February 8, 2010

VERMONT BIGFOOT -- The Photographic Evidence


Vermont’s oversized hirsute hominid has never gone away, suggesting that if it exists outside the realm of conventional zoology, there must be a breeding pool large enough to sustain a population. He, she, or it is still sighted with alarming regularity, even in populated parts of the state.

Certainly there have been as many Bigfoot sightings as Champ sightings; it’s just that Champ gets all the publicity. And the existing photograph – seemingly of Bigfoot -- though never made widely public, suggests that he, like Champ, is not a hallucination.

The photo itself is almost as mysterious as the image it contains. Its primary investigator, Dr. Warren Cook of Castleton State College, is dead. He was part of an apparent conspiracy to hush up the picture’s existence. During my research I was given a letter from Dr. Cook to Don Cochrane who, in 1987, was working at what today is known as the Mountain Top Inn & Resort in Chittenden.

I phoned Mr. Cochrane on July 21, 2006 hoping for clarification. It was a very brief non-conversation. When I told him what I was calling about he said, “I don’t want to talk about it,” and hung up the phone.

Because of this gothic reception, the mystery deepened. My most direct links to the photo were either deceased or not talking.

Realizing my magazine deadline was becoming near-lethal, I began a series of panicky phone calls. A lot of people in the Chittenden area recalled something about the incident, but no one could give me specifics. Who took the photo? Where, exactly, was it taken? Why was there a cloak of silence over its existence?

When I connected with Roger Hill, Activities and Facilities Director at the Mountain Top Inn & Resort, he recalled a few telling details. “What I remember about the picture,” he said, “was that it was taken on forest service property, near here, which we have a permit to use for skiing and horseback riding. In the foreground the picture shows a couple of stringers running across a stream. That’s the beginning of a bridge that was being built for cross-country skiing. I’m not sure if the photo was taken by Don Cochrane, but he was involved in one way or another. After it was developed it came back and somebody started looking rather oddly at that figure in the background. Some of us wonder what the heck it is.”

There in the trees, as if it had been watching them all along, was what appeared to be the stocky torso and head of a gorilla. Its featureless face seemed surrounded with silvery hair.

Through another series of phone conversations, including chats with former inn owners, I was able to piece together a more complete version of the story. The photo was apparently taken by Don Cochrane in October of 1977, 2.9 miles into the Chittenden woods. He was accompanied by two other men.

No one noticed anything unusual until they examined the developed prints. Not knowing what to make of the puzzle in his picture, Mr. Cochrane brought it to the attention of Dr. Cook. For many years Dr. Cook had actively investigated the possibility that Vermont might be home to a hidden Bigfoot tribe. This photograph seemed to back that up.

Dr. Cook submitted it and the negative to a prestigious photographic lab in Los Angeles who assured him the negative had not been tampered with. In a letter to Mr. Cochrane, Dr. Cook wrote, “I think I can assert, without doubt, that whatever caused the image on your negative, it was transitory.”

Dr. Cook and his team had visited the spot to try to identify anything that could have been mistaken for a giant ape. After taking more pictures, they cleared away the bushes within 60 feet of where the image had appeared. “We found no upturned stump, nor stump, or hole of any size to account for the big, black image in your photo.”

In July of 2006 I asked photographer and photo analyst Sarah Vogelsang – who occasionally works with Paranormal Investigators of New England -- to take a new look at the mystery photo. Because we did not possess the negative, Ms. Vogelsang was at a disadvantage. With some frustration, she told me, “I can’t seem to figure it out!” Her cautious conclusion was as follows: “My analysis of the photo, given that it is the only evidence presented at this time, is not enough to convince me that the dark object in the image is a living ape-like creature (assuming that is what we are looking for) due to the lack of highlights, but it is also convincing enough to believe otherwise.”

To be continued . . .

NOTE: The Bigfoot in the portrait resides at Loren Coleman's Cryptozoology Museum in Portland Maine