On the Trail of Bigfoot

Exploring reports from the Pacific Northwest to the TriState

The author pauses by a pool in Area X during a
2009 outing with the NAWAC (nee TBRC) to          
check camera traps. 

When you say the word "Bigfoot" most people think of the Pacific Northwest (PNW). After all, that's the area where the phenomenon of big, hairy bipeds was given that particular name, after Californian Jerry Crew began finding large footprints around his road building equipment while constructing logging roads in the remote forests of his state. After taking casts of the prints, and going to the local newspaper with them, the name Bigfoot was coined and interest in the monster spread like wildfire. Soon northern California, Oregon and Washington would become ground zero for the quest to document the elusive creature. 

But Bigfoot sightings aren't restricted to the PNW. In fact, there are reports of ape like creatures from every state in the union, with the exception of Hawaii. This includes the Kentucky/Ohio/West Virginia TriState. Carter County has its own fair share of sighting reports spread across various organizations who collect such stories, and as recently as October of 2018 reports were coming in from neighboring counties like Elliott and Lawrence. Lawrence County, in fact, seems particularly active, with no fewer than 10 sightings documented there by the Bigfoot Field Research Organization (BFRO), the most recent October sighting taking place only 13 miles south of Grayson.

It seems that anywhere people go into the forests for work or recreation, a Bigfoot is likely to rear its head. But what exactly are people seeing? And why do they assume it's a giant ape man? 

These are the types of questions that Seth Breedlove explores in his new six part documentary series On the Trail of Bigfoot

This isn't Breedlove's first look at Bigfoot. His first foray into documentary filmmaking was a film on the Minerva Monster, a Bigfoot type creature reported from Minerva, Ohio, near where Breedlove grew up. His next two films, the Beast of Whitehall and Boggy Creek Monster looked at reports from Whitehall, New York and Fouke, Arkansas respectively. Another of his upcoming stand-alone films, Momo the Missouri Monster, looks at a rather peculiar series of sightings from that state in the early 1970s. While the second trilogy of films from his production company, Small Town Monsters, look at odd phenomenon across Appalachia, like Mothman and the Flatwoods Monster, he also discusses really strange Bigfoot sightings in conjunction with UFO reports in Invasion on Chestnut Ridge

So Bigfoot isn't a new phenomenon for Breedlove to explore. But by the time he went into making On the Trail Bigfoot, he said, he was fairly convinced there wasn't much to the phenomenon other than mistaken identity and hysteria. If he had to put percentages on it, he said, he was about "30 percent sure" the sightings might represent a real creature, while the other 70 percent of him was skeptical. That began to change over the course of filming this new series though.

A creek in Oklahoma's Area X. 
Breedlove's journey to document Bigfoot reports, and those individuals who spend their time studying and searching for the creature, started in the PNW, before taking him to Oklahoma's Ouachita Mountains and back to our own TriState. Along the way, he said, experiences like those in the Ouachita Mountains' Area X (documented in episode five of On the Trail of Bigfoot) began to chip away at his skepticism, making him more open to the possibility that there might be more to some of the sighting reports. 

At this point Breedlove's production company has made seven stand-alone documentary films on strange reports of monsters across the U.S. He's travelled far and wide and interviewed multiple witnesses. But the filmmaker had never experienced any phenomenon himself. Nothing like the stories he had collected from others that sparked his imagination. That all changed, though, inside Area X, the Oklahoma study area frequented by members of the North American Wood Ape Conservancy (NAWAC).

While filming inside X, he said, he heard unexplained, monkey like "whoops" and experienced the rock throwing that has been reported in many Bigfoot cases. 

"I had a terrible migraine," he explained. So he had gone to bed in his tent, hoping to sleep it off, when the excitement started. Because he was sleeping when the deluge of rocks and the vocalizations started, he didn't have a camera ready and wasn't able to get one going in time to document the short lived excitement of the evening. But it did excite him. 

It also gave him a better understanding of why folks like the southern Ohio group of amateur investigators, the Nightstalkers, who he goes out with in the final episode of the series, do what they do, he explained. 

It's the same reason that the Minerva Monster stories excited him as a kid. The same wonder and curiosity that has inspired each of his stand alone films. It's the thrill of a fun house scare and the wonder of the possibility that there is maybe something more than those plastic carnival monsters; there in the woods just beyond the safety of the carnivals and fairs. 

Breedlove's new series, On the Trail of Bigfoot, will be available in March. It will premiere as a six part series on Vimeo and other streaming platforms, while it will appear as two longer form documentaries on Amazon. 

The Kickstarter campaign for this new series, along with Breedlove's next two films, Terror in the Skies and Momo: The Missouri Monster, will kick off February 7, offering backers the opportunity to reserve their own DVD and digital distribution copies of the film, along with other backer rewards. 

For more information on Small Town Monsters and all of their films, check out www.smalltownmonsters.com, or find them on Kickstarter at www.kickstarter.com/profile/minervamonster/ and Facebook at www.facebook.com/smltownmonsters

You can hear my full interview with Small Town Monsters' producer Seth Breedlove on YouTube

(Originally published in the Winter 2019 edition of the Carter County Quarterly magazine. For more information, contact the author at jeremy@latetothegames.com.) 

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