At some point in our lives, many of us have asked ourselves, “Is Bigfoot real?” Most of us have read or seen stories of other peoples’ Bigfoot encounters, whether or not we’ve had a Bigfoot encounter ourselves. For me, I had one before I even knew what a Bigfoot was.
I first encountered Bigfoot one warm, summer night when returning from a friend’s house in the countryside of northwestern Pennsylvania. It’s interesting how little details stay with you when you have such a traumatic experience– especially as a child. I remember leaving my friend’s house after staying up playing Atari into the wee hours of the night. It was deep into nighttime– probably after 11:00 PM. I don’t remember it being very cloudy, but I remember there being a good moon out even though it was very dark– I could see the roadway pretty well up ahead of me, but not behind me much, and I could not see into the woods on either side of me. Behind me the road dead-ended near a waterfall; to my left, through the woods were some frog ponds where we would go gigging and bow hunting; and to my right not very far through the woods there was a very steep embankment leading down into a ravine created by the crick that flowed from the waterfall down through a dairy farm, through our yard, and emptied into the swamp.
All I had with me was my new, battery-operated Star Wars blaster that made a loud, shrill sound effect– sort of like an electric drill– when you pulled the trigger. As I walked down the densely-wooded, dirt road toward our modified, double-wide trailer-home near the swamp I started to get the feeling like I was being watched or something– which was weird because I hadn’t ever had that feeling before. The hair stood up on the back of my neck, and I felt scared.
I continued to walk ahead down the road slowly as the fear intensified. It was more of a feeling of dread that grew stronger with each step I took. That’s when I smelled something which stopped me dead in my tracks– the most putrid stench I had ever inhaled. It was so strong it staggered me and made me feel like retching. I can only describe it as a combination of overpowering wet animal, rot, sewage, and sulfur. I don’t know how long I stood there motionless in the middle of the road.
I couldn’t hear anything now except for my own heartbeat inside my head. It seemed like the world around me went silent. I tried to peer around me into the darkness to see where the smell was coming from, but there wasn’t even a breeze to indicate which direction to look in– like it was coming from everywhere all at once. In a panic, I pulled the trigger on my toy gun and it let out its shrill, whirring noise. I have no idea what part of my reptilian brain thought that this would be the ‘smart move’ in this situation, but I think that if nothing else my instincts thought if it was an animal the noise would scare it off.
I might have held the trigger forever had there not been an almost immediate reaction to my trigger-pulling. The woods to my right roared to life like a bulldozer went smashing down the hillside away from me. It startled me into motion again– jogging down the roadway partially away from the sound. My juvenile mind was trying to process what it could be, and my mind immediately decided that I must have startled a bear, causing it to lose its footing and slip and fall down the precipitous ravine. I slowed to a jog as I neared the only pathway through the woods down to the crick. This path was cleared out of branches and vegetation to a good height, and the pathway was like a long, narrow ledge running from the road down to the crick. I had a clear view of the crick thanks to the clearing and the moonlight. That’s when I saw what had broken all of those branches and made all of the ruckus ‘falling’ down into that ravine– and what I presume was behind the horrible smell I had encountered. A huge, hair-covered, man-like creature took one step from the near bank and into the middle of the crick where it stopped, turned its torso, and looked back up the pathway at me. Without hesitation, it took another step and was gone from sight. No sooner had it disappeared into the darkness than I began to run for my life! I don’t think anything more than my toes touched the ground the entire way home…
It terrified me at the time, but it would awaken a deep desire within me to learn about all extraordinary creatures and phenomena. I wondered what in the hell I had seen, smelled, and heard that night throughout my childhood. I watched movies and TV shows from the ’70s and ’80s, and read every news and magazine article I could find. My favorite movie back then was Sasquatch: The Legend of Bigfoot. I enjoyed watching the bionic Bigfoot played by Andre the Giant on The Six Million Dollar Man. And, Bigfoot: On the Track of Sasquatch was one of my favorite books by John Green.
With my paper-route money, I bought a subscription to Time-Life Books Mysteries of the Unknown series, and read whatever I could get my hands on at our school and public libraries. I worked hard in high school with the goal of getting into a good college where I could learn more about human beings, our evolution, and our closest relatives. As I left my rural and small-town life, I was excited and hopeful that I would get the chance to become a real-life Indiana Jones.
Is Bigfoot real? People have often asked me if I believe in Bigfoot. Belief is an act of faith in something one accepts to be true. I know what I saw, smelled, and heard, and I know how it made me feel. Yes, Bigfoot is real– or more properly, Bigfoot are real: There isn’t just one of them out there. From the time of my first Bigfoot encounter, I became a Bigfoot Knower– one who has observed them directly. Through my curiosity and inquiries, I have learned a great deal more about them, and that encounter when I was eight-years-old would not be my last dance with this cryptid species…