Posted by: Loren Coleman on July 27th, 2006
What happens, in terms of fear, paranoia, sharing, betray, and disgust, when a regular kind of Midwestern guy is tricked into having an incredible nighttime sighting of Sasquatch?
Kent Ballard of Brazil, Indiana, gives permission to share the following story of his being hoaxed and what follows in the wake of such an incident. It is clearly an insightful modern tale of terror and deceit that is little heard, but Kent has given permission for it to be shared with Cryptomundo readers.
Today, furry suits can be more convincing that we often want to acknowledge.
by Kent Ballard
I believe this to be a good lesson to all Bigfooters, and a sad lesson about some human beings in general.
A local Indiana restaurant owner and I were supposedly good friends. One day while loafing in his place we got into a discussion about Bigfoot.
This guy is “Mr. Know-It -All.” Doesn’t matter if you’re arguing about Bigfoot, house plants, or truck transmissions. He knows it all. He didn’t believe in Bigfoot and made a lot of rude racket about people who did.
I wasn’t arguing with him in an angry way, but kept deflating his rant by asking too many questions like why was there a word for “Bigfoot” in over 60 Native American languages, why did even the early, colonial Euroamericans have stories and written reports of them, why do people continue to report them scores upon scores of times each year, risking derision and mockery when there was no gain from it, and host of other simple, logical questions to which he had no answer.
This fellow is a Type-A overachiever, was (at the time) recently retired from a big-shot position with a large national company, had his poor family cow-towed and browbeaten to the point where they never said one word against any of his rants, and (unknown to me) genuinely furious that I would not shut my mouth and simply agree with whatever he said, like God obviously intended all mankind to do.
I finished my burger and fries and the conversation drifted off to something else. When I left his place I forgot about it. He did not.
He borrowed a really great gorilla costume. He himself is over six feet tall (they pile it pretty high these days) and he recruited several of the local nere-do-wells to assist him. I spoke freely with all these folks and had told them I would be painting a portion of my house during my upcoming vacation. They watched the roads at night, as I would have to drive past their restaurant and their home to go to town.
Sure enough, one evening I ran out of paint and made the run to town to buy more. His wife called my wife and said they had seen me go by, and asked if everything was all right here. My wife was rather curious why she would ask that, but assured her all was well and that I had just run into Brazil to buy more paint and would return soon.
The man put his plan into action. He made his wife drive him–struggling into the gorilla suit–and another jerk to a lonely and spooky part of the battered old rural road I live on. She dropped them off along with the FRS radio in the other goon’s shirt pocket. Then she returned to their home to watch for my return. When I came back she radioed them that the next set of headlights they saw coming would be me. The man made all the final adjustments to his costume and his spotter buddy was looking through the weeds for me to come around the corner. Everything was in place.
Normally I carry a handgun with me just about everywhere I go. I was unarmed that night, thank God. When I rounded a corner, driving slowly on the crummy road, I saw a figure standing next to the road in the middle of nowhere. Amazingly enough, I thought I knew who it was. I assumed it was a drunken hillbilly handy man who worked for a local farmer, out hunting raccoons at night. So I slowed down and began to pull over to say hi to him and ask how his luck had been that night. (You learn to make major adjustments in your social calendar when you move as far away from civilization as I have.)
As I slowed and approached closer, he stepped out into my headlights. Long, swinging walking gait, like a man skiing. Bent slightly at the waist. He turned his head towards me and his eyes reflected brightly in my headlights, then he turned his head back forward. I stood on the brake pedal, almost bending it and skidding nearly to a complete stop. He never broke his pace and continued walking across the road and into the woods on the other side, vanishing into the blackness.
I didn’t know what to do. I had extreme difficulty believing my own eyes. Several seconds passed before I realized I had rolled up even with his path and was almost stopped–with both windows down in my pickup–and that damned thing was still out there in the dark within speaking distance.
I floored it. This is a treacherous road. I don’t know how I stayed on it, but I stood on that accelerator all the way home.
What to do? I had this overwhelming feeling that I had to do something, but I didn’t know what. I was a bit irrational, I think in a mild state of shock. Finally my “flight” reaction turned to a “fight” reaction and I decided to go back and look for it and if possible, shoot the damned thing. (Fret not, I’m strictly no-kill nowadays.) So what did I do? I called my “buddy”, who by that time had returned home laughing his butt off and was still peeling out of his gorilla costume. I simply lied to him. I told him I had seen a very suspicious-looking “prowler” walking the road, told him where, and that I was going back. Would he meet me there to in case this “guy” was drunk or on drugs? Selflessly, he said of course.
I hung up and grabbed a horse pistol, checked to make sure it was loaded, stuck it in my belt and an extra magazine in my pocket and snatched up a flashlight. When I arrived at the scene, this man and his cohort were already there. I skidded the truck to a halt, leaving the headlights on, and bailed out with flashlight and weapon in my hands. They began to tell me they had checked out the area and there was no one around. I told them they hadn’t been there long enough for a good search and to come with me into the woods. At about that time the hoaxer saw my Smith & Wesson and realized I had come back for blood. This scared him witless and he and the other man jumped into their car and left me standing there on a lonely gravel road, alone. When they did that I should have realized something was afoot, but I was not thinking rationally by then. The unreality of it all was overwhelming me. I did a quick look about, and then I freely admit that I left because I was simply too scared to be out there by myself. I had begun shaking, could not have hit a barn door with a handgun, and the woods seemed to be closing in on me from all sides. I cannot remember ever being more frightened of the dark than I was at that time.
I paced the floor most of the night and fell asleep only when it began to get light. The next day I simply had to continue painting, so I did. With a 12 gauge shotgun at my side at all times, loaded with Magnum deer slugs. It never left my side for the rest of the week. I would not–could not–go outside after dark. I completely stopped going into my own woods for any reason whatsoever. My wife knew I had been terrified by something, and we talked about it, but there was nothing she could do to help me. I finished my painting, used up the rest of my vacation more or less hiding in the house, and returned to work. As the weeks passed, I grew tired of feeling like a prisoner on my own farm, so I began to take short walks into the woods, each a little farther than the last. I began to stay outside until twilight, then until it was dark. I had to force myself to regain my courage. I was scared every time I did this. But as time passed and I kept staying out later, and going farther into the surrounding woods, I at least beat the fear out of my own head and returned to something similar to normal. It wasn’t funny. It was a damned hard thing to do, one of the toughest jobs I ever had. But I eventually overcame my own fear.
Months passed. I went with my brother Monte to an Ohio Bigfoot meeting. There were a few extra moments at the end of the presentations and talks, and word had gotten around that I had had a fairly recent close encounter. Without any warning, they asked me if I would be comfortable standing before the hundred or more people present and simply telling them what happened. I agreed to, and told the story just it had happened from my perspective. I knew several video cameras were on me. People asked me questions, and most of the answers were, “I honestly don’t know.” But I did tell them what happened, what I saw, and how I reacted to it. It was all captured on film. I have a copy of that videotape now and I cannot watch it. I wasn’t lying to anyone. I was telling the truth with every word. And in my mind’s eye I can see that jerk laughing his head off not only at me, but at all of us. Anger and rage that deep are not healthy for anyone concerned. I have not watched that tape in years now.
While all this was going on, I became deeply engrossed in the study of Bigfoot and discovered this had been an active area farther back than living human memory. I spoke with several local folks who had seen them–farmers, kids, mothers running to the store, grandparents, you name it. And while they were telling me about their personal experiences, I saw that same haunted look on their faces that I had seen while looking in the mirror when I shaved. Yes, I had no doubt. They’d seen one. They’d been there. And there were no answers for any of us, no one to turn to, no one on our side, no one to help.
My brother had been interested in Bigfoot for several years, and he did what he could. At one point probably the best thing he said to me was, “Kent, if they wanted you, they already would have gotten you.”
Crude as it sounds, that made good sense. I began to get telephone calls from locals. Apparently word was getting around the local community that I was somehow studying these things. When you have absolutely no one to talk to about a traumatic experience, you’ll call anyone you think might be able to help. Every so often my telephone would ring and after brief introductions, the caller would say, “Well…I know this is going to sound crazy, but…” And I would usually drive to their homes and listen and ask questions. I’d go through their woods and look for tracks or any evidence. Just venting, just being able to talk about their experiences, helped many of these people. If I never accomplish another thing in Bigfoot research, I can at least take pride in that. When I left, the people were more calm and more courageous than when I met them. I take pride in that.
One family’s grandchildren came to believe I was the bravest man on earth. Several times after various treks into their grandparent’s vast woods, I would return with their missing toy trucks or airplanes or balls. I had simply found them out there while wandering around, a mile or two into the forest. These little children had seen Bigfoot themselves. Oddly, while it upset them, the encounter did not have the devastating effect on them that it did on adults. But they envisioned me walking up to a Bigfoot, climbing up a step ladder, and slapping the ears of the giant creatures to make them give me their toys back. (I didn’t know this was their outlook on my research activities until some time later.) No wonder they always seemed slightly amazed when I would return from the woods alive.
After eleven months had passed, my wife came back from our mailbox (three-tenths of a mile from the house) with tears in her eyes. I thought perhaps she had gotten a letter that a loved one had died. Weeping, she showed me an anonymous letter that had been left in out mailbox. In a woman’s handwriting, the letter told me I had been played for a fool. It explained the entire hoax. Someone had slipped, apparently the hoaxer himself, and bragged about how he had “showed me”. The writer said it was one of the most cruel things they had ever heard of, and could not imagine what this had put us through. And she named names. One of them was a fellow who had mysteriously quit going to the hoaxer’s restaurant and seemingly, there was bad blood between them.
What happens because of this letter? How does one interested in Bigfoot recover after such an incident? How would a new Benelli Nova, a military-police shotgun, be used in the aftermath of this letter? Read more in Part Two.
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.