Bigfoot Encounters

Believer in Bigfoot gathers tales of local sightings in Indiana

NORTH WEBSTER, Indiana 28 August 2005 -- Mike Bardsley is used to people giving him a hard time. "You get out of the truck at Wal-Mart and people are like, `Are you serious?'," he said. One guy thought Bardsley was working a gimmick to sell shoes. Bardsley isn't selling shoes. And he is serious.

His Chevy Suburban gets noticed because it bears the address bigfoot46555 dot net a web site set up by Bardsley that's devoted to Bigfoot. The site includes accounts of Bigfoot sightings/encounters in Kosciusko County.

Bigfoot, or sasquatch, is supposedly a large, hairy, manlike creature. He or she or it has long been a part of pop culture lore. There have been numerous reports of Bigfoot sightings over the years, but skepticism persists about the creatures' existence — and with good reason.

No one has ever killed or captured a Bigfoot, or happened upon a Bigfoot corpse. The proof is elusive. In conversation, Bardsley comes across as an intelligent fellow and not the credulous type. Bardsley is also a Bigfoot believer. More specifically, he calls himself a "level 3" believer, and described the different levels as such:

1. People who don't believe in sasquatch
2. People who aren't sure
3. Believers
4. Believers who've seen it. Bardsley hopes one day to hit "level 4."

Bardsley started his Web site following a couple of incidents where he used to live, a rural area north of North Webster. Bardsley recalled an episode in which one of his sons and the son's friend told him they'd seen a "really big hairy thing" they initially thought was a dog. Then came one memorable night in October 2003.

According to Bardsley, it was fairly bright out under a full moon, and he'd been hearing things outside. He dozed off around 1 a.m., only to be awakened later by someone "beating on the front of the trailer and yelling," he said.

Making the racket was Bardsley's son and two of his friends, all of whom wanted inside. Bardsley said the youths spent the rest of the night talking about what they'd experienced outside. Addled by his interrupted sleep, Bardsley had to wait to get the full story. "It's not that I didn't believe them," he said. "I don't think I was totally aware of what they were trying to explain to me." Bardsley indicated that he quizzed the kids later, and separately, and their story stayed consistent. Bardsley's son and his friends said they arrived at the home and, from the porch, heard something making noises they couldn't discern.

Suddenly, what one of the boys thought was a stump in the yard stood up to its full, imposing height and ran off to the east at a high rate of speed. It then came back into their view, according to Bardsley. The boys claimed that what they saw was a big, hairy, bipedal creature about 8 feet tall with long arms.

Bardsley said that over the next couple of weeks, he started researching Bigfoot using the popular databases and discovered Kosciusko County reports.

"I started finding random reports of Bigfoot in Indiana and I'm thinking, `This is crazy,'" he said. Bigfoot is commonly associated with the Pacific Northwest.

The more Bardsley got into his research, the more he heard tales of local encounters. He started wondering how many others had had similar experiences, and that's when he discovered the world of online forums and message boards. Soon he launched his own Web site. Bardsley considers himself an independent researcher. He noted that after he's done follow-up investigations with people who've given him their accounts of Bigfoot, "They're very grateful that somebody actually would talk to them about it. Because I think they've kind of got this `nobody believes me' feeling and they're dying for someone to actually listen to what they're saying. "That tends to tell me they're not just making this up fishing for a nice hoax."

Bigfoot enthusiasts bring different beliefs to the table, according to Bardsley. There are those who view Bigfoot as a flesh- and-blood entity, and those who think Bigfoot has supernatural powers. There are Bigfoot preservationists, and those with the goal of killing a Bigfoot and bringing it in to prove it exists. For the record, Bardsley's creation is a "no kill" Web site "as it pertains to the intentional hunting or killing of a Bigfoot/Sasquatch."

As there are differences among Bigfoot enthusiasts, so are there different types of Bigfoot. There are size variances depending on region, Bardsley said, and the same is true with hair color. Some Bigfoots are exclusively bipedal, and some will drop to all fours and run. Generally, Bigfoot gets bigger the farther north it's sighted.

One aspect of Bigfoot stays pretty consistent. "They seem to, with a passion, want to avoid human contact," Bardsley said. Bardsley doesn't think the creatures live in Indiana, per se. Rather, he said there seems to be a spring and fall connection "to either migration or nomadic tendencies." Where they're coming from and where they're going is a mystery.

According to Bardsley's Web site, Bigfoot's comings and goings have brought it close by. One listing is of an April 2004 sighting that reportedly took place near the intersection of Kosciusko County roads 1100 North and 300 East between Milford and Syracuse. Another report describes a 1995 encounter in Syracuse along the railroad tracks by Chinese Gardens. Sometime in the '80s, a big, hairy manlike creature supposedly ran in front of a carload of people on Bowser Road near Syracuse.

Sue Castor, a telecommunications officer with Indiana Department of Natural Resources district headquarters in Syracuse, said her office has never received a report of a sasquatch. She's been with the IDNR nine years.

Steve Ross has been manager of the Tri-County Fish and Wildlife area for the past 15 years. He, too, has never received a Bigfoot report.

"We've had calls of various big cats of some type, be it bobcat or puma or something like that," Ross said. That type of sighting is entirely possible, he added.

"As far as sasquatch goes, I haven't had any," Ross said. Bardsley said he is a believer because too many people have had the same experiences over a broad span of time. The reports span regions and come from people from all walks of life, he said."Just using logic, there's something going on," Bardsley said. "Now is it exactly what we think it is? Maybe not. Maybe it's far more simple."

By SCOTT WEISSER, News Assistant City Editor

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