November 15, 2012: Two unemployed brothers, Wes Germer and Woody Pratt, are mourning the loss of a relative, taking a late-night drive and parking alongside Yacolt Mountain in Washington State to talk.
Soon they notice heavy breathing and loud steps to their left, right, something hanging from a tree, another crawling to the car’s bumper.
The brothers were armed but dared not defend themselves nor just drive away. Instead, they reported a giant creature stepping forth, many yards before them—pacing, challenging, threatening—the details forever etched in the brothers’ minds. How the full moon revealed every aspect of the creature’s face and fingers, how it seemed to melt to the ground like a sprinter, ready to launch into an attack.
Listen to the brothers’ purported experience for yourself.
The brothers somehow survived that terrifying night, with Wes telling the respected Washington Sasquatch Research Team (WASRT.net) the next day, according to an email reviewed by The Daily Beast: “My brother and I were being encircled last night by them while in our car. We were on the back side of yacolt mt, kind of by sunset falls and we didn’t see 1 we saw 3…”
And so “Sasquatch Chronicles” was born: an interview and call-in podcast for believers to share their Bigfoot experiences, theories and warnings, launched in 2013. Easily the most popular online outlet about the creature (regularly, and ironically, ranking among the top 100 “science and medicine” podcasts), Wes and Woody’s frightful encounter had become legend. Featuring serious Bigfoot hunters and inadvertent witnesses as guests, as well as shocking stories of near-death experiences, “Sasquatch Chronicles” seemed more movement than mere podcast.
In order to listen to “Sasquatch Chronicles,” you had to accept two things: Bigfoot exists and it will kill you! There’s no middle-ground. This monster is to be feared, avoided. Seasoned hunters ended their accounts with, “I don’t even hunt anymore, and I only go into the woods armed…” Oh, and anyone who tries to interact with Bigfoot, offering gifts of food and receiving bones or other small tokens as thanks, was a “flute-player.” In hindsight, its message was cowardly, yet “Sasquatch Chronicles” simply offered too many spine-tingling experiences to miss a single episode.
“Sasquatch Chronicle’s” Facebook page further inflamed the arguments that raged around Bigfoot’s existence between new episodes. Ape? Undocumented hominid! Where are the bones? Bears don’t leave any and Bigfoot eat their own! There was a UFO sighting nearby too. Unrelated, UFOs are for sissies! They like Milwaukee’s Best in beer bread… Fluteplayer!
You must suspend all disbelief in order to listen to “Sasquatch Chronicles”—and I did. I am a Bigfoot addict, just ask my friends and watch their eyes roll. I dare say that I’ve had two near-misses with the legendary beast. The first was in 2005, mid-July on the Appalachian Trial in Cherokee National Forest. Awoken sore and early by rustling nearby, a strange force to my side, the sense of being stalked. I doubled my pace until I was jogging and huffing. There was a glint of light to my left, a pile of three feet high—Bigfoot lair? Empty antihistamine packets… Meth lab? Run! Heart and backpack pounding, I fled that forest.
My other experience was near Little Huckleberry Mountain, Skamania County in Washington State. Killing Bigfoot is illegal here but the damned things kept peeking at us. The corner of your eye catches a glimpse then it’s gone. We were picking mushrooms, so I can’t accurately vouch for anything else.
Turns out, I’m in illustrious company. ‘Survivorman’ Les Stroud and primatologist Jane Goodall both believe. Actor Jimmy Stewart made his wife spirit a Yeti finger-bone out of Nepal by hiding it in her undergarments.
But for every convert, there’s also a dastardly hoaxer. This may get me shot, but Roger Patterson was the absolute worst person to film a minute of supposed Bigfoot footage. He was a debtor and schemer, had recently self-published a book about the “abominable snowman” in America, and was making a documentary when the creature magically appeared at Bluff Creek. Oh and a guy named Bob Heironimus still claims that he was never paid the $1,000 Patterson promised him for wearing that ape costume. There’s also Rick Dyer—“The Best Bigfoot Tracker in the World” according to himself—who has been busted twice, caught dragging a mix of latex, foam and camel hair around Texas in a trailer last year, trying to charge $10 for a single Bigfoot viewing. After being outed, Dyer afforded, “It’s really easy to trick people…”
Hence the need for Bigfoot “experts.” Note that no one is an expert on Bigfoot, or any undocumented and highly elusive creature. Even the University of Phoenix doesn’t offer a degree in Cryptozoology. Yet I was deemed an expert, however briefly, appearing on “Sasquatch Chronicles” (Episode 66) to discuss my book, On Giants: Mounds, Monsters, Myth & Man. We talked literal tall tales on the show, trying to find connections between ancient giants like Goliath and the Bigfoot mystery of today. I told the listeners I found it illogical that other creatures didn’t join the migration across the ice bridge connecting Asia and North America. Beringia existed for over 50,000 years—how did Neanderthals, Gigantopithecus and other species not follow such a well-worn path and find a new home?
Akin to the Tea Party, the “Sasquatch Chronicles” community tends to view academics and experts with suspicion. Many complained that my research was too tangential and I am “not an expert.” Others accused me of working for the Smithsonian Institute (somehow a slur). Government can’t be trusted, especially regarding our favorite monster. No matter—I, along with a reported half-million other listeners per week—never missed a “Sasquatch Chronicles” episode. Things were changing rapidly, though: Woody hadn’t appeared on the show in months, Wes had added a new co-host, 40-year Bigfoot veteran and author Will Jevning, and “Sasquatch Chronicles” had attracted a wealthy Bigfoot enthusiast to invest in their show, to take it big-time.
My appearance earned me a gratis annual membership to the subscription-based site ($7 per month for at least one show per week). The rabbit hole was entered. I was free to explore the scary (researchers who found a “torn-up camp” and two dead people, one decapitated) the silly (a magazine delivery driver needing to relieve himself, shocked to see his stream of urine splashing a massive and rather annoyed creature by his van) and, of course, tantalizing tinfoil-hat theories (the entire Forest Service is part of a grand conspiracy to cover-up Bigfoot killings in our national parks). This was my show, a secret that only we subscribers shared. I waited eagerly each week for a new podcast, awed by the turkey hunter who shot a wild-hairy-female-thing in a tree, then watched its huge male mate drag her corpse up a sheer rock-face. He was nauseous afterwards, couldn’t tell even his wife. Many who have encountered Bigfoot are forever changed.
Those who see Bigfoot as a peaceful loner tolerating us trespassing in its forest were openly mocked in the “Sasquatch Chronicles” community, while those who fear and want to kill one— and bust the government that is supposedly covering-up its existence—are praised. Fear-mongering an animal that has never been scientifically proven to exist quickly became the hallmark of “Sasquatch Chronicles.” This started to really irk me.
At least co-host Will Jevning gave “Sasquatch Chronicles” some credibility. A military veteran with two all-too-close encounters with the creature, Jevning has told his stories too many times and is ever aware of hoaxers and liars. Believing in Bigfoot can be a battle, and Jevning offered his views to me via email in early April, “Many years ago we withheld specific information from the public to gauge the authenticity of a witness account, but with most of the pioneers of the topic gone, this information has been given out and with the information access so fast and easy today, anyone can gather specifics of many witness accounts and fabricate one and gain public attention. There are also those seeking financial gain from this also, and makes a very unfortunate situation when the credibility of the topic is tenuous at best.”
Thanks to Jevning’s imprimatur, and countless hours spent on the website, I had gone from a Hoper with two sublime experiences to a full Believer in Bigfoot. I was a junkie, all thanks to “Sasquatch Chronicles.” The show was even hitting the road—a Bigfoot expedition! Whoop!
Then, on March 16, 2015, Jevning abruptly resigned from “Sasquatch Chronicles.” He wrote on the site: “I am leaving for personal reasons. There has been a lot of controversy recently surrounding Wes and Woody’s situation and I have a reputation to protect as an author. Reputation is everything…”
Unbeknownst to me, the brothers’ story was being ripped apart. Their horrific experience with multiple Bigfoot in Washington State probably never happened. Shocked? Believe it or not, we all were at first.
Foremost, there wasn’t a full moon that night. There was actually no moon on November 15, 2012, a fact overlooked by those of us who wanted to believe, yet easily verifiable on the Internet. The brothers’ account mentioned many guns but no night vision, so it’s highly dubious they could have seen anything so clearly, and so far away, at 3 am. Assorted posts on Reddit and opposition communities on Facebook were parsing every detail of the brothers’ Bigfoot encounter, including weather reports from Portland, Oregon’s PDX (cloud cover at 1,000 feet, rainy), even a pitch-black account from a couple whose car broke-down near Yacolt Mountain that night. “Solar flares” is just one lame excuse offered on the show after the lunar issue arose.
Even worse, Wes had allegedly sent the earlier email (“My brother and I were being encircled last by them while in our car. We were on the back side of yacolt mt, kind of by sunset falls and we didn’t see 1 we saw 3…”) to the Washington Sasquatch Research Team (WASRT) on November 16th—the day after their incident. WASRT then sent researchers to the site but say they found nothing (no tracks, no evidence, no anomalies) only harsh winds and helicopter-logging operations. As “Sasquatch Chronicles’” credibility started to spiral, Wes said on the show that he’d contacted WASRT—perhaps hoping for great validity. So WASRT’s report was revealed (no moon, no evidence) and then Wes curiously insisted that he’d merely called them (even though their website had no phone number) and certainly had never emailed them. Upon hearing this, WASRT promptly disclosed that at least 26 emails existed between Wes and the team.
“The only things worse than hoaxers are murders, rapists and child molesters,” WASRT co-founder Steve “Mojo” Wilkins offered as we discussed how his group was dragged into the meltdown at “Sasquatch Chronicles.” When informed that the show was citing his team and their day-after report to regain credibility, Wilkins offered just the facts: no moon, no evidence, so many emails…
As expected, the “Sasquatch Chronicles” community went feral, especially when our favorite Facebook page disappeared after Jevning’s resignation. Everyone felt cheated. Toxic online cannibalism commenced: many listeners cancelled memberships; others attacked ‘the haters’ who dared question the brothers.
Only the two brothers know if they lied about seeing Bigfoot. I sent Wes multiple emails requesting an interview, all of which went unanswered, very strange for a guy whose entire show was based on openness, call-ins, and sharing.
Conversely, Jevning was glad to talk about the incident, and remains proud of what he helped create. Despite continued attacks on his own credibility, Jevning’s optimism is eternal, “I think it is only a matter of time before they are officially proven to exist. I believe with a larger food availability for them their numbers are growing and with more people becoming aware of them this will happen. When? I cannot say but it may be in the near future.”
“Sasquatch Chronicles” is still on the air (much humbled one would hope). Fewer subscribers and Wes all alone on the microphone. A small band of people who deny that their fearless podcast leader could ever lie, attacking all of the “haters” and “flute-players.” It’s quite sad, really, but so goes the search for Sasquatch.
Meanwhile, claims continue to pour in, of pre-dawn hunters surveying the woods only to find themselves being watched. Of people walking their dogs and having an eerie voice summon, “Here Fido…” An author is busy writing her third book about Bigfoot besieging her property, even though locals know she is a tad agoraphobic, everything outside is terrifying. It takes only one, a single tooth for DNA testing, a bone, even a fresh sample of scat. Just one and Bigfoot is real.
Yet another hoax or lie, and we all take a tumble. Then dust ourselves off and head back into the woods once more. I recently took my own Bigfoot expedition, to the supposed hotspot of Whitehall, New York. Then sat by a campfire with my dog and whiskey all night, listening to other enthusiasts wood-knocking and whooping, courting only each other.
Whatever Bigfoot is, it is surely disgusted.
Brad Lockwood is the author of nine books, with his novel Blue Bucket hitting this summer. He has written for Forbes and too many alternative weeklies, and lives in Bigfoot ground zero, aka Brooklyn.