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Jana Peterson, Forum Communications Co., Published August 28 2011

Sasquatch claims draw TV show to Minnesota

CLOQUET, 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 last week to attempt – once again – to prove the creature’s existence.

Scores of local residents crowded a town hall-style meeting Aug. 22 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 – greenbelts 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.

Moneymaker marveled at the fact that so many claimed to have seen bigfoot in broad daylight, including Lorraine Tomczak of Automba Township, who said she saw a bigfoot-like creature peering in the window of an abandoned trailer and then watched it leave and cross the two-lane road with only a few strides.

After two boys told how they had seen bigfoot watching them from outside their home, Moneymaker reassured them and others at the meeting that the creatures have never harmed anyone.

“They know humans mean trouble, but they’re also kind of curious,” he said. “If you get to see one, you’re very lucky. And if you ever have the opportunity to film or photograph one, do it. ... And send it to us.”

While no one at the meeting provided any solid evidence that Sasquatch does, indeed, live in Minnesota or anywhere else, more than a dozen people stayed after to give the “Finding Bigfoot” crew details of where they had seen or heard the creature.

Others stood around outside, swapping stories or posing for photographs with cast members. Enthusiasts noted that some of the sightings had occurred within a couple miles of the community center where the meeting was held.

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.

Editor’s note: “Finding Bigfoot” crew members didn’t know when the Minnesota episode of the show will air but figured it would be

sometime next year.

Jana Peterson writes for the Pine Journal