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A Monster Caught by a Camera or a Hoax?

Of the many and varied photographs that purport to show real, unknown apes, two of the most talked about, dissected, and studied are those that have become known as the Myakka Skunk Ape photographs – Myakka being a reference to the Myakka River and Myakka State Park that, geographically speaking, dominate the area where the creature was seen. The controversy began on December 22, 2000, when an anonymous letter, and a pair of undeniably sensational photographs, were mailed to the Sarasota County, Florida police department, which, it’s believed, is the same county in which the source of the photos lived. The woman with the potentially priceless photos and tale to tell, said to the police the following:

“Dear Sir or Madam, Enclosed please find some pictures I took in late September or early Oct 2000. My husband says he think it is an orangutan. Is someone missing an Orangutan?  It is hard to judge from the photos how big this orangutan really is. It is in a crouching position in the middle of standing up from where it was sitting. It froze as soon as the flash went off. I didn’t even see it as I took the first picture because it was so dark. As soon as the flash went off for the second time it stood up and started to move. I then heard the orangutan walk off into the bushes.”

She continued: “From where I was standing, I judge it as being about six and a half to seven feet tall in a kneeling position. As soon as I realized how close it was I got back to the house. It had an awful smell that lasted well after it had left my yard. The orangutan was making deep ‘woomp’ noises. It sounded much farther away then [sic] it turned out to be.”

An orangutan

The woman then expressed her concerns about the presence of the beast: “If I had known it was as close to the hedge roll as it was I wouldn’t have walked up as close as I did. I’m a senior citizen and if this animal had come out of the hedge roll after me there wasn’t a thing I could have done about it. I was about ten foot away from it when it stood up. I’m concerned because my grandchildren like to come down and explore in my back yard. An animal this big could hurt someone seriously.” From the woman’s next words, it appears pretty clear that the reason why she had been targeted by the visitations was for one reason, and one reason only: food. She explained to the police:

“For two nights prior, it had been taking apples that my daughter brought down from up north, off our back porch. These pictures were taken on the third night it had raided my apples. It only came back one more night after that and took some apples that my husband had left out in order to get a better look at it. We left out four apples. I cut two of them in half. The orangutan only took the whole apples. We didn’t see it take them. We waited up but eventually had to go to bed. We got a dog back there now and as far as we can tell the orangutan hasn’t been back.

“Please find out where this animal came from and who it belongs to. It shouldn’t be loose like this, someone will get hurt. I called a friend that used to work with animal control back up north and he told us to call the police. I don’t want any fuss or people with guns traipsing around behind our house. We live near I75 and I’m afraid this orangutan could cause a serious accident if someone hit it. I once hit a deer that wasn’t even a quarter of this size of this animal and totaled my car.”

She concluded: “At the very least this animal belongs in a place like Bush Gardens where it can be looked after properly. Why haven’t people been told that an animal this size is loose?  How are people to know how dangerous this could be? If I had known an animal like this was loose I wouldn’t have aprotched [sic] it. I saw on the news that monkeys that get loose can carry Hepatitis and are very dangerous. Please look after this situation. I don’t want my backyard to turn into someone else’s circus. God Bless. I prefer to remain anonymous.”

It appears to be the case that, rather unfortunately but perhaps understandably, the police did very little beyond finding the pictures interesting, and items that provoked a great deal of humor in the department. No doubt, the pictures were a welcome break from the world of crime-fighting! It was not until early January 2001 that matters were taken to another level. That’s when a man named David Barkasy, who ran the Silver City Serpenarium in Saratosa, was informed by the police of the anonymous letter and the accompanying photos. Barkasy quickly contacted Bigfoot authority Loren Coleman, who revealed the astonishing saga to the public.

Was it an orangutan?

Of course, the big question is: what do the photos show? Certainly, the creature looks very much like an orangutan, but is that really what it was? The anonymous woman’s words that “…I judge it as being about six and a half to seven feet tall…” would definitely rule out an orangutan as being the culprit, providing her judgment of the size of the animal was accurate – and from a distance of around only ten feet, it’s a fairly safe guess that the woman was not in error. If not an orangutan per se, the creature may, as Loren Coleman noted, fall into the category of “unknown orangutan relatives.”

Then there is the matter of the woman herself. Although, to this day, she remains unidentified, there is one important thing – beyond the photos, naturally – that suggests she was speaking the truth. Recall that she told the police “we live near I75.” It turns out that David Barkasy was able to determine – as a result of studying the processing number on the images – that the development of the pictures was undertaken, in December 2000, at an Eckerd photo laboratory…near an exit off I75…specifically at the intersection of Fruitville and Tuttle Roads. While there remains no hard and fast consensus on what the creature is, the photos continue to intrigue Bigfoot seekers, years after they were taken.

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Nick Redfern works full time as a writer, lecturer, and journalist. He writes about a wide range of unsolved mysteries, including Bigfoot, UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster, alien encounters, and government conspiracies. Nick has written 41 books, writes for Mysterious Universe and has appeared on numerous television shows on the The History Channel, National Geographic Channel and SyFy Channel.
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