Saturday, January 7, 2012

'Finding Bigfoot's Barackman on Jersey Devil, river serpents & Squatch's sexy squat

Artist depiction of the Honey Island Swamp Monster
in Lousiana. Courtesy Animal Planet
Bigfoot is big business, or at least the search for him is. The Jan. 1 second season premiere of Animal Planet's Finding Bigfoot drew 1.6 million viewers. Not only is this the second-best premiere for the network (after River Monsters), it is a healthy number for a New Year's Day opening. With a third season order presumably forthcoming, and because readers asked for more, we wanted to revisit Finding Bigfoot investigator Cliff Barackman.

Barackman works alongside the Bigfoot Field Researcher’s Organization (BFRO) leader Matt Moneymaker, investigator James “Bobo” Fay and research biologist Ranae Holland on the show to explore reported "Squatch" activity. He spoke with Paranormal Pop Culture before last week's season premiere (read part one here) about his field and theories on the hairy beast man. This time we wanted to ask more about other monsters that might be out there, including the famed monster. We also had to let our minds go in the paranormal potty with our final question.

Q: Since you've been doing this TV show, have you encountered any famous believers of Bigfoot?

A:
I meet people all the time that I've been wanting to meet for a long, long time. Like, Todd Standing from Alberta, for example. He’s a very controversial figure but I’ve always wanted to meet him face-to-face. Every Bigfoot fan knows about him. But as far as like people who are famous in the real sense, who are interested in Bigfoot, there are quite a few of them, actually. Jack Black, for example, is a Bigfoot believer. Jane Goodall, who I have yet to meet face-to-face, is a Bigfoot believer. Vanessa Woods, the bonobo expert is a Bigfoot believer. I understand Dan Aykroyd is interested in the subject. Rob Lowe supposedly has an interest in the subject. There are a lot of people out there that love Bigfoot. In my opinion, everybody loves Bigfoot. Whether you believe in it or you don’t. Everybody kind of likes the subject.

Q: Do you think that the Skunk Ape in Florida, or the other random names for Bigfoot, has some legitimacy?

Barackman
A: Of course. Absolutely. Skunk Ape is just a regional name. Sasquatches, wherever they are found, have regional names. That was especially true before 1958 when the word Bigfoot came into the American vernacular. In various places they are called Wooly Buggers. Down in Arkansas they call them the Fouke Monster. Another place they call it the Honey Island Swamp Monster. They have various names because the pioneers, as they pushed west, ran into these things. They didn’t have a name for it because they said, ‘what the hell is that thing that looks like a man covered in hair?’ Whatever it is, Wooly Bugger or something like that. Wherever you go. Florida is a good example because they call them Skunk Apes down there. Sometimes there’s a big stench involved in a Sasquatch sighting. About ten percent of the time, actually. Sasquatches are a continent-wide phenomenon. Not so much in Mexico, because it’s all deserty and stuff. But coast-to-coast, Canada and the United States. Every state has had a sighting, except for Hawaii.

Q: Even though Bigfoot is your focus, what are your thoughts on other cryptids, like the Jersey Devil, the Loch Ness Monster, Chupacabra?

A: I will say, I think the Jersey Devil is just another local name for Sasquatch way back when. I know they’re reported to have hooves and wings and all this other stuff, but that probably came out later. Most likely back in the early Colonial days, there was a long oral history of the Jersey Devil. Practically all the settlers, whether we’re talking 1690 or 1890, they were all Christians, right? So, as they moved into unknown areas, they ran across scary things that howled at them – or most likely they didn’t even see them, by the way, because there’s a lot of places with reportedly hauntings in the woods, but those hauntings are limited to rocks being thrown and scary noises, screams and howls. Those are all Bigfoot things. It’s a Bigfoot, it’s not a ghost. Jersey Devil, for example, was probably a name for the local Sasquatch back in the day. As far as other species of cryptids it was through bigfooting that I came to realize that giant river serpents are probably the real deal. I did an episode of Monster Quest years ago where Bobo and I were the first white people basically to ever go bigfooting on the Yurok reservation in Northern California on the Klamath River. Just by talking to a handful of Native Americans on that trip alone, I came across like three or four eyewitnesses to these giant river serpents that come up in the river chasing salmon, or used to when there were lots of salmon in the rivers. I would ask Native American elders, ‘Have you ever seen a Bigfoot?’ They’d say, ‘I’ve heard one once, but I have seen a giant river snake.’ We’d start talking about that. I’ve found that no matter where I am on the West Coast, if I have a lot of these giant rivers around - like the Klamath, the Queets River in Washington, the Columbia - if you talk to the Natives there, they all say that not only is Bigfoot real but these giant river serpents are real. They just don’t see them very much, anymore.



Q: How do you explain something like the Skinwalker Ranch where there're these layers of phenomena reportedly happening all in the same place. Do you think that there is some reason for that kind of crossover at the same location where people are saying they see bi-pedal creatures and aliens and ghosts and demons and angels and everything?

A: That's a really good question. That's something that could be studied, I think. I do know about the an Indian reservation that's a great Bigfoot spot. A friend saw a UFO there not too long ago, in the past two or three months in the spot where Sasquatches are. I don't know anything about it. It's fun to speculate. I will say that. It's a lot of fun to speculate on, could it be? Personally, I don't think Sasquatches are inter-dimensional, alien whatever. I think they're perfectly normal. However, wouldn't it be kind of fun if aliens who are into abducting people were into abducting Sasquatches, too. That's a fun thing to think about. But I'm not sure it's worthy avenue of study. At least to me. It seems to me that I can do something about the Bigfoot phenomena. I can go out and try to record them, and take pictures, and try to collect footprints because they're practically in my backyard. There are sightings seven miles from my home. There's not much I can do about the UFO thing. Are they connected in any way? I doubt it. Maybe. Maybe the aliens are interested in Bigfoots, too. Seems a little bit out of my jurisdiction, I should say.

Q: Any funny Bigfoot sightings you can share?

A: An interesting, and I think a funny, story would be one that comes from the Sierra Nevada mountains. A fellow researcher friend of mine, she’s an archaeologist for one of the national forests in Stanislaus National Forest, actually in the Sierra Nevada mountains. She was working an area where there was a family group of Sasquatches. She was putting food out for them - large apple piles, specifically. Really big apple piles, two or three feet tall because that’s the type of food resources that you need to attract Sasquatches, because they are really large animals. They would disappear. She wanted to eliminate the bear possibility so she starting putting them on the platforms in a tree. And I know bears climb trees and stuff, but again, the apples would all disappear. And what started happening was that all the apples would disappear and then there’d be one left. So the Sasquatch was recognizing probably or I’m speculating here, some sort of sense of community I guess - like it was giving something back. And she was still thinking, ‘What if there’s a bear there?’ But she kept doing it because she wanted to see if a pattern developed. This is the part that I really enjoy. A lot of these times, she put that giant apple pile up on this platform up in a tree somewhere, and the next day all of the apples were gone except for one, which is the pattern that was developing. But that one apple was moved three or four feet higher into the tree and shoved between two branches. It’s funny. I think that’s cute. And there are lots of stories of Sasquatches leaving these things. Particularly when people live in an area where a Sasquatch comes by every once in a while, we call them repeat visitations, habituations or long-term witness scenario.We did several of these on Finding Bigfoot last season and even on Season One in Florida. There are a lot of stories of Sasquatches leaving or seemingly leaving gifts for the people who live there. When dog food is put out on the porch, all the dog food is gone but the next day there’s a small pile of rocks there instead. Or if people know Bigfoots are there and their baiting them or leaving them food, all the food’s gone except like five feathers are in a circle in that same spot the next morning. Weird stuff like that.

Q: These creatures are always seen by hikers or people driving by, but why aren't there more stories coming from people going to the bathroom in the woods or having sex out there?

A: You’d be surprised how many of those stories I’ve heard. Now you picture someone who does go out to take a leak or take a dump around a campfire. They leave the campfire area and go 50 yards out somewhere. They’re exactly in the right position, so to speak – squatting - to see a Sasquatch because Sasquatches come close to fires and watch campers. A lot - a lot being like one or two percent of the time you’re out there. Now, these people are away from the fire and squatting, which in primate body language, squatting is a very inoffensive pose. In fact, mountain gorilla specialists, they say when you get close to mountain gorillas, squat down and don’t make eye contact. This is exactly what these people are doing when they’re out in the woods taking a dump or when a woman is taking a leak. They do see Sasquatches a lot. As far as people having sex in tents and whatever else - or even out in the open, because you’re out in the wilderness - the noise seems to draw Sasquatches in. Even though you asked that question in jest, both of those circumstances happen fairly commonly.

Q: We can pass along that piece of advice? To see Bigfoot in the woods, try squatting. Squatting for the Sasquatch. It sounds like a bumper sticker.

A: Yeah, you can always say, 'Squat for the Squatch.'

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