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Monday, November 02, 2009

Article on the PBS Outing Last Weekend

Finnigan: Sasquatch in our woods?

OK, let's see:
Flashlight ... check. Waterproof boots ... check. Courage ... (gulp) ... check?
When members of the Pennsylvania Bigfoot Society suggested I come along with them on a "Night Op" in the Moshannon State Forest, I agreed.
I am not an unquestioning believer in the "Bigfoot" phenomenon.
However, as a Clearfield County native, I've lived in and around these woods for my whole life. I do believe there are creatures out there that we don't know about yet. Pennsylvania has thousands of acres of forest lands and state game lands. I do not believe that we have seen absolutely everything there is to see in these woods.
The search began Friday night. Researchers from the society scouting the area that afternoon discovered two promising locations. The evening's activities were held off until about 9:30 p.m. when I met eight members of the group who hailed from Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Ohio. The area we were investigating is a known Bigfoot "hot spot" that had numerous reported sightings over the years. Dave Rupert, assistant director, said the area had been particularly active for sightings in 2001.
I approached the evening with an open mind, but I didn't expect to see or hear anything that would make me a devout follower of "International Church of Bigfoot". In the news business, you learn to take what people tell you with a grain of salt.
I figured I could meet interesting people, take a stroll through the woods and have a nice story to tell.
The rain held off just long enough for us to get out of the vehicles. Was I about to go through the woods with a team of Sasquach fanatics that would cordon off the area and move with military precision? The team members had discovered the carcass of a dead buck which had been shot by an archery hunter. Many who do Bigfoot research say that the creatures are omnivores, eating vegetation primarily but animals, such as rabbits, deer and other animals, when the opportunity presents itself.
Half the group decided to walk down to the deer carcass while the other half walked the opposite direction toward an area where there have been sightings of the ape-creatures. I chose to check out the deer site.
I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little scared. How do you handle an encounter with Bigfoot? Do you walk away slowly? Run like your feet are on fire and your butt was catching? Try to bribe it with a Snickers Bar? It's an animal. We would be encroaching on its territory and a potential food source, that dead buck. Could it act aggressively to protect it's food?
It was raining in Biblical proportions by the time the team gathered equipment and began walking toward the site. I had waterproof gear but I was in the woods in the middle of the night, in a rain storm, looking for Bigfoot. I could step into a hole and break my fool neck.
By this time, the rain had stopped and you could see fairly well once your eyes adjusted to the darkness.
On the way to the clearing where the dead deer was, we found a tree that had fallen within the last couple of hours before we arrived.
It would have been easy to look at the freshly-felled tree and say "Bigfoot did it." Instead, the society members took a scientific approach, examining the roots, and the trunk for any sign the tree had been pushed, such as scuff marks on the bark or footprints/impressions in the ground. They concluded it was most likely that the tree fell due to the wet soil.
In the clearing, we examined the area around the dead deer. The carcass was intact and the ground around it undisturbed. The team also examined a small pine tree. The top of the tree had been broken off, but the tree to the left of it was not touched. Typically, when a tree is broken off due to wind damage, the trees around it are usually damaged in some way as well. There was some hair-like material caught in some of the branches but it was too dark to tell if it was indeed hair. The group decided to come back in the morning for a closer look at the tree. A similar, larger tree was discovered across the clearing with the same type of damage. Again, the trees closest to it were untouched.
Some speculate that the Bigfoot creatures will bend, break, or twist trees as markers. The group used night-vision scopes and predator lights to keep watch in the clearing for a few hours. After the rain stopped and the wind died down, we heard faint "whooping" sounds and also what sounded like sticks being struck rhythmically against trees. Group members "knocked" back and heard responses at least twice.
We then headed to the second site. Again, when the wind was quiet, we thought we could hear knocking and movement in the leaves.
So what were these sounds? I couldn't tell you. Was it Bigfoot? Was it our ears playing tricks on us? Was some other group out in the woods that night trying to mess with us? I truly couldn't say, but I know what I heard. I saw the broken pine trees with my own eyes. I will definitely say the occurrences were enough to make me think there just might be something out there, something a little more than a bear or a coyote.

Reported by Kimberly Finnigan, staff writer, E-mail:

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