Searching for Bigfoot: Bigfoot Sightings in Upstate NY; Discovery Channel’s Finding Bigfoot
Is there evidence that the elusive half-man, half-ape lives in the Valley’s woods and caves?
We have it on good authority that the “Bigfoot” in this photo is actually a costumed employee of this magazine
Photograph by Michael Polito
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They are a part of Native American lore from coast to coast. Daniel Boone bragged that he bagged one, and Teddy Roosevelt was quite vocal about his desire to do the same. Tales of sightings of Bigfoot — the elusive half-man, half-ape creature — are woven into the fabric of Americana. In many people’s minds, the famed 1967 “Patterson” footage of a supposed Bigfoot traipsing through a clearing in the northern California woods has cemented the idea that the creature lives in the Pacific Northwest. But the Northeast in general — and the Hudson Valley in particular — also has been a hotbed for sightings through the years. A partial list of the various locations of local sightings reads like a regional hiker’s hit list: Nuclear Lake in Pawling, Stissing Mountain in Pine Plains, Peekamoose in Ulster County, Bear Mountain in Rockland, the ice caves in Ellenville, and Greenwood Lake in Orange, to name a few.
Don’t expect these sightings to slow down anytime soon. Bigfoot Fever seems to be sweeping the nation — fueled, in part, by the popular Discovery Channel show Finding Bigfoot, in which Matt Moneymaker and three pals crisscross the country tracking Bigfoot sightings with fancy equipment and newfangled plans. The opening episode of Season Two found the investigators in the Hudson Valley. They held a town hall meeting in Pawling and asked locals to come forth and share their own Bigfoot experiences. The Catskills region is famous for the “New York Baby Footage,” taken by Doug Pridgen in 1997, which apparently shows a small ape-like creature swinging in some trees. During the same episode, one of the show’s investigators, Cliff Barackman, actually climbs into a tree on the same property to try to replicate the young ape’s movements. On his blog, Barackman concludes, “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.”
“Awareness is growing because of the show. People are starting to realize that these animals could be in their backyard”
“Awareness is growing more and more because of the show, so people are starting to realize that these animals could be in their backyard,” says Nick Maione, lead investigator for the New England region of the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization (BFRO), an all-volunteer network of about 150 investigators which was founded by Moneymaker. “We actually have scientists that go out and do field reports, and we compile everything into a database in the hopes that one day we will have the information to know a little bit about Bigfoot’s ecology and habits,” Maione explains.
The beliefs of the organization’s members are clarified on www.bfro.net, the group’s Web site: “These large apes are spotted mostly in forested regions with abundant protein sources... deer in particular... Unlike gorillas and chimps, their family/groupings are small and mobile, making it very difficult for modern humans to hunt them.”
Still, according to the BFRO, a total of no fewer than 55 sightings have occurred in Albany, Columbia, Greene, Ulster, Dutchess, Putnam, Orange, Rockland, and Sullivan counties. The group maintains what is probably the largest online database of Bigfoot sightings on their site. As recently as 2009, for instance, a young Kingston man reported a daylight visual encounter with a Bigfoot while driving on Pilgrims Progress Road in Rhinebeck. His observations are posted on the database; he sums up his report by saying, “I was nervous, confused, and excited at the same time.”
You won’t, however, find the details of every one of the 55 aforementioned sightings online, as many witnesses request that their stories be kept confidential. And that’s okay with BFRO, according to Maione. “We encourage witnesses to submit their reports through the site,” he says. “But we always stress that you’re in control of your own report.”
BFRO estimates that 80 percent of sightings go unreported because witnesses fear ridicule and disbelief, says Maione. There is no official tally; the state Department of Environmental Conservation doesn’t keep any record of Bigfoot sightings. “We don’t have any comments on Bigfoots,” said Region 4 Spokesman Rick Georgeson. “We don’t track reports of mythical creatures.”
Maione owns two Victorian inns in Newport, Rhode Island. More than six years ago, he spotted a Bigfoot — a hairy, black, matted creature that walked like a man — in Newport at a distance of 75 to 100 feet. As he watched it, he also heard a distinctive whooping cry from behind. “I had trouble sleeping for months afterward,” he said. “It’s hard to get a grip on what you’re seeing. It changes the way you view the world.” Today, Maione leads a couple of expeditions, and investigates about 50 reported sightings, each year. (The BFRO Web site maintains an updated list of expeditions nationwide; as of press time, there are none scheduled in New York during 2012.)
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See Bigfoot for yourself! Check out Finding Bigfoot’s trip to Pawling, as well as the famous “New York Baby Footage,” below: