unfortunate that personalities clashed in such a way as to hinder the investigation, because that did have consequences. As it stands now, the footprint cast, the only physical evidence to have come from the site to my knowledge, has never been examined by an expert.
In the end, though I have kept my suspicions about much of what happened, I was persuaded by the reaction of the dogs, which was so unlike anything I had ever seen before, that something was going on there. I have developed this theory — there was bigfoot activity at that location. I believe it’s probable a bigfoot was seen by the pond. Indeed, Gary told me later that he saw a face that “looked like an orangutan” through his night vision down by the pond a week or so after I was there. We did find evidence at the site, including the oddity of the pile of bones of various ages, which tended to support much of the story we were told. But my feeling is that the videos were not genuine. I think it’s plausible that Robert saw the possibility of making some money from the situation, and that he hastily filmed someone walking through the woods wearing a gorilla suit between the time the creature was sighted and the night he showed it to Gary. I don’t know how much time passed between those two events, but it was at least two days, and probably more. There was enough time to do it, as it would be a simple hoax after all. Just rent the suit and make the film, a few hours time at most. But that would have meant that the neighbor was involved, since he said to me that he’d been present when the film was obtained, and that would undercut the reliability of anything the neighbors had said.
And I was always bothered by the story Robert told about how he got the video. The way I remember it, he said he had been staying out in the trailer for hours just rewinding the tape over and over again when he got to the end of it. This doesn’t seem to fit with my memory of the story he told about why the video had been erased. He said that there had been some private video on the tape that he didn’t want anyone to see, and when he tried to erase that, he wound up erasing half the bigfoot video too. If he had really been rewinding that tape over and over again as he waited to get the video of the creature, shouldn’t he have already erased that private video once or twice? It didn’t occur to me to ask this question at the time, so I don’t know what explanation he would have had for it. I think that there would have been a plausible reason for Robert to have wanted to erase the portions he did erase if he were perpetrating a hoax. These had been the moments where the feet and other body parts not visible later in the film had been visible. When Gary first saw the video, he saw it on the tiny screen of the camera itself. It’s possible that when Robert saw the video on the television, he realized that these moments didn’t look realistic enough, so he erased them and concocted a story to cover for it.
So, in the end, we have a whole lot of intriguing possibilities, but no real answers. Right back where where we started, where we’ve always been.