The Ottawa Daily Times Article on the Seneca Sightings
July 21, 2005
Bigfoot seen in Seneca?
By CHARLES STANLEY , Marseilles Bureau Chief
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.”
Two Chicago Tribune Articles on the Seneca Sightings
Small Town A Bastion Of Bigfoot Belief
Sasquatch is no tall tale to those who document supposed sightings, four of which are said to have happened in 26 years near rural Seneca
By Dave Wischnowsky
Tribune staff reporter
Published October 10, 2005
SENECA, Ill. — A few months ago, the big news in this village of 2,053 residents was that its lone men’s barbershop had closed after 42 years.
As the summer wore on, however, many locals found themselves bantering about a more exotic topic: Bigfoot.
For better or worse, Seneca has become a veritable Sasquatch Central following a flurry of investigations conducted by a member of the California-based Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization, which bills itself as “the only scientific research organization exploring the Bigfoot/Sasquatch mystery.”
“My mind’s open to anything. After all, they just found another planet. So, who knows? Anything’s possible,” lifelong Seneca resident Jim Maier, 61, joked.
The rumors also create questions. From how and why Bigfoot stories can begin in a place such as Seneca–about 70 miles southwest of Chicago–to the reasons behind our powerful fascination with tales of things that go bump in the night.
“Bigfoot is one of those things that people like believing in,” said Dr. Christopher Bader, an assistant professor of sociology at Baylor University in Texas. “Because, how boring would the world be if we thought we had discovered everything?”
Since Stan Courtney of the BFRO first visited Seneca, he has deemed reports of four separate Bigfoot encounters near town credible enough to post on the group’s Web site. Two of the alleged encounters happened in early June, and the others date back to 1979 and 1983.
Courtney first posted two Bigfoot reports on the group’s Web site July 9, prompting the Daily Times, a newspaper in nearby Ottawa, to publish a story about the rumors. After that story ran, Courtney said he received information about other Bigfoot encounters. He posted two more reports in late August.
All four of the supposed sightings were within a mile of each other in a densely wooded area just south of the Illinois River along Seneca’s narrow and twisting DuPont Road. Three occurred in Grundy County, while the fourth was in LaSalle County. One account involved two Bigfoot creatures.
“We heard some commotion over in the woods, and we were looking down into the trees. … At first, I didn’t know what to think,” a man identified only as “Tom” is quoted as saying on www.bfro.net, the official Web site of the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization. “If anything, it could be a man in a suit.
“Then I saw the second one in the clearing as plain as day. I guess I don’t know how to explain it, but I just knew it wasn’t a man at that time.”
“Tom” believes the creatures he saw in June near Seneca– allegedly covered in hair, standing more than 8 feet tall and reeking of a pungent odor–to be Bigfoots.
To many longtime Seneca residents, such stories are actually nothing new. Tales of a towering, hairy creature stalking the woods along DuPont Road date back four decades, they say.
“Growing up, it was always the `DuPont Monster,'” said Kim Tedford, a resident of Seneca for more than 30 years. “The [Daily Times] newspaper story was the first I’d ever heard about it being Bigfoot.”
Whatever the names, countless towns throughout the nation boast tales of the supernatural. And like a good scary movie, those stories can provide a dose of excitement, Bader said.
“Every state has its roads where there’s a phantom hitchhiker, and every town has its haunted houses,” he said. “Regardless of whether there are such things as Bigfoot, people like that thrill of uncertainty, that sense of danger. It’s exciting to try and discover the unknown. And it’s a lot more fun to have that little bit of doubt when you’re sitting out in the woods.”
Bader says he once sat alone inside an isolated cabin in Washington state at 3 a.m. with a recording of a Bigfoot “scream” playing outside. The effort failed to attract any creatures, he said.
But it didn’t fail to excite.
“The only time I’ve believed in Bigfoot was from 3 a.m. to 6 a.m. that night, when I thought playing that tape was the stupidest thing I’d ever done,” Bader said. “I was scared out of my wits. … But I felt that thrill.”
A belief in Bigfoot also can provide a sense of significance and belonging, said Dr. James Alcock, a professor of psychology at York University in Toronto and member of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal.
“One type of a believer is a person really fascinated by something strange, but who typically doesn’t have much background in science, or found science hard or boring growing up,” Alcock said. “But if they jump on the bandwagon with flying saucers or Bigfoot, they think that they’re doing some sort of science. And that in some way they’re a `real’ scientist at the forefront of trying to make a discovery.”
“It’s a shortcut,” he said. “To become a paleontologist, it takes years. But to become an `expert’ on Bigfoot, you just have to read a few books and join a few groups, and you know as much as anyone else.
“Another thing is that you’re treated with respect if you join these groups. Nobody laughs at you. And if you also bring up ghosts or other [supernatural] things, people will not say you’re an idiot.”
The BFRO says the Internet has made it easier for people to report sightings directly to investigators, without fear of public ridicule. Alcock contends the Web also has helped such beliefs grow.
“In small towns, there is more opportunity for a belief to spread,” he said. “And the Internet has a small-town flavor. It’s a place where you can seek out those who share your belief.”
On its Web site, the BFRO documents Bigfoot sightings in every state except Hawaii, and the encounters occur almost exclusively in rural locations.
Boise State University professor of psychology Dr. Eric Landrum offers an explanation.
“Perhaps people in small towns have more time to think creatively or imaginatively, or they seek more distractions from their everyday lives, as compared to city-dwellers,” he said. “[Bigfoot stories] are fuel for the imagination.”
In Seneca this summer, many locals were having fun with the rumors. Groups of local teenagers toted tents into the woods hoping to spot a Bigfoot, while adults cracked jokes about how such creatures were coping with the heat.
But for some, Bader said, Bigfoot will always offer a big allure.
“For whatever reason, there’s an inherent appeal to the myth of the Wild Man or Bigfoot,” he said. “Somehow, that’s ingrained in us. … Bigfoot is `everywhere.’ So I’m not at all surprised he’s in Seneca.”
Bigfoot believers â€“ what do they believe?
October 10, 2005 12:06 AM CDT
If this were Washington state, the rumors might not even raise an eyebrow.
If the City of Chicago were nestled in the heart of the Himalayas (I’d like to see Daniel Burnham’s urban plan for that one), the stories might be downright ho-hum.
But, reports of Bigfoot sightings … in Illinois?
Well, now, that’s unexpected.
But, would you believe it’s not the first time?
Not even close, as a matter of fact.
This summer, the Illinois River town of Seneca (pop. 2,053), located about 70 miles southwest of Chicago, produced reports of alleged Bigfoot encounters along a stretch of DuPont Road in a heavily-wooded area just south of the river.
Four accounts — two of which were from this June, while the others date to 1979 and 1983 — were deemed credible enough by a volunteer investigator with the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization to be posted on the organization’s Web site, http://www.bfro.net/
The Seneca reports are among a total of 44 Illinois sightings listed on the BFRO site, with the oldest dating back to 1883, near Decatur.
That number actually gives Illinois the 16th-most documented Bigfoot sightings in the United States (one sighting behind Kentucky and one ahead of Indiana). Washington leads with 372, followed by California (322), Oregon (186) and — somewhat surprisingly — Ohio (181) and Texas (151).
It’s well known, of course, that there are people who believe in Bigfoot, and that includes some people living in the Land of Lincoln.
But what exactly do they believe in? And why do they believe in a creature that — in an era of satellite imagery, surveillance cameras and increased urbanization — has never been proven to exist?
In an attempt to find out, I called Matthew Moneymaker, a 40-year-old Internet consultant from Orange County, Calif., who founded the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization in 1995.
A passionate defender of the existence of the creatures, Moneymaker claims to have once stood 15 feet from a growling Bigfoot in eastern Ohio.
He contends that sightings of the creatures are not a psychological phenomenon, and chafes at what he says are generalizations made about those who believe in or allegedly encounter Bigfoots.
“If the explanation were psychological, we would find (sightings) happening in every town,” Moneymaker said. “Why is it only happening in certain towns? Why doesn’t it happen in the big city? If it’s happening in Seneca, then why isn’t it in the bigger town up the road?
“The psychology of Bigfoot is D.O.A. because it doesn’t explain why it happens in one place (and not others). The patterns are not demographic, they are geographic.”
Moneymaker said doubts about the existence of such creatures are normal. However, he also encourages an open mind.
“It’s natural to be skeptical. You would be, and should be,” he said. “â€¦ I tell the skeptics, that we (BFRO members) are better skeptics than they are. Because, we actually go out and look into these things. It’s a cop-out to just say there is no such thing as Bigfoot.
“â€¦ It’s the American mentality that makes it difficult to consider the possibility. Americans are very good at exploiting things. And people figure if something was out there, we would have exploited it already.”
But what is it that Bigfoot believers believe in?
Moneymaker said he and others think that nocturnal, intelligent and shy Bigfoot creatures may be descendants of an Asian ape named Gigantopithecus blacki that is thought to have become extinct several hundred thousand years ago.
The only remains of Gigantopithecus found by scientists have been a few jawbones and several hundred teeth.
But from the size of those fossils, some scientists believe the ape may have stood as tall as 10 feet and weighed as much as 1,200 pounds. Others have made smaller estimates.
Many Bigfoot believers contend that some of the apes may have crossed the Bering Strait into North America and survived in small numbers to this day.
The BFRO Web site estimates that 2,000 to 6,000 such creatures may be living in the U.S. and Canada.
“Don’t write it off as all imagination,” Moneymaker said. “Even in Illinois, there are a lot of woods and a lot to eat. These areas used to support a lot of Native Americans, and all that bounty has gone unused for the last 100 years or more. There’s enough food out there to support a small population of primates. And humans are primates, as well.”
In Seneca, longtime residents say that tales of a “DuPont Monster” stalking the forest along DuPont Road have circulated for more than 40 years.
And such a legend places Seneca among a handful of rural Illinois communities where colorful “monster” stories have long captured imaginations.
In Illinois, the heyday of these tales was during the early 1970s when reports of the “Farmer City Monster,” “Cohomo” and the “Murphysboro Mud Monster” — a trio of Bigfoot-like creatures — provided downstate Illinois more chills and thrills than a Hollywood studio.
In the book “Weird Illinois,” author Troy Taylor details these stories, beginning in July of 1970, when sightings of a “Farmer City Monster” threw the small central Illinois town located between Champaign and Bloomington, into a tizzy.
According to reports, dozens of local people — including a police officer — claimed to spot a huge, yellow-eyed creature in the nearby woods until the reports abruptly stopped in mid-August.
Two years later in May of 1972, a new monster story popped up west of Farmer City in the Pekin and Peoria areas.
Alleged eyewitness reports of a creature nicknamed “Cohomo” — short for Cole Hollow Road Monster — grew into the hundreds before a skeptical Tazewell County Sheriff’s Department decided to organize a 100-man search party for a hulking, fur-covered beast.
The search ended early, however, when a volunteer accidentally shot himself in the leg with a pistol.
A year later in the summer of 1973, southern Illinois became inundated with reports of a “Murphysboro Mud Monster” (also called the “Big Muddy Monster”).
The buzz surrounding tales of a 7-foot-tall, hair-covered creature lurking near the Big Muddy River became so big that even the New York Times sent a reporter to investigate.
In a Halloween-related story from Oct. 30, 2004, the Southern Illinoisan newspaper in Carbondale reported that it has now been a decade since the last reported sighting of the “Mud Monster” — which was also nicknamed “Mongo,” by some locals.
However, just like in Farmer City, Peoria and Seneca, the quirky legend still endures.
The legends always will.
Copyright 2004-2009 by Stan Courtney. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.