I recently gave a short interview to our local newspaper.
Some of you will think Stan Courtney is wasting his time. Others of you will think Stan is onto something. Your reaction depends on how you feel about Bigfoot (Sasquatch, if you prefer).
Stan is central Illinoisâ€™ foremost expert on the legendary (mythical?) man-beast. Stanâ€™s website â€“ www.stancourtney.com — contains an exhaustive record of Illinois Bigfoot reports dating from 2009 all the way back to 1883.
For 35 years, Stan lived in Pawnee and worked at St. Johnâ€™s Hospital in Springfield. He has retired and is living, well, all heâ€™ll say is that it is â€œsouth of Springfield.â€
â€œI donâ€™t want other researchers invading my territory,â€ he explains. There isnâ€™t much chance of that, since Bigfoot researchers appear to be on the sparse side. Be that as it may, Stan says his Bigfoot interest began when he was a boy in his native Idaho.
â€œI heard stories, read newspaper articles, when I was a kid about him,â€ Stan says. â€œI had relatives who had contact and had seen him.â€
Since then, Stanâ€™s interest has grown into an avocation. Stan has spent nights out in the woods, listening and recording weird, unexplained sounds (you can hear them for yourself at his website, along with more conventional outdoor recordings).
â€œIâ€™ve interviewed over 200 witnesses whoâ€™ve seen (Bigfoot),â€ Stan says. â€œI literally know hundreds of people whoâ€™ve seen these animals. There have been lots of them in central Illinois. Iâ€™ve recorded lots of sounds that other researchers and witnesses believe come from these animals. People in Springfield donâ€™t realize it, but there have been a lot of reports from the Sangamon River around Riverton.â€
Already, I can hear the scoffing. Go ahead. Stanâ€™s used to it. It must, I told him, be like the UFO sightings. There have been thousands of reports of UFOs, but most people still dismiss the idea. Mere weather balloons. Meteorites. The aurora borealis. Airplanes. Lightning.
Here is a report Stan documents concerning a Nov. 8, 2008, sighting in Macoupin County: â€œI recently moved out of my house in Girard, IL. During the last year or so I have experienced several strange occurrences.
â€œI have never actually seen anything except once a large dark shape moving bipedally through the heavy fog. I have heard the sound of something drumming on tree trunks. The sound of something BIG walking in the woods, on 2 legs. I have found chunks of firewood thrown from my wood pile. And on November 25 of 2008, as I was packing to move I heard a moaning howl very close to the house. I have hunted for 20 years and I have NEVER heard the likes of this.
â€œI stopped loading the vehicle, loaded my .45 and locked the door. I did the rest of my packing the next two nights armed but as before I had the distinct feeling I was being watched and several times large branches were broken, and there was knocking on trees.
â€œAlso there is an area of the woods where the grass and foliage is crushed down. This could be deer, but since these things have started occurring, the deer, who are usually thick as fleas have been gone.â€
The witness isnâ€™t named, which is not unusual for these reports of contact.
â€œThereâ€™s a lot of ridicule that goes along with this,â€ Stan says. â€œThat kind of puts a damper on getting reports.â€
Stan is open about his belief in Bigfoot. He says heâ€™s too old to give a darn what people think.
â€œMaybe I would if I was 25 years old and starting a career where it might affect me,â€ he says. â€œA lot of people who are in the field might own a business and donâ€™t want their customers to know. The other side of it is people donâ€™t care who knows it.â€
You have to admit, this is a fascinating hobby. Stan has been a member of the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization (http://bfro.net) since 2004.
One of these days, he says, someone is going to find a dead Bigfoot carcass or one will be hit by a semi on the highway. Then all debate will be over.
Until then, Stan will be out there somewhere, probably in a lonely, remote place in Illinois, recorder in hand â€” waiting.
Everybody has a story. The problem is that some of them are boring. If yours is not, contact Dave Bakke at 788-1541 or firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. To read more, visit www.sj-r.com/bakke.