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Geographical Index > United States > Florida > Martin County > Report # 5369
Report # 5369  (Class A)
Submitted by witness on Monday, November 25, 2002.
Man recalls childhood evening encounter in Johnathon Dickenson State Park

YEAR: 1978

SEASON: Summer


DATE: July,1978

STATE: Florida

COUNTY: Martin County

LOCATION DETAILS: The entrance to the park is off US 1. The observation tower is along the road to the campground. Note: It's been 24 yrs. and a lot has changed in the area. I'm not even sure the park is the same.

NEAREST TOWN: Jupiter, Fl.


OBSERVED: I am a 39 yr. old professional in Miami, Fl. I had an experience 24 yrs. ago that I will never forget. When it first happened, I shared the details with family and a few close friends but no one believed me. It became a topic of such ridicule that I just stopped talking about it (what was the point). I've always had a casual interest in the bigfoot dilema. When I moved (in 1974) to south florida, neighborhood kids would tell me stories of a bigfoot-like creature (they called it a "skunk-ape") roaming the fringes of the everglades with the occasional sighting. They said it was large (about 9'), smelly and a very swift runner. This all seemed too bizarre and I really didn't believe them. Then when I was 15 yrs. old I had my experience. I'm not about to say that what I saw was a skunk-ape, but I can say that (since my experience) I absolutely believe that animals (even large ones) can co-exist around us without our knowledge of their presence. Here's my story ....

I was with my family on a summer camping trip at Johnathan Dickinson State Park (just north of Jupiter, Fl). There was an observation tower (about 30 ft high) along the same road that leads to the campground. About 5:30 or 6:00 pm I jogged from the campground to the tower alone (it was probably 2 to 3 miles). When I got there, the fence around the tower was locked. Since this was an un-manned tower setback from a road that had very little traffic (in-fact the entire time I was gone from camp, there were no cars), I decided I would hop the fence. I'm not one for blatantly breaking rules, so I was very careful not to make too much noise climbing the fence. When I got to the top of the tower, there was a built-in wood bench that wrapped along the perimeter of the deck (about 12'X 12'). I spent about 5-10 minutes looking in all directions (but there wasn't much to see). The skys were clear and there was about 45 minutes to an hour of sunlight left. There was a clearing of low-lying brush (about 3-4 ft high) that extended out from the tower for about 30-50 yds. in all directions. At that point it became pretty densely wooded. It was peaceful up there and I was tired so I rested for about 20-30 minutes by laying down on the bench. When I got up, I noticed the sunlight was beginning to fade so I figured I'd better get moving. I remember being upset with myself for staying so long because I would not make it back to camp until nightfall and I didn't want my parents to worry. When I got to the base of the tower, I climbed the 8' high fence at a point that was perpendicular to the road. Once on the other side, I could walk the 100' or so along the fenceline to the road. Unfortunately, I slipped at the top of the fence so I instinctively pushed off the fence and dropped to the ground on the other side. When I came down, I landed in a bush which made a lot of noise (I had been deliberately very quiet up til that moment. The position of my body was slouched over and facing away from the fence towards the woods beyond the low brush. It seemed as soon as I hit the ground, making all that noise, something popped its head up from under the brush (about 25 yds. away) and I saw it immediately because I just happened to be looking in that direction. I saw just its head at first and we just stared at each other for a few seconds. At first, I was not sure whether I was looking at an animal's head or a person's head. I remember it was rounded at the bottom and more elongated towards the top. It seemed a little bigger than mine and was covered with short silvery-gray hair. Its face seemed human with a flat nose, its eyes were small and dark. It made no sound. After a few seconds of silent starring, it turned towards the road and began moving quickly. It seemed to be running on all fours at first; but after about 10 yds. it stood up on just two legs and continued to scamper until it crossed the road and then disappeared into the woods. I would guess that it was about 6-7' tall. It's frame was very large from the hips up and it was covered with shaggy silvery-gray hair. After it was out of sight, I stood there for a moment trying to rationalize what I had seen. I saw it clear enough to know what it wasn't. It wasn't a man - it was definitely an animal. It wasn't a bear, deer or panther. Not even close. Surprise had turned to confusion and was now becoming fear. I didn't want to hang around (defenseless) against an animal larger, stronger and faster than myself. I ran back to camp, checking behind me as I ran. By the way it had reacted, I assumed it was probably as scared of me as I was of it. When I reached camp, I tried to tell my family, but they just laughed it off and said it was probably a dog or a homeless man. Of course, I knew this was not the case, so I became upset. Not wanting to continue the conversation, my father became stern and so I dropped the subject. The next day we went home and I've never been back.

Until recently, I've pretty much kept this story to myself over the past 24 yrs. When I found your site (and some others)on the internet and read of other encounters it motivated me to share my experience. I sent info about my experience to a web-site dedicated to finding "skunk-apes", but I really found much of their material to be uncredible. I wanted to share my experience on this site because I feel your opinions and observations are genuine, thoughtful and reserved.

P.S. I remember watching the local news one night (around 1977) about a supposed skunk-ape sighting by not less than 14 people during an air-boat ride thru the everglades. They interviewed the driver and a couple of riders who stated seeing a large hair-covered animal walking upright near the edge of an island in the swamp. I thought having so many witnesses would have made this a more credible and compelling sighting. Although I have read of many sightings in Florida which matched the stories my neighbors told me when I was younger, I have never seen or read anything (on the internet) about the airboat sighting. Have you or any of your readers ever heard of this sighting. Perhaps it was proven later to be a hoax or a mis-identification.

ALSO NOTICED: There were two unusual things to me. First, why did it pop-up and show itself when I had not previously seen it. And second, why did it run through the clearing (in my sight)until it crossed the road instead of retreating into the woods directly behind it. My theory on these two things is that it was traveling through the woods (towards the road)and came upon the clearing. Seeing the observation tower probably caused hesitation for the animal to continue, so it probably spend a little time watching for movement. Having not seen or heard any signs of life (remember, I was laying on a bench and would not be visible from the ground)it proceeded cautiously into the clearing in an effort to cross the road. When I got-up off the bench, it probably immediately saw me and stopped. It was now vulnerable to me since I was in an elevated position and it did not have the protection of the trees. I figure it probably just knelt down behind the brush (think it's called "saw palmetto") and waited. I didn't see it as I was coming down the tower. I believe that when I slipped and came down with a loud thud in the brush, I startled it and it popped it's head up to see what was happening. It was purely by coincidence that I just happened to be looking in its direction when its head came up. It must have realized immediately that there was no point in hiding, because we were looking right at each other. I think we both froze in that instance. After a few seconds, when it began to flee, it moved across the clearing until it crossed the road. It could have retreated much quicker into the woods behind it but I don't think that is where it wanted to go. It needed to get across that road and perhaps it panicked. I know I did!
Although it is not unusual to me that a frightened or startled animal would turn and run, the fact that this animal did in-fact RUN is not consistent with other sightings I've read about. The witnesses always seem to state that the subject calmly or hurriedly WALKS away. This one ran!

OTHER WITNESSES: I was the only witness.

OTHER STORIES: I spoke of the other sightings in south florida, but none this far north. I've never heard any other witness ever describe a "skunk-ape" as having silvery-gray hair. I don't know what I saw, but I know it was an animal, it had silvery-gray hair, it was too big to be anything else but a bear and bears don't run on two feet and don't live this far south.

TIME AND CONDITIONS: approximately 7:00 P.M.

ENVIRONMENT: Area was mostly trees (pines?). The area of my sighting was in a clearing of low-lying brush. There was a small river nearby (but I don't know the name). The area around the park was pretty remote back then. I'm sure it's very different today.

Follow-up investigation report:

I found the witness to be very credible upon questioning, and in the retelling of the encounter.
Upon first receiving this report, myself and a co-investigator visited the area in question for cross referencing of the places and geographic locales involved. The witness has since done likewise.
Discussed also were the many differences in the park ,as to how it looked at the time of the sighting as opposed to now, among them being the fact of an entirely different tower area as to what now exists.
The witness also stated he had the impression the creature in question may have started its run on all fours and ended on two legs. Again, he states that this is only an impression and cannot be one hundred percent certain.
The speed of the creature was guessed to be no faster than that of the witness himself with the exception of the terrain (saw palmetto strands) that the creature moved through easily.
The encounter was estimated to last approximately 15 - 20 seconds.The eyes were noted as probably black with no visible whites to them.
The witness also states that he cannot unequivocally state that the creature observed was indeed a bigfoot, but it matches no other animal that he knows of.