Thursday, January 8, 2015

My Story

I received an email this week in which I was asked, “How did you get interested in all this cryptozoological stuff?” It got me to thinking, always a dangerous thing, and I realized that I have really not discussed that here on the blog. I figure now is as good a time as any to do so.

I split my time growing up between the Piney Woods of what I consider true East Texas and the Golden Triangle areas of Southeast Texas. I clearly remember seeing the Patterson-Gimlin footage in a movie theater in San Augustine as a young boy. This would have been around 1972-73. I was absolutely mesmerized by what I saw on that big screen. I turned to my grandmother, who had brought my brothers and me to the show, and asked, “Maw Maw, is that real?” She simply replied, “Well, that’s what they are saying.” From that point on, the idea of giant hair-covered bipedal apes roaming the woods was never too far from my mind. I read every bigfoot book in the school library and then branched out to books about other ‘monsters’ like the yeti and Nessie. I wore those books out. It was not unusual to see my name three, four, five or more times in a row on the card of the books before any other name appeared. I remember my 3rd grade teacher making me check out books on something different from time to time so I would be “a well rounded young man.”

My formative years really were something of a golden age for the “big three” of cryptozoology. Despite only being able to receive the three major television networks (no Fox, no cable, not even the local PBS affiliate) there was no shortage of monster related programming. There were specials at least twice a year that documented the search for bigfoot, the yeti and Nessie such as ‘The Mysterious Monsters,’ narrated by Peter Graves. Weekly programs like Leonard Nimoy’s ‘In Search of…’ and fictional dramas like ‘Kolchak: The Nightstalker’ only fed the fire of interest I had in the subject. One of the big moments of my childhood came when Colonel Steve Austin, the Six Million Dollar Man himself, battled a sasquatch in primetime. Saturday morning serials also got in on the act. ‘The Secrets of Isis,’ starring Andrea Thomas had an episode called ‘Bigfoot.’ The kings of Saturday mornings in the 1970’s, Sid and Marty Krofft, produced a serial called ‘Bigfoot and Wildboy’ that was shown weekly on ‘The Krofft Super Show’ and later became its own weekly series. Whether it was the more serious documentary type of program or the campy Saturday morning fare made little difference to me. I ate it all up in equal measure.

As I got older, I began to hear more and more of what most would consider campfire stories. I heard tales of the rougarou from an old Cajun man who, along with a bunch of his friends, had coffee every morning at a local drug store. When I was in the fourth grade, my family moved to Silsbee, Texas. Tales of Ol’ Mossyback, the Wildman of the Big Thicket and Village Creek were regularly discussed in a most serious fashion while eating lunch outside under a large pine tree. I could go on but you get the idea.

My interests in the topic never went away but other things, mainly athletics, cars and girls, replaced cryptids atop my priority list. I was a decent basketball player and had the opportunity to play for a small Central Texas university. I still live in the area and this is the region where I first heard the tales of the Converse Werewolf, the Beast of Bear Creek, the Hairy Man of Round Rock and the Wildwoman of the Navidad among others. I found it fascinating that tales of these bipedal creatures were not limited only to East Texas.

Soon I was engulfed by the daily grind and family responsibilities that marriage, kids and a full time job bring. There was little time to pursue my interests in this particular area other than watching a bad cable special from time to time. Then one night I attended a Legacy Outfitters meeting. Legacy Outfitters is a Christian outdoors group made up of hunting, fishing, hiking and camping enthusiasts. Most chapters have a monthly meeting where the members get together, share a meal and hear a speaker who talks on some outdoor related topic. On this night, Daryl Colyer, then a member of the Texas Bigfoot Research Conservancy, was the speaker. He told us some amazing stories, showed us a few plaster castings of footprints and even played some pretty impressive audio. He presented the topic in a professional and scientific manner. To say my interest was rekindled would be an understatement.

Following the meeting, a friend and I decided to go out and look around for this creature. We picked our search area by looking at the Texas Counties that had the most sightings. We chose a spot on the Montgomery/Walker County line in the Sam Houston National Forest. We made several trips and then caught lightning in a bottle. I won’t recount the entire story at this time (you can read the official report here) but, to summarize, we saw a very large, upright, hirsute, bipedal creature on a forest service road at approximately 3:15 a.m. in May of 2005. We were in the middle of nowhere and, in our minds anyway, felt the chances of what we saw having been a hoaxer in some sort of ape suit at that time and in that location were extremely low. I felt then, and still feel to this day, that what we encountered that night was the real deal.

The experience, though brief, changed the course of my life. I joined the TBRC soon after (now a member of the North American Wood Ape Conservancy or NAWAC). Daryl Colyer, the man I heard speak at the Legacy Outfitters meeting has become one of my closest friends and someone with whom I have shared many an adventure. I have seen and heard some very interesting things over these last eight or nine years.

About six years ago, I decided to start writing the Texas Cryptid Hunter blog. There was, and still is, so much garbage out on the internet regarding topics of a cryptozoological nature that I felt a voice of reason was badly needed. I do not pretend to be an expert on any of this but do feel I have brought a measured, level-headed and logical point of view to the topics of wood apes, black panthers, chupacabras and such. I wasn’t sure about the name for the blog initially. I couldn’t decide if it was silly or not but, for better or worse, it stuck and here we are today.

Well, that’s the story of how I got into all of this and began writing the blog. It may be more information than you ever wanted to know but that is ok. I decided to make this post not only because I was asked the question, but to show that I was a normal person going about the business of life when I had my encounter. I was an unextraordinary person who had an extraordinary experience. My story really isn’t much different than that of a lot of folks out there. I’ve come to realize that a lot of folks, more than most realize, have some kind of story that relates to my interest in this topic. I’ve heard countless statements like, “Well, I’ve never seen anything but my grandfather once saw…” or “I’ve never seen anything weird but there was this one time while I was hunting when…” Most people don’t talk a lot about such things but the stories are out there.

Mine is just one of them.

1 comment:

  1. Mike,like you was exposed to large and hairy early on. My first large hominid was white and seen crossing the road in front of us not far from home in Western, NY (winter 1977). Our farm was known for strange things and this was just one more to me. Still have an interest and appreciate your candid reports.