Tuesday, 11 September 2018 05:03

Bigfoot in North Carolina: Sightings Abound in the Tar Heel State

Written by
Rate this item
(2 votes)
Bigfoot Statue in Troy, Montgomery County Bigfoot Statue in Troy, Montgomery County Image submitted by William R. Toler

ROCKINGHAM - Reports of a mythical beast primarily known for inhabiting the forests of the Pacific Northwest are starting to gain a “big foot”-hold in the Tar Heel State. 

Skunk ape. Sasquatch. Bigfoot. 

The creature that some believe to be an indigenous North American bipedal primate reportedly has been seen in Canada and every state but Hawaii. The most alleged sightings (653) have been in Washington while Delaware has had the fewest (5), according to the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization (BFRO).


The study of Bigfoot and other such creatures, including thunderbirds and the chupacabra, is called cryptozoology and the animals that the scientific world has yet to recognize are referred to as cryptids. 

Native American legends pre-dating European arrival on the continent describe such a beast, thought to be a forest spirit. There are several names for the North American cryptid: Sasquatch in the Pacific Northwest and Canada; Skunk Ape in the swamps and forests of the South; Grassman in the Midwest. Bigfoot may also be related to the Canadian Wendigo. 

But legends and sightings aren’t limited to this side of the planet as similar creatures have been reported around the world including: the Yeti (or Abominable Snowman) of the Himalayas; the Alma of Mongolia; and the Yowie of Australia. 

The North American creatures are said to be very muscular, stand between 6 and 10 feet tall, and are covered in hair which varies in color from black to a reddish-brown. The name “Bigfoot” comes from the reported human-like tracks that range from 13 to 24 inches in length.

Despite the skeptics, 16 percent of Americans believe Bigfoot actually exists, according to a California Magazine article from June.  Some researchers think the creatures, if real, are a type of great ape, while others postulate that they could be descendants of early hominids.  

Close Encounters 

There have been at least 96 reported sightings in North Carolina, although the BFRO’s website doesn't list any since 2015. The three most recent reports that year were close to home: two in Montgomery County and one in Robeson County.  The BFRO lists sightings in 45 counties from the mountains to the coast, with Montgomery County being the most popular spot with 13. There are six reported sightings in both Onslow and Cleveland counties.  

The only reported sighting in Richmond County is from an unnamed hunter who claims to have found evidence off Grassy Island Road outside Ellerbe in October 2008.  According to the report, the hunter noticed a "stinking" odor that is often associated with close encounters of the hairy kind. He also said "It sounded like something was following me on the way in there and it sounded like someone hitting trees with baseball bats."  The hunter also claims to have found one track about 23 inches long with a 2-inch impression into the ground. By comparison, the hunter said that he himself weighed 300 pounds and his track only sank a half-inch. 

About two weeks later, the hunter denotes in his report, he was hunting near a stream and heard a "huge splash" in the water. Thinking it was a deer, he waited but never saw anything. When he went to investigate, the hunter says he found a single track that was 20-plus inches long and saw "other signs like stick formations, large patches of vegetation that looked like it had been run over by a steam roller, several tracks in the leaves with long strides about 4 feet … " 

After he found the first track, the hunter says he called Jon Shaw, a biologist with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. The hunter claimed that Shaw, when shown the track, "… said he could see what I was saying but the track was contaminated so we left it at that."  With the second track being at the bottom of the creek, the hunter said he didn't bother calling Shaw again.  (Shaw said Monday that he had no recollection of that specific incident, adding that the commission sometimes gets calls to check out claims of evidence.) 

In the "Other Stories" section of the report, the hunter says he knows two men who claim to have seen a Bigfoot on the Richmond County side of the Blewett Falls Dam in 1981 and an ambulance driver who saw one on the way to the hospital in Troy.  Although a follow-up investigation by BFRO researchers came up empty-handed, the report states investigators were "confident that the witness is reliable." 

Across the river, an Anson County farmer claims to have had a close encounter in May of 1956. According to a newspaper report, Henry Melton said his watermelon patch was raided by a “huge beast” that left a track that was 13 inches long and 5 inches wide — twice as large as a 650-pound black bear — and had 3-inch claw marks.  The report never gives an approximate height of the creature, but Melton said he briefly saw it, at first mistaking it for a deer.  “It was foggy and when I took a closer look the moving object appeared to be a man in a stooped over position,” Melton said. “Then the beast came out of the melon patch and disappeared.” 

While most reports describe the Bigfoot as being shy and not aggressive, there have been stories of attacks and abductions.  A newspaper report from 1875 describes a short “swamp monster” approximately 5 feet tall attempting to abduct two African-American children from an area about 15 miles north of New Bern in Craven County.  The father of one of the children confronted the creature and knocked it “head over heels with a well-directed blow on the forehead,” causing it to drop the kids. It then scrambled to its feet and ran into the woods with “lightning rapidity…”  Prior to the abduction attempt, the beast had reportedly “been preying on poultry, garden vegetables, and green corn to an alarming extent.” 

Bigfoot Branding 

With so many reports in the Uwharrie Mountains, the town of Troy has capitalized on the Bigfoot craze. A small statue stands at the corner of North Main and Chestnut streets and a smaller one is in front of The Comic Book Shop wearing the store’s T-shirt. 

Up the road, the El Dorado Outpost sells several Bigfoot-related T-shirts and a book written by Sasquatch hunter Michael D. Greene, who believes he captured thermal-image video of a creature taking a proffered Zag-Nut candy bar from a stump at a Uwharrie campsite in 2009. 

Further west, in Cleveland County north of Shelby, residents have reported seeing a Bigfoot (affectionately known as “Knobby”) near South Mountain State Park since the ‘70s. A store in Casar has painted Knobby tracks in the parking lot and also sells related merchandise. 

Local “mountain man” Tim Peeler made headlines in 2010 when he claimed to have had a face-to-face encounter with Knobby and chased him off with a stick yelling “Git!” 

While some in the area doubt Parker’s claim, they nevertheless believe there may be something out there.  The mountain town of Marion held its inaugural Bigfoot Festival on Sept. 8 and declared Bigfoot as the town’s official animal. 

The Cryptozoology and Paranormal Museum in Littleton will host Bigfoot in the Park 3 at Medoc Mountain State Park, north of Rocky Mount, on Sept. 15; and closer to home, another Bigfoot Festival is scheduled for Nov. 3 in Lee County.  

Carolina Cryptids 

According to a report on the BFRO’s website, a worker on a turkey farm in Chesterfield County, South Carolina near the Lynches River claims to have seen a Bigfoot in 2003 and says there was a sighting at another nearby turkey farm about three months prior. 

But another cryptid in South Carolina is more infamous: the Lizard Man of Scape Ore Swamp near Bishopville, South Carolina.  The 7-foot, green, scaley, three-fingered, red-eyed beast was reportedly seen by a teenager in the late ‘80s after he changed a tire. Several tracks were found but later determined to be a hoax.  The town held its inaugural Lizardman Festival this past June. 

Another celebrated swamp creature in the Carolinas is the Beast of Bladenboro. In the 1950s, the local police received multiple reports of dogs being brutally killed and drained of blood. One woman was even attacked by the reportedly cat-like creature.  After the town was whipped into a panic and saw in excess of 500 hunters trying to track the beast, a large bobcat was officially declared the culprit and the attacks ceased.  

During the excitement, the beast was thought to be, among other things, a panther.  Although state and federal wildlife officials broadly deny the existence of black panthers in North Carolina, there are numerous sightings every year.  “The black panther is our Bigfoot,” said J.D. Bricken of the Pee Dee National Wildlife Refuge, which covers parts of Anson and Richmond counties. 

North Carolina used to have an indigenous big cat but it is believed to have gone extinct in the 1930s. However, those cats do not have a black phase, like the South American jaguar.  “They saw something,” he said, adding that he doesn’t think those who report such sightings are lying, “they’re just interpreting wrong.”  Bricken said there is a slight probability that there may be some escaped exotic pets roaming around, which could account for a few of the sightings.  Misidentification just doesn’t happen with large cats. 

According to Bricken, many reports of black bears — which aren’t common in the Pee Dee region — actually turn out to be wild pigs. However, he added that there have been a few cases of immature male bears roaming through looking for a mate. 

When it comes to stories of Bigfoot and other cryptids, Bricken equated them to professional wrestling, saying, “It’s not real … but entertaining.”

Last modified on Tuesday, 11 September 2018 05:17