Posted on August 15, 2017
Bigfoot in Virginia
Besides ghosts and ghouls, Virginia also boasts forest monsters.
A few weeks ago, in our post on the Great Dismal Swamp, we mentioned the story behind the hauntingly beautiful poem by Edgar Allan Poe, “The Lake.” It is believed to be based on Native American folklore. But Americans have their own myths as well. You’ve definitely heard about Bigfoot, for instance. Sightings of this mythical creature stem back to the nineteenth century. But centuries of false reports and hoaxes have left more skeptics than believers. Even when the History Channel released its two hour special, Bigfoot Captured, people cried “gimmick!”1
Despite the flop of Bigfoot Captured, many are still trying to answer the question of Bigfoot’s existence. The “pursuit is kept alive by a steady stream of sightings, occasional photos or footprint finds,”2 including many from Virginia.
Back in 2014, for instance, a man photographed “a Bigfoot creature”3 while fishing with a friend along the Intracoastal Waterway. According to the man, he and his family had encountered a similar beast twenty-five years ago during a camping trip. During that memorable outing, he had spotted a pair of red eyes peering at them from behind some bushes. Frightened, he shot at the shrubs, causing whatever was watching them to “tear off through the woods.”4
Although most claims of Bigfoot sightings stem from the Pacific Northwest and Great Lakes regions, a good handful come from southern parts of Virginia. In fact, the state “has some of the oldest sightings on record, with some pre-1880s.”5 The Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization (BFRO) has been a keeping database of credible reports – right now, Virginia has seventy-four listings6 on it. The most recent one was added in September 2015. In the late evening hours, a motorist from Bedford County observed “a Bigfoot with a baby”7 walking along the road. She first thought that the red-haired creature was a deer, until she saw that it was holding something that looked just like a human infant. She immediately called the sheriff’s office, but the dispatcher hesitated to believe her.
Two other accounts date back to the summer of 2014. A homeowner from Warren County was sitting outside on his back porch when he overheard “what sounded like a tree knock in the woods behind the house.”8 The noise was followed shortly by a throaty “whoop.” In the other instance, hikers in Rockingham County spotted a huge, human-like creature near Rawley Springs. Like the female motorist, they said that it had long, reddish-brown hair.
Bigfoot hunting requires as much work and skill as ghost hunting. True ghost hunters need to know how to interview witnesses, conduct historical research, and handle a multitude of evidence-gathering devices. If you read our post on ghost hunting equipment, you are probably familiar with two of them: EVP (electronic voice phenomenon) recorders and EMF (electromagnetic field) detectors.
One of the earliest EVP recorders was made by William O’Neil in 1980. Dubbed “The Spiricom,” this radio-like apparatus was used by O’Neil to hold two-way conversations with ghosts. In 2002, Frank Sumption built his “Frank’s Box,” which supplied spirits with “raw audio”9 (such as music and white noise) that they could use to form their own voices.
EMF detectors, on the other hand, pick up ghost activity, rather than sounds. They are also used to in UFO investigations.
As for the arsenal of gadgets used by Bigfoot hunters, several are home-made. The team behind the Virginia Bigfoot Research Organization (VBRO), for instance, has its own “Bigfoot Bellower,”10 which records animal calls, even if they occur miles away. The team also utilizes thermal infrared cameras during nighttime surveillances and EyeGotcha digital video recorders.
The man behind VBRO is William Dranginis, a Virginian from Manassas who has been working in the surveillance and security industry for years. Dranginis investigates Bigfoot sighting claims from his “Bigfoot Primate Research Lab,”11 an old veterinary van he customized with $5,000-worth of Bigfoot hunting gear.
Many find it surprising that there are so many Bigfoot-dedicated organizations, like BFRO and VBRO, in Virginia. But did you know that over sixty percent of Virginia is forested? According to the Virginia Department of Forestry, the state has “15.72 million acres”12 of forestland. That’s more than enough room for Bigfoot (if he does exist) to roam and wander.
The largest is the Appomattox-Buckingham State Forest, which covers 19,808 acres. People like to go hunting, hiking, and geocaching there. “Geocaching” is an outdoor, real world treasure hunting game that became very popular at the turn of the century. Players use GPS-enabled devices (such as Smartphones) to find “geocaches,” or small waterproof containers, which are hidden in various locations around the world. Each container holds a log book, and sometimes little prizes that were left behind by earlier geocachers. The idea is to track down a geocache based on its GPS coordinates, sign your name in its log book, then find the next one.
Many states have their own unique names for Bigfoot. In east Texas, Bigfoot is sometimes referred to as Boggy Bill, for example. Kentucky calls him Cave Yeller, Oklahoma has coined him Devil Monkey, and Ohio often mentions him as Woods Child.
As for southwest Virginia, its resident Bigfoot-like monster is known as the “Beast of Gum Hill.” The Beast is most frequently spotted in the Saltville area. Saltville, Virginia lies about three hundred-fifty miles east of Williamsburg. The town is named after the various salt marshes that dot the region. Pre-colonial times, Native American tribes, including the Algonquian and Sioux, mined the mineral from Saltville’s salt deposits and used it as a condiment. Once European settlers arrived, the demand for salt increased. Colonists used salt to preserve their food. By the Civil War era, “Virginia was the leading producer of saltpeter,”15 an essential ingredient to black powder.
The Beast of Gum Hill was featured in a Season 2 episode of Animal Planet’s Finding Bigfoot. The show’s team of researchers arrived in Virginia to investigate a Youtube video16 uploaded on April 5, 2009. The video follows a man named Chuck Newton as he rides an ATV through a river bed in the Gum Hill area. Suddenly, a dark, seven foot figure darts through the woods in front of him. He was filmed by his friend, Eric.
The Finding Bigfoot team, led by Bigfoot hunting veteran Cliff Barackman, first interviewed the two men, and then set up camp at the site where the incidence occurred. They also talked to other locals and discovered that many of them had also encountered Sasquatch-like beasts. One woman, for instance, once “saw three or four large, upright figures chasing deer in the woods”17 while smoking on her porch at night.
According to Cliff Barackman, “Virginia holds a lot of promise for bigfooters.”18 He again managed the Finding Bigfoot team during their second visit to the state, this time during Season 5. They analyzed the photograph below, which was taken by a hunting club member.
Though the team concluded that this strange creature was probably a bear, they still anticipate many more Bigfoot sightings to be reported from Virginia. So once you’re done hunting ghosts with us, don’t hesitate to track down other scary things our state has to offer!
1. idoubtit. “Bigfoot Captured breaks History: Channel continues to fake out viewers.” DoubtfulNews.com. 11 Nov. 2015. Web. 1 May 2016. Para. 1.
2. Radford, Benjamin. “Bigfoot at 50 Evaluating a Half-Century of Bigfoot Evidence.” Skeptical Inquirer, Volume 26.2. March-April 2002. Web. 1 May 2016. Para. 2.
3. “Virginian Shares ‘Bigfoot’ Photograph.” CryptozoologyNews.com. 30 June 2014. Web. 1 May 2016. Para. 1.
4. “Is this ‘Bigfoot’? A Virginia man claims to have captured clear images of the creature.” Fox2Now.com. 2 July 2014. Web. 1 May 2016. Para. 6.
5. VBRO. “Here in Virginia?” Virginia Bigfoot Research Organization. 1 October 2014. Web. 1 May 2016. Para. 1.
6. “Virginia.” Geographical Index: United States. The Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization. Copyright BFRO.net, 2016. Web. 1 May 2016.
7. Hatcher, Angela. “Bedford Co. Dispatch Gets Bigfoot Call.” Wset.com. 17 Sept. 2015. Web. 1 May 2016. Para. 5.
8. “Report #46502 (Class B.)” Submitted by witness John on September 11, 2014. The Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization. 1 May 2016. Para. 1.
9. Stollznow, Karen. “Frank’s Box: The Broken Radio.” The Good Word. CsiCop.org. 28 January 2010. Web. 1 May 2016. Para. 9.
10. VBRO. “The Bigfoot Bellower/Recorder.” Virginia Bigfoot Research Organization. 1 October 2014. Web. 1 May 2016.
11. Yarm, Mark. “Desperately Seeking Sasquatch.” Wired.com. 1 June 2004. Web. 1 May 2016. Para. 1.
12. “Virginia Forest Facts.” Virginia Department of Forestry, n.d. Web. 1 May 2016.
13. Shawn. “Breakdown: Geocacher Films Bigfoot in Washington, Finds Nothing And Liking It.” BigfootEvidence.Blogspot.com. 25 March 2013. Web. 1 May 2016.
14. “The Great ‘Finding Bigfoot’ GeoTrail.” VisitANF.com. Copyright 2016 Allegheny National Forest Visitors Bureau. Web. 1 May 2016.
15. “Agriculture and Industry.” Virginia Main Street Communities, n.d. Web. 1 May 2016. Para. 6.
16. “Beast of Gum Hill Woodbooger (Bigfoot video.” Youtube video. Uploaded by erikusmaximus on April 5, 2009. Web. 1 May 2016.
17. Barackman, Cliff. “Finding Bigfoot – Virginia Field Notes. CliffBarackman.com, 2013. Web. 1 May 2016. Para. 15.
18. Barackman, Cliff. “Finding Bigfoot Season Five – Squatters for Sasquatch.” CliffBarackman.com, 2013. Web. 1 May 2016. Para. 14.