Bigfoot Encounters 

The Bigfoot of Bridgewater;
Is it a man-beast or Hockomock crock?

By Ed Hayward

Legend grows to monster proportions - the Hockomock swamp creature

Like his father and his grandfather before him, John Baker was out in the swamp in the pitch black of night, running trap lines for muskrat. A firearm on his hip, Baker worked from his canoe on a section of the Hockomock River, just a mile or so from his West Bridgewater home.

But the peace and quiet trapping demands were undone that night as fear set in on the woodsman. The cold thought that something was watching him. "Something was following me and I knew it was big," said Baker, 48. "So I took the boat down a small creek to a dry hill and it kept moving." As he paddled quietly, he could hear the shambling gate of the man-beast shatter the thin crust of swamp ice. He stopped and watched as the shadowy, hair-covered giant strode a few yards away. "I knew it wasn't a human because when it passed by me I could smell it," said Baker. "It smelled like skunk - musty and dirty. Like it lived in the dirt."

To a man who had spent more than 30 years of his life working in the swamp, the early 1980s encounter was unlike any other event. "My heart was up in my throat," said Baker, who punctuates his sentences with a quick "youknowwhatImean." "To this day I don't know what it was, but I know I saw it and it was out there." The dozens who've felt this fear know it could still be out there - the Hockomock swamp creature.

How it survives, no one is quite sure. Does it feed on deer or wayward house pets? Does it comb the marsh for tender shoots of spring grasses or munch on 10,000-egg clusters left by mating Wood frogs? No one doubts any animal could find refuge in the vast 5,200-acre swamp, which remains a remote, wild place despite the roads, trails and sizzling power lines that criss-cross the soupy forest.

Hockomock. The Indian word means "the evil spirit place" or "haunted place."

A new breed of scientists - cryptozoologists - say the swamp sits smack in the middle of the Bridgewater Triangle, a "window" open to the bizarre world of man-beasts and giant hounds.

But to some veteran swamp-watchers, cryptozoology is a four-letter word.

"There are no monsters out there," insists Joseph Cardoza, 77, a member of the Easton Rod and Gun Club and its 1984 sportsman of the year. "Where do people get these ideas? The biggest footprint I've seen out there is mine."

But even historians give the reported sightings some respect. "Who am I to call them liars?" says Ken Moore, chairman of the Bridgewater Historical Commission. "I wouldn't go near that place in a
million years." "They've got snakes as big as stove pipes, giant birds and Bigfoot. No, I don't go near there."

But the creature stays safe within the primeval confines of the swamp - so remote and deep in some places that chunks of ice still remain from the glaciers that carved out the Hockomock centuries ago, or so the legend goes. The Hockomock Bigfoot - not to be confused with the Pacific Northwest's Sasquatch - has never been photographed or trapped. But not for lack of trying.

To this day, Joseph DeAndrade gets emotional when he recalls his much-publicized sighting of the creature in 1978. DeAndrade was exploring the Clay Banks section of the swamp when he glimpsed the creature.

"Something in my mind told me, `Turn around and you will see,"' said DeAndrade, 43, a former security guard who now writes pamphlets about UFOs. "I saw what I will never forget for the rest of my life. It was 200 feet away and it was walking slowly, like Frankenstein, into the brush." DeAndrade later reported the incident in a local newspaper. "I cried when I wrote that," he said the other day. "I am a very emotional person."

Swathed in camouflage, he and two friends formed the Bridgewater Triangle Expedition Team. Armed with long rifles and cameras, they never spotted Bigfoot again. The team was later disbanded by DeAndrade. "It's hard to find good people. If you're going to do that kind of work, you need help." Despite the fear it inspires - its beastial size, foul odor and fearsome strut - one thing is for certain: The creature has never harmed a human. At least none who lived to tell the tale. "It makes me think I'm lucky to be alive," DeAndrade said. "In the Hockomock Swamp, anything is possible."
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Photo Caption: EYE WITNESS? John Baker of West Bridgewater looks out onto the Hockomock Swamp, where he claims to have seen the man-beast in the early 1980s.Staff photo by Laurie Swope

Photo Caption: BEAST OF EAST: The Hockomock Swamp creature, depicted in this artist's rendering, is rumored to roam the Bridgewater bogs, but it has never been photographed.

Caption: MONSTER VISION? Joseph M. DeAndrade of Bridgewater holds a shadowy illustration of the creature he claims followed him through the Hockomock Swamp. Staff photo by Laurie Swope
© Copyright Boston Herald Library Online Apr 6, 1998

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