‘It was watching you guys’

‘It was watching you guys’

Why these Bigfoot researchers are so committed

Source: Cadilla News

It’s not the height that freaks you out. It’s the mass.

For people that believe they’ve seen Bigfoot (also known as Sasquatch), the sighting, however benign, can become a source of fear.

Don Peer is an Upper Peninsula-based investigator with the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization. He has looked into several reports of Bigfoot sightings, as well as participating in Bigfoot expeditions. One story has stuck with him; it was the first time somebody broke down sobbing on the phone with him.

“He said, ‘I don’t think I can ever hunt again. I can’t even bring myself to go out and look,'” Peer recalled of the conversation with the hunter. “And all he did was stumble upon one that was laying on the ground, basically sleeping.”

The creature jumped up and ran away.

“You’re talking 800 to 1,000 pounds for an adult male. Just that size is what really freaks people out,” said Peer, who has never had a direct sighting but hopes to.

Kim Fleming, a former Bigfoot investigator who says she’s had several sightings, agrees that people get spooked by the size of what they’re seeing.

It happened to her.

She was investigating a Bigfoot report near Kalkaska when something crossed behind her car.

“It was absolutely huge. It took up two-thirds of my (rearview) mirror,” said Fleming, formerly of Traverse City.

Fleming, a former college biology major and science teacher, is confident when she says the sandy-colored animal was not a cougar or a deer. She’d researched cougars out of her own interest at time when the Department of Natural Resources was saying there weren’t cougars in Michigan (there are, there’s just no evidence of a breeding population).

“All I could think of was, ‘hit the gas,'” Fleming recalled. So she did.

Later, she began having panic attacks.

“There’s a sense of fear that comes over you,” Fleming said, comparing it to the adrenaline rush you might experience when narrowly avoiding a car crash.

“That situation in Kalkaska, made me realize I probably wasn’t doing the wisest thing,” Fleming said, noting that she didn’t have a weapon and nobody really knew where she was. “And it just it scared me. And so I was like, ‘Okay, I think I’m done.”

FEAR OF RIDICULE

Chances are, you don’t believe in Bigfoot. However, you may be slightly more likely to believe in Bigfoot than you were a few years ago.

Chapman University regularly conducts surveys of American fears. In 2018, the university’s survey of paranormal beliefs showed 20.7% agreed or strongly agreed that Bigfoot is a real creature.

Paranormal beliefs, in general, have been climbing in recent years, the university said in 2018; belief in Bigfoot specifically was up 7.2% between 2016 and 2018.

The Cadillac News asked Peer why he thinks so many people don’t believe in Bigfoot.

“People fear ridicule,” Peer said. Not him. “I don’t care what people think of me. I don’t care at all. I’m fortunate, in that sense, because it really holds people back of life, when they do.”

Peer said he’s often the first person to hear about a Bigfoot sighting, sometimes years after the fact.

“They’re afraid to tell anybody else because of ridicule, and they actually break down, they start sobbing,” Peer said. “There’s so much raw emotion when people have an encounter. You can’t fake that.”

On one of Peer’s first expeditions, his son had an encounter, he said.

The boy, 15 at the time, had gone quiet, out-of-sight. When they found him again, “he’s just white as a ghost, he’s literally just shaking,” Peer recalled. “And he said it was watching you guys.”

That was 12 years ago. The Cadillac News asked Peer if he thinks his son would have told him if he’d just been pulling his leg a decade ago.

“There was no faking that fear,” Peer said.

FLESH AND BLOOD

For the Bigfoot Field Research Organization (BFRO), the chief mystery they are trying to solve is one of flesh and blood.

“The BFRO has a standard of flesh and blood only,” Fleming said. “If you think there’s a spiritual dynamic, that doesn’t go in your report.”

They’re looking for hard evidence, like tracks and video and DNA.

Vern Richardson, a wildlife biologist for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, has seen evidence of the type preferred by the BFRO. As a wildlife biologist, it’s part of his job to identify animals based on the hard evidence available.

Once, somebody reported possible Bigfoot tracks to him.

But it was another animal entirely: a human trespasser.

The footprints, at first look, appeared too big to be human.

But melting snow can do that to footprints.

“I think it was early in the spring … And when you step on the snow, and you compact that, it may melt faster where you stepped,” Richardson explained.

The sun warms the ground underneath “and then melts the edges of that track faster than the adjacent fluffy snow, which makes the track expand,” Richardson said.

“I haven’t seen any evidence to suggest that Bigfoot is a thing, at least around here or anywhere else that I’ve seen anything from,” Richardson said.

While there’s still a lot of mystery in the local woods, Richardson said he’s not expecting to encounter a previously unidentified large animal.

“From a purely scientific, evidence-based stand, stuff gets hit on the road. Stuff turns up dead. Things don’t live forever,” Richardson said. “Unless there’s a carcass disposal system, if something’s alive, it will die at some point and there will be evidence that it was once there.”

LOCAL SIGHTINGS

After her scare in Kalkaska, it took a little while for Fleming to stop investigating altogether. In part, that was because there was a long-term investigation near Lake City that she wanted to see through.

There have been several sightings in the Cadillac News coverage area in this century; Fleming and Peer have investigated several of those sightings.

The Lake City area sighting involved the most extensive BFRO investigation in Wexford, Missaukee, Lake or Osceola counties.

Ultimately deemed a “Class A” (high quality) encounter, in the spring of 2013 a Lake City area man reported wood knocks, whistling and tracks. Fleming and other BFRO researchers visited several times and the man continued reporting sightings and other unusual ephemera.

Wexford County had a Class A report in 2000 near Kingsley. It wasn’t reported until 2014. Teens shining for deer reported a thing running towards them and breathing heavily.

Class B reports in Wexford County include seeing a shadow and rocks thrown in the Long Lake State Forest between Manton and Cadillac in 2010; a coon hunter followed out of the woods by something in the Buckley/Mesick area in 2004; and a bowhunter witnessing a tree being shaken and something roaring or screaming in 2000 or 2001 near Hoxeyville.

Osceola County had a Class A “close encounter” near a school bus stop when “a large figure knocked a small dead tree over and chased me and my sister.” That incident was reported to the BFRO in 2012. In 2012, a hunter reported previous incidents near Pecks Lake involving heavy steps, a 7-foot figure and a “guttural noise.” That report was considered a Class B report.

Lake County has had one report, a Class A near Baldwin in 2006 that was reported in 2012. Brothers reported a tall fuzzy creature that ran faster than a man.

BFRO says “Class A reports involve clear sightings in circumstances where misinterpretation or misidentification of other animals can be ruled out with greater confidence,” while Class B reports are “incidents where a possible sasquatch was observed at a great distance or in poor lighting conditions.”

Additionally, the Tippy Dam area is known for having rock-throwing incidents, where big rocks are chucked at people in watercraft, Fleming said.

Poor quality reports or reports where it’s believed to be a prank don’t make it onto the public website, Fleming said.

Hartwick Pines frequently attracts people who search for Sasquatch. Craig Kasmer, an interpreter at the Hartwick Pines Visitor Center, said he’s never seen any evidence of Bigfoot. But he understands the impulse to search.

“I like to know the names of things, I think it’s important. I think once you get to know the name of something, you care for it, or have a potential to care about it more,” said Kasmer, who was seen in a few shots of a 2012 episode of “Finding Bigfoot.” “Any mystery to me, that comes up in my line of work, I want to find the answer to it.”

Source: Cadilla News

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