Dad was a no-nonsense guy, but often spoke of an ‘eerie presence,’ as though he sometimes was being watched in these woods.
There was the time, fishing Minister Creek for brookies, he was backed-up against a hemlock by a big black bear. They had surprised one another. The animal, up on his haunches a mere few feet away, was baring its teeth. A stare-down ensued. After a few tense moments, the bear lowered to all fours, turned tail and scampered away. So did Dad.
I can still hear him say, “When you’re out there all by yourself, you gotta wonder what is watching YOU, because you just never know!” This was often a topic of conversation as he held court around late-night campfires at the family camp.
Relaxing to the sound of the chirping crickets around the glow of one of those late August campfires, Dad and I sat there making plans for a fishing trip up into Logan Run. Suddenly, the quiet of the evening was shattered by a thunderous splash in the Tionesta Creek fewer than seventy-five yards from where we were sitting.
Dad looked at me and I looked at him. “You hear that?” he asked.
Something was slowly coming across the creek with a loud “slosh…slosh…slosh.,” kind of like the sound we make when crossing the creek in our waders. But this was different. It sounded like something big and heavy, slow and deliberate, something with a long stride. Crickets stopped chirping.
“It’s probably a deer,” I said, even though I knew the sound of deer crossing the creek, and this was unlike any sound I had ever heard from that creek.
It started again. Slosh…slosh…slosh…
“That’s no deer or bear,” whispered Dad, “It is something BIG in the water, on two feet, not four!”
I began going through a mental checklist of possibilities.
Not a Bear, Not a Deer. Human?
Nobody ever fishes from the other side of that stretch of Tionesta Creek at night with its uneven terrain and deep holes.
I grabbed my mag light, aiming the beam in the direction of the sound, but from our hillside campfire, tall trees blocked the view to the creek. The noise suddenly stopped. With our ears trained toward the creek, we could hear nothing but the babbling of the riffles farther upstream.
But then it started up again. ‘Slosh…slosh…slosh’. The sound was coming our way, growing louder and louder.
Again, it stopped. Whatever it was, we both figured it had now set foot on our side of the creek in the field down below.
After a few tense moments, I could tell Dad was growing uncomfortable. It was one of the few times I had ever seen this World War II battle veteran rattled.
He suddenly stood up. “Maybe we should turn in for the night,” he said.
I knew he’d had enough. “Sure,” I said, “Let’s go in.”
With the camp windows open wide, I lay awake for what seemed like an eternity into the wee hours of the warm August darkness. Listening. Straining to hear. Listening. I fell asleep to the sound of the riffles.
The next morning at first light, I headed down to the creek to look for evidence. However, the creek bank yielded no clues as to the mystery of what had crossed. No tracks. Nothing.
When I got back up at the camp, Dad had breakfast on the table.
“What do you think that was that came across the creek last night?” he asked.
“Not sure,” I replied, “Maybe Bigfoot?” I studied his face for a reaction.
He looked at me, said nothing, then shrugged and nodded. To this day, we will never know for sure.
This was not Dad’s first encounter with the ‘unknown’ in the Allegheny National Forest. My youngest sister recalls the time Dad was driving the family to Sheffield, heading up Minister Hill Road. Suddenly just ahead, a tall, hairy creature standing upright, was crossing the road. Awestruck, Dad kept driving slowly forward, asking repeatedly, “What is that? What is that?” But by the time they got to the spot where the creature crossed, it had disappeared into the forest.
She Hunts for Bigfoot
We can only guess what my family saw up on Minister Road Hill that day and only wonder what we heard coming across Tionesta Creek that night. Could it have been a Bigfoot?
Yeah, well, having said that, I am still a skeptic. As I have always told my circle of Bigfoot believers, “Show me a skeleton or carcass, then I’ll be convinced.” Case closed.
However, the Tionesta Creek Valley and the entire Allegheny National Forest are full of mysterious sightings. Just ask nationally acclaimed Bigfoot hunter and investigator Amy Bue.
“The Alleghenies have a rich history of Bigfoot reports,” said Amy, a former investigator for the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization (BFRO). She now investigates Bigfoot sightings independently.
Amy is co-founder of Project Zoobook, a group comprised of primatologists, zoologists, anthropologists and other scientists working alongside Bigfoot researchers from across the country. She was honored with the International Bigfoot Conference’s 2018 Dedicated Researcher Award for her work, and she returns to the Allegheny National Forest in June as the featured Keynote speaker at the Forest County Bigfoot Festival in Marienville.
She has spent time tracking down Bigfoot sightings from the PA Wilds to the Pacific Northwest.
PA Wilds’ Bigfoot ‘Cold Cases’ – The Challenges
There were six sightings along the Clarion River in the summer of 2016. They came from different people who did not know each other and who claimed to have seen a Bigfoot at different points within a half-mile stretch along the Clarion. Several of the witnesses were canoeists and kayakers.
“All of them said that there was no way this was a hoax because they were close enough to tell that this wasn’t just a prankster in a costume,” said Amy. “Two of the witnesses said the creature seemed to be hitting something on the ground with a rock along the riverbank, and all of these sightings happened towards evening.”
She said, however, by the time word of this reached her, much time had passed. “I found out about them a few years after they were reported to different Bigfoot groups, and I was able to pinpoint them as taking place at nearly the same time and place,” she said. “It’s a shame that they weren’t followed up on back then. As far as I know, they weren’t reported to the Forest Service or law enforcement. It was a huge, missed opportunity!”
She said other stories often involve hunters seeing something that either kept them out of the woods for good, or kept them out for a long time. Such is the case of a Butler County man.
In early June 2010, riding the Marienville/Timberline ATV trail between Marienville and Kane, he stopped on the trail to wait for a friend to catch up.
In the dense forest seventy-five feet to his right, an unusually large stump caught his attention. To his shock and surprise, it was no stump! It turned out to be a large creature crouching in the woods. Suddenly, it stood up, staring straight at him.
He guessed it to be seven and a half feet tall with broad shoulders, freakishly broad. It was shiny-black from head to toe. As he tried to get a better look at the face, the creature began to leave. It did not just turn and walk away, it stepped straight backwards into the brush, not taking its eyes off him.
All of this happened, he said, in fewer than 30 seconds from the time he noticed the creature crouching until it disappeared into the dense forest.
He remembers a deep sense of fear coming over him and the feeling that he needed to get out of there. He hopped on the ATV, hit the gas and took off. He said the feeling of dread that came over him was unlike anything he had ever experienced in the Allegheny National Forest.
Amy said these are seemingly credible accounts coming from outdoorsmen and women who know wildlife and are trained to be observant in the woods. “For the past several years (pre-Covid) I have had a booth at the Allegheny Outdoors Show in Monroeville near Pittsburgh. A lot of the hunters who attend spend time in the Alleghenies. You would be shocked at the number of reports I have gathered from these events.”
Evidence? Proof? – Yes, There Are Questions
Amy says she always gets questions like, “Why hasn’t anybody found Bigfoot skeletons, bones or carcasses?”
“Depending on the weather, the acidity of the soil, scavengers and other factors, bones don’t necessarily stick around for very long,” she explained, “and if we are looking at a creature with a small breeding population, which is my theory, there might not be a lot of bodies out there.”
But – if Bigfoot does exist, Amy feels we are now a lot closer to finding out one way or the other.
“I think people would be truly surprised by the scientific research going on in Bigfooting today,” she said. “There is a footprint database, there is an audio database, there are thousands of witness reports, and as it is said, only one of them needs to be true. People a lot smarter than I am are legitimately looking into the possibility that these are real creatures. And I think that’s exciting!”
Even so, Amy says, being a skeptic is still OK.
“My skepticism is tuned pretty high, too, and unless I see a Bigfoot up close and personal, I’m not even sure they exist. But I think it’s an interesting possibility and I’m hooked on trying to figure out the mystery,” explained Amy, “and I do spend a lot of time trying to produce evidence. Although I am always polite when someone is telling me their story, I know that there are hoaxers out there. There is misidentification.”
While it is perfectly OK to be skeptical, it is never OK to have a closed mind.
“It definitely isn’t good to ridicule people who are, in good faith, trying to collect evidence of something, even if ‘polite society’ thinks it is beyond belief,” explained Amy. “Remember, it wasn’t long ago that mountain gorillas were ‘cryptids’ too. When people poke fun at me, I point to Jane Goodall and all the work she has done with chimpanzees. If she can believe in the POSSIBILITY of Bigfoot, I feel that I’m in good company!”
As I wrote and researched this article, the thing I found refreshing about Amy is her objectivity and unbiased approach. She has no ‘agenda’ because, frankly, she admits she has not had a lot of luck when it comes to hard evidence and actual proof.
“I’m always honest about that and you won’t catch me making up fantastic stories,” she cautions. “Have I had some interesting things happen to me, not only in Pennsylvania, but in states across the country? Yes. Do I claim that any of it is Bigfoot-related? No.”
“We just don’t have that ‘body’ that it’s going to take to prove scientifically that these creatures exist. Or at least, no one has produced a body publicly that I know of,” said Amy. “I don’t support the hunting or killing of a Bigfoot, if it exists, but let’s face it – a body is what it will take!”