Imagine that you’re walking in the woods when suddenly you’re overcome by a skunky, sewery smell. Could it be your companion? Or could it be…Bigfoot? The legendary creature might not be your first suspect, but some local residents and Sasquatch enthusiasts insist that it’s a possibility, even a likelihood.
“If you smell that, I guarantee you’ve got one close to you,” says Connie Imming, an active member of the Bigfoot Researchers of the Hudson Valley (BRHV). The group was founded by Red Hook resident Gayle Beatty in 2011 and has hosted four free, open-to-the-public meetings since last year. Its next one will be at the Enchanted Café in Red Hook on Saturday, August 30 at 7 p.m.
Bigfoot (also known as Sasquatch) is a folkloric species of large, bipedal, apelike creatures with – you guessed it – huge feet. Stories of the notoriously elusive beast have existed for centuries among various Native tribes of the Pacific Northwest, but it wasn’t until the 20th century that the creature gained wider recognition under the name “Sasquatch,” an Anglicized version of a Halkomelem word meaning “hairy man.”
The Northwest isn’t the only region to experience Bigfoot activity. There have been many reports of Sasquatch encounters throughout North America.
While on a hike in Colorado in the 1980s, Imming said she had what the researchers call a “Class A encounter”: an actual sighting of a creature that she now believes to be a Bigfoot. According to Imming, she stopped to rest and saw “a flat-faced bear” walking on two feet and grabbing fish out of a stream. She didn’t discuss it with anyone until a few years ago. “You see all kinds of things out in the Rockies, so it didn’t faze me. I thought it was just another animal.”
Beatty’s encounter, though considered a “Class B,” triggered a more fearful reaction. When she was 15 years old, Beatty lived at the base of Stissing Mountain in Pine Plains. One night, after being grounded, she sneaked off to the mountain. According to Beatty, she heard a “godawful howl” and ran back to her home and parents, shouting, “Something is after me!”
Unless you’re an unabashed believer in Bigfoot, it’s hard to imagine approaching someone to say that maybe, just maybe, you have a Sasquatch problem. But one anonymous homeowner saw Gayle’s Bigfoot table at the Red Hook flea market and decided that his situation was dire enough to warrant intervention. The man reported hearing “vocalizations.” He said that raucous Bigfeet climbed his roof, and one of them hurled a rock at him while he was riding his tractor near the woods.
Beatty and her gang of Bigfootbusters showed up at his house – the “habitation site,” as they refer to it – for the first time in August 2013, and have been investigating the property ever since.
On December 30, the local Bigfoot investigators were joined by two Massachusetts researchers possessing a night-vision camera. As they trekked through the dark woods, the crew was allegedly bombarded with rocks. Beatty claims that they have “about eight minutes of footage: enough to prove their existence. We have not released it to the public. We’re working with a documentary filmmaker at the moment.”
BRHV’s collection of evidence also includes photos of “nests,” a plastic bag of blonde Sasquatch hair and plaster castings of massive tracks. “One of our team members had a sighting of a large Sasquatch, and the next day my son and I went exactly where he told me and cast that track,” says Beatty, gesturing toward a 17-inch-long, 8.5-inch-wide footprint that Imming is holding. They measure it using a laminated brochure on Sasquatch that contains a ruler for expressly this purpose. “I don’t ever want to see what made this one,” says Imming – an odd sentiment coming from someone who relocated to New York for that purpose.
Imming discovered BRHV online when she was still living in Florida. She moved to the Hudson Valley in February 2014, largely because of the Bigfoot community. And it is a community. While some doubters might assume that it’s an eccentric few who believe in Sasquatch, BRHV’s Facebook page has garnered more than 600 likes.
The first informational meeting of the BRHV packed the Enchanted Café and included more than 30 people. The last meeting at the Red Hook Town Hall attracted approximately 70 people, according to Beatty. The next meeting will be held at the Enchanted Café; so get there early if you want a seat.
As the community expands, Beatty hopes that the BRHV can raise awareness about the Sasquatch in order to keep the creatures and their habitat safe. She explains that they’re curious, social creatures, and while they like to cause a scene when people trespass on their territory, they’re generally nonviolent. “We’re passionate to protect,” says Imming. “They’re so human.”
Throwing more stones than even an irritable Sasquatch are the skeptics, however. As certainly as there are believers, there are adamant disbelievers who are eager to question Beatty about the significance of her findings. “It’s not my place to convince anyone,” Beatty says. “I’m just reporting what I’m finding.” One customer at her bait shop, Hook Line & Sinker in Red Hook, teased her to the point that she offered him the rare privilege of coming to the top-secret habitation site. He showed up to the group’s town meeting, but declined the special invitation.
While the meetings are one way to get acquainted with local Sasquatch lore, skeptics and believers will likely agree that the only way to know for sure is to see it for yourself. For that, Beatty says, take to the woods. “Start at a water source. They need water, shelter – like people.” But if you go looking for hairy beasts, remember: Bring a friend. You can bet that Sasquatch will.
Bigfoot Researchers of the Hudson Valley (BRHV) public meeting, Saturday, Aug. 30, 7 p.m., free, Enchanted Café, 7484 S. Broadway, Red Hook; (845) 758-6920, https://www.facebook.com/BigfootResearchersOfTheHudsonValley.