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Non-Profit Scientific Research

The Vigilante Factor

A Continued Sociological Examination of BigfootReports

By Ron Schaffner


In our attempts to find the true nature of Sasquatch reports, investigators often neglect other ground-level activities that could have some relevance to the phenomenon. Researchers are concerned with the alleged creatures and attempts at identification. If we look into other information within the reports, other factors continue to place emphasis on cultural backgrounds, economic trends, geographical locations and the sociological aspects of the general public.

We can all agree that our main objective is to discover what is causing these reports, and what is leaving the tracks. After all, there is a general belief among the readers that large unknown hominid creatures are living within our back yards. The majority of us want hard physical evidence that such a creature exists and provide that to the hardcore skeptics and the scientific community.

As a skeptic myself, I often question the validity of many reports. Some are eventually proven as mistaken animals, while others turn out to be an elaborate hoax. Nonetheless, there are many that have yet to be solved. Either way, there are always sociological elements within the local communities involved.

My article in last year’s edition of this publication dealt with one specific case in which I introduced other implications associated with many reports over the years. It was a typical scenario from 1977, like so many others from that year. I touched on the local C.B.’ers and monster hunters that scoured the land looking for Bigfoot - reminiscent of the cult classic movie ‘Night of the Living Dead’, where armed posses covered the countryside. (1)

Let us examine some instances of the vigilantes and how they interact with investigations, often hampering evidence collection. Furthermore, I will later discuss the problems of the media, which in most cases are responsible for ‘monster mania.’ Keep in mind that this is a small sampling of the many reports that I have collected for over 25years.

Abstract Reports from Newspaper Articles

In July 1964, Grant County, Kentucky became the focal point of a “monster” story that spread rapidly through the region. A seven-foot-tall creature was seen at a trash dump off U.S. 36.

Soon afterwards, carloads of citizens came to seek out the creature from as far as Kenton and Campbell Counties. Local law enforcement said that at one time they had to chase as many as 14 cars away from the area and had people ''running around half-cocked with shotguns.”

One local farmer said the crowds were a nuisance, ''shouting and shooting."

Making headlines daily in The Kentucky Post, the matter turned serious when two 17-year-old boys were accidentally struck by shotgun pellets fired by a group of teen-agers hunting for the monster. Fortunately, the injuries were not life threatening. At the height of the hysteria, the monster stories stopped. (2)

You can see the obvious safety issues here. It’s surprising that people haven’t been killed during these ‘witch hunts.” It’s even a higher risk for the field investigator, who wants to collect evidence and has to be concerned with being misidentified by a hunter.

An armed man hunt began in August of 1972, as the wife and children of Ed Kractor saw a “tall, long-haired, black thing” standing higher than the corn about 30 feet away onThursday the 24th. The Norwalk, Ohio family said that the creature was ‘bear-like” and ran off into the woods, as the kids started screaming.

Previously, on the 23rd, a similar creature was reported 18 miles south in Plymouth. It made its presence known to two teenage boys who were camping out in the backyard of Shelby Green. The boys quickly ran into the house and barricaded the door as the creature tried to break into the house. They telephoned the Plymouth Police Department.

Patrolman Larry Wagers conducted a four-hour search. A similar description was given as a very tall, without a shirt and extremely hairy with big eyes. He stated that tracks left behind indicated a stride of 6 feet and resembled a ‘track shoe.’

Officer Wagers was convinced that there was a connection between this report and the sighting from Norwalk. Authorities speculated that it was either a bear or a prowler, but were still puzzled as to the man-like description with no clothing. (3)

I offer these coinciding reports to show the reader how the fear of a witness can cause panic among the public once word gets out that some unknown “thing” is lurking about. Larger flaps of incidents create more armed posses, as we shall soon see.

Reference Map for Norwalk and Plymouth, Ohio

The decade of the 70’s produced hundreds of reports of hairy hominids and other unexplained animals. One such region was that of Noxie, Oklahoma. A strange creature had been reported before, but all hell broke out in September of 1975. The creaturequickly earned the name “Noxie”, which some researchers considered a “play on the word” because of the nauseous smell associated with it.

It was just about Labor Day when Kenneth Tosh saw the creature."I saw something, but I don't know what it is. I have no idea. It's about 7 to 8 feet tall, got hair all over its body. The eyes glow in the dark and it has a bad odor to it.” "It was just standing there watching us. I walked right up to it and it made a growling sound," Tosh recalled.

In the following days, Tosh’s family had witnessed the monster and soon other witnesses from the ages of 15 to 72 came forward with stories of a large hairy creature with large eyes and a horrible smell. At least one person shot at it.

Law officials quickly began an investigation and discovered some unusual footprints in the nearby woods.

Local law and Bigfoot investigators tried to obtain physical evidence, but were impeded by the hundreds of curiosity seekers trying to get a glance of Noxie. Armed residents were determined to catch the elusive beast dead or alive.

As the vigilante factor increased, Sheriff Bob Arnold realized that a public safety problem was occurring. He feared that somebody could get killed.

“I don’t care if 30 monsters are up in the hills. No one is going to shoot them. They have not hurt anyone,” said the Sheriff.

Bigfoot investigators in the area were disappointed because the hunters and the news media had made this case a circus destroying much of the physical evidence. Luckily, a few prints were preserved. The case was never solved and the many witnesses were deemed credible. (4)

Sometimes flaps can return to a particular region and in some instances the creatures are reported more aggressive than the typical report. Such a case occurred in the Tennessee town of Flintville. Over the years, there were isolated incidents of sightings, but on April 26, 1976 a near tragic incident happened.

Jennie Robertson’s 4-year-old son, Gary was in the yard when his mother heard him screaming. As she ran out side, she saw a huge, ape-like figure heading towards her house. It extended its long arms towards her son and came within inches of him, just as the mother snatched him up. The horrified mother ran into the house and locked all the doors. As she peered out the window, she saw a black shape disappearing into the woods. Mrs. Robertson described the creature as 7 or 8 feet tall with shaggy hair and long arms. She also said it omitted a very foul odor.

Shortly after the ‘monster’ left, she reported the incident to police. Within minutes, the battle lines were drawn, as swarms of law officials and hunters rushed to the scene with shotguns and rifles. They were determined to track down this creature and kill it.

All night long, they searched the woods, but never found anything. They claimed that something screamed at them twice and something was throwing rocks in their direction. At daybreak, the hunters found 16 inch footprints, hair, blood and possibly mucus. According to news reports, the hair could not be identified.

Other newspaper accounts tell of a similar creature that broke car antennas and smashed windshields during the early 80’s. (5)

One of the largest flaps in history occurred in a seven-year span in a region that most people wouldn’t consider the “Corn Belt” state of Iowa. In September of 1973, Iowa resident, Jerry Ewing, reported a strange animal while squirrel hunting.

In 1975, the ‘Lockridge Monster’ became famous after Mr. And Mrs. Herb Peiffer reported a large creature on their turkey farm that was killing livestock and eating apples.

From 1978 through 1980, dozens of Bigfoot reports emerged from Humbolt, Dallas, Kossuth, and Delaware Counties. Local authorities and citizens insisted that there was something to the reports and some speculated that there was a family that was using the railroad and river as a means of roaming the region undetected.

Drawings Copyrighted: Des Moines Register (Used under provision of USC 17)Used under provision of USC 17)

In order to stay on my specific topic, I will focus on the events of the summer of 1978 surrounding the town of Ottosen.

On the night of September 11th, Anna Dodrill saw a ‘hairy monster’ peering into her kitchen window while her brother was in another room with a rifle at hand. He thought he saw something similar earlier. He had no idea what Anna saw until she screamed. At that point, the creature scurried off into the woods.

24 hours later, on the 12th, Robert Newell saw the same type of beast headed into a barn. He could clearly see out of his window because of the outside lights. He thought it was looking for food because it moved around the barn towards a grain silo then headed into the cornfield.

He described the creature as six to seven feet tall, black and hairy just as Dodrill told authorities.

According to other citizens, strange noises were being heard, as well as a series of footprints being discovered. Livestock and domestic animals were vanishing or found dead in previous weeks. The people of this small community were already armed because of the unrest that began back in July.

Humbolt County Sheriff Marvin Anderson believed something unusual was stalking the area. He received the majority of calls and began investigating after 3 boys, ages 10 - 13, came home terrified after seeing something on the outskirts of town in an abandoned building.

A few nights earlier, one of Jan Henkins’ daughters come in close contact with a similar creature outside her grandmother’s house at around 11:00 PM. Henkins’ other daughter saw a half hour later while riding her bicycle with two other girls. Henkins and friend, Pat Young decided to investigate and saw the creature just off Main Street in front of an abandoned lumberyard. They rushed back home and got the family dog. When they came back to the scene, the dog ran back home yelping.

Henkins sent his daughters to stay with a sister. The girls remained frightened for days afterwards and would wake up screaming in the middle of the night.

After the reports were publicized in the media, Ottosen was besieged with monster hunters. At night, the traffic on Main Street was so busy; residents had to complain because they couldn’t cross the street. In one instance, deputies sent a pick up truck loaded with “gun toting” hunters back home. (6)

I could continue citing newspaper accounts of the same scenario that has occurred all over rural America during the last quarter of the 20th century. However, most of the readers, researchers and writers of this subject are aware of the many high profile cases that reach our desktops. Therefore, allow me to examine some of the reports I personally investigated and how I interacted with the Vigilante Factor.

From An Investigator’s Point of View

Basic Investigation Techniques 101 – always expect the unexpected.

Get permission from landowners if on private property. Dress appropriately and constantly observe your surroundings. Be aware of hunting seasons. Give local law enforcement and your friends advanced knowledge of where you will be.

I learned this early in my work. In 1976, I came out of my car to find a 12 gauge pointed at my head. In only a second, my mind realized that I was on private property. Some fast- talking and my identification card convinced the person that I wasn’t a prowler.

Our 1980 Vinton County, Ohio investigations provided more close confrontation with monster hunters. While the Vinton County Sheriff’s Department was aware of our activities, the local monster hunters had no idea we were camping in the vicinity. (7)

On the night of October 18, the trip line surrounding the campsite was activated. Four heavily armed men approached us. After a brief stand off, we all talked our way out of a confrontation and realized that all of us were there for the same reason, even though our methods were quite the opposite.

Looking back at the incident, it almost seems humorous now, but at that time, I felt threatened, as the only weapons we had was a cross bow and a shotgun - no match for military firearms.

During the 1978, Stark County, Ohio flap, hordes of hunters were searching the abandoned strip mines for any signs of the creatures reported by Evelyn, Herbert Cayton and their family of Paris Township. Mrs. Cayton told us that curiosity seekers and hunters were a constant sight for weeks. (8)

Copyright: Akron Beacon Journal 1978 (Used under provision of USC 17)(Used under provision of USC 17)

“They came by the hundreds”, she told reporters.

In one instance a van stopped in front of their house and five strangers came out with guns, beer and a trained killer Doberman. Other times, motorists would stop by their home off U.S. 30 and ask, “Where’s the Bigfoot?” Others would beep their horns as they passed by. One night, cars were lined up on both sides of the highways, while their occupants searched the woods.

“This isn’t a sideshow”, she said.

Deputy James Shannon, who was investigating, said that you could send 100 people into the woods and still come away empty handed. (9)

All of the reports cited in this article have many common denominators that can be discussed in length. The Vigilante Factor is just another point of view that enters the picture when attempting to piece the puzzle together.

Does this tell us about the alleged creatures, or are we seeing something of a sociological pattern? Just maybe we need more study of human nature and how that relates to the phenomena. Even the skeptics admit that if hairy hominids do not exist, there is still is a mystery that needs to be examined.

Conclusions and Opinion

Americans have had a long tradition of protecting family and property ever since our forefathers wrote the constitution. This “mindset” is deeply implanted in our subconscious. Throughout history, game hunters have put food on the table.

Whatever your beliefs are regarding the interpretation of the right to bare arms, guns are a common tool especially for people living in rural America. It is a means of survival for some. It’s a basic human reaction to act upon a threat, such as encounter with a predatory animal or something as strange as an ape-like creature.

Hollywood has flooded us with films of a Cryptozoological theme. Many of us babyboomers sat in Saturday afternoon matinees watching classic B rated science fiction movies from the 50’s and 60’s. The next generation viewed TV movies and documentaries on “Mysterious Monsters", etc.

Monsters have played a role in the human consciousness. Walk through any grocery store check out line and you will see tabloids talking about the subject. Television shows and commercials even use the subject. Sitcoms will even find some way to work Bigfoot into their punch lines.

The Internet has opened up instant access to the subject of the Sasquatch. There are dozens of web sites devoted to the subject with on-line forms for submitting reports.

Aliens and UFO websites are the second most browsed websites and many have links to Bigfoot related items.

The media plays an important role in the study of the phenomena. Before the advent of the Internet, it was the newspaper press, radio and television that gave us our leads on Bigfoot reports. We acted on these tips and conducted our investigations gathering witnesses’ names and other information from newspaper clippings. In that respect, we regarded the media as our friends and colleagues. After all, we were all writers in a sense.

That was the good part of the relationship. Unfortunately, there is a flip side of media involvement that hampers the investigator, rather than cooperating.

The quick press items are another aspect that encourages vigilantes and the curious minded individuals to go out for the night on a monster hunt. Sometimes it’s even encouraged, though not directly, by researchers, who speculate without completing their investigations. Their only mistake is letting the media manipulate them instead of the other way around. Witnesses only tell their story, but if influenced by the media and investigators, then the report becomes tainted and facts can be twisted.

There is nothing wrong with sharing preliminary investigations with the research community. However, speculating to the press beforehand only confuses the general public and alarms them to something they conceive as threatening. We all love a good mystery, but its better to get the facts straight first. The subject matter is sensationalized enough without adding more.

Sometimes the investigator has no control over the event. Acting against the advice of investigators, they will run to the press to tell them what they have learned and announce to the world of their encounter.

Such was the case in Honobia, Oklahoma in January of 2000. Tim Humphrey and his brother had corresponded with the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization (BFRO)regarding a Bigfoot-type creature that was spotted on their property, allegedly killing deer. The BFRO encouraged them to avoid the press while an investigator traveled to the state to check on the situation. They also wanted to place spotters in the area to try to capture the creature on film. (10)

Without any warning to the group, Humphrey gave an exclusive story to the press, which led to the typical monster seekers to the town, which impeded investigations. (11)

Elaborate hoaxes cause more harm to local communities and law enforcement.

Take, for example, the pre-Halloween 1985 series of events that occurred near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Following a published report of the sightings, dozens of motorists, wielding spotlights and flashlights, cruised the rural road where the monster reportedly was last seen.

Police Chief, James Corbett, of East Pennsboro Township was very concerned about the unwanted traffic looking for a monster that was probably somebody in an ape costume.

"I'm afraid it will develop into someone shooting someone," the Chief said.

"When the article came out, I said Holy God get ready. We're going to get run over."

"I'm afraid it will develop into someone shooting someone." (12)

This year, we all saw what happened in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania. When the press got wind of a series of unusual track discovered at Waynesboro Reservoir, the seekers came to view the tracks and all hopes of a forensic investigation was lost due to contamination of the scene.

The Vigilante Factor comes in a variety of antics- from gun carrying and/or intoxicated individuals to the curiosity-minded out for entertainment. They are led to the scene by reading the local newspaper or listening to the radio.

Our thirst for mysteries is a natural tendency of human behavior. The fear of the unknown frightens us, acting differently depending on the individual. Facts get twisted and become rumors. We need to protect ourselves if threatened.

This is nothing new to us. It’s like the crazed villagers from the old world with torches chasing down Frankenstein’s monster.

All the factors of reports should be taken into consideration. Most researchers will say that the creature is what we are studying and trying to prove. I would argue that we must also investigate the total picture, for it’s the reports that we study. This is as much of a social issue as a scientific inquiry.

Researching Bigfoot reports also represents a look at humanity. Further insights into this aspect are needed and this author continues within this context.


(1) Hominology Special Issue Number 1 of Crypto April 7, 2001. Publisher and Editor: Craig Heinselman ( [email protected] )Article in question: Preble County,Ohio Incident: A Report of an Alleged Unknown Bipedal Animal and Its Sociological Implications by Ron Schaffner

(2) “Carloads hunted monster in Grant County; Kentucky Post August 27, 2001. Credit: Kenny Young and Loren Coleman

(3) “Armed men hunt for Norwalk’s monster; Loraine (Ohio) Morning Journal August 27, 1972 Credit: Craig Mullins

(4) “The creature takes a holiday; by Hayden Hewes Probe the Unknown magazine March 1976 Credit: Bobbie Short

(5) “Tennessee Bigfoot a disagreeable fello” Augusta” (Georgia) Chronicle April 6, 1997 Credit: Loren Coleman

(6) Many newspaper clippings from the Des Moines (Iowa) Register. 12/51/75, 9/24/78, 10/1/78, 12/28/78, 10/28/79, 11/16/79, 11/18/79, 2/1/80, 2/6/80, 3/9/80, and 6/19/80 Newsclippings available for downloading

(7) "Possible Hoax in the Wayne National Forest"

Ron Schaffner Creature Chronicles:

(8) "The Minerva Hominids” Ron Schaffner Creature Chronicles:

(9) “Curious bring guns, beer to search for Creature” Akron Beacon Journal (Ohio)

August 27, 1978 Credit: Mike Frizzell

(10) For investigative report see: The Bigfoot Field Researchers Organ.

(11) “Capturing Kiamichi Sasquatch is no easy feat” Tulsa (Oklahoma) World January 29, 2000 Credit: Jeff Lemley

(12) “Ape-like visitor stalking community” UPI Newswire October 10, 1985,”The-

Creature, 'Bigfoot' was a little prank” AP Newswire October 11, 1985 Credit: Mark A. Hall