When most people think about Bigfoot, it is a large and probably imaginary creature, roaming the Pacific Northwest that first enters our minds. Allowing for the remote sense of possibility that such a creature might really exist, many would also conceive that such a rugged area of North America would be requisite in order for the animals to have remained as elusive as Bigfoot is purported to be.
However, as represented in the folklore and witness accounts surrounding belief in Bigfoot in America, similar animals are often reported elsewhere in the country.
The Florida Everglades represent one region where many such reports have been collected over the years, contributing to the folklore of what is often called the "Skunk Ape," an Eastern variety of the Bigfoot famously reported in the Pacific Northwest. These creatures are also reported further west, with the famous legends about a "beast" haunting the bottoms of Boggy Creek having become the stuff of legend since director Charles Pierce made his famous low-budget offering on the creature's strange existence in the early 1970s.
Heading south from Boggy Creek, it is in the state of Louisiana that a number of interesting stories about Bigfoot begin to appear; some of them portray a creature taken to be far more aggressive than Bigfoot of the Pacific Northwest, while others are, at times, downright eerie.
One such story was sent along to me from a retired serviceman with the US Army. In 1976, he had been stationed at Fort Polk, Louisiana, and on one occasion he and a few of his fellow officers had been engaged in a night time compass course, during which they became disoriented and had made their way from their post. The men traveled together for some time through the darkness, trying to find their starting point, and at some point they became aware of an animal that was following them at a distance. The creature had stood between six and eight feet tall, and they had been able to see the red reflection off of its eyes, in addition to the horrible odor that accompanied it, as they traveled.
As the story goes, the gentleman who shared his story said that he and his companions made their way to a paved road, which they followed for about a mile before a car finally came along. Flagging it down, they asked the driver if they could get a ride back to their base, at which time the driver asked if they had seen the "animal" that had been following them. The driver had claimed to see this creature that pursued the men, saying it was tall, covered in shaggy hair, and standing on two legs. As his headlights illuminated the beast, it ran on two legs back into the forest.
A similar story from the same general area would occur a few years later, involving an outdoorsman named Mike Wooley, who claimed to have had an encounter with a pair of aggressive manlike creatures in Louisiana while deer hunting in December of 1981.
"It was a beautiful December day, perfect weather for a hunt." At 3 PM Wooley reached his deer stand, which was located about 1.5 miles down a logging road off the main highway. Wooley had parked his vehicle halfway down the old road, and walked the rest of the way to the stand. After some time, a small doe came rushing out of the brush, and ran directly beneath his stand where she laid down. Shortly afterward, Wooley observed another animal emerging from the brush, and moving in his direction.
"I knew right then that something wasn't right," Wooley recalls. He observed the creature through the scope of his rifle, and could see in fine detail the humanlike aspects of the animal's face. He could see the creature's flat teeth, the moisture of its breath against the December air, and even its nostrils flaring.
At first, Wooley felt he was looking at a feral human, but the animal-like characteristics convinced him otherwise. The creature, covered in dark hair that reminded Wooley of a gorilla, turned its head and whistled, apparently calling to a companion on the ridge above them. At this time, while the animal was still a good distance away, Wooley claims he left his tree stand, and as he returned to the area where he had left his vehicle, he became aware that the creature was pursuing him. Nearing the tailgate of his truck, he fired a warning shot, stopping the creature, and managed to escape.
Such stories have grown in popularity over the years, partially as a result of the popularity of a film that supposedly depicts a female Bigfoot made in Bluff Creek, California in 1967 by filmmaker Roger Patterson.
According to Dr. Jeffery Meldrum, who is among the more vocal proponents of Bigfoot's existence among the scientific community today, the fact that reports of Bigfoot encounters only began to appear in the Southeast following the interest in the subject resulting from Patterson's film casts some doubt on many of the stories.
On the other hand, taken at face value, stories like those Mike Wooley and others have shared present the case for a manlike creature, and at times an aggressive one, that ranges throughout a much larger portion of the United States than previously believed. Can they (or should they, in fairness) be ruled out so easily?