Yes, Florida Frank, There Are Skunk Apes

Posted by: Loren Coleman on December 15th, 2005

Florida Frank Falls Flat Flinging Follies

After the Tampa Tribune printed a relatively positive article touching on Cryptozoology and the work of cryptozoologist-educator Scott Marlowe, the very same Tampa Tribune decided to publish a highly opinionated, wrong-headed, rebuttal column by Frank Sargeant.

Entitled "Don’t Buy Into Skunk Ape Tale," Sargeant makes it seem like cryptozoologists are out to "sell" something, when, indeed, it’s Sargeant that elevates his discussion to almost a religious debate, somewhat about marketing. Skeptics are like that. They want to ignore the evidence and make it about belief and book sales, something they seem to be wrestling with, not us. As if there is any money in cryptozoology!

Okay, although I have trouble giving some of these guys unnecessary credit for their flights of fancy into supposed "critical thinking," Cryptomundo fans have asked me to write a considered response on this blog. So here goes, my reaction to this column by Florida Frank Sargeant.

First off, there’s Florida Frank’s incorrect use of the names of the cryptids, therefore showing a less that educated knowledge of the field. He says: "But when it comes to skunk apes, sasquatches, big foots, abominable snowmen – it’s just not happening, no matter how many bogus ‘investigators’ go trampling through the woods in search of fodder for yet another book to be sold to the ever-gullible."

Well, he got the spelling of "abominable snowmen" correct, although the standard scientific practice is to capitalize a cryptid’s name to what would be, for example, "Abominable Snowmen," until the species is verified. But it is not "sasquatches" and "big foots" – for both Sasquatch and Bigfoot are the plural and singular forms, and Bigfoot is one word, not two. It is correct, however, to use Skunk Apes as the proper plural form, so Florida Frank got that one somewhat right.

Of course, he does insult readers as "ever-gullible" and demeans authors, all in one stroke. The irony is that here Florida Frank is writing about Skunk Apes. Amazingly, this newspaper man is criticizing book authors for writing volumes about Skunk Apes, Bigfoot, Sasquatch and Yeti, on topics that interest people. Are his employers not interested in selling newspapers through his writing columns on Skunk Apes? Is he not aware his so-called "ever-gullible" readers are individuals that include some of his same readers, as well as law enforcement officers, truck drivers, anthropologists, homemakers, educators, counselors, waitresses, documentary filmmakers, and maybe even members of his own family? I find readers of cryptozoology highly and rightfully skeptical, and most books on cryptozoology, Bigfoot, Yeti, and other mystery primates contain good sections on the hoaxes, mistakes, and misidentifications that are found in the mix. Florida Frank sells his own readers, and book readers everywhere, very short. Give me a thoughtful truck driver any day over a newspaper-columnist-know-it-all.

Next Florida Frank changes geographical locations and biological history to try to show he is a learned cryptozoology critic. What he demonstrates is that he knows little about the subject. He writes: "And no, I’m not forgetting the coelacanth, an allegedly extinct fish that now has been discovered to be fairly common in the depths off some parts of Africa and India."

Are we in the Land of Oz here, reading Florida Frank? The coelacanth was not "allegedly extinct," but until it was discovered in 1938, was most definitely, most assuredly stated to be extinct for 65 million years. That’s hardly "allegedly." It has never been a common fish, and is today seen as "endangered" by my global colleagues working with these rare fish. Coelacanths have been found "off some parts of Africa," yes, but not off India. In 1998-1999, a second species and population was discovered off of Indonesia. Perhaps this columnist has his "India" mixed up with his "Indonesia," as he seems to be short of facts in his crypto-commentary.

As far as statements such as "in the U.S., the odds of a breeding population of gorilla-sized mammals living in complete secrecy is virtually zero," I must ask, to what facts does this Tampa columnist base this on? That 80% of the Pacific Northwest is tree-covered and contain vast wilderness areas? That parts of the East are covered with massive tracts of trees (95% of the land-surface in Maine, for example) and less explored than generally known? That the woodland bison, a large Pleistocene animal thought extinct, was rediscovered in 1960, a mere 50 miles from a Canadian wildlife station that had existed there for years?

As to Florida, this Tampa columnist makes some factually incorrect claims about the Skunk Ape: "There is nowhere in the state that has not been thoroughly trod by man, and there simply is no credible evidence of the skunkeroo – zero, zilch, not a hair, not a footprint."

I won’t get into a shouting match with Florida Frank on whether or not there are parts of the Big Cypress swamp, the Everglades, or even the Myakka State Park that have never been explored, but his information on the Skunk Ape is sadly lacking. There’s an unfortunate local who has gotten a lot of newspaper ink for allegedly hoaxed encounters, apparently bogus photographs, and more, but the Skunk Ape is more than that one individual’s highly publicized fiascoes. Is this the usual source for Florida Frank?

There is a long history of good Skunk Ape sightings by solid citizens, and significant footprint finds by down-to-earth people. Of course, I’ve already dealt with these in my oft-read book, Bigfoot! The True Story of Apes in America. From those that manage the Mormon farm lands around Holopaw to sheriff deputies in the state, many sources of sightings have come forth, especially since the 1940s. The credible evidence, yes, Florida Frank, involves credible footprints discovered by credible people, including knuckle prints (like the imprints left by great apes who use their hands for walking) found by Broward County rabies control officer Henry Ring in 1971. This case was so prominent it was highlighted that year in Sports Illustrated. Sorry Florida Frank missed it. He also appears to not be aware that Hernando County investigators located Skunk Ape tracks in 1965 that showed the distinctive characteristics of a "toe out to the side," as found in non-human primate tracks.

You get the idea. The end of Florida Frank’s column merely disappears into more silliness. This news person has ignorance on his side when he writes: "If there were large creatures as yet unknown to science, it is highly likely some hunter somewhere would have reported one."

Of course, people – including hunters – throughout Florida have seen what today are called Skunk Apes. These encounters are called "sightings" and are reported. But this Tampa columnist must think that the whole notion of Skunk Apes merely developed out of the blue or something. There is no logic to what he says.

Florida Frank goes on to write that "sasquatches (sic), unlike bears and panthers, are not on the protected list. Someone very likely would have shot one-unwisely, to be sure, since it might very well be like the last passenger pigeon or the last dodo bird."

From the hunters I’ve interviewed, people who shoot Bigfoot, Sasquatch, Skunk Ape, and other humanlike cryptids "believe" they will be charged with violations of the Endangered Species act a
nd/or murder of a human being, if the "thing" is found to be near-human. Reassertion from this columnist that the Skunk Apes are not on the protected list of Florida probably should not go unchallenged if his insights on the law are as good as his ones on cryptozoological facts!

Early 20th century intellectual Charles Fort wrote of journalists using a technique he called "The Wipe," in an attempt to broadly sweep away any lingering doubts that a reader might have remaining at the end of their stories on an explainable event.

Columnist Frank Sargeant attempts to use the Wipe with this ending paragraph: "In short, it is probably as likely that you will see Santa Claus coming down your chimney in the next few weeks as you will see the skunk ape stalking across a marshy pond somewhere off a sandy backroad where the condos have not yet been built quite yet."

Sargeant is bringing down the "ridicule curtain," thus, more or less, telling you that you must be crazy if you think there are Skunk Apes. Of course, you might be less than knowledgeable about the Skunk Ape if you take to heart anything that this columnist said. It really is just another example of someone writing for the media that hasn’t done their homework, and seem afraid of not having all the answers.

I certainly don’t know what the Skunk Apes in Florida will turn out to be, but one thing is for certain, they exist outside of the lame logic and denials of this Tampa columnist’s "rebuttal" piece. Yes, Florida Frank, yes, Tampa, yes, Florida, Skunk Apes do exist.

December 16th update

Amazingly, another Tampa Tribune reporter wrote the third article this week on Skunk Apes on the day after Florida Frank’s contribution appeared. Read my response to this latest, Steve Otto’s essay, here.

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
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.

8 Responses to “Yes, Florida Frank, There Are Skunk Apes”

  1. scmarlowe responds:

    Well said, Loren!

    While I believe in “balanced reporting” Florida Frank’s letter is a collection of mis-information and half-truths veiling “anthropoid arrogance”.

    Among other issues, I happen to have a track from the Ocala National Forest that was presented to the Florida Museum of Natural History that is from a Skunk Ape. Not being among the museum’s perview of study, a curator there subsequently gave the casting to Pangea Institute to use in our studies of the creature in the hope it would help. While I have seen a number of “tracks” (notably three-toed) that are almost certainly fakes, this one (and others I have seen here) appears to be genuine. Of course, I’m not the expert in “reading” this particular phenomena that Jimmy Chilcutt is (An FBI forensic scientist living in Conroe, Texas who has pronounced many Bigfoot tracks “genuine”), so perhaps I am mistaken. But, knowing that podiatrists and medical professionals have better things to do than to plant anatomically accurate impressions in the most remote areas of the state in the hope that some unsuspecting layman will come along and discover it is an absurd notion.

    More to the point, many credible eyewitnesses, like Jennifer Ward, Pat Edwards, Doug Tarrant, Ben Mills, Bill Arnold — to name a few, don’t have book sales or publicity engagements on their collective agendas. And, my work hasn’t been submitted for publication — although I am considering it.

    The anthropologist that Geoff Fox quotes in his story considers the work of Louis Leakey to have been a wasted research (so I’m told by one of her former students), and by extension that includes the work of his protoges Dion Fossey and Jane Goodall, most in the field regard their discoveries as monumental. So, I guess, Dr. Goodall’s public statements that she believes that a North American primate exists doesn’t count for much. Sorry, but IMHO you can take Dr. Goodall’s professional opinion to the bank.

    And hunters do encounter the animal regularly — one such encounter just happened at Three Lakes WMA a few weeks ago. If Frank had taken the time to read Charlie Carlson’s book “Weird Florida”, a collection of unusual stories from around the state, he’d have known that such sightings have been going on in Florida for decades if not centuries. JD, who reported that he and another hunter killed a Swamp Ape accidedently years back thinking it was a bear. “It weren’t no bear — it was more like a man” was JD’s deathbed assertion. (Charlie, by the way, isn’t a cryptozoologist).

    As for my hairy, bipedal friend, I can’t deny the evidence of my own eyes, having seen the creature three times now — regardless of what narrow-minded skeptics might think I will continue the quest.

  2. 2400bc responds:

    Quote from Florida Frank: “in the U.S., the odds of a breeding population of gorilla-sized mammals living in complete secrecy is virtually zero,”

    I agree – that is why there have been thousands of eyewitness reports across the U.S. for a very long time. This guy is clueless.

    As with most skeptics he took the easy road in forming an opinion by first discarding/disregarding all evidence concerning the subject, and then sitting back and demanding someone show him the evidence.

    Florida Frank needs to stick to writing columns about subjects within his grasp; such as TeleTubbies or Sesame Street.

  3. tpeter responds:

    Dear Loren,
    When I read Florida Frank’s article the other day, my main reaction was surprise at his apparent total ignorance of the Myakka photo. Not only is the Myakka photo one of the all-time best cryptoprimatological physical traces, but it also was taken virtually in Florida Frank’s own back yard–not far away in California, West Virginia, or Borneo! He also struck me as just about totally unaware of any of the evidence you discussed in your BIGFOOT! book!
    –Best regards,
    T. Peter

  4. wildphotographer responds:

    As a resident of Tampa for more than 30 years I can tell you that Frank Sargent is on the cutting edge of ignorance about anything in the world other than “feeshin”. He, along with other “journalists” like Bob Ross, who made a very nasty allegation concerning a highly respected Cancer Research Center here in Tampa, should for ever be banned from writing anything that takes more than a smidge of intelligence, as is plainly demonstrated by Frank’s article in response to Geoff Fox’s take on Scott Marlowe. To re-visit a saying from my childhood, “If he had a brain he would be dangerous.”

  5. Carolann responds:

    I too have lived in the tampa area (citrus park, lutz ) for over 30 yrs and can tell you sightings have been going on in florida for decades . I am in Charlie Carlson’s latest book with my story of an encounter with the big guy and my grandmother. What these reporters need to do is get off their behinds and go out into the areas where there have been sightings and then they can write about the skunk ape or bigfoot . Thank you, Carolann Bigfoot researcher.

  6. scmarlowe responds:

    Having been invited by the Trib to respond to Frank Sargent’s piece as a letter to the editor, I thought you all might be interested in the open letter I sent to the paper as a reply:


    The Tampa Tribune
    P.O. Box 191
    Tampa, FL 33601-0191

    Dear Sir:

    I dislike beginning a response to Florida Frank’s diatribe about Cryptozoologists and the Skunk Ape with a quotation, but when a thought so eloquently states an issue that it is more fitting to cite than to devise new words, or to paraphrase, it seems appropriate to do so. Consequently, I will open my response with Henry David Thoreau’s observation that “there is a chasm between knowledge and ignorance which the arches of science can never span.”

    In the case of Florida Frank, I’m afraid that the distance between what he knows and what he doesn’t is too great to bridge.

    Aside from characterizing myself, and fellow Cryptozoologists, as “bogus investigators” out to sell a book, I take personal offense at this remark, as I am not, as of this writing, published on the subject of cryptozoology. I take even greater issue with his characterizing the reading public as “ever-gullible”.

    His ignorance of the facts becomes abundantly clear at the beginning of his tirade. The coelacanth was indeed pronounced “extinct” for 65 million years by mainstream science prior to its discovery in 1937 until it was found off the coast of South Africa. It has again been located in another part of the Indian Ocean off Indonesia recently – not India as he states. The Yahi issue, while a fascinating anthropological story, has absolutely nothing to do with cryptozoology – Homo sapiens, regardless of their tribal affiliation, are not cryptids.

    As far as the “odds of a breeding population of gorilla-sized mammals living in complete secrecy” in Florida is concerned – the same was said about the gorilla-sized Bili Ape in the Congo until it was “discovered” recently. (Oddly enough, in an area of Central Africa much like our Green Swamp albeit much larger than our local marshland habitat).

    The “lack of credible evidence” he asserts is only the result of his unfamiliarity with the facts. There are indeed, credible tracks, hair, and eyewitnesses all over the State. Our database of sightings includes accounts from 187 people since 1945 – six of them posted by law enforcement personnel who are ostensibly trained in observation skills and several of them by clergy. Granted, there are no known corpses — even after 15 traffic accident incidents involving the big hairy guy (again using our database as an information resource), but that may be due to resilient anatomy and a rush of adrenaline on the creatures part as well as traveling with his relatives.

    In this case I am reminded of a story about two hunters who encountered the beast appearing in Charlie Carlson’s book, “Weird Florida.” In this story, J.D. (one of the hunters) confesses to shooting what he thought was a bear. But upon closer examination, he and his companion found that it “was more like a man-ape” than an ursine. When J.D. and his companion returned to the site shortly thereafter with three other fellows, the “bear” had been dragged off by one of its own. To his deathbed, J.D. asserted that the creature “weren’t no bear”.

    But, that’s right, according to Florida Frank no hunter has ever reported seeing a Swamp Ape in Florida.

    Another inspection of our sighting database reveals that hunters have made 16 reports. Wrong again Frank!

    Florida Frank also states that there are only 100 Florida Panthers roaming the state. If that’s so, then over 10% of their population have been decimated in the last two months as road kill. The State Museum of Natural History has “processed” at least one of these endangered animal skeletons per week for the last 10 weeks as road-kill to be added to the museum’s zoology archive. Do you really think that there are only 100 of these animals running loose here?

    It would seem that Florida Frank likes to accept “official” data as “credible” without checking up on his sources like a good journalist would. It’s amazing what a little research effort will reveal about government boilerplate claims!

    And while I’m on the subject of corrections, my sighting was in the suburban Orlando area – not Lakeland as the original story stated. Moreover, suggesting that a local anthropology professor who merely was the only one to return a phone call is an authority on the subject is a bit touchy as well. Especially when that “expert”, at least according to students of hers that I’ve spoken to, believes that the work of Louis Leakey, and his protégé’s Jane Goodall and Dion Fossey, was a waste of research. This opinion puts this “authority” outside of the anthropology science mainstream as far to the right, as I am to the left, with my Swamp Ape research.

    As a matter of fact, Dr. Goodall didn’t have academic credentials when Leakey dispatched her to Gombe to begin her monumental work with chimpanzees there. She is on the record by virtue of her broadcast interview on NPR as believing that a North American Primate does, in fact, exist. So, perhaps I am more mainstream than I have previously suggested.

    Perhaps Florida Frank should stick to what he knows and seek out the elusive three-eyed bass in Lake Parker.

    So, I shall end my reply by paraphrasing former Secretary of Commerce, Luther Hodges: If ignorance paid dividends, Florida Frank could make a fortune out of what he doesn’t know.

    Scott Marlowe, APCA, ISC
    Adjunct Instructor of Cryptozoology
    Florida Keys Community College

    Pangea Institute Fellow
    Cryptozoology Steward of the Year (2005)
    Phi Theta Kappa

  7. longrifle48 responds:

    on the subject of(florida frank)who cares what this guy thinks?everyone has thier own usual when a contrary comment is made,all the believers join forces to pick apart the editorial that disagree with thier passion..i have lived in naples,collier county,for the past 5 years and spent lots of time in big cypress,corkscrew swamp,10,000 islands..and have some experience with a sighting from ft.lewis,washington days,in 1984…any skunk ape sighting from big cyprus.must be considered highly suspect(until any connection from david shealey)has been eliminated..he is our resident far as myakka goes..well i know personally the man that forwarded the pics to coleman..there’s another all can pick apart with terminology utilized incorrectly..those pics looked like an orangutang to me..just my opinion though..people fortunate enough to have an actual sighting is a rare gift..people who claim multiple sightings well..i am sorry but those i must question for verification..since none ever seem to have pics to back up these claims..again just my opinion..

  8. Bob K. responds:

    “Give me a thoughtful truck driver any day over a newspaper-columnist-know-it-all.” As a thoughtful, retired truck driver, I thank you.

Sorry. Comments have been closed.

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