Posted by: Craig Woolheater on January 2nd, 2012
Cliff posted his behind the scenes views for the latest episode of Animal Planet’s Finding Bigfoot entitled “Baby Bigfoot?” on his website.
Baby Bigfoot (New York)
When I heard that we were going to do an episode in New York, I immediately assumed we’d be up in the Adirondacks, probably near White Hall, NY. Much to my surprise, we were to be further to the south in the Catskill Mountains. There are fewer reports from this area, but that doesn’t necessarily mean there are few sasquatches. It could be that the bigfoots that are living in the Catskills are a bit more wary than their northern cousins, or even that there are areas in the Catskills where fewer people go. After all, you need both a bigfoot and a human in order to have a bigfoot encounter. Either way, I loved the idea of breaking new ground and doing my first expedition in this part of the state.
Our first stop was to do a recreation of the famous New York Baby Footage, taken by Doug Pridgen back on May 23, 1997. The footage shows Doug and his buddies around a campfire goofing around, but in the background one can make out an upright, bipedal figure moving along the base of a tree. At one point, a small ape jumps off the shoulders of this figure and makes its way up into the branches of the tree and swings around in a very dexterous manner. Its movements are undeniably apish, and clearly outside the abilities of any human.
The New York Baby Footage from Steve Kulls’ Youtube page.
Steve was the original investigator of the footage.
The footage was obtained on accident as Doug filmed his friends around a fire at a music festival on a parcel of private land. It was Friday night and Doug and his friends took a remote campsite on the other side of a large pond. As more concert-goers arrived, the campsites on the close side of the pond filled up, but only one other group was camped on the far side where Doug and his friends had set up camp, and they were the property owners. When the footage was obtained, the property owners were not in their camp, but were on the other side of the lake enjoying the concert.
Doug Pridgen and the camera he used to obtain the New York Baby Footage.
This private land was once an extensive apple orchard, and when the footage was obtained there were still many apple trees on the property. When I was there, most of the trees had been cut down, but there were still survivors, some of which were bearing fruit.
It is clear that the footage shows some sort of ape, so I was eager to ask Doug about any strange pets that were observed at the festival. I was surprised to find out that no animals were allowed at the festival because apparently there was an incident the year before where a dog bit a concert-goer. People who were bringing dogs were turned away from entry (but a neighbor set up a kennel right down the road), as were folks who brought other pets. Doug remembered other people being turned away at the gate for bringing animals, most notably a parrot and an iguana. I asked if there was any way that someone could have sneaked a gibbon into the festival unnoticed for the duration of the weekend. Doug laughed and said that it was absolutely impossible that such a person would have gone unnoticed. Besides, it is illegal in New York to own an ape as a pet.
The camp area where Doug took the footage was still there, but unfortunately, the tree in the video had been cut down. There was a large pit where the tree once stood, so I took a measurement from that location to where Doug was standing when he took the footage. It was 48 yards away. We found a tree at that same distance that would be moderately easy to climb, so I took to the branches to play the part of the figure in the footage in hopes of shedding some light on what Doug filmed that evening. We filmed our recreation with the same camera that Doug used for the original. What we found was that I was utterly unable to even come close to replicating the movements of the creature, firmly establishing that it was not a person in a costume. The figure also turned out to be much smaller than I am. It is clear that whatever it is that Doug captured on video is an ape, and based on the context, I am leaning towards it being a juvenile sasquatch.
Cliff Barackman in a tree trying to replicate the apish movements seen in the New York Baby Footage.
Since it seemed possible that Doug had filmed a bigfoot swinging around in a tree, and seeing just how much food there still was at that location, it made a lot of sense to do a night investigation there. The remaining apple trees were bearing fruit, there were numerous deer lays and tracks, geese and ducks could be seen and heard flocking around the lake, frogs and fish were clearly in abundance, and worms were wiggling in the puddles of the recent rains. That’s not even to mention the numerous species of edible plants growing in the thickly tangled meadows. There was a ton of food here. Besides, I’ve observed again and again that where sasquatches go once, they very often go again. Food, water, and cover are basically what sasquatches need, and this spot had it all.
For the night investigation, Bobo and I headed towards the woods, but stayed in the meadow near the tree line. The vegetation in the meadow was often over six feet in height, well over my head, and nasty, thorny vines wound their way through it at all levels making it impassable in many areas. We found that it was particularly thick near the tree line, but there were a few animal trails that snaked through it at strategic points. Another interesting discovery was that the apple trees that were nearest the forest were practically stripped bear up the the 12 foot level, while the trees further away from the tree line still had many apples left on them. I speculated that creatures in the forest would forage on the apple trees closest to the tree line in order to remain close to cover. Several apple trees we encountered seemed to confirm this.
At one point while Bobo and I were puzzling over how to proceed through the thicket of brambles, we heard two clear knocks coming from the woods. I would guess they came from about 75 or 100 yards away, but this is uncertain. (The sounds in the show are in fact the real knocks, by the way.) They were very loud and crisp, and in my opinion were obviously made by a bigfoot.
Bobo and I headed into the wood line to see if we could catch a glimpse of the sasquatch on the thermal imager. We found that the woods offered much easier traveling than the meadow, and in fact an old road snaked parallel to the meadow, putting any prowling bigfoot in a very strategically advantageous position of being able to see into the meadow without revealing its location. It would also be able to quickly and quietly escape deeper into the woods. We found an area where it appeared that something bipedal recently made its way through some tall grass and headed into the deeper woods, and we did our best to follow the trail, which we soon lost.
The general vicinity of the New York Baby Footage. Large, tangled meadows are surrounded by thick woodlands. The area is crawling with food.
As we made our way through the woods, we noticed a prevalence of worms squirming about in shallow puddles left from recent rains. Worms are a very nutritious and plentiful food supply for any animal willing to take advantage of their presence, and certainly bigfoots would utilize this food supply. An investigator in Ohio told me that he found a place where it appeared that a bigfoot was probing a muddy area with a stick to forage on worms, which were plentiful in that area. I’m guessing that the saquatches in this area would use worms as a nutritional source as well, and were probably doing so right now. I do not think an animal with the caloric requirements of a sasquatch would turn down a yummy food source like worms, especially when they were in abundance as they were.
Seeing the sheer number of worms in this area made me curious about the nutritional value of this obvious food supply. Just as a guess, I would say that there was, on average, a little less than one worm lying around per square foot of forest floor. After a little additional research, I found that the dry weight of a night crawler is a little less than one gram. There are approximately 3.75 food calories per gram of food, which would mean that (on a rough average) each square foot of forest would provide between two and three calories of food value. It doesn’t take any fancy math to figure out that there are literally thousands of free calories lying around the forest floor in this area after a good rain.
One of the highlights of filming this episode was visiting the Beardsley Zoo. Gregg Dancho, executive director of the zoo, was kind enough to give us some time from his busy schedule. Gregg spoke to us about primate behavior, and I talked to him about these behaviors being observed in sasquatch encounters. He was very open minded, and was well aware of how much wild land there was in the eastern United States in which sasquatches could hide. He said that it wouldn’t surprise him at all if sasquatches were real creatures, and was very interested in hearing about the data that supports their existence. When we showed him the New York Baby Footage, he was very impressed. He clearly stated that it was obviously an ape in the tree, and went on to reflect about how owning apes as pets is not only illegal, it’s a really bad idea due to their strength, cost, and rarity. After hearing about how the footage was obtained at a music festival near the Catskills, he found it very unlikely that it was a pet ape being let loose for a jaunt in the trees. He noted that if you just let an ape loose to swing around like that, it would be very unlikely to voluntarily come back to you.
Our sighting investigations that came from the town hall meetings were fairly ordinary. I looked into Robert’s encounter where he and his girlfriend had several antagonistic bigfoots throw stuff at his tent all night. What didn’t make the show was that he heard branches breaking for over an hour from the top of the ridge where his tent was. The next day at dawn, being very eager to leave the area of his frightening encounter, he treked up hill towards the trail on the ridge top. On the way up, and still not on the trail, he encountered a bedding area made of pine tree boughs laid on top of each other. The boughs had all been very freshly broken, and he was positive that they had been the source of the branch breaking he heard the night before.
Bobo signing a young fan’s shirt at the New York town hall meeting.
When Bobo and Matt went to investigate Bobby’s sighting of a bigfoot from his vehicle, there are two interesting things to note. First, this encounter happened just a few hundred yards away from where the man in the town hall meeting found and photographed the snow tracks that he brought to the meeting. The second interesting thing about it is that the trash bag that the bigfoot was looking at had a Captain Crunch box sticking out of it. I always wondered what a bigfoot might prefer for breakfast…
The last night investigation fulfilled a long-term dream of Bobo’s. For years, Bobo has been dreaming of taking a live primate out into the woods to attact bigfoots. Once upon a time, Bobo claimed to have had a line on the illegal importation of howler monkeys into the United States. (Perhaps his source was from his Central American friend who was training a monkey army to defend his property?) Well, by now, Bobo’s howler monkey connection has faded away into goodness-knows-where, and we thought so had the possibility of living this dream. Well, we managed to obtain a live baboon to bring to the woods to vocalize for us in hopes of attracting a bigfoot to us.
Boon Boon the baboon.
Bobo, always drawn immediately to animals of all sorts, nick named the creature, “Boon Boon” in honor of his lost love, “Bun Bun” the Bunny from Molalla, OR. Boon Boon was visibly nervous to be there, but his trainer was constantly at her side to calm the baboon down. Boon Boon made many horribly marvelous shrieks that carried for some distance, and as an added bonus, banged her cage loudly.
I think Boon Boon might have helped us that night because we were lucky enough to get five long howls recorded. When I heard the howls, I immediately knew they were not from a person. No trails were in the area where the howls originated, and the vegetation was far to thick to go off trail. They were clearly not a coyote call, either. The sound just wasn’t even close to the thousands of coyotes I’ve heard over the years. Trying to eliminate other possibilities, I considered that maybe they were from a wolf. Further research showed that wolves have long been extinct from New York. The volume, power, and timbre of the calls, as well as the bigfoot history of this particular area leaves me with the conclusion that they were most likely from a sasquatch.
The weather drove us out of the area that night as an amazing lightning storm swept the area. New York had been very good to us, and none of us were disappointed. The New York Baby Footage was clearly an ape, and quite possibly a juvenile sasquatch based on context alone. We got amazing knocks from the site of the footage indicating that bigfoots apparently still frequent that area. We established that there was more than enough food and cover to support and hide a small population of sasquatches. We contacted and had an enlightening conversation with the curator of a respected zoo, thus bringing some academic attention to the existence of bigfoots, and on our last night investigation, we recorded five unidentified howls that fit the bill for being from a sasquatch. New York was one of the best expeditions we have had to date. Our work certainly paid off.