Posted by: Craig Woolheater on February 13th, 2012
Cliff posted his behind the scenes views for the latest episode of Animal Planet’s Finding Bigfoot entitled “Virginia is for Bigfoot Lovers” on his website.
Even before going to Virginia, I knew the state had a lot of excellent bigfoot habitat. Between the various online databases, there are over 70 reported bigfoot sightings on record. It is my guess that less than one percent of sightings ever get reported to anyone, so that means there is probably quite a bit of activity in the area. I wanted to check it out for myself, firsthand.
The evidence that brought us to Virginia was a video obtained by a man named Chuck Newton. The video is called, “The Beast of Gum Hill” because of a nearby topographical landmark. It shows Chuck riding an ATV up a river bed when a dark, upright figure walks across the river a ways ahead of him. Chuck stops his ATV and points at it while looking back at the camera. In an authentically startled voice, Eric, the videographer, asks, “What was that?!” The two men immediately turned around and rode out of the area, according to the witness.
The original “Best of Gum Hill” video. Note that the word “wood booger” is in the YouTube title. Read on to find why this is interesting.
While our recreation indicated that the figure was smaller than Bobo, it is interesting to note that we could clearly see that Bobo was wearing clothing as he clumsily strode across the creek. His “Gone ‘Squatchin’” hat was also obvious. The figure in the film was uniformly colored from head to foot, with no visible skin on the hands nor face. Interestingly, Chuck told us that even though he couldn’t tell if it was hairy or not, he does remember that the figure was uniformly colored from head to toe.
On the ATV ride out to the site, we rode right by a deer hunter who was clothed in a camouflaged-colored gillie suit. It is at least possible that Chuck ran across a hunter who walked across the knee-deep creek. However, as I noted in the episode, I think it’s strange human behavior to not acknowledge the ATV riders with a friendly wave or a “hello.” That just isn’t what I find humans do out in the woods. Generally speaking, I find that people make some sort of contact, even if it’s just a nod, because out in the wilds, one never knows who might save someone’s life. I’ve stumbled across people in all sorts of dire circumstances while I was out bigfooting. Helping change tires, or even helping to drag cars out of snowdrifts isn’t exactly rare in the back woods. It’s always a good idea to at least wave to strangers out there. This figure did not even look at Chuck and his friend.
Chuck shared with us a story told to him by his friend’s grandfather about the Gum Hill area. Growing up, Chuck’s friend had been repeatedly warned by his grandfather to not walk the woods at night, or the “wood booger” would get him. Had this old man seen something himself, or was it just a persistent rumor about the area? Either way, it was an excellent location for a night investigation.
The first night investigation was a bit frustrating, though interesting at the same time. Early on, Ranae and I heard something moving below us only to find that it was a crew member who had hiked up the trail to make a campsite for Matt’s solo investigation. Ranae and I then moved a good distance away to the pass between two valleys, both to avoid hearing any of the crew, as well as to investigate an obvious travel route and choke point between two river systems. While at the high ground, we again heard something large moving around below us. This was no crew member, though we never found out what exactly it was.
Another high point of the Virginia expedition was visiting with Debbie and Kirsten. Kirsten saw a bigfoot while retrieving the mail on her property one morning, but this was not the only thing that has happened on their homestead. There have been multiple sightings, including at least two daylight observations of the creatures. Their home has often been hit by projectiles from the woods, or seemingly been slapped by open hands from the outside. On one occasion, a pile of rocks appeared with a “gift” laid on top (a rotten old Nerf football).
Just as in the case of the Bridges is Florida, Debbie and Kirsten’s home was recently built (in 2007, I believe) and as long as they have lived there, bigfoots have been making their presence known. The humans are again the intruders on bigfoot territory, which probably accounts for the rocks being thrown at their house. Interestingly, the rocks aren’t thrown as much anymore compared to when they first moved in. Also of note is that both Debbie and Kirsten have seen the sasquatches on the property, but Debbie’s husband (Kirsten’s father) has not.
One witness at the town hall meeting presented a sighting report with several very interesting details, and I was chosen to look into it with the help of Ranae. A man named Anthony saw a bigfoot from below and the other side of a waterfall.
Abram Falls, near Gum Hill, was the location of the sighting, but not of our recreation. Abram Falls is on private land. The area is frequented by teenagers during the summer, and like many teenagers, they party and go swimming at the swimming hole. One person had recently fallen from above the waterfall and either got seriously hurt or died in the fall. We could not get a permit to film at the location because of some sort of litigation (I’m thankfully left out of the pre-production part of the show, and details such as these are not known to me). The recreation site was found by a producer with the help of Anthony himself so as to best approximate the location. I was shown photographs of Abram Falls, and I have to say that they did an excellent job choosing an appropriate spot. The resemblance was uncanny.
Besides the amazing athleticism shown by the bigfoot (clearing such a distance in three bounding leaps), there were a couple other interesting details from Anthony’s account that did not make the final edit of the show. Above the falls, he found a tiered area where it seemed that wild, edible plants had been encouraged to grow, or perhaps even purposefully planted. One tier had ginseng, the second had berries, and a third level had touch-me-nots. All three of these plants are edible at various times throughout the year, and each tier seemed to contain the specified plant almost exclusively.
Though there is no clear connection between this area and the sasquatch that was observed nearby. Perhaps there is no connection at all, and it’s all coincidence. However, could it be that sasquatches have some level of awareness of agriculture? I do not know, but it is an intriguing avenue of thought to travel down. After all, sasquatches are undoubtedly our closest genetic relative, so perhaps it’s not too big a logical leap to think that some bigfoot somewhere might have figured out how to transplant wild herbs to specific locations for ease of gathering. For now, I’ll just be aware of this detail and look for patterns in the coming years that might support this possibility.
(It should be noted that since this detail has come out, I have contacted two trusted long-term witnesses and asked if any such behavior has ever been noted on their properties. No behavior like this had been. However, in one case the local sasquatches had cleared away brush from where they were routinely fed, but for an unknown reason, and certainly not for agricultural use.)
Another intriguing aspect to Anthony’s encounter was not mentioned in the show. Anthony found a number of deer carcasses at the base of the falls, twisted and broken from an obvious fall from the cliffs above. Several of these carcasses had their hind legs ripped, not cut, from the torso, and also had the shoulder strips removed. Could it be that the sasquatches in the area had run panicked deer off the dangerous waterfall to their deaths, much like Plains Indians did with the buffalo?
I heard another report of this behavior from one of the long-term witnesses mentioned above. The long-term witness’ aunt was smoking a cigarette on the porch at midnight and saw three or four large, upright figures chasing deer in the woods in the direction of the cliff that leads down to the creek behind their house. In the morning, the woman told the property owner that her neighbors were weird because they were hunting deer without guns, trying to chase deer off of the cliff, running at full speed at night without lights on in the woods. Weird neighbors, indeed! Big, weird, hairy neighbors!
The last night investigations was at High Knob, a hill with a history of bigfoot encounters. In fact, the place where we parked the cars for base camp was the very site of a bigfoot encounter from several years ago. While we were out fooling around with iridescent powder and UV flashlights, some stealthy visitors came by base camp and made their presence known.
The crew and various producers spend their night investigation time reading, watching movies on their computers, or just hanging out, all the while monitoring their radios in case the away teams (us in the woods) need something like fresh batteries, or first aid. On this occasion, base camp was visited by unseen guests who threw several large rocks at the U-Haul truck that was rented to haul gear. The rocks hit the “cube truck” with such force that the producers actually stopped their movies and came out of the truck to look around. Several of the PA’s (“production assistants,” who are essentially there to do whatever is needed) heard these unseen stalkers in the woods, but thought it was the producer (who was in the cube truck) messing with them. None of these people thought much about the possibility that bigfoots might be the culprits. Hopefully, on next season’s shows we can monitor base camp a bit better to gather some interesting data from there!
It just goes to show, you can’t really out-bigfoot a bigfoot. They’re better at this than we ever will be.
Other cool things that didn’t make the cut happened on the shoot as well. This was the episode when bigfoot-production-assistant, and friend of the sasquatch, Tyler Bounds hit a mysterious figure on the road one night. While Tyler’s story is detailed by Tyler himself elsewhere, here is my side of the story.
I was asleep, and at 2:24 in the morning my phone rang. Seeing it was Tyler Bounds, I knew it was important, so I picked up. Tyler, in a panicked voice, told me that he had either just hit a person or a bigfoot with his car. He was speeding up through fog banks to get on the freeway at the base of High Knob when he looked up too late and collided with a tall, upright figure standing on the left hand side of the road. Whatever he hit was far taller than his car (later measured to be five feet, five inches tall) and seemingly just standing there. Tyler stopped his car, got out, and ran back to where he hit the figure, but found nobody. He called out to the darkness saying he was just there to help. He told me that at that point he was thinking he hit somebody’s grandfather who had dementia or something. Nobody answered, so Tyler freaked out a little harder and continued to call out while searching the area. Nothing was found.
The dent on the front quarter panel from whatever-it-was that Tyler hit.
A close up of the rear view mirror (that was pushed in). Note the dirty marks that seem to indicate hair.
The next day, Tyler returned to the spot to search the area in daylight. No dead bodies were found in the brush, so the adjacent meadows were also scoured. There was a deer herd nearby, and it is possible that Tyler hit a deer.
I have to wonder what Tyler collided with, though. He is no camping newbie, and when I spoke to him that night in the wee hours, it was clear that at that point he thought he probably hit a person. He was absolutely sober that night, and had his head about him. At the time, I even suggested to him that it could have been a deer, and he admitted that it was a possibility. He just said that it looked like a man at the time.
Bobo and I made a fuss about this possibility with the producers. They eventually let us swab the car for DNA, and they filmed us doing so. It is part of our contract that any evidence gathered belongs to the powers-that-be, so the sample is in the hands of Ping Pong Productions at the moment. I no longer have control over it, but I did my part by gathering it. I don’t think that any testing will be done on it. DNA testing is quite expensive, especially when there is a possibility that it could be a deer.
Another highlight of the Virginia expedition was what I did on our off-night. Bobo, and I, along with the sound technician went to the birth place of country music, the Carter Family Fold. Every weekend for as long as anyone remembers (well, you know what I mean), the Carter Family Fold has been having mountain music concerts for the locals. I was lucky enough to attend that night.
The band was smoking, the people were super friendly (even coaxing Bobo into attending church the next day), and the venue was perfect for some good old fashioned country music dancing and fun. It was not only a highlight of the trip, it was a highlight of my life. It was not a concert, but a romp in a living museum on the earliest moments of American country music. I danced my butt off at the foot of the last stage Johnny Cash ever performed on. I hung out with June Carter’s granddaughter. I partook in a small bit of history.
And I have bigfoot to thank for it.
~ Cliff Barackman