March 4, 2010

PART 5: THE MARSHFIELD MONSTER

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I’ll conclude the cluster of blog entries with a slightly more recent sighting investigated by Christopher Noel, a writer and teacher at Vermont College.

As an investigator for the national Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization, Christopher has examined many Vermont Bigfoot experiences. “In May, 2006,” he told me, “two thirteen-year-old cousins, a girl and a boy, were visiting their grandparents’ cabin in Marshfield. While they were out on their ATVs traveling along a disused logging road, they were stopped by a fallen tree. As they were turning around, a figure they described as seven feet tall and hairy rose then dashed on into the forest.”

Christopher says, “Seven feet always seems to be a fallback height when describing these things.”

When he interviewed family members, the cousins’ uncle told of another dramatic encounter in the same general area, around 1980: “He recalled that when he was 19 he and a few friends were doing some night fishing at the reservoir. Someone or something in the bushes began throwing large rocks over their heads and into the water. It was as if someone was trying to scare them. This sort of thing has happened in many cases. It is not as if the rocks are aimed to hit anyone, only frighten them. It usually works.”

A MATTER FOR EXPERTS

There are hundreds of additional examples. One is either convinced or one isn’t. Having looked at some of the evidence – anecdotes, castings, hair, even scat – we still gravitate back to the pictures. Did Sanda Mansi photograph Champ? Did the Chittenden team bag the state’s first Bigfoot photo?

The latter is in no way a hoax. It was hushed up and kept pretty much a secret for almost 30 years. No one had anything to gain by concealing what may be the best evidence Vermont can offer about Bigfoot’s existence. We don’t even know why it was hushed up. To protect the photographer from inevitable ridicule? To preserve the Mountain Top Inn’s reputation as a safe vacation getaway as opposed to a preserve for unknown animals?

Mystery wrapped in mystery.

In trying to make sense of all this, I sought out an expert, Loren Coleman, an internationally-known anthropologist and Bigfoot authority in Portland, Maine. Mr. Coleman is the author of Bigfoot!: The True Story of Apes in America, (NY: Paraview Pocket - Simon and Schuster, 2003) and many other relevant books.

I asked him the obvious questions. For example, I said, “I think any animal living here in Vermont can occasionally be found beside the road, dead. Yet, as far as I know, no Bigfoot body has ever been found there or anywhere else. What do you make of that?”

“Why do we find roadkill?” he said. “Because those animals are not very bright. Yes, deer, moose, raccoons, and a few bear get killed on the roads, but if there are some intelligent biped hairy hominoids out there, they appear to be too smart to be killed by a run-in with a car.”

“Would you care to predict the future?” I asked. “What do you think will be the final outcome? Will Bigfoot join Mountain Gorillas in the biology books? Or is it more likely to remain in the realm of folklore and cryptozoology?”

He seemed to ponder the question. “I sense that a new great ape, probably discovered in Asia or Oceania, will surprise us all in the next 25 years, perhaps on the island of Sumatra. But as far as the classic American Bigfoot, I think it might be another 100 years until they are discovered. We have to be patient. It took 60 to 70 years to discover and capture the first giant panda and the mountain gorilla. Bigfoot will be an even bigger wonder.

“Verification for zoology and biology must come with a live capture, and DNA/blood samples -- or a dead body. It's that simple. No body, no proof they exist. I understand that, but, of course, am in the ‘live capture’ camp, as far as proving they exist.”

So the evidence gained thus far, whether anecdotal or physical, isn’t enough. And the “Chittenden Bigfoot Photo”, whether real, hoax, or misperceived shadows, keeps the mystery alive.

More to follow. . .

NOTES: The "Rain of Stones" illo is by Stephen R. Bissette from The Vermont Ghost Guide. Used with permission.

Christopher Noel's book Impossible Visits presents an interesting and controversial take on the notion of Bigfoots in America. Check it out and search for him on YouTube.