On the trail with Bigfoot-hunters


Trackers in Kentucky show the BBC the various methods they are using in the hopes of catching Bigfoot. Video by the BBC's Matt Danzico

Not since footage emerged of a giant, ape-like figure in the California woods in the late 1960s has there been so much interest in proving the existence of Bigfoot. So how do you go about finding a creature most people believe to be a myth?

It could be a human footprint. Let's not rule that out.

Kentucky Bigfoot investigators pride themselves on their scientific rigour.

They compile detailed reports, take copious notes, and rely on high-tech recording equipment to set their traps and document their work.

Every twisted branch or broken twig is carefully examined for clues. Every distant sound in the trees seized on as a possible sign of "activity".


Which is how I came to be standing on the bank of a stream on a warm spring day staring at an indentation in the shingle.

Bart Nunnelly Big Foot drawing Bigfoot is notoriously camera shy - but there are plenty of artists' impressions

Someone had pointed it out as a potential footprint. It was certainly big enough. Maybe even too big.

But as Charlie, our team leader, got to work with a tape measure, I assured myself that it was probably human.

And that's when I knew they had got me. Probably is not a word I would have used a few hours ago, when we set out.

Back then I would have said it was definitely human. But back then my scepticism was impregnable. Now it was starting to fray at the edges.

Maybe this is how it starts.


People have reported seeing strange, ape-like creatures in the forests of North America for centuries.

Big Foot investigators It's big and it was apparently made by a foot - but is it Bigfoot?

Frontiersman Daniel Boone is meant to have shot and killed one of them. He dubbed the 2.5-m (8.2-ft) tall beast a Yahoo, after the creatures in Jonathan Swift's classic novel Gulliver's Travels.

The Yahoo's descendants have come to be known as Bigfoot in some circles, Sasquatch in others. Whatever you call it, it is currently big news. YouTube is awash with "sightings". Most of them are obvious fakes.

But what has really given new life to a very old legend is reality TV and its remorseless appetite for eccentric characters.

It seems like every Sasquatch-spotter, from Canada to the Florida Keys, is in talks with a production company or has already been featured in a reality show of his own.

Life-changing encounter

When a TV crew arrives with a list of pre-planned shots and outlandish things for them to say, the Bigfoot-hunters generally play along.

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They know they are being held up to mockery, on some level, but they seem to be in little doubt about Bigfoot's existence.

Joy, a middle-aged healthcare consultant, is the lead investigator with the Kentucky Bigfoot Research Organization.

She says she saw Bigfoot for the first time last autumn. Or, rather, it saw her.

As she was changing out of some wet clothes on a camping trip, she became aware of a hairy male face peeping at her under the tent flap, she told me.

According to Joy, there was an overpowering odour. And she heard a low, guttural grunt. Whatever the creature staring at her was, it was not human.

Joy's boyfriend, Ben, smiled as she told her tale. He is a Bigfoot sceptic - but it's a good excuse for a hike in the woods.

Bigfoot sightings in the US

Bigfoot image
  • In 1967, two men captured film of what they said was a Bigfoot on film. The footage, taken in the California woods, becomes famous
  • The Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization lists more than 4,000 Bigfoot sightings in the US and Canada, with the most coming from Washington and California.
  • Sometimes dubbed the Southern Sasquatch, sightings of the so-called Fouke Monster were reported in the 1970s in Arkansas, inspiring cult film The Legend of Boggy Creek.

Some native American tribes in the north-west of America believe the Sasquatch is real. Most think of him as a spiritual being, whose appearance before man is meant to convey some kind of message.

One member of the Kentucky group told me he also thinks Bigfoot could be a spiritual manifestation.

Bart Nunnelly has written several books on the mythical creatures that he believes live in the Kentucky forests.

When he was nine, his family told a local newspaper they were being terrorised by giant ape-like creatures.

He has been the subject of ridicule ever since.

After all, there is little conclusive proof that Bigfoot is anything but a myth. Despite their emphasis on scientific fact, the majority of the group's evidence comes in the form of anecdotal bigfoot sightings collected on their website.

The footprint we found, they decided, was most likely human.

But Mr Nunnelly, like all the Bigfoot devotees I met in Kentucky, is not worried about the mockery of sceptics and non-believers.

He seems certain about what he has seen, and that it wasn't human.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 253.

    Why these conversations tend to be tedious is that the "proof" of Bigfoot comes from people who don't understand how science -- systematic study of the physical world gained through observation and repeat experimentation -- works. If you want to believe in anything, have fun; but blurry pictures and an inability to think logically isn't enough for me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 252.

    1) No, because the definition of sound is "something that you hear." No one's there to hear the tree fall, so the tree doesn't make a sound. This answer is valid as long as no details are observed technically.
    2) Yes it did fall because it left observable evidence
    3) Bigfoot didn't make it fall because (a) He doesn't exist and (b) Why would an ape-man knock a tree over?
    I know for sure

  • rate this

    Comment number 251.

    If Bigfoot exists then great, but why hunt it!!?? It's obviously not hurting anyone so why go after it with weapons?

    If it were over here, the Tories would be trying to hunt it on horse-back with beagles no doubt......

  • rate this

    Comment number 250.

    Bigfoot exists, I know, I met her in club in Watford in 1993.

    That was also the last time I drank Jack Daniels.

  • rate this

    Comment number 249.

    OK, Aspen (24 min ago)- If you're so smart. PROVE it doesn't exist. Go ahead, I'll wait. And while you're at it, Mr. Internet Genius, prove you're smart.

    I'm waiting...

  • rate this

    Comment number 248.

    There were also a number of plausible sightings in what was in the 1930s to 1950s French Indochina - in the appropriate "jungle settings - I remember reading a book about this 40 years ago but doubt if this is still floating around on Amazon

  • rate this

    Comment number 247.

    Things is, we have amazing creatures like Narwhals and Chameleons and others with incredible features or abilities. If someone told you a legend of a creature that could change colour, you wouldn't believe it.

    I don't think things like Sasquatch are at all likely, too big to stay hidden on land, why invent amazing creatures when the planet is full of them?

  • rate this

    Comment number 246.

    If a tree falls in a forest, and there is no human there to witness it, does it make a sound, did it really fall, and can we know for sure that a bigfoot did not cause it to fall. I challenge anyone to say they know for sure.

  • rate this

    Comment number 245.

    244.Rik - "True Story" 79AD The first science fiction novel, with humans observing a war between aliens on the Moon and on the Sun.

    "From the earth to the moon" Jules Verne 1865 - A gun club produces a manned cannon projectile, with many eerie similarities to the eventual NASA Apollo program.

    I think they'd have believed anything personally.

  • rate this

    Comment number 244.

    Also,...UFO's do exist, as, I am sure we are all aware, do hairy apes living in forests and slightly less hairy simians landing on the moon. Now who would have believed that a hundred years ago.

  • rate this

    Comment number 243.

    Dueling banjos.

  • rate this

    Comment number 242.

    Anyone in need of a laugh and a bit of light relief should definitely watch this video......looking at one of their own contrived wooden creations made out of twigs and branches...., "this looks like bigfoort den or sutin".................."this dears leg break is indicative of bigfoooorrrt"

    And now back to the real world

  • rate this

    Comment number 241.

    A great opportunity for the superior Brits to bash the ignorant hillbilly Yanks. Lately the BBC picks it's "have your say" subjects carefully to ridicule the Americans and keep away from "sensitive" UK issues.

  • rate this

    Comment number 240.

    I do not know whether they exist now or ever have, it is not impossible, if not in the N American woods, then as the yeti in the vast Himalayas. My overriding point is that they would do well to remain out of our sights, as, if they exist, they appear to strive to do and for the most part do well. You cannot say that something does not exist, simply because we have not captured/killed it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 239.

    I find these pseudoscientific wild goose chases to be boring, and they perpetuate unfounded beliefs in non-existent things. The amazing diversity of life and phenomenon we actually find on our planet is far more interesting than a bunch of rednecks chasing invisible apes through the woods.

  • rate this

    Comment number 238.

    Okay, I have Scottish blood - not Scotch, but not believing in something does not make it go away. Fear seems to permeate all peoples/cultures and governments use it as a tool. Bigfoot was seen in Southeast Asia when I was there in 1969 and 1970. I had to wait 6 years to see one in my county (Chesterfield, Va.), I joined MUFON and heard about bigfoor encouters as much as UFO/alien sightings.

  • rate this

    Comment number 237.

    230.Sonnet Monger - Wimbledon common is taken by very well documented Cryptids of our very own. And don't try telling me they don't exist, got a pic somewhere of me hugging one.

    232.Rik - Neanderthals died out 30-80k years ago. We have evidence they existed. We know that they existed as early as 300k years. Yet we have no fossil/physical evidence to confirm an ape man lives in the woods.

  • rate this

    Comment number 236.

    Must be an alien or sutin

  • rate this

    Comment number 235.

    Has anyone here been to Kentucky? It's the hill-billy capital of the US. The guy holding the weapon in the picture makes me more terrified for the human race than a hairy human style beast taken out of the rich symbology of our collective imagination

  • rate this

    Comment number 234.

    What's the one thing all these crack-pot theories & conspiracy nuts have in common? Americans.


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