Did a North American Ape Leaves Tracks in Michaux State Forest?
Originally published in Paranormal Pennsylvania Issue No. 3 January 2003
As a member of the (PBS) the Pennsylvania Bigfoot Society, I received a phone call on February 17th 2002 from PBS director Eric Altman. Eric informed me that over two hundred unidentified tracks had been found at a location close to my home in Lancaster County. At that time he didn’t know the exact location but would give me more details when he knew more.
The next day Eric called with the location, it was the Waynesboro Reservoir in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania in Adams County, not too far from me. He had asked if I was interested in investigating these tracks since I was the closest PBS field investigator and I told him I would. Having given me the exact location and more details, my girlfriend Carol and I made plans to go the next day.
Eric also informed me that a reporter from the Waynesboro Record Herald newspaper would be contacting me which they did and e-mailed me a photo of one of the tracks that were found in the reservoir.
They had asked if I thought the photograph was genuine. My reply was I don’t know, you can’t judge a book by its cover. I couldn’t tell from a photograph if something not human had made those tracks. I had to be at the scene looking at the surrounding area and looking for any evidence.
That was my intention when I had heard about the tracks; to go there and find evidence.
The newspaper was going to run a story about the tracks in their afternoon edition on February 19th. I knew I had to be at the site before the story ran because I knew once it hit the papers it would bring crowds of people and any evidence would be destroyed and that’s exactly what happened.
Here is the account of what leads up to what maybe a deliberate hoax or possibly an unsolved mystery.
The Waynesboro Record Herald had a story in the paper about the Waynesboro reservoir having dropped 13 ft in the water level due to drought conditions; the reservoir is the town’s water supply.
After seeing the article in the newspaper two local brothers decided to go to the reservoir on February 14th to have a look, but what they had found to this day still leaves some unanswered questions. There in the mud and running for some three hundred yards were foot prints. Only these were not your typical foot prints.
These were much larger than a human foot, the brothers had an eerie feeling about the place that night and as dusk was almost upon them they decided to leave.
Word got around about the mysterious tracks, and one Bigfoot research group had arrived over the weekend to do their own investigation. Results of their investigation or conclusion are not known. However, they did an excellent job of marking the trail of tracks.
Keep in mind I was not aware of the tracks until five days after they were already discovered. On February 19th Carol and I had arrived at the reservoir it was early in the morning and it appeared we were the only ones there. We walked the perimeter of the reservoir the frozen ground below me cracking each step I took.
We found the tracks that were marked by the previous investigators and I started taking photographs and video tape the area. As Carol walked back to the car to get the casting material to make casts, I started to take measurements of some tracks that didn’t appear to be disturbed. I had an uneasy feeling while being there even though I was alone I felt as I was being watched. I quickly got the camcorder and scanned the whole reservoir with the zoom in to see if I could notice anyone in the area, but there was nothing. The tracks measured 16 inches in length and 8 inches wide which is not normal. It left about a 2 inch depression in the ground as it walked but so did I so I can’t even guess at a weight or height. The stride from heel to heel was 24 inches which is normal.
The research group that had been there before me placed an orange ribbon on a tree as a marker to where they believe whatever it was that made the tracks had gone since the tracks seemed to simply disappear. My own conclusion was that is where I also believe whatever it was had walked into the woods. I looked for any signs of the tracks in the woods but could not find any.
When Carol made her way back with the casting material she told me that she felt uncomfortable while walking back to the car as if someone in the woods was watching her yet to my knowledge we were the only two in the area.
As the morning was getting warmer the ground below me was thawing and as each step I took cracked I took another step and began to sink in the muddy reservoir and was now knee deep in the mud.
As I pulled myself out my shoes decided to stay in and I had to reach in to pull them out as well. As the day wore on the once frozen reservoir from the night before had now become a huge mud hole.
I followed all the tracks to try and take as many good photographs as possible; some tracks had already been disturbed with shoe prints in them or around them.
Knowing that soon people would be gathering in the afternoon, I decided to make some casts of the tracks. It was then that I noticed two men approaching. I introduced myself and soon found out they were the two brothers who had originally found the tracks, they were there to retrieve a cast they had made and let set to dry for a few days. They told me they found the tracks before dark on February 14th and said a friend of theirs was there on the 12th and didn’t see anything.
So who or what made these tracks did it sometime between February 12th and 14th.
As the brothers left some game wardens showed up and as we talked they started to take their own measurements and said they had never seen anything like it. Now if it is a hoax you wouldn’t have seen anything like it anyway. Even a biologist said it was something she had never seen before.
The unusual fact about the track is that it was not your typical so called Bigfoot track which is more human like with the toes close together. These particular tracks had the first digit on each foot protruding at almost a 90 degree angle, very unusual. The foot was more ape-like, but there are no apes that have a foot 16 inches in length. Or is there?
As the day moved on, I had dug up the casts I had made and a couple of them broke due to the muddy conditions but I was still able to salvage three of them. What appeared to be hair samples found in the casts I had sent off for analysis, only to find out that it was plant substance from the bottom of the reservoir.
As Carol and I were leaving, we watched as a crowd had gathered now that the evening paper had reported the track find. We watched as people stepped in the tracks and beside them to see how big they were and I knew before nightfall that all the tracks would now be destroyed and further study would be impossible. That evening the Enigma Project based in Maryland went to the reservoir and reported that the tracks were literally destroyed.
A renowned cryptozoologist in a telephone interview examined a photograph e-mailed to him from the Record Herald. At that time his conclusion was that, if it is a hoax, it was a clever one. But because of the position of the toe it was more ape like in what he describes as a Nape. The term used to describe a North American Ape.
After viewing more photos, it was the conclusion of the cryptozoologist that the tracks were a hoax made by sneakers although the brand could not be identified.
It may be a hoax, but I have a different point of view. First, what photos the cryptozoologist had viewed has not surfaced or his source of the photos. I had sent the cryptozoologist and other researchers over 40 photographs of the tracks and not one show any identifying marks of sneakers. Wouldn’t it be in every track and photo? Other researchers disagree with the cryptozoologist assessment. If it is a hoax no one has come forward to say they made the tracks. Could it be a hoax?
Someone took a chance to walk in water and mud in February when the weather was in the 30s and 40s, it was a dangerous situation to try something like that because of the conditions. Also, the next day I received an e-mail which said where I and the game wardens had thought the tracks had ended more were found since the water had receded more and was much deeper the day before.
The foot print was not that of a Bigfoot so why not fake it to look like a Bigfoot instead of an unusual pattern of the first toe protruding. Now understand that I am not saying these tracks are made by something not human. But I am not saying they are a hoax either. As a paranormal investigator I have to eliminate possibilities and come up with some logical explanations and I have been unable to do that. I could write all day saying they are real because of this and they are not real because of that, but I have no answers. I don’t consider the tracks a hoax simply because someone says sneakers marks were found in some photos and yet they don’t appear in mine.
Until someone comes forward to say they made the tracks or other evidence surfaces to support that, I regard this as an open case still unsolved.
Is there an ape like or Bigfoot creature roaming the area?
The area we are talking about is located in the Michaux State Forest which covers over 85,000 acres. Over the years there have been a dozen or more reported sightings of a Bigfoot type creature. In fact one incident there was a report of a family of Bigfoot being seen. There are enough woods to hide, water to drink, and food to survive. Reported sightings have come from apple orchards in the area.
Waynesboro reservoir shows receding shore line, which is normally up to the tree line.
The PBS has been conducting monthly daylong outings in the Michaux State Forest and I will keep you updated on events or any evidence that may be found in our ongoing investigation.