Thursday May 5, 2011
Has Madison County Been Visited By Sasquatch?
By Steve Rensberry, Reporter
Madison County has had its share of mysteries over the years, from UFO sightings
to ghosts to black panthers.
Traverse the state and you'll come across the legend of the Gooseville Bear, the
Stump Pond Serpent, giant Thunderbirds, the Cole Hollow Road Monster, the
Murphysboro Mud Monster, the Enfield Horror and the Farmer City Monster.
Then there's Bigfoot--or Sasquatch if you prefer.
Missouri's Momo, the Yeti or Abominable Snowman of the Himalayan region and a
few other stealthy creatures of lore bear some similarities.
Before you brush it off as just another tale, on par with seances and alien
abductions, consider that the legend of Bigfoot hinges to a large extent on
simple eye-witness reports and basic science.
The legendary creature is considered to be what's called a bipedal cryptid and
the subject matter of a field of study known as cryptozoology, loosely defined
as the study of relatively hidden animals for which evidence is primarily
circumstantial and anecdotal.
"Photo Courtesy - Troy Times-Tribune"
Bigfoot Field ResearchersÂ Organization Investigator Stan Courtney stands next
to Silver Creek,Â near where it crosses Illinois Route 4 and close to the allegedÂ
sighting of a Sasquatch that took place in 1980.
According to one local sourceâ€”who asked to remain anonymous for fear of
reprisalâ€”evidence for the elusive hairy giant may be scarce but sightings in the
Troy and St. Jacob area, and in other parts of Madison County, are not unheard
of. And while he himself has never seen one, he has his suspicions.
One source of reports is the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization (BFRO),
founded in 1995 and headquartered in Orange County, California. Its director and
co-founder is a man by the name of Matthew Moneymaker. Another is the
Texas-based Gulf Coast Bigfoot Researchers Organization.
Both organizations publish online databases of sightings around the U.S.
"I have a friend who recently had a sighting within about 50 miles of Chicago
and this spring there was a sighting 15 miles from the St. Louis Arch. I hear
about lots of reports that never get published," BFRO researcher Stan Courtney
wrote in an online post dated September 2009.
One of the closest reported sighting allegedly occurred on Christmas Eve in 1980
along Illinois Route 4 near Silver Creek, approximately one-quarter of a mile
north of U.S. Highway 40. The report was submitted to BFRO.
"The witness stated that the animal was very muscular with a neck like a
bodybuilder and a large head. Facial features were very ape-like, the entire body
was covered in a two-inch long dark and shaggy hair. This location is next to an
intermittent stream running into Silver Creek which runs into the Kaskaskia River
near New Athens."
According to the report, the subject (who remains anonymous, as in all BFRO
reports), had just turned onto Route 4 and had begun picking up speed when he
saw the creature in the middle of the roadway. He then turned on his bright
lights and hit the brakes.
"I came within inches of it and was looking at it the whole time. It was
standing up but seemed to be kind of bent over at the waist and it was holding
its right arm up against its chest (like if you would have your arm in a sling).
I estimate it was well over seven foot tall," the witness said.
Another BFRO report details an incident in June of 2006 in Pin Oak Township not
far from where Illinois Route 143 approaches Edwardsville. This one involved
both an eye-witness claim and a suspicious footprint measuring about 14 inches
long by five inches wide.
The report was submitted by the husband of the woman who allegedly saw the
creature, which she said was about 10 feet away from her as she pulled into
Courtney paid three visits to the site.
"After our first conversation, the witness called and stated that a footprint
was found in the woods behind the house." Courtney noted. "I asked that the
footprints be covered to be protected and I would visit the property."
His report describes a tall, thinly-built creature with narrow shoulders and
weighing approximately 250 pounds.
"Although the witness saw the face, it was so hairy that she was unable to make
out any details," he said. In a recent interview with the Times-Tribune,
Courtney, 62, said he is one of about five BFRO field investigators in Illinois
and that Missouri has about six, though he is one of the most active. Courtney,
who comes across as straightforward and down-to-earth, lives near Litchfield and
retired in 2009 after 35 years with St. John's Hospital in Springfield. He has
been a member of BFRO since 2004.
"It's really a complex subject, and one of the things that makes it complex is
you're dealing with people," he said.
One of Courtney's specialties is wildlife audio recording and analysis. He also
maintains a comprehensive listing of reported Bigfoot encounters in Illinois on
his website at www.stan-courtney.com, in addition to a Facebook page. He gives
presentations before any number of groups, from those interested in the
paranormal to UFO groups to those of a more scientific persuasion.
On April 17, Courtney was a guest speaker at a Springfield Ghost Society meeting
. Another pending engagement is with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Illinois ranks number seven nationwide in the number of Bigfoot encounters, with
reported sightings in 76 out of 102 counties, Courtney says on his site.
He estimates that the State of Illinois has more than 87,000 miles of wooded
streams and rivers and said a sizable amount of its total land area consists of
woods or forest areas.
Although he believes only a small percentage of possible Sasquatch sightings are
ever reported, as much as 50 percent turn out to be hoaxes while another 35
percent involve "something" but do not contain enough information to say what it
was, he said. That leaves only about 15 percent of reported encounters that have
some measure of legitimacy.
Will we ever know the truth? Do the alleged Bigfoot sightings in Madison County
involve the same species as those reported elsewhere?
Until someone actually captures one, either with high-definition photo equipment
or in real life, we won't really know. What we do know is that reputed sightings
of large, hairy creatures similar to Bigfoot have been around almost as long as
humans haveâ€”a fact which Courtney suggests adds to its credibility.
The famous Patterson/Gimlin film captured at Bluff Creek, California in 1967 is
still considered by many people as the best evidence to date of a real, live
Sasquatchâ€”despite its controversy.
Before you get primed for your own Bigfoot search, here's one more report, this
one from neighboring Bond County and listed in the Gulf Coast Bigfoot Researcher
Entered on October, 1985, the database entry cites a breaking daylight encounter
where a hunter, safely hidden within a deer stand, heard something the likes of
which he'd never heard before.
As told by an acquaintance:
"After he was in his deer stand for about 10 minutes . . . something that sounded
like a man walking walked in the same way he did and walked right past his stand
about 50 yards past. It started beating on its chest and got evidently very mad
and started tearing up trees and stuff. It was growling and stuff, making mad
sounds. When the horizon in the east just started to show, it ran down towards
the creek in about 10 leaps, estimated speed about 40 miles per hour or faster.
No footprints, no hair, just this freaky ordeal."
The report cites two other people who claim to have heard strange sounds,
including on one occasion a "terrifying scream," coming from the same area, once
in 1967 and again in 1988.