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Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Skunk Apes Among Us

Historic City Memories: The Bardin Booger

November 4, 2009


The Bardin Booger, Skunk Apes and Pink Dinosaurs

By Geoff Dobson
St, Augustine, Fl

“Hey Mr.Booger, Bardin is your home
and every day you love to roam.
You run through the bushes
and you run through the trees.
Hey Mr. Bardin Booger, don’t get me, please.”
Country song by Billy Crain

Mythical animals are found throughout the world. Oregon has its sasquatch, Scotland the Loch Ness Monster, Vermont’s Lake Champlain its Champ, Nepal the yeti, Wyoming its jackalope and Chubut, Argentiina, its “Nahuelito,” found in the murky depths of Nahuel Haupi Lake.

Thus, it is only natural that Florida should have an animal whose existence is questioned; the Bardin Booger.

The purported existence of the animals is generally proven by blurry, apparently faked photographs. Occasionally, scientific expeditions are dispatched to distant places in a vain attempt to demonstrate the existence of the creatures.

In 1922, when reports of a possible living plesiosaur in Nahuel Haupi Lake were received, President Harding and King George V argued over whether the expedition to Patagonia should be conducted by the Smithsonian or the British Museum. The investigation was finally conducted by Argentines by lobbing sticks of dynamite into the depths to force the creature to the surface. It did not appear. Nevertheless regularly to this day about the time of Chubut tourist season, further sightings are reported.

From 1950 through the 1970’s, there was a spate of sightings of Skunk Apes and other monsters in the swamps and woods of Florida. St. Johns and Putnam Counties were certainly not immune from such reports. In 1984 or 1985, a skunk ape was reportedly spotted near Kings Estate Road and the Florida East Coast tracks. But like many similar reports, it could not be verified. The story was third hand.

Another skunk ape was spotted in the marsh near Vilano Beach in May 2000 by three fishermen. The ape was described as “a real hairy ape man about 5 ft tall” who smelled like skunk. In most instances, however, the reports described a stinky hairy, green-eyed, eight-foot tall man-like creature.

A typical report was a 1975 report of a skunk ape seen in an Orlando area apartment parking lot.

Another 1975 sighting was included within a police report from Dade County:

Dade County Public Safety Dept. Miscellaneous Report #72168-7
Reported by Ronald Bennett,46 w/m 2820 SW 106 Avenue

SUSPICIOUS INCIDENT AT BLACK POINT-GOULDS CANAL,12AM. March 24, 1975

Police were dispatched 2:26 Am. arrived: 2:31 Am. In Service:4:22 Am.

REMARKS: The report stated that at the above time, date and location of his son Michael Bennet and a friend Lawrence Groom w/m 54 years old.(223-0108) ,while driving down a dirt road towards Black Point near the water dike they observed what appeared to be an upright standing giant ape-like man, approximately eight(8) to nine (9) feet and very heavy set, black in color with no clothes, standing next to a blue Chevy and rocking the car back and forth with great force. The witness further stated they observed a man getting out of the vehicle in a hysterical manner and yelling for help. When the lights of the vehicle that the witnesses were in lit up, the ape like man turned and went into mangroves. The witnesses stated they could hear the thing running through the mangroves. At this time the witness, vehicle was turned around and leaving the area. Upon department they did not see where the man in the blue Chevy went.

South District Station #4 was notified and responded to the area. A search of the area for the blue Chevy and the ape like man produced negative results.

NOTE: The location of the incident can be variously described as the eastern end of 248TH Street SW 87TH Avenue SW. and Biscayne Bay and Snapper Point.

COMMENT: To get from location of the sighting to the Bennett home would take no more than an hour and probably thirty minutes. So it is clear that the incident was discussed at least an hour and a half before the elder Bennett decided to call the Police. Mrs. Bennett said that her son began his story with the predictable, “Mom, you’re not going to believe this, but….”

Indeed, there were so many reports that, according to the St. Petersburg Independent, February 27, 1978, p. 15-A, “The Skunk Ape, Florida’s Monkey Catcher Says It’s Really ‘Big Foot,’” a Florida Legislator introduced a bill giving it a protected species status.

The largest numbers of reports have come from David Shealy who ran the Florida Panther Gift Shop, a campground, and the “Skunk Ape Research Centre” on U.S. 41 in Ochopee. Before the gift shop closed in 1998, it had on display purported plaster casts of the ape’s footprints and, at one time, tufts of hair. The hair unfortunately was allegedly seized by two men, driving a dark sedan, wearing dark suits, white shirts, black ties and sunglasses.

Most of the reports in Northeast Florida came from an area of Putnam County known as Bardin, about seven miles northwest of Palatka. The first reported sighting near Bardin was in the 1940’s near the Etoniah Baptist Church. The area around Etoniah is now part of a state forest but had been settled by the time of the Civil War. Confederate troops scouting Federal movements along the St. Johns River were stationed near there. The area is now a known migration path for the Florida black bear. Thus, it may be speculated that some of the sighting may have been of bear.

Others sightings may have been of Lena Crain who since the 1970’s has dressed up in a booger suit, primarily for festivities at the Palatka Moose Lodge. However, since she is only slightly over five feet tall, there are some difficulties in making a believable booger.

According to David Grimes, “Florida Curiosities: Quirky Characters, Roadside Oddities & Other Offbeat Stuff,” old-timers at Bud’s grocery in Bardin claimed to have seen the booger. One old timer claimed to have spotted the booger running through the woods carrying a lantern. Another caught the booger stealing clothes off a clothesline. A third claimed that he had surprised the booger while the booger was raiding a refrigerator.

The St. Augustine Record, March 6, 2006, reported that the booger appeared at Palatka’s Azalea Festival in Ravine Gardens, carrying an American Flag and a bouquet of azaleas.

Sighting of strange animals in Florida are not limited to skunk apes and Bardin boogers. Around 1939, Mrs. Jess L. Gerardi and her family saw a pink dinosaur-like creature in the St. Johns River. The animal was again spotted in 1960 by a biology student and two friends who were bow hunting along the St. Johns. Again on May 10, 1975, a fishing party of five spotted the animal. It was described as looking like “a dinosaur with its skin pulled back, so all the bones were showing . . . sort of the color of boiled shrimp. One of the fishermen stated that “it looked to her like a dragon.” The animal has since borne the nickname “Pinky.”

The claims of booger and dinosaur sightings may be like sightings of jackalopes in Wyoming. An explanation given for the paucity of jackalope sightings is that the animal is nocturnal. Jackalopes are, therefore, most frequently observed by cowboys emerging from saloons in the early morning hours.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Michigan Story

Link to the Story

When Ron Kostrubiec visited Wilderness State Park with his family at the end of July, he got more than he bargained for.

Riding his mountain bike along Swamp Line Trail at approximately 6:30 p.m. on July 29, the 41-year-old Macomb Township man was enjoying the earthy smells of nature. Two miles or so into his ride, he turned east toward the Nebo Trail, delighting in deep breaths of pine and damp earth - that is until he reached a "wall."

"I was about three quarters of the way to the Nebo Trail when I ran into the thickest wall of live human body odor that you could ever imagine," he said. "It sent chills up my spine and my hair stood up. It scared me so much, I peddled as fast as I could out of there."

Kostrubiec got back to camp and told everyone about his experience. The next morning, he spoke with rangers but no one could give him an answer about what he smelled. So that evening he went back to the same spot at roughly same time.

"This time I was on full alert. I put my nose in the air and looked around as much as I could but I never smelled it again. That tells me something was there. And I truly believe what ever was there watched me go by," he said.

Not only did he go back to the spot once, but every night until he and his family left. Although he never smelled it again, on one of his "missions," something else happened. While walking down a snowmobile trail by O'Neal and Lawrence lakes, while listening to the wind blowing through the trees, he heard something.

"I was listening to the sounds of nature when all of a sudden from the direction of the smell encounter I heard three faint taps like two pieces of wood being hit together, then a slight pause, then one more and then back to the sounds of nature," he said.

After listening to people talk about Bigfoot, Kostrubiec thinks this is what he may have encountered - and he's not the only one. Shortly after his first encounter, Kostrubiec's 9-year-old son, Anthony, said a young boy by the name of Jack had a similar experience.

"Jack smelled really bad body odor too right behind the campground around the same day as my encounter," Kostrubiec said. "He was riding his bike along a powerline trail when he said he ran into the smell. He said it really scared him and he got out of there and went back to his camper."

The story doesn't end there. On one of the last days of their trip, Kostrubiec, along with his wife, Gina, their three sons, Anthony, Mikey, 7, and Joey, 5, and his mother and father-in-law, took a bike ride on Wilderness Road to a large glacier boulder marked by the Department of Natural Resources.

As the kids were playing on the rock with his wife and mother-in-law, Kostrubiec and his father-in-law walked through the woods when they came upon unusual markings in the ground.

"To understand these markings, picture the ground being a thick thatch layer of pine needles and to really make a mark in them you would really have to kick the ground in a forward motion to even really attempt to get to the dirt below," Kostrubiec said. "But there were these marks that went back into the woods that looked as if you would have gotten on your knees and punched the ground to push the needles forward and expose the dirt below."

The men followed the marks into the woods toward the road where they seemed to stop at the base of a fallen tree. As Kostrubiec looked around, he noticed a footprint.

"Because of the pine needle floor it was more of a impression like you would see in your carpet after vacuuming," he said.

He called for everyone and directed them to come to him without stepping on the trail. When everyone was there, he grabbed a small stick and traced out the footprint.

"It was a right foot print about 16 inches long and really wide," he said. "You could make it out perfectly with a little rise of dirt between the little and next toe. Everyone saw it."

He traced it out a couple more times, all the while not believing what he was seeing.

"Not even thinking of Bigfoot when going out there, my mind and senses seemed overwhelmed," he said.

With no camera, everyone went back to camp.

Since the trip, Kostrubiec has spoken with the Mackinaw City Police, as well as with the State Police in Petoskey. Chief Patrick Wyman with the Mackinaw City Police and Sergeant Jerry Briolat with the State Police Post in Petoskey said neither posts have ever received any report of suspicious Bigfoot activity.

"We've had reports of suspicious activity in the area but nothing related to Bigfoot," Briolat said.

The Department of Natural Resources Law Division also has not received any reports of that nature in the area or any other area in Northern Michigan according to Lt. Daniel Hopkins.

"The reports of activity we've received are cougar or wolf related - nothing Bigfoot," Hopkins said.

Kostrubiec said all of the researchers he's spoken with from the Michigan Bigfoot Organization and the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization said what he encountered in the woods could have been Bigfoot.

Matt Moneymaker, president of the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization said, with absolute certainly, Bigfoot creatures exist in some places in North America, but they are not everywhere.

"Reports have been consistent in the last 11 years since reports began to be collected through the Internet," Moneymaker said. "The same kinds of animals are present and that indicates there may be a relatively sizable population."

With several handfuls of reports in both peninsulas every year, Moneymaker said the Great Lakes has a history of Bigfoot sightings dating back to early Native American times. With respect to Kostrubiec's encounter, Moneymaker said there were characteristics that would make it possible that it was a Bigfoot but it's not definitive.

"For all the time I have spent in the woods fishing and hunting in the Upper and Lower Peninsulas seeing bear, deer and other wildlife, I never had these experiences before," Kostrubiec said. "It was a Bigfoot encounter as for the footprint. There is no mistaking that. I truly believe in the events and I definitely think there is something going on up there."

Some other creatures that some people believe may be in area forests, but there is no conclusive proof:

- According to the Michigan Citizens for Cougar Recognition Web site, there have been 74 sightings of cougars in Emmet County from 1990-2009. Mary Dettloff, public information officer with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, said although there are lots of alleged sightings, there have been only two cougars verified by scat, tracks and other biological evidence in the western half of the Upper Peninsula. Dettloff said there's no established evidence of breeding populations of cougars in Northern Michigan.

- According to Dettloff, one wolverine was found in the thumb area of Michigan four years ago. Dettloff said a possible theory is that the creature came in on a Canadian garbage truck.

- Dettloff said there are more than 500 wolves in the Upper Peninsula. A wolf was trapped in Presque Isle County three years ago, however there's been no biological data of wolves in the Lower Peninsula since then.

Marci Singer439-9348 - msinger@petoskeynews.com

Monday, November 02, 2009

Article on the PBS Outing Last Weekend

Finnigan: Sasquatch in our woods?
10/29/2009

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: kfinnigan@thecourierexpress.com