Bigfoot claims draw TV show in northeastern MinnesotaDULUTH, Minn. — Add Bigfoot to the list of possible wild animals to call northern Minnesota home.
By: Jana Peterson , The Dickinson Press
DULUTH, Minn. — Add Bigfoot to the list of possible wild animals to call northern Minnesota home.
In recent years there have been multiple claimed sightings of a tall, hairy, long-limbed creature in Carlton County. That news piqued the interest of the cable television show “Finding Bigfoot.” The show’s cast and crew traveled to Carlton County, Minn., this week to attempt — once again — to prove the creature’s existence.
Scores of local residents crowded a town hall-style meeting Monday at the Lakeview Community Center southwest of Wright to give their accounts, or hear about them.
It was standing-room-only inside the old white wooden building. All 100 seats were full within minutes, with more people standing and sitting along the walls and floors and in the hallway outside the big meeting room. Ages ranged from under 5 to over 80. While not everyone in the room was a Bigfoot believer, most were at least Bigfoot enthusiasts, and/or fans of the “Finding Bigfoot” show.
When the program’s host, Cliff Barackman, asked folks to raise their hands if they’d actually seen Sasquatch — another name for Bigfoot — about eight hands went up. When he asked if anyone had heard the creature, the number of hands in the air doubled. Then, when Barackman asked if people had heard stories of sightings and other Bigfoot evidence, nearly every person in the room raised a hand.
It was, the cast and crew agreed, the largest crowd they’ve seen yet for the program’s signature meeting, held simply so the cast and crew can hear as many stories as people want to tell before they head out into the fields and forests to try to track down the elusive creature.
“You have ‘Squatchy’ terrain here,” said Matt Moneymaker, the founder and president of the Bigfoot Field Research Organization. “You have a lot of excellent Bigfoot hiding places here — green belts that connect farmlands where the deer like to graze — and we know Sasquatch like deer.”
Audience members didn’t need much prodding to start telling their stories.
“The ground shook”
Kristy Aho told how she and her children were sitting on the family’s four-wheeler three years ago in September, waiting for her husband, when they heard a loud crash and then something running so hard they felt the ground shake.
“I saw it run by about 15 or 20 feet away,” she said. “I saw its profile; it was running through thick Alder brush — brush we couldn’t even walk through — swinging its arms. It had dark hair, kind of longer, shaggy-looking hair but not real thick. You could kind of see through to the skin.”
Her husband, Dale Aho, got a different view of the creature, Kristy said, estimating its height at between 8 and 9 feet.
“He had gone into the woods and was circling back toward us when he saw it crouched down,” she related. “It jumped up and started running when it saw him — that was the crash we heard. He saw the whole back of it.”
The next time the Aho family had a run-in with Bigfoot was the following July. They were driving past a trail in their pickup truck at dusk when they spotted two big red eyes reflecting the glow of the truck’s running lights. They backed up and looked, and saw a large hairy creature standing maybe 200 feet away.
“This one actually seemed even bigger,” she said. “It stood there for a while, and we just sat there in the truck, watching. Then it started walking toward us, sort of swaying in a threatening manner it seemed, swinging its arms. It walked about halfway and we got out of there. The kids were crying in the back of the truck. It was scary.”
Ranae Holland was the first of the “Finding Bigfoot” cast to question Kristy Aho; she asked if there are also black bears in the area.
“I’ve seen bear, and there’s no way what I saw was a bear,” Aho said. “It had a kind of hood-shaped head and it was human shaped, but way too big to be human.”
Watching on the road
Jenna Wilenius said she was on the return leg of a four-mile run on County Road 30 about 4 p.m. on June 12, 2010, when her dog suddenly began acting strangely. Rather than roaming far and wide as it usually did, the dog started running right at her side, and looking backward in a fearful manner.
“To be honest, I didn’t want to look back,” Wilenius told the crowd. “When I finally did look back it was like a tenth of mile away, standing in the natural position, just looking at me. It wasn’t a bear. It had very long arms and legs and black hair. I think it was 10 or 11 feet tall.”
“I’m thinking that’s the fastest mile you ever ran,” Holland said to Wilenius with a smile.
Wilenius’ neighbor, John Gran, stood up and told how he was driving past the Wilenius home the next day when he saw something standing between the garage and the pine trees.
“It was about the same height as the garage eave,” he said, noting later that he saw a light-colored face and black body with long legs. “I should have stopped, but I was in a hurry to go and mow. It kept bothering me, though, so the next day I stopped at the end of their drive at the same time of day. There was nothing there. No shadows. Nothing that I could have mistaken.”
After hearing the stories and calling a halt to the meeting — which was being filmed by crew members — as the evening light faded, Moneymaker sounded hopeful.
“Maybe this will be the place we’ll actually get some footage,” he said.
Peterson is a reporter at the
Duluth (Minn.) News Tribune, which is owned by
Forum Communications Co.