May, 10, 2000Bigfoot in the big city? Richmond, VA
“The Blogsquatcher” – The Archives
October 16, 2007 8:00 AM
One evening in June of 2005, in a small town on the outskirts of Richmond, Virginia– close enough, really, to be considered part of the city itself — a middle aged woman taking some children on an outing saw something she found hard to believe. Glancing down into a culvert, protected on three sides by the trees of a thicket beside the road, she noticed a large, man-shaped form squatting in the runoff. It was hair covered, brown with light silver-gray highlights, and very obviously not a bear. It had a face like a man, not a snout. No ears were visible. It was using itʼs hands. It glanced up as the Jeep drove slowly past and their eyes met.
Though she knew what she had just seen, after the Jeep passed the spot where the culvert was visible, she didnʼt believe herself. She brought the Jeep to a stop. Some of the children were talking excitedly because they had seen it too. Then, in the brake lights cast back over the road, no more than twenty feet away, she saw it climb out of the culvert and stand in the road watching them. The children saw it too, and the sight of it was too much for some of them. They wanted to leave right away. Somewhat reluctantly, although she felt apprehensive herself, she put the Jeep in drive and pulled away.
Since the night of her sighting, sheʼd had two other bigfoot organizations come by(both as a result of the same report). One of the investigators, Billy Willard of Sasquatch Watch of Virginia (blog, and here, also website) had brought his sons with him. While Billy was out in the woods looking for sign of bigfoot, his two boys,much nearer to the place the witness had had her sighting, saw it again themselves.Their description was nearly identical to the original witnessʼs account, and even more detailed.
I received her sighting report a few weeks later, only a day or so after the Willard boys had their sighting, and as I lived within an hour and a half of the sighting location, I called her the same day and arranged to visit the spot. I met with the witness, whom Iʼll call Victoria, in the parking lot of a barbecue restaurant. She was accompanied by two friends, whom Iʼll call Bob and Linda. We exchanged pleasantries, but everyone was keen to get to the sighting location. It was already late and there wouldnʼt be much time for looking around while the sun was still up.Victoria drove through several neighborhood streets of a quiet country suburb of Richmond – a place where farms and produce stands still exist within sight of major highways. At last we turned off a main road down a dirt road, toward a remnant of forest, about a thousand square acres all told, which held the sighting location. It was striking how rural the immediate area looked, although there was a raised highway within sight off to the right, and across the James river an industrial area of Richmond loomed, all dirty smokestacks and faded warehouses with dust-covered windows. During the daylight hours there would be people over there, but at night it was silent and dark.
I asked about more details of the creature that Victoria had seen. She said that her best guess of its height was eight feet, and that it had a very strong smell – like skunk and dead fish mixed. She told me that she had experienced other strange things in the area but had never associated it with bigfoot. Before seeing one, she would not have believed there were any in Virginia, let alone so close to Richmond. But she was adamant about what she saw. She got a good look at it in the culvert when the lights of the Jeep had been on it.
The other events now took on a new meaning. One night she had been lying out near an historic house, about a mile past her sighting area. The house has a reputation, and though the owners are interested in renting it out, they seldom find anyone willing to stay there. The rumor around town is that the house is haunted, but that wouldnʼt be the only reason it is hard to rent. The facilities are ancient, and the house is pretty far away from most anything someone affluent enough to rent it would want.
Victoria has long been interested in such things as haunted houses. Partly, that iswhat drew her to the area. But also, the area has a rich assortment of rocks, whichshe collects and polishes. She has found many Native American artifacts there too,including arrow heads and a spear point. It was after one of her rock gathering trips,as the sun went down, that she decided to stay near the supposedly haunted house.She lay in the grass – it was a warm summer night, and looked up at the stars. It waspeaceful. But when she got up to go, something large and fast, sounding like it ran on two legs, took off from nearby in the brush
On another night, this time with a friend, they sat in the car near the house. Victoria noticed something dark seemed to be moving along the ground. She watched it briefly, and then got worried as it looked as if it could be a person trying to sneak upon the car. She turned on her headlights and hit the brakes, shedding the reddish light back into the area where the figure was. She could not get a good look at it because it blended in with the grass very well, but she could tell it was hair covered and looked to be shaped like a man. She moved the car to bring the headlights to the spot, but by this time the figure was gone. She didnʼt know what sheʼd seen, and associated it with certain legends told of the place, which is believed to be part of a haunted Indian burial ground. Now she thinks that was her first view of the bigfoot she saw later. After that night, she didnʼt stay long out at the old historic home anymore, though she did sometimes bring the kids to visit when they were bored.
The Willard boysʼ account of the creature was much like Victoriaʼs – they agreed it looked to stand over eight feet tall. They said the hair color was a mix of brown and silver-gray. But they had seen the creature at a distance of no more than ten feet in fair light (it had just settled into twilight) so they were able to add much more to the picture.
They said the face was hair covered, except for the nose. The hair of the head actually hung down over the eyes like a shaggy dogʼs would. The chin sported a beard of nine inches or so as well. They couldnʼt see any ears, and the neck appeared to be shorter than a manʼs would be. The shoulders were very broad, and the body was extremely hairy. It observed them for a moment, half stepping out from behind a tree to do so, then it turned and left, jumping down into a creek bed. The boys stated that the back was even more hirsute than the front had been.
The boys excitedly radioed their sighting to their father, but being the children of a bigfoot investigator, rather than wait, they gathered up their courage and went to the tree from behind which the creature had emerged. They saw there that the ground was pressed flat, but there were no footprints to speak of. In the creek bed they saw that rocks had prevented footprints from taking there as well. A bit further down, after their father and other investigators had joined them, they found what might have been a footprint, which measured 17-18 inches long and 7-8 inches across.
All of these facts were fresh in my mind as I stepped out of Victoriaʼs Jeep, getting my first look at the sighting area. The sun was already going down, casting the trees into shadows when I entered inside the tree-line, just above the creek where Victoria had first seen the creature. My first thought was, “why would anything so large as a bigfoot be in this culvert?” It was a small area for such a large animal. I briefly entertained the idea that maybe it had wanted to use the tunnel that went under the road at this point, but the tunnel looked too small for something so large. I wondered if even I could get through it. There was little water in the creek, and what there washad become stagnant since the last rains. I couldnʼt see anything worth eating in the area, and there was no sign of rooting anyway. There were a few rocks that looked to have been turned up, but the area had been investigated by a crew of five from another bigfoot group. For all I would ever know, they could have turned the rocks up themselves.
I couldnʼt answer the question of why a bigfoot would be in the nearly dry creek-bed,except to quote that line from The Legend of Boggy Creek, “they always follow the creeks.” That wasnʼt much to go on. I walked down the creek a distance to look for possible prints, but I couldnʼt find anything. In truth, there were few places free enough of rocks to have made a good print, and those that there were would have been very easy to avoid. I crossed the creek and looked at the area just above it on the other side. Here I found a few things of interest. One thing that caught my attention was that the trees had been thinned out over on this side. It looked as if someone or something was maintaining a space, not quite a meadow, just inside the tree line from the road. Bigfoot investigators have learned to associate such places with our quarry. Itʼs not something that we can prove, but it does make good sense. If a creature as large as bigfoot wanted to hang out in a certain place, it would make sense to remove a lot of the tree cover so they didnʼt need to stoop all the time. I found the cleared area extended back in to the woods a fair ways. But what was more interesting were some of the “stick formations” I found in the area. One of these was a perfect cross using two saplings bent over and held down by a large stick (see the third picture in this post).
The angle formed was as close to 90 degrees as you would expect without tools to measure. In other words, to the naked eye, it looked perfect. There were also some“asterisk” style formations wedged into the Y of trees. I found it very interesting. And itdidnʼt seem likely that I was being played a hoax with these items. Victoria didnʼt know anything about stick formations, and she certainly couldnʼt have manufactured the cleared area. It looked to be years old.
The place where the boys had seen the creature was pointed out to me. I looked at the tree and then into the creek bed no more than ten feet behind it, but I saw nothing I could interpret as sign of bigfoot. There surely had been someone or something scuffling along back here, but by now, after two previous investigations, the area was hardly in any condition to help the case.
When it became too dark to see, we left the woods and held a vigil on the edge of an adjoining cornfield. This was one obvious attraction to the area for anything large and hungry. In fact, on our way in weʼd seen several deer bounding through the corn, escaping from our approach, except for one mature buck who stood, defiantly,in a clear-cut area, staring as we passed by. And across the road was a large alfalfa field. There was free food here. I thought now that perhaps the creek bed served to hide an approach to the alfalfa fields on the other side of the road? Possibly, though if the creature had truly been wary, Victoria never would have seen it.
Victoria had a thought about that. Thinking back, she now thinks the bigfoot has been near her several times. Some of those times sheʼd been in the area alone. She Wonders if the creature didnʼt recognize her car, and knowing her to be no threat, simply didnʼt bother to hide? It had showed its curiosity with the Willard boys, though one has to say, if there is a bigfoot here so close to Richmond, it has maintained it’s anonymity in the area very well. At that time, there arenʼt any other sighting reports from that specific area that I am aware of, though there was at least one report from nearby at an historic battleground, and Richmond and the surrounding environ shave had a few over the years.
We left the woods and looked into the nearby cornfield. A farmer had just cut down long rows of the corn, but had left large patches standing. I thought perhaps the ground would be good for keeping prints, but it wasnʼt. It was covered with fallen corn stalks. I did find several remnants of corn that had been chewed by something,but with the deer we had seen earlier, it stood to reason that this was the work of deer as well. We left the cornfield without finding anything suggestive of an eight foot, thousand-plus pound creature wandering through the cornrows at night, taking his snacks as easily as I would at the corner store. But that the corn was there gave me some reassurance that a creature that large could pass at least some of the year in the vicinity.
After leaving the cornfield, we stood by the Jeep, talking, as the night grew darker.We were waiting around just in case the creature wanted to return and vocalize. Ididnʼt expect anything, however. The rule is, after all, when the investigator appears,the animal vanishes. But one odd thing did happen. As we talked, the dogs from across the main road, about a half mile away, began to make a racket. We stopped and listened, commenting on how upset they seemed to be. Then, one by one, we all caught a whiff of something foul carried along the air currents. I smelled it myself several times. I found it hard to describe, but it definitely was an animal smell, with urine and rottenness mixed in with it. Judging by the wind, it was coming to us from the area where the woods we stood near now grew near the main road. Victoria and I walked along the dirt track toward the spot, across a broad swath of cornfield from the town road. On the other side of the town road was a recreation area and arunning creek. We neither saw nor heard anything, nor did I catch a good whiff of the smell again.
I caught up with Billy Willard shortly after my visit with Victoria. We discussed theidea that we probably should do another survey of the area, during daylight hours,just to see if we could find any more sign of possible bigfoot occupation. But it wouldbe more than a month’s time before we could arrange it.
Billy and Tom Lancaster of Sasquatch Watch are dedicated investigator’s and great guys too. I always have a memorable time when I go “‘squatchin’” with them. And they’ve got skills and abilities that lend something to their work. Tom has a background in geology and science, and when it comes to Virginia (and a lot of other places too), Billy knows something about everything, and everyone. They work well as a team, and I was glad they let me tag along as a kind of third wheel.
Finally, in early September the three of us, along with Billyʼs two boys, made our way back to the sighting location. We didnʼt plan to spend much time near the two sighting spots. We wanted to see what kind of habitat was out there, and whether there was any sign of habitation – bedding or feeding sites.
Tom had printed off some topographical maps, and he had a good head for finding his way. He brought us deep into the woods, along the route they had search earlier. There were many hills and ravines in the terrain there. Visibility was never much more than a hundred yards in any direction.
We did find that there was plenty to eat, at least at that time, because of the fields of corn and alfalfa, and the herds of deer and small game these attracted. There was also a man-made abandoned pond in the area, away from the houses and bound on all sides by the trees. This pond contained sizable fish, one of which had been caught and eaten on the shore. The scene of that predation turned out to be the most compelling evidence we gathered.
In the sand on the shore nearby we found odd drag marks. There was a line of them leading to the area near the fish from the shore, and also from the shore to the edge of the woods along another path.
Beside this second drag-line we found what looked something like a bigfoot print. It Was alone, and it wasnʼt in perfect condition, but it showed toe impressions and had the length and width of a possible foot.
This foot, if thatʼs what it was, would have been somewhat smaller than what Billy’s son had found on their previous visit. But in association with the drag marks and the fish, it was suggestive. Either some person had done it, for reasons unknown (itʼs not very likely a person would have eaten a fish raw, for instance) or it was a random mark that looked like a footprint, perhaps made by some wallowing bird. There were bird footprints near the purported bigfoot print. Or, perhaps, it was the only remaining footprint that wasnʼt wiped out by a cunning bigfoot, wishing to erase the record of his brief fishing trip from the sand?
The print has a couple of features that are “bigfoot like.” The foot is boxy. There is little curve in outline of the toes. The heel imprinted imperfectly because of a rock butit appears to be of about uniform width from top to bottom. These are not features of human footprints, but they can be associated with bigfoot prints. There was also something that looked like a midtarsal break, though it seemed to be shifted fairly far forward in comparison to other tracks.
Against this, the toes are not well defined, only suggested by what is left, and seemto be rather small and short for such a large animal, though the toes could have been curled in. Also, the presence of bird tracks almost in the print do suggest there might be a correlation with them. The print is not very deep, though it was apparent it had suffered some back fill along the outline as the sand shifted to find equilibrium.Our own prints came to a comparable depth, for instance, but there also was some indication that the print was made when the sand was wet. There were areas of“encrustation” along the outline of the print. This wasnʼt happening to any of our prints. If the sand was wet, or at least moist when the print was made, Iʼd guess it looked like it was a bit deeper than our own prints would have been.
There were the other indicators of a bigfoot presence, though these are more controversial. We had found the “stick formations,” some among the best Iʼve seen,associated with the location. There were the common “asterisk” variety, but also theintricate double arch I mentioned, each with a stick holding the sapling down, almostexactly perpendicular to one another. The odds against that one alone having beenmade by natural chances have to be extraordinary.
I suppose these might have been faked. They were near the road, and in the area ofthe original sighting. We did not find any more stick formations deeper in the woods.In fact, aside from the possible print, we found nothing more that suggested anoccupation by a large bipedal primate. But there had been two sightings, and there was some corresponding circumstantial evidence. Billy and Tom have continued to investigate the area, but I didnʼt make a return visit.
I canʼt say that I know for sure there was a bigfoot there, though I do believe thepeople involved really saw something. But if someone had told me out of the blue before these events that there was a bigfoot almost within Richmond city limits, Iʼd have refused to believe it. Having gone to the site I can see how it could have been.But since my visit, new construction destroyed a good portion of the available habitat. I have to say I really doubt it would be hanging around there now.
UPDATE: 8/17/09 — a listener to our Sasquatch Watch Radio show pointed me in the direction of this bit of folklore from the area immediately adjacent to the sighting location mentioned in the post above (the update is in the original, which can be accessed here).:
The Werewolf of Henrico County
It seems there’s a werewolf – or at least that would be my guess – roaming around Henrico Co. in Varina – in the Confederate Hills Recreation Center located at 302Lee Avenue, Highland Springs, VA 23075. It is a well known local legend although no one seems to know about its origins. It is only seen during the full moon and has been known to howl. It also chases people although it has never killed or hurt any humans. It is six feet tall and is covered in a grayish white hair. It can stand on its hind legs or run on all four legs. It has a human like body but a face like an animal -particularly wolf-like.
After reading the stories of the werewolf of Henrico County (Varina), I thought I would contribute some odd experiences that happened to myself and my husband. My husband used to live with his parents on Old Osbourne Tpke. and their house is right next to the Battlefield Park. They have a large backyard, unfenced, with a field going back about 100 yards and woods behind it, which continue into the Park. When we first started dating, he was living there, and I would come to visit him and stay over some nights. We would go behind his house and sit on a picnic table to smoke, because we couldn’t smoke in the house. There were many nights, usually very late (about 2 or 3 in the morning) when we would sit outside and hear awful howling noises. It sounded like maybe dogs, but I have never heard a dog make sounds like that. A lot of times it creeped us out so much we would put our cigarettes out and rush back into the house.
Another time, in broad daylight, we went outside to smoke and were sitting on the picnic table. All of a sudden, we saw a pack of white dog/wolf things coming toward us. They weren’t running or anything, just slowly making their way across hisneighbors’ backyards toward us. Those dog things came into his backyard and walked across the yard, right in front of us. There was something not right about them. They seemed to be in some sort of trance. They didn’t seem to notice us at all.They just walked right across the yard, across the field, toward the neighbor’s yard on the other side. This experience is one of the weirdest things that’s ever happened to me, because we had no way of explaining where they had come from, what they were, or what they were doing.
Another experience has become a kind of family legend in my husband’s family. This happened about 9 years ago. His family has a pet cat that they used to let outside(before this happened, that is). It was my husband’s father’s birthday, and they had let the cat outside a while before. They were all sitting around the table, eating birthday cake, when they heard something crash into the glass back door. They rushed out to see what the noise was, and they found the cat laying on the ground,covered in crap, and I literally mean crap. Apparently, my husband’s mom made a joke that a bear had found the cat and wiped his butt with it and threw it against the house. That was the only thing they could come up with to explain the event. Needless to say, the cat is an indoor cat now.
Lots of other weird stuff happens around there, but these are the only incidents that might be related to the werewolf. When I told my husband about the story I read on your site, he got really creeped out and said, “that would explain a lot.”What strikes me as interesting about this is that Victoria had told me people generally thought there was a werewolf in that area. At the time I thought if that was so, they were probably mistaking a bigfoot. I know that the Willard boys describe their bigfoot as having such long hair that the face could not be seen at all. This doesn’t seem wolf-like to me and I’m not sure it would lead to a misidentification, but there it is.