Bigfoot Encounters

Bigfoot? 1977 photo draws researchers
hunting fabled man-ape creature

By Jim Cox, South Alabama Publisher

Clarke County, Alabama: It was a foggy morning back in November 1977. I was driving from my home in Coffeeville to work at The South Alabamian here in Jackson. I was 23, just out of college, and learning the ins and outs of the newspaper business as a novice ad salesman. I was also starting to take photographs and write a few feature stories for the newspaper.

As I rounded a bend on Highway 69 just south of Coffeeville and started
to cross Eberline Mill Creek and go up the hill into the Tattlersville community (many of its residents prefer the better-sounding Union Chapel), I saw an eerie sight. Through the misty fog a figure could be seen on the highway, bent and stooped, with the sun trying to break through the gray in the background. What a great picture, I thought, as I stopped, grabbed my camera and snapped a shot.

We ran the picture on the front page with no mention of it being anything other than a normal person. However, a few folks took the figure to be some kind of “critter” and it sparked a lot of talk, including some references to “Bigfoot,” the fabled man-beast that has stirred the curiosity of many around the globe and here in the U.S.A. for centuries.

That was 27 years ago. I know there are a lot of you who can distinctly remember what happened 30 to 50 years ago with great clarity. I am not one of those people. Sometimes, I can’t tell you what happened last week with a lot of exactness. I guess being in the newspaper business I rely too greatly on notes to prod my memory.

Man shoveling mud?

Anyway, I can’t remember a lot of detail about the “creature” I photographed but something tells me that as I drove on by after making the picture, it was a man shoveling mud off of the highway.

The South Alabamian had a visitor the other week who looked up the photograph and called me about it. He didn’t like my suggestion that it may have been a mere mortal and insisted that I had seen a Bigfoot.

The man, who I’ll just call Bill because he doesn’t want his full name used, researches Bigfoot sightings for an organization called Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization (BFRO). Bill said Alabama has a wealth of reports of Bigfoot sightings, including ones in Clarke and Washington counties. BFRO has an elaborate Web site that details these local sightings as well as others in Alabama and across the U.S.A.

I’ve been in the newspaper business in Clarke County going on 30 years and I’ve never heard any tales of Bigfoot here but Bill assured me that we are well-known to those who study the elusive creature.

Hunter, others reportedly know of creature

He said he had an appointment to talk to a deer hunter from Mobile who said a huge hairy creature walked on two legs under his tree stand in south Clarke County once. Bill also said he was to see people near Gainestown who had stories of the critters.

When I asked for specific names so I could talk to them too, Bill told me the witnesses were reluctant to give them because people would think they were crazy. I told him the newspaper business was about credibility and if he wouldn’t let me use his name, or the people who have reportedly seen Bigfoots (or is it Bigfeet?) wouldn’t let me use theirs, it’d be hard to print a very believable story.

He told me he did investigative work for law firms and businesses and his credibility could be called in question if he used his real name. He promised as soon as he retires he’s coming out of the closet.

Area sightings posted on Webs ite

On the BFRO Web site, Report 1907 is from an unidentified motorist who says on Dec. 5, 1996 they saw a “large creature, about 6.5 feet tall and covered with hair” crossing Highway 69 in front of their vehicle near the Saltworks historical monument in the Bolentown area about 3 p.m. “ I had the window down in my car and I clearly heard a scream unlike any I have heard before in my life,” the individual stated in the report filed Jan. 6, 1997.

In Report 961 submitted Feb. 10, 2000, “V. L.” offered a sighting on Jan. 6, 1997 of a similar “hairy man-like creature” on Highway 56 about two miles west of Wagarville in Washington County.

“I stopped my car to go to the bathroom because I had to go bad and in the woods next to the road there was a horrible hairy man-like creature. It walked toward me and snorted. I was so scared. It had what looked like a small limb or something in its hand. It came up to three feet of me, grunted and walked off. I ran back to the car and got away. I saw it standing in my rear view mirror as I drove away. It was at the edge of the road. I think this monster is dangerous,” the witness said.

He added, “There have been stories of animals with glowing eyes in those woods but I always thought they were deer.”

An additional comment on the Saltworks monument sighting was posted in 1998. A “professional photographer” said he drove an hour-and-a-half to visit the sight after seeing it on the website. He said he found the remains of a goat that appeared to have been dead about a year—about the length of time of the sighting—and speculated that the creature may have killed the goat. A photograph of the goat’s remains is posted on the website, for what that’s worth.

He estimated the distances between this sighting and the Washington County sighting was “at least five miles.” Looking at it on the map, it is at least nine to 10 miles.

Bigfoot sightings in Tuscaloosa, Chilton counties

BFRO’s website details other sightings in Alabama. I told Bill I had looked at the site and he excitingly asked if I had seen the numerous sightings in Tuscaloosa County, including the most recent postings. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that in Tuscaloosa County, some University of Alabama students are apt to see anything, or dream up anything to stir things up. Pink elephants are not unheard of there.

This past summer, The Clanton Advertiser reprinted some stories of Bigfoot in Chilton County that drew a lot of attention. It seems that in the 1960s strange footprints were found in one of Chilton County’s peach orchards. The prints were “similar to a human but bigger and wider,” said James Earl Johnson, the former Chilton County investigator, who tracked the critter.

Bryan Wyatt, a Bigfoot researcher, told NBC 13 television, “Supposedly the legend is that a hairy man-like creature that walks on two legs at some point inhabited the bottomland swamp regions in Chilton County in Clanton, Ala.”

I told Bill that I had collected stories of black panthers and brownish cougars in Clarke County. I believe they exist or have existed. Just a few years ago I had collected a lot of stories on the big cats but my computer crashed and I lost them all.

Back in the 1970s when I was driving between Coffeeville and Jackson regularly, a big black “thing” crossed the road in front of me near Cantuche Church on Highway 69. Again, it was an early foggy morning and the creature leaped off the bank from the left, crouched low for a second in the middle of the highway and leaped again and was gone. It stretched from almost one side of the highway to the other and appeared to have a long tail. It had a cat-like, springy movement and apparently was leaping eight to 12 feet at a bounce.

Bill suggested this was a Bigfoot but I don’t think so. It was moving on four feet, not two and was more cat-like than ape-like. He suggested the “screams” that many have heard and attributed to big cats belong instead to Bigfoot.

Does monster exist in this area?

Does Bigfoot really exist? Does a man-ape species inhabit the river swamps and woodlands of Clarke and Washington counties. If so, how come some of our experienced hunters have never bagged one? Why haven’t loggers or other outdoorsmen spotted one? Why hasn’t someone run over one on the highway? How come no remains have ever been found?

BFRO’s website offers detailed explanations as to why the creatures remain elusive but they don’t satisfy me.

I am skeptical of unidentified “witnesses” reports posted on a website and of an investigator who comes in here and wants information but doesn’t even want full identity known (sorry, Bill). The Internet contains a wealth of information but it also contains a lot of misinformation too.

We want Bigfoot, panther stories

If any of our readers have ever seen one of these creatures, heard unusual screams or know of any other information that can be attributed to the animal, please call me at The South Alabamian , 251-246-4494, or The Clarke County Democrat , 251-275-3375. If you call The Alabamian and I’m not in, please ask for Editor Evan Carden. We will need your name but we may be willing to withhold it if you do not want it published. But we will need it for our records.

Likewise, if you have any stories of panthers or cougars in our area, we’d like to know about them too.

You know, the more I think about that mystery creature in the photograph from 27 years ago, the more I’m was a man with a shovel when I passed by, wasn’t it? Or had the figure moved out of the road by the time I went by?

Could it have been Bigfoot? Ol’ Bill and BFRO have me questioning myself now!

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