Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Grassman: Ohio's Bigfoot

I appeared on the podcast, Bigfoot Eyewitness Radio, on February 18, 2020. In the beginning of the episode I provided a monologue of information about the Grassman and the reports that made it famous in addition to information about what it makes it different than Bigfoot. The blog post below is a copy of that monologue. The entire interview is available here.


   One of my first big impressions of Bigfoot was some time in the late 1970s watching the reruns of the original “In Search Of” television show that was hosted by Leonard Nimoy. I remember the voice of Spock presenting me compelling information telling me to believe in the possibility that such a wild creature or even a wild man may exist.

   While the series covered many paranormal and conspiracy theory themes the Bigfoot episode and imagery was one that made me question my preconceived notions of how the world worked around me and made me question what I thought to be true. I was raised to believe that such things did not exist, but I began to wonder if I was just told that so I could sleep better at night.

   I had little to worry about though as Bigfoot was a west coast thing. Nimoy had said Sasquatch sightings started in 1811 and a compelling incident in 1924 happened with miners in a gorge in Washington state near Mt. St. Helens that would eventually be called Ape Canyon.

   I knew beyond that television show that other sightings had happened in British Columbia and eventually a series of tracks discovered by a bulldozer operator named Jerry Crew in 1958 near Bluff Creek California would lead to the now famous generic moniker Bigfoot that was coined by the press. Bigfoot sightings continued to build and an all-time high in interest and debate into the creature’s existence boiled over in the 1970s along with the largest percentage of overall sightings, hoaxes or genuine, across the United States.

   My interest into the creature started a few years after I began investigating ghosts in 1996. I’m not sure exactly what it was that drew me to want to pursue cryptozoology and looking for mysterious animals that seemed unlikely to exist. It might have been something to do with infrasound or communication with extra sensory perception as I had researched in the ghost field. Granted, it might just have been the fact that this field, like ghosts and UFOs, is considered a paranormal field.

   Moving into the field of cryptozoology was an easy fit for me. I had spent many years hiking and backpacking solo in the woods of southern Ohio as well as my favorite spots in the Allegheny National Forest in neighboring Pennsylvania about a two-hour drive away. I have always enjoyed nature and animals and had challenged myself many years ago to learn how to track and stalk animals.

   Either way, I realized that Bigfoot was the king of the field of cryptozoology and despite wanting to learn all aspects of the field from others it seemed most groups in Ohio were geared toward finding Bigfoot. I did my own research and tried to find my own cases. Eventually I worked with the Sasquatch Research Initiative based in British Columbia, Canada and learned a lot about interviewing and conducting field investigations in a variety of cryptid research cases. It wasn’t much different than what I had been doing in the ghost field, but I learned new techniques that would help me doing interviews and investigations for any type of anomalous cases.

   In January of 2009 I joined Crypto Squad USA, a collection of bloggers who reported to Nick Redfern for the Regional U.S. Offices Of The Center For Fortean Zoology which is based in the United Kingdom. I went on to publish my own book on cryptozoology titled, “Handbook for the Amateur Cryptozoologist” in 2014.

   Later that year the book was awarded in the top ten cryptozoology books of 2014 by Loren Coleman. Coleman also wanted to sell the book at his International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland Maine and along with that wanted to contribute a foreword to the book. So, a second edition of the book was launched in 2015. Along the way I have written articles for Cryptid Culture Magazine and have spoken at conferences and other events in Ohio and elsewhere talking about Bigfoot and other cryptids.

   Some people might wonder, what’s a guy in Ohio got to do with Bigfoot and what is this Grassman creature while we’re at it? Is there a difference between Grassman and Bigfoot? And maybe bigger and related questions are; why are there so many different names for Bigfoot all over the world? Are these all the same creatures? If there are so many names and sightings, why isn’t Bigfoot proven to be real?

   To begin to answer these questions let me first start at the beginning with the state of Ohio. I’ve lived in Ohio for over 45 years which kind of gives away my age a bit, but it may surprise some out there to hear that Ohio has a pretty rich history of Bigfoot sightings and ranks as one of the top states in sightings historically.

   Earlier in 2019 research leading up to the Travel Channel series “In Search of Monsters” compiled a listing of over 23,000 sightings across the United States. Of these sightings the most took place in Washington with over 2,000 sightings. Obviously, none of these are confirmed sightings and I’m sure that some of these are hoaxes, misinterpretations, and embellishments. The number two state for Bigfoot sightings is California followed by my neighboring states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, New York, and then Ohio, followed by Oregon and Texas.

   The Bigfoot Field Researcher’s Organization, BFRO, has consistently ranked Ohio in the top five states through the years and other groups rank Ohio in the top eight in overall Bigfoot reports yearly on a consistent basis.

   Ohio was colonized by French fur traders in the early 1700s and then became a British colonial possession after the French and Indian War in 1754. After the American Revolution the land that now occupies Ohio became part of the Northwest Territory. Ohio became a state back on March 1, 1803 although a formal declaration was not made until 1953.

   Ohio is named after the Iroquois Indians word “O-Y-O” which translates to “great river”. The Iroquois inhabited the area of Ohio around 1650. Prior to the Iroquois other Algonquin language tribes inhabited the region for hundreds of years.  The Monongahela culture, Springwells, and Fort Ancient culture occupied parts of Ohio all the way back to 500 AD. Prior and during this time the Ohio Hopewell culture ruled the land back to 200 BC.

   Going back further, the Adena culture possessed the area back to 1000 BC and it is known that other cultures made their way to or through Ohio as far back as 14000 to 8000 BC. Unfortunately, we don’t know much about the beliefs of these tribes when it came to large hairy hominids until the mid-1700s. It is here that stories were purportedly passed down about wild and hairy men of the forests. But these stories were never substantiated with witnesses or reliable accounts of sightings. Many of these sightings were woven into the folklore or superstitions and these were more like god-like creatures than flesh and blood men.

   The Ohio history of Bigfoot can unceremoniously begin in 1869 with a newspaper account from Gallipolis, Ohio. The area is in southeast Ohio along the Ohio River and oddly less than five miles down the river from Point Pleasant, West Virginia, which in just less than a hundred years would be known for its own creature; the Mothman.

   The account in Gallipolis was uncovered by cryptozoologist Mark A. Hall who sadly passed away back in 2016. The account from January of 1869 was documented in the Minnesota Weekly Record and told of a hairy creature that jumped on a man who was riding in a carriage. The beast grabbed the man and threw him to the ground where he began to bite and claw at him. The man’s daughter who was riding along in the carriage found the courage after a few moments to locate a stone that she threw and hit the creature in the ear causing what was explained as a gorilla to scamper back into the woods. Gorillas were only discovered just over two decades prior although they were well known through articles covering the exploits of zoologist Paul Du Chaillu. The article described the encounter as from a wild man who was naked, covered in hair and gigantic in height.

   The biggest case in Ohio history comes from near the village of Minerva Ohio. From the case files of Ron Schaffner comes the story as it happened back in 1978. Sightings began in July and August of that year with one incident with children running home crying and completely frightened from what they had witnessed.

   To get an accurate portrayal of the events as they happened, I will read directly from Ron Schaffner’s notes on the case:

The incidents leading up to the August 21 sighting began about the first of the month. Mrs. Cayton believes the creature's appearance were due to her husband (Herbert) cutting down the thick brush next to the pit and that he also dumped some garbage around for the raccoons. 
Several nights later, the Cayton's grandchildren and their friends came running in the house crying in a frightened state. They claimed to have seen a large hairy monster in the pit. Mrs. Keck, Mrs. Cayton and Howe Cayton went outside to see what had scared them. They saw a creature that was covered with dark matted hair. They estimated it to be about 300 pounds and 7 feet tall. 
"It just stood there," said Mrs. Cayton. "It didn't move, but I almost broke my neck running back down the hill." 
Mrs. Cayton claims that she later observed the creature in the daylight. It was sitting in the pit picking at the garbage. She could not make out any facial features due to the amount of long hair covering its face. She remembered that the creature had no visible neck. 
The sightings then really took off with the August 21st sighting. Evelyn Cayton's family and friends were out on the front porch when they heard noises in the direction of an old chicken coop just to the right of the house. They saw two pairs of yellow eyes that seemed to be reflecting a porch light. Scott Patterson went to his car and turned the headlights on in hopes of getting a better look. The eyes were on what appeared to be two "cougar-type" felines. Then, the party saw what looked like a large bipedal hairy creature step in front of the large cats as if to protect them. This creature then proceeded to lurch towards Patterson's car. 
The witnesses fled to the house and called the Stark County Sheriff's Department. While waiting for the deputies, the bipedal creature appeared at the kitchen window -- about four yards from the kitchen table. Patterson pointed a .22 caliber pistol at it, while Evelyn Cayton loaded a .22 caliber rifle. The creature stood outside the window for close to ten minutes. They all could clearly see the creature because of the back-porch light. They decided they would not shoot at it unless the creature made any advances toward them. The biped suddenly left without harming anyone. 
"It doesn't seem to want to bother anyone", said Mary Ackerman. "It was just curious. We all felt that it wanted to be friends." 
Deputy Sheriff James Shannon arrived about 15 minutes after the call was made and about five minutes after the creature left the scene. A strong stench was still lingering in the area when Deputy Shannon began to interview the witnesses. Shannon later told reporters that it smelled like "ammonia-sulphur." Extra deputies were brought in and they searched the entire area on horseback and in jeeps. (The land behind the Caytons' was an old abandoned strip mine and beyond that were dense woods going up a gradual hill.) Unusual, but unsubstantiated footprints were discovered. 
Then on August 22nd Mrs. Mary Ackerman of Minerva drove to the Cayton residence to pick up her daughter and a friend. (Mrs. Ackerman is Evelyn Cayton's daughter.) As she turned into the driveway, she saw the same creature standing on top of the hill next to the strip mine. She watched it until it walked out of her view. 
August 23rd: The creature appeared again at the Cayton residence. Howe Cayton was not sure if it was the same thing. He fired a gunshot into the air and the figure departed.
On September 8th During the late daylight hours, Mrs. Ackerman observed two ape-like animals across the strip mine. She stated that she thought the creatures were standing in a tree but was not sure because of the distance. Again, she watched them for a while, until they were no longer visible in the thick weeds. 
On September 9th Jim Rastetter interviewed Henry Colt who lives about five miles east of Minerva on U.S. 30. He told Jim that he was walking through some woods by his house when he caught a glimpse of an unknown furry animal. Mr. Colt said that the animal was squatting next to a tree and let out a sound similar to a loud cough. 
   Schaffner had investigated other reports of large ape-like creatures in Ohio. In May of 1977 in an area west of Dayton Ohio two 13-year-old boys were walking a dog when they first encountered an awful stink like rotten eggs. They then turned and encountered a 9-foot-tall creature with long arms that hung close to the ground. The boys and the dog ran with the creature chasing them to a soybean field near the home of one of the boys. Luckily, the creature had vanished.

   The Preble County Sheriff’s Office was contacted, and two deputies responded. Nothing was discovered. Later a farmer contacted another researcher who passed the information on to Schaffner that large footprints had been discovered. The farmer’s property was about a half a mile from the earlier encounter. The tracks measured 14 inches long by 7 inches wide with the distance between tracks about 6 ½ feet.

   Another major sighting that went on to become known as the Kenmore Grassman took place in 1988 and was investigated in 1995. Kenmore is a community located in the city of Akron Ohio in the northeast part of the state. Investigators Terry Endres, Joedy Cook, and George Clappison investigated the case.
Joedy Cook and his Grassman model with
me at right during the 2009 Ohio
Paranormal Convention.

   George Clappison interviewed Dale Atkins and his son Tim, the names are pseudonyms to protect their real names, at their current home in Fairlawn Ohio. Dale described growing up experiencing grassman on a number of occasions from hearing it crashing through the woods and swamps to observing tracks- three-toed tracks.

   Tim had also observed the creature while camping and fishing in the area. In 1988 Tim had rocks thrown at him from what he said was about a hundred yards away and the rocks dropped straight down when they hit and did not roll away. Tim went back home and got his father and they both observed a seven-foot-tall creature weighing an estimated 300 pounds. They were able to get about 30 yards away from it.

   The two described other incidents like this one that were very similar, and they considered the creature very intelligent and they thought it also had the ability to communicate with mental telepathy although that aspect is not explained in detail in the report.

   The team went to the original area in the earlier reports and were able to find areas in the woods where it looked like something big had gone through digging up roots and eating berries from the tops of bushes. They were also able to find and cast three-toed tracks.
There are dozens of other cases between these time frames conducted by these and other independent researchers as well as collected by larger organizations like the Bigfoot Field Researcher’s Organization.

   So, back to some of the original questions I asked; what makes the grassman the grassman and not a Bigfoot? Why are there two names for these creatures that seem to be the same thing? The answer is multi-faceted as part of it has to do with the location. I mean, who doesn’t want their own monster named after their own town or area? The Minerva case of 1978 is considered to be the biggest modern-day sighting of the grassman, yet the story behind it is referred to as the Minerva Monster.

   Another creature nicknamed the Cedar Bog Monster is named after an area south of Urbana Ohio. The entire region west of the Columbus area is rich with reports from the 1940s to today including the largest concentration of cases in the 1970s when the whole United States was Bigfoot crazy.

   British Columbia researcher Christopher L. Murphy, who co-authored the book Bigfoot Encounters in Ohio: Quest for the Grassman in 2006 notes that the difference between Grassman and Bigfoot are not in the creature’s description but in its habits. The height, weight, color, and footprints are all in line with traditional Bigfoot sightings elsewhere in the United States.

   There are a few interesting things to note on this as there have been many cases of three-toed prints. Three-toed prints are not solely a Grassman trait and does not define the Grassman as there have been five-toed prints discovered in similar cases. Momo, the Missouri Monster that terrorized residents in the city of Louisiana Missouri in the northeast part of the state along the Mississippi River back in 1972 was discovered to have three-toes, smelled like a skink and was also seen carrying a dead dog under its arm; which are all traits of the Grassman.

   Another famous creature that appeared off and on from 1971 to 1974 in the neighboring state of Arkansas was described as seven-feet tall, smelling like skunk and rotting flesh and left three-toed tracks. This creature was named the Fouke Monster that went on to have a movie made after it called the Legend of Boggy Creek that came out in 1972. Fouke is over 550 miles away from where Momo was seen so this is more than likely not the same creature.

   The Honey Island Swamp Monster was reported from 1963 through 1974 in Louisiana. This bipedal creature was also described as seven-feet tall, smelling of skunk and rotting flesh, and left behind three-toed footprints. Three-toed Bigfoot-like creatures have also been described in Iowa in 1978 and Minnesota in 1989.

   Some hypothesize that the largest mammal with three toes, the giant ground sloth known as the Megatherium could be behind these sightings. It is believed that the Mapinguari, a Bigfoot-like creature of Brazil could be a megatherium even though they are thought to have been extinct for over 11,000 years.

   Another hypothesis is that the three-toes might be caused from the inbreeding of Bigfoot creatures. Christopher Murphy outlined some general descriptions that define the Grassman that included; the creature cries like a baby but screams like a woman, also growls or barks, is known to kill dogs, is often seen in corn fields, has a strong odor like rotten eggs, have been seen in small groups with up to five individuals, and is often related to strange deer kills with the liver missing.

   The Ohio Grassman is different than most Bigfoot sightings in Ohio but many of these habits and features overlap other cases in Ohio and elsewhere. Many stories might be hoaxes, stories that are elaborate pranks that might include physical evidence such as tracks, nesting sites, or tree structures. Other cases might be fraud, the case was made up or based on something other than what was described being seen. The individual might want attention or just to add to the growing database of sightings. The most common type of explainable case is misinterpretation. Many sightings might be tree stumps, bears, deer, or just hearing sounds such as fox or owls and allowing the mind to fill in the blanks.

   Are there genuine Bigfoot and Grassman sightings out there? Possibly, but until hard evidence can satisfy a skeptical scientific community these stories will be nothing more than stories, urban legends, and fodder for newspapers. On May 31st of 2019 Frank Trussell of Minerva Ohio was driving his Dodge truck when he was turning left from Lunar Road to Spring Road. After making the turn Trussell’s truck went left of center and off the left side of the road taking out a fence post and part of the fence. He told deputies he swerved to avoid a large Yeti standing in the roadway. Do we believe Trussell or do we just laugh it off? The area is in rural country surrounded by farms. He was cited for operating a vehicle without reasonable control and a Yeti was nowhere to be found nor did anyone look for it.

   The latest sighting of a large bipedal creature took place this year at the Salt Fork State Park which is a known hot spot for Bigfoot sightings and is home to a few Bigfoot related conferences every year and even has a primitive campsite named Bigfoot Ridge. The stories continue to pile up but we are still far from many of the answers we seek and the proof that will bring this creature to reality.


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