The Cryptozoologist
What stinks?
The Sarasota Herald-Tribune
February 12, 2001

A Maine man claims bigfoot -- or a skunk ape, whatever you want to call it -- is lurking amid the palmetto east of Interstate 75, near Myakka River State Park.

Loren Coleman is a part-time professor at the University of Southern Maine, according to a college spokesman. He's taught about adoption services and public service, keeping his bigfoot research on the side.

Coleman said the skunk ape has been in these parts for three decades, though he did hedge that it may not be the famed bigfoot at all.

"Maybe it's a breeding population of unknown apes," he said.

Right. Imagine: That village concept Sarasota County is considering might have to be scrapped to preserve land for these apes. (Didn't we see this movie, the one with Charlton Heston?)

Anyway, Coleman recently sent out e-mails to folks with links to the pictures of the beast allegedly taken last fall:

"An elderly woman was disturbed by a large animal in her Florida backyard. For two nights, an animal took apples off her back porch. On the third night, the woman took two photographs of the thing her husband felt looked like an orangutan. She reported it would make 'woomp' noises near her hedge row, and had a strong odor."

The photos are a hoot. Go to http://www.lorencoleman.com/myakka.html to see them.

And be careful out there.
Absolute kinda irrefutable proof of Skunk Ape
Column by STEVE OTTO
The Tampa Tribune
Feb 13, 2001

Snicker if you want. Some of you obviously just don't appreciate having your own monster right in the neighborhood.

Michelle at the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office faxed me some material along with a cryptic note, "Don't monkey around with this.''

So, if something smells bad out in your back yard and you look out there with your flashlight and run smack dab into a hairy creature with bad breath that is not your husband, I told you so.

I was on the first real Skunk Ape expedition over 20 years ago deep into the Everglades.

OK, so it wasn't that deep, and we stayed at the Holiday Inn in Fort Lauderdale.

But we actually did meander into the edges of the Everglades, although the strangest creatures we saw were in the lounge back at the motel.

Anyhow, the Skunk Ape, a Florida version of Bigfoot, gradually slipped back into oblivion, resurrected only during the dog days of the year when columnists are desperate for a story.

Now -- well you can see for yourself -- that the Skunk Ape has returned. Not only is he back, he's practically in our back yard.

The story is filed in the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office under "Suspicious Incident.'' The officer on the desk in his report on Jan. 18 says:

"I received an unusual letter addressed to the animal services of the sheriff's office. The letter told of an encounter with a monkey or ape and contained two photos. The letter was anonymous.''

In part, the letter says: "Enclosed please find some pictures I took. . . . My husband thinks it is an orangutan. Is someone missing an orangutan?

"It is in a crouching position in the middle of standing up from where it was sitting. It froze as soon as the flash went off. . . . I heard the orangutan walk off into the brushes.

"I judge it as being about six and a half to seven feet tall. As soon as I realized how close it was, I got back to the house.

"It had an awful smell that lasted well after it had left my yard. The orangutan was making deep `woomp' noises.

"For two nights prior, it had been taking apples that my daughter brought down from up north off our back porch. It only came back one more night after that and took some apples that my husband left out in order to get a better look at it.

"We got a dog back there now, and, as far as I can tell, it hasn't been back.

"I don't want any fuss or people with guns traipsing around behind our house. At the very least, this animal belongs in a place like Busch Gardens.

"Why haven't people been told that an animal this size is loose? . . . Please look after this situation. I don't want my backyard to turn into someone else's circus.''

Naturally, this story has found its way onto the Internet and the "experts'' are on a roll. One has speculated that it is one of three things:

(1) A hoaxer wearing an ape suit,

(2) an escaped chimpanzee, or

(3) an as yet-undiscovered large anthropoid, per the "Unknown Pongid'' type discussed in "The Field Guide to Bigfoot, Yeti, and other Mystery Primates Worldwide.'' You can guess which choice is leading the Internet pack.

David Barkasy runs the Silver City Serpentarium in Sarasota. He says he deals mostly in reptiles and arachnids.

He also wanted me to promise not to make fun of him, and we'll honor that. He says a friend of his at the sheriff's office showed him the photos. Barkasy asked some other people to look at them, and the rest is what urban legends are made of.

"I have been going down I-75 trying to figure out which house the photos were taken at,'' he said. "I don't believe in UFOs and things that go bump in the night. But I am curious.''

There may be nothing to this, but already I have contacted our project editor here at the Type and Gripe factory to see about organizing an expedition.

It's a little early in the planning stage, but I'm thinking of setting up a base camp at Yoder's Amish Restaurant, which is near I-75 in Sarasota and has the best pies in Florida.

We'll keep you posted.

News conspiracy smells like mysterious 'Skunk Ape'
Column by Tom Lyons
The Sarasota Herald-Tribune
Feb.14 2001  

Every newsroom is accustomed to accusations that certain stories are underplayed for "political reasons."

Now you can count me among the accusers. This weekend, I was shocked by a decision made right here. It involved a fascinating story of obvious local significance and global interest, which has since been picked up by talk radio and other newspapers. Yet it was buried deep, midway down a column full of unrelated items, under a subhead that said only: "What stinks?"

That story was nearly as hard to spot as its elusive subject. Coincidence?

The story was about powerful evidence of a local sighting of a creature widely assumed to be mythical. That's right, the "Skunk Ape," Florida's more aromatic, more rare and lesser-known cousin of the Northwest's ubiquitous Big Foot.

The story, based on the report of a large, apelike and smelly creature swiping apples from the back porch of a rural east Sarasota County home, didn't even include the convincing photo taken by the anonymous witnesses.

Sure, I'll admit that the anonymity of the witnesses may be grounds for skepticism, at least in the minds of those prone to skepticism, or, as I like to call them, "skeptics."

But photos don't lie, except sometimes when guys put their faces in pictures to make it look like they are making it with Catherine Zeta-Jones. And I did see one of Hillary Clinton flashing passers-by on a New York City sidewalk, which maybe she really didn't do.

But these photos clearly show a skunk ape, surrounded by authentic native Florida palmetto scrub, which proves that this is not just a routine photo of the common ho-hum Sasquatch that anyone might bring back from a vacation in Oregon. Now, ask yourself, as I did: Who would want to see this story buried? Well?

The development interests, of course. It's so obvious. Can you imagine their terror at the prospect of a new endangered species on land east of Interstate 75?

FBI sources, whom I promised not to identify except by swearing they don't exist, told me that analysis of hair strands found in the thorns of the palmetto scrub came up with incredible results: That hair doesn't match any known ape or any known mammal. Weird!

More tests will be done, but it looks like the hair might be what lab techs call "polyester." So don't even talk to me about your escaped orangutan theory, OK?

Maybe the editors wimped out. Not many who have seen a Skunk Ape and publicized the encounter have lived to tell the tale. Maybe they realized they could wake up one day to find a large, smelly, staunch believer in Skunk Ape privacy rights dragging them into the aforementioned palmettos, to join the remains of who knows how many Canadian tourists and bird watchers, whose last insensitive words might well have been "What's that gross smell?"

But you won't be reading about them in this newspaper, either. The whole thing just stinks.

Ape Men Sightings Just Tall Tales
by Jerry Hill, Herald Outdoors Writer
The Bradenton Herald
February 14, 2001

They're back!

One of the bay area television news shows carried a tidbit on Monday claiming that a skunk ape had been sighted in Hillsborough County, complete with a photo that resembled a very perplexed raccoon. For those unfamiliar with skunk apes, be informed that this is the common name assigned to Florida's mythical ape/men who smell strongly, stand erect, leave more or less human footprints and are covered with body hair.

In the mountains of Asia, similar beings are known as yeti, in the Pacific Northwest as Sasquatch and north of I-10 in this state as Georgia Crackers.

Roughly 30 years ago, some folks began reporting encounters with these hairy creatures in Florida's hinterlands.

Most of the sightings occurred around the periphery of the Everglades and within a flashlight's beam of travel trailer parks.

Coinciding with the peak years of skunk ape sightings in and around the Everglades, I was prowling roughly the same terrain. Over the years, I spent literally months in the interior of the Big Cypress Swamp and never saw, smelled or heard anything that could not be explained away.

There is at least one animal that frequents those swamps that can stand erect, is covered with long hair, leaves footprints similar to humans and, depending on what it has been feeding on or rolling in, can give off a stench detectable half a football field away: a black bear.

There are good numbers of the bruins in the swamp and always have been.

When I came to work at the Herald, one of my editors continuously argued that ape men might and probably did exist.

Know what happens when you really believe in something that can neither be proved or disproved? You find them. One night he claimed to have witnessed one crossing Nashville Road/26th Ave. East, just east of Mixon's Fruit Farm --- coincidentally, not far from a trailer park.

More recently, in the fall of 1992, a report came into the Herald of a skunk ape sighting in the area that is now Lakewood Ranch.

I interviewed the person who claimed to have witnessed a large hairy creature standing erect in the headlights of a tractor mower. It was about 3 a.m. and chilly with a blanket of fog over the pasture. The critter was standing on a canal bank some 70 yards away and he only saw it for a fraction of a second.

Probably a raccoon. Except that he offered another tale.

Supposedly, one of the ranch hands had witnessed an incident where a herd of cattle and a couple of large dogs were suddenly frightened.

There have been bear in that region, and both dogs and cattle would retreat from any hint of a bruin.

But he wouldn't settle for that explanation either and countered with a tale. The driver of a tractor trailer was having trouble negotiating a 90-degree turn and had stopped the flatbed rig when the passenger side door was flung open and a large reddish-hued hairy arm reached in and dragged the driver clear of the cab before abandoning him and retreating into the woods.

Yeah, right. Probably not one in 20 humans could approach a strange truck cab in the darkness and on the first try be able to push the proper button and open the door.
Next on Fox: When Skunk Apes go bad
by Steve Otto
Tampa Tribune
Feb 17, 2001

Usually the creatures of the swamps and the bays don't begin coming out before the dog days of August. That's about the time the combination of muggy heat and lack of any other news provides the seeds for the sighting of Skunk Apes, Lizard Men and anything else that goes bump in the night.

This year it's starting early. Here at Rumor Control, Skunk Ape, our own Florida version of Bigfoot, was reported as having been seen recently in a back yard off I-75 near Sarasota. We ran a picture secured from the Sarasota sheriff's department. One caller said he thought it looked like someone's Labrador retriever with a fur coat draped over it.

For years there have been sightings of a large, hairy creature that gives off a strong smell. Mostly the reports have been in South Florida along the edges of the Everglades.

Like UFO sightings, they tend to occur in bunches.

After I wrote about the backyard appearance of the Skunk Ape, the calls started.

``The drought is forcing them out into the open,'' claimed Ron Dobler, a self-proclaimed expert. ``I would expect more sightings in the coming months and that sometime before summer we will actually have proof that a colony of as many as 150 Skunk Apes are living in southern Florida.''

ANOTHER EXPERT who said he is a Bigfoot researcher claims that the Skunk Apes are following corridors that might take them in our direction.

Dan Jackson says he saw his first Skunk Ape in 1983 in Collier County and has been looking for more ever since. Jackson adds he doesn't want to shoot or harm one of the creatures, just photograph it.

Kevin called from Riverview. We won't use his last name because he might not want a bunch of strangers in his back yard. When I listened to his voice mail message I thought he said he had a ``monster'' out back. But what he was saying - which was close - was that he has a Monitor lizard.

``There's a small lake and a swamp next to it,'' he said. ``A little more than a year ago I saw it for the first time sliding into the water. It's about seven or eight feet and it looks prehistoric.'' He said he sees it all the time and it's not a gator but definitely a Monitor. ``But I'm not getting any closer to it,'' he added.

Kevin is one of those live-and-let- live types and adds that as long as nobody's pets start disappearing or it doesn't start meandering around too close to the house, he doesn't mind.

FLORIDA'S MONSTERS don't just crawl around in swamps. Jim Liddell now writes for the McKinney Courier- Gazette, which is just north of Dallas. He did his graduate work at Florida State and wrote in to talk about living in a rural house outside of Tallahassee.

``The landlord wouldn't let us smoke so I would walk down this dirt road next to the water-filled sinkhole by the house. It would be in the evening once in awhile, from high up in the mossy trees, there would be this noise. It was as if you took a resin- coated wire and rubbed it. The sound started with a high-frequency piercing scream. It was a coughing, strangling sound that gradually turned into a steady sound that slowly became a ripple and stopped. From the volume of the sound it must have been a creature that weighed more than thirty pounds. I never saw it and have no idea what it was.''

Of course none of this really makes any difference to me anymore. That's because there was also a call from Los Angeles from a guy who claimed to be a producer for the Fox network. He said he usually has one of his assistants call but thinks this is a hot property. He wanted a copy of the column and suggested I might have to fly out for some kind of consultation.

Can Steven Spielberg be far behind? I wonder who will play the Skunk Ape?
Extraordinary skunk ape
Letters to the Editor
Tampa Tribune
Feb 21, 2001

Recently, Steve Otto wrote a balanced article ``Absolute kinda irrefutable proof of Skunk Ape'' on the new evidence being examined for the existence of a long-term population of mystery primates in Florida (Florida Metro, Feb. 12)

Being the unnamed ``expert'' that Otto quoted in the article, I felt it important to point out where new information can be found on this matter. My statements from my unreferenced Web site involved comments taken in the midst of an ongoing investigation. Your readers may wish to consult that site for my recent 3,000+-word update: www.lorencoleman.com.

Otto is to be congratulated for taking the middle road with his story, and I appreciate his approach.

An ordinary woman in Sarasota County encountered an extraordinary animal. She took pictures. She was worried about her grandchildren. She was a little afraid for her own well-being. She was merely asking for someone to ``deal with the situation.''

I hope this woman or anyone who knows her considers contacting me confidentially (at P.O. Box 360, Portland, Maine 04112) or calls local researcher David Barkasy at the Silver City Serpentarium, (941) 927-0755. Barkasy and I take this woman's meeting with this animal quite seriously. We would like to ask her a few more details about her sighting and talk to her husband. Her or your assistance is important.

Loren Coleman
Portland, Maine
The writer is a professor at the University of Southern Maine.
Talk about myths:
Letters to our Editor
Bradenton Herald
Feb. 22, 2001

EDITOR:

Feb. 14, the Bradenton Herald published a column by Jerry Hill (?Ape Men Sightings Just Tall Tales") which is so full of errors of fact that it is elevates journalistic myth-making to a new level.

Being one of the two primary investigators involved in this case (David Barkasy of Sarasota is the photographs' discoverer), I feel I must bring to your attention some information that became, well, twisted in Mr. Hill's piece.

First, he's hardly into the first paragraph before he writes that there is a claim "that a skunk ape had been sighted in Hillsborough County, complete with a photo that resembled a very perplexed raccoon." Well, for starters, the incident occurred in Sarasota County. And I don't know how big your raccoons are or what they look like, but even children know that these Sarasota County photographs show an ape.

After Mr. Hill subtly misinforms by calling skunk apes "Florida's mythical ape/men" (when linguistically they are "legendary," perhaps, but hardly "mythical"), he goes on to make fun of people living in "trailer parks." Political correctness aside, Mr. Hill should get his facts right. The Sarasota County photographer appears to not be living in a trailer.

Next we are told of Mr. Hill's "months in the interior of the Big Cypress Swamp and (that he) never saw, smelled or heard anything that could not be explained away." Of course, not being a student of anything even closely related to cryptozoology, Mr. Hill perhaps would not know that the 1970s reports of the Big Cypress Swamp's skunk apes were located there by the media of the time to hide the real locations of the reports. He wasn't even in the right place. Oh well, with ridicule and silliness, Mr. Hill puts down eyewitnesses, his past open-minded editor, Georgia residents, the woman who took these recent photographs, and most residents of trailers.

But let's sensitively pause for a moment to note that an ordinary woman in Sarasota County encountered an extraordinary animal. She took some pictures and contacted the local sheriff's department with her serious concerns. She was worried about her grandchildren. She was a little afraid for her own well-being. She was merely asking for someone to "deal with the situation."

I hope this woman considers contacting me confidentially (at P.O. Box 360, Portland, ME 04112) - or calls local researcher David Barkasy at the Silver City Serpentarium, 927-0755, because David and I take her meeting with this animal quite seriously. We would like to ask her a few more details about her sighting, and talk to her husband. Her assistance is important.

Loren Coleman
Portland

X-Files: Alleged 'skunk ape' baffles experts
by Chester Moore Jr.
The Orange Leader
Orange, Texas
February 22, 2001

What is it? That's the question police officials, cryptozoologists (scientists who study unknown animals) and thousands of Internet surfers have been asking about two pictures taken by an elderly woman from Sarasota County, Fla. near the Myakka River.

The pictures show an ape-like creature standing behind some palmetto plants. Exactly what kind of "ape" this might be is what is baffling the experts.

According to police reports detailed on cryptozoologist Loren Coleman's website, the woman thought she was taking pictures of someone's lost pet orangutan.

"She went out into her backyard after deep "woomp" noises were heard. She aimed her camera at the hedge row at the back of her property, and was startled to see what her flash revealed."

"I didn't even see it as I took the first picture because it was so dark As soon as the flash went off for the second time it stood up and started to move, I then heard the orangutan walk off into the woods"

Coleman's web site also details that she noticed the animal's "awful smell" lasted long after it left her yard. The woman who anonymously sent the pictures to police said something kept stealing fruits off her front porch.

Coleman, who is arguably the world's leading cryptozoologist, and author of books like Mysterious America, is investigating the pictures and said they could be the first-ever photographic evidence of Florida's legendary "skunk ape."

"Florida has a rich history of reports of an animal people have dubbed "skunk ape" because of the foul smell it reported to exude. The jury is still out on the picture and we're exploring several possible scenarios," he said.

Coleman said the reported Florida animal matches well the descriptions of the unknown anthropoids variously called "boogers", "North American apes (Napes)" and "skunk apes" by hundreds of eyewitnesses dating back many years.

"It looks like what would be expected of an unknown primate in the underbrush in Florida, if it were authentic," he said

Coleman said he isn't ruling out that the creature could be an escaped orangutan, although none has been reported in the area.

"The features are very close to what one would expect from an orangutan, but that could mean the skunk ape if it exists is a very close relative of the orangutan," he said.

The photos have sparked debate among cryptozoology buffs, especially those involved in bigfoot research groups. Some think the animal could be a bigfoot while others say it looks nothing like the animal frequently reported from the Pacific Northwest region.

"No one should really expect a Bigfoot in Florida. Unfortunately, the fakery of the 1980s and 1990s from south Florida have resulted in people forgetting the work of early researches like Ramona Clark in the 1950s through the 1970s," Coleman said.

"These early researchers gathered reports which described unknown anthropoids like gorillas, not hominid like a bigfoot would be Sports Illustrated magazine in 1971 did an article on the "skunk ape" reports from Florida in 1971. That article talked about these animals as more chimp-Iike than bigfoot-like," he added.

Reports of unknown animals like "skunk apes" and bigfoot creatures have been reported throughout the South since at least the 1800s, yet no definitive prove of such creatures' existence has ever been brought forth.

Definitive prove to most scientists would have to come in the form of a carcass or live-caught animal. And until that day comes, photographs like the one taken in Florida will only spawn further debate into the existence of such mysterious creatures.