Expedition Skunk Ape: Searching for Florida’s Bigfoot

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.bright-dawn-evening-1096038 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.myakkaape2 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.1My 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.2 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.twoLater 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.6On 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.4 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.5Hastily 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.8During 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.7Do you believe in Skunk Ape or have an experience you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments!

Bigfoot: a Global Phenomenon

In the world of cryptozoology, Bigfoot is one of the most well-recognized specimens. Countless TV shows, books, documentaries and Youtube accounts have been solely dedicated to the pursuit of this mysterious hominid. Yet the Pacific Northwest is not the only location where these supposed forest dwellers reside. On nearly every continent across the globe, countries share corresponding versions of the same entity. Eerily similar legends have been passed down for centuries and speak of an unknown species.


Sasquatch

Inhabiting the vast wilderness of North America is a creature commonly referred to as Bigfoot. Native Americans spoke of such beings hundreds of years before the infamous Patterson Gimlin Film was released. Indigenous Salish people called him “Sasq’ets” which means “wild man” or “hairy man”. They believed Sasquatch was an interdimensional traveler who possessed the ability to move between spiritual and physical reams.

Based on video footage and observational reports, the cryptid is described as bipedal with an ape-like appearance. It has an incredibly muscular frame which ranges from six to ten feet tall. Dark fur covers most of the body and ranges in color from a reddish brown to dark black. Others who claim to have seen the beast say it possesses a pronounced brow bone and a tapered cone-shaped head. Those within close proximity often report a foul smelling odor comparable to garbage.

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A still from the Patterson Gimlin Film, one of the best-known pieces of Bigfoot evidence.

Mapinguari

Much of South America is filled with lush jungles, abundant food sources and a temperate climate. Many believe this terrain is an optimum environment to sustain a hominin population. Below the equator they are called Mapinguari, meaning “roaring animal” in Spanish. These hominals have brightly saturated fur and share a number of similarities with their American counterpart. Certain tribal narratives depict them as massive monkey-sloth hybrid. Ancient lore claims weapons are unable to penetrate its tough hide and even bullets cannot slay the elusive one. Biologists propose this creature may in fact be a giant ground sloth, a species thought to have gone extinct over ten thousand years ago.

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The Amazon rainforest covers over two million miles. Is it possible that an unknown species is living in the South American jungle?

Yowie

Roaming the immense Australian outback is an intriguing fellow by the name of Yowie. Fables recounted by Aboriginal elders chronicle a primitive type of anthropoid. Oral recollections date back thousands of years and match reported Homo sapien-primate depictions. Ancient cave paintings have been found which depict the so-called “bush monster”. In relation to their American cousins, Yowies are also fairly large and can reach a staggering height of twelve feet. Primordial facial features are present including a broad, flat nose.

Queensland, New South Wales and eastern Australia each have distinctive myths pertaining to the critter. Regional names include Quinkin, Jurrawarra, Puttikan,  and Gulaga. In 1876 an article was featured in the Australian Town and Country Journal which featured an “unearthly animal” called the Yahoo-Devil Devil. While some feel that Yowie is sentient, others argue that it’s a dangerous predator which should be avoided. Cryptozoologist are perplexed as to where this mammal originates from due to the territory’s isolated location.

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Aboriginal cave paintings in Australia depict an unknown creature.

Chimiset/ Nandi Bear

Lions, hippos, elephants, giraffes, gorillas and crocodiles are some of the wildlife that Africa is renown for. Lesser-known is Nandi Bear or Chimiset, which translated means “devil”. It is often depicted as a huge upright baboon with aggressive tendencies. Others say they more closely resemble hyenas with red hair and short tales. Various tales warn that numerous deaths of livestock and men can be attributed to the brute. Author Frank W. Lane wrote, “What the Abominable Snowman is to Asia, or the Great Sea Serpent is to the oceans, the Nandi Bear is to Africa. It is one of the most notorious of those legendary beasts which, so far, eluded capture and the collector’s rife.”

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Africa is said to be home to the Chimiset, a baboon-like Bigfoot.

Yeti

Another infamous hominid is said to roam the picturesque snow-covered Himalayan Mountains. Yeti, or Meh Teh to locals, first entered Western society’s vocabulary during the nineteenth century. A United Kingdom representative named BH Hodson adamantly stated that his assistants were attacked by a monstrous beast in 1832. Fifty-seven years later, L.A. Waddell, a British army major, discovered massive footprints while trekking a high peak in Sikkin. Sherpas informed him that they belonged to a Yeti, a fearsome behemoth who often attacked humans and feasted on the ravaged corpses.

According to Nepalese citizens, this entity is called “rakshas” which translates to demon in English. Religious mountain dwellers worshipped Yeti as a God and were said to use its blood during sacred ceremonies. A Buddhist monastery in Pangboche was supposedly in possession of a Yeti hand. Tom Slick, an oil tycoon and explorer, planned an expedition to take photographs of the appendage. He stole a fragment from the specimen after monks denied his request for a sample. Tests performed on the smuggled bone showed that it was “near human” but not fully human.

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A supposed Yeti footprint is captured on film during a 1951 Everest expedition.

Skunk Ape

Nearly 2,000 square miles of southern Florida is covered by a freshwater marsh known as the Everglades. Residents include endangered panthers, massive alligators, seventeen-foot pythons and apparently a hairy humanoid. As the name implies, this nomadic breed is known for producing a strong stench. Seminole tribespeople spoke of identical creatures in respected stories long before spring breakers and Disney enthusiasts migrated south. Skunk Ape, also called Swamp Ape or Swampsquatch, gained popularity amongst the masses after a series of sightings began to occur over sixty years ago. One of the most notable occurrences lead to the infamous Myakka Skunk Ape photographs which clearly capture an unknown species.

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An elderly woman captured these images in her backyard near Sarasota, Florida.

Almas

In addition to the infamous Death Worm, Mongolia is further known for a different type of cryptid. Observers affirm the upright-walking hominins more closely resemble people rather than apes. Some speculate that Almas are directly related to humans. Investigators propose that one of our distant ancestors may have survived extinction. If that is the case, it might be possible that a small population could survive in isolated areas. Illustrations of this unique biped can be found in a traditional Tibetan medicinal book. According to British anthropologist Myra Shackley, the encyclopedia “contains thousands of illustrations of various classes of animals (reptiles, mammals and amphibia), but not one single mythological animal such as are known from similar medieval European books. All the creatures are living and observable today.” Artists depicted Almas as a flesh-and-blood living organism.

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Almas illustrations are found in a Tibetan medicinal book.

Yeren

Rural Central China is home to its own type of Sasquatch. Yeren, or “wild-man,” resides in remote mountainous regions of western Hubei. The enigmatic primate closely resembles Bigfoot in both appearance and size. According to researchers, the unknown breed’s lineage can be traced back to Gigantopithecus Blacki. Hundreds of respectable individuals have declared they have seen a Yeren. In fact, Chinese government officials conducted an extensive search after copious amounts of sightings had occurred. Evidence gathered included footprints and hair samples which were sent in for analysis. However, just as the studies completed in the United States, results were inconclusive.

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A statue in China depicts a Yeren mother and her young.

Orang Pendek

Hailing from Sumatra is a smaller hominoid that goes by the name Orang Pednek. A community of pygmy-like Bigfoot are said to reside deep within tropical foliage. According to eyewitnesses the coat displays a wide spectrum of color variations. Shades of gray, yellow, orange, brown and gold have been observed. Footprint castings reveal a divergent big toe akin to opposable thumbs. Debbie Martyr, a former newspaper editor, spent over fifteen years in Indonesia studying this secretive vertebrate. She allegedly experienced close encounters on several occasions. Multiple common Sasquatch traits have been noted including a crested head, long canine teeth and a prominent brow ridge.

Resident Indonesians revere this “short person” and leave various offerings in attempts to happily coexist. For locals, Orang Pednek is an integral part of daily living. Perhaps such testaments are not so far-fetched. In 2004 scientists unearthed the remains of an unknown type of human predecessor while exploring a cave in Flores. Publications quickly dubbed the skeleton “Hobbit” due a tiny adult stature of three-feet. Might it be plausible that a surviving community of Homo floresiensis is responsible for the Sumatran sightings?

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A Homo floresiensis skull in comparison to a modern-day human.

For hundreds of years nations around the planet have experienced Bigfoot firsthand. Intriguingly, most of the aforementioned native groups had no way of communicating with one another. Throughout recent decades an increasing number of credible eyewitnesses have come forward. Ancient drawings, endemic folklore and direct encounters all reference an equivalent being. Perhaps society will one day uncover the truth about these reclusive creatures and learn precisely what our ascendents were expressing all along.


These creatures are only a small selection of the dozens of examples that exist. Let me know if you would like to read about additional types of Sasquatch in the future!