Monday, January 26, 2015

'Finding Bigfoot': Lost Opportunities

This past Sunday, Animal Planet's 'Finding Bigfoot' ventured into southwestern Pennsylvania...specifically, areas in and around the Chestnut Ridge. These locations, as well as most of the Laurel Highlands region, have been known for cryptid & UFO activity over the years. For some reason, the producers of the show wanted to incorporate spiritual phenomena with Bigfoot.

The town hall segment was impressive. More than 200 people turned out at the State Theatre Center for the Arts in Uniontown, PA in August 2014 in order to describe their encounters with Bigfoot. The local advance volunteers did an excellent job getting the word out. “This is the best town hall meeting we’ve ever had — the sheer amount of stories we had — we literally did not have enough time before we had to start wrapping things up,” said one of the show’s producers, Sean Mantooth, according to a local news source.

For those people who are not familiar with the show, the Finding Bigfoot team consists of founder and president of the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization Matt Moneymaker, field biologist and skeptic Ranae Holland, Bigfoot enthusiasts Cliff Barackman and James “Bobo” Fay.

Despite the great support the cast and production team received from the local witnesses, I have to say that I was disappointed by the television presentation.

The show should have concentrated on 'finding Bigfoot'...not assimilating spiritual activity with the task in hand. I agree that some distinct supernatural incidents may be connected and exhibit similar traits...but that needs to be left to fortean research, not a group unfamiliar with other aspects of the paranormal. The 'ghost hunt' segment at a former French & Indian War battle site had nothing to do with Bigfoot investigation. It was obvious that Cliff Barackman was uncomfortable. The production team could have filled that time with one of the many unexplained and engaging sightings known in the region.

There was an interesting video supplied by two witnesses who attended the town hall meeting. The team traveled to the location and questioned the witnesses. Once again, the skeptic 'shtick' presented by Ranae Holland was somewhat over-the-top and unnecessary...which is a big reason why I don't generally endorse the show. On the other hand, Matt Moneymaker's regular antics and outrageous explanations of supposed Bigfoot behavior are just as disagreeable. Of course, this is only my opinion. I realize many of my readers enjoy 'Finding Bigfoot'...but because of my interest in this particular episode, I felt compelled to comment.

The segment that included dumping animal entrails and blood was a lost opportunity. In fact, Cliff Barackman even acknowledged that he screwed up by not placing a trail camera or two at the location. When Barackman and Bobo Fay returned to the area after several hours, all of the entrails were gone. I doubt that a Bigfoot would have chanced grabbing the bait...most likely the act of a few coyotes, which inundate this part of the state.

I'm not a regular viewer of 'Finding Bigfoot', but I do have a particular interest in Bigfoot and cryptid encounters in Pennsylvania. I'm a member of the Pennsylvania Bigfoot Society, a volunteer organization established in 1998 that conducts year-round investigations of reported Bigfoot sightings throughout the state. If you've had a sighting or encounter, feel free to submit a report.

This show was a chance to give the national public and Bigfoot world an understanding of the special 'strangeness' that is prevalent in southwestern Pennsylvania. I believe 'Finding Bigfoot' failed to take advantage of an opportunity to do that.

The Phantoms & Monsters 'Encounters Collection' on Kindle

Silent Invasion: The Pennsylvania UFO-Bigfoot Casebook

Monsters of Pennsylvania: Mysterious Creatures in the Keystone State

Gray Barker's Bigfoot Shootout! Terrifying Tales of Interspecies Conflict

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