Does Bigfoot live in the Adirondacks? Or is he just here for a vacation?
While discussions about Bigfoot can seem rather recent in our United States history, Native Americans have talked about Sasquatch for hundreds of years. Often considered a West Coast phenomenon, sightings have also appeared all over the Adirondacks, from Saranac Lake in the north to a famous sighting in Whitehall, in the southern foothills. If this is indeed a myth, it is a remarkably durable one.
According to legend, Bigfoot is a giant anthropoid ape-like creature, very hairy, and very smelly. This could explain the report of a highly pungent, neglected-human smell in a wilderness area near Moody Pond.
In fact, in Florida, Bigfoot is known as a skunk ape. The first time I went to college, it was in Florida, and many of my classmates lived cheaply in the nearby trailer park in the Green Swamp. When I went to a party there, I discovered that most of the local residents had a skunk ape story.
One woman was washing dishes when she looked up through her kitchen window. She found herself staring into a hairy surprised face only a foot from her own. Apparently it was a comedic moment where both of them screamed and the skunk ape ran away. As a typical trailer configuration, her home was mounted on cement blocks. For this intruder to be face-to-face with her he was at least eight feet tall.
Remote places seem to breed Bigfoot tales, since they are considered close kin to the Abominable Snowmen, or Yeti, of the Himalayan region of Nepal and Tibet. And in the late 1950s, permits were issued to US expeditions climbing the high mountains that detailed proper Yeti handling.
According to Embassy Counselor Ernest Fisk, writing on November 30, 1959, all expeditions must first buy a permit. Secondly, the group was cautioned that the beast could be either photographed or taken alive, but "it must not be killed or shot at except in an emergency arising out of self defense." Thirdly, any such discoveries indicating the existence of the Abominable Snowman had to be cleared through the Nepalese government. It would have been a public relations bonanza. If it had ever occurred.
The Northern Sasquatch Research Society has collected more than 200 eyewitness accounts of encounters. Some of them are seemingly simple, like the reports of rocks being thrown at people. Longtime Sasquatch investigator Bill Brann tells the story of man who thought the splashing and thunking were from a beaver in the water, until the rocks started hitting very close to where he was standing. They were the size of a basketball. One struck the man's vehicle, but the story did not detail the possible reactions of the insurance adjuster.
My husband remembers a story from when he was a young child, spending summers in Saranac Lake. From the adults talking about it, and a memory of its coverage on the local news, he recalls that a woman was driving in a remote area. She stopped because it looked like a bear was lying in the middle of the road. She got out of her car to investigate the motionless figure.
But as she approached she realized two important things. It wasn't a bear. And it had woken up.
She raced it back to her car and got in, but the creature pulled the door off. But at that point another car appeared and frightened it away. I have not found any accounts of this, but it would've taken place in the early 1960s, before such things were exhaustively catalogued on the Internet.
Another local story is told by an adult and it happened in the summer of 1996. A group of friends were camping in the Pine Pond area, at the base of Mt. Ampersand. As dusk fell they were fishing from a canoe. The two were chatting and the witness was scanning the northern bank of the lake, a place they were familiar with... except for a strange shape on the edge of the wood line, 50 yards away.
When it was pointed out, the friend immediately saw it, too. Both recalled later that it reminded them of a black bear standing broadside. They began to row cautiously toward it. The friend whispered "it's a bear" but then the shape stood up, revealing that it "had been crouching there on its feet like a catcher from a baseball team." Now that it was upright, it looked at least seven feet tall with dark brown hair, with a face that was fleshy around the upper cheeks. Dark eyes were clearly visible and "had a brightness about them." Both agreed they saw the creature moving its head and hands and that it looked at them for long seconds, maybe as long as ten seconds, with its head tilted up as though sniffing the air.
The sound of snapping twigs some fifty feet behind it made the creature spring into action. It turned to its side, then checked on the canoe before spinning completely around, "darting into the wood line like a cat."
The two friends floated in the canoe debating on the wisdom of paddling to shore to look for tracks. The witness's wishes to get away were overridden by the curiosity of their companion, but upon investigation they did found two markings in the sand, rather blurred from the pivoting movements of its feet.
The witness found the whole experience extremely upsetting, even though the creature did not act threatening, and every sound that night kept them awake. The people who did not have the experience claimed they saw a bear. "It was no bear."
This is the part I find most convincing. Over and over, such accounts from experienced campers, hikers, anglers, and hunters confirm the fact that while it might have looked something like a bear, it wasn't one. These experienced wilderness folks agree that their experience didn't sound like, walk like, or have a head like, a bear.
famous whitehall sightings
This is especially true of what is considered the most spectacular Adirondack sightings: the famous Whitehall events of the mid-seventies. This little town nestled in the foothills of the Adirondack Park has a local history of sightings that stretch back hundreds of years. According to "Monsters of New York: Mysterious Creatures in the Empire State," by Bruce G. Hallenbeck, the events began on August 24, 1976.
Teenagers Martin Paddock, Paul Gosselin, and Bart Kinney were in a field near Abair Road, just outside of town. As told to Bill Brann of The Northern Sasquatch Research Society, the three were driving in a truck when they saw a "large human form" standing on the side of the road. After turning around in an attempt to get a better look, loud squealing/screaming began.
As the figure began running toward them, Gosselin urged the driver to "get the hell out of here." Paddock did so, burning a measured fifty seven feet of rubber in the process. They went to the police to report the incident... only to be met with skepticism.
However, Gosselin's father, Wilfred, remembered hearing an eerie screaming in the area the previous year. He rounded up two other men and set off for Abair Road. The creature was still there.
Gosselin stated: "It scared me -- it scared me a lot. What really attracted me was the eyes on it, big red eyes. It just stood there. It didn't move... it was seven to eight feet tall, about 300 to 400 pounds, and it had thick, short, brown, coarse hair. On the head, longer hair."
Brian Kinney was certain about his sighting. "It was no bear, I know that. A bear doesn't walk like that."
Gosselin contributed a lot of detail to subsequent drawings, as seen above. Another sighting occurred that night, near where other law enforcement officials found nineteen-inch tracks near the Poultney River Bridge. Casts made from these tracks have dermal ridges, like fingerprints.
People don't come across Bigfoot in areas with lots of people, or in broad daylight. Glimpsed instead of seen, heard late at night or in the tricky dusk, and always mysterious, Bigfoot stories are excellent tales to tell around the campfire, deep in the woods.
And that's when we are most likely to... have an encounter.
Header Photo: Mysterious Kentucky. Whitehall Bigfoot photo: bigfootevidence.blogspot.com. Bartholomew photo from bigfootencounters.com. Yeti instructions from US News & World Report. All others by The Northern Sasquatch Research Society.