Monday, February 23, 2015


The Florida Skunk Ape



             As the Florida sun crept up above the palm trees, Buddy’s eyes slowly scanned the large palmetto field in front of him. The morning mist permanated the area, as an unnerving quietness creep over the swamps. It was as if there was not a single sign of life. The Florida native sighed, with loss of interest, as he went back to playing a game on his cellphone. He, along with others, hunted in this remote area, in hope of bagging a buck. With the Thanksgiving holiday past and the November month slowly coming to a close, the weather was cooling off and the Florida wildlife was becoming more active. On this day, Buddy had journeyed to an area of Polk County called the Green Swamp, which is part of the Florida Water Shed. The area encompassed more than 100 acres, with areas still untouched by man. It was hard to believe that not more than fifty miles to the east was Orlando and the amusement parks that brought so many to Florida.
There's something in the swamps of Florida
 
          Buddy was sitting up in a tree stand, one hand on his rifle, the other his cell phone, waiting for a buck to come out into the field. He got himself out there at 5 am, before the sun came up. The cold wet Florida morning was cutting through him like a knife. Because of the area’s remoteness, he was sure he the deer to be active here. This area of the Green Swamp he where his set up his tree stand is also known as the Devil’s Creek Swamp.

He continually would glance up and scan the field to no avail. He thought it odd that there was not a single noise coming from anywhere. Not a bird chirping or a frog crocking, nothing. Maybe this wasn’t such a good spot He questioned himself. It was getting to late to move to another spot and if he did move, if there was any deer watching, it would see Buddy and leave. Maybe he’ll get lucky he thought. He glanced at his cellphone and saw that it was six am. He’d give it another hour and then leave for the day and try again tomorrow.  
Newspaper article on the Skunk Ape
 Buddy went back to his game, when out to the corner of this left eye, he caught movement. He stopped and slowly glanced to his left. He could see something moving near the edge of the swamps. He squinted to see what it was, but within the thickness of the mist, he could only see something moving. He placed his phone down and brought his hand up to the trigger guard of his rifle and watched the movement. Whatever it was, was moving toward his direction.

As it got closer, Buddy could now see it. It was not a deer, in fact it was not any kind of wild life he had ever seen in the Florida swamps. Whatever it was, was walking on two legs and moving out into the palmetto field. Buddy continued to look at the animal. Was it a hunter in a gully suit? He thought is kind of strange that the hunter didn’t have a gun with him. It also struck him odd how the figure moved quickly and gracefully, where most humans have difficulty walking through palmetto fields. As the figure got closer to Buddy, he released that this might not be a hunter at all, but something entirely different. Buddy had heard stories of a strange bipedal creature that stalks the Florida swamps, but he believed them to be fictional. After years of hunting in these swamps and now, had never seen anything he would classify as strange.  
A tall hairy beast prowls the swamps
The strange humanoid creature moved effortlessly through the large sharp planets. It moved quickly to avoid being seen. Suddenly the creature stopped dead in its tracks. It felt something staring at it. It looked around, but saw no movement. It then lifted up its head and sniffed the air. At first it only smelled the rotting cypress wood, but then it detected something else. Man was here and he was close.
Newspaper article on the Swamp Ape

Buddy reminded still and silent and the strange creature came to a stop. What was it doing he wondered. It looked like the creature was looking for something. He now had a better look at this creature and estimated it to be at least eight feet tall and covered in a dark reddish hair, from head to toe. He could see that the animal was muscle with his arms extending lower than a human. Buddy wondered “Was this a real animal or a man in a cleverly built suit, out to scare somebody?” buddy then brought his cellphone up and hit the video record button and aimed it at the creature. He looked down at this phone to make sure it was pointed in the creature’s direction. As he watched through his phone, appeared to be sniffing the air, but then the creature suddenly turned and looked right up at Buddy. A strike of terror shot through Buddy as he released that this wasn’t a person in a suit, but a real creature and it knew he was there. “What do I do now?” thought Buddy.” Do I stop recording and go for my gun or continue filming.” All of a suddenly the animal bolted from the area. Buddy quickly stopped filming and placed his hands on his gun, ready to use it if he had to. Luckily the creature from in the opposite direction of Buddy. He couldn’t believe how fast the creature moved. He watched it slowly run out of sight to a hammock in the distance, Buddy sat there and pondered “Did I really see what I think I saw? Did I see the Florida Skunk Ape?”

 Two weeks later Buddy’s son would come tell me about the sighting and after a little an hour on the phone, I persuaded Buddy to come meet with me and show me where the sighting took place. Buddy, which is not his real name, did not want to make a big deal out of the sighting. Buddy is a shy reclusive person, who does not wish to seek any publicity. He felt that even with the video, he was still going to be called hoaxer. He showed me the video and though not great quality, did show something standing erect in the palmetto field. We ventured out to Devil’s Creek Swamp and he first showed me the tree stand and then where the creature stopped and looked at him. He show me where it exited the palmettos onto a dirt road. Even after two weeks, you could still see the tracks the animal left behind. I took a casting of one of them. My wife photographed the entire trip. Comparing me, standing in the same place as the creature, we also estimated the creature to be over eight feet tall. The Footprints measured fourteen feet from toe to toe. We followed the tracks until we lost them in the swamps. This sighting is one of the most creditable of Florida’s version of Bigfoot, which we call the Skunk Ape.
The Florida Skunk Ape
Believe it or not Florida is the second highest state for Bigfoot sightings. The Skunk Ape has been reported in virtually every part of Florida except the Keys. It is reported to look a lot like its western cousin, all covered with dark brown hair, extremely muscular and cross between an ape and human.  The only real difference is that the Skunk ape in Florida is reportedly not as tall as Bigfoot in California and Oregon.
 
The term “Skunk Ape” actually originated in Arkansas in the late 1800’s, but when the early settlers came to Florida and reported a strange primate like creature prowling the forests and swamps and its nauseous smell it too was called the Skunk Ape. Some cryptozoologists refer to it as the Swamp Ape, The Seminoles refer to it as Esti Capcaki (Cannibal Giant) and one town in Florida calls it the Bardin Booger. The Skunk Ape is pretty wildly known here in Florida is probably the state's most famous legend. Sightings of these elusive beasts range in the thousands. Unfortunately most these sightings go undocumented by hunters and hikers, not wishing to be ridiculed.


Bigfoot is traditionally associated with the Pacific Northwest, but every part of the country has a Bigfoot of its own, except Hawaii and Rhode Island. Most people do not realize that it was actually well known in the South decades before its first documented appearance in Washington and Oregon. During the 19th century, sightings of large hairy creatures were often reported as the frontiers of the United States rapidly spread out from the Atlantic seaboard. People of that day and age, however, called it the "Wild Man."

The prowls the swamps
The first recorded sighting of the Skunk Ape occurred in the winter of 1883-1884, which was originally reported as a Wild Man, had appeared at Ocheesee Pond, a large wetland covering nearly nine square miles in southeastern Jackson County. Located below Grand Ridge and Sneads in the southeast corner of Jackson County, Ocheesee Pond was a focal point for early settlers. Most of the pond is covered by a vast cypress swamp, although there are some stretches of open water - most notably its southern arm. The strange human-like creature was often spotted roaming the swamps or swimming from place to place.
Another article on the Skunk Ape
 

As more sightings occurred in the remote area, the local residents - many of them former Confederate soldiers - decided to launch an expedition to capture this Wild Man. In August of 1884, they succeeded!  Newspapers at the time, were silent on the eventual fate of the Ocheesee Pond Wild Man. He was reported that his body was covered in thick hair, but the captors believed that he was a human who had probably had escaped from an asylum. No asylum reported such an odd escapee, however, and his captors became even more baffled by the Wild Man. The last account has the strange beast being sent to Tallahassee and then back to Chattahoochee after scientists could not identify it and that unfortunately the report ends.

The next reported sightings happened in 1942 and a large ape like figure jumped in front of vehicle in the town of Branford. It was then supposed to have jumped on the running board of the moving vehicle and clung on for at least half a mile. It was looked into the vehicle and then dropped on and ran into the nearby woods.



In 1947, in Lakeland, a large hairy bipedal creature was seen by a four year little boy, who stated that he saw the strange creature standing behind an orange tree, watching him. He quickly went back into his home and related what he saw to his mother. While you may think that the boy was seeing things, misidentifying a bear, or just flat out made it up, but remember that the first story I related happened at the Green Swamp which is just north of Lakeland.
A drawing of the strange creature what Jennifer Ward saw in 2004.


In August 2004 School teacher Jennifer Ward was driving on a rural road in Southern Florida, two weeks after Hurricane Charlie had hit Central Florida. She had just been visiting a friend and, as the sun was setting and was now on her way home with her two daughters asleep in the back seat.



Something on the side of the road caught her attention. She first thought it was an animal of some kind, but could not tell what. It appeared to be crouched in a ditch on the roadside. It was something large. She slowed the car to get a better look. As she neared it, the creature noticed her and stood to its full height – on two legs.  Something she had never seen before. “When it saw me, the animal looked just as surprised as I was,” she told later the news press. “I didn't stop because I was scared. It was almost dark, but I could see it and I did get a good look at it.”


           What Jennifer described was a mysterious creature that has been seen in virtually every state of the Union, but has never been scientifically classified. It stood six to eight feet tall, she reported, and was covered in dark hair about two inches long. The area around its eyes was whitish and its full lips had the color and texture of the pad on a dog’s paw.  

The Bigfoot Field Research has two hundred and eight three sightings recorded on their website, in Florida alone. The creature is seen in all parts of Florida from up in the panhandle, the central area not far from Orlando, down the Everglades, and even an area close to Camp Kennedy.  
While I don’t have the room to go over every sighting, I do however want to go over some photos that were taken of the large cryptid. One of the most talked about one is the Myakka Skunk Ape photo. In 2000, two photographs and a letter sent by an anonymous woman and mailed to the Sarasota County, Florida, Sheriff's Department. The photographs, which showed a large hairy bipedal creature standing next to a large palmetto plant. In the letter, the woman claims to have photographed an ape in her backyard.
The Myakka Skunk Ape photo
 
The woman wrote that on three different nights an ape had entered her backyard to take apples left on her back porch. She was convinced the ape was an escaped orangutan. It should be noted that the witness in question at no time called the creature a skunk ape but simply refers to it as ape.  Which she believes to have escaped. Escaped exotic animals is not uncommon here in Florida. During Hurricane Andrew, animals from the Miami zoo got loose and some were never recovered.
As far as the pictures go, the jury is still out on this one. So believe to be a real animal, but cryptozoologists can’t decide if it is in fact an orangutan, or an unknown primate. Without the witness coming forward and showing exactly where the sightings took place, the photos will continue to stay unsolved.

David Lauer, myself and Stacy Brown on a bigfoot hunt
On May 8th 2012 Bigfoot hunter Stacy Brown of  Sasquatchhunters.com was out Bigfoot hunting with his dad in Northern Florida, when something exciting happened. They went out that night equipped with night vision and a FLIR thermal scope. At about midnight after hearing some knocking Stacy’s dad spotted something large on the FLIR scope. A large bipedal creature was standing behind a tree and appeared to be watching them. Then all of sudden, the animal moves from behind the tree to another tree. The FLIR picked up the total thermal outline of the creature as moved.
The video is available to watch online and you can see the perfect outline of the creature as it moves. Stacy took me out to where it happened. My wife filmed me at the same location doing the same movement and you can see that whatever it was, was a lot larger than me. In fact it is estimated that the creature is about eight feet tall. Next the famous 1967 Roger Patterson film of Bigfoot, this is the best evidence to date of the unknown cryptid. The video can be viewed at SasquatchHunters.com


Stacy Brown's famous Thermal Bigfoot video.
Watch it at  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8EhysGrkf4k
              In March 2013, Mike Falconer, with his son, were visiting Myakka River State Park in Sarasota County, when he saw a large hairy bipedal creature roaming around at large field next to a lake. He immediately pulled his truck and he and his son took off running after. Falconer had his cellphone video going the entire time. Falconer told the site that he wasn't looking for the creature when he pulled over. But he did capture a large figure in the field. It is hard to see what is really out there. I viewed Mr. Falconer’s the video and found the same problem as Buddy’s video. Cellphone do not offer the best quality for filming and objects appear further out than they really are. As with Buddy’s sighting, I believe Mr. Falconer did see a large bipedal animal and that he did attempt to film it. The area of Myakka has a long history of skunk ape sightings.
A picture from Mike Falconer's Skunk Ape video.
You can watch it at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yrmzok_aMDI
 
                 As you can see, Florida has no shortage of Skunk ape sightings. Who knows, there might be more footage of this rare creature that will surface right after I finish this article. This animal that defies science continues to make its presence known in the sunshine state. Its legend goes back before the settlers came to Florida, with the Native Americans that occupied the land. Today there is still a lot of forests and swamps that offer refuge for this elusive animal. Today science is continually discovering new species of animals. As man encroaches more into the last of Florida’s forests and swamps, and the day will come when the world will see that these fantastic creatures do exist along with other cryptids.   
Dave Shealy's Skunk Ape Research HQ in Ochopee Florida
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f_capCibOqs
Me and the Skunk Ape
  In Ochopee there is the world's only Skunk Ape Research Headquarters. Owned and operated by Dave Shealey. Dave is Florida's self-appointed Skunk Ape expert. Slim, in his mid-forties, he wears dark, wraparound sunglasses, a hat with a band of alligator teeth, and no shoes. "There's never been a documented case of anyone ever being physically attacked by a Skunk Ape," he says, reassuringly. "But also, there's a lot of people that go into the Everglades that never come out."
Dave has been studying the Skunk Ape "pretty much all my life" and describes it as six to seven feet tall and 350 to 450 pounds. He guesses that there are between seven and nine of the creatures around here, in a waterlogged and buggy wetland of buzzards and alligators.
 

On a side note, After Buddy related his sighting and took me to the area where he had the sighting, I looked at the direction the creature was going. Later that same night, I took my family out to it. With the help of my son’s night vision goggles, My son and I encountered something large moving through the swamp and it seemed to keep up with us, will we walked fire break trail. When we stopped, it stopped. I looked through the night vision goggles and saw two glowing eyes. The creature then let out a scream that I can only describe as sounding like a gorilla. My son and I decided to head back to our vehicle. I know what a bear, panther and hog (known animals in the area) sound like and whatever it was, was moving through the swampy area. The goggles only have a range of fifty feet so we did not get a positive look at what it actually was. You can watch a reenactment on Destination America's Monsters and Mysteries of America at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f_capCibOqs
I found this little piece at Gatorama.
Recently an new photo of the legendary beast made the rounds on the news and the internet. The photo was taken by a fisherman near Tampa. The beast even as a white strike going through the top of it's hair. As you can probably guess, the photo proved to be a hoax.
The new photo of the Skunk Ape complete with white hair streak.
So if you ever find yourself in the early evening, venturing into the swamps of Florida, don’t be surprised if you and see a large hairy creature prowling through the swamps. You just saw the Florida Skunk Ape.

Friday, December 26, 2014