The Town Talk:
Alexandria & Pineville, Louisiana
March, 27, 2000
Reporter: Andrew Griffin
They are hairy, tall and usually smell bad. They are elusive and mysterious and are known by different names throughout the world-Yeti and Yowie, Sasquatch and Skunk Ape.
In the United States, these enigmatic primates are primarily known as bigfoot.
Some people believe in Bigfoot creatures, and some do not.
Scott Kessler of Pineville is a believer. Since he was a young boy growing up in rural Rapides Parish, Kessler has had an obsessive fascination with Bigfoot, mainly because he says he has had two encounters with the hulking ape-like beasts.
His first encounter with a Bigfoot was in the mid-1970's. He was camping with his family near Woodworth in the Indian Creek area.
Late one night, after everyone had fallen asleep, Kessler was awakened by noises in the still night air.
"There were some coons nearby, and they got scared off by something. Then I heard a loud splashing sound in the creek and could hear something coming through the water grunting as it was struggling to get up the creek bank," he said.
Kessler, who recalls being terrified, said he could make out the creature as it stood near the creek. It was over 6 feet tall. Then, a companion Bigfoot appeared and was a little shorter, but no less frightening.
However, as quickly as the two sylvan-dwelling creatures had appeared, they just as quickly had darted off into the night.
"They hit the water and appeared to be gone. Before long the coons came back," he said.
Kessler said the next morning he found evidence of the two creatures in the form of footprints and moved earth along the creek embankment. However, fear of ridicule from his family kept him from telling the story. In fact, it took him more than 20 years to tell his family the story.
About five years later, when Kessler was in his teens, he was in a remoter area near Wardville. Kessler and five other boys were near a fence line on a remoter piece of property when they discovered a pine tree that had been snapped in two about 8 feet from the ground.
"This was strange since none of the other trees appeared this way,"
Then, a tuft of reddish-brown hair was found caught on a barbed-wire fence.
"I asked my friend if there were any cattle that had that color of hair. He said there weren't any."
A number of the boys had been spooked by this discovery and by the fact that the area already had a reputation of as being avoided by cattle.
So after the other boys left, Kessler and his friend were alone. It was then that they sensed they were being watched.
"We turned around and looked back near where that pine tree was back in the thicket, and it was then that we saw a face...it had black, coal eyes with no pupils, the hair around its face had a reddish tint to it, and the nose looked almost human except it broadened more like an ape. Well, that was enough for us to see, and we were gone," Kessler said.
The two Bigfoot experiences stayed with Kessler for years. Then, in 1996, Kessler got Internet access and contacted the California-based Bigfoot Field Research Organization.
"I told them my Bigfoot stories, and within 30 minutes I got a message back from someone at BFRO who wanted to call me," he said.
Kessler said that within a half-hour of talking to the BFRO representative, he had been talked into becoming a Bigfoot investigator for Louisiana.
"They said they didn't have anyone to investigate reports in Louisiana so I volunteered," he said.
From that point, Kessler began to take his Bigfoot hunting ver seriously. Because his family and his job with the fire department keep him busy, Kessler has had time to investigate only two sightings which occurred near the Little River along the Rapides-Grant parish boundary.
Kessler said it is his job to make a plaster cast of a track and take measurements f any additional tracks to determine the stride of the creature and make videos and take photographs of any evidence.
A fellow firefighter once told Kessler that while hunting in Grant Parish in 1997, he and a friend heard popping tree limbs and were overcome by a "horrible smell, like the smell of a wet dirty dog that has been rolling around in garbage."
Although the two men did not see anything, the smell was very bad and very unusual. Kessler said people who have had an encounter with a Bigfoot usually report there is a foul smell associated with it.
Recently, Kessler tried to attract a Bigfoot out near Wardville. He drove out to a remote area during a full moon and played what is believed to be Bigfoot howls and calls over a loudspeaker system.
"Dogs in the area began howling after I played the tape. However, after a while, nothing appeared," he said.
The next morning, Kessler returned to the are and found what he believes are Bigfoot tracks in the mud in a low-lying area.
"The tracks weren't there before," he said.
Kessler said Louisiana has its share of Bigfoot sightings. On the BFRO Internet web site - www.bfro.net - all the parishes in the state are listed.
Under the heading "Louisiana" are reports of Bigfoot sightings. Nine Louisiana parishes are listed as having sightings, including: Ascension, Caddo, Grant, Rapides, St. James, St. Tammany, Union, Vernon and Webster.
Kessler said he is sure there have been more sightings throughout the state, but because of the fear of ridicule, some people are reluctant to come forward.
"There are plenty of people who are seeing them, smelling them, hearing them ... finding hair and fecal samples of an unknown species of ape," Kessler said.
However, because Bigfoot has been sensationalized and scrutinized in tabloids, Kessler said, he understands that people who may have witnessed a strange creature in the wild may fear talking about it publicly.
One sighting of a strange creature occurred in August 1996 in southern Beauregard Parish, not far from the town of DeQuincy, which is in Calcasieu Parish. A woman driving home hit a very unusual creature that may have been a chupacabra, a small and fearsome creature reported to be prevalent in Puerto Rico and Mexico.
Cajuns have their own chupacabra called a Cajun werewolf or loup garou.
After the chupacabra story was made public, the Lake Charles American Press ran a column about the dead creature. Some thought it might be a dead chow dog. A positive identity was never made of what the animal was. The remains are currently in the possession of a Sulphur man named Malcolm Tillotson, who lovingly calls the mysterious canine "Fluffy."
Tillotson belongs to a Lake Charles paranormal investigative group called Louisiana Amateur Spectral Research Center. While the group normally investigates ghosts and apparitions, he said he looks into other unusual phenomena like Bigfoot.
"A member of our group said a man who lives near her told her that he shot and killed (a Bigfoot). He said he called LSU, and they came out and took pictures and took it away. They told him to call back later to do a follow-up. However, when he did they said, "we don't know what you're talking about," Tillotson said. The Bigfoot corpse was never seen again.
Ron Schaffner, a Bigfoot investigator in Cincinnati, Ohio, said that while he is actively involved with BRFO, he remains healthily skeptical until real hard evidence of tracks or other materials is presented.
"A problem we have had is that we have not gotten any good (film) footage of a creature since the Patterson film in 1967. Maybe the reason is because they're declining," Schaffner said.
Other factors could be involved for why people believe they are seeing what may be an unusual creature or Bigfoot.
"Our society has had steady diet of strange creatures, flying saucers and other unusual activities told to them through movies and tabloids...Hollywood has done a good job of this. People may in fact be seeing something but misinterpreting what they see. It could be bears or owls or something else and not necessarily Bigfoot," he said.
Kessler admits the sightings may be something completely different and that peoples imaginations can run wild.
He said he has heard of people trying to connect a rise in the number of UFO sightings with Bigfoot sightings, but he believes there is a more down-to-earth explanation.
"I believe they are descendants of gigantopithecus blackie that came across the Bering land bridge(during the Ice Age) and came to North America and adapted to the climate."
He believes that Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest, where Bigfoot sightings are usually high, made art showing " a big man."
He also believes that Bigfoot may be a primate not far removed from the mountain gorillas of Africa.
"The word ‘gorilla' is African for wild, hairy man," he said.
Like mountain gorillas, the Bigfoot is believed to live on a diet of berries, fruits, grubs and occasionally meat, like liver.
As for the footprints, Kessler said that the Bigfoot is usually hunched over and leaves a footprint different from humans because they are so tall and heavy.
Kessler said his family is more or less supportive of his interest.
"My daughter thinks it's the coolest thing in the world."
Kessler's wife, however, is not as interested in his Bigfoot pursuits.
Kessler said that once people learn that he is amateur cryptozoologist (someone who studies unknown animals), they hit him with a plethora of questions.
"One question is, is how can a Bigfoot live in the wild without being seen more often by man? Well, there is more remote areas in this country than people realize. The FAA said there are around 72 aircraft that have gone down in the Pacific Northwest that have never been found. That gives you an idea of how remote it is out there," he said.
As for why more people don't stumble across Bigfoot carcasses, Kessler said, "Well, how many bear carcasses have you found or deer for that matter. I believe that when a creature knows it going to die, it will go to a remote place to do so.
"Here in Louisiana, because of the climate, dead animals decay faster...plus, in this area it is sparsely populated, lots of forest. It's possible that such a creature could exist without being discovered," Kessler said.
Kessler said that day could come soon when the world is formally introduced to Bigfoot.
"I think somebody, some hunter, will run across one dead in the woods or shoot one and drop it off on science's doorstep and say,"Tell me this isn't real." I think it's really arrogant for us to believe that everything in nature has been discovered," Kessler said.
Reporter Andrew Griffin's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
Color Graphics from Article:
Uploaded to the BFRO database by Ron Schaffner Ron@BFRO.net
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