Geographical Index > United States > Pennsylvania > Adams County > Article # 455
Media Article # 455
Saturday, November 12, 2005
By DEBBY HEISHMAN
The Public Opinion (local newspaper - Chambersburg, PA)
For anyone who's ever fled with thudding heart from a shrill nighttime sound or blurred apparition, a recent group of visitors to Michaux State Forest is willing to wager that what's out there is more real than imagined.
Bigfoot Field Research Organization last week converged on Caledonia State Park to investigate hollows and hillsides of the surrounding state forest, anticipating an encounter with the elusive mystery, Sasquatch.
The organization, known as BFRO, was founded in 1995 and claims the largest database of credible Bigfoot/Sasquatch sightings throughout the United States and Canada. Besides collecting data, volunteer members do field inquiries throughout the country.
This expedition, BFRO's first in Pennsylvania, was initiated on the strength and number of qualified sightings in Adams and Franklin counties, said BFRO founder, Matt Moneymaker.
The Waynesboro Reservoir capers, which had caused a stir a few years back, were already a footnote in the "cases closed" file. Those oversized footprints, Moneymaker said, had long been debunked as contrived. Talk now centered on a 1997 report from an Adams County hunter who told of seeing three large creatures passing quickly through the woods as he crouched on his tree stand above.
A dozen or more seekers, some with their own expensive, hi-tech instruments, came equipped for a scientific search. Most came with stories of their own — a never-to-be-forgotten sight or sound that kept them wondering.
Michael Greene, a retired fraud investigator, owns a thermal imager, which he'd wired to a digital camera worn at his waist, and a night vision scope.
Greene's eerie backwoods experience had occurred many years earlier.
"I heard this ungodly loud howl," he said slowly, "unlike anything before. When I heard this same sound later on a recording, my skin went cold. That's how strongly it came back to me."
Recordings of sounds attributed to [sasquatches] have been collected for years. BFRO maintains a computer file of more commonly heard vocalizations — from a low moan to a high-pitched whistle — which are useful in the field.
Sound is a new tool that Moneymaker believes will be key in getting a response from [sasquatches].
"[Bigfoot/Sasquatch] research is in its infancy here [in the eastern U.S.]," he said. "In the east, it never got much attention; it had a folkloric association."
There are informal associations with individuals at northwestern universities, said Moneymaker, but because of the stigma attached to the subject, the group's academic associations are not usually not publicized.
On the third night of their vigil, the team set up in a large open tract where they had heard promising evidence the night before.
Breaking into four smaller groups, the team kept in touch by radio. Through the heavy, hand-held thermal imager, one pair at a distant point was seen as two clear white clumps under the gray-white stick images of trees.
The night was cool and silent, with an occasional barred owl or barking dog raising voice in the distance.
Mark Maisel scanned the clearing with night vision binoculars, observing the surreal nature of their quest.
"Bigfoot research is considered a pseudo-science," he said. "But our methods are based on scientific method. We're curious. That's why we're out here."
Maisel interviews people who report sightings.
"I met with a man once who needed a cigarette before he could even talk," he said. "While he was telling me his story, the hair on his arm stood straight up. He was clearly shaken. You can't make up something like that."
Paul Mateja, who investigates sighting reports in New York, said he became involved with BFRO after reporting four incidents that occurred to him and his family over a 25-year period in upstate New York. Immersed in the biology of Bigfoot identification, he has kept up a correspondence with primate researcher, W. Henner Fahrenbach of Oregon, who has published works on the Bigfoot phenomenon.
Not long ago, Mateja said, his wife heard an awful call at 3:30 a.m.
"The sound was so powerful, it shook the windows of our farm house and woke up the neighbors," he said.
From time to time, after a signal, one of the crew would bellow into the night, a loud, deep drawn-out call that echoed among the hills. It should have scared up sounds from coyote, birds and deer all across the hillsides, said Maisel, but nothing stirred or called.
A recorded scream was played through the amplifier, but as the shrillness faded out, there was only silence.
For two nights, there was little to record other than vehicles that frequently hummed along distant roads, shooting lights across the dark woods.
Before the team members had left their campsite for the last night's search, an uncommitted visitor dropped by to meet Moneymaker.
Ray Sterner works at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., and in his spare time, he makes maps. His copyrighted relief maps are made available through North Star Publications.
Sterner had become acquainted with Moneymaker after learning that one of his maps was appearing unacknowledged on BFRO's Web site. He called to set them straight.
Since then, Sterner has prepared the relief maps for BFRO. At the same time, he's disproved two videos that had been submitted as evidence. In one film, what appeared to be a stick thrown across the frame was proven to be an insect that had flown across the lens.
"I'm a skeptic," said Sterner. "You need a lot of proof."
Sterner and his wife, who live in Carroll County, Md., hike on occasion in Michaux. When he learned Moneymaker would be here, Sterner sought him out.
The men conferred briefly, holding an Appalachian Trail map against a tree. Then, huddling at the picnic table with his team, Moneymaker highlighted three possible search routes on the map. Blue marker crisscrossed the black elevation lines printed on the map.
"Excuse me," interrupted Sterner. "That's my map you're using. I'll need it tomorrow if I intend to go hiking."
Laughter ensued, and Sterner continued. "Could I have your autograph?"
With the same blue highlighter he'd been using to route a final search, Moneymaker signed the map and handed it back to Sterner.
Before they parted, the two shook hands.