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Geographical Index > United States > North Carolina > Article # 460

Media Article # 460

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

[North Carolina Sightings]

By Nathaniel Axtell
Hendersonville News (North Carolina)

Heidi Gritsavage isn't sure she encountered the tracks of a Sasquatch at her Stoney Mountain apartment complex back in the winter of 2000.

"Whatever it was, it was huge and it was prowling around," she said.

But a California-based group calling itself the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization thinks her encounter was the real deal. The group plans to mount a North Carolina expedition in search of bigfoot, probably in 2007, according to founder Matt Moneymaker of Capistrano, Calif.

The BFRO bills itself as "the only scientific research organization exploring the bigfoot/Sasquatch phenomenon." Its supporters, which include several legitimate scientists, think they will ultimately prove the existence of a large, hairy apeman in North Carolina and every other state.

Primate experts at Duke University are skeptical that an 8-foot-tall walking ape has eluded discovery in North America for centuries.

"I really find it difficult to believe that there's a 1,200-pound animal hiding in every state," said Matt Cartmill, a Duke professor of biological anthropology and anatomy.

That said, Cartmill and his Duke colleague, Daniel Schmitt, said they can't actually disprove the existence of bigfoot, either.

"It's not impossible," Cartmill said. "There are credible members of my profession who believe that the evidence is compelling."

Schmitt also acknowledges fellow scientists who are believers.

"I can't say they're wrong," Schmitt said, "but there's no reason to think they're right."

The BFRO has compiled 12 "credible" bigfoot reports from Western North Carolina, including two from Henderson County, one from Buncombe and two from Haywood. Besides Gritsavage's encounter, the group's Web site,, reports that a traveler on Interstate 26 caught a fleeting glimpse of a bigfoot-like creature crossing the highway, less than 5 miles from Gritsavage's complex, in 1983.

Gritsavage was in her former apartment on Randy Drive during a snowstorm Dec. 19, 2000, when her dog, Kahvi, went "ballistic," she said, trying to get out the sliding glass door. That was uncharacteristic for her normally mellow St. Bernard-golden retriever mix.

A few hours later, Gritsavage took Kahvi out for her nighttime walk and discovered some unusual footprints in the snow.

"It was definitely weird," Gritsavage said. "They were huge tracks, twice as big as my (size 9) boots, and they were spaced about 5 feet apart. I had to spread my legs as far as they would go just to mimic the gait."

Even stranger was the route of the tracks, she says. They emerged from thick woods behind her apartment complex, crossed a grassy opening and descended a 45-degree slope covered in briars and brush.

"I thought, 'Why would someone come out of the woods in the middle of the night, in a snowstorm, and go over that bank?" Gritsavage said. "At the time, I wasn't thinking 'bigfoot,' but a little later I stumbled onto the BFRO Web site and thought, 'Maybe it wasn't a man.' I don't necessarily believe in these things, but this was bizarre."

Gritsavage filed a report on the BFRO site and soon was phoned by one of the group's investigators, a former private detective from Maryland named Ron Brylla.

Brylla said he found Gritsavage, a college graduate and seasoned outdoorswoman, a highly credible witness. Based on their discussion, Brylla concluded: "The stride of the tracks leads me to believe them to be a possible Sasquatch, even though there was a wind/snow storm obscuring the track details."

Schmitt, who studies primate locomotion at Duke, co-wrote an article called "Bigfoot's Screen Test," in which he challenged the belief among bigfoot enthusiasts that long strides are difficult to fake by human hoaxers. Mimicking the loose-limbed walking style of Groucho Marx, Schmitt and his colleague were able to add almost 3 feet to their normal strides.

And if bigfoot does exist, Cartmill questions why no hunter has shot one and why no skeletal remains have been discovered.

Moneymaker has an answer for that:

"People (in WNC) say they see mountain lions all the time, but they don't find their skeletal remains and no hunters have shot one."

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