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COUNTY: Lake County
LOCATION DETAILS: from Lake Mack go west on CR42, to Deer Haven Rd, go right on Deer Haven Rd till it turns into FSR420(about 4 miles from when you first turn onto Deer Haven and you will be near the spot in the road.
NEAREST TOWN: Lake Mack, FL
NEAREST ROAD: Hwy 42
OBSERVED: I want to start out by saying that I have never discussed this with anyone except for one other person. I have not discussed it with my wife, my best friend, or any other person close to me in my life. I was fortunate to have a coworker who had, many years ago, shared a similar personal experience that he had in Utah. He is the only person with whom I have shared my experience. I also want to say that what I am about to describe to you has tormented me for the last several months. I cannot emphasize enough how this encounter has affected me emotionally. Thanks to the encouragement of a fantastic confidant, I am now coming forward to report the incident as a step toward putting it behind me and getting on with my life. I did not ask for this, and had the event been within my control, I would have absolutely chosen not to have the experience. My life was perfectly fine with my previous view of reality, as incomplete and skewed as it may have been.
I grew up in a very rural setting, and have always loved the outdoors and being in nature. I love to spend time in the beautiful wetlands and forests of Florida’s vast uninhabited wilderness areas. Monday through Friday, I work as an executive in a very large multinational corporation based in Orlando, FL, and being shut up in an office building throughout the week makes me stir-crazy. My life is a very high-stress environment, with responsibilities that include a multi-million dollar P&L, and oversight of approximately 1,000 employees. My weekends are often spent decompressing in nature through hiking or canoeing, especially in the winter months when the temperature is more comfortable.
On the morning of Sunday, January 15th, I was visiting friends in Lake Mack, FL, which is a very small community located in a rural area of Central Florida about 10 miles west of Deland, FL, and about 30 miles from my home. To get to this area, go west on HW 44 out of Deland. Highway 44 will curve south just before the drawbridge that crosses the St. Johns River. The Pier 44 Marina will be on the left and is visible from the drawbridge. Immediately after crossing the drawbridge from Volusia into Lake County, turn right onto County Road 42 and continue west for about four miles. If approaching on the westbound side of the road, the Lake Mack community will be located on the south (left) side of CR 42, and the Ocala National Forest on the north (right). CR 42 traverses the southern edge of the 600 square mile Ocala National Forest.
Having never been to Lake Mack prior to the 15th, I had earlier looked at the Google Maps application installed on my Blackberry to get directions. I noticed that the Ocala National Forest was just across the road, and saw that there were several forest service roads that crisscrossed the southern portion of the forest. I decided that after my visit, I would go drive through the forest and possibly do some exploring and hiking.
I finished up in Lake Mack about noon and drove west on CR 42 for about 1 mile, and turned right onto Deerhaven Road and proceeded north into the forest. Deerhaven Road is paved for about the first 2 or 3 miles until it turns into National Forest Service Road 420, which to my surprise was a one-lane, very bumpy, unpaved road. Initially, I was very nervous about continuing, but the dirt-road was compacted and my car appeared to handle it with no problems. Feeling a bit more comfortable, I continued deeper into the woods.
I drove for what I would estimate to be another 3 miles or so. The road passed through an area that appeared to have been burned in the past by a forest fire, as most of the pines were dead and only a very thick 3 to 5 ft layer of saw palmetto and other scrubby bushes covered the ground. In this area, the visibility was better due to the lack of a forest canopy and I could see the forest line about a mile in the distance. At this point, the road was still good, and so I continued driving until I the road left the burned zone and entered the tree line into a heavily forested area.
I would estimate that after about ½ to 1 mile into the forested area, I started to notice an increasing amount of soft sand in the road rather than the hardened more compacted dirt that I had been driving on previously. I got nervous and decided to turn around and go back out of the forest on NFS 420 the same way that I had entered. At that moment I felt the car sink into sand. I quickly steered left up on the side of the road so that I could get turned around. I was able to get the car turned around in the opposite direction, but when I moved forward about a foot, the car sank deep in the sand. I tried for some period of time to get unstuck, but ended up only digging the tires deeper into the sand. It dawned on me what a stupid idea it was to bring a car into the backcountry—lesson learned. So here I was, in one of the wildest and most remote areas in the State of Florida completely stranded and all alone.
I decided to try to dig out the wheels. I was down on my knees next to the front driver’s side tire digging the sand with my hands. After a few minutes of this, I stood upright to stretch my back out of the hunched position I had been in. When I stood up, a rock pelted me and a shooting pain went through the inside of my left thigh near the groin area, which caused me to jump back and yelp in pain. Because I was leaning forward against the fender of the car, the rock bounced off my leg and onto the hood of the car, and then slid slowly down the hood and into the sand, which, to my relief, told me that it was not a bullet or snakebite. I immediately looked toward the forest on the other side of the road from where the rock came, and perceived movement in the bushes. At this point, I did not see the creature, but did see movement in the branches and leaves of the shrubs, grasses and saw palmetto. The movement was enough to convince me that someone or something was there, and that it—whatever it was—was the source of the rock.
Unsure of what to do, I stood there for about 30 seconds and checked my surroundings, including the road to the east and west, and the forest that was immediately behind me. After I turned back from looking into the trees behind me, I heard movement in the forest behind me. The sound that I heard was the sound of leaves and sticks being crushed on the ground, as if someone took one step and then stopped. The sound appeared to come from about 15 feet in the woods behind me. So now at this point, I had perceived movement in the woods on both sides of the road immediately in front of and behind me. I looked back again into the trees behind me where the noise originated, but saw nothing.
At this point, the fear struck me pretty hard. Several things crossed my mind, such as wild hogs, bears and coyotes. But none of those animals obviously, to my knowledge, were capable of throwing rocks. Then the thought crossed my mind that perhaps there were a couple of people who had decided to have a little fun at my expense. So, I called out into the forest, “Who’s there? This isn’t funny. I need help getting my car out of the sand. Please help me,” and so on. I heard nothing in reply and saw no movement.
With the fear mounting and my thoughts turning more toward protection rather than getting my car unstuck, I remembered that I had a can of UDAP in my backpack in the trunk. The previous summer, I had hiked part of the Appalachian Trail in Tennessee and North Carolina and had purchased a couple of cans of UDAP for that trip. I walked around the back of the car, opened the trunk and pulled out my backpack. When I slammed the trunk shut, I again heard movement in the trees on the south side of the road and the location from which the rock had been thrown. I looked to my right and began unzipping the backpack when the creature started to make a hissing sound, though up to this point I still had not visually identified the animal. It was a very loud hissing sound, similar to what you might hear from a feral cat that is being cornered, only much, much louder and deeper. It then started to alternate between a hiss and a vocalization that sounded like “haaaaawwwww”. So the sound it was making was a protracted “hhhiiiiiissssssssssssssss, haaaaawwwwwww, hhhiiiiissssssssssssssss, haaaaawwwwwwww,” with an intermittent deeper gurgling sound interspersed throughout.
Hearing this put me into flight mode, and I immediately got in the car and locked the doors. When I slammed the door, I looked across the passenger seat out through the passenger side window and saw the creature about 15 feet into the woods as it got up and stood up on two legs. It was out of view previously, as I was able to later conclude, because it had been in a completely prostate position in or behind about 3 or 4 feet of saw palmetto. I saw its head rise up first, then its back, then it appeared to go to all fours, and finally pushed itself up with its long arms onto two legs. I briefly saw its side profile as it did not turn and face me directly, but rather stood up facing east in parallel to the road. Once it rose up completely on two legs, its head was obscured by the tree branches above, while at the same time, its feet and legs were obscured by the saw palmetto and other bushes below. So, at this point, I was looking at its torso through about a 3 to 4 foot clearing between the scrub below and the branches above.
To say the least, I was completely petrified. I was locked in my car, but absolutely did not feel safe at all. I would estimate that the creature was about 8 feet tall. It was extremely bulky across the bust, with very muscular arms, and I have no doubt that it could have easily busted out the windows and ripped me to shreds if it so desired. It stood there for what I would estimate to be about 3 seconds. I also observed what would commonly be described as a “love-handle”, around the side of the belly area and back. The creature’s hair was black and gray in color and was slicked down against the lighter skin, which could be seen in some places through what appeared to be wet hair. The hair was very thick on the arms and shoulders but less so around the side belly and back areas. It appeared to be wet because the hair was slicked down against the skin.
After standing there for approximately three seconds, it hunched forward and walked east in parallel to the road and was immediately out of sight in the trees. Just before the first step, when the creature hunched forward, it put its hands forward to grab onto some branches, which allowed me to get a glimpse of its right hand. From what I could see, the top of the hand and arm was very hairy. It had about 3 inches of hair hanging down from the wrist area that was longer than the rest of the hair on its arm. One thing that stood out to me: when the arm swung up, I noticed the palm area was much lighter than the rest of the arm, almost a light grey or even off-white color, which was in stark contrast to the much darker hair that covered the other areas of the arm, torso and back. As it swam through the bushes, I could see the trees move and shake as it moved forward through the woods along the side of the road. It walked through the scrub for what I would estimate to be about 15 or 20 feet, and then stopped, again completely obscured from my view. Also, the hissing and other vocalization had stopped at this point and everything was completely quiet.
After about a minute had passed of no further movement, I saw a tiny dark portion of the creature peek out from behind a pine tree that was growing near the side of the road about 15 or 20 feet in front of me. I could not perceive any detail at this point whatsoever, just that it was hiding and peaking from behind the tree. It appeared to be crouching down because the peek appeared about 3 or maybe 4 feet up the side of the pine tree from the base of the tree on the ground.
It was obvious to me that the creature had previously responded to the slamming of the car door and trunk. Not knowing what else to do, I laid down on the horn and started opening and slamming shut the driver’s side door hoping that such nuisance noises would drive it out of the area. It did in fact evoke a response, but not the one I was hoping for. After about 15 seconds of door-slamming and horn-honking, the creature lumbered slowly on all fours in sort of a crouched position from behind the tree onto the side of the road right along the tree line. I quickly slammed the door shut. As soon as the door slammed, the creature reared back and flung a soft-ball sized amount of slimy brown, lumpy material that was about the consistency and color of “wet” peanut butter all over the hood of the car. It slid down the hood and onto the sand in front of the car, leaving a wet residue on the hood.
It then put its arms forward, moving out of the crouched position, and then quickly crossed the road in front of me using both its arms and legs to walk on all fours, just like a four-legged animal. It looked back at me briefly and then disappeared into the tree line on the opposite side of the road. One thing I noticed at this point is that the creature was completely soaking wet from head to toe. When it flung the material at the car, I saw water drops shake off of the arm. It was very wet with the hair laying slicked to the skin, much like what you might see with a wet, long-haired dog.
The face of the creature was a dark grey color, with very large dark eyes. It had a very large mouth with extremely large, fat lips. The nose was human-like, with one exception, which was large, slightly flared nostrils. The nose did not protrude off its face in proportion to a human’s, but was flatter and more sunken. The creature looked like an ape, but with facial features—especially the nasal area—that were very similar to those of humans.
I resumed honking the horn, but did not open the door because I did not have eye contact with it and further knew that it was now in the forest on the same side of the road where I was sitting in the driver’s seat. I did not want to give it the advantage of an open door should it decide to jump out of the woods to my immediate left and attack the car.
About 1 minute after disappearing into the tree line, the creature reemerged, this time walking completely upright on two legs, just like a human. It paused at the tree line for a second, and then took one huge step back across the road. The creature, to my shock and horror, was carrying along a “child” of the same creature. It had both arms of the smaller creature grasped in its right hand, and was dangling the juvenile along by its side, with the legs of the smaller creature almost touching the ground. The smaller creature appeared to be completely limp from the neck down, but its eyes were open and it was moving its head and looking toward the trees to which it was being carried. After crossing the road, the creature paused at the tree line on the opposite side of the road, lifted the juvenile up onto its hip, and continued into the scrub. Just before disappearing, the small creature wrapped its legs around the back and stomach and clung to the creature’s chest with its arms. Basically, it was carrying the smaller creature in the same way that a human would carry a child on the hip. It did not reemerge from that point forward, nor did I see any sign or hint of it again.
I would estimate that the smaller creature was about three feet tall. It was also a different color than the adult, with the child being more of a light brown, with possibly some hints of a red and blonde, versus the black and grey color of the adult. One thing that stood out about the child is that it appeared to be very, very thin, almost to the point of appearing emaciated. I could actually see the outline of the ribs through the skin and hair that covered it.
I sat petrified in my car for about an hour until I looked up and saw two hunters driving Jeeps down the road toward me. They were kind enough to pull my car out of the sand, and quickly got me going on my way out of the forest. Once I got on HWY 44, I left the area at about 85 mph and never looked back. I was in a state of complete shock over what I had experienced. Prior to this experience, I was not a Bigfoot believer. Og how wrong I was.
OTHER WITNESSES: just me
TIME AND CONDITIONS: Around 1 pm
ENVIRONMENT: pine forest, saw palmetto and very scrubby
Follow-up investigation report by BFRO Investigator David Bakara:
I spoke with the witness the day he submitted his report. The events were fresh in his mind, as evidenced by the emotion in his voice. The witness stated he had no prior interest in Bigfoot. He admitted that before that day, he would be the guy that make fun of someone who said they saw a Bigfoot.
I drove to the location the week after I spoke with the witness. His directions were exact. I found the area where his car was stuck. I looked for any dried mud (from the debris the creature threw) but the road is well traveled by hunters every day. I walked back looking for a water source as the creature appeared wet and found a natural spring boil that flowed into a creek just 30 yards into the brush. I followed as best I could but the brush was thick and quiet difficult to move in.
This is a very wild area with much wildlife, water (even in the dry season), and cover. It could easily hide and survive in here. Other than the road that runs thru it (accessable by 4X4's only), it is a big, remote forest/swamp with very few hikers.
About BFRO Investigator David Bakara:
David has three daughters and a wife that shares his interest in research, both having developed a deep respect for nature and knowledge of the outdoors and wildlife. Attended Northern Florida Expedition 2011, 2012 Washington Exp., and 2012 North Florida exp. Prior US Navy and currently works as a Leasing Agent, spending his time off in the woods as often as he can investigating Bigfoot reports.