FOYERS shop and cafe owner Jan Hargreaves and her husband Simon believe they caught a glimpse of Loch Ness’s most elusive resident — Nessie.
It was while taking a break on the store’s front decking — looking out to the loch — when Mrs Hargreaves and kitchen worker Graham Baine spotted an unusual figure cutting a strange shape through the water.
“We were standing looking out and saw something that looked bizarre,” said Mrs Hargreaves.
“I said to my husband to come and have a look.”
“We stand here all the time and look out and we see boats and kayaks but it didn’t look like anything we have seen here before.”
Despite the unidentified creature being quite a distance from their vantage point, 51-year-old Mrs Hargreaves said it had a long neck which was too long to be that of a seal and it was black in appearance.
“It went under the water and disappeared for probably 30 to 40 seconds and then came back up again,” said Mrs Hargreaves.
“It was around for a good four to five minutes. It was just so strange.”
Keen to stress she is not seeking publicity, Mrs Hargreaves does firmly believe what she saw was the Loch Ness Monster.
“It was so exciting,” she declared.
Since August last year, The Waterfall Cafe and Foyers Stores with post office, opposite the village’s famous Falls of Foyers, has been run by Mr and Mrs Hargreaves.
Nessie hunter Steve Feltham, who lives in a former mobile library turned research centre on Dores beach, said he heard about the possible sighting when he popped into the store last week and believes because it was from residents rather than tourists, it is more credible.
“I’m excited by the fact it was locals who had seen it,” said Mr Feltham.
“It’s quite a distance from the shop to the water and they watch everything that goes on there.”
“For them to be impressed then there is a possibility it could have been Nessie.”
What particularly excited Mr Feltham was that it was from the exact same vantage point where Tim Binsdale shot the best footage of the legendary creature back in 1960.
“I’ll put the sightings with the other sightings,” said Mr Feltham. “I will also continue to carry out surface observations.”
The sighting was recorded on Wednesday afternoon between 2.30pm and 3pm.
Before that day in June 2008, Caddis Fly owner Chris Daughters had guided his drift boat down the McKenzie River more than 2,000 times without seeing Bigfoot.
Nor did he notice a large, furry creature lumbering along the river banks on that particular trip.
But never underestimate the power of a mystery.
Sunday, Daughters and his boat mate, Matt Stansberry, were part of an hourlong “Finding Bigfoot” segment that airs at 10 p.m. on the Discovery Channel’s “Animal Planet” program.
Why? Because a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it stretch of video taken of Daughters by Stansberry — neither of the two even noticed it until it was later called to their attention — shows what appears to be a Sasquatch-type creature on the far left side of the image.
“It’s interesting footage,” says Toby Johnson, organizer of the 2011 Oregon Sasquatch Symposium this weekend at Camp White Branch on the Old McKenzie Highway. “It certainly doesn’t look like your typical guy in hip waders with a fly rod, does it?”
If the Daughters-Stansberry footage hasn’t attained quite the same renown as the Patterson-Gimlin footage that triggered the Bigfoot debate in 1967, the pair’s YouTube segment has gotten more than 107,000 hits. In addition, Bigfoot-oriented sites that have attached the link have probably doubled that number.
“I think there’s something to it,” says Greg Hatten, a McKenzie River guide and winner of the 2008 McKenzie Two-Fly Tournament. “I can tell you this: I know guys who won’t run the upper McKenzie alone — and I’m one of them.”
Others are skeptical. “There’s obviously another boat pulled up on the bank there with one guy standing by it,” opined someone else on the same site. “The other guy, ‘Bigfoot,’ is walking back to him from down the bank. They then begin speaking to each other. Bigfoot is even wearing a baseball cap.”
If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so, it seems, is Bigfoot. But regardless of whether the video shows the real deal, the footage has only padded the McKenzie Valley’s burgeoning image as a Bigfoot hot spot.
At Ike’s Lakeside Pizza, in October 2009, a British TV crew interviewed area Bigfoot believers about sightings along the river; how can I forget one alleged witness telling me “he looked like the old King Kong.” Since then, Ike’s monthly “Beer and Bigfoot” gatherings have gone to biweekly sessions and, lately, weekly. The Sasquatch Symposium is anchoring its second annual symposium up river. And an Animal Planet crew not only came to gather footage for Sunday night’s show last March but is headed back next week for more.
All of which delights Daughters and Stansberry, who, at least off camera, remain skeptical that their video shows a bona fide Bigfoot but welcome the attention it brings to the McKenzie.
“Can’t hurt business,” says Stansberry, who maintains a fly-fishing blog (oregonflyfishingblog.com).
Wait, I suggested, some guides are already admitting they’re staying away from that stretch; couldn’t Bigfoot become to the McKenzie River what Jaws was to the tourist town of Amity — a reason to stay out of the water?
“If anything, more people will come because of it,” says Daughters, among the McKenzie’s most respected anglers and guides.
Like me, he’s a “ninety-five/fiver” on Bigfoot — 95 percent sure it’s a myth but 5 percent willing to be wrong.
“What surprised me was the number of people who, I realized, are highly interested in Bigfoot, like (UO golf coach) Casey Martin,” Daughters says.
Daughters, 40, and Stansberry, 33, were leading a group of other guides down the river on the day the video was shot. They were between Paradise and Ollalie campgrounds, on a Class 3 rapids known as “Fish Ladder,” when the camera caught the moving figure.
Not that either of them noticed it live or even after seeing the video. More than a year later a couple of guys at the Caddis Fly noticed the dark, moving image. The pair found a website for the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization and, almost as a joke, forwarded the footage.
Since then, the video has taken on a life of its own.
When first seeing the footage, “Finding Bigfoot” crew member Cliff Barackman of Portland found it “fairly compelling.”
The color seemed right — and so did the creature’s perceived lack of a neck. But after visiting the site and further analyzing the film, Barackman is more inclined to believe it’s a couple of guys, one of whom jumps up on a rock — perhaps to get a better view of the boat going through the rapids — and helps the other one up, all in two seconds, max.
“That’s the value of on-scene investigation,” says Barackman, who doubles as a sixth-grade teacher.
I reviewed the footage with Barackman’s insight in mind. I see more of a fleeting, dark figure than two guys on rocks, an image that — whether it is — certainly looks like a Sasquatch.
But, then, maybe that’s what darkens the shadows of the mystery, what perpetuates the Bigfoot debate: the uncertainty on both sides of the river.
GIBSONVILLE — At first, Bernadette and Leonard Braley didn’t pay much attention to the spots of mud on the road about 50 feet from their home on Quartz Court in Gibsonville last October.
But then the Braleys began looking at the mud more closely and thought they looked a lot like footprints. Leonard grabbed the measuring tape and Bernadette a camera. They took photos of what they thought were 16-inch muddy footprints and then forgot about them for a few months.
This past January, Bernadette began thinking about the photos again while she was going through shows on her digital video recorder. One was news footage of man who encountered Bigfoot trying to attack his dog.
It got Bernadette thinking. She did a quick Internet search and found Bigfoot Lunch Club, a group that follows Bigfoot sightings, and there is one in North Carolina. Bernadette emailed her muddy footprint photos to the club. In February, the Braleys were invited to Troy to talk with a group from the Animal Planet television network that was doing some filming for a six-part series called “Finding Bigfoot” that started airing this month.
The Braleys were featured in an hour-long “Finding Bigfoot” episode about Sasquatch sightings in North Carolina. It aired at 10 p.m. Sunday on Animal Planet, which can be found at Channel 63 on Time-Warner Cable in Alamance County.
“When Animal Planet got there, they went crazy when they saw the pictures,” Bernadette Braley said. “They wanted to come to our house and do filming for their series.”
A four-person team from the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization — BFRO — as well as a producer, cameraman and several others spent a day with the Braleys in March, asking questions, filming and trying to recreate the footprints.
“Their first question was do you live near power lines,” Bernadette Braley said.
Power lines run on the opposite side of their house. The second question was about the deer population. The Braleys’ property backs up to woods and there are a lot of deer. At the time the footprints were found, there was a lot of new construction going on in the cul-de-sac and plenty of mud in the area.
“They have concluded that Bigfoot sightings are around power lines because they like to run along the power lines and also deer. They like to eat deer or run with deer,” Bernadette Braley said.
The footprints were about 12 feet apart.
“They did some tests,” she said. “They put mud on the bottom of their shoes. They had a fellow running in the area. He jumped.”
The test subject was 6 feet tall and he left footprints that were about 6 feet apart.
“They estimated it was probably a lot taller and a lot heavier and running on the ball of its foot,” Bernadette Braley said.
The four-person team of researchers includes Bobo, a commercial fisherman, Cliff, a professional educator, Matt, the president of BFRO and Ranae, a skeptical scientist. They all have varying experiences with Bigfoot and different beliefs about the existence of the creature, according to an Animal Planet release.
“What binds them together, however, is their longing to understand the creature, passion for proving its existence and willingness to stop at nothing to finally track down Bigfoot,” the release states.
The Braleys enjoyed the experience with the Animal Planet group. Bernadette made the whole crowd chili. The researchers left behind a motion-sensitive night-vision camera that they set up in the woods.
The Braleys have a lot of photos of deer and rabbits and leaves falling, but they still haven’t captured Bigfoot on film.
Leonard Braley was always a believer that Sasquatch existed. Bernadette said she was always skeptical. After doing a lot of Internet research, talking to people and interacting with the folks from Animal Planet, she’s starting to be a believer herself.
“I’m leaning in the direction that there’s got to be a Bigfoot out there,” she said. “There is just too many sightings for it to be people’s imagination or hoaxes.”
The Braleys haven’t actually seen Bigfoot and never reported anything to authorities last year. Bernadette suspects that whatever made the muddy footprints is long gone, but she holds out hope.
“I, personally, would like to see it,” she said. “I would love to actually take a picture of it.”
The unknown lake creature in Georgia Altamaha-ha, known more casually as “Altie,” defies scientific explanation. Even before European settlement, the Tama tribes people told stories of a giant, snake-like river animal that hissed and bellowed. Over the past century, fishermen, lumberjacks and boy scouts have reported sightings of a creature in the tributaries and marshes of the Altamaha River, which feeds one of the largest river basins on the Atlantic Coast. The eyewitness consensus holds that the Altamaha-ha has a dark, smooth hide, apart from the tire-tread-like ridges on its back, as well as a narrow neck, prominent snout and flat, porpoise-like tail.
Could it be a sturgeon on steroids? A throwback to marine reptiles like the toothy plesiosaur? Maybe the Loch Ness Monster’s cousin from across the pond? I’m skeptical about cryptids, the kind of famous beings like Bigfoot unrecognized by the scientific establishment, but the Altamaha-ha called me with a siren song, despite the likelihood of a search turning into a snipe hunt. But even if the Altamaha-ha isn’t real, it could still have significance.
Founded in 1736, Darien, population 1,719, turns out to be a nexus of Altamaha-ha hot spots. The relaxed little town, 30 miles north of Brunswick on the South Georgia coast, boasts considerable history as the state’s second-oldest planned city and the location of Fort King George. Darien natives treat Altie the Georgia lake monster like the town’s unofficial mascot, comparable to leprechauns on St. Patrick’s Day. “He lays low, but he’s beloved,” says Kathleen Russell, the feisty, silver-haired editor of the Darien News, who maintains a thick folder of Altie sightings, letters and other news accounts. “I’ve seen him a couple of times. Once, a couple of years ago, in Doboy Sound, I saw a wake coming up the river, and there’s nothing that could make a wake like that.”