When one thinks of the Sunshine State three things typically come to mind: Disney World, spring-breakers and elderly retirees. Yet most vacationers never set foot outside the infamous amusement parks or pristine beaches. Just beyond major tourist destinations are millions of undeveloped wetland acres. Gators, Burmese pythons, wild boar and endangered panthers call the region home. Some individuals claim that there is another species inhabiting Florida’s swampy terrain, an unaccounted Bigfoot-like creature called Skunk Ape. Native tribespeople were familiar with this beast long before European explorers arrived. According to Seminole legend, a monstrous being referred to as ‘hairy man’ roamed the encompassing bush. Supposedly, in the early 1800s, one particularly violent battle between early settlers and a Skunk Ape resulted in several men’s fatalities. Encounters with the elusive cryptid continued for centuries but gained notoriety after a series of sightings occurred over sixty years ago. On December 22, 2000, Sarasota County Sheriff’s department received two mysterious photographs from an anonymous source. Dubbed the “Myakka Skunk Ape Photos,” these unnerving images depict a large bipedal hominid. Accompanying the peculiar portraits was a letter from the photographer. She identified herself as a senior citizen who snapped several pictures in her backyard and had concerns for the safety of her young grandchildren. Witnesses describe the bog-inhabitants as having muscular bodies covered with red-tinged fur. They are estimated to reach heights of over seven feet tall and weigh a staggering four hundred and fifty pounds. Many who have experienced firsthand nocturnal confrontations recount glowing red eyes. Skunk Ape’s name derives from its unpleasant scent. Those within close proximity frequently report a strong foul-smelling odor, similar to methane gas or rotten eggs. Over three hundred and twenty observational reports have been filed with the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization. Washington, California and Florida, respectively, comprise the top three states where Sasquatch sightings most frequently occur.My partner, Clint, and I traveled to an undisclosed rural Southwestern location in search of the reclusive animal. Our tightly packed truck more closely resembled a circus clown car than an expedition vehicle. With enough supplies to survive post-apocalypse, the journey away from civilization began. Idly peering out the passenger-side window, I realized this landscape was a stark contrast from my days on the Jersey Turnpike. A seemingly infinite mosaic of picturesque farmland and grazing cattle sprawled hypnotically. As the miles progressed, my mind drifted into daydreams of Skunk Ape. If this revered brute truly exists then it most certainly could thrive in such a remote place. Suddenly my cryptozoological musings abruptly halted as we made a sharp righthand turn. Completely covering the bumpy dirt road was a thick oak hammock canopy. Spanish moss hung from twisted tree limbs and created a hauntingly beautiful scene. In the distance we could see a quaint lakeside cabin; we finally reached the destination. Our fearsome protectors, two toothless senior chihuahuas, curiously inspected their new territory. While we unstrapped our canoe from the roof racks a back-woodsy looking woman slowly approached us. “Y’all taking that thang out on the water?”, she asked through her thick southern drawl. Confused, Clint replied we were planning to, and asked her if there was problem. The woman laughed and said, “Naw, it’s fine but I seen gators here bigger than that dingy”. It wouldn’t be long before we realized this lady wasn’t exaggerating.Later that night I sat alone on the front porch serenaded by a symphony of crickets, tree frogs and howling coyotes. Thousands of stars shimmered above casting an ethereal glow atop the water’s rhythmic surface. Despite the balmy and tropical evening temperatures, there was a deep chill which I could not ignore. An unshakeable sensation washed over me: something had been closely watching. Leering from the abysmal darkness a sentient presence could be sensed. Unexpectedly, a tree branch snapped from deep within the shadows. With my heart racing, I hastily gazed towards the tree line ahead. Dead dried leaves and palm fronts crunched beneath what sounded like two heavy feet. Frozen by a state of apprehensive excitement, I remained still and listened intently. The swift movements traveled further away until they eventually became inaudible.On the following morning we ventured to a National State Park. Many bizarre and unexplained disappearances take place within these sites each year. Below the sun’s pleasant rays, we briskly walked towards a nearby thicket. With each step the scenery became more wild and dense. After hours of hiking whilst scouring for prints or hair samples, a popup thunderstorm quickly developed. Towering nimbus clouds shaded the area and cool gusts of wind provided much-needed relief from overly persistent misquotes. Onwards we noticed an unusual structure erected amongst the trees. In the middle of nowhere, miles away from any designated trails, stood a massive cage. Galvanized steel beams supported the peculiar enclosure. Weaved wire paneling wrapped around all four sides creating a barrier from the outside world. Standing about fourteen feet tall, this industrial cell starkly contrasted against the surrounding greenery. Lush foliage consumed the weathered metal and produced a dilapidated appearance. I couldn’t help but wonder what purpose the holding pen might provide. Perplexed, we cautiously turned to look at each other. At that precise moment we noticed an eerie silence radiating throughout the forest. Instead of chirping birds, rustling branches and buzzing insects, an ominous stillness engulfed us. It felt as if someone had pressed a universal mute button. Intense feelings of dread formed in the pit of my stomach.Hastily we checked the time only to realize several hours had somehow passed. Both of us felt extremely disorientated and pulled out a trusted compass for guidance. Instantaneously, the device spun erratically in every direction when attempting to relocate our main route. By this point the dreary skies completely opened and colossal raindrops started plummeting down. For a lengthy period it seemed we were merely running in muddy circles. Thankfully, the distant parking lot slowly came into view. Relief ran through my veins once I spotted the truck: we were not going to be a chapter in one of David Paulides’ latest Missing 411 installments.During my week-long expedition I searched for Skunk Ape by foot, car and boat. Although I was unable to find definitive proof of such a creature, I am more confident than ever about its existence. Take Florida’s cougar population for example. Millions of people reside here but few residents have ever set eyes on the rare felines. An animal with intelligence that parallels or surpasses humans’ could most certainly choose to remain undetected. After all, they inhabit inaccessible areas teeming with gators, poisonous snakes and deadly insects. Perhaps on a future voyage my luck may change. This quest for Swampsquatch is far from over and I hope to one day come face-to-face with these enigmatic jungle-dwellers.Do you believe in Skunk Ape or have an experience you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments!
For centuries people have been disappearing from National Parks and forests under incredibly chilling circumstances. Author David Paulides, a former Los Angeles police officer, has painstakingly investigated this bizarre phenomenon for over nine years. Missing 411 is a book series which chronicles incidents which seem to defy all logic. Hundreds of unusual missing persons cases have been analyzed and share eerie similarities. Frequently the victims’ bodies are never recovered, other times they are found deceased in puzzlingly unexpected spots. Those lucky enough to survive have no recollection of the events that transpired. Thousands of strange vanishings have occurred and only a handful of individuals have surfaced with any memories intact. One such example is the mystifying case of a young California boy.
On October 1, 2010, three-and-a-half-year-old ‘John Doe’ and his relatives were camping by a popular fly fishing location near Mount Shasta. Around 6:00 PM the child’s parents realized their son had suddenly gone missing. According to Mr. Doe, his youngster was ‘there one second and gone the next’. They scoured the area he had last been seen in complete panic-stricken horror. After hours of feverishly searching the little boy still had not turned up. Now desperate, the distraught father decided to call local police deputies and United States Forest Service officers. Rescue personnel combed the forest well into the night yet there was no sign of the toddler.
Five hours after John had disappeared authorities found him laid down on the brush directly next to a trail that had been previously searched. He appeared to be in a dazed, semi-conscious state. Mr. and Mrs. Doe attributed this to exhaustion and were simply grateful their little one returned physically unharmed. Medical staff gave full clearance so the freshly reunited family were permitted to return home. Everyone’s lives quickly went back to normal. Yet only a few weeks later the small boy would share a disturbing tale about his terrifying ordeal.
One day John’s grandmother Kathy, who is called “Kappy,” was playing with her grandson. Suddenly he looked towards her and said that he didn’t like the other Grandma Kappy. Confused, she asked him what exactly he meant. John explained that while he was lost in the woods he had been taken deep inside a mountainside cave by a woman he thought was Grandma Kappy. She led him into a cool, dark spider-infested room filled with motionless humanoid robots. Scattered across the floor were dusty purses, guns and various types of other weapons.
As John anxiously faced his ‘grandparent’ he noticed an eerie light radiating from her head. In this moment he realized she was not his real granny. Kappy firmly instructed the boy to defecate on a piece of paper. When he refused she became increasingly agitated and repeatedly requested him to do so. Eventually the grandma-lookalike succumbed to frustration and moved onto a different topic. Allegedly, she informed John that he had been planted in his mother’s womb and was actually from outer space. Shortly after this extraordinary account she took the boy back outside to a thicket and advised him to wait for help.
Upon hearing this disturbing story, an outraged Kathy called her son and demanded to know what he was allowing her grandchild to watch on television. Mr. Doe lamented that he had heard an identical recollection only a few days prior. Initially the two chalked it up to an overactive imagination. Yet the more Kathy thought about it the more John’s story perplexed her. What kind of TV show would feature some of the ludicrous topics that the boy described? Even more chilling was the idea that she might have some kind of doppelgänger assuming her identity in order to abduct innocent victims.
With those particular thoughts in mind, Kathy decided to share a haunting experience of her own. Only a year before she had gone on a camping trip within close proximity to where John’s ordeal occurred. In the morning she awoke face-down in dirt. Somehow she had been inexplicably removed from the sleeping bag within her tent and transferred a short distance away. Upon rousing, she felt an intense pain at the base of her neck. Two puncture wounds were present and the surrounding skin was red and inflamed. Another friend who accompanied her on the excursion suffered a matching affliction. The pair originally attributed these injuries to a possible spider bite.
Both Kathy and her travel companion became violently ill. In fact, she was so sick that she could not even muster the strength to pack her things. Her mind raced as she desperately tried to recall what happened mere hours ago. Only one thing surfaced: glowing red eyes. While she was drifting into slumber she remembered seeing several creatures gazing through the darkness. At the time she assumed they were produced by a herd of deer. Following this traumatizing outing, Kathy felt completely drained of her creativity and emotions. Several months would pass before she felt like her old self again. Admittedly, Grandma Kappy would have dismissed her episode had John not come forward with his firsthand encounter.
Legends and lore pertaining to Mount Shasta have existed throughout the centuries. Indigenous tribespeople chronicled a fallen race of prehistoric giants that were said to inhabit the region. Others claim beings known as Lemurians use local caves as entrances to an underground crystalline city called Telos. Some allege a large energetic vortex is present within the territory. In modern times there are many UFO and Bigfoot sightings reported. Each year twenty-six thousand visitors flock to this revered mountain from countries across the globe. There has been alarmingly high numbers of curious missing persons cases within this picturesque terrain. While John Doe’s incident seems unbelievable it’s important to consider the odd history and happenings afflicting the area. An open mind may be the only thing that will finally resolve this age-old mystery.
What do you think is responsible for the unusual disappearances in Mount Shasta? I’d love to hear your thoughts!