Bigfoot has a log history in Morris and Sussex Counties…
December 2012 — It was a crisp November morning in 1980 when Richard Biggins came face-to-face with what he believes was a Sasquatch. He was deer hunting with his father by the Walpack Inn in Sussex County.
“It had snowed pretty good the past few days, so there were six to 10 inches on the ground,” Biggins recalled. “My father dropped me off and told me to walk into the woods almost to the base of the hill, wait 15 minutes, and then start walking to him to help push any deer toward him to shoot.”
The hill being steep, Biggins slid down it. Five minutes into his wait, he could hardly believe his eyes.
“I saw him walking down the hill on an angle, upright like a person!” Biggins said. “He looked like a human being with an ape head and had jet-black hair all over him. I had to take a double take on what I was seeing. His arms swung back and forth, and he had regular steps like a person on a spring walk.”
At the base of the hill was a tall pine tree with branches missing about six feet up, according to Biggins. When the Sasquatch reached the tree, he crouched down with his back to it.
“That’s when he looked right at me,” Biggins recalled. “I was about 50 yards from that pine tree. I thought about taking a shot, but I only had a single-shot shotgun. If I missed I was going to be in big trouble with no help close by.”
Deciding not to wait the 10 remaining minutes, Biggins slowly walked away. The creature did not follow. To this day Biggins only buys guns with multiple shots.
“I’m 47 now, and I still deer hunt, but I’m very cautious,” he said. “I still look around for him in the woods.”
Sasquatch, or “Squatch” for short, is a term used mostly in the Pacific Northwest to describe an 8- to 10-foot bipedal hominid cryptid, or animal whose existence is scientifically unproven. Sometimes they’re called bigfoots in North America. Sasquatch is known as Yowie in Australia, Orang Pendek in Indonesia and Yeti (or the Abominable Snowman) in the Himalayas.
Many people can accept the possibility of Sasquatch sightings in Oregon or Northern California. But in New Jersey, the most densely populated state in the country? Really?
The truth is, Biggins is not alone. There’s a long history of Squatch sightings here that continues into the present.
One of the earliest Sasquatch sightings in the Garden State took place in Mine Hill in 1894, according to the New York Herald, which reported on Jan. 9 of that year the story of three female mill workers who spotted a wild man and shrieked. The ordeal sparked a face-off between the creature and two woodcutters who ultimately backed off.
The most recent sighting, reported by eyewitness Stephen Vaporis in the magazine Weird N.J., took place April 15, 2011, at Mahlon Dickerson Reservation in Jefferson. Vaporis wrote that he saw a pitch black, tall, bulky figure with a dome-shaped head and apelike arms on a trail.
In the past 50 years, a total of 207 Sasquatch reports —including sightings and other potential evidence including vocalizations, wood knocks, stick structures, rock throwing, and footprints — have been logged statewide, according to William Taylor of Monmouth County, author of the new book “Bigfoot in the New Jersey ’Burbs.”
All five types of evidential reports feature behaviors that cryptozoologists and investigators have come to associate with Sasquatches.
To arrive at his tally, Taylor combed through a variety of online databases through which the public can file reports. He then eliminated duplicate reports. For the most part, reports are posted after they pass muster with a database gatekeeper, if not an investigator who follows up with a phone call and/or an on-site visit.
“Some people think a bigfoot sighting is less believable because it’s in New Jersey,” Taylor said. “But to me, it’s more believable when eyewitnesses comes forward here because they have no reference point for seeing something. It’s not part of the psyche of New Jersey like it is in the Northwest.”
Of the 207 reports, 107 were in the northern part of the state (mostly in Sussex and Morris counties) and 72 in the southern part of the state (mostly Burlington and Ocean counties). Taylor said 28 were in other areas such as Jersey City and the New Jersey Turnpike.
Over the years most reports have been associated with two regions. One is the Pine Barrens, 1.1 million acres of woods spanning seven counties in the southern part of the state. The second region comprises thousands of acres of state forest in Sussex County in the northwest corner of New Jersey along the Delaware River. Across the river, there are thousands more acres in Pennsylvania.
Among the most famous were sightings of an 8-foot, 400-pound Sasquatch reported by the Sites family farm on Wolfpit Road in Wantage in the spring of 1977. According to Barbara Sites, quoted in a Daily Record clip from that era, the creature, with luminous red eyes, killed the family’s rabbits and, with one swipe, threw their 70-pound dog 20 feet. Reportedly, the family fired on the animal, which walked away.
‘I believe in the possibility’
For the past six years, Paul Kotch of Neptune has been an investigator in New Jersey, New York and northeast Pennsylvania for The Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization, the group behind Animal Planet’s hit series “Finding Bigfoot,” which draws some 1.4 million viewers weekly.
Like other investigators nationwide, the 42-year-old Kotch, who specializes in Sasquatch vocalizations, has been on expeditions — or extended field trips — with the organization, including some with Matt Moneymaker, the head of the bigfoot research organization and one of four team members featured on the show. The closest these trips have come to New Jersey is the Adirondack Mountains in New York.
Kotch hasn’t seen a Sasquatch.
“But I believe in the possibility,” he said, adding that he needs more information, which is part of the reason he investigates 10 to 20 reports a year. He thinks of Sasquatch as an undiscovered primate.
The bigfoot research organization received 71 reports of Sasquatch sightings and experiences last year, according to Kotch, who says the organization sometimes gets reports on a weekly and, for some stretches of time, a daily basis.
Many people find it easy to dismiss reports of Sasquatches in New Jersey, Kotch said.
“On the other hand, there are not too many people who go off the beaten path and deep down into the hard-core desolate areas that we do still have in the state,” he said.
The Pine Barrens, he said, boasts good food sources for Sasquatches, including deer, blueberries and raspberries. He added that black bears, the state’s largest land mammal, do well in the Pine Barrens now, as they do in the northwestern part of the state.
The research organization keeps an extensive worldwide database of sightings and Squatch-related activity and is known in the field to be the most vigorous in checking them out to eliminate hoaxes and misidentifications. So not every report submitted is listed on its public database.
“There’s no question the cable show has had an impact with awareness,” Kotch said.
The famous and controversial Patterson-Gimlin footage, shot by two men in the woods of Bluff Creek, Calif., in 1967, sparked interest in Sasquatches and led to a spike in interest in the ’70s.
“In the late ’60s to mid-’70s the environmental movement itself had an impact,” Kotch said. “People were outside and interested in nature. The endangered species act was just passed. Bigfoot and the Slinky were in. Then the ’80s came and we all wanted new cars.”
Internet makes sharing easier
Taylor, author of “Bigfoot in the New Jersey ’Burbs,” attributes the renewed interest in the ’90s to the magazine Weird N.J.
“Most of their reports are one-offs, meaning there might be a lizard man sighted but he’s only sighted once,” Taylor said. “But the magazine has a lot of bigfoot reports.”
Today most everyone involved in the Sasquatch subculture in New Jersey attributes ease in creating databases on the Internet as the reason for the most recent resurgence in interest.
In 2006 Drew Vics, a web designer and programmer, formed the New Jersey Bigfoot Reporting Center. Even with a two-year hiatus, 100 reports have been made to its online database, which recently reopened. About 75 sightings are available for public reference, according to Vics, who explained that he withheld the remaining 25.
“Some are obvious jokes. It comes with the territory,” he said. “Some require a review and have yet to go on the site.”
Recently an investigator has joined the reporting center, Vics added.
Because of the long and steady reporting of Sasquatch sightings and activities, patterns are being logged and theories developed about why Sasquatches would be here. Most of those active in the field say Sasquatches probably don’t live in New Jersey but pass through while migrating.
In “Monsters of New Jersey,” author and cryptozoologist Loren Coleman cites the work of the late Warren Cook, an anthropologist at Castleton State College in Vermont, who opined on the migration theory. Cook speculated that sightings in Vermont, New York and New Jersey may be of the very same creatures as they move about.
Some investigators note Sasquatches may follow the Appalachian Trail, which explains why they’d be sighted in Sussex and Morris counties more than any other. The trail, which runs from Maine to Georgia, snakes along the western border of Sussex County.
Matt Dick, 39, of New Jersey Independent Bigfoot Investigations, mapped the reports logged on the BFRO website using Google Earth and found patterns.
Specifically, Dick said, he found that sightings of family groups of Sasquatches were along creeks or tributary streams and that night sightings were near power lives or train tracks.
Reports of footprints and vocalizations take place in deep woods where, he speculates, the creature can hide in its home element.
His analysis convinced him to start investigating, particularly in northwestern New Jersey, because of this question: If the creature is imaginary, why does it have patterns?
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