July 21, 2005
Bigfoot seen in Seneca?
By Charles Stanley
Ottawa Daily Times
SENECA — For at least 20 years, the woods on both sides of Seneca near the Illinois River have been frequented by elusive Bigfoot creatures, according to an investigator for the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization.
The reports of a sighting from 1983 west of Seneca in La Salle County and from just last month east of Seneca in Grundy County have been posted by investigator Stan Courtney, a hospital worker from the Springfield area, to the organization’s Web site www.bfro.net.
The first involved two campers who had a dark evening encounter with a creature near their campsite close enough that they could hear it breathe and pick up an odor that was a cross between garbage and musk cologne. By firelight they could see the creature was wide and about 8 foot tall. As it prowled nearby, the men became scared and crawled away.
Then, last month, a man hunting snakes heard a rustling in a nearby tree line.
“Right outside of the tree line I saw the back half from the waist up of this Bigfoot,” the man told Courtney. “It turned ever so slightly, it didn’t face me, but it turned towards my direction a little bit kind of like it acknowledged me there, and then continued to walk off.”
The witness also noticed a pungent, musky old mop smell.
Courtney, who since last year has made hundreds of calls around the country to obtain details of reported sightings, also visited both sites, which are on private land, with the witnesses.
“I went out in the field with them,” Courtney said. “I heard the animals myself, I heard their calls. You probably hear them 100 times more than you see one. So after that happened to me I thought, yeah, I know they’re there for sure.”
Now he is working on another more recent local sighting from the Grundy County side of Seneca.
The witnesses of the previous two sightings, who were unknown to each other, got together to visit each other’s encounter sites and saw two of the creatures together, Courtney said.
“These things are in family groups,” he said. “I believe there are four or five of them in the Seneca group. At least three different males have been seen there.”
Although Bigfoot creatures are associated with the Pacific Northwest, where they also are known as sasquatch, there have been sightings in Illinois for well over a century, Courtney said, but under different names.
At the state historical library in Springfield, Courtney combs old microfilmed newspapers.
“I have found reports back as far as 1882 from the Decatur newspaper,” he said. Most frequently the sightings are downstate and the creatures are termed as monsters — but their descriptions are similar to those of the Bigfoot creatures.
In the early 1970s there was a burst of monster stories from Central Illinois.
In 1970 the “Farmer City Monster” was said to have been seen by dozens of people, including police officers.
Two years later a large hairy creature spotted near Cole Hollow Road close to Peoria soon became known as “Cohomo.” A massive search for the creature organized by the Tazewell County sheriff ended when one of the volunteers accidentally shot himself in the leg with a pistol he had brought along.
In 1973 to 1974 it was the “Murphysboro Mud Monster” that drew public interest.
But around 1980 the reports began to dry up. Courtney attributes that to a takeover of the Bigfoot subject by tabloid newspapers.
“After that, people who experienced sightings weren’t going to come forward for fear of being exposed to extreme ridicule,” Courtney said. “Among the hundreds of people I have called invariably they will say ‘You know, you are only the second person I have ever told because I don’t want to be laughed at, and I don’t want to be called a liar. I have to live in my community and I just don’t want my family to go through that.’ “
For those same reasons, the identity of the men who made the Seneca sightings is confidential.
But with the arrival of the Internet, individuals were able to report their sightings directly to investigators such as Courtney.
The Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization Web site lists 42 sightings in Illinois over the years. But that is only a fraction of the reports, says Courtney.
Clearly about one-half are hoaxes, he said. Then about another 20 percent to 30 percent are sincere but questionable.
“Maybe people felt they saw or heard something, but they’re not sure,” Courtney said. “Just because they heard something and don’t know what it is doesn’t make it a Bigfoot.”
And of the remaining reports, some are posted on the Web page — but others are kept for internal organization use only. And even the ones that are posted are rated A, B or C for quality.
An April report from near Franklin Grove in Lee County posted to the Web site includes a photograph of a Bigfoot footprint. It appears large, but there is nothing beside it to establish the scale.
Courtney says that although Bigfoot creatures are portrayed as subhuman, that the current thinking among researchers is they are more closely related as primates to chimps or gorillas.
“There’s nothing to indicate they have intelligence higher than that,” he said. “They don’t build fires. They don’t make tools. It’s just the way their hips are built that they walk upright. People have a tendency to think they are more human, but I don’t think that makes it that way.”
There are an estimated 2,000 to 6,000 Bigfoot creatures in North America, he said.
The conditions that seem to favor their presence are wooded locations near a river with a substantial population of deer, which they hunt.
A posted Bigfoot sighting report from Kane County notes a deer carcass was found wedged in a tree fork.
“There’s evidence out west they do communal hunting for elk,” Courtney said.
Courtney admits it takes faith to believe that the Bigfoot creatures exist. But at one time gorillas also were thought to be a hoax, and even primate expert Jane Goodall gives serious attention to Bigfoot research.
Personal experiences will convert other skeptics as they did him, Courtney said.
“It really shook me up seeing my first Bigfoot footprint and hearing these animals come down to our campground at night and yell at us and then having them throw sticks and rocks.”
Where and when someone can expect to see a Bigfoot is impossible to say, Courtney said.
“But if you’re along the Illinois River, and in a place where there is a lot of woods and a lot of deer, then there is the chance you might see one going through that area.”